By Kaitlyn Forde
After living in the Canadian Rockies for more than two years, indulging in tourist attractions has lost its lustre. I did as much as I could during my first summer in the mountains: I canoed along the Bow River, went sightseeing in Jasper, checked out the dinosaurs in Drumheller, and made a very long daytrip to Waterton National Park. I thought I had absorbed everything Alberta had to offer.
By my third summer, tourist attractions were pushed to the wayside for long hikes courtesy of Alan Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. It took a visit from my university roommate and a friend to reignite my interest in popular activities. Number one on her list of potential adventures was skydiving, a feat I’m not even close to being brave enough to partake in, but her close second was whitewater rafting in Golden, BC.
It was the perfect day trip: we woke up early in the morning to make the trip from Banff, and made it back by the afternoon, just in time for me to start my shift as an adrenaline-pumped and endorphin-filled waitress.
When we arrived at Alpine Rafting there were about a hundred other excited participants by our side. The many guides brought us into a tiny room full of various-sized wetsuits and gave us a quick rundown of the day’s itinerary and protective protocols. All the instructors had a great sense of humour and, even while being assertive about our safety, everyone seemed good-natured; it was one of many indicators that we were in for a fun day.
The guides quickly created groups of seven to 12 per boat, based on how many were in each party. As it so happened, my two friends and I were put into a group with six other females; it was the only all-woman’s raft. There were nine of us to one young attractive male instructor. Our group consisted of three high school friends in their late twenties, a couple and Darlene, the mother of one of the pair. She was of an older generation, but she quickly dismissed any concerns about age-limitations for rafting. At first shy, we got her out of shell and ensured that she had a great time with us young’uns.
Carlos, our guide, was an easygoing jovial man that clearly enjoyed his job. He always had a big smile on his face, and seemed genuinely happy to be taking us out on the water. Actually, all the guides held that demeanour, and seemed more like friends than employees at work. By exchanging backstories with our raftmates, we discovered Carlos is a world-class rapids kayaker. His previous job was to kayak through rapids in Central America while National Geographic took photos of him. Needless to say, we were in capable hands.
The tour took about five hours in total and was the perfect mix of rapids and relaxation. We floated through the first hour then banked the raft to have our pre-organized lunch sitting along the shore. There, we had the opportunity to meet more than just our raft-mates. It was a great way to soak in the sun before it was time to face the class 3 rapids.
With our appetite sustained and our – by then – few hours of conversation, us girls and Carlos had come to feel like old friends. Our raft was full of jokes, playful yelling at the one male in our party, and shameless laughs at each member getting drenched by the water. After each rapid, we would rotate so that every member of our team would have an opportunity to sit front and centre on the boat; they called this seat the Princess. It was where you would receive the most amount of waves and, consequently, the most amount of fun. When it was Darlene’s turn to sit in the Princess seat, Carlos asked her if she was ready. She looked back at us with eagerness in her aged eyes, “Oh, you bet I am.”
The sight of each lady sitting in the Princess seat, make-up running down our faces, and Carlos laughing hysterically as he thrust us into the gnarliest of rapids all became part of a hilarious memory.
Whitewater rafting has been something that has always interested me, but after being in the area for so long, I felt like that ship (or raft) had sailed. As a local, most slowly start to avoid the adventures that are constructed for the tourism industry. Especially when, particularly in Banff, the majority of jobs are in hospitality. But I couldn’t be happier that my tourist friends suggested it, because I was granted with an unforgettable experience. In fact, now that I’ve done it, I would readily do it again. It’s nice to find local hideouts and escape from the crowds and chaos, but the next time someone asks me if I’m interested in a “clichéd” mountain activity, I’ll be sure to respond in a fashion that Darlene would be proud of: “Oh, you bet I am.”