Rau: Out on the water
June 15, 2017
The power of water is immense. Too little and our gardens and grass turn brown and wither. Too much and destruction is inevitable. A gently-flowing backwoods brook lined with flowers is delightful to our eyes and water gurgling is soothing to our soul. Yet too much water in that channel tears out footbridges that are costly to repair. If you have ever been near a flash flood, the sound of a wall of water rushing downstream rolling rocks and logs is terrifying to say the least.
Last weekend a couple friends and I found a perfect level for a smaller paddleboat on the Fraser River outside Tabernash with enough sunshine at the right times to keep us warm inside our farmer john wetsuits. We launched from the bridge along the BLM road and wandered across the meadow with time to practice our strokes and coordinate commands with the paddle captain. When we dropped into the Fraser Canyon, there were fisherman who were also having a good day and the gentle water became more fierce. We had to duck for wires, watch out for downed trees across the channel, and pick wisely when the water braids and a wrong choice can leave you at a dead end.
If the water is too high, we might not make it under one of the three railroad bridges. If it's too low, the rocks can become dangerous and rip holes in your raft. Then it's time for a kayak! But that day the river was running just under 1000 CFS (cubic feet per second) and all was perfect for us. With only three of us, our boat was light and maneuverable around the rocks. The current pushed us into the bank but our confident paddling easily moved us in the right direction to avoid danger. Sometimes there were stretches of calm water where I could sneak a drink of water – hydration is a must! Other whole sections were one big rock after another forcing the water right then left dropping several feet in each drop. We glided around the rocks in Thumper and celebrated with screams of joy as we managed to set up correctly for the last big drop and easily rolled off the water pillow of the last big rock. We had aced it!
There are a few homes down in the Fraser Canyon and occasionally it is posted private property. We had to avoid bridge abutments and tried to stop staring at the rustic cabin or two we spotted in the trees that belong to the tiny town of Elkdale. But it is a unique spot far off the grid just begging for seclusion and accessible by only one dirt road.
Besides the river, the only way to see this amazingly beautiful canyon is Amtrak. It is a 20 minute ride from Fraser to Granby and I remember when the price of a child's ticket was 2.00 roundtrip. The 2nd graders at Fraser Elementary School would take a class excursion and get on the morning train headed westbound about 10am, sit glued to the windows to see if they could spot critters and flowers and waterfalls arriving in Granby 20 minutes later with a look of wonder on their cute little faces. Then they would share their adventure with the 2nd graders at Granby Elementary, have lunch with them, a few class notes and then back to Fraser on the Eastbound Amtrak. Pretty cool day!