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August 24

Raft Athabasca

We awoke to pouring rain which was a real blow. This was the day of all days that we wanted good weather because we were going white water rafting on the Athabasca. By the time we got down to the pick-up point there was still some rain but it was getting better and by the end of the morning it was glorious.

We had had a long debate over which raft trip to do. Beryl and I have rafted the Sava and the Soca in Slovenia. The first is a gentle float with little white water. The Soca however is a serious canoeing and rafting river with plenty of bumping and banging off rocks (I suspect the guides aim for them). I've also been on the artificial run on the Trywerin near Bala; artificial in the sense that they control the flow of water from the dam. I've also done the Zambesi which id the fastest commercially run water in the world; you don't paddle, you just hang on to the rope whilst the guide rows. However I am now forbidden to mention the Z-word on holiday raft trips although I am prone to wear my "Raft Zambesi" T-shirt.

The problem was that we were fancying the Grade 3 water on the Maligne or the Sunwapta but we weren't sure that Amy would cope. So we settled for the 2+ water on the Athabasca. We needn't have worried; the other two rivers were both closed!! The Maligne is supposed to be the best water around Jasper but it was closed by Parks Canada to help the Harlequin duck survive. Our two guides, Megan and Eric, clearly felt very strongly that this was a bad decision; whatever the problems of the duck the Parks allowed much more threatening activities to continue. But they ended up by saying, in a resigned way, that this was the price you paid for living in a National Park. Another example of the power of the Parks and the Canadian acceptance of authority.

We launched the raft just below the Athabasca Falls. We had a look at the drop up the canyon without getting too close; it's a trifle lethal by the Falls. Then we had a couple of hits at the start of the run and then it even out a bit. The run was entertaining without being really fierce and Amy who was in the danger seat, got well soaked in places. For much of the run we were in a canyon which is not accessible other than by boat and it was very pretty. We had a good explanation of the surrounding mountains and the two guides, who were clearly serious mountain kiddies, discussed various exciting options for biking, walking and more extreme sports. They also asked us if we'd really studied the company logo: it's the headless rafter (see below).


We returned to Patricia Lake to get changed and then we went back to the Athabasca for a walk around Five Lake Valley. Not long but very pretty in the afternoon sunshine. The lakes were again just slightly different colours. Beryl certainly liked them.



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