Review of “Roaming the Rockies” Trip: Day 2
Day Two: Rafting on the Kicking Horse River
Even though I’d had an exhausting travel day, my body was still on Florida time so I still managed to wake up bright and early. I think anticipation also helped, as we were gearing up for the first big adventure of the trip: whitewater rafting.
Normally, the Roaming the Rockies Adventures by Disney trip has whitewater rafting in Montana. Since I was on an abbreviated Canadian-only version, Disney arranged for us to get a taste of the experience on the Kicking Horse River, a popular rafting spot. They say the river got its name when someone got kicked in the head by a pack horse, but I kept imagining the rafts bucking wildly in bronco-like waves.
In Montana, there are actually two options: whitewater for the adrenaline junkies and a float trip for younger kids and those who want a more laid back experience. We had several Junior Adventurers on our trip, so technically we’d just be going on a float trip. However, we happened to be visiting in a high run-off year, causing even the usually gentle sections of the Kicking Horse to run deep and fast. This resulted in a hybrid experience: mostly float, but moving pretty fast, and a few little rapids thrown in.
A Hearty Start to the Day
All the Adventures by Disney people had vouchers to eat at the lodge’s breakfast buffet. It was standard fare, from which I chose scrambled eggs, bacon, and a croissant with jelly. I selected a table with a breathtaking view of the lake and tried to get some work done. There’s no cell phone service at Emerald Lake Lodge, and the only wifi is in the main building, so it was an opportune time to get on the internet. I also introduced myself to fellow adventurers when I saw them come in, since I’d missed the welcome dinner. It’s easy to tell them, since one of the nice little extras is a pin lanyard with special pins each day. Just spot that lanyard and you’ve found another group member.
I donned a swim suit under warm clothing and topped that with a jacket. My only apprehension about rafting was the decidedly frigid nip in the air, but I figured it was all the more incentive to hold on tight so I didn’t fall into the river. We were told the rafting company would provide wet suits and jackets to keep us reasonably warm.
We drove over to Alpine Rafting to gear up for the raft ride. Once we were ready, we’d head out by school bus to actual rafting site. The chilly changing tent gave us plenty of incentive to dress quickly. This was somewhat complicated by the intricacies of getting into a skin-tight wet suit, but we all managed to learn fast.. We had the option of wearing fleece jackets under our spray jackets, and I, like most of the others, took it. We were also give water boots so we wouldn’t soak our regular shoes.
Ready to Launch
The school bus rumbled along with our intrepid group, taking us to the launch spot. When we arrived, our Adventure Guides divided us into three raft teams with animal names. It was early in the morning and I’d avoided coffee since I knew there weren’t many bathroom spots, so I can’t remember ours exactly. The most my caffeine-deprived brain recorded was that it had something to do with sheep or goats. I do know for sure that I was in the second raft out of three.
We added helmets and life vests to our gear, making me feel somewhat like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.” Then we had a safety briefing at the shoreline. It mainly covered what to do if you fell out or if the raft tipped and everyone ended up in the water. Our guides assured us that was highly unlikely on the section of river we’d be tackling. Once that was over, we all helped move the rafts down to the water and hopped in.
I sat in the back of the raft and grabbed my paddle. We’d all been instructed on how to use the oars, which mainly means taking care not to smack anyone else with them and not dropping them in the water. We shoved off and did a bit of practice paddling, and I thought we were remarkably coordinated considering the early hour. I’d brought my camera in a special water proof neck pouch, hoping to get both video and stills on the calmer parts of the river.
The most exciting part of the journey came early on, when we hit a nice little section of rapids that soaked us pretty good. I was very glad of the wet suit, even though they weren’t big, vicious waves. It was just a moderate rapid, but still aggressive enough to wet down the boat, and I realized that my feet were now sloshing in my water boots.
Our raft was a quick mover and kept pulling up even with the one in front of us. We eventually passed it and kept the lead for the rest of the trip. After the initial rapids, most of the journey was smooth, although we were floating at a good pace because of the river’s fast water flow. I did managed to loose my camera holder, which basically came apart, but by that time there wasn’t much danger of the camera getting too wet so I managed to get lots of shots. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I’d also lost my wedding band. I didn’t figure that out until the last day of the trip, but my husband wisely thought to go through my photos and check out my hand to pinpoint the actual loss day. That let us determine that the band’s final resting place is somewhere at the bottom of the Kicking Horse River.
Darn, It’s Over Already
We all couldn’t help but marvel by the gorgeous scenery as we floated down the river. The trip lasted about an hour, but it felt like only 10 ten minutes before the guide said it was time to paddle over to the shore for lunch. I was surprisingly warm and comfortable in the wet suit and other gear., especially for a Florida wimp We’d lucked into a lovely sunny morning, which helped stoke the feelings of warmth.
We all enjoyed hot chocolate while we waited for lunch to be served up fresh. It was picnic style fare, with grilled hamburgers, chicken, and veggie burgers with all sorts of toppings, accompanied by cole slaw, potato wedges with sour cream, and cookies for dessert. After refueling, it was off to the changing area to strip off our gear and get back into civilian clothing. I’d brought a change of underwear, but my wetsuit did such a good job that my swimsuit was still dry so I just slipped my clothes on over it for the journey back to the lodge.
Judging by the buzz, everyone had loved the rafting trip. Even the Junior Adventurers were raving about it and laughing at how one of them, who’d been sitting in front of their raft, had gotten soaked by a huge wave that had given them all a shower.
I’d been hoping to explore Emerald Lake, but alas we only had time to freshen up before it was time to head out on our next adventure. Normally you have a more leisurely experience, but since the rafting had been added to our trip, that tightened the schedule.
First we visited a natural bridge for a very brief stop. It only allowed enough time for a few quick photos before it was back onto the bus. Next up was Lake Louse, where we got an hour to hike around the lake and explore the adjacent hotel. The lake’s colors changed as you walked around it, and it was truly gorgeous with snow capped mountains looming in the sky. I was jealous of the people I saw canoeing out on the tranquil waters until I remember that I’d had my own great water experience in the morning.
Next, it was back to the lodge where the adults had dinner on their own while the junior adventurers joined the guides for a special meal. They were also set to make s’mores if the rain cleared up, since we’d been hit by an evening rain storm. I’d been planning to go to my room to get my laptop and work on the wifi during dinner, but it was 6 p.m. by the time we got back, and I didn’t feel like walking to my cabin and back in the rain. My dinner reservation was for 6 anyway, and I had my dinner voucher with me, so I just went to the restaurant. I had my iPod Touch, which allows me to check email when I’m on wifi, and I managed to get a call through to my husband on my Magic Jack app. Then it was back to my cabin, where I packed my bag, since we’d be changing hotels the next day. Then I promptly crashed again. How torturous to have that lovely fireplace and no time to use it! Continue to Day 3