The guide tells our group, "You are going to fall in the water. Every one of you." He does it with certainty and in a dead-serious tone of voice that sets me shaking. I don't like being in water, unless it's warm, contained, and with a bar I'm able to swim up to. Dropping into cold water that's racing for Mexico and dotted with jagged rocks whose purpose appears to be to crack the bones of anyone unfortunate or foolish enough to splash into the rapids isn't my thing and never will be.
As the guide details how he plans to retrieve each of us when we do fall into the chilly Cheakamus River -- which he repeats again we are sure to do -- I am thinking about hanging up my oar and making for higher ground. But a big part of a travel writer's job description is attempting things not in one's comfort zone, so readers like you can know what it's really like before you set out for the adventure yourself. It's kind of like the work a proxy would perform for medieval noblemen, tasting their food just to make sure it wasn't poisoned.
So, for you, I undertook my first white-water rafting trip, a two-hour thrill ride that was far safer than anything I expected and gave me a new appreciation for the soft-core adventures Canada offers.
The family-friendly Cheakamus River trip is tame, with just enough passes through white-water rapids to give you a sense of the exhilaration serious rafters encounter. The tour was expertly handled by Canadian Outback Adventures, which in Squamish is based out of Executive Suites Hotel & Resort at Garibalidi Springs, a luxury property that's a highlight in this city halfway between Vancouver and Whistler.
Squamish calls itself the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. Besides the rafting, visitors can enjoy hikes through the temperate rainforest of the British Columbia coastline, including a challenging one-hour hike up the rockface called the Cheakamus Chief. Rock climbers take the more difficult route up the peak while scuba divers dip into the waters of the Howe Sound. On the river, there are passages that can test elite rafters and Canadian Outback Adventures offers a five-hour trek that will take you through those more difficult stretches of the Cheakamus.
If you're like me, though, and are intimidated by water and white-water rafting, the shorter, more tame trip is one you have to try. Once I realized the guide was only toying with us and that no one was actually going to fall into the water, the anxiety swept away and the trip became another reason to adore British Columbia.
The scenery, from the foliage to the eagles flying overhead to the snowy Coastal Mountains in the distance, is awesome. The rafting takes some endurance but not much. The guides are not only fit and knowledgeable, they've got a wicked sense of humour, making sure they manoeuvre the raft through the rapids so everyone gets the experience of a big splash right in the face.
That was the most threatening thing about this trip. When it happened to me, I laughed, feeling foolish that I was nervous at all.
MORE EXTREME TRAVEL IN CANADA
Paragliding in Revelstoke: Vacay.ca writer Katie Marti ventured to the skies over the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains in southeastern B.C. and tells a tell of exhilaration and unbelievable beauty. Read her article here.
Jet Boating in Montreal: Jody Robbins, Vacay.ca's Family Travel Columnist, took her family and her chances on a wicked ride through the Lachine Rapids in Montreal. Her tale is sure to give you the chills. Read it here.
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Montérégie, Québec If you are in the province of Québec this autumn, a trip to the Montérégie region should include a trip through the Wine Route of the Eastern Townships. Only 20 minutes from the outskirts of Montreal, the Domain St-Jacques Winery stretches over 30 hectares and provides guests a chance to experience distinctly Québec wines, including its award-winning icewine. If colourful forests and warm hospitality is what you are looking for, the region will undoubtedly fulfill your needs. (Photo Source: Domaine St-Jacques Winery)
Kelowna, British Columbia Vine-striped slopes, luscious greenery and barrels of wine that top the charts, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is a must for any wine-lover. Sitting above Lake Okanagan, Summerhill Pyramid Winery is widely known for its commitment to produce 100% organic wine and offering guests million-dollar views. Visitors of the winery can experience a tour of the 80-acre vineyard and end their day off with a glass of Canada’s finest bubbles. These views are surely enough cause for celebration. (Photo Source: Summerhill Pyramid Winery, British Columbia)
Oliver, British Columbia Every dreamt of waking up in a vineyard? The Guest House at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery lets you spend a night in some of the most spectacular scenery Oliver has to offer. From rooms with intimate fireplaces and poolside terraces, to the 1200 sq. ft. Meritage suite boasting private decks and a gourmet kitchen, the Borrowing Owl Guest House offers guests the opportunity to experience the stunning natural beauty of the vineyard from your very own room. (Photo Source: Burrowing Owl Estate Winery)
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Movie night in a winery? This Fall, enjoy a night of cinematic entertainment in a setting like no other. With a glass of wine in hand, covered by a big warm blanket, guests of Trius Winery at Hillebrand’s Movie Nights will enjoy a very unique night out under the stars. Make a weekend out of it and enjoy the incredible autumn scenery Niagara-on –the-Lake offers this time of year. A guided tour around the stunning grounds of the winery and a wine tasting session at Trius will provide you with an exciting and educational experience to enjoy as autumn begins. (Photo Source: Trius Winery at Hillebrand)
Penticton, British Columbia Sitting high above the shores of the Skaha Lake and named after ancient pictographs that were found on nearby rocks, Painted Rock Estate Winery prides itself in embracing old traditions, all while using the most modern equipment. Set near one of British Columbia’s most beautiful beaches, it is a perfect destination to enjoy the fresh mountain air while sipping on the delights from this young winery. For those that are looking for a bit of adventure, the parks and trails of the area will not disappoint. (Photo Source: Painted Rock Estate Winery)
Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia Wondering how to start off the fall season? Sipping a local sparkling wine in the evening décor at the Domaine de Grand-Pré will help you great autumn with style. In the heart of a landscape deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the winery sits a few kilometers away from Wolfville and Acadia University, the Bay of Fundy and Gaspereau Valley. Nova Scotia is rich with viniculture history and a visit to the winery will provide you with an invigorating cultural experience, as well as a chance to discover Atlantic Coast wine. (Photo Source: Domaine de Grand Pré)
Jordan, Ontario With Toronto’s skyline in the background, Cave Spring Wineries is a great destination of the Niagara region. Famous for its Rieslings and Chardonnays, visitors of the winery can enjoy the full experience of a visit at the winery with a stay at the Inn On the Twenty. After a day of wine tasting, guests can stay in the appropriately named Winery Cottage House and relax in their very own whirlpool while taking in the scenery of Canada’s famed wine region. (Photo Source: Cave Spring Wineries )
Brentwood Bay, British Columbia Situated a short drive from Victoria, Church and State Winery is another great destination for visitors of the Okanagan valley; especially for Pinot Gris lovers. Enjoy the scenery of the majestic fields and rolling hills visitors by taking advantage of the outdoor reception are in the winery’s beautiful main building. Sit comfortably on the wineries lounge chairs and couches, enjoy a glass of wine and appreciate the last warm days of the year. (Photo Source: Church and State Winery)
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