2013 Thompson River Labor Day Weekend
September 02, 2013 at 12:24 PM
It all started with an email from J. Hollywood (OWA Membership Director) in late July. “It’s time to take it International”. Let’s go do the Thompson!
After calls to the authorities to make sure records were clean and Passports good, we assembled a group of seven boaters. Josh Hollander (J Hollywood) Trip Leader, Jesse King ( Baron von Surfstein), Steve Oslund (Stevilone), Skip Currier, Sam (The White Sammy) Watry, Tara Haug (Surftessa von –insert name of large outfitter on the Thompson), and Nick (Don’t singe the ginge) Soorholtz.
Our Trip Leader thought that a trip of this complexity needed to have a planning meeting or two, and had to happen at a place that served beer. Once we had the logistics down along with a beer or five, we decided that we’d have everything ready and staged at Skip’s house so we were ready to roll on the Morning of the 29th.
The trip almost didn’t happen! Steve hurt his back and was only cleared to go a day or two prior to departure. Tara, who had just got back into town from a two week plus environmental mission to monitor surfing conditions in Nicaragua, wasn’t sure she should take another five days to go rafting. Took fortitude and courage, but she made the right decision. And then there was Nick who had been battling a nasty cold for over a week. On the night before we were to leave, we got a text saying he was throwing in the towel. Then, about 20 minutes before we were heading out the next morning, we get a text saying, “I just woke up and feel great. Wait for me, I’m on my way!” You gotta believe the guy upstairs likes rafters!
We made it to Canada, and the little town of Lytton with no problems. From there it’s only a few miles to the campground ( Skihist), which we found with no problems. Everything was going to plan until, with beers in hand the Camp Hostess tells us, “This is a dry Campground.” After we recovered from near cardiac arrest, she told us she was joking. Shouldn’t kid around about something so serious. In any case, she turned out to be really fun and very helpful.
Prior to leaving for the trip, we obviously had an eye on the weather and were pretty happy with a forecast of a 30% chance of rain. Sam, who had just completed some very rigorous and advanced Financial Analyst coursework, assured us using complex formulae, equations and ratios, that it wouldn’t rain. So, we set up a camp of river wings, cots and paco pads. You can only imagine how shocked we were when at 3AM the rain is blowing horizontally through the camp. The moral of the story here is to be polite and listen to your “weatherman” and if you brought a tent, set it up. I think if you ask Sam, he’ll tell you the breeze was a little stiffer than he preferred!
Finally, were going to get on the river. But.. Not before navigating a Class IV put in. The access is at Nicoman Creek. You have to back a hundred or so yards under two bridges, around a corner, and then over an edge that drops off. Imagine an infinity pool. The front tires were dragging as you backed down to the water. The best part? You get to pay for it.
We’re now on the water! Josh, in his emails told us that there are 16 named rapids in the first 16 or so kilometers. So it’s not boring. 16 names are a lot to remember. But one to remember is the first one, Frog. Aptly named for the massive rock feature that when seen from the front left profile looks like a giant frog. There are surf waves there that you can only dream about. I was behind Jesse on the second day and completely lost sight of him when he dropped in. Next thing I see is a massive amount of spray coming off of the back of his tubes as he sat there surfing. As he said, “Could have read the paper!” All of the rapids are Big! Definitely keeps the adrenaline level up!
The flat water presented challenges as well. There are swirlys, eddies, and whirlpools that will drag your tubes under all the way to the frame. If you’ve been on the Rogue, it’s similar to coffeepot. You have to be on your toes on this river. Not only for yourself, but also keeping an eye on your mates. It’s not water for a big group. If you do plan a big trip, probably best to break up into ten boat groups at the max. The river is fast and with all of the eddies and whirlpools, you have to keep everybody in sight always. A swim could be a real bad deal.
So, a couple asides. How did Surftessa get her name? Tara was solo on my boat and Jesse & I were on another boat. Seeing as Jesse and I together weigh a pound or two, we weren’t going to be doing any surfing. Next best thing? Help somebody else. So, on the last day on the last major rapid, we talk Tara on to this wave. She’s back rowing and back rowing and looks like she’s just about to lose the wave and then she’s balancing right on top. Nothing but air in front, nothing but air in back. Then she’s slides about five feet down the back of the wave and surfs for a second and BAM gets a lateral and shoots right across the river. She only smiled a little…
And, we all know Steve Oslund is a serious guy. Not much gets him going. So it was that we were running low on beer and ice. Steve volunteered to hit the store on the way back from the take out. I went into the store with him while he purchased three 15 packs of beer and a bag of ice. The cashier is ringing it up, and the next thing you know Steve is grabbing my arm and pointing at the register like he just saw Bigfoot. $112.50 HA! I would have almost skipped the rafting to see it. Almost.
Is this a trip worth taking? You bet it is! The Thompson is a big, beautiful and powerful river. If you’re going for the excitement, it won’t disappoint you. And, the water is warm!! The people in Lytton and at the campground were all friendly, the scenery is beautiful, and the Chinese food is…. Another story for another time.
Submitted by Skip Currier