Monday, October 11, 2010

Moving Water at Palmer's Rapids

What a great 3 days! Moving water is an activity that I have been working hard at to be part of our program and this fall it has finally happened. The reason I wanted it to be part of our program is three-fold; first, when canoe tripping you often come across small sections of moving water and it is important that people understand what is going on when deciding to run it or not; second, similar to rock climbing, it is an activity that forces students well beyond their comfort zone, which is where the greatest learning happens; last, it is so much fun.

We picked the best week for our clinic. The weather was great, mostly sunny and warm, and the water level was at its highest all year. There were 12 students and we were joined by Mr. Witmer and our 2nd instructor Aussie Brad. We started our afternoon on Tuesday reviewing the moving water strokes and then worked our way to where the current was flowing. Here we practiced getting out of an eddy and into the current while keeping the boat upright. Which worked for most, although everyone did participate in a swim through at the end of the day. Just something that helps everyone be comfortable and not shocked when they do end up flipping a canoe.

The focus for the 2nd day was to start running sections of moving water. Palmer's Rapids is great for this, as it is comprised of two sections of moving water, the bottom which is gentler, but longer and the top which is more powerful. After a quick warm up and practice of the skills learned on Tuesday, we learned how to ferry across the river and how to exit the current into an eddy. Now we were ready to challenge the lower section. After a quick scout of the rapid, with hearts and adrenalin pumping, we went down ducky style and enjoyed our first run. Everyone was super excited and very keen to portage back up and do it again. After a quick lunch, this is exactly what we did and spent the entire afternoon running the lower set, each time challenging ourselves further by taking eddy's and different routes. Although we had some dumped canoes, some swamped canoes and a few forced swims, everyone came from the afternoon with great confidence. Some so confident that they swam the top rapid for kicks.

The last morning was short and we made the most of it by getting on the water early (and having camp packed up already). We started with a couple of runs of the bottom section to get the blood flowing and then we finished by everyone running the top rapid. The top rapid is just like a good ride at Wonderland, the water is fast, the waves are big and the chance of flipping for our students was about 50/50. That said, they all went for it with the saying of the week, "just keep paddling". Things started off great, with the 1st two canoes getting great air and running clean lines. After that, the canoes still got some great air, but this was followed with a bit of wetness, as some canoes flipped sideways, others got swallowed by waves and still others just took on too much water and began to sink. It was at the bottom of this rapid that I saw why I wanted to have moving water as part of our program, everyone was smiling and super excited about their run.

It is amazing when you have fun, how much you can learn. It was also a real pleasure to work with such a wonderful group.


L_went :) said...

The white water canoe trip was amazing! Our 3 day white water was quite the experience! I enjoyed the grade 11 flat water canoe trip but this was just amazing. We went as a group with the entire group of grade 12’s, all 12 of us.

For me, it started in the class a few days before we left when Mr.Brouwer was teaching us and it seemed that no matter what you did you would end up with your canoe upside down and you swimming. I wasn’t sure what to think at that point, should I be scared or excited. I guess I was a little bit of both. Soon, before I knew it we were finished our packing and we were all ready to leave. On our way to Palmers Rapids we picked up CB. This didn’t make a difference to us. We still sang and had a good time on the bus.

When we first arrived there we all ran over to the water because we could hear the rapids. The first thing we see is, well at that point a huge rapid! We were thinking Mr. Brouwer was crazy to even have us near something like that let alone send us down it. But we all left and went up to our site to set up the tents and get ready. The girls, all 4 of us, were not so lucky. We had borrowed a tent from the school, and it said that it was a 4 person tent but no something had to go wrong. When we tried to set up the tent we soon found out that we had a 3 person tent with a 4 person tent poles, it’s too bad we didn’t realize this before we left the school. Even Mr. Brouwer couldn’t help us fix it. Luckily for us the boys had 3 tents. 1 regular sized one and 2 large tents, so 3 stayed in the little tent and the other 5 boys moved into the big tent giving us the other one. After all that was settled it was time to go pull on the wet suits and head off to the water. Once everyone was set in their wetsuit, life jacket and helmet we were off with the canoes down to the water. My partner and I were so scared! Soon we found out we were only doing flat water work, but that still didn’t make us feel any better the rushing water was still very nerve racking. Slowly we started to settle down a little bit and just go with it. After our stretching break we started learning how to cross the rapids. Again my partner and I were scared, but on top of that we didn’t even understand what we were trying to do. Not long after trying it a few more times we were starting to understand what was happening. Then it happened the first canoe went in. My partner and I went across one more time to talk to them and see that happened. They said it was because they got too close to the big rock. So obviously we went to go across again and it happened. Just like the canoe before us we got too close to the rock and then we were swimming. The water was so cold it was hard to breathe it was such a shock! When we finally got out of the water we were both still standing there with big smiles on our faces saying how cold we were. That night after dinner was done it was really nice, there were only 12 students there which made it possible for all of us to fit around the fire together. Soon enough we all started heading off to bed.

L_went :) said...

The next morning started with pancakes for my food group. This took us forever to make. We ended up getting on the water about 30min later then we were planning for. After breakfast the hardest part of the entire trip happened, pulling on the cold wet wetsuits! We soon found that they warmed up quickly and the pain was over. So we all suited up and headed out for the water again, only thins time not quite as nervous as the pervious day. We started with a quick warm up and practice of the previous day. Now this just didn’t seem as terrifying, until it happened. Mr. Brouwer had brought us down to the lower part of the water and we all climbed out the canoes and we went to scout the rapids. Again my partner and I were so scared! The nervousness apparently showed in the way we went down. Even before we left the top we got stuck on a rock, which messed our formation we were supposed to go down ducky style, but we got left behind. So as we headed down the rapid all anyone could hear was “oh my goodness were going to die!” to our surprise, we made it! This made us really happy and we were excited to do it again, but it was lunch time., After lunch we went back out and kept going down for the rest of the afternoon using our skills and starting to catch the eddies. That night again we all sat around the fire only we all stayed up late that night telling stories.

The next morning was our last and no one really wanted to leave. But we packed up all the tents and had breakfast. Again the hardest part of the trip, pulling on the cold wetsuits! But today we all happily went down to the water ready for the day, we did our warm up and a few runs at the lower rapids. Then we came back to the top, back to the huge rapid we all saw that first day. We all wanted a go at it! Mr. Brouwer went first then my partner and I went next, just because he made it look easy and we wanted to go before we backed out. All you could here was “we are going to die oh man keep paddling” but in the end we flipped. But we flipped with huge smiles, we were so proud of ourselves for getting to courage to atlas try it.

Over all this was an amazing trip, I learned a lot and I faced some fears. I had so much fun, Thank you Mr. Brouwer, Brad, and Mr.Witmer!

B.wit said...

Hey everyone.
Just wanted to say I had an amazing time participating in the white water trip! I’ve been on a white water canoe trip before but it was nothing like I experienced at Palmer’s Rapid’s. The learning experience I got from both Mr. Brouwer, and from Brad was extremely helpful and made the experience a lot more enjoyable. We had a lot of fun on the trip in the canoes, and around the campfire, anything from enjoying a quick dip in the water after tipping (or voluntary swims), to singing songs that we only knew have the lyrics to, or only half the people knew them. I found it hard sometimes to communicate with those in my canoe at first but as the day went on I was able to adjust and learn what I need to do for my partner, or what they could do for me.

When we arrived on Tuesday the first thing we did was set up tents. This proved to be a difficult setup as on of the school tent’s had the wrong poles, but luckily we had an extra tent that was there and ready to go. Once the tents were setup, we put on our wet suites and got ready to go into the water. When we first got there we took a look at the to set of rapids, and I remember everyone looking at it with a bit of fear, we all thought “we cannot do that it’s too big to paddle…” Once we got in the water we went over things we had learnt in class, we went over the strokes and revised our knowledge of what to look out for while on the water. After that we played around in some currents practicing S-turns and C-turns, we did this for a couple of hours and then got back to camp to start supper. With my cooking group we had some trouble setting up the new stove, but once we figured it out we were able to make our food with relative ease, after which we all sat around the fire and chat a little before heading off for a good nights rest.

B.wit said...

When the light started to wake us we had not desire to get up, we didn’t know time all we knew was there was light to. When we finally got outside we sat around a little too long before getting to cooking. Making food proved to be difficult that morning, our group made pancakes and in the end we had way too much batter made for the 4 of us, hopefully we will learn from this in the future rather than just dumping the mix together. After breakfast we had to get into our wet suites, which were wet and cold, and then get back on the water. At this point we were not excited to go back into the rapids, none of us wanted get wet, thought 3 of the canoes tipped before we hit the bottom set of rapids. Before heading down the lower set of rapids, we went on land to scout out a path that we could go down with out hitting rock or logs. The first run of the day we just did a bombing run and went down ducky style. The next run however we were challenged to try and catch 2 eddies about half way down, we did this with great success which I think was a surprise to many of the students. After a few runs we went back to have a bite of lunch and warm up a bit. I couldn't wait to get back out there, but I know other's were a little less inclined to do so. We got back out on the water and did some more runs, after a few we tried a different part of the rapids, which filled us up with some water. After one more shot, by some of us who hadn't had enough, we called it a day and got into some warm cloths to sit by the fire and make supper. That night was filled with so much singing by everyone, including my Dad, Mr. Brouwer, and Brad, it was a late night and I think almost everyone stayed at that campfire till fairly late.

Well the next morning hit and it was our last day, I was a little sad cause I knew we wouldn't be that much longer here. After kicking my tent buddies awake we packed our bags and got to work at breakfast, after which we put on the wet suites (which we were not looking forward to). There was a little hesitation getting into the water at first, but in the end we all realized it was our last day and we wanted to make the most of it. We started the day by doing some warm ups and then we moved to the bottom sett of rapids, we then realized the water was at least 2 feet shallower than the other days. We went down the bottom set of rapids a few time before going back to the camp, we were then given the option to try the top set of rapids which we though were so monstrous the first day we arrived. Now we looked at them with new eye's, sure they were big and yes we knew it would be a rough ride, but now we saw it as a challenge to be conquered. Me and partner were the last to do the big set of rapids, we tipped but we had a lot fun doing it. We wanted to do it again but unfortunately we didn't have time.

All in all a fun trip, I hope to do it again with some friend, maybe during the summer when it's warmer though. I'd like to thank Mr. Brouwer, Brad, and my Dad for making it the experience it was.

Alex.N said...

The white water trip was the best 3day I will ever experience. I liked it more then the flat water canoe trip in grade 11.

the trip was the best experience I have ever been on because all the grade 12s were together having a great time in the great outdoors and it only rained one day witch I liked a lot.

The first day we arrived was slow because we had to get into are groups and set up camp witch took a long time because we had to set it up and learn that one of are tent members we leaving are tent then after we set up we jumped into are wet suits and put on are life jackets on we went down to the water with the canoes.

I remember looking at the water and I have to admit when i looked at some of the rapids I said " No way I'm going down that today ". we went out on the water and we practiced the basic of white water with some C-turn, S-turn and Ferry's after we were done Mr. Brouwer took us to some rocks and we jumped into the water and swam and I almost hit Satan rock
when we went back to shore we made dinner and sat around a camp fire and went to bed later.

Alex.N said...

The second day we work up early at it took a long time to prepare Breakfast are group made oatmeal and we had hot chocolate we then got the wet suits on and they were cold because they were still a little damp from the first day and put on the life jackets.

when we got onto the water we practiced doing C-turns and S-turns to catch eddies, after we paddle across the lake and got out of the canoes to see how we were going down the rapids when we figured out how we were going down we split into two groups and went down the Rapids ducky style and we would go so far and then we would try to get into the calm of the water so we could all go down at once after we regrouped we went down the fun part at the end and me and me partner went down and we almost sunk because we got a lot of water in the canoe from getting splashed we did this 5 times and we headed back to shore but before we went back to the camp ground. Then Mr. Brouwer took some people to the water so we could jump into the water again but this time it was further up stream he told us what to do and then we jumped in one at a time and swam for are life the water was splashing in are faces but we had a lot of fun.
We went back to camp and made a fire and ate dinner and the group tried their best to think of a song we could all sing later we went to bed.

the last day had come and we woke up earlier to make breakfast and then take down the tents and put the wet suits and the helmets and life jackets on again we went down to the water and i swapped my partner and we did some warm up and then proceeded to go down the rapids but when we went down we hit a hole and the canoe rocked back and forth and a wave it up and that when Kieth and I took a swim we swam to a calm part of the water so we could get picked up by people so we could go down the rapids. we did this 3 times and we went onto the bus and came back to school.

All in all it was the best canoe trip i have been on and i must thank Mr. Brouwer again for taking us on this amazing trip

bee said...

Let me just say I have been on a ton of canoe trips, even a white water trip once, but never have I ever experienced as much fun as this trip.

Wow, where do I even start? Well I guess a good place would be the beginning. I arrived at the school bright and early on Tuesday morning to help pack the Witmer’s car with all our stuff. This was much easier said than done, as it turns out the twelve seniors going on this trip had more stuff then all twenty grade eleven’s on the Algonquin trip and we had to take EVERYTHING out and put it all back in to make it fit. Luckily it all did and we all piled into the bus just a little late. I would have to say that this was the point at which I knew how amazing this trip was going to be. As soon as we got on the bus we started to sing and well we never stopped. The poor Colonel By kids were terrified as Hayden sang the Itsy Betsy Spider as loudly as he could.

The bus ride seemed to take no time at all, in fact it felt a lot like a roller coaster, and before I knew it we were at Palmer Rapids. The first thing we did was walk around to check out the scenery and stretch our legs. It was on this walk we first saw THEM. They were huge, and terrifying, deadly even. There was no way we were going to be able to canoe through that. I was scared just standing next to the rapid. Just before the panic really set it Mr. Brouwer called us to go set up our tents, which proved to be an adventure all on its own!

The girl’s tent which was a four person as there were only four of us turned out to be a three and a half person tent. The poles belong to a four person tent but the actual tent part was part of a three person tent. We tried our best to make it work. Even Ben and Mr. Brouwer lent a hand. No luck. Thankfully the guys had two twelve person tents and only really needed one, so we got Hayden’s huge tent which was already set up! Yay!

As it turns out we really needed all that room as Shawna, Claire, Laura and I rolled around and fought with our wetsuits trying to get them on. The wetsuits won and we all ended up on the ground laughing. We hit the water and played in the flat water and the moving water at bottom of the rapids to build our skills and confidence. My canoe partner and I hit the waves full force and were quite amazing. So much so that we wanted to make everyone else feel better and tipped first. Or it went something like that. Anyway we ended up in the water moving quite quickly down the river. The water was very, let’s say refreshing and took your breath away as soon as you hit it. My partner and I managed to swim over to the shore and to safety while Brad (basically Jesus) and Mr. Brouwer (God) rescued our canoe. My paddling partner and I canoed back to shore to soak up the last sun rays and watch our peers swim down the rapids.

Once everyone was dry and warm we all started supper. There were four cooking groups, three of students and one of adults, which worked out perfect because we had moved four picnic tables to surround the fire pit. The food was amazing and everything went smoothly. After dinner we talked and sang around the fire for a while then all headed back to our tents by nine. Of course this is not when we fell asleep; Shawna and I had some serious catching up to do!

The next morning we were all up early but not moving very quickly. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast complete with fresh, hot crescent rolls and sluggishly got ready for another day of canoeing. Possibly the greatest joy of the canoe trip and what made us true white water paddlers (according to Mr. Brouwer) was putting on our cold soaked wetsuits. Fortunately the weather of the trip was wonderful and we soon warmed up. We hit the water to practice our new white water skills and prepare to ride the lower, tamer (of the two sets, not calm at ALL) rapids. We scouted out the route we would take and were soon off. We bombed the first run and discovered not only were the chances of us living higher than the chances of us dying (who knew?) but that it was a ton of fun!

bee said...

After that we could not be stopped! We portaged up time after time to ride the waves down, testing our skills and breaking our comfort levels each time with new routes through the rapids only stopping briefly for lunch. There were a couple of tips but nothing too bad.

By the end of the day we were down to four canoes, two teachers, two kids, one last run, sounds perfect right? Well that’s what I thought and how wrong I was! My partner and I went down first with Brad. We knew we had taken on more water than normal but we thought we would be fine, so we did not stop to empty our canoe in an eddy like we should have but continued down to the bottom. The final wave hit us hard filling our entire boat with water. We kept with the motto of the trip and “just kept paddling”. We would have made it too if we had two air bags but luck was not with us and we had only one. As Hayden describes it; he looked back to see me complete submerged from the neck down in the water laughing my butt off and paddling away. This did not last long and we were soon both swimming. I was laughing way too hard to get anywhere, so we just floated in the water and let the current take us. Upon seeing us Brad lost all control of his boat and tipped himself trying to save us. Mr. Brouwer and Mr. Ben’s dad did the same thing, hurrying down the rapids and ending their no tip record. We finally all ended back into canoes and headed up to site for dinner.

Dinner was warm and tasty after the long day. We couldn’t believe it was our last night all ready! It went so quick! We had to make the most of it of course! So we piled the fire with logs and sang every song we knew, moving on to songs we didn’t know but sang anyway. We then moved on to stories of previous trips and haunted houses. Claire scared us all, including herself, way too much for sleep with her frightening dog story so we continued the fire to the wee hours of the morning. There was a dance party, some flying light sticks and finally a little sleep.
The next morning we got ready much quicker. We couldn’t wait to hit the rapids again! We played in the bottom ones to warm up then moved to the huge top one for the very last run. Almost all of us want to try it. That’s right, that rapid that we stood staring at and saying we would NEVER ever do on the first day we were actually excited to try. We all conquered our biggest fear and paddled down the rapid, most of us ending up swimming.

Hayden and I were the only non teacher boat to make it through without tipping, however we managed to tip our boat ferrying across the bottom. We were all soaked by the end of the morning which made changing out of our wetsuits oh so much fun, especially because we had already taken our tents down. The bus ride home was much like the ride there, except we were much more tired. We made it back to school way before the Witmers and all our stuff so we had a mini campfire with yet again some singing!

I learned a great deal on this trip such as; I actually can do the impossible (paddle the top rapid), Hayden is not as scary as I thought he was, Claire has a great deal of determination, tilt really does save you, you really do need to just keep paddling, things aren’t as scary as they seem, and how amazing everyone on the trip is.

I don’t believe there is just one thing I enjoyed most about this trip. That last run on Wednesday, the late night campfire, the bus rides, Brad’s accent, all the canoeing but most of all the people.

The thing I liked least about the trip was the length of it. It went by way too quick!

There is actually nothing I would do differently and I would do it again in a heart beat

It was the trip of a life time! I would not have changed a minute of it, not even the endless amount of times we sang American Pie because Claire wanted to learn all the words.

Claire said...

The moving water trip at Palmer's rapid was a very eye-opening experience for me. For one thing, I realized that I do not enjoy every activity we do in outdoor Ed. The moving water trip combined fear and dislike for me because I am not very fond of swimming, especially in freezing cold water.
Before the trip when we were learning in class about proper swimming positions and the features of the rapids was when I started feeling scared. Then on the first day when we were doing the C-turns and ferries I felt quite bored. It didn’t really feel fun for me so when our canoe flipped it was probably a little more exciting. Unfortunately it was absolutely terrifying as well. It’s not that we were in huge rapids with rocks everywhere it was more the fact that once you hit the water breathing becomes very difficult.
What happened was that we were going to do a C-turn down the current and apparently we got too close to a certain rock. The next thing I know there’s water coming into the boat but I still felt like we could save it so it was quite unexpected when we were tipped into the water. I remember the first thing I saw was my paddle and remembered that I should probably grab it. The next thing I remembered was get away from the canoe because if you got caught between the canoe and a rock you basically get crushed. Of course there were no rocks around but I swam away anyways. At this point I also realized that I was having trouble breathing. The other thing is that it’s hard to swim with a paddle in your hand. So by the time I could start swimming we were at the end of the current being directed to a rock we could climb up on. When we got on the rock I was still gasping for breath so I took off my life jacked because I felt constricted. It didn’t really help though and by this time I was also starting to feel cold. We stood on the rock for a while longer while our canoe was brought over to us. When we got back on the water we pretty much paddled right back to the shore and didn't go back in the water. The other people who didn't fall in went swimming off the rocks. We went back to camp to change into warm clothes and make dinner. After dinner we sat around the fire, then went to bed after an interesting chat with one of the other schools camping in the area.
The next morning I got up before any of my tent mates and went outside to be greeted by a beautifully clear view of a rainbow. Me and some of my food group stood around the fire pit admiring the view for awhile before deciding to make breakfast. Breakfast was quite the ordeal but afterwards we got into our wetsuits and paddled out to the rapids. We warmed up a bit in the lake first and then proceeded to scout out the rapids. I and my canoe partner were pretty terrified to go down the rapids. When we started following Mr. Brouwer down we were the first canoe which turned out to be a pretty good thing. We didn't have the greatest communication so we got stuck on the very first rock we possibly could have. We didn't even make it to the rapids. Thankfully we got pushed of the rock by Brad and continued down the rapids. The water was high so it was a fairly easy ride down for me at least. Since I was steering I probably didn't get as wet as my partner in the front. We made it down well enough and paddled back to shore to portage out canoes back up. This is where we discovered that white water canoes are a lot heavier than out canoes back at school. The portage wasn't very long at all but we had to switch out halfway through due to tiredness and neck pains. After that first run we took a break and went to make lunch. That lunch was by far the most delicious meal of the trip, so we went back on the water with no problem at all.

Claire said...

This next time that we went down the rapids we were aiming to hit an eddy along the way. There were two eddies one higher up then the other and Mr. Brouwer and Brad though that we'd only manage to hit the lower one. When we went down (first again just in case) we almost all hit the top eddy. After a short break we started going down the rapids again following Brad, the water was lower and so there were more rocks along the way. This meant that we couldn't take the easy way down and instead had to go down between the drop and the hole we'd been worried about earlier. I did not know this at the time so we just went along following Brad who started gesturing very confusingly when we came near the end. I had no idea what he was trying to get at and even if I did when I tried to turn the canoe it just went sideways. I didn't see the drop until it was too late and we went over it sideways into the hole where we turned backwards. I grabbed the gunnels twice and froze up with no clue what to do. Brad started yelling at us to keep paddling but this still didn't help considering we were backwards and I had no idea what direction to paddle. It was basically a miracle that we even made it down.
We portaged the canoes back up again, the trip being just as gruelling as the last. We went down the rapids a couple more times, the other groups moved on to the more difficult routes but me and my partner decided not to test our luck. The portages back up to the top were quite difficult and after the third time me and my partner couldn’t do it alone anymore and some other people helped us out. After about five times we were done for the day except about four canoes that wanted to go back down again. The rest of us headed back to the campsite to get into dry clothes and start making dinner. After dinner and a pretty good desert of cake crumbs and icing we all sat around the fire singing songs and telling scary stories. This went on for a couple of hours until we decided that maybe we should get some sleep.
The next morning we woke up to a simple breakfast and were on the water by 9:00, in theory. We had to pack up and get back into the cold wetsuits which took a while. We got back on the water and just went straight for the rapids. Me and my partner made it down a couple times alright before disaster (Alex and Shawna) struck.
After we had stopped at the eddy we started following each other down. We went first with Alex and Shawna behind us. We got into the space between the hole and the drop so the churning water slowed us down considerably and also turned us partially sideways. We had done this many times before and knew we were going to make it down fine when the other canoe rammed us t-bone style. Both I and my partner knew we were going down so as a last effort to stay out of the water we tried to jump into the canoe right alongside us. Unfortunately we didn’t make it, but we both feel quite proud that we tipped their canoe as payback. We still managed to hold onto our paddles and so we got carried out into the middle of the lake where we somehow managed to climb back into our canoe.

Claire said...

After we portaged the canoes back up we headed for the shore so we could try the big rapid up top. Me and my partner, having had impeccable luck the whole trip, decided we could definitely conquer the big rapid as long as we had our trusted canoe and stuck to the motto, just keep paddling. We climbed up to the top and got some instructions on how to go down, then watched Mr. Brouwer make it look easy. Me and my partner decided to go first so we wouldn’t chicken out watching everyone else fall in. We started going down yelling at each other, but instead of the usual, “we are so totally going to die”, it was “we so totally got this”. Turns out we didn’t, we were delusional until the last second. Even when our canoe started tipping we still were sure we weren’t going down. But we did. I once again managed to grab my paddle which got hooked on my partner’s on the way down and I thought I was going to kill her. In the end we made it down safely and ran back up to see everyone else go down. Nobody but Brittany and Hayden made it alright which would have been impressive had they not tipped trying to ferry back across to our side. At the end everyone was soaked and we got to change back into dry clothes. We packed up and had a moderately uneventful ride home. Mr. Witmer and Ben were quite late so we had to wait in the outdoor Ed room for a while but eventually we got out stuff and finally headed home.
Unfortunately the canoe trip was only fun for me on the last day and whenever we weren’t on the water. I did not really like going down the rapids or playing in the current that much. Playing in the current was boring and tedious for me and going down the rapids was mostly stressful. I certainly enjoy canoe trips like the one to Algonquin better than white water canoeing. I can say however that it was a good learning experience. I definitely know more about evaluating the river. So if the situation ever arises when on a regular canoe trip that we have to decide whether or not to go down a rapid, I feel I am much better equipped to deal with it.
The part about these canoe trips that I enjoy most is spending all that time with the people in our outdoor Ed class. They’re pretty much all good company and you get to know people a lot better out in the woods. It’s fun for me to sit around a campfire and talk or sing or whatever and despite my dislike for white water canoeing I would never pass up a chance to do that. So thank you to Mr. Brouwer, Brad and Mr. Witmer for the trip.

Alex.Jesso said...

I wouldn’t really describe myself as one who is “thrill-seeking”. When I realized that we would be canoeing on rapids, I was extremely uneasy. I’m happy to say that despite my nervousness, the canoe trip was easily the most enjoyable and thrilling school trip I have ever had the pleasure of taking.
I remember in Grade 11, I struggled with basic steering strokes; so, when we began the school year learning S-turns, C-turns, and low braces, I was a bit overwhelmed. I figured it was pretty much inevitable that I would not make it down a rapid. The only comfort I had was that the rest of my friends seemed to have the same concerns as me when it came to paddling white water. We were all in the same boat, no pun intended.
I arrived at the school early Tuesday morning, so that I and the rest of the seniors could pack all of the equipment necessary for our trip. It took a lot of effort, as all twelve of us had collectively packed more bags than the twenty grade elevens who had been on the previous canoe trip. We had to unload the entire truck and repack it to make everyone’s gear fit. Eventually, all of our equipment was packed and ready to go, and we were only a little late as we piled onto the bus.
The roller coaster bus ride took us terrain littered with huge hills and valleys at what felt like breakneck speed. The time was passed the same way every bus ride is passed by the Outdoor Ed class: singing. We probably drove the Colonel By students, with whom we were sharing the bus, crazy. Before we managed to get through a full performance of “American Pie”, we had arrived at our destination: Palmer Rapids.
The first thing I wanted to do was get a look at the rapids I was about to paddle through. The whole group made their way down to the water’s edge, and looked in awe at the rapid. It was probably the most terrifying moment in my life. As I looked at the powerful, white water crashing around a large rock and extending for what seemed like forever, I realized that soon the only thing that would be between me and the deadly looking rapid would be a thin fibreglass canoe.

Alex.Jesso said...

We were called to set up tents, which didn’t take too long. Both Hayden and Pat, who were in my tent group, brought a huge tent. We had so much space, until the girls realized that their poles didn’t match their tent. Being the generous people we are, we allowed them to have one of our already set-up tents. Once our tents were set up, it was time to hit the water. Since we were all guaranteed to end up flipping at one point or another, we needed a way to stay warm in the frigid water; cue the extremely unflattering wetsuits. Donning the wetsuit was not an enjoyable experience, but we all had a good laugh about how attractive we looked.
When we got out in the canoes, we started by working on flat water techniques to boost or skills and confidence. Because trimming the canoe, or balancing weight, is important in white water, I took the stern position while my partner Shawna took the bow. I motivated myself to do well out of the fear that if I didn’t, I would die. Shawna and I communicated well together, and we made a great team. Then it was time to attempt some basic C and S-turns into the rapids. Shawna and I started by entering the rapid low, where the current was weaker, just to get a handle on moving water. Despite being terrified out of my mind on the first go, we made it though the current in one piece. A lot of my anxiety was lifted, and I enjoyed myself a lot more as we continued to practice higher and higher on the current. We finished the day by jumping into a rapid to practice swimming out. Having taken off my glasses, I was literally jumping blind into the water. It was scary, but once I got in I was able to swim to the edge of the current. I couldn’t get power to break the eddy line, so Australian Jesus (aka Brad), our other canoeing instructor, helped me out.
We made our way back to camp to get dry and warm. Our cooking groups worked on dinner, and everyone ate well that night. Then we all settled in by the fire, and sang, we didn’t do enough of that on the bus. The campfire bonding is what I enjoy most about camping, but we were exhausted, so we turned in fairly early to prepare for another hard day`s paddle. I was so tired that by the time my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light.

Alex.Jesso said...

The next morning we rose bright and early. We rose to fresh croissants baked for us in a Dutch oven by Mr. Brouwer. All of us were unhurried and got ready quite slowly. We pulled on our cold wetsuits with great difficulty, and hoped into our canoes for another day of paddling. We practiced our new white water skills for a time, but soon the moment of truth arrived. We were going to paddle down our first set of rapids. It can’t be worse than the rapids we`ve been playing in, I thought. How wrong I was. We walked to the beginning of the rapids from shore, so that we could plan our route though the water. I was so horrified when I saw endless waves, rocks, and white. I was fairly sure I was going to die.
We decided to follow the leader; one instructor would paddle a path and we would follow him. I remember floating towards the edge of the rapid. It looked like a cliff I was about to go over. At the edge, the sound of the waves seemed deafening. I felt the canoe move forward, and then I heard nothing but screaming the whole way down. Water crashed over the sides of the canoe. Shawna and I were yelling to each other. We managed to come to the end of the rapid, only to gracefully flip into icy water at the very end. This was probably the best thing that could have happened. I had just paddled down rapids, flipped, and didn’t die. I felt invincible.
After the first run, the whole group felt amazing. We continued paddling the rapid again and again. I kept one thing in my head the entire time: just keep paddling. At the end of one run, Mr. Brouwer said it was the most confident he had ever seen me paddle. My confidence leapt, and I felt I had accomplished a ton in just a few short hours.
We broke for lunch, and we were quickly on the water again. My first flip wasn’t my last, but that didn’t stop me. Shawna and I had successfully stopped in an eddy, and made it to the bottom upright. My favourite wipe out was with Claire and Laura. At the bottom of the rapids was a rock, and Claire and Laura were stuck on it. Shawna and I paddled right on top of them, pushing them of the rock and into the water. We started to laugh, but Claire grabbed our canoe and pulled us under too. It was so funny! By the end of the day everyone had tipped, and we went back to camp with smiles on our faces.
Dinner was phenomenal, as usual, and we passed the time around the campfire telling ghost stories. Claire scared us all, including herself, and we all were a little bit nervous as we went to bed in the dark. We got up early the next morning, eager for a quick paddle before we went home.

Alex.Jesso said...

Dinner was phenomenal, as usual, and we passed the time around the campfire telling ghost stories. Claire scared us all, including herself, and we all were a little bit nervous as we went to bed in the dark. We got up early the next morning, eager for a quick paddle before we went home.
We started the day on the low rapids, but moved to the higher rapid for on last run. Shawna and I were freaking out as we steered the canoe over the edge. The waves were above my head, and we passed two crests before flipping. It was a great way to end a great trip. Sadly, it was time to go, and we all boarded the bus tired but feeling accomplished.
I learned that I can achieve anything I put my mind too. Being not the most adventurous person, I surpassed my own expectations. I’m so proud that I can say I’ve successfully (and unsuccessfully) paddled white water. It was an incredible experience, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. I really would like to thank Mr. Brouwer, Brad, and Mr. Witmer for making the trip possible. I would do it again in a second.

CougarAwareness said...

I have decided that for my moving water reflection I will not provide a summary of the events because I have a terrible memory; I'm sure that reading these is becoming redundant; and I don't want my post to be longer than the trip was itself (although it's pretty close). I will therefore write my reflection of the trip through the emotions it evoked rather than narrating it as if I were Stephanie Meyer. I do, however, like the name Edward. Regardless, here goes...

The whole canoe trip was, in a word, emotional. I know that word sounds like it has a negative connotation but I would like to imply the contrary. I don't mean "emotional" like I hated every minute and just cried all day. No, I mean "emotional" as in this whole experience evoked so many emotions that I had somehow become indifferent to over the years: achievement; wonder; fear; and love.

I felt achievement for the first time in my high school career when my partner and I successfully ran a set of rapids. It wasn't the first time we did it, though. If I do recall correctly, which I probably don't, it was on the second day on our second or third run. For the first quarter of the trip my partner and I lacked adequate communication skills and kept getting frustrated at each other for basically everything, which is surprising because my partner is one of my best friends, so I initially thought we'd be fine. We weren't and I think it showed. Luckily, as the trip progressed, the communication between my partner and myself improved dramatically. The first run after my partner and I established solid communication between ourselves is the one that I initially spoke of. It was also the rowdiest (honestly, that wasn't meant to be a pun). The current was ridiculous and I was getting more air than I would have liked. It was like a mini roller coaster on steroids. I just remember screaming "Tell my parents I love them" and hearing my partner screaming "Oh my god, oh my god" frantically. It was terrifying but so much fun! Going from constant criticism of one another to saying our last prayers together. That was the moment I knew I achieved something.

The feeling of wonder that I felt on this trip is from something I will never forget, although I did forget how the world could amaze me when it's not just a picture. Palmer's Rapids is beautiful. The countless trees and forest as far as you can see (although I do have pretty bad eyesight...), the smell of pine and air and unfortunately the occasional outhouse, and how you could actually see into the water because of it's general clarity (a nice change from the Ottawa River). The thing that amazed me the most, however, was something much farther away. We were sitting around the campfire eating some messy, yet very good, caked-up oranges with an unhealthy amount of icing on them when I tilted my head back onto the picnic bench so my neck could have a break and saw, for the very first time in my life, the Milky Way. I know that lots of people see it all the time and whatever, but to me this was a big deal for two reasons. First, the universe is my passion. The amounts of books I own and have read, documentaries I have seen, and time I have spent talking and thinking about the universe and cosmos is enough to make some people throw up. Second, I was expecting to see a few scattered stars here and there, not a fraction of our galaxy streaking across the sky! It was honestly the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen in my life. The vastness of it really makes you feel so small and allows you to re-evaluate the meaning of life because we are so incredibly lucky to even be capable of life in such a hostile universe. I've never been more astounded in my life and I feel that I can't really transfer that feeling through words, much to my regret.

CougarAwareness said...

And then there was fear. The emotion I felt predominantly over the course of the trip. It started on the bus. The bus driver was driving like a maniac and I thought we were going to either crash into oncoming traffic or flip while taking a corner too fast. I bet the guy driving didn't even work for the bus company. There was fear for wearing a wetsuit because they're so form fitting and it's uncomfortable if your self esteem isn't too good (I eventually got over it) and there was also the fear of failure. Then there was the rapids themselves, a whole different level of the "oh my gosh I'm going to die" sensation. Just in case you're not aware, drowning is absolutely my biggest fear. I would rather die any other way than drown. You can light me on fire and that's fine, as long as I'm not drowning. Looking at fish makes me anxious because I hold my breath. So when I found out that I had to jump into some white water willingly, I couldn't have been happier (sarcasm, people!). I tried to procrastinate my turn as long as I possibly could, to no avail. I took so long that people from other schools starting hollering. Ugh, the pressure! Couldn't they just respect the fact that I wanted to live for 5 more minutes? I eventually jumped in and I immediately regretted it because the water was absolutely frigid and I almost smashed my butt on a rock mid-swim. I think falling in during the lower set of rapids was better because the adrenaline eased the fear of drowning. I was also quite apprehensive of cougars, a very rational fear if you ask me.

Out of all the emotions I experienced over the duration of the trip, I found the feeling of love to occur in the most diverse ways. I realized how much I love Cairine for being capable of trips like these. I've been reminded of how much and why I love my friends (wetsuits not zipping up, staying up irresponsibly late talking the night away, and how comfortable I feel belting out campfire songs because I didn't have to worry about being good or not). I loved the stories, the cooking experiments, the lack of technology and the complete elimination of work and school related stress. I loved the jokes, the stories and the way we all got along with one another regardless of the fact that we normally wouldn't. I rediscovered my love for nature, but most of all, I discovered a new love for outdoor sports. Not outdoor sports literally, like soccer or football, but outdoor sports like rock climbing and canoeing. I've never really liked regular sports (not including badminton) so I figured I just wasn't a sport person. Turns out I just wasn't looking in the right category. I would really like to thank everyone who has helped me to discover this and hopefully I can continue participating in outdoor endeavors throughout the rest of my life.

Achievement, fear, wonder and love; the four emotions that summarize and best describe how I felt during our 3-day white water canoeing trip. Although I was a bit unprepared and thought about not even going the night before, I'm glad I went and I wouldn't change a thing (other than the fact that few were keen to help clean up). I've definitely grown from this experience and in retrospect, I wish I had stepped out of my comfort zone more. Regardless, it was a simply fantastic experience and I'm really going to miss this class and everyone in it once it's over. Best of luck Grads '11!

If you're disappointed that I didn't provide a summary of the trip, here's a very brief one:

Grade 12 outdoor ed. Highlight of the course: White Water canoeing. 11 (or was it 12?) Grade twelves, Mr. Brouwer (I still have no idea how to spell your name. My apologies.), Ben's Dad and, who could forget, Brad. Put us all together and what do you have? Well apparently you get wetsuits that don't fit, weird oranges that look like grapefruits and campfire songs by "the Cheeky Girls". And I would do it all again in a heartbeat.