Apr 15, 2024
Silvercore Club

Surviving the Chilliwack and Conquering the Fraser: Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Wilderness Adventures

Over twenty years had passed since the day I nearly drowned in the class IV white waters of the Chilliwack River just past the Tamihi bridge. That near-death experience was etched into my memory like a scar that never faded, serving as a constant reminder of how close I had come to losing it all. It was a combination of foolhardy bravado coupled with a cheap, corner store style inflatable raft that had almost cost me my life.

Unlike previous runs, the icy torrent of the fresh runoff flowed much higher and exceedingly swifter than what I had traversed in the the past.  At least this time, I had a life jacket which was still emblazoned with the faded logo of a commercial white water company that I had the audacity to try and follow on other, much larger rivers.  If I was beside them and ran into trouble, surely they would feel obligated to rescue me, I surmised.  This lifejacket was an outcome of that, and unknowingly, they did. 

That day, as I was pinned to the bottom of a heavily aerated hole, and being recirculated over and over, gasping for air and fighting the current that threatened to keep me under for good, something inside me changed. The adrenaline pumping through my veins was a stark wake-up call, a life-altering epiphany. I realized that if I wanted to continue pursuing the thrill of adventure, I needed to invest in quality equipment, proper training, and a deep respect for the outdoors.

Fast forward two decades, and I found myself on the banks of the mighty Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada. I was on a sheep hunting trip, halfway across the province from where that near-death experience had occurred. This time, I was armed with years of hard earned experience and tried and tested equipment.  With my trusty Sako 85 tucked into a flotation case and strapped to a commercial raft built to handle the most rugged conditions, I was prepared for what Mother Nature could throw my way. I had heeded the lesson of the Chilliwack River, investing time and money into my passion for adventure, and I was about to embark on an expedition that would test every ounce of that preparation.

The Fraser River stretched out before me, its powerful current inviting and intimidating all at once. This was a river I hadn't traveled before, and the excitement was palpable. I knew that this journey would be like no other - a wild, unpredictable odyssey that would take me into the heart of the wilderness, where I would have to rely on my wits, my skills, and my carefully selected kit to navigate the challenges ahead.

With each paddle stroke, I could feel the adrenaline surging through my veins, the same rush that had coursed through me that fateful day on the Chilliwack River. But this time, it was different. I was in control, master of my own destiny, and I had the experience and equipment to prove it. The river became my ally, a powerful force that carried me through pristine landscapes and uncharted territory.

Each day brought new challenges. We encountered rapids that tested our raft's mettle, forcing us to read the water and make split-second decisions. We battled unforgiving weather, with rain pouring down in torrents and wind howling through the trees. We faced the uncertainty of not knowing where we would sleep each night, setting up camp on the riverbanks and cooking meals over open fires. It was a life of adventure, and it was everything I had ever dreamed of.

As we made our way down the Fraser, I couldn't help but reflect on the lessons I had learned along the way. The most important one was this: a life without adventure is far more dangerous than any wild river or rugged terrain. That near-death experience on the Chilliwack River had taught me that safety and adventure could coexist, as long as I was willing to invest in the right equipment and take the time to learn the skills necessary to thrive in the wilderness.

But it wasn't just about gear and training. It was about embracing the unknown, facing the challenges head-on, and finding the beauty in the untamed world around us. It was about living a life that was rich with experiences, not possessions. It was about forging a connection with nature that went beyond words, a connection that could only be felt in the depths of your soul.

As we continued our journey down the Fraser, I marvelled at the breathtaking landscapes that unfolded before us. Towering cliffs loomed on either side of the river. Bald eagles soared overhead, their majestic wingspans a testament to the untamed wilderness that surrounded us. And at night, as we sat by the campfire under a sky ablaze with stars, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for the life I had chosen to lead.

Our sheep hunting expedition was a success.  Not insofar as harvesting sheep, but in fulfilling what it is that fuels me the most. We returned home with stories to tell and memories to last a lifetime. But even more than that, it was a reminder of the transformative power of adventure. It had taken me from the brink of disaster on the Chilliwack River to the heart of the Fraser, and in doing so, it had shown me that a life lived fully, with all its risks and uncertainties, was the only life worth living.

So, if you find yourself at a crossroads, unsure of whether to take that leap into the unknown, remember my story. Remember that a life of adventure is a life well-lived, and that the lessons you learn along the way will shape you into the person you were meant to be. Invest in your passion, embrace the wild, and let the rivers of life carry you to places you never thought possible.