By Tim Shaw
All photos by Benny Clark (All are of the Flume on Copper Canyon - The second half turned into a more paddling than photo taking :) )
Writing this I am sitting on the Ferry heading back to the main land. This has been a trip like the perfect pow day at the ski hill. Eventually you must go home, but boy are you satisfied. As we board the ferry Anne and I discuss the past few days. For me this was one of the best paddling trips I have had. The paddling was amazing… But I have been blessed to paddle a number of amazing rivers and places. Why was this trip so great?
The crew, the crew we paddle with, is more important than the rivers we paddle. This has always been something I have valued. Not many can enjoy a day on Copper Canyon with their wife and two good friends!
We arrived in Qualicum Beach after camping in the rain for 8 days or so. We were treated to amazing hospitably by Garret and Heather and some bacon and snails (thanks Benny) super yum if you’re wondering. Showered and enjoying dry, dry suits for the first time in a week. Heather and Garret began to show off their local creeks and rivers. My highlight was Cameron River, we rallied it at a sporty 6 on the gauge. Anne showed the boys how to keep your hair dry, to become a theme for the next week. I proved that indeed a Phantom can back loop, I’m sure I over boofed it….user error for sure haha
The flow dropped to 4.5 the following day. Perfect for Heather to have ago at a full Cameron. This is a steep and very continuous section of water. There is very little time to chill between rapids. The crew came through on this day. A little over half way, an amazing clean run of styley lines took a turn for the worst on a small in between rapid with a cheeky rock. Heather rolled and went down a shallow channel upside down. Taking a nasty hit jarring her neck. In the short space between the one rapid and the next, the team pulled all the gear in, in the space on about 20m. Heather the champ self-rescued herself to an eddy. Showing signs of a neck injury, using a SAM splint as a collar we hiked to the road. A CT scan later at the hospital reviled nothing broken, this was a big relief. An unfortunate incident, however made low stress by great skills by our team.
From the Cameron, we headed south towards the Gordon and the Cowichan Rivers. Hoping to catch the dropping flows for Copper Canyon and a total Gordon. Anne and I headed off to meet Ali for a early morning Cowichan Lap before meeting up with Garret and Benny. The Cowichan is warm and deep with a bunch of fun rapids. Once in cell service we were stoked to have a message from Garret, “copper is in!” stoked and maybe a little nervous we headed to meet the guys at the put in road. Benny ensures us that it will be Class Fun, coming from Benny, Anne was not sure how to take this! However as much as Anne would disagree, she was getting her class 5 mojo back this trip and we thought she would do well!
With Copper on the high side of good we put on. We were in for a treat. With Benny and Garret showing us the lines, we start down great rapid after great rapid. Arriving at the crux we hoped out for a scout. Today was a day I was stoked to be paddling with such a good crew. By now we had paddled together for nearly two weeks, we knew each other and had paddled a number of difficult and remote rivers. Today was not the day to push it for several reasons. The call was made to portage, and it is not a fun portage at that flow! To be paddling with crew that leaves egos behind and go for a tricky portage when appropriate is for another blog entirely, but it is special and hard to find!
The Gordon… Garret tells me you can’t have a Gordon trip without a flatty, we didn’t disappoint arriving at the campsite with a Flat tire. Nothing Benny can’t fix however! I now also own a compressor and tire repair kit haha.
To finish the trip, we got on the Gordon. With lots of confidence and a little tired we bombed off down the first few rapids. Benny and Garret then showed us what not to do! Unfortunately, while doing so Benny popped his thumb out ☹. Anne again showed us how its done… At the upper takeout and the middle put in Anne and Ben decided the middle wasn’t for them today. Garret and I head down, with a few portages and some sweet lines we came to the Lower where Anne joined us!
We caught up with Ali for one more Cowichan Lap, on our way to the ferry! What a trip, might have to make this an annual trip…. Can’t wait to get back there! Keep an eye on paddlingmaps.com as we slowly add runs 😊
Well if you made it to the bottom I am stoked I have written a lot. Its now winter and dreaming of these times. Spring will come and then summer. This was one of my best paddling trips ever, this I think owed to the crew! It is becoming more about who I paddle with than what I paddle. This time we got both!