An armada of fun on trip from Barriere to Heffley Creek

Family take memorable canoe trip on the North Thompson River

By Dave Zirnhelt

We, grandma Susan and I, are truly blessed and grateful for being able to holiday with our whole family: three sons and their families.

This year, it was a three-day canoe trip on the North Thompson River. The trip was catered by one son and his partner; both are gourmet cooks. We just had to show up with our tent and sleeping bags. That was great! In fact, this trip catering was a Christmas gift to the family.

There were four canoes, six children under the age of nine. The two “littles” are four.

Now all the kids have been raised with canoes and boats, one family even canoed a great stretch of the Yukon River last year.

Thankfully there is considerable experience.

We put in at Barriere and took out near Heffley Creek North of Kamloops. Boat time was only 15 kilometres per day.

It was important to have play sites on the river for the children.

The Thompson was flowing quite quickly, so all we really had to do was navigate the few rapids. I was able to steer our boat into some rapids that left six inches of water in our boat. We were able to stay upright until we found calmer waters and could bail it out.

What is really remarkable about the trip is the fun the children have when left to their own imagination with rocks, sand and drift wood. We were able to find beaches where they could safely play and swim in back channels.

One evening we were treated to a performance by power characters enacting a non-violent, non-contact kick fighting dance, Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art and acrobatic show all orchestrated by the eldest grandchild and flawlessly executed by all six. They are learning to collaborate.

Some performances in the past have been more anarchistic happenings on a vague theme (pirate sword fights).

The last day we had to wait for the “littles” to take the batteries (chunks of sticks) out of the killer whale, or was it a spaceship? I am not sure. One of the dads was to need those batteries for something.

The children were armed with great squirt guns and when they were bored their parents could get near another canoe and we could be “cooled” by jets of water.

Why do children just love to get adults wet with squirt guns?

Our little armada of fun loved the wild of the river as it passed through ranch and farmland. At one point about 40 horses appeared near our campsite on an island and swam from island to island.

So there was a highway and a train paralleling the river. These front country noises did not detract from the complete enjoyment of the camping.

The only other river traffic we saw were two personal watercraft (seadoos).

The children loved it when the engineer of one of the trains blew his horn and waved at them.

It would not have mattered where we were; we were together, and all healthy enough to river canoe. For that, I am thankful.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.  He also writes a column for the Williams Lake Tribune.