An hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway, just a little past Squamish, you’ll find the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it community of Brackendale. Hidden away down a bumpy logging road is one of my favourite places to get away from it all, Sunwolf. There's a surprising about to do in the middle of nowhere: you can rent a cosy cabin by the Cheakamus River, drop in to eat one of the world’s best breakfasts (have the hash!) at Fergie’s Cafe, in the summer you can join them on a white water rafting trip along the Elaho river, or in the winter take part in a float down the Cheakamus, which is where you’ll find one of the world’s largest populations of bald eagles from November till February, who come to feast on the salmon who spawn and then die in the river.
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Rafting the Wild Elaho River in Squamish
I’m a sucker for whitewater, so I jumped at the opportunity to raft the Elaho River during my visit to Squamish, BC. As it turned out, there was some actual jumping involved...but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The trip began at Sunwolf, a rustic resort on the banks of the Cheakamus River. After changing into wetsuits, we piled into an old schoolbus for the drive to our launch point on the Elaho. BC’s coastal ranges towered beside the river as we navigated 18 miles of wild rapids (up to Class IV) with names like Cheeseball, Devil’s Elbow, and Steamroller.
At one point we stopped in a calm section of the river for a different kind of adrenaline rush – a chance to jump into the river from one of the steep cliffs that rose straight from the water. Clambering up the rock in my wetsuit, helmet, and life vest was the first challenge – then came the moment of truth. The ledge was higher than it had looked from below. But I screwed up my courage and, literally, took the plunge.
Then it was off down the river again through more crashing whitewater. At lunchtime we paddled our rafts up to an island where the crew set up quite a spread – complete with barbecue – in a sandy clearing. Fueled for the afternoon, we continued on through more rapids, finishing on a gentler stretch of river where we could simply float along, enjoying the simple pleasure of being out on the water in this wild and scenic place, so close but yet so far from civilization.