Choosing our adventure
My son turned 12 last week. We’d asked him what he’d like to do to celebrate his birthday – have friends over for a traditional birthday party or do something with just the family. His decision was to have a “family adventure”. With that in mind, we got in touch with Wilderness Tours and set up a two day rafting adventure on the beautiful Ottawa River.
Welcome to Wilderness Tours
We arrived late on the Friday evening, signed our waivers and checked into our cabin. Wilderness tours has a few options for accommodation. They offer a tenting area, regular cabins (which is where we stayed), and deluxe cabins. The regular cabin is pretty bare-bones; it’s a single room with two queen-size beds, and a couch which also serves as a bed with a trundle bed underneath. Bathroom buildings (with showers) are located around the grounds and never more than a 2 or 3 minute walk from your accommodation. But the cabin is really only for sleeping, because there’s so much to do around during the rest of your time.
We’d opted for the Family Mini Vacation Package. Which includes one day of gentle rafting and one day of rafting with fishing and sport kayak use.
On the Saturday, we spent a few hours floating down the Ottawa River, encountering a total of seven whitewater areas. These whitewater areas ranged from class 1 to class 3 rapids. What that means is that they’re fun for the kids, but aren’t likely to wind up throwing anyone out of the raft.
At the midpoint of our day, we stopped for a while to do some body-surfing through one of the whitewater areas. That was a blast for both the kids and the adults. After swimming out to the middle of the river, we flipped over onto our backs and let the current take us through the whitewater. A few of our group had to be rescued a little further down-river because they missed the instruction regarding when to swim out of the current and back to shore, but there was no point where anyone was in actual danger.
After the body surfing, we continued down-river a little ways and stopped for lunch. Hamburgers and sausages were grilled up and served with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and juice. Because my wife and I are crazy and volunteered to sit at the bow of the boat, we were doing about 90% of the paddling while the guide took care of the steering, so that sausage and the three cups of tea were very much welcomed.
After about an hour to eat, use the washrooms (there was a washroom facility at the lunch area – it was a bit rustic, but it served the purpose), and regain some strength, we set out on the last 2 hours of the trip. By the time we’d finished, we were soaked, laughing, and tired. After getting back to the cabin and changing into some dry clothes, we headed up to the main building for some drinks and games.
The main building, which houses the gift shop, registration, restaurant, and bar, also has lots of activities for the kids and the kids at heart. There are two basketball courts, a floor hockey area, a giant chess set, three volley ball areas and the bungee jump (I didn’t do that on this trip, but it’s definitely on the schedule for the next one!). After wearing myself and the kids out playing hockey and chess, we went to the restaurant for our per-arranged dinner reservation.
Between the salad bar and the hot food on offer (that night it was chicken tenders and fries for the kids, roast chicken and baked potato for the grown-ups), we regained all of the calories we’d burned during the day and stored up some energy for day two.
Once the kids were asleep in the cabin, my wife and I headed back up to the main building to listen to some live acoustic music preformed by a local musician. This particular guitarist had a great rapport with the audience and actively encouraged audience participation. He had a second mic on stage which he called the “hero mic”. Anyone from the audience who wanted to sing along or perform themselves was welcomed to hop up and use it, and they did! Once the music wrapped up at around 10:00pm, we had the option to either head back to the cabin or head inside for the DJ and dance party. Because I’m no longer as young as I used to be, I opted to head back to the cabin where I think I fell asleep before my head had even hit the pillow.
Day two dawned a bit overcast, but still warm. After eating up a hearty breakfast, we headed to our morning briefing. At the briefing (which happens just before every trip out onto the water), we were brought up to speed on the plan for the day, how many whitewater areas we’d hit, where we’d be stopping for lunch and what the afternoon’s activities were. Before long, we were on the bus, heading about 15km up-river from Wilderness Tours to start our day.
The morning raft was very similar to what we’d encountered the day before. The rapids were gentle and relatively calm. In fact, one of the whitewater areas was gentle enough that the kids were able to go through it while in the water and hanging on to the raft. We stopped a few km down-river, at a sheltered bay, for a lunch of soup, wraps, hot dogs, and drinks (tea ,coffee, hot chocolate, or juice). The plan was to stay there for the rest of the afternoon. There were fishing rods available as well as a number of sport kayaks.
Unfortunately, mother nature had a different plan and a massive thunderstorm moved in over us. The rain was torrential, though we were all safely warm and dry in the lunch building. Lighting lit the sky up which meant that everyone had to get out of the water. We waited about 30 minutes for the storm to pass, but it didn’t show any indication that it was going to move on, so we got back on the bus and headed beck to Wilderness Tours.
By the time we got back, it was time to head back home to dry out and relax. We’d just had two days of solid adventure and were thoroughly worn out.
We’ll be back!
All in all, it was an amazing weekend. We laughed together, paddled together, swam together, and played games until we dropped. It’s certainly not a “relaxing” vacation, but as a family bonding adventure, there’s nothing that could compare to the experience at Wilderness Tours. We’re already planning our next tip!