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Scrounge up an inner tube, air mattress, inflatable boat, or anything else that floats. Blow it up if it’s flat, and patch it up if it leaks. Get beer; rig up a bag and rope so that you can float it behind the raft and keep it cold. Decide on a spot to put in, and ask someone (preferably with a truck) to pick you up in a while, at your destination.
Go where the river takes you.
There’s nothing like a good float down the river on a sunny summer afternoon. Especially if the weather holds out (it always seems to get cloudy, mid-float), and the river is deep enough to swim in, yet not so shallow that your floatie gets snagged and dragged on the rocks. A few rapids are nice; nothing that would remotely capsize you, just for a little excitement in an otherwise lazy progress.
Although a confirmed city kid, I was lucky enough to spend most of my childhood summers at my granny and grampa’s house in the country. Their house is right on the Kettle River, truly one of the best rivers around for summertime floating. Around midsummer, it is low enough and warm enough for swimming and there are plenty of accessible spots on the river banks to either go for a dip or put the rafts in. You can choose a long float, say from the Kettle River Recreation Area to the sandy beach locally known as “the Deep Hole.” Or perhaps a shorter ride, from the little beach just behind the Prospector Pub to… wherever you feel like. Some people take a float all the way down to Midway, where the Kettle crosses down into Washington State.
Here’s a little map I made in Google Earth:
These days, of course, I can’t take a whole summer off. So when I do go up there, I make sure that if the weather is good, we’ll spend an afternoon on the river. Even better if one or more of my cousins is in town and we can spend the time catching up and talking about old times while drinking some fine domestic beers (the Rock Creek store doesn’t cater to your city-folk microbrew fetishes) and cooling off by occasionally jumping in and swimming alongside the raft.
With very little industrialization, development or even damming upriver in the Kettle Valley/Christian Valley areas, the Kettle River remains very clean, at least for the moment. With more people moving into the Okanagan Valley, just over the mountains, however, I’m not sure how long it will stay its lovely self. All I know is that in the Kettle River, floating or swimming in the current, I feel perfectly happy in a way that I do in no other place.
The Rock Creek Fall Fair is a tradition that has been going on in the tiny town of Rock Creek for just over 60 years – which is coincidentally the number of years my Granny and Grampa have been married and living in that little town. My mom was Fall Fair Queen in the 1962, when they still did that sort of thing. (We have the home movies documenting her reign, which involved lots of cape-wearing and float-riding.) My grandparents are life members of the fair, which saves them the cost of admission – a reasonable $9 per person.
Since I was last at the fair, over 10 years ago, it has gotten a lot bigger. The basics are still there – the early morning “Cowboy” Pancake Breakfast, the Tilt-A-Whirl, the 4H kids strutting their meticulously groomed farm animals in the show ring, and the big local boys gunning the chainsaws and throwing axes in the logger sports show – and they didn’t feel terribly obscured by the rows of ubiquitous vendors of cheap jewelry, fake tattoos, and hippie wear. There was also a great display of tractors and dirt bikes.
My cousin won a third-place ribbon for his steer in the show ring. He graduated from high school last year and he plays a mean classic rock guitar, but he still goes to 4H and raises a beef steer. A second cousin also won a prize for their lamb at the exact same time, while her mother who runs the local general store explained to me what the judges are looking for when they are squeezing a lamb’s rump – a certain shape means better meat.
I have a pretty big extended family, and most of them live in that area, so I ran into a lot of my cousins, second cousins, and aunts and uncles in the course of the day. I hadn’t seen many of my cousins in such a long time that I kept mistaking their babies in baby carriages for their first children, who are now just old enough to run around. How strange that all my cousins who now have children all have two. My sister just had her second baby last week.
After eating some roast chicken for lunch – complete with coleslaw and bun – Donovan and I decided to wash down the food with some beer. You know you’re in the country when the beer garden serves only cans of Bud or Kokanee. We had to drink it in this enclosure which quickly began to seem like a redneck holding pen.
Unfortunately, it had to be a quick trip. I needed to come back in time to be thoroughly confused by Language Studies class. But at least, there was a little time away to enjoy small things such as petting goats, sighing at bunnies, and checking out all that prize-winning jam.
Oh yes, and a couple notes on the road trip itself: Floydd is no longer gay! The sign has been cleaned! In Hedley, a pub’s road sign advertised the draft as follows: “Best Head in Town $3.” We didn’t get a picture. BY the time we drove back, the unintentional offer of cheap sex was gone, replaced by crude messages from the local kids.
I’ll be getting out of town at least for a few days this week to a place where the internet is still dial-up and where an afternoon’s amusement involves inner tubes, a river, and a six-pack. Yes, I’m going to the country. It’s exactly what I need. They city is making me all grumpy and crusty and in need of drink.
I’m not even going to take my cell phone. What, I’m going to make important calls from a fruit stand?