I was in Courtenay, a sizeable town on the east coast of Vancouver Island last Thursday. I’d been on the road 3 weeks, and was exhausted after 5 days of high adventure on the seas north of Tofino (more of which later). A heat wave hit that day, between 90-100 degrees. After asking, I found the town swimming hole, a beautiful 100+ feet wide green river where teenagers jump off a bridge and people float down river on inner tubes. I swam in a deep part of the river that evening and talked to some young people who were just loading their innertubes into a truck. I asked if they thought I could go down river (the next day) with my inflatable boogie board and fins. Well maybe, they said, but they seemed doubtful. I thought about it that night. Why don’t I just swim downriver, I’m a swimmer, I don’t need the boogie board or the fins and so the next morning I go there and jump off the bridge (about a 30′ drop, have to push myself to jump), hit the water, whooo! and stroke into the fast moving current. Fun! …for about 30 seconds, because the river then goes shallow and I can’t get into a deep channel. I immediately am made aware that when the depth gets down to maybe 18″ and the water is moving swiftly, a prone humanoid gets to the point where knees, elbows, shoulders are getting raked over cantaloupe-sized round rocks. Bam bam bam and I had one of those moments when I realized I might really get hurt here. The current’s too strong, I’m getting banged around. The seriousness of it kicks me into survival mode and therefor determination and I slowly make my way towards the bank on hands and feet, scrambling, getting knocked down a few times, and get to the bank, thankful, battered, and with a lot more respect for moving water. It often doesn’t look like the irresistible force that it is. Make my way back up river by forest trail, then since it’s still hot, go back to the swimming hole and swim in the silky green clear water, thankful for just a sore shoulder and knee, no broken bones.
I’ve been swimming a lot on this trip, in a variety of places: beaches, coves and inlets on the ocean north of Tofino, in rivers (5), and lakes (2), and in the last few days, in the warmer-than-ocean waters of the Straits of Georgia, off Hornby and Denman Islands.