River rafting in British Columbia can be a big letdown. Opportunities abound of course. Indeed, with so many mountains and so much rain, the river rafting potential is nearly limitless. Innumerable companies offer a wide variety of rafting experiences for a range of skill levels from easy to challenging. The downside is, without a car, many of these opportunities are not practical even though rafting is the one outdoor activity that truly lends itself to communal modes of transportation.

Drawing largely on the Lower Mainland market, commercial rafting companies have tended to proliferate in just a few regions, notably the Thompson-Fraser drainage, the Chilliwack River and Whistler areas. As a consequence a rather silly scenario unfolds daily during prime rafting season. Hundreds of people in dozens of cars set out at approximately the same time each day for approximately the same destinations following the same crowded highways to do exactly the same sort of thing. Yet, thinking only inside the box, no one has come up with a shuttle service to link all these customers with all these rafting companies. The infrequency and logistics of existing public transportation often demand that would-be rafters must turn what should be a day trip into an overnighter or even a weekender in some cases. Fortunately, some exceptions do apply. Those are detailed below. Those companies not listed may come to realize that a certain segment of the recreating public is beginning to demand "ecotourism" that is environmentally friendly from start to finish.

On the matter of safety, all rafting guides must pass a stringent certification procedure before being licensed to operate in the province of British Columbia. All companies include rain gear or wet suits where appropriate as well as life jackets, paddles and usually lunch. Guests are encouraged to bring swimsuits and running shoes for in the raft and should also bring a complete change of clothes for apr├ęs-splash. There are essentially three kinds of rafting in British Columbia. Power rafting requires at least the fitness ability to hold on and scream. Guests enjoy the ride and take in the scenery while an outboard motor does most of the work. Paddle rafting demands that participants all chip in, paddling frantically to navigate past midstream obstacles at the river guide's command. An oar and paddle combo works similarly with all the frenetic paddling of the above but the guide exercises additional control over the craft using long oars.

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Salal

Salal

Though not a popular trail-side snack in modern times, salal berries are not only edible, they are quite tasty. Perhaps the "hairiness" of the berries or the grainy texture imparted by their many, tiny seeds is a turnoff to jaded modern palettes. Being plentiful throughout the coast, salal berries were an important component of pre-European diets hereabouts. Aboriginal groups generally consumed salal berries directly from the bush or processed them into a kind of fruit leather for storage. These cakes were then reconstituted with water and served mixed with the omnipresent oolichan grease. An acquired taste, no doubt. The deep purple colouring of the berries found use in dying baskets. Salal berries are presently used primarily in jams and pies. The bright, leathery foliage is commercially harvested for use in floral displays world-wide.

Illustration by Manami Kimura