With my wife Beth and my four children in tow, I went on assignment in Alaska this summer. And while our quirky 49th state naturally provokes plenty of questions, one question above all others went through my mind:
What was I thinking?
How can a family of six explore Alaska in a 31-foot RV for ten days and manage to enjoy themselves? Read on.
About 2 hours South of Anchorage on the Alaskan Highway is a turn off to Hope, Alaska. It is here where a small, converted school bus, with a “Nova” logo painted, pulled up to a large vacant lot. The team and guides of Nova River Runners spilled out of the bus and begun the process of outfitting their guests and educating them on the skills of River Rafting.
As my family of six watched the crew unload the bus, we were all checked-in and outfitted with Helmets, Dry-Suits, Life Jackets and Shoes. This equipment is provided by Nova and you can anticipate wearing your standard clothes underneath. (The water is cold, so I recommend jeans and sweatshirt). After all parties were checked in and outfitted, we left the vacant lot and piled into the school bus where our next stop would be the staging area on the riverbank.
After a 15-minute bus ride, my family and I were dropped off at the riverbank where we met our guide, “Scotty” and learned about river swimming skills required for this tour. This is when I began to feel a little anxious. As I listened to Scotty use terms like, “Survival Swimming, Self-Rescue Swimming, and Dangerous Rapids” in his lecture, I began questioning if this event was really worth the danger…
On of the final tests before boat launch was taking a brief, “Self Rescue” test. This test involved having each of my family members do the following:
— Walk out to the river
— Dive into the Water
— Swim to the middle of the river.
— Paddle with Hands and Kick with your feet as hard as you can
— Float on your back
— Swim to the opposite shore
As a father, it was difficult watching my youngest children do this test without me assisting them, however, in the end; I understood how important this test was for everyone to take. The fact is, people fall out of the boat and must understand the basic technique on how to stay alive if you get stuck in the river rapids. As each of my four children and wife went, I watched helplessly. They all succeeded with the swim test and I was relieved. It was now time to load our boat and start our adventure…
My Family, The Cast of Characters
I am the type of father that wants to believe that my children want to spend every summer vacation as a family. Yes, I am in a little bit of denial, but I was pleasantly surprised when my oldest daughter, who is 19 years old and in college joined us on the trip. I was also pleased that my 17-year old son was part of this trip, especially going into his senior year of high-school and would not have the internet and cell service, (Yes, it is a blessing that Alaska has very little internet and cell service). My other two daughters are still at the age where being a “Teen and Tween” has not made them into the “Eye Roll Twins” and they actually like to be around Mom and Dad.
As we loaded onto our raft, the first thing I noticed was that there are no seats. Half of your body was hanging on the outside of the raft, while the other half was comfortably safe in the raft. There was one, “foot sleeve” used to place your foot for leverage during the paddling down the river. Somehow, I do not recall what my other foot was doing during the entire ride because I was too busy watching my two youngest daughters in front of me.
My wife Beth and I strategically placed the two youngest ones in the middle, while each of the older kids sat opposite of us. When we got to the more challenging, Third Canyon, the younger ones were dropped off to the Nova Ground Support Crew as the remaining four adults challenged the Class V Rapids.
One of the first in-boat lessons that our guide Scotty taught us was the importance of teamwork and paddling in unison. When we paddle at the same time, the boat goes straight, when we don’t, we go sideways and then backwards; It is not safe to go backwards in the rapids. Get it?
Scotty took us through the “paddle drills” and like all great river guides; he stayed loud, calm and confident with his orders. We kept the boat straight, nobody fell out of the boat, and I was exhausted from the workout and post adrenaline buzz.
If you are going to ride the Six Mile Canyon Run, I definitely recommend riding the Third Canyon. This third canyon is going to test you in every way possible. It has more non-stop action of paddling, bouncing, and keeping focused on your river guide who is shouting at you to keep the boat forward. I was proud of my wife and two older children as I watched them meet every challenge that the river and Scotty had thrown at us. In the end, we were all rewarded with “Paddle Clap” (like a high Five with Paddles) and my two oldest jumped into the now benign creek that slowly pushed our raft back to the landing stage. We unloaded, met our younger girls on shore, and headed back to the RV to continue our travels in Alaska.
The Six-Mile Creek hosts some of the largest, Class IV and V rapids that the state has to offer. Believe me, this is no creek. There are three distinct canyons that funnel the river to a creek-sized body of water that creates some of the fastest moving rapids in Alaska. Each canyon progressively gets more challenging, with narrow routes, steep drops, and adrenaline pumping rapids. There are age and size limits for the Six-Mile Creek run, especially on the third canyon which has a majority of the Class V rapids; so be sure to check on the Nova website for the latest information on rules and restrictions.
The preceding review and video also appear at SingleDad.com.