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The River Of Hope Day 1: How Do You Eat An Elephant? 1 Km at at time...

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

The River Of Hope paddling from Jasper to Athabasca 663 km on the Athabasca River was the elephant in the room last summer. After partnering with mental health organizations I felt a strong desire to succeed. Constantly in the back of my mind leading up to it was: What external factors could lead to me not finishing?

Nostalgia has set in as I plan to paddle 300 km this year from Fort McMurray to Lake Athabasca. I shared a bit on social media while paddling the river last summer however this never truly encompasses all the finer details and stories that accompany an expedition such as this.

Photo Credit: Mike Gere Photography

Day 1: Athabasca Falls To Old Fort Point 32 km

The people standing at the viewpoint of Athabasca Falls got more of a show than they bargained for. It is magical to watch peoples faces as we pushed off on our SUP's down the rapids. As we departed my legs shook, then the nerves began to subside and finally getting out on the water was exhilarating.

I'm a reluctant whitewater paddler. Every time I'm pushing out of my comfort zone when I stand on my paddle board on a current. I've grown immensely in two years of sporadic practice. I simply do not have access to rapids near Athabasca which makes it difficult to consistently get good at whitewater.

Without the coaching of Reta Boychuk this paddle wouldn't have been possible. As the owner of CANRVRSUP she is not only a great instructor but a close friend who has unconditionally supported me in this endeavour.

Translucid Adventures owner Alisen Charlten and River 1 SUP Instructor Amanda Lapshinoff joined me for this first portion. Another friend Liz Young supported us with shuttle and capturing photos as well. I was honoured to have them kick off my journey.

As we passed through the steep canyon walls the scenery was stunning, after the first few rapids the water evened out. We took the time to appreciate all the wonder around us. It still seemed surreal to finally begin this epic paddle.

We stopped for lunch at Dunk Corner on a small island. We left exactly at 10 am, another fellow paddler Clarke Harnett was planning to join us however he wasn't at the put in on time. It was communicated that we were leaving on time no matter what. Suddenly around the corner came a red kayak with Clarke in it! He caught up.

We had a good laugh and continued on our way together. The water became wider and more braided in sections until we came to Becker's Rapid located on a sharp corner as you approach The Town Of Jasper. I stayed on my board throughout this section until we hit the boulder garden and a moment of not paying attention landed me in the river. This was the only time I swam over 663 km of paddling.

Photo Credit: Mike Gere Photography

Back on my board quickly and onto Old Fort Point we were tired and happy to be done. Shorter days of whitewater are far more exhausting for me than 87 km days of flatter river flows.

<-- A relieved paddler at the finish of Day 1!

Photo by Amanda Lapshinoff

We began the transition at camp from our short, wide boards Rivershreds to The Selfie by Badfish. An inflatable expedition board that is 14' long and built for distance.

In bed early after a team supper and logistics meeting. Finalizing where and when we would meet up with Liz and Clarke again near Whitecourt.

Sleep came quickly...

The real adventure would begin tomorrow when we left civilization for good.

Continued on Day 2: Here!

Lisa Stocking

Owner Paddle Athabasca

CANRVRSUP River 1 SUP Instructor

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