It was while picking cherries in Oliver that Darryl Fox hatched his plan to build a wooden raft and float down the Fraser River.
“I call myself Hucklecherry Fox,” he joked during a visit to where he landed his rustic creation near Island 22 on the Fraser River last week.
Inspired by tales of Chinese railroad workers building rafts in the children’s book White Jade Tiger by Julie Lawson, the 63-year-old Albertan decided to go on a little adventure.
Spending very little money on tools and using some clever building techniques, Fox crafted his 12-foot-by-six-foot raft out of driftwood, debris and two fallen trees.
He used a little bucksaw to cut one 50-foot spruce log into the four main beams that made up the raft. A second log cut in two and a bunch of rope helped keep it all together.
“It’s all done with rope, no metal,” he said.
He fashioned a rudder out of a log and a piece of wood debris, and even used a small branch to hang his tent fly on for a mini-sail. He also had one large pole that doubled as an oar to help give him some control over where he was headed.
On Aug. 28, he loaded his pack, his bike and his bike trailer—which he had ridden all the way from Westlock, Alberta—onto his little raft in Yale and floated for three days before hitting the shore in Chilliwack.
He did hit some trouble on the third day of his travel last Wednesday as he got caught up on a rock near Agassiz. A man with a 20-horsepower boat tried to tow him off with no success. Someone then called Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue (SAR), much to Fox’s chagrin.
He managed to disconnect one of his logs and free himself from the rock and continue along his way, unaware of the search effort underway. He beached his craft just west of Island 22 in Chilliwack. A little while later a SAR volunteer cruised up on a Seadoo and said into his radio, “I found him.”
Fox said then he saw a helicopter circling and Seadoos zoomed in from all over to his humble campsite along the Fraser.
“I thought ‘Uh-oh, this might not be so pretty,’ But the rescue guys were pretty cool with it.”
Surrounded by 10 SAR volunteers and one Mountie, he said he didn’t need the SAR help but he was thankful they came out and did what they did.
“It’s nice to feel that somebody is looking after you,” he said.
And Fox decided to take the advice of the Mountie, which was to not go any further. He said the most adventurous part—namely, the Fraser Canyon—was behind him anyway.
So what’s next? Fox said he’d like to float a raft down every river in Canada. And maybe next time he’ll find a raft friend.
“It’d be nice to have someone with me but nobody is quite as crazy as I am,” he said.