Ripping down treacherous waters, holding on for dear life as waves splash in your face, great falls so steep and wonderful your heart flutters into your esophagus – these are the thrills (and perils) of rafting! So when Laurier Brantford’s Leadership Program embarked on a Grand River rafting trip on September 18 and invited me, your adventurous writer, to attend, I summoned up my journalistic courage to brave the waters. Although it was nowhere near as death-defying as the above may imply, it certainly was memorable and incredibly exciting.

Nineteen students, accompanied by guides, filled five boats and set sail down the Grand River. There were some fumbles and a few incidents of getting stuck on rocks, but the weather was idyllic and the waters were gentle enough to ensure that no one had to be a McGyver to make it back alive.

Two men who could be rightly called McGyver’s or survivor men of sorts were seasoned guides Barry Buchwald and Andy Tonkin. Both knew the intricacies of nature quite well and on the first stop in the nearby wooded area, leadership students learned important lessons. Tonkin, knowledgeable in the area of vegetation, went into great detail about different weeds, herbs and shrubs.

When it came to plant edibility and preventing us from ingesting anything poisonous, Tonkin taught us a simple rhyme: “black always, blue sometimes, red never.” Everyone left with an expanded outdoor knowledge bank, and also a new terrifying phobia of the strangely indestructible poison ivy.

The next two stops on the trip required a little interaction from us. The first was a fresh water spring that produced drinking water free of chemicals or toxins. The second was a 350-year old sycamore tree hollowed out by carpenter ants. This allowed for a solid climbing chute on the inside. While many on Saturday attempted to scale it, only one succeeded – Kris Diocampo, who proudly stuck his head out the top.

“It was an adventure, but it was definitely harder getting down then getting up,” he says.
The rest of the day consisted of an egg boiling challenge that had the leaders breaking off into groups, starting fires and fervently forming and reforming the same sheet of tin foil. The way back was mostly pensive, but rowdy laughs and the occasional splashing battle put a nice, final accent on the day.

When asked if more events like this were being planned for leadership students, undergraduate and co-organizer of the event Alex Morgan commented, “We’re hoping to have another couple events, but there’s nothing specific planned yet.”

“We hold these kinds of events to form relationships with all leadership students.”

Considering the smiles, genuine intrigue and explosive rowing fits, it seemed that for most of the participants, it didn’t matter much “why” but rather “when” and “where.”