by Jeff Gaye
Hazel Amos, a daredevil?
The 94-year-old from Surrey laughed at the notion, even though she was about to become the oldest person ever to run the Thompson River with Kumsheen Rafting Resort.
She’d done it many times before, so she knew what she was getting into.
“Oh, you’re quite safe,” she said. “You just have to hang on.”
Hazel’s son Bob and daughter Margaret took a Kumsheen rafting trip in 1974, and in subsequent years, they recruited Hazel to come along with them. They have been back about 20 times since.
In 2012, Bob and Margaret suggested they should all take a river run to celebrate Hazel’s 90th birthday. They had no trouble convincing Hazel.
Bernie Fandrich remembers the 90th birthday trip well. He is the founder of Kumsheen, and the Fandrich family still owns and operates the resort, located northeast of Vancouver near Lytton.
“Hazel was sure she was the oldest person we’ve guided down the river,” he said. “We told her no, we’ve had a 93-year-old on one of our trips.”
Hazel clearly took that as a challenge. They haven’t missed a year since then, and this summer, Hazel set a new record.
“Margaret has said to me we don’t have to go every year, because we know we’re going when I’m 94,” she said. “I told her if she didn’t want to drive me, I’d take the bus.”
She hasn’t had to travel alone – they brought group of family and friends with them.
As for danger, Hazel said the scariest part of the tour was the safety briefing. Once the raft is on the river, she felt safe.
“There’s a rope you have to hang onto. My son sits on one side, my son-in-law on the other, and they’ve got their hands in my pockets to make sure I don’t fall over. I sit at the back of the raft because it’s a lot rougher in the front.”
In all her years rafting, she said, only one person has fallen in. She was quickly rescued.
Fandrich says the perception of risk is a big part of the thrill.
“You’re on powerful moving water, and you have no control over the river. It’s exciting,” he said. “And there is an element of risk. But it’s a very very safe activity. We’ve taken well over a quarter of a million people down the river, and we’ve never had a serious injury.”
For Hazel and her family, it was a blast.
“It’s exciting! It’s lots of fun, you get soaking wet,” Hazel said. “The scenery’s lovely, and we’ve seen eagles, an otter, a bear, and fish – lots of fish.”
Kumsheen Rafting Resort is located on Highway 1 about half-way between Kanaka Bar and Spences Bridge – about 50 kilometres west of Merritt as the crow flies.