It was all Chris’s idea. While I’d had my attention on sections of the Shiribetsu River much further upstream (because that’s what the guidebook said), Chris had been quietly scoping out possible put in locations much further downstream. “There’s a fun looking hydro station outlet that will be worth check out,” he said to me. So we made the time to go check it out early on a Sunday morning, before the rest of the family was even up out of bed.
This would also be the maiden voyage for the mighty MRS Barracuda R2 Pro – a heavy-duty, canoe-style two-person packraft made by Micro Raft Systems (MRS) in China’s adventure capital of Chengdu in Sichuan Province. We’d approached MRS, asking them if they’d like to support our new Hokkaido paddling section of the site by providing us with this two person packraft, and we were thrilled when they jumped on board.
It was a quick process to get the packraft inflated, using the large inflation bag, topped off with a few puffs of lung-power. For this trip, we were going full spray-skirt, so we also installed the spray-skirt frames. We were ready to go.
We put in just a few meters upstream of the hydro station outlet, and did a few eddy-ins, eddy-outs and ferry-glides across the lower Class II flow. This was the maiden voyage of the mighty MRS packraft, and it performed excellently. Very quick on the flat, and very maneuverable even with two heavy guys in it. After playing around in the outlet flow, we started on downstream. To say it was benign would be an understatement – a very chilled out downstream flow.
We had two cars on this trip, so we took out at the Sakae-bashi (栄橋) bridge where we’d parked the second car. In between, there’d hardly been any rapids to speak of, just a few swifts. Overall a nice easy section of river to get accustomed to using a packraft.
Packing up the packraft was straightforward – remove the spray-skirt frames, pull the T-zip and roll it up. This particular packraft has the air-tight t-zip so that gear can be stored inside the pontoons.
With our early-morning packrafting mission done, it was time to get back to Chris’s cabin, and get on the road back to Chitose for some canoeing on the Bibi River.