Two Biologists and a Boy: Road Swimming

June in the Rockies was beyond rainy, but some people still found fun amidst the floods. Highline columnist, Niki Wilson, captures a particularly unique activity that only a kid, or kid-at-heart could enjoy. -Highline

Photo courtesy Niki Wilson.

“”My nuts are freezing!”” says Dylan as he strips down beside me. I know I am supposed to say something like “the correct term is testicles, and please don’’t yell stuff like that at the top of your lungs.” Unfortunately, I am laughing too hard, and the damage is done. This is the schoolyard vocabulary Dylan has picked up in grade one, and coming from his seven-year-old mouth, it’’s damn funny.

We’re standing on the edge of the floodwater that has engulfed Snaring Road. Our gaze follows the watery, yellow centerline for 30 meters or so before it disappears into the deeper water at a dip in the road.

Dylan braves the water. Photo courtesy Niki Wilson.

“You coming, Mom?” The water is frigid, the kind of cold that makes you do the freezing foot dance after five seconds. A charging grizzly would have difficulty getting me to go in. Thankfully, on the other side of me, Dylan’s friend Skylar also begins stripping down. The two of them wade in together, eastbound.

The June Monsoons have meant little sun, and even less swimming. Like many areas we have been hit with record flooding here in Jasper, the likes of which caused a centuries-old dyke to blow out and allow Swift Creek to reclaim its original route, now a road to Snaring Campground.

When Dylan and I met up with the Shepherd family this morning, we had reluctantly ripped ourselves away from a living-room-floor-ninja-battle and forced ourselves out on another rainy day activity. Armored in fleece and rain gear, we were equipped for the wet underbrush of the east park, in search of orchid species that were rumored to be thriving in the rain. To our collective delight we found four species and, in addition, a carnivorous plant to which the kids cathartically fed black flies.

Photo courtesy Niki Wilson.

The Snaring Road was an afterthought, a quick stop on our way home. However, as we piled out of the Shepherd’’s van, something unexpected happened. The sun came out. THE SUN CAME OUT! Suddenly we were shedding layers and turning our faces like waterlogged sunflowers toward the light. The kids adopted a sandy ditch-side as a beach, we threw out some snacks, and in one wispy shift of the clouds, it was summer.

My friend Brenda and I put our arms around each other, watching the kids cartwheel through the sand and shriek as they submerge themselves. In the distance, Brenda’s husband streaks from the bush and plunges into the watery ditch farther down. He pulls off a couple of front crawl strokes before the cold forces him out. At least he can say he’’s done it. He’’s been road swimming.

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Niki Wilson

Niki Wilson

Niki Wilson is a contributing editor and writer for Highline Magazine. A writer, journalist and science communicator, she makes her home in Jasper, AB. Other publications include: Canadian Wildlife Magazine, BioScience, Natural History Magazine and the Science Media Centre of Canada, Earth Touch News Network, the Fitzhugh, and Experimental Popular Science. Find more at, or on twitter @niki_wilson.


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