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Bowron Lakes Canoe Trip

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Bowron Lakes Canoe Trip

August 28th, 2008  · stk

Day Zero - Bowron Lake Provincial Park Campground
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's been a couple of long days, but we're now at Bowron Lakes Provincial Park. We arrived at about 6:30 PM after a long drive and (as walk-ons) are scheduled to begin the Canoe Circuit on Thursday. We figured that we might not get on right away, which is OKAY, as we'll take tomorrow to explore Barkerville.

We left Vancouver Island yesterday, taking a B.C. Ferry to Vancouver, where we stayed the night with Rachel's folks. We were hoping to catch the 10:30 AM sailing, but arrived just in time to watch it leave from Departure Bay. The next ship was already 100% full (10:50 AM), so we had to wait till 12:30 PM. (Summer is a busy time for ferries and even though they add extra sailings, there's often a wait).

The day was sunny and we played with Alex in the car. She spotted a woman walking her dog and wanted to pet it, so we let her out of the car and she ran over. People milled about in the automobile line-up, heading over to the concession stand, talking and enjoying the day. No one seemed frustrated at having to wait an hour and a half to catch the next ferry. Living with ferries (and associated costs - $65 one way for two adults and a car) is part of "island life". No worries.

The sailing was fun, though Alex asked several times if she could play in the kids "playroom". Because it's often a noisy place where she gets hyperactive, we decided we'd give it a pass. Instead, we walked around on the top deck, out in the blustery wind, taking in the sights. The captain announced that a pod of dolphins were off the port side, so we walked over to see approximately 50-60 dolphins, schooling their way toward the island. It was an impressive sight and as they swam away, they churned up the water and remained in sight for some distance.

During the summer months, B.C. Ferries hires a marine naturalist, who makes a public presentation during each sailing. Along with about 30 others, we listened to him talk about Vancouver Island and the Straight of Georgia, about whales, Orca, salmon and other marine and terrestrial creatures. The naturalist got the audience involved and it was an interesting way to kill time, while we motored across to Vancouver.

We arrived in Horseshoe Bay mid-afternoon and drove across the north shore, taking the Second Narrows bridge to McGill street, where we turned off and headed to Rachel's parent's house.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent doing last-minute chores - shopping for breakfast, lunch and snack items, unpacking the canoe and other gear that we were borrowing from Rachel's parents and brother, and packing. For dinner we went to Robson Sushi (one of our favorite sushi places where, for $15.95, one can order an 'all-you-can-eat' sushi dinner).

We went to be early and Rachel set the alarm on her wristwatch for 6 AM. However, it was the sound of the garbage trucks picking up dumpsters in the alley that woke her. Rachel hadn't slept well, but was finally dozing comfortably when the dump truck came crashing through the alley. Begrudgingly, she reached over to the side table to check the time on her watch, surprised to see that it was 6:04 AM. She hauled herself out of bed and took a shower, then woke the slumbering giant still in bed.

Scott hadn't slept well either, but at 6:14 AM, he was hard to wake. With earplugs in, he had managed to sleep through the watch alarm, the din of the garbage truck, and Rachel's shower. When his eyes finally fluttered open, he was quick to get up and moving.

By 6:30 AM, we were making our way downstairs, greeted by Rachel's weary-eyed mother, who was offering us breakfast. We enjoyed a delicious bacon and eggs breakfast, along with a slice of toast, before we went upstairs to wake Alex. Alex gleefully agreed to be "a good girl" for Gran and Granddad and prognosticated that she would have fun, we waved goodbye to everyone, as we pulled out of the garage and headed down the alley. It was 7:15 AM and we were on the road, bound for our latest adventure.

As we made our way out of the sprawling metropolis of Vancouver, we remarked that we're glad that we don't have to contend with such terrible traffic. We buzzed past all the poor saps stuck in the line-up for the Port Mann bridge, which stretched all the way back to Langley. Even past Langley, the traffic didn't thin until we had past Abbotsford. Outrageous!

It was 9 AM before we arrived in Hope, where we emptied our bladders and stop at the Visitors Information Center to get a map. Back on the road again, we made our way up the Fraser Canyon, keeping a look out for whitewater rafts, making their way along the turbulent river.

Eventually, we left the river canyon and made our way onto the rolling plateau of the Cariboo. We were amazed at how dry and desert-like the terrain appeared. Scott commented on many occasions of how it reminded him of Southern California, with the sage bush on dry hills and few sparse pine trees. We were also struck by all the Pine Beetle devastation, as whole hillsides were affected, for miles at a time. It was heartbreaking to see, but we had to keep reminding ourselves that it is all part of a natural cycle.

As we passed by Ashcroft, we enjoyed the smell of fresh cut Alfalfa, laying in the fields, waiting to be bailed. In one field, we spotted a lone coyote. Perhaps rodent-hunting is easier, after the alfalfa is cut?

We stopped in Cache Creek for a mediocre lunch of fried chicken and fries at "Hungry Herbie's" drive-in. It was a local joint and we enjoy patronizing mom and pop places. Unfortunately, the chicken batter was bland and the meal a tad on the greasy side. Our gastrointestinal gamble didn't pay off, on this occasion.

After lunch, we continued our way up Highway 97, past 100-Mile House, 108-Mile House, Williams Lake and finally, into Quesnel (the largest of the towns we passed - 10k municipal residents, 23k within the area). On the north side of town, we turned onto Highway 26, heading toward Barkerville and the Bowron Lake Provincial Park.

We had been following river drainages for most of the drive, but on Highway 26, we gained an appreciation for hilly cross-country travel. The road climbed up and down, at times taxing our little 1983 Honda Accord, laden with a canoe on the roof, two adults and a pile of gear. At last, we arrived in Wells, the last town before Barkerville (a historic town site from the days of the Cariboo Gold Rush - well worth a visit if one ever gets the chance) where we stopped to pick up a couple of beers before making our way the last 28 kilometers along a dirt road that led to Bowron Lake Provincial Park.

At the park, we drove straight to the registration booth. It was 6:30 PM, but we were please to find the office was open until 8 PM, so we went inside and inquired about getting on the canoe circuit. The young girl asked if we had a reservation and when we informed her that we did not, she took a deep breath and said, "Oh dear. Well, lets see when we can get you on."

Our hearts sank. We got the impression that we would have to wait for multiple days. When her supervisor arrived at the desk, we were told that the earliest available start would be on Thursday morning. It took a moment to do to work out that it was a one-day wait. We had expected this and it would give us a chance to visit Barkerville, get organized and maybe go for a hike on one of the nearby hiking trails.

With reservations taken care of, we now looked for a place to camp. There were four campgrounds in the immediate area, 3 privately owned and the Bowron Lake Provincial Park campground. After checking out two of the three private camps (all more expensive than the Provincial Park), we decided to stay at the Provincial campground. There, the sites are treed and more private, it's quiet and of course - less expensive ($15 a night, compared with $22 or more). It had the added bonus of being situated adjacent to the registration office and the start of the canoe circuit.

While we were looking for a spot, it started to sprinkle. Thankfully, the rain wasn't hard and it didn't last long. We were able to get the tent up and prepare dinner without getting sopping wet. We had no idea what the weather forecast was like for the upcoming week, so when we asked one of the park staff and were informed that the weather was supposed to get "hotter and hotter" - we were thrilled! Looks like we timed things right!

After setting up the tent, Scott slaved over the MSR "Whisper-lite" stove, preparing a dinner of Lipton Side-Kicks and Itchiban noodles (we snacked earlier on crackers and nuts). While Scott cooked, Rachel managed to get this journal entry written, using our new (refurbished) HP Jornada 728 hand-held computer.

It's amazing how quickly we slipped back into the comfortable routines that we established during those 5 months of wilderness backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail, in 2002.

A Park Ranger came by to collect our camp fee and it turned out to be the same supervisor from the registration office. In addition to collecting our fee, she informed us that there was a group of 10 scheduled to start the canoe circuit tomorrow and two weren't able to make it. If we wanted, we could begin the circuit first-thing in the morning.

Woo-hoo! (Of course we said yes!) She told us to be at the registration office at 9 AM, so that we can watch the video presentation, listen any circuit updates, weigh our gear and get our laminated permit. Then we'd be on the our adventure - the first bit being a 2.4-kilometer overland portage to Kibbee Lake.

We asked the Ranger if we had been the first one's on the waiting list and she said, with a twinkle in her eye, "No. But you're the first ones I've talked to since I found out about it!" (Guess it pays to stay in the Provincial campground, eh?) :p

After dinner, we walked to the dock at Bowron Lake, where we would be completing the circuit. The lake was calm, beautiful and very peaceful. Looking across the lake at the private campgrounds, we were glad that we had decided to camp at the Provincial Campground - both because of the cancellation and the absence of RV generators, which we could hear, across the corner of the lake.

We were joined on the dock by a couple from Squamish, four teenagers and their grandmother. Initially, we bemoaned the loss of our solitude, but soon we were chatting with the group and enjoying the conversation. Finally, the sun set fully and we needed to use our flashlights to find the way back to camp.

We settled into bed just before 10 PM and soon dozed off to sleep. However, we suffered first-night-in-a-tent syndrome, as neither slept well. (It takes a couple of nights to re-acclimatized to thin Thermarests, hard ground and a mummy bag).

We both thought about the upcoming adventure. Wildlife we'd see, all the paddling we'd be doing and wondering how wet we might get - either from falling water or from falling into the water! Tomorrow the adventure begins!

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