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Bowron Lakes Canoe Trip

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Bowron Lakes Canoe Trip

August 28th, 2008  · stk

Day Two - Bowron Lakes Campsite #22
Thursday, August 14, 2008
22.1 Km (straighter paddling)

We slept much better! (Second-night bliss). It also helped that there wasn't any rain hitting the tent, keeping us awake.

We awoke at about 6:30 AM and realized we weren't the first ones up. Emerging from the tent, we were greeted by Jackie and Rob, preparing their morning coffee, which they drank while sitting on the beach, by their kayaks. Scott lit the stove, while Rachel packed up the sleeping bags and Thermarests.

The morning routine was leisurely compared to our old PCT hiking days. We sat back and enjoyed our company, while savoring our hot drinks, soaking in the view of the mountains and mirror-like lake. After hot drinks, Rachel ate some instant oatmeal and then we laid our fly and tent out to dry, in the morning sun, while we relaxed some more. By the time we were ready to leave, it was 8:30 AM. As leisurely as it was for us, our camping companions were even more leisurely: by the time we left, they hadn't eaten breakfast and were only thinking about drying their tents and ground sheets.

We bid them farewell and pushed out onto the glass smooth water of Isaac Lake. Hearing about the importance of a “paddle early, camp early” approach, especially on the south arm of Isaac Lake, where afternoon winds can whip up in only minutes, we were happy to get under way and take advantage of the calm conditions.

Most books and pamphlets warn about the dangers of traveling in the middle of Isaac Lake, because strong winds are known to develop very quickly, making it dangerous for novice paddlers. Because the conditions were so good, we ignored the advice of hugging the northern shore, instead taking off on a diagonal path across the lake, heading straight for the inner point, where the lake takes a 90-degree turn to the southeast. Once we reached this point, we stopped for a morning snack and enjoyed a 30-minute break. While we were sitting on the shore, looking back at Wolverine Bay and the mountains beyond, we watched a party of three canoes depart from one of the campsites there.

The lake conditions were still superb - the lake was calm as glass - so we took off on another diagonal path, gradually making our way across the lake. In addition to the dangers of inclement, windy weather, our guide book warns of a psychological obstacle when traveling in the middle of the lake: one does not get the sense of making progress, because the shorelines are far enough off to minimize the sense of movement. We did not find this a significant problem, although we did make the comment that we liked it when there were little bits of leaves and other duff on the surface of the water, which gave us and indication of our forward speed.

We traveled about four and a half kilometers down the lake, before we reached the eastern shore, near Campsite #19. We had been appreciating the beautiful scenery and calm conditions the whole time, wondering when the afternoon winds were going to pick up and force us closer to the shore. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and we were baking under the hot sun, almost wishing that the wind would pick up a little bit to provide us with some relief and help cool us off. Alas, the winds never came, nor did the clouds. At one point we saw a small puff of a cloud develop above Mt Faulkner, but minutes later, it had disappeared.

Past Campsite #19, we stopped for another half-hour break at a small sand spit. It was a lovely spot and as we lay out on the beach, enjoying the sunshine, we felt almost like we were on a beach in Mexico or some other tropical locale (all one had to do was ignore the fact the trees were spruce and pines and imagine palms instead).

As we sat on the beach, enjoying our break, a party of six people, in three canoes, passed by, as did a couple of guys in a canoe with rigging for a sail. Too bad for them that there was not to be more than a brief puff of wind today, as they weren't able to put that sail to use. A little later the four university guys came paddling past, but there was still no sign of our campsite kayakers.

On the water again, we stuck closer to the shore, but rather than ducking in with each curve of the shoreline, we chose a straight path from point to point. It seemed that we were paddling this lake in sixty to eighty-minute intervals, stopping for half hour breaks and enjoying the scenery and resting our shoulders. Our lunch stop was about three kilometers further on, at yet another lovely beach.

Within a few minutes of sitting in the shade and beginning our lunch, we heard a great splashing noise in the small bay to our right, about 200 meters away. We looked up to see that a moose cow had come down to the shore and was splashing through the water. A moment later we realized that she had a small calf tagging along behind her. Every twenty seconds or so, the cow would look back over her shoulder and grunt at the calf. The calf would carry on with a number of plaintiff little cries, "Wait for me!", as it tried to keep up with its - much larger - mother. As they approached us, we wondered what was going to happen when they came to where we were eating lunch! We didn't need to worry, as they both disappeared into the dense vegetation, disappearing as quickly as they had arrived. The calf's cries could still be heard, but there was not another sight of them.

After lunch, Rachel took a brief, but refreshing swim and we were then entertained by two fearless squirrels who were eager to lighten our food load. One squirrel wanted to jump into our canoe to look for tasty treats, and the other one thought that gnawing at our JIF Peanut Butter jar might yield him some reward. We commented on how fearless they were of humans, but it wasn't until we were back on the water that we realized that Campsite #20, complete with a cook shelter, was less than 100 meters beyond the bend.

Despite having refueled on dried pepperoni, cheese, French rolls with peanut butter, cookies, and carrot sticks, our energy was waning, as we began our afternoon paddle. Our shoulder muscles were aching, and switching sides only briefly relieved them. Scott commented that he thought that we should camp at the next site and with that in mind, we kept close to the shore, since the campsites are not always easily visible from more than a hundred meters offshore.

We headed towards where we thought Campsite #21a would be. As we neared the mouth of Betty Wendle Creek, we noticed a Bald Eagle sitting on a dead log on the shore. It took a while before we were sure that it was an eagle, because other than turning its head from side to side, which we couldn't' see until we were relatively close, it wasn't moving. Once we were certain that it was an eagle, we tried to get close enough for a photo, but just as Rachel was reaching for her camera, the eagle took flight and moved off to the trees.

Another half kilometer further we spotted the little orange marker for Campsite #21a. The shore was very shallow and muddy looking, with lots of deadheads. Right off the bat we were skeptical. We climbed out of the canoe to check out the camp and found five tent sites on a spacious site, but the gnats were as thick as a fog, following us around the site. Although we didn't notice any mosquitoes, the gnats were so thick that we quickly decided to carry on, despite being tired.

We caught a second wind, putting a bit more efforts into our strokes, trying to get to the next campsite as soon as possible. Scott was dripping in sweat in his long sleeved shirt (which he wears to protect his skin from the sun) and Rachel's forearms were beginning to sunburn despite frequent applications of SPF 30 lotion.

We neared the beach at the next point to see that the two guys with the sail rigged canoe were on the beach, but the way they were moving about we got the impression that they were just taking a break and would be moving on shortly. Sure enough, within five minutes of us arriving, they climbed in their canoe and pushed off.

Campsite #22 is a nice spot with two tent pads up a little hill in the trees. It has a small pebble beach and there is a small clearing in the bush, just off from the beach, near where a trail heads off to the other tent sites. We could see other canoes approaching from the distance, so we figured that we might be better off to pitch out tent near the beach and save the tent pads for the approaching party. Forty five minutes later, after we had the tent up, the other party of three canoes arrived. They scouted out the site and soon decided to stay.

After we had relaxed in the shade for about 45 minutes, we decided that it was time to go for a swim. We each changed into our swimming attire and plunged into the cold waters of Isaac Lake. The beach has a nice shallow shelf for about the first 15 feet or so and then it drops off quickly. The water on the shelf was warm and pleasant, but as soon as one is out deeper, the water turns very cold, very quickly. Despite the coolness, we acclimatized quickly and found it refreshing and revitalizing.

After a chilly rinse, we did the same with some of our clothes and let them dry in the sun. We jumped back into the water to wet down our hair, and then back to the beach to lather up with camp soap before rinsing each other off with buckets of water. With clean bodies (or at least as clean as we can get them) and our clothes laying out on the bushes to dry, we enjoyed the evening, waiting for the still-hot sun to drop down behind Mount Faulkner, on the other side of the lake.

As Scott prepares dinner and we listen to the party of six on the hill behind us, we are looking out over the water can see another canoe approaching. It's now 6:45 PM and these canoeists must have put in a long day! We aren't sure where they will make camp, as there aren't really any more flat spots around, but we will make room for them if need be. They will probably be surprised and a little disappointed to find that three canoes are tucked around the bend, out of sight.

The canoeists turn out to be two German girls who are indeed, looking for a place to camp for the night. They took a short break and checked out the upper tent pads, coming to the conclusion that there really isn't room enough at this camp. They seemed to take this news in stride, indicating that they'll have a look at the group camp, across the lake and back a ways. (If group camps - required for parties of 7 - 14 people - are empty, it can make for a wonderful camp, as you may have the whole camp to yourself).

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