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Bowron Lakes Canoe Trip

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Rachel·Scott

Bowron Lakes Canoe Trip

August 28th, 2008  · stk

Day Four - Bowron Lakes Campsite #37 (Lanezi Lake)
Saturday, August 16, 2008
27.4 km (paddling + side trip)

We woke up early, at 6 AM, but we took our time with the morning routine - coffee/hot chocolate and hot oatmeal, followed by striking the tent and packing our gear. We enjoyed Dave and Gord's company, conversing as we went about our morning routine. We decided we should make a point of taking photos of the great people we meet, so we took photos of Dave and Gord, right before we paddled off.

We slowly and quietly paddled along the marshy side of the lake, hoping to get another glimpse of a moose grazing in the early morning. Unfortunately, there were none to be seen, making us even more thankful for seeing the two last night. Just beyond the marsh field, the glacially-sourced Cariboo River joined McLeary lake. Wow, what a contrast! The Cariboo river is a roiling, silty quagmire of light-colored water, filled with swirls and paisley-type patterns. Where the Cariboo river joined the clear lake water, visibility dropped to nothing, as the water simply mixed to create a solid, milky mass. Soon after, we couldn't see the blades of our paddles in the water. The silty water followed us all day and throughout, we've opted to fill our water bottles from clear-running lakeside creeks, rather than drink the silty river or lake water.

Nearing the end of the McLeary Lake, the current picked up and we prepared ourselves for the run down the Cariboo River. Again, we had tied all of our bags together - just in case - because the guide book (and park staff) all warned about the obstacles in the Cariboo River. The current is strong and if one isn't careful, it's easy to get crosswise to a (hidden) deadhead or caught in a "sweeper" along the bank. (The vast majorities of rescues happen in the Cariboo River - park staff get called out to help people recover their canoes, gear and party members).

As we started down the river, we felt ourselves tense up. Deadheads were frequent and the turns in the river came often enough to keep ourselves on our game. Initially, we'd planned this section for the early morning, hoping that we would see lots of wildlife, but as it turned out, we didn't' see any. Ultimately, this was a good thing. If we had seen wildlife, we would have been so focused on taking pictures that we might have forgotten about canoeing, ending up sideways to a deadhead or unprepared for a maneuver. Splash!

Further along, we relaxed a little. Either we were getting used to it, or the river had smoothed a bit. Whatever the reason, we were able to enjoy the ride a bit more. At about 3 kilometers in, we spotted a really big snag sticking out into the river, just before a turn. We had to paddle hard to avoid being swept into it and we were happy when we passed by, without incident. (That particular snag catches a number of canoeists and accounts for a large number of rescues). The Cariboo river section took us only about a half hour to navigate, and it was probably the fastest 5.6 kilometers of the whole trip!

The river eventually opened up into Lanezi Lake and we stopped on a sand bar to apply suntan lotion, have a snack, look at the map and make a plan for crossing the 14.8 kilometer-long lake.

Just like Isaac Lake, the guidebook recommended that we paddle on the north side of the lake - where all the campsites are - as the lake can be brutal for headwinds. However, with continued pristine conditions, a beautiful blue sky and only a few puffy white clouds , we stuck to the south side of the lake, staying in the shade of the tall trees for as long as possible.

The paddle along the shore was pleasant, because of the shade, but we missed the underwater scenery of Isaac Lake. Silty lake water meant that we couldn't see any deeper than our paddle, so our scenery was limited to the land onshore. At one point, however, we did see an otter swimming in the milky water, but we weren't very close to him and we only saw him for a brief moment. (No photos).

Lanezi lake is surrounded by very steep, snow-capped mountains, reaching straight out of the water and into the sky. This meant that there were a great many creeks and streams shooting down the banks and into the lake. As we paddled along the southern shore we enjoyed looking up at a myriad of steep waterfalls, each crashing into the lake. The waterfalls also appeared to be plentiful on the north shore. There was one drainage that started near the top of Mt. Hughes Mount Hughes Named after Griffith Hughes, who died in World War 2. He was Tom and Blodwen's son.   and we could see the whitewater all the way from its source to the lake. Initially, it looked like bleached-white logs and it took a minute to realize that we were looking at whitewater, not logs.

wn the lake, we stopped for a break on a little peninsula of rock that jutted out of the water. Eating, we watched a steady stream of canoes make their way along the opposite shore and were somewhat surprised to see three canoes crossing the lake on an approach. We later learned that the six young guys in the canoes were actually part of a larger group of eighteen guys all up from the United States. Because they are in a large party, they have to stay at the "group sites", the next of which is at Sandy Lake.

By the time our break ended, the sun had risen high enough that we lost the advantage of shade, so we made a long diagonal track across the lake to the northern (starboard) bank. It was a long paddle and we suffered the psychological battle of not seeing a nearby shore slip by, so it appeared that we were on a paddling treadmill. On our crossing, we switched paddling sides, a number of times. This helps to relieve sore muscles and tense necks, but the relief becomes shorter-lived, as the day wears on into afternoon. By the time we regained the shore, we were nearly at the end of the lake - tired and hungry. It was time for a lunch break.

We pulled onto a small sandy beach, just before Campsite #37 and enjoyed a quick lunch of buns with peanut butter, pepperoni sticks, cookies and an orange. After looking at the map we weighed our options. Ahead of us was Sandy Lake, with three sites and then - very popular - Una Lake. We had seen at least seven canoes ahead of us. After lunch, we paddled to Campsite #37 and found another five people drying their gear from last night's thunderstorm. They said that they were pushing on. We decided to camp early, to avoid the crowd we anticipated would be at the camps ahead (we didn't realize that all but the five here, were part of that large group and destined for the group camp).

As the day was still young, we thought we'd set up camp and take a side paddle to Sandy Lake, heading for the Hunter Lake hiking trail.

Campsite #37 is a really lovely spot at the end of Lanezi Lake, just before the slow and gentle Cariboo River heads into Sandy Lake. The site has two designated tent pads, but the clearing in the trees is large and spacious and has room for four or five more tents. The beach is nice. It's sandy and sticks out to make a small peninsula with good canoe landing sites all around it. The shoreline is also sandy and has a gentle slope, making acclimatizing to the cool water easy for those wanting to swim.

The party of five pulled out as we went about making camp. We dried out our tent from last night's rainstorm on the beach, before hauling it into the coolness of the forested camp site. After the tent was up, it was time to think about a cooling swim. As always, Scott quickly submerged himself and splashed around - he is part fish - but Rachel took it slow and easy, eventually dunking herself, after slowly walking in up to her waist and standing there for some time. As we were enjoying a cool respite, a couple of young girls from Prince George stopped on the beach to take a break before moving on. They were delightful girls, full of vigor and energy. Amazingly they had started from Campsite #29 this morning, at the end of Lake Isaac, and today is only their third day of paddling - so they sure are making quick business of this trip.

With all of our food stuffs locked away in the bear cache, we climbed into the canoe for the 1.2 km paddle down the lazy Cariboo River to Sandy Lake, where we then then ventured across the lake to the hiking trail that takes one to Hunter Lake. It sounded like a great side trip, until we were about half way across Sandy Lake, searching the far shore for a signpost. We felt the fatigue of paddling 15 km across Lanezi Lake. Why are we were adding another seven kilometer paddle to the day?

Rachel started to get frustrated as we were paddling across Sandy Lake and unable to identify the trail head. About a hundred yards from shore, Rachel insisted that Scott look at a contour map (which we'd found on the shore of the west arm of Isaac lake, on day two), so that he could get a better idea of how far along it was. After comparing the shape of the shoreline with contours on the map, we headed further west and we arrived at the trail head after some 10 minutes of paddling.

As we climbed out of the canoes, with snacks, water and our cameras, we were greeted at the trail head by signs warning that the trail was steep and slippery in places. We didn't think much about the warnings, initially, but shortly after we started to hike up the trail, we realized that it would have been more appropriate to say "steep trail", rather than "steep parts". It became obvious that the trail builders were not concerned with switchbacks or minimizing the grade of the trail, as it just headed straight up the mountainside. Finally, we gained the crest and the trail leveled off. After about another quarter of a kilometer, we came out of the bush onto the rocky shore of Hunter Lake.

The lake was very disappointing, but then, what were we expecting? We had just come from a whole chain of beautiful, huge lakes, why would a small lake be any more, or less impressive? In fact, it was very unimpressive. The fact that the heat was stifling and there were no breezes, didn't help. The shoreline wasn't particularly nice and there were few places to sit and relax. We took an obligatory photo to prove, "Been there, done that," then headed back down the trail. The one good thing about the trail was the blueberries growing alongside of it and we snagged several handfuls.

Back at Sandy Lake, we prepared ourselves for the three and a half kilometer trip back to Campsite #37 and Lanezi Lake. It was nearly 5 PM when we started back and we guessed that it would take us an hour. Thankfully, we managed a more direct path back and despite having to paddle against the current, we arrived back at camp within 45 minutes. Whew.

The beach and campsite was overrun with people. The party of six - ones we had camped with a couple of nights ago - were there, as were the two German girls and another younger couple. The campsite was well past the two-tent guideline! Irony, eh? To think that we had elected to camp early to avoid anticipated crowds!

Despite the crowd, we had a pleasant evening, mingling with fellow campers and engaging in various conversations. Oddly, no one opted for a campfire. The bear cache, however, was overrun with bags and people had to be conservative with what they put into the box, so that there was room for everyone. (One bear box is designed to hold gear from two -three tents. We had six tents at this camp, easily exceeding the box's capacity). Hopefully the bears won't get a sent of our cooking gear and toiletries that we had to keep out of the cache.

We had a late dinner of beef stew with mashed potatoes and then settled down into our tent. The conversations around the camp began to wane with the fading light. People put the last of their food in the bear cache and made their final trips to the outhouse. With sore necks and shoulders, we lamented that we forgot to bring Ibuprofen (which we called "Vitamin I" on the Pacific Crest Trail, religiously taking two each night, before bed). One of our other big complaints was that our butts were very sore: we sit in the canoe and paddle all day, then when we get to camp, we sit on hard logs and rocks. There's no relief!

Enough complaining. It is now time to get some rest. We lay out heads down at 9 PM and an owl is hooting in the trees.

"Who, who cooks for you?" he says.

Eventually, our camp mates finally retired and we fall into a restful night's sleep.

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