Bro’s On Bowron 2018

Bro’s On Bowron May 2018

 

It came right down to the wire.  First there was the report that two fellows who had hoped to make an early May trip around the Chain got stopped by big ice on Isaac Lake and had to back track to their put-in.  Then there were the encouraging aerial photos showing  completely open  and ice free Kibbee and Indianpoint Lakes, followed by another pilot’s personal report that he had flown over ice on Isaac Lake.  Our trip was slated to start on May 17th.   On the 14thwe got word that the Park maintenance crew had made their way on the East Side of the Chain as far as Wolverine Bay on Isaac Lake and that the West Side was also completely open.   We also learned that the Park maintenance crew was going to work their way north  from McLeary Lake to Isaac Lake using the old portage trail on the east side of the Isaac River, to get a look at the ice situation at the south end of Isaac Lake. On the 15thwe got the word and it was almost incomprehensibe.  “The end of the lake and the Isaac River are solid, jumbled ice from shore to shore”. How could this be?

 

My partner and I agreed that we were going to show up at the put-in on the 17thand if  Isaac was still blocked we would content ourselves with paddling on the West Side, possibly as far as Turner Creek on Lanezi Lake.  Others in our group were determined to make it all the way around the Chain and were simply going to take a chance that by the time they reached the bottom of Isaac Lake it would be open.  If they were successful we could all meet up at Turner Creek and finish the Circuit together.   A very experienced alumnus of  the Bro’s who has spent a fair bit of time paddling amidst the glacial ice of  Alsek Lake in the Yukon and Alaska pointed out that  the ice on Isaac Lake had probably broken up, was melting and that the wind had simply blown it all down to the south end of the lake and it was now slowly making its way out of the lake and down the Isaac River,  That is  why both the end of the lake and the river were “solid ice from shore to shore”.

 

The Bowron Chain is in Quesnel’s back yard, it is only a historic 90 minute drive from our homes to the put-in.  On the 17thwe all arrived at the Registration Centre early enough to catch the 9:00 a.m. premiere screening of the new orientation video.  Many of us had seen the old one at least 20 times, this new one was informative, entertaining and it came in stereo too as Park worker Corrine’s friendly big black dog Vita joined us for the showing and barked loudly every time a bear appeared on the screen. Unfortunately, this ‘new’ video (which is actually dated 2015) contains no mention at all of  the First Nations history associated with the Bowron.  Along with the video came the welcome news  from Corrine that “you are good to go,  the end of Isaac Lake, the Chute and the river are all clear of ice”. My partner and I changed our plans on the spot, we were going to paddle the Circuit.

 

There we were, 19 men about to start on the 23rdAnnual Bro’s on Bowron trip around the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit.  We have always made this trip over the Victoria Day long weekend.  In all those years we have certainly seen varied conditions but on only two occasions were we stopped by the ice, and in retrospect, if we hadn’t been such wimps,  on one of those occasions we could have made it around the Chain.

 

Our larger group was actually comprised of a number of smaller groups.  There was one bunch of five who cooked and camped together and seven pairs,  each paddling together in a tandem canoe.  Being the very first of the season to go out on the Chain means that there is no congestion and that finding campsites is not a problem, we can essentially camp wherever it works.  But we were not alone, leaving at the same time were one other group of four and at least four other couples in tandem canoes.  This didn’t include those that were choosing to travel on the West Side of the Chain.  Our experience tells us that there are an ever-increasing number of paddlers choosing to make this trip in the shoulder seasons, in both early May and late October.

 

A father, mother and their adult daughter visiting from the Netherlands had been camping at Bowron Lake Lodge and we invited them to come and watch the orientation video with us.  They loved everything about the experience,  there was lots of action as 30+ paddlers were busily packing and getting ready for  their trip. They enjoyed the video which instilled dreams of maybe paddling the Chain themselves one day. My partner and I played the old age card and enlisted their help on the first portage to Kibbee Lake.   It didn’t take much to convince them that they could hike that first portage to Kibbee Lake with us, and  “why not carry some of our gear while you are at it.”

 

As soon as we put in on Kibbee Lake we knew that the water level was higher than we had ever experienced it in the past.  That heavier than normal snowpack was definitely melting; high water would prove to be the hallmark of our whole trip.  Whenever I am sitting in my canoe on Kibbee Lake and taking those first few paddle strokes of the journey I always have the same feeling, this is my happy place!   I can feel the pleasure that comes with entering into this special world called the Bowron.  Occasionally I  use visualization as a form of relaxation, and it is the vista that  was there present before me at the start of this trip, that I always visualize.

 

The trip across Kibbee doesn’t take too long, but already our group was spread out and we were essentially on our own.  We knew where we were heading, to a string of three separate but connected campsites on Indianpoint Lake just past Kruger Bay.  There would be lots of room for our group at that spot.  but first we had to conquer the second portage running from Kibbee Lake to Indianpoint.  Where were those Dutch helpers when we needed them?

 

There is a knack to packing correctly for a trip like this one, and that knack seemed to have eluded us.  Let’s just say that we had lots of ‘stuff‘ with us, stuff that we didn’t really need.  A lot of the extra weight  was actually food, but there was also the 10 pound three man/four season tent that was probably a bit of overkill.  Throw in the two nylon tarps complete with ropes and extra heavy spikes for staking them down, and the extra clothing that I now know was superfluous.  Our repair kit was probably suitable for repairing the Queen Mary, and why did we need two first aid kits?  We did the Indianpoint portage in stages, leaving our loaded canoe (on wheels) at the halfway point and going back to Kibbee Lake for our extra gear and to have lunch.

 

As we were eating a delicious lunch of wraps with a filling made in situ comprised of tomato, black beans and avocado, the Park maintenance crew arrived and began raking the campsite where we were sitting.  Bowron Lake Provincial Park has to be the best raked park in all of B.C.  They raked everything, the tent pads, the area around the fire pit, the trail to the outhouse, even parts of the portage trail. All too soon we donned the heavy packs (actually one of them was the food barrel from hell) and we were on our way over the (raked) trail.  We got to the spot where we had left the canoe and it was gone.  Oh no, I had been hoping to dump the lead infused food barrel into the canoe and to exchange it for something just a tad lighter.  When we staggered into the little clearing at the end of this portage, many of our group members were having their lunch and we were able to thank the two youngest members of our group,  two young pups in their mid 20’s, for their help with the canoe.

 

Now that I mention our group, just who were we?  All of the group either lives in Quesnel or has  a pretty close Quesnel connection.  The eldest was 81, the youngest was 28.  There was one father and son who knew the Chain very well however each chose to paddle with friends who were first timers.  Four were paddling the Chain for the very first time, three of the group had paddled the Chain over 30 times, the rest had many trips around the Circuit under their belts.  There were nine canoes and one ocean kayak, some of the canoes were brand new beauties, there were no klunkers.  Needless to say there was a lot of paddling experience represented by the members of this group.  Decisions were generally made by consensus, but we all knew who the best and most knowledgeable paddlers were if we needed to make a difficult decision.

 

We all put in on Indianpoint Lake within about 5 -10 minutes of each other, into a pretty strong cross  wind blowing over our left shoulder.  We kept fairly close together until we were in the shadow of the left shoreline, where the wind was not a factor.  It was just under an hour’s paddle to that night’s campsite, we arrived around 3:00 p.m. The campsites were on a fairly high ridge so the high water level didn’t really have an impact on the landing or the campsites themselves.  There was plenty of time to just relax before setting up camp and making supper. The weather had been great, pretty warm for this time of year but it was still most comfortable wearing a polar fleece or nylon jacket.

 

Everyone was a pretty experienced camper.  Soon all the tents were up, the bedding was spread out, canoes were brought up to the campsites and stowed for the night, everything that needed to stay dry found a place under cover.  A fire was started in the fire ring, the rich guys brought out their $150.00 collapsible chairs and the rest of us sat on stumps.  Each little group did their own cooking and most of the efforts were pretty impressive.  We warmed up pre-cooked chicken with roasted vegetables along with dessert, easy to prepare and it tasted great; best of all, eating it should lighten our food barrel by at least two pounds.

 

Visiting and talking around the campfire always seems to be one of the best times of the day.  We were a pretty diverse group with backgrounds ranging from medicine to forestry, social work, nursing, engineering, mill work, small business ownership, administration, auto mechanics, electronics, we even had a poor man’s financial advisor in the group.  His advice to everyone, no matter the topic was to “send them a bill”, and then he wanted to send the rest of us a bill for this advice.  Over half of our group were actually retired, which meant that we were having trouble remembering just  what day of the week it was.  We had to establish some parameters for our discussion topics. It soon became quite evident that if this was going to be a relaxing and enjoyable trip, politics had to be completely off limits.

 

After a good night with no rain, we were on the water early, before 8:00 o’clock.  We paddled into the lagoon at the end of Indianpoint Lake and took out in the mud that always seems to be at that spot.  This was rubber boot country.  Soon the canoes were up on the wheels and  on the trail and this third and very rough ankle breaker portage that would take us to Isaac Lake was commenced.  It was shorter than the first two which was a relief.  We were also able to complete the portage in one trip but were somewhat shocked when we arrived at Isaac Lake.

 

The first three portages on the Circuit are all uphill, but somewhere near the end of this third portage we reached the height of land.  Up to that point, all of the water is flowing northwest, eventually emptying into Bowron Lake which is drained by the Bowron River which in turn flows north east into the Fraser River about 40 kilometres east of Prince George.  Once we cross that height of land, all of the water is flowing west and southwest into Isaac Lake, down the Isaac River which flows into the Cariboo River which joins the Quesnel River at Quesnel Forks which in turn flows into the Fraser River at Quesnel.  There was a huge amount of water flowing into Isaac Lake, the usual put-in at the end of the portage was under deep water, we put in well before the usual spot and once on the lake we could see the impact of the high water.   Campsites were compromised, with no beaches or shorelines and  water right up to the tent pads.  Some of the low-lying ones were completely under water.  Usual sandbars and beaches were well submerged. We were getting into the magnificent Cariaboo Mountain country and all of the mountains were snow covered and melting.  But it was a beautiful day, with spectacular reflections of the panoramic mountains filling the lake all around us.

 

There are two arms to Isaac Lake that are roughly at a 90 degree angle.  Our immediate destination was to get to the ‘elbow’ where we would make a  few decisions. Just where would we have lunch and what side of the lake would we paddle on when making the turn to travel down the longest arm that would take us to the end of the lake?  As we headed towards the elbow, both snow covered Wolverine Mountain and Mount Cochrane were spectacular in the bright sunshine.  There was no wind, the water was like glass, we paddled together with lots of bantering back and forth.

 

When we got to the ‘elbow’ we could see the Ranger cabin and the cooking shelter in the campsite at Wolverine Bay to our left.  At this point we rafted up for a talk before we started to paddle down Isaac Lake’s longer arm.  Part of our group wanted to stop on the right hand shore of the long arm to hike in and see an impressive waterfall that is virtually hidden in the bushes, they would also have lunch at that spot.  The same group wanted to spend the night in the group campsite that is on the right hand side about 2/3 of the way down this arm.  The rest of  us wanted to stay to the left and to camp at campsite #24 which is  just past  the spot where Betty Wendle Valley  enters Isaac Lake and which is almost directly across from the spot where the others would be camping at the group campsite.   For those of us who were part of this latter group, our first desire was to get across the arm and to have lunch at a campsite that was directly in front of us.

 

After lunch we paddled down the east side of the lake, we could see the other canoes across the arm from us.  We got to Lynx Creek campsite and took a break.  A huge tree had blown down in the campsite and had come close to destroying the bridge that crosses the creek and which makes this campsite usable.  This was the site of the famous bear mauling, that took place almost 24 years ago, when a young German medical student  who had been studying in Seattle, was attacked by a black bear while sleeping in his tent along with his girlfriend.   At this point in the narrative the facts become a bit hazy, because this story has been told so many times by so many people who didn’t know what they were talking about.  The bare facts of  the outcome are:  the fellow survived, a team from the hospital where he was working in Seattle flew  to Quesnel to escort him back to their hospital, Jerry MacDonald, the then editor of the Quesnel Cariboo Observer wrote up the story which was actually published in the Canadian issue of Reader’s Digest.

 

Our group  had a discussion about the fact that  campsite #24, which was the next campsite we would be coming to was probably at least partially under water.  It was decided that two canoes (four fellows) would stay and camp here  at Lynx Creek.  They would meet us in the morning and we would paddle to the end of the lake together. We made it to campsite #24 and indeed the water was lapping at the rims of the tent pads, there was no foreshore, but there was room for all of us with a bit of creative tent placement.  About two hours after we arrived, a father and son from Victoria paddled up to the campsite and we were able to invite them to join us, there was one good spot left and they ended up having a comfortable night.  We could see the rest of our group right across the lake from us as they had reached their destination at the group campsite.  From then on, the three different campsites kept in communication using smoke signals.

 

We had a good night, I always seem to sleep better on a thermarest.  Our tent had a few advantages over the smaller (and much lighter) 1 man versions that many of the others were using.  Being a four season tent, by closing  the zippers judiciously, the tent remained really warm at night with good ventilation, and the temperatures did drop after the sun went down.  Another advantage was the tremendous amount of storage space that we had at our disposal. Virtually everything we owned was kept safely under cover and it was easily accessible.  Sleeping on this trip was not a problem.

 

George Gilbert grew up in Wells, he worked for the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine and he was a key figure during what I call the ‘Wells Era’ of Bowron Lake, a period that started in the 1940’s and lasted until the Bowron was made a Park in 1961.  George, who passed away in 2008 wrote a book called Kicked By A Dead Moose in which he documents many of his Bowron Lake exploits.  In the late 1950’s, George wanted to build a cabin between Betty Wendle Creek and the lower end of  Isaac lake. He picked out a spot “about four miles from Betty Wendle” that he called Silvertip Point and arranged for Erik Rask to build him a log cabin at that spot.  I have often wondered if campsite #24 wasn’t actually the site of Silvertip Point.  Two years ago I rooted around the campsite and found a large old aluminum kettle, which suggested to me that someone had set up house there.  George’s cabin was “burned by the Parks pyromaniacs” after the Bowron Chain became an integral part of Bowron Lake Provincial Park, which was created in 1961.  When the cabin was standing, for some reason George buried a large glass jar filled with coins at Silvertip Point.  In  August, 1997, George’s large extended family made a pilgrimage journey around the Chain.  They called  this trip of a lifetime the Gilbert Odyssey.  When they reached Silvertip Point, George took out a metal detector and searched diligently for the large jar of coins…..without success.  The lost treasure of Silvertip Point is still buried there, waiting to be found.

 

The two canoes from Lynx Creek  joined us early after breakfast and led the way as we journeyed towards the mouth of the Isaac River at the end of the lake.  We could see that the rest of our group (across the lake) were on the move as well.  When we all met up at the end of the lake, we had an informative discussion.  The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but when there are tall mountains involved, it isn’t always easy to state just where  the early morning sun’s warming rays are going to land.  We learned that they don’t land on the group campsite that is located across the lake from campsite #24.  We also learned that in that shady spot, the snow doesn’t melt as quickly as it does in more open areas and that not every tent pad becomes snow free this early in the season.  But the group of five intrepid paddlers that had camped at the group campsite remained stoic when we were finally able to talk with them about their night.  They simply said it was “alright”.

 

The next part of the journey down to the end of the lake had to be one of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of the whole trip, especially early in the morning with no wind to speak of and water as smooth as silk.  Yesterday we had been paddling by old avalanche chutes that were filled with snow and ice., and there were more of these today.  There clearly had been avalanches this year, something that we have not seen for a few years.  This is also the part of the Chain where  thundering waterfalls are tumbling down the western shore of the lake.   All of the boats were on the water working their way to the mouth of the Isaac River.  This is the area that only 6 days earlier had been “solid ice from shore to shore”.

 

There were reminders that all was not totally idyllic.  As we approached the end of the lake, up high on the mountains to our right was evidence of recent forest fires.  These had burned the previous summer, amidst the unprecedented  number of fires that had overwhelmed and devastated much of central British Columbia.  All of us were impacted emotionally  and some physically by these fires.  Our community of Quesnel was  at the heart of the massive attempts to fight  them, our airport had been converted into a major fire fighting hub, our community hosted hundreds of evacuees, friends that lived to the west of our community were all ordered to evacuate their properties.  When the fires also broke out at this point on the Chain, an emergency evacuation of paddlers then on the Chain was successfully initiated by Parks staff and the whole Chain (indeed all access to the B.C. backcountry) was shut down for weeks.

 

The Chute on Isaac River is always a topic of discussion.  This year, with the very high water, it was a flush and all but one of the canoes chose to paddle through the chute.  Before paddling through however we took time to rest and eat and to watch the Harlequin Ducks that were swimming in the chute’s fast water. Seeing these ducks was a pleasant surprise,  partly because they are so beautiful but also because we had seen very little birdlife of any type on this trip.  There had been a few diving ducks (grebes and mergansers), very few geese,  a couple of loons, only one or two raptors and virtually no song birds.  We saw no mallards or buffleheads or any of the ducks that usually ‘flock’ to this area. There were no ducks of any kind resting in large schools on the lakes.  We speculated about high water being the reason for so few waterfowl, possibly they were unable to build nests until they knew that the water was retreating from the nesting sites.  Nothing is as upsetting as viewing a nest full of eggs that has been inundated by flood water.

 

The portage trails below Isaac Lake were snow covered in spots.  This tends to be the part of the Chain that is both cooler and very shaded.  This is the result of the dense forest cover provided by the Interior Rainforest that runs through the heart of Bowron Lake Provincial Park.  There were no real problems getting the canoes over or through the snow.  After paddling through the Chute and the Roller Coaster, there is a mandatory take-out on river left,  at the start of the terrifying part of the Isaac River known as the Cascades.  This year it was absolutely raging and it was comforting to be able to portage around the Cascades section of  the river.  At the end of this portage the canoes re-enter the river for a short paddle before another take-out and portage on river right, just above the Isaac River falls.  There are actually two portage trail routes on this section of the Isaac River, the one on river right that we were going to take and one on river left.  The river left trail is seldom used and runs right from McLeary Lake to  the spot where the canoes re-enter the water after the Cascades.

 

Like a well oiled machine our group, which was now travelling all together made it over the last portage to McLeary Lake where we regrouped and then zipped along a Cariboo River that was really humming.  This was the highest that I have ever seen this river, it was wide and there didn’t seem to be many obstacles.  Still, we all followed the lead boat’s route carefully, and there was a designated sweep boat.  The only potential problem would be getting caught on a snag sticking out from shore, especially on a corner, so we stayed towards the centre of the river.  The views along this section of river offer spectacular panoramas of snow covered mountains on both sides of the river. Before long  we were deposited by the river into Lanezi Lake, which also offers spectacular viewscapes.  There was no wind and I must say I did not miss the usual headwind that is a feature of this lake.  We pointed the bows of our boats toward Turner Creek, my most favourite spot on the whole Chain.  Lanezi Lake, which is a Carrier or Dakelh word that means long, was formerly called simply Long Lake.  It is long and narrow and the water is silty with a green tinge.  You can hear the glacial  silt scraping on the bottom of your canoe.

 

Turner Creek features a fully enclosed shelter with a few tent pads, but we were not the first to arrive and so our  group chose to set up house in the adjacent group campsite.  There was lots of room and we were very comfortable.  The water level was high, but the campsites on this lake were even higher, so flooding was not an  issue.  It was fun watching our encampment take shape.  We had put the tents away a little wet that morning so the first order of service was to dry out the tent fly and the footprint.  We had lots of time and there was a jovial atmosphere throughout the camp.  It was almost as though this campsite had been tailor made for us.

 

After supper we did something that as a group we have never done before.  It was suggested that  we gather around the campfire and simply talk about a job or jobs that we used to have. There was a bit of risk associated with this suggestion because men have a way of communicating with each other in a way that is often very different than the way that women communicate when they sit together.  Men tend to be a bit confrontational.  A typical lead-off comment for men might be “your’e still not driving that piece of s— are you?”  A typical lead-off comment for women might be ”do you have any children” or possibly “your hair looks great.”  This time around it was a bit different for the guys. First off we were actually sitting in a circle around the campfire as a group, we weren’t squaring off or glaring.  The discussion was actually lots of fun as we all poked fun at ourselves.  We heard about serving nine years in the army fixing tanks, a mindless job loading and delivering cases of Coca Cola,  a job teaching English to a group of Finnish and Francophone loggers in a Northern Ontario logging camp, installing communications devices at the top of oil rigs, all the while being petrified of heights….it was a great time, and we ended wanting to repeat this experience.

 

Lanezi was smooth, if there was any wind it was a tail wind.  There was ice in the avalanche chutes and there was a sombre moment as we passed the spot where some falling ice capsized one of our group’s canoes in 2014. We talked once again about the great rescue that had probably saved lives at that time.  The two responsible for that successful rescue were paddling just ahead of us, we wondered what was going through their minds.  (Many of us on this trip had been practising canoe-over-canoe rescues in the local swimming pool for a couple of weeks leading up to this trip).

 

North Vancouver has its famous lions ‘guarding’ the North Shore Mountains.  The Bowron has Mount Ishpa  (formerly Pyramid Mountain) and Mount Kaza (formerly Needlepoint Mountain) guarding the western entrance to the interior of the Bowron Chain.  We passed these mountains as we left Lanezi Lake and began the  transition from the Cariboo Mountains to the  Quesnel Highlands topography.

 

It is sometimes difficult to appreciate that as we paddle Lanezi and then Sandy Lakes that the Cariboo River is actually flowing through these lakes and helping us along.  This was particularly true this year with the high water.  The Cariboo River was originally called Swamp River and there are  Bowron pioneers alive today who still use that name when referring to this river.  The name came from Neil ‘Swampy’ Wilson who was probably the first full time white trapper resident in the Bowron, going back to the late 1800’s.  He tended to focus his trapping efforts along this river.

 

We entered Sandy Lake which is  very shallow and a lake that becomes quite dangerous if there is a heavy wind. Today there was little or no wind but it looked like a large open sea, we weren’t going to get grounded on any shallow spots this time around.  We did stop for a break at one of the campsites.  The campers this year will all have waterfront properties with a great view.  The water was lapping at the tent pads in each of the three campgrounds on this lake, the beautiful sandy beaches that give this lake its name were nowhere to be seen.

 

At the end of Sandy Lake we once again entered the river and before we knew it we took a right hand turn and were making our way upstream on Babcock Creek to the start of  what is clearly the best portage on the whole Chain. Four members of our group chose to take a channel that leaves the river on river left and which enters Unna Lake. From this lake it is possible to hike a beautiful trail (especially in the fall when the blueberries are ripe) that leads to a viewpoint overlooking the Cariboo Falls.  Those who took this side trip reported that it was spectacular. The massive amount of water going over the falls caused the spray to splash  right up to the viewpoint where everyone was standing.

 

While no-one went to them this year, on a short trail that branches off from the trail  leading to the falls are two small lakes known as Rete and Jean Lakes.  These lakes were named by George Gilbert in the 1940’s.  This was a time when the miners from Wells would head out to Unna Lake on the weekend in their motorboats where they had established a small summer community consisting of dwellings that they referred to as shake shelters.  George named the two little lakes after Rete (Rita) McKelvie and Jean (Grady) Speare, these names appear on the older maps and once again, there are Bowron pioneers still alive that refer to these lakes by these names.  At this point in time the British Columbia Geographical Names office is considering an application to have these lakes officiallynamed Rete Lake and Jean Lake.  Jean Speare, who wrote the invaluable guidebook Bowron Chain of Lakes  Place Names and Peopleis still very much alive at age 97 and remains a wonderful source of information about Bowron history.

 

This part of the Chain has been heavily impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle, but one of the foresters in our group noted that looking around today, it would be difficult to know it. Not that the new growth has taken over, it is that  the dead trees  are no longer noticeable and anyone looking at the view scape would not know what it looked like 20 years ago.

 

We crossed Babcock Lake, another shallow body of water that can be dangerous if there is a big wind, but we had no wind to contend with.  We then took one of the two ‘deactivated’ portages that run from Babcock to Skoi and then from Skoi to Spectacle Lakes.  I say deactivated because these short portages used to be like little railways, with (originally) logs and then squared timbers for rails and modified ore carts with steel wheels running on these little tramways.  This infrastructure pre-dates the Park which was established in 1961 and it was a boon for the Wells miners who would leave work on a Friday afternoon, hop into their motorized canoes and boats on their way to Unna (they called it Grizzly) Lake.  When they got to the portage they would simply lift the loaded canoe, motor and all onto the ore cart and wheel it to the next lake.

 

We got to Spectacle Lakes with a big sigh of relief, this marked the end of the portaging for this trip. One of Bowron’s anomalies is the fact that Spectacle Lakes is plural, but there is really only one lake.  The wind had found us as we were putting in. My partner and I took a safe line but the five adventurers who were  portaging with us were going  to put up a sail and sail to that night’s campsite at Pat’s Point.  They had quite a construction project under way when we left but as we looked back we saw a huge blue sail along with a much smaller one that was being used by the kayak.  We all made it to Pat’s Point safely, the sailors were ecstatic, they had a lot of fun.   Some of our group decided to camp at the main campsite where the shelter is available. The rest of  the  group  which was travelling just a bit behind us headed to the group campsite further down the shore and decided to camp there.  They explained later that they were just too tired to fight the wind in order to get to the main campsite.

 

We had all assumed that the main campsite would be quite full.  It is a prime destination for those paddling on the West Side of the Chain, and the number of paddlers leaving for the West Side when we were starting seemed to suggest that there would be quite a few takers for this place. What we found was a deserted but extremely well raked campsite,  we had the place to ourselves.  One other couple joined us about two hours later.  The strong wind continued to blow, we dried out our tent and then put up the blue sail as a wind block in the doorway of the cook shelter.  It worked very well.  We set up camp and then laid claim to a spot on one of the tables in the shelter and started cooking supper.  Soon there were eight different meals underway.  The fellow who had arrived later was from Victoria and we all were captivated by the smells coming from his stir fry.  The guy was a gourmet cook and he made it all look quite effortless. Our supper on the other hand did not rank in the gourmet category but was tasty never the less.

 

We were all quite tired and hit the sack without another round of sharing stories like we had the night before.  We had a bit of rain overnight but as we knew we would be home by late afternoon to dry things out, we really didn’t worry too much about a wet tent.  We put in nice and early next morning after a big bowl of fortifying oatmeal (actually a combination of steel cut oats, oatmeal flakes, Red River Cereal and Hemp Hearts) served with yogurt and coffee and we were underway, the second canoe to put in.

 

It is a four hour paddle to the take out, the conditions were great.  I love this paddle, we go past the spot known to the pioneers as ‘Rock Bluff’ on Spectacle Lakes, past Deadman’s or Maternity Island on our left and into Swan Lake.  We stopped at the campsite known as the Birches to visit Kayla’s tree.  It was heart warming to find that even with the high water it was safe and the leaves had opened.  It was an emotional grandfather who reached  out to touch it and a just-as-emotional paddling partner who was privileged to share in this moment.  We stayed to the extreme left as we left Swan Lake and entered the Bowron Slough.  We didn’t realize that had we visited  Pavich Island and the Bowron River we would have met with two other members of the Bro’s Alumni who had travelled out the night before to meet up with us as we were finishing our journey.  They had camped at the cabin on the Upper Bowron River.

 

The Bowron Slough was almost surreal.  I had never seen it with such high water.  We could paddle almost anywhere but we tried to follow the orange markers to avoid getting dead ended.  There was a whole new forest we had never seen before but this time all of the trees were black and dead and sticking up out of the new lake that had been formed by the high water.  Of course these dead trees had always been there, but it took this new backdrop for us to see them as a forest.  There was a bit of a wind blowing  from our left and we took a conservative line, heading for the right hand shore of Bowron Lake.  Before long we were at the take-out, it was about noon, we were the second canoe from our group to arrive and we made a point of getting all of our gear up the short hill to the parking area and out of the way of everyone else.  Before long everyone was there, the fifteen of us who four and a half days earlier had taken off just a few hundred metres from this point where we were now standing.

 

It was another good one with a great bunch of companions.  Thank you everyone for making it possible.

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