A Recipe for a Great Bowron Thanksgiving — 2019
If you were put in charge of arranging the 2019 Thanksgiving campout at Pat’s Point on the Bowron Chain here are some of the essential ingredients that you would have to requisition….
- 31 people ranging in age from 10 months to 73 years of age for supper
- 9 canoes— 1 26 foot Voyageur, 1 20 foot Mackenzie, 2 18.5 foot Mackenzie’s, 5 assorted tandems
- one 16 lb. turkey
- all the trimmings including appies and mouth watering desserts
- 9 tents
- 1 shelter cabin
- 1 cooking shelter
- several tarpaulins
- one very special campsite
- a variety of great autumn weather
- endless energy
- positive attitudes and big smiles
Before We Start
Some of this group have memories of spending Thanksgiving weekend at Pat’s Point at various times over the past 10 years, whether with others or alone. For the past three years for certain, it has been a planned outing featuring a full turkey dinner served on Thanksgiving Sunday at 5:00 p.m. precisely.
This year’s group consisted of several young families as well as some older paddlers. Almost everyone knew each other prior to the weekend, a connection with the local paddling club, the Blackwater Paddlers, was one thing that everyone had in common.
Discussions and planning had been ongoing for several weeks leading up to this second week and weekend of October. Four men in two tandem canoes planned to leave on the Wednesday, to paddle clockwise around the whole Bowron Canoe Circuit, their goal was to take 5 days and to arrive at Pat’s Point on Spectacle Lakes in time for supper on Sunday evening, at 5:00 p.m. precisely. Everyone had been asked to contribute towards the meal, and these fellows arranged that their food contributions would be transported out to Pat’s Point in one of the other canoes that was leaving on the Saturday morning for the much shorter 4 – 5 hour paddle counter-clockwise around the Chain on the Bowron’s West Side. This was one way to ensure that the pumpkin pies would arrive in a more-or-less edible condition.
Another group consisting of a daughter, her 8 year old son and her 72 year old father were also planning to make the same journey around the whole Chain only they planned to do it in 4 days. Once they arrived at Pat’s Point, they would be met by this woman’s two younger sons and her husband. I should mention that everyone (except for grandpa) had already been around the Chain at least twice and for most there had been multiple trips. These were two very experienced groups of paddlers.
The rest of the larger group (22 in number) all planned to start together on the Saturday morning, leaving the put-in on Bowron Lake in six canoes at around 10:00 a.m. (If you are keeping track of the number of canoes, there was one more that joined our group at Pat’s Point. We met up with a young couple that told us they were actually on their third date. It is understandable that they wanted to camp somewhere on their own and they chose one of the group campsites, but we invited them to join us for supper….which they did. Two very brave young people.
Wednesday came and the group of four fellows set off. Thursday came and the group consisting of grandfather, daughter and grandson also started off. This was completely as planned, with one surprise. As the second group was completing the second portage from Kibbee Lake to Indianpoint Lake on Thursday, they ‘ran into’ the first group that said they had met thick ice at the far end of Indianpoint and after spending some frustrating time chopping away with axes, realized that it would be incredibly arduous for them to proceed in this manner. There was also the concern that even if they did get through to the end of Indianpoint, they had no idea what conditions they would find on Isaac Lake.
In the spring/early summer, paddlers have been known to run into ice at about this same spot. In May it is of course melting ice as opposed to this newly formed ice in October. In both cases, the temperatures influencing both freezing and thawing most likely are related to the increased elevation. As those doing the portage will tell you, this spot is on a continuous climb from the start at the Park headquarters.
The first group was making their way back to camp for the night at Kibbee Lake with a plan to head out to Pat’s Point the following day (Friday). The second group (which had an In Reach 2 way satellite communicator with them) decided that they would try their luck at getting through the ice on Indianpoint so they camped on Thursday night in their tents at the Cushman cabin campsite located on a small hill near the end of Indianpoint Lake. There is actually a little known portage trail that runs from this cabin to the start of portage trail #3 that leads to Isaac Lake. It was felt that this could be an option if the ice at the end of Indianpoint was really as difficult as the fellows in the first group had experienced.
To make a longer story shorter, the second group also found the ice to be really difficult so they too turned back and made their way to the campsite on Kibbee Lake to spend Friday night. All this time they had been in touch with family via In Reach and early Saturday morning two fresh, brawny young fellows hiked the portage trail into Kibbee Lake and helped the second group portage out to the trail head and transported them to the put-in on Bowron Lake where our larger group was getting ready.
Everyone was now either already at Pat’s Point (we hoped) or was en route. Our flotilla was large, colourful and quite impressive. Everyone was in high spirits and full of anticipation, the children were a real source of positive energy for everyone. Canoes were piled high with camping gear, this was a group of quite experienced campers; everyone had packed for all conditions. We paddled closely together, partly as a safety precaution, but also because it was fun to talk back and forth. We were in no real hurry, we knew that there would be lots of time once we arrived to set up camp and to prepare for the night.
The view spread out before us was spectacular. There had been a fair bit of snow and the mountain tops were clearly starting to build their winter snow pack. There had also been some snow at our elevation, but it could only be seen in scattered spots. We were dressed for cool fall weather, a combination of polar fleece, down sweaters and jackets, nylon wind breakers and rain boots, toques and gloves. Rain gear was kept at-the-ready (although it was not needed today). The sky was a bit overcast but it was generally a bright day. We all felt thankful for the good weather, certainly above freezing and much better than the predictions had offered.
Entering the Bowron Slough and the meandering Upper Bowron river is always a transition point. Rather than paddling on the Bowron, this is where paddlers begin to feel that they are entering intothe Bowron. Around each bend of the river one of the Bowron’s secrets is revealed. There are some geese, shouldn’t they be on their way south by now? Trumpeter Swans, are they getting ready to spend the winter in Swan Lake? What are those little ducks rafted up over there, surely they should be on their way out of here by now? The high water level we were experiencing has really been a reality through all of this past summer, there has been a lot of rain. Places where we normally expect to be grounded out didn’t seem to be an issue this time around.
We had the traditional lunch break at the Bowron River. The children took the opportunity to run and explore. Parents tried to keep track of them, eventually they all returned because it was “time to go….do you have to go pee before you get back in the canoe?” Children were switching canoes so they could sit with another friend and visit. We were on the home stretch to Pat’s Point, past Maternity Island and the large limestone rock face or bluffs. There are parts of this section that are quite shallow, but it was clear that there was no ice on this part of the route, we were assured that the first group of paddlers who had turned back at the end of Indianpoint were now well established at Pat’s Point.
The entry rounding the spit of land and paddling into Pat’s Point proper was pretty exciting. It was reassuring to see our four friends waving and taking photos from the shore, our group was complete. Children donned the now traditional Dollar Store turkey hats for the grand entry. This year the hats were joined by Saint Gobble, the (now) patron saint of all Pat’s Point Thanksgiving (turkey) celebrations. Gobble is actually a paper mache turkey that was acquired at Quesnel’s premier specialty shop, the reuse store at the local landfill!
Many people ask about the provenance of this place….who was the Pat of Pat’s Point? While the answer has been elusive, the search is continuing. In her booklet ‘Bowron Chain of Lakes, Place Names and People’, author Jean Speare notes that this area was once the property of Harold Mason, for whom Harold Creek (sometimes referred to as Mason Creek) which flows into the Cariboo River just above the mouth of Babcock Creek is named. The area known as Pat’s Point was later owned by Vince Halverson and Sid Dannhauer of Wells. These men were married to sisters and the two families built what is now the grey coloured shelter cabin located on ‘the point’. When the Park was created in 1961, and private properties were expropriated, this cabin served as the Ranger Station for this part of the new Park. On his 1925 map of the Chain, Thomas McCabe includes lots of invaluable detail, but it would appear that at that point in time, Pat’s Point had not yet been given a name.
Pat’s Point has been dubbed ‘the Riviera of the Bowron’ but what is it that makes this place so attractive? The setting is idyllic it has everything a canoe camper could wish for. The long sandy beaches, the snow clad mountains, the beautiful, healthy, mixed forest with just a hint of the adjacent interior rainforest, the sunrises and the views of the lake.
Opportunities for watching wildlife, both mammals and birds are plentiful. The ‘who cooks for you’ hoot of the barred owl seems to be a fixture at this spot and has been heard during every visit. Moose have been reasonably plentiful in the past, but the moose population throughout the Chain (indeed throughout central British Columbia) does seem to be decreasing. While it is impossible to know exactly where it was found, there is a fascinating caribou skull complete with well chewed antlers along with part of the spine on display in the rafters of the cook shelter. Mountain Caribou numbers are on a steep decline throughout the province, in some locations local populations have been extirpated. The sighting of a living Mountain Caribou anywhere around the Chain would be a wonderful gift and a reason to celebrate. There had been a great deal of excitement over the fact that several of those present had been able to view as many as 15 members of the Barkerville Caribou Herd near the Stanley turn-off on Highway 26 en route to the put-in for this trip. There was at least one of this year’s calves among the group. There are wolves throughout this area and their howls can be heard, especially if they are drawn to the area by a moose kill. Signs of wolves and indeed the wolves themselves are quite evident in the winter.
The location of Pat’s Point is ideal for paddlers, whether traversing the whole Chain or just the West Side. It has the feel of a natural meeting or stopping place. For our group and at this time of year it is a well-placed destination to set up camp and to have a special celebration. It is also a great spot to spend some time, to regroup, to rest, to meditate. Many use the site as a ‘home base’ for a day trip to the Cariboo Falls or to Sandy Lake. It is a wonderful spot for leisurely walks along the beach or through the woods. Pat’s Point offers great amenities including a nearly new timber frame cook shelter with many adjacent tent pads as well as two group campsites located discrete distances from the main campsite. In the main campground there are several outhouses, a shelter cabin and well-located fire rings.
The area around Pat’s Point is steeped in Bowron history. First Nations lived in the Bowron for hundreds and possibly thousands of years before the first non-natives ‘discovered’ this area. The Upper Bowron River is the final stage of North America’s longest migration route for spawning Sockeye Salmon. It is not too difficult to imagine First Nations fishers along the banks of this river. One of the few confirmed archaeological sites in the Bowron are fish cache pits known as ‘k’unsai’ located on the shores of Swan Lake. These are located close to the obvious spot where First Nations fishers would have harvested thousands of migrating salmon from the Upper Bowron River.
European settlers began moving into this area just about at the turn of the 20thcentury, roughly coinciding with the disappearance of First Nations. Originally a few hunters and trappers moved into the Bowron, Neil (Swampy) Wilson and Kenneth McLeod seem to have been among the very first trappers in the Bowron. Wilson gave his nickname to the Swamp River which is now known as the Cariboo River. Then came several established big game hunters/outfitters with names like Kibbee, Wendle, Cochran, Thompson, deWitte Reed along with a few other hunting lodge developers. These men guided wealthy (predominantly American) hunters, both by boat and on foot throughout this area where moose, bears, caribou and goats were plentiful. These outfitters established remote camps with cabins as well as rugged trail networks throughout what is now the Bowron Chain. The Bowron became well known as a big game hunter’s valhalla. Paddling to or from Pat’s Point, paddlers pass the 93 year old Joe Wendle fishing cabin on the Upper Bowron River. Wendle also had another hunting/fishing cabin at a spot on Spectacle Lakes referred to as the narrows. This spot is visible from Pat’s Point when looking down the Lake towards Skoi Lake. These cabins were an extension of Joe Wendle’s Lodge (now the Bowron Lake Resort) which was established in 1912 on Bowron Lake.
A short distance through the bushes from the cook shelter at Pat’s Point is a restored trapper’s cabin. It’s small size gives some idea of just how basic a trapper’s needs really were. Shelter, warmth, a place to spread a bed roll and to make a mug of tea. The children loved exploring this little structure, almost as much as they enjoyed exploring the many well defined trails that meander through the Pat’s Point area, playing games like hide and seek and making all sorts of ‘discoveries’. The area resonated with the happy sound of the children’s voices.
Sunday at 5:00 p.m. precisely
Sunday was a wet, drizzly, autumn day although with the roomy cook shelter, the rain was hardly a factor. This was a day for visiting as well as preparing for the evening’s Thanksgiving supper. The children didn’t seem to mind the rain at all with the help of the right clothing. They spent much of their time outside of the shelter, planning special events for this evening’s entertainment. The children commandeered an evergreen bush growing directly beside the cook shelter. They placed their turkey hats along with St. Gobble throughout the branches and this bush became the turkey tree. Then in a gesture that was totally of their own volition, the children distributed pieces of birch bark and asked everyone to take one of the felt pens and to write a short statement about something for which they were thankful, and to place it in the branches of the turkey tree. This was very moving….the turkey tree became the thanksgiving tree.
After lunch the cook shelter started to take on the appearance of an upscale eating establishment. The heavy picnic tables were arranged in a semi-circle around the wood heater, with enough seating room for 31. The tables were festooned with an odd assortment of ‘camping’ table cloths with elaborate table centres made by the children using natural flora. Candles completed the décor.
The turkey had been butchered only two days previously and he had been carefully transported in a white pail bearing the Canadian Tire logo. The Big Easy oven was fired up and Butch was placed in at the correct time. Roasting required 10 minutes per pound, and Butch was a 16 pounder. Everyone was involved in the meal preparations, each person had brought some contribution and in turn they were responsible for the preparation and serving of that item. A varied selection of appetizers appeared on the tables about an hour before supper was served. There was an air of excitement as everyone focussed on their preparations. Soon the smell of roasting turkey permeated the cook shelter. At five p.m. preciselywe all sat down to an incredible meal of roast turkey with gravy and dressing, fresh-from-the-garden carrots, peas, home grown mashed potatoes, dinner buns and butter, homemade cranberry sauce and a choice of three desserts, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, pumpkin cake with sauce and whipped cream and two delicious melt in your mouth homemade apple pies. (in case you were wondering, the time of five p.m. preciselywas agreed upon because it gets dark by 6 p.m. and we wanted to be able to see each other and what we were eating). The meal was wonderful. When everyone was satiated there followed a group clean-up and dishes and pot washing extravaganza by headlight.
Oh yes, one more interesting note about Sunday afternoon. As we were finalizing supper plans, two canoes appeared around the point as you are looking down the lake towards Skoi Lake. They were moving quite slowly and stayed close to the far shore. They would have had no difficulty seeing that there was a large group at the shelter and they kept going, we saw no sign of them the next day. When the ‘group of four’ had started their attempt to paddle the whole circuit on Wednesday, they were aware that there was at least one canoe ahead of them. They had never seen a canoe, only a truck in the parking lot and evidence on the trail that someone was ahead of them at Indianpoint as the lake was freezing. These canoes must have been them, as they passed Pat’s Point they had most likely been on the water for six days.
The worst part about a weekend adventure like this one is that it comes to an end. Everyone started breaking camp as soon as they were up and the last of our group was on the water by 9:30. Four canoes put in a bit earlier, we reconnected at noon and everyone reached their take-out by 3:00 in the afternoon.
It was a bright day with ideal paddling conditions. There was a steady, light wind at our backs the whole way. The wind didn’t create any breakers on Bowron Lake, it was a nice, leisurely paddle. As we were driving out to Wells there was fresh snow on the road at all of the high points, there had been a pretty good snowfall during the night. We were home by 6:00 p.m.
On a trip like this one there is lots of time to be with your own thoughts. I couldn’t help but think about just how fortunate we are to live so close to such a spectacular paddling destination. To think that we were all home by 6:00 p.m. after having such a wonderful wilderness adventure. Bowron Lake Provincial Park was created in 1961 specifically to be a place to do what we had just done, to have a wilderness canoeing adventure. What are the chances? Are we lucky or what?
Jeffrey Dinsdale, October 22, 2019