Bro’s on Bowron 2021

May 20, 2021, the start of the Bro’s 24th almost annual trip around the Bowron Chain, always on the very same Victoria Day long weekend. Why almost? Well, in 2020 a combination of Covid 19 restrictions along with some incredible wet (as in rainy, big snow pack, flooding, totally saturating, campground destroying) spring and early summer weather was calling the shots. Safety was a prime consideration. There was no Bro’s spring trip; in fact in 2020 the first registered paddlers did not leave to paddle the Chain until August 14th.

The Bro’s last trip as a group was in 2019, a truly memorable time with 17 participants.  This year nine fellows answered the roll call, seven veterans and two more tackling the Chain for the first time.   Well over 100 different individuals have participated in these trips over the years. This year, some of us were meeting each other for the very first time as we gathered at the Park registration building check-in. We didn’t stay strangers for very long.

Two members of our group actually did paddle the Chain last year in September, after the deluge had subsided, so we did have some first hand information of what we might see this year.  In 2021, Covid weary outdoor loving campers and paddlers have ensured that the Park  will experience an incredibly busy season, virtually every reservation spot has already been claimed.  We were at the  very beginning of this stampede.  We know that three other boats left the same day we did, and we had heard of one or two others that had started out (and finished)  the week before, so we knew that the route was passable and that we would be among the first 10 boats to tackle the Circuit in 2021.  There were four tandem canoes and one kayak in our group.

Of the three other tandem canoes that left about the same time as us, one of them we never really did see once out on the Chain and we later learned that these two paddlers had finished their trip in three days. A second couple seemed to be training for marathon racing.  They were using a racing canoe and when they passed us as we were getting settled into our first night’s campsite we observed that they were switching sides every five strokes, were travelling really light and we thought that they were maybe even going through without stopping (the record time for a trip around the Chain is about 12 hours).   A third couple caught up with us at Turner Creek on night #3, and they planned on spending a bit more time on the Chain than we did.  

The start and first portage was interesting as both the Park Facilities Operators (PFO’s) and the Park Rangers were also making what seemed like their ‘shakedown’ trips out on the Chain at exactly the same time as we were….the portage trail was pretty crowded and we got a bit of an insight into their operations. It seemed that for some members of both groups, this was their very first opportunity to actually be out on the Chain. Someone must have gone ahead though, for most (but not all) of the large trees that had come down over the trails during the winter had been cleared.

The PFO’s are contractors, responsible for the physical maintenance of the Chain/Park as well as ensuring the smooth operation/implementation of the reservation system and overseeing the overall safety of paddlers who may be experiencing a crisis while on the Chain. The Park Rangers are provincial government employees whose role includes responsibilities for public safety and Park security, ensuring public compliance with and enforcement of Park rules, they also provide field contact for Park visitors and contractors. In addition they have responsibilities in the area of conservation.

There was another reason for the first portage trail from the start to Kibbee Lake to be crowded.  The wives of two of our group members wanted to make  this first portage with us.  One was finalizing preparations for an extended family  trip around the Chain in July, and she was just wanting to get a ‘feel’ for the logistics of the trip so that she could use this information to help with planning their July trip, the other was simply her long time friend wanting to share the experience.  From our point of view, it was great to have two extra strong backs to help with moving some of the gear to Kibbee Lake.  If that wasn’t enough, without any warning, three  grandsons and their father appeared from out of nowhere. These four boys had driven out to the Bowron and when they arrived, started running  to catch up with our group on the portage trail.  What a wonderful, wonderful surprise!  Three  of these four had completed their own trip around the Chain the previous September. 

In the old days, paddlers carried their canoes over portages on their shoulders.  The number of dedicated rest points (called un pose by voyageurs) along the portage trails seem to be decreasing, there are now very few designated points along the trails where it is possible for a paddler who is carrying their canoe, to prop it  against a specially constructed canoe rest.  These canoe rests seem to be going the same way as the log outhouse and the precarious tree top bear caches that were also once a distinctive part of the Bowron experience.

The use of wheeled canoe carts to move both canoes and some gear over the trails has been a very positive innovation, opening up the whole Bowron experience to many who would not be able to make the trip had it been necessary to carry their canoe or kayak on their  shoulders.  The successful use of carts however is dependent on the quality of the trail. The pre-trip Park video focuses on the damage that overloaded canoe carts can do to the portage trails.  While this particular argument is somewhat questionable,  there is a weight limit and paddlers are asked to weigh specific items they intend to carry in their canoes.  It is not uncommon for each paddler to have to make two or more trips over each portage, carrying excess gear on their backs.  Actually that is not a bad thing, it is really part of the whole canoe tripping experience, and quite frankly the scenery is not too hard to take.

It didn’t take long to see some of the impacts of the 2020 weather conditions on the trails. The quality of the portage trails is dependent on two things, drainage and the availability of appropriate trail building materials/soil.  The difficulty of each portage trail is further exacerbated by one more factor……increase (or decrease) in elevation.  The first three portages, from the Park office to Isaac Lake are essentially uphill. In stark layman’s terms, they can be a grunt!  This is the real reason that paddlers should minimize the amount of gear they place in their canoe on wheels.  Never mind doing damage to the trails,  the canoe cart is simply too difficult to manage if it is overloaded, taking much of the pleasure out of the trip.

Last year’s weather-related trail damage was particularly evident at the end of portage #3, where the trail meets Isaac Lake for the first time.  This is a height of land.  Up to this point, water drains to the west or downhill towards Bowron Lake and Bowron River and eventually to the Fraser River.  At this height of land however, water also begins draining to the south towards the Isaac River at the end of Isaac Lake and eventually into the Cariboo River and then the Quesnel River into the Fraser.  At this height of land, which is actually quite flat, there is water that doesn’t seem to know which way it wants to flow and so it just sits there. The end result is a large, boggy, very wet and muddy area with little evidence of a passable trail.  Last year’s extreme high water levels have really exacerbated this problem.  It would seem that the only solution (apart from a good pair of hip waders) might be to build a significant boardwalk over this very difficult section.  (A prototype of  the type of boardwalk that would do the trick has just been completed in the community of Wells  running from the Wells School over the meadow, linking the school with the Wells Community Forest).  As it turned out, we made it through portage #3,  soakers and all, and were looking forward to at least a day of   paddling without any more portages.  

Before tackling this third portage, we had camped on night #1 on Indianpoint Lake at a favourite site that offers a wonderful view of McCabe Ridge,.  There was lots of room for everyone as there are actually two ‘regular’ campsites immediately adjacent to one another along with a group campsite.  It is interesting to note that in 2021 it is understood that there will be no group bookings on the Chain due to Covid concerns.  Does this mean that all campsites will therefore be open to all paddlers?  

There is often a headwind on Indianpoint Lake that for safety reasons forces us to hug the left hand shore, but not this time. Once on the lake we did  look to our left to see the mouth of Indianpoint Creek. This is the spot where in the 1930’s Thomas and Elinor McCabe had built a very impressive two storey log home with a magnificent stone fireplace and chimney that still stands.  Thomas, an ornithologist, was a biology professor from a California university.  Both he and Elinor had a significant presence in the Bowron for a couple of decades. When they left the Bowron, their home fell into disrepair and at some point around the time the Bowron became a Park, this home burned to the ground.

As we were paddling by this spot, we were unaware of another significant development involving Indianpoint Creek, which flows out of this lake into the Bowron River, which in turn flows into the Fraser River.  We subsequently learned that at the beginning of May, just three weeks before our trip, 40,000 Chinook salmon fry had been airlifted into Indianpoint Creek. Chinook fry live in rivers, not lakes, before returning to the ocean as adult fish.  What is very special about these Salmon fry is that they were raised from eggs harvested from the early run Chinook salmon that were part of the 2020 migration of salmon trapped behind the massive  Big Bar landslide that was blocking the Fraser River.  

Someone had the awareness to note that all of the early run migrating salmon that were heading to the more northerly rivers and creeks where they were from (the Stuart, Nechako, Babine, the Upper and Lower Bowron rivers as well as Indianpoint Creek and many, many other rivers and creeks)  would simply not make it to their destinations to lay and fertilize their eggs unless something quite spectacular was accomplished.  The eggs of these fish were harvested and fertilized essentially in captivity, the fry hatched and were now being transported to the very places where their parents would have laid and fertilized their eggs had they not been blocked by the landslide.  At the same time, 40,000 Chinook Salmon fry were introduced to the lower Bowron River and 110,000 Sockeye Salmon fry were introduced to the upper Bowron River which is the longest Sockeye Salmon migration route in North America.   Biologist Thomas McCabe would have been very pleased.

The weather  on day #1 of our trip had been warm (until sundown), there was no rain that night, but the temperature did drop and in the morning there was ice on a bucket of water that had been left on a bench overnight.  While we were at this campsite the PFO’s boat pulled up  asking if any of us might have lost a pair of glasses at the portage at the end of Kibbee Lake.  In fact the glasses did belong to this writer and their return was greatly appreciated. What a thoughtful gesture from this young man, most likely he would only have been required to turn them in to the ‘lost and found’, but he made a special effort to find the owner.

Also at this Indianpoint Lake campsite a little exploring revealed a loon’s nest in which there was one egg.  We were careful not to disturb things by getting too close, but in the morning we were thrilled to find a second egg  in the nest with a loon  swimming nearby.  This was to be the only nest that we observed on the whole trip.

On Day #2, the view as we entered Isaac Lake was  (and always is) spectacular, especially this early in the season  with lots of snow on majestic Wolverine Mountain dominating the viewscape.  We were now surrounded by the Cariboo Mountains and the Interior Temperate Rainforest.  This magnificence  was to continue for most of the next three days….and to think that this experience is only an hour and a half’s drive from our homes in Quesnel!  We were now truly not simply at the Bowron, we were inside the Bowron.

The paddle down Isaac Lake was proving to be uneventful but it was enough just to take in the sites.  The weather was perfect for paddling, there was no headwind, the lake was smooth, there was lots of time to converse back and forth between canoes, we had a rough idea of just where we might spend the night as we leisurely made our way down the lake’s eastern shore.  One of the things that Covid has changed about our paddling routine is the practice of ‘rafting up’ all of the boats to drift, visit and to mooch as many jujubes or Werthers Originals  as possible from some generous fellow paddler.  Definitely not good social or physical distancing practice.

We stopped at the Moxley Creek Cabin for a look. Named after trapper Jason Moxley, the creek was originally known as Cottonwood Creek.  This cabin is dark, surrounded by thick forest, and in need of a bit of TLC. One of the members of our group had spent a few nights in this cabin about 5 winters ago when he and two others were attempting to be the first to circumnavigate the Chain by dog team.    The going had been really tough, the humans were all exhausted.  The dogs, all of which were veterans of the famous Alaskan Iditarod Sled Dog Race were fine, but the trail was impassable, the snowfall was extreme… fact there was no trail.  The decision had been made to turn back.

While the Bro’s all depart on their journey around the Chain at the same time, they are not officially a single group, but rather a number of  sub groups, with each registering individually.  Friends or family members make independent arrangements regarding meals, sleeping arrangements, canoe and equipment sharing.  While it is always preferred that we will be able to find campsites that can accommodate everyone, and this is usually not a problem this early in the season, there have been times when we have had to split up the larger group to utilize two separate  campsites. This has sometimes been necessary on Isaac Lake, but not this year.  

We stopped at Lynx Creek as it seemed that  last season’s extreme weather may have made changes to the flow of that creek…..and change there was.  This campsite has always been different as a bridge had  been constructed to allow campers to gain access to part of the campsite because of the creek flowing right through the heart of the campground…..but not any more.  There was now no water flowing under this bridge.  In the past, part of our group has camped at this small site while the rest  moved on to the next site, just past the large valley to the east through which the Betty Wendle Creek enters the Park.  It is possible to maintain visual contact between the two campsites so we have been able to co-ordinate the put-in time in the morning.  This year the campsite past Betty Wendle was saturated and the tent sites were muddy….we moved on a few more sites and found a beauty that was right at lake level but which was quite dry and with just the right number of tent pads to accommodate us all.  All we had to do was ‘shovel’ a bit of snow off of a few of the tent pads, not realizing that this was a sign of things to come.

We had a quiet evening  at this campsite that seemed to be tailor made for our group. Once we were all fed and the chores done, there wasn’t a lot of interest in staying up too late, we were tired. We did enjoy some time around a small fire but were in our tents before it got dark.  Everyone had outdoor experience  and making and breaking camp was not a difficult thing for anyone. The first sounds of life in the morning happened about 6:30 a.m. and we were on the water before 8:00 a.m.

As we got underway we were remarking on how the water seemed as smooth as glass; that was when we heard the sound of our canoes breaking through a layer of ice that suddenly seemed to be covering the whole lake. It wasn’t actually a soft tinkling sound either, but rather more of a crunching sound, it was difficult to make headway.  Of course the thought of ice covering the lake had not been on our minds at all and we were really taken back when we realized that we hadn’t even seen the ice until our boats started breaking it up.  As we looked around, it now seemed that there was ice everywhere.  We instinctively turned toward the shore and in fact there was an open channel closer to shore, which is where we chose to paddle and soon we actually forgot about the ice on the lake completely.

The end of Isaac Lake was lonely and deserted there was no-one there, not even the Harlequin ducks which are so often a highlight at this spot  The water level of the Isaac River was definitely higher than in the past and the way through the Chute seemed to be quite straight forward.  One boat chose to use the portage trail and the two fellows staked themselves  out below the Chute with throw bags….just in case!  Everyone got through with no problems, the river was moving very fast, the Roller Coaster was rolling and coasting quite a bit more than in the past, everyone took out for the start of the portage around the Cascades.  At the check in we were told that there ‘might be a bit of snow’ on this portage trail, which we knew is definitely in the shade of the thick Interior Rainforest foliage.  

And so started the portage from hell.  Not ‘might be’ but ‘yes definitely’, there was snow in places up to our knees.  Dragging loaded canoes on wheels through this mess required maximum effort from everyone. The situation was compounded by the fact that there was very slippery ice under the snow.  There is no way that some of the more senior members of this group could have made it through without the unbelievable assistance of the younger (age 20’s and 30’s) members of the group, particularly two strong, tireless Inuk brothers who helped virtually everyone through this section of trail.  There don’t seem to be any tricks to use to help get through a  disaster area like this.  Possibly jettisoning any and all gear from the canoe, removing the wheels and then pulling the canoe through like a komatik, but then what do you do with all of the gear?  It was not easy going, but we made it, more-or-less in one piece.  

We regrouped for the third part of this portage, paddling a gentle section of the Isaac River to a takeout  on river right at a log jam just above the Isaac River Falls. Often there have been Harlequin ducks playing in this section of moving water, but not this year.  We took out  to tackle the last part of the trail before McLary Lake (note the spelling). There was no snow on this section but there were two large trees waist high across the trail that required unloading and hoisting all the gear including the canoes over these trees. It was with a great sigh of relief that we repacked our canoes at the end of this portage and pushed off into the last few hundred metres of the Isaac River before it entered McLary Lake which in turn empties into the Cariboo River.

McLary Lake is truly beautiful, it is actually completely surrounded by snow capped mountains.  Freddy Becker’s old trapline cabin  sits alone on the eastern shore, it is slowly sinking into the ground. The shelter cabins around the Chain do serve a valuable function, and here is a story about this one.  A young family was paddling the Chain, mom and dad along with two little boys about 7 or 8 years ago.  They were all paddling together in a 20 foot canoe.  The weather was miserable, lots of cold rain, they decided to overnight in Freddy Becker’s cabin.  They moved in, set up their tent (minus the fly) in the cabin so that they would not be bothered by the mice during the night and lit the wood heater. The rain storm continued and by the time it was morning, two more couples had joined them for the night.  This little cabin had become a warm, dry oasis for 8 people.  These cabins do get used,  often in dire emergency situations, yet they are the oldest structures on the Chain, many of them at least 60 years old,  and they are all in need of continual upkeep and improvements.  The front of Freddy Becker’s cabin is clearly sinking into the ground.  This is not an uncommon problem with old log buildings that never had the benefit of a solid, rot resistant foundation to begin with.  It needs to be jacked up and most likely the first one or two rounds of logs will have to be replaced before setting the building back down on to a better foundation.  By the way, Freddy Becker had a second cabin, in the mountains upstream on the Cariboo River, which is joined by the Isaac River, right at McLary Lake.  There is a small but persistent group of hard core Bowron buffs who are determined to find Freddy’s second cabin and word is that they will be searching again this summer.

There was high water and the river was moving along at a good clip.  One of the Bro’s who couldn’t make this year’s trip had sent an email just before we left, offering his good wishes and a reminder to “keep on the inside on all of the corners on the Cariboo River”. That of course is where the slower water is and as this river is notorious for snags, sweepers and strainers, it is good to maintain total control at all times.  We chose our lead boat and sweep boat and started off.  We barely had to paddle, we only had to steer. There was silence as everyone took in the beauty that surrounded us, around every corner there was  yet another panoramic treasure.  Our trip down the Cariboo River was wonderful! We had warm weather, bright sunshine and breath taking wrap-around scenery. Sitting in our canoe was like sitting in the middle of a huge I-Max theatre. The only thing missing was Louis Armstrong singing ‘What a Wonderful World’. This was one of the best trips down this river….ever!

The Cariboo empties into Lanezi Lake, a Dakelh word that means ‘long’.  This lake used to be called Long Lake….go figure.  Lanezi is long and narrow, it’s  dark green silty waters are glacier fed.  The two highest mountains in the Park are at the far end of Lanezi, Mount Ishpa and Mount Kaza.  There can be a notorious head wind once the Cariboo empties into Lanezi.  We had been looking and listening for signs of this headwind as we neared the outfall of the Cariboo into Lanezi, but these signs weren’t there.  There was no headwind, it was a beautiful paddle as faster than ever we made the crossing to Turner Creek in a straight line, without having to hug the right hand shoreline.  This was to be the site for our third night’s camp.

Turner Creek  is named after George Turner who was both Game Warden and Policeman in the Bowron in the 1920’s.  He had a patrol cabin at this location, where Turner Creek flows into Lanezi Lake. This is yet another beautiful spot with both  regular campsites and a comfortable group campsite.  The two campsites are separated by the swift flowing and quite loud Turner Creek.  There once was a bridge over the creek joining the two campsites, but this bridge is no longer in place. There is a lovely cooking shelter in the regular campsite and because of the very cold winds that come blowing down the creek which originates in the glaciers above, the areas between the squared timbers of the shelter are filled in with Plexiglas, which means that if the wood heater is on, the shelter is warm and comfortable.

One of the advantages of having a cooking shelter is that there are tables for cooking and eating.  There is nothing like a flat surface to ensure that the meal is not going to end up all over the ground.  At meal time each sub group was gathered around their table. The shelter is a natural place to relax and visit, and before long it was getting dark.  Day #3 had been exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. It was difficult to find room in our thoughts for all that we had experienced in the past 12 hours.` We were tired.  Getting to sleep was not a problem and despite Turner Creek’s reputation for cold nights,  everyone enjoyed a good night’s sleep. 

The Cariboo River flows right through Lanezi Lake and then does the same through Sandy Lake before tumbling over the Cariboo Falls en route to Quesnel Forks where it joins the Quesnel River.  This means that there is actually a current helping us as we leave Turner Creek en route to our next campsite at Pat’s Point, the ‘Riviera of the Bowron’.  The fact that there is moving water passing through these lakes all winter means that it is not uncommon for there to be open water in the middle of winter. Trumpeter Swans overwinter in Sandy Lake as well as at Swan Lake.  As we paddle westward, we can see the terrain changing.  In front of us is the Quesnel Highlands, we will soon be leaving the Cariboo Mountains behind us.  We are also leaving the Interior Temperate Rain Forest as pine trees start to appear.

Just as we are leaving Lanezi Lake there is a striking rock face on the right.  This is the site of a rock carving that is dated 1926.  This year it was almost impossible to decipher the wording, mother nature has taken its toll over he past 100 years.  This rock carving,  or maybe more correctly etching, states  Reed Morris Ohio 1926.  An interpretation of this carving could be as follows.  Reedrefers to Floyd DeWitte Reed who was a big game guide who worked with or for Frank Kibbee, another big game guide. It is known that Kibbee had a cabin almost directly across the lake from this rock face.  Morriswould be the name of the hunter or client who had come to this place to hunt big game.  Ohiois where Morris came from, it is also where Reed is from, might they have been friends?  1926 is the date that the interior of the Bowron Chain became the Barkerville Game Reserve.  Might this date just be a co-incidence or was this carving/etching made to acknowledge the creation of this Game Reserve?  Right across the water from this carving, guided big game hunting would still be legal.

The good weather is holding, despite the grim forecasts before we left, our rain gear has remained in our dry bags, we have not experienced any rain.  The paddling was pretty much effortless and we ate up the miles quite quickly.  Just before we ran the risk of tumbling over the Cariboo Falls we  turned into Babcock Creek which enters the Cariboo River on river right, and paddled a short distance upstream to the take out for the  portage trail from heaven.  Before this quite beautiful portage trail was constructed about 10 years ago, it was necessary for all paddlers to line their canoes up (or down) Babcock Creek.  Some of our group had fond memories of this experience, pulling the canoes over beaver dams and becoming mildly hypothermic in the process.  It was stated that the main reason for establishing the portage trail was to protect migrating salmon, but  it is difficult to know what salmon these could be.  The Cariboo falls certainly would stop all salmon from  being able to make their way upstream  on the Cariboo River to spawn and there is a small dam on Skoi Lake, which is actually at a height of land, to make sure that the water flows to the west into Spectacle Lakes and then to the Bowron River.  Maybe they put in the portage trail along  Babcock Creek just to protect the creek.  We found a wonderful secluded picnic/camping site right at the end of the portage trail when it reached Babcock Lake.  This is where we had our lunch.

A quick crossing of Babcock Lake, then a short portage over a gentle, very short and quite straight former ‘railway’ portage trail. This took us to a small lake now known as Skoi Lake, that previously  has been called both Little Lake and Tenas Lake.  This is the height of land. Here we met the PFO’s who were on their way to clear out those two trees that were blocking the last part of the Isaac River portage trail.   There is then another short and straight former railway portage trail that leads to Spectacle Lakes.  At one point, this portage route also boasted a canal, but these are stories for another time, it’s enough to state that our portaging was now complete.

Why is Spectacle Lakes spelled with the plural ’s’ when in reality it is actually only one lake?  The answer goes back to the days when what is now Bowron Lake Provincial Park was only a Game Reserve, and it was actually called the Barkerville Game Reserve at that.  If you look at the outline of Spectacle Lakes on a map, or from the air using a drone, Spectacle Lakes does look like it could be three lakes and some would even say four lakes.  But these are not separate lakes, they are in fact contiguous and are one continuous body of water.  In the 1920’s, when maps of the Game Reserve were first produced  the cartographers were obviously of two minds.  They named each of these distinct lakes Spectacle, but they  spelled the word Lake with an ‘s’, giving the impression that there was more than one lake, but there is in fact only one lake.  However until this day, the name  Spectacle Lakeswith an ‘s’ has stuck.  What about the fourth lake?   Well this body of water was called by the early cartographers Swan Lake and to this day there is a Swan Lake adjacent to Spectacle Lakes, but it too is contiguous with Spectacle Lakes.  Enough of this for now, the discussion gets even more interesting when we start naming the islands in these lakes.

There is a spit of land on Spectacle Lakes about half way between the put-in at the end of the portage trail and our destination for the night, Pat’s Point.  We were dealing with quite a head wind and when we got to this spit of land we decided to lay low to see if the wind might calm down.  There were folks camping at this spot, it is a numbered campsite, and even more campers arrived while we were hunkered down, they were all paddling the West Side of the Chain.   Finally the wind seemed to be letting up and we made the decision to paddle in close formation for the left shore of Spectacle Lakes.  I’m sure we all had racing heart rates and dry mouths when we first left the safety and quiet of our shelter, but gradually the wind was dying down and everyone was doing a great job of paddling, being careful not to allow ourselves to be broadside to the wind, which was coming from our left. Soon we were at the left  shore which was  now a wind break and all the while the wind was letting up.  We got to Pat’s Point with no trouble, even stopping to pick up some firewood on the way.  When we arrived we were a little surprised to see only one other tent, a family from Prince George.

We set up our respective camps pretty quickly and staked out a table in the cooking shelter, anxious to enjoy supper.  We were tired but got the after dinner chores done and things put away for the night and briefly gathered around a small campfire to review the day and to set out plans for tomorrow.  It wasn’t long before we headed to bed, I know that I slept really soundly, and didn’t even hear the Pat’s Point owl who has been present at that campsite for years.

Day #5, started with the usual 6:30 wake-up, everyone was in the shelter for breakfast, lots of instant oatmeal, some bacon, coffee, yogurt, some fruit, lunches were made  and kitchen clean up completed.  The bedding was all packed, tents taken down, slowly the gear was being piled up beside the respective canoes.  We were on the water by 8:30, we figured on about 4-5 hours to the take-out back at the Park headquarters.

Conditions were great, a beautiful morning paddle. We remarked on how high the water levels had been throughout this trip.  Obviously not as extreme as the previous year, but high just the same.  We wondered if this was the reason that the numbers of ducks and geese that we observed seemed to be so low. Our thought was that the conditions weren’t right for them to be nesting in this area as rising water levels would flood out their nests.  We were used to seeing large numbers of geese on these trips and while there were some, they were relatively few in number and  were not in large groupings.  Similarly the ducks we saw were few in numbers and also of limited species. There were mallards and mergansers. We saw very few eagles and osprey. There were smaller birds like warblers and pine siskins.  As for larger animals, my paddling partner and I only saw one beaver, there were no large mammals although we were told when we arrived at the take-out that a canoe before us did see moose with calves.  It is good to report that we saw virtually no mosquitoes or no-see-ums…..just one more reason for making this trip in May.

We stopped at ‘the Birches’,  a special spot for this group, and after a snack we then started out on the last leg of the trip.  When we reached the Bowron slough or marsh we were astounded, we had never seen it so large and open.  The high water had turned it into a lake and while we were thankful for the  markers that are in place along the Bowron River, we essentially paddled in a straight line towards the distant marked spot where the river meets the lake.  Once on Bowron Lake we kept to the right hand shore, wind really wasn’t an issue and we were making great time.  We didn’t stop for a break, the high water would have made it pretty difficult to get out of the canoes as there really was no shore so we just kept going.  It took us a little over our 4 hour projection to get to the take out.  We had arrived back to the very place where we had started, in one piece.

Once the canoes were on the trucks and the gear packed away, the nine of us gathered for a photo.  Everyone was feeling good, perhaps the highlight for a couple of the oldest members  of the Bro’s was when one of the youngest members spontaneously said “hey, we’ll do this again next year.” 

With a very special thanks to my paddling partner!


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