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Kayaking the Bowron Lakes in One Day!
I get out of the car, greeted by the fresh morning air. The silence is broken as helicopter-sized mosquitoes swarm my tired body. It’s half past three in the morning and Paul Hardy and I are off on a wonderful journey across the Bowron Lakes. 108 km of pristine lakes, rivers and canals, broken by 8 km of hiking trails. This famous chain is a favorite among canoe enthusiasts and puts you in a pristine environment where wildlife appears as spontaneously as it disappears.
With a fully loaded canoe, this arduous journey can take 5-10 days. However, we just crossed over. Paul’s Black Marlin surf ski and my K-1 kayak had only the bare essentials. After loading up on leftover pizza from the night before, we hit the road. At 4:30am we crawled past the ranger station and onto the 2.4km portage road to Lake Kibee. Adrenaline pumped through my body as we approached the water. It was calm, crystal clear, with an eerie layer of fog over its surface. SO COOL! The first two lakes are short, 2.4 km and 6.4 km respectively, so it seems that the first few hours are spent more hiking than splashing. It is at the end of the second lake, where we are greeted by a couple who are just waking up. They had seen the Bowron Lakes online and traveled from Switzerland on holiday to this beautiful part of the world. After a quick chat, we continued with a large portage towards Isaac Lake. Lake Isaac is the longest in the chain at 38 km and provides plenty of sandy shores for splashers. We took full advantage of these areas to stop, snack and enjoy some spectacular mountain backdrops. As we rounded the west branch of Lake Isaac onto the main branch, we surprised a bald eagle enjoying a salmon breakfast. Its shear size was amazing and lifted the food higher in one go. It was hard to keep my bum from falling asleep on this long lake and I was elated to reach the end where we had our hard earned lunch. The picnic area was buzzing with a troop of Boy Scouts, picking out our high-tech gear and giving a big WOW to a day’s experiment. Their jaws dropped when we pulled out the fresh cheese, meat and baguette, which we quickly devoured like vultures, along with the cans of Coke.
The July sun warmed our shirtless backs as we made our way through the rapids of the Isaac River. Here, two mandatory portages took us around some fantastic waterfalls. At the first disembarkation, we approached a couple who were preparing to transport their huge canoes, 2-70 liter packs and extra equipment. I’ll never forget the look on his face as I stepped out of my boat, hoisted him onto my shoulders and sailed up the bank. His open jaw was followed by, “boy, it sure is going to be bright”! Paul and I grinned back saying yes. Well, what else can you say!
We then joined Lake Mc Leary and then the Cariboo River where the once blue-green water turned a muddy brown. The bonus, however, was 10 km of river water that took us to Lake Lanezi. We felt we had a long way to go, and we did, but the sunny weather lifted our spirits. Unfortunately, everything has changed! As we reached Lake Lanezi we were greeted with 2 1/2 foot chops and 20km headwinds. The clouds quickly rolled in and thunder echoed throughout the valley. Thank God there was no lightning, but we paddled close to shore to be safe. Our souls were broken as the rain fell and then more. We passed five groups that retreated and hunkered down on the beach. They gave us a friendly wave as we pressed on through these unforgiving conditions. The only break came after two hours when the rain subsided and we decided to rest. Approaching the shore, we surprised a moose standing partially in the water.
It tried to camouflage itself by staying still, which allowed us to get a perfect view of this strange but beautiful creature. AMAZING! At the end of the road we could see four more moose and they were all spectacular. On the beach Paul built a fire and we dried off our stuff while drinking huge chunks of Purdy’s white chocolate. Moving on, we made the last portage from Lake Skoi to Lake Látványtó. We had 25km to go and were excited to finish, but we were both tired and had to dig deep to keep going. The final stretch before the finish at Bowron Lake is a boggy area that zigs and zigs for what seems like an eternity before spitting you out with 8km to go. In this marshy area we saw a baby moose and for a moment it seemed as curious as we were. As soon as it came out of sight we continued across Bowron Lake to its shores. As we climbed out of our boats, we realized that we actually had to walk 2 km down the road to get the car. Encouraged by the cold beer in the trunk, I agreed to bring the car. There was a tinge of pink over Lake Bowron as we made one last effort to raise our glasses to a toast. YES!
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