Today was the last day for portages. There were three portages left and we were determined to get past them so that our last day would be just paddling on lakes and along a river. We started early and paddled a short distance on Lanezi Lake before it narrowed down to a short, wide stretch of the Cariboo River. I guess it qualified as river because there was a barely perceptible flow otherwise it could have easily been mistaken as a continuation of the lake. Once it widened out again we entered Sandy Lake and after a 4.8km paddle across the lake we once again entered a stretch of the Cariboo River. We travelled along the river for 3.6km to the mouth of Babcock Creek and the start of the first of the portages. This portage from the Cariboo River to Babcock Lake was 1.2 km along a trail that was in good shape but not without its challenges. There were the usual ups and downs and the occasional roots and rocks to be negotiated. The best part about this portage was knowing that it was the last long portage that we had to endure. There were only two more to negotiate and both were less than half a kilometre. Leaving the portage behind us, we launched into Babcock Lake and paddled 2.8km to reach the start of the short, 0.4km portage to Skoi Lake. Skoi Lake is a small lake with a shallow shoreline that supports an abundance of aquatic vegetation, ideal habitat for moose. The lake did not disappoint. We saw several moose along the shore, all cows and some with their calves, but the most exciting was when a young moose decided that he wanted to avoid us by swimming to the opposite side of the lake. As you can see from the wake behind his head, a moose is a powerful swimmer that has no problem swimming for long distances.
Once we reached the end of the lake we only had a short, 0.4km , final portage to the head of the Spectacle Lake. From there it was easy paddling until we reached our campsite for the night, Campsite 45. The weather had been changeable all day and as we were setting up the campsite it seemed that we were going to get some more rain so I spent some time setting up the tarp to provide shelter for our gear. Then it was time for supper. All of this activity provides me with the excuse for the lack of notes and pictures for this and the next day. I didn't write my journal that evening and the lack of pictures was because of my poor choice of camera for this trip. I decided to use my Nikon D70 and I even bought a Pelikan case so that it would be safe and dry on our canoe journey. A great choice with its 70-300mm telephoto for the shot of the moose but far from ideal when trying to capture quick shots along the way. Digging the Pelikan case out from under the spray deck when you are sitting in the bow of a canoe proved to be difficult and frustrating. For my future trips I will stick with my Olympus Stylus 770SW and my new Samsung Galaxy A50 because they are both easy to carry safely in an accessible pocket and the Olympus is waterproof, shock proof and crush proof.
It rained all night and was still raining in the morning. I got up later than usual and rigged the tarpaulin over the "kitchen" area. With the help of three bungee cords it was possible to provide shelter for us and our equipment and supplies. Keith decided the tarpaulin setup would look like he had an umbrella if he stood holding the pole that we used to raise the centre so that it would shed the rain better.
The rain continued until 17:00 so we didn't do much all day except eat, talk and take frequent observations of the weather in the hopes that it was going to clear up. The greatest excitement of the day was when four groups of paddlers passed by our campsite. Two of them stopped by for a visit but the second group of two canoes went straight by without even a wave. It was clear the bow paddler in the lead canoe was not in good shape. He was hunched up and only made the occasional effort to put his paddle in the water. The first canoe that came by was two men who had to push on because one of them had to be at the airport in Vancouver to catch a flight on July 1. The third group was a group of New Zealanders who stopped and chatted for awhile and shared some of their lunch snacks with us.
The last group to come by was the family group we met at the south end of Isaac Lake. They paddled by and chatted with us as they travelled along in front of the beach.
It was such a miserable day we decided to have a hot freeze dried meal for lunch and a second for supper. The freeze dried meal we had for supper was Thai Vegetables and Rice made by Harvest Foodworks and it was the best commercially prepared meal of the whole trip.
Rolled out of the tent around 06:15. There was a heavy mist above the lake which became low cloud. As the sun warmed the air the mist and cloud dissipated and the day started well. We did the usual morning routine; tea, oatmeal and pack up the campsite. While we were doing this we also chatted with the family group and exchanged contact information.
Then it was off on our river cruise. We went through the Chute with no problem even though I did a draw stroke a little too early and a little too strongly and we nearly ended up turning into an eddy on the right. One of the family members took a video of our passage and as you watch it you may be able to follow our early turn and the correction that followed.
The paddle down to the take out at the start of the first portage was interesting enough to be fun. I did get wet at one point when Keith steered us through some standing waves and water came over the front and over me. Unfortunately I hadn't done up the spray skirt on the spray deck so we took on enough water to make several pieces of equipment quite wet. The next stage of the journey was to exit the river above the Cascades and to portage to the next part of the river that we could paddle, a short stretch of river before the portage to to go round and avoid Isaac River Falls. The end of the portage was where we launched into McLeary Lake, a small lake more like a widening of the river flowing into the Cariboo River. We entered the Cariboo River and the paddle down to Lanezi Lake was a welcome respite as the river helped us along with moderate flow and easy paddling. The only obstacles were deadheads that were few and far between. As we traveled along it started to rain so we pulled into a backwater to put on our rain jackets and to have a snack. As we were pulled up at the river bank a couple of paddlers went past on there way to the lake. By the time we had reached Lanezi Lake the rain had become a steady downpour so we decided to pull in to Camp 32 at the head of the lake to take a break but it was a quick one. The campsite was a wet, buggy mud hole. No wonder we were warned about its lack of desirability at the orientation session when we started. From there we continued down the lake checking out Camp 33 and bypassing Camp 34 and Camp 35 continuing on to Camp 37 because Camp 36 was already occupied. Camp 37 turned out to be a really nice campsite with a sandy beach and a sheltered fire pit and tent pad. We were lucky because the on and off again rain we had had all day changed to a few hours of dry weather with some sunshine. We took advantage of this change by stringing up a line so that we could hang out some clothes and equipment to dry.
Unfortunately our luck did not last. Later in the evening it started to rain and it rained all night, but we had a fire going so at least we had warmed up before going to bed.
After getting out of our sleeping bags at 07:20 we launched the canoe at 09:50 and set off down towards the southern end of Isaac Lake. We arrived at Camp 28, the last campsite on the lake, at 10:45. The weather for the paddle to the campsite was perfect for paddling - some sun, some cloud, not too hot and a light breeze on our backs. It was a short day, only 6km, which we had planned so we could have a rest day. I think Keith would have gone further but I wanted to have a break before we had to contend with the portages coming up ahead.
When we reached the campsite we unloaded the canoe, picked a tent pad and then went to watch a canoe shoot the fast moving water where the lake emptied into the Isaac River. Apparently they had gone through successfully earlier but then decided to play in the rapids. The result was an upset and the loss of two pieces of equipment, one of which was a good pair of binoculars. From the bank Keith and I scouted the best route for us to take the next day before going back to set up our campsite.
A group of Boy Scouts paddled in to the group campsite and unloaded their canoes and set about setting up their tents. Once they were settled in their leader took them back onto the lake for some safety training. He showed them how to do a T rescue and how to get back into a canoe after being tipped out. Then he had them tip their canoes and carry out a rescue. It was interesting to watch but I didn't envy them. The water was very cold, but it didn't seem to deter them because later they had fun floating down the river through the rapids.
Later a large family group arrived and it turned out they had got together to organize the Bowron Circuit trip for their father/grandfather so that he could take one item off his bucket list.
After having our lunch we hiked along the portage trail from the camp to the take-out point downstream so that we could scout the river ready for the next day's paddle through the Chute and the rapids a little further down. It looked like we would not have any problems on the river but the following portage did not look good.
When we got back we chatted with the scout leaders and had a good conversation with the family group. We all stayed in the group shelter because it had started to rain shortly after we had set up our tent and it rained on and off all day varying from light to heavy and with a brief thunderstorm.
To make our evening more enjoyable the family lit a fire in the wood stove and we all took advantage of the warmth once the stove warmed up. It was a good evening spending time with good company.
I'm a grandfather who lost an infant granddaughter and who wants to help Gillian, her mother, provide support for other grieving parents through Hazel's Heroes.