Another early morning. Up at 06:15 with the usual routine of breakfast, break camp and pack the canoe. It was a nice morning; still, calm with the promise of a good day.
We launched the canoe at 08:20 and paddled down the lake to the south. We must have been fully focussed on making progress because my notes have very little information for this day. We stopped at Camp 20 for a quick nutrition break of granola and trail mix before heading off again. The promise of the morning was soon broken as the wind and waves grew stronger and bigger as we paddled along. We decided to pull into Camp 22 to wait for the weather to improve before continuing on with a goal of reaching Camp 24 for the night. It started to rain lightly so we put on our raingear but when it became a question of a choice between being slightly wet from the rain or being hot and sweaty inside the raingear we chose to remove it as soon as the rain was occasional drops. As we went on our way the wind and waves subsided which meant we could reconsider our options. We decided to continue on to Camp 25 and to stay there for the night. As we went along the weather settled down - no wind, cloudy with very light rain. We reached Camp 25 around 15:00 with the weather improving. We set up camp and I rigged a tarp over a rustic bench by the fire pit to provide some shelter for cooking and our equipment.
It was an evening that makes wilderness travel the joy that it is for me.
I waited and waited for a glorious sunset to follow the sinking sun but I was not to be lucky. Sunset at this latitude is a very gradual affair with the sun moving along, dropping slowly behind the horizon.
Rolled out of my sleeping bag at 06:11. It had rained a little during the night. We went about what was to become our usual morning routine: I prepared our breakfast of oatmeal and tea while Keith packed up the tent and its contents. While we were having breakfast we saw our first wildlife - a small rabbit walked through the campsite. We left the campsite around 09:15 and paddled 6.8km to the head of the main arm of Isaac Lake where we stopped next to the ranger station at Camp 15 for a short rest and a quick snack. From there we continued south down the lake, stopping once to put on our rain jackets as it had started to rain. It was just a squall but enough to make rain jackets necessary. A we continued to travel along the wind started to get stronger from behind us and the waves began to grow. We were approaching Camp 18 so we decided to pull in and wait out the wind and the waves. The campsite marker was difficult to see but we were paddling close to the shore so fortunately we spotted it. Stopping at this campsite was a good decision. Just after we pulled in the wind increased to the point where there were whitecaps blowing along.
If we hadn't stopped at this spot we would have missed a great campsite; well sheltered from the north and with a log cabin for us to sleep in. We settled in, made vegetable soup and boiled water to replenish our water supply. Keith used my MSR water filter to pump 2L into our water bag. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring and making tea. Obviously a couple of expat Brits!! Between 16:00 and 17:00 the wind veered 180 degrees to be coming from the south with enough strength to create whitecaps again. We were both happy that we were in camp and not fighting the wind and waves.
When I was preparing for this trip I used some recipes from the internet to make dehydrated meals. So when I started supper at 18:10 I used my home dried Georgian Chicken Stew. The result was a meal with really good flavour and soft vegetables but the chicken was so hard to chew I had visions of an expensive visit to the dentist.
By 19:00 the wind had died down and by 20:00 the lake was flat calm.
We got up early and I prepared breakfast while Keith packed up the tent and our equipment. Breakfast wasn't very exciting - instant oatmeal (porridge) and tea - a sign of things to come. We did some sorting of our equipment and supplies and then at 08:30 we went up to the park office to register for the canoe trip. When I went to the office to register it seems I had made our reservation for June 25 and not June 23. Luckily the circuit wasn't busy so we were able to do the 09:00 weigh-in and then go to the orientation session and video. While we were in the Registration Centre I noticed, to my great delight, they had baseball caps for sale. My hat problem was solved and I would be able to use my mosquito net without it being on my face. The weigh-in is a measure of the weight of the equipment that you intend to carry inside your canoe when you are travelling along the portage trails and the weight limit is 60lbs. This limit is in place in order to protect the trails by reducing the impact of the canoe cart wheels of the thousands of paddlers who visit the park every year. We were prepared for the reality of carrying a lot of gear in our backpacks but we had a pleasant surprise. It turned out that safety gear was excluded from the weigh-in and their interpretation of safety gear was very liberal. What a relief! I only had to carry approximately 20lbs on my back when we were on the portage trails.
Once the weigh-in was done we set off along the first portage from the Registration Centre to Kibbee Lake. We had only just gone 300m when I realized I had forgotten to go back to the office to collect our permit tag for the canoe and the map and garbage back they provide. As a result I went back to the office while Keith continued to push the canoe along the portage trail. After leaving the office it took me a long time to catch back up to Keith. He had pushed the canoe probably more than half of the 2.4km before I caught up to him.
When we had completed this portage we paddled 2.4km across Kibbee Lake and from there we portaged 2.0km to Indianpoint Lake. We paddled 6.4km across the main lake and then through a narrow, twisty channel to a small pond extension of the lake to the start of our next portage. This 1.6km portage to Isaac Lake was the worst. It started with a difficult ledge that was impossible to climb over with the loaded canoe on the canoe cart so we unloaded the heaviest gear and carried the the canoe up and over the ledge.
Then we reloaded the canoe and set off again. The trail was terrible. Mud holes, random rocks and shallow ditches across the width. Not fun at all. Once we reached Isaac Lake it was plain sailing. We paddled along the lake until we reached the campsite that we had decided was our destination for the day, Camp 12. We set up the tent, ate supper and chatted with a fellow paddler who was already settled in. Not a bad start to the trip.
This was a travel day from Jasper to Bowron Lakes Provincial Park in British Columbia
To start the trip we had to travel 587km to get to the Bowron Lake campsite where we were staying for the night. Keith arrived at the house in the morning and we made sure everything we would need was safely packed in the van or, in the case of the canoe, on the roof. After roughly 8 hours on the road we arrived at Bowron Lake Provincial Park and set up our camp for the night. It quickly became apparent that we were going to be swarmed by clouds of mosquitoes. Both of us put on our mosquito protection, in my case a mosquito net and for Keith a repellent infused hat. It was at this point that I realized I had not packed everything after all. I had left my Tilley hat on the boot rack in the house in Jasper. My mosquito net helped but there was nothing to keep it away from my face which was not pleasant. However, after preparing and eating supper and organizing our gear for the next morning, we explored the campsite before retiring to the tent for the night.
The Bowron Lake Cicuit
This is a repeat of the blog item that I posted on July 7, 2019. I was concerned that should post it again because it has been such a long time since I posted the original.
A scaleable version of this map is available at:
The Bowron Lake Circuit is a canoe/kayak route that I first attempted in 2012. I started my paddle at the end of May in a kayak that I had just bought and in which I had minimum experience. Once I was on Issac Lake, the long lake that runs from the northwest to the southeast, I was assaulted by winds blowing directly against me. At one point I was paddling hard and I looked at my GPS and my speed was zero. Not only that, but significant waves had developed which I was comfortable paddling through as long as I was close to shore but I was not confident that I could safely turn round and head back to a campsite to wait out the wind. As a result I kept paddling to the next campsite and eventually after camping a couple of times I reached the end of the lake. But I was exhausted so I had to ask the park rangers to get me out before I ventured past the end of the lake into an area where I would be putting myself at greater risk and help would be more difficult to get.
I don't like to fail so this year, 2019, I returned with a canoe and a companion, Keith Marsh.
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