Lessons from the Bowron Lakes
Dave steered us off course, the other canoe anchored by Dave’s friend Stan would soon swerve right to follow us. Maybe Stan would question our sudden diversion, but probably not. I expected that Dave’s long time friend may be accustomed to his impulse to explore every corner. I had only spent a few days with him, but I was not surprised by it either.
And I did not think he was weird at all. I wanted to look at that patch of grass too.
It’s easy to marvel at mountain peaks. Igniting admiration at the micro level takes a bit more work.
There was no better place to learn this than on a popular canoe circuit at the end of the season, when poking around every corner could be done so undisturbed.
The Bowron Circuit is a series of 12 lakes and rivers, almost entirely connected in a perfect square, save for a few sections where short portages are required. Nestled among the Cariboo Mountains, it naturally became a route that draws avid self-propelled boat enthusiasts from all over the world. In order to keep it manageable, a limited number of paddlers are allowed to start the circuit every day during the busier summer months. By the time we began, at the very edge of the higher season, and considering that snow was in the forecast, we almost had it entirely to ourselves. In the first two days we only encountered seven other people. We shared campsites with no one.
We completed roughly half of the circuit and returned within four days (most people do the whole circuit in about a week). The paddling was thankfully smoother than predicted. Due to an unfavourable forecast, we were anticipating hours where we would just have to bear down and “get through it”. Cirrus clouds sometimes spread their long fingers across the sky during our journey, causing worry about weather set to roll, but we remained largely dry and warm after the first misty morning. On the last day we woke up to tiny patters of drizzle on our tent, but that was the worst of it. The sun broke through and dappled the mountains before breakfast, and the water was as still as it was on day one.
Without weather to worry about, we turned our focus to those elements which drew us into such an excursion: mountains, camp life, and viewing it all from water-level.
We were both surprised that we cared about it at all. Or about the schmoos. The crew implored us to stop on one beach where an abundance of the flat and donut shaped stones with a curious name lay, scattered all along the mucked surface. Their origin are entirely unknown but we were fascinated by them nonetheless, showing off those we found that were bigger or more perfectly rounded.
And we even found ourselves looking at poop with a whole new sense of wonder. Ever on the lookout for wildlife, we followed in Cheryl’s footsteps as she discerned the origins of all we found (moose, caribou, bear?) and approximately how long each pile had been left behind. The closest we got was to a grizzly who had clearly just feasted on berries nearby and dropped his scat on a beach about an hour before we rested there for lunch. None of us strayed far from the bear spray that noon hour, as we devoured the meal Cheryl had prepared for our journey.
We were hardly fazed by any such thing at that point. It was the details, even of feces, that endeared us to the experience more than we ever imagined. And credit for that goes to our circuit companions, who had us inspecting what was at our feet as much as what soared over our heads.
We were at our own Redwoods and Rocks. We just needed to use our imagination.
By night, with nothing else to distract us (besides Pete making us pose for photos), we sat around the campfire jointly calling out answers to crossword puzzles.
Dozens of kilometres paddled later, with sore arms and backs, with clothes and bodies grungy from four days of outdoor living, and with camera cards full of grass and scat photos, we left regrettably, still wanting to do more too.
how to do it
Our trip to this region was thanks to Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism. Our opinions, as always, are our own.