Welcome to Canada!
We spent two days in Canada after braving the wildfires of Washington and the torture of a Greyhound bus with no air conditioning (again) on our trip from Portland to Vancouver. We arrived safely in the ‘dodgy’ end of town and check into our ‘not so cheap’ and extremely hot hostel!
After filling out stomachs on too much wonderful Chinese food (we were right beside China town) and surviving the ‘Mad Max Apocalypse now area’ after dark and a beautiful morning exploring Stanley Park and my absolute best breakfast on my travels so far at the Ivanhoe pub, it was time for more buses and ferries to get to Powell River. It is not cheap to get to Powell River, let’s hope it is worth it!
Again another overnight and early rise and we are picked up to begin our amazing 6 days on the idyllic lakes that make up the trail. There is ‘one shop in town’ for canoe hire and it is a slick operation, including canoe drop off for those of us travelling by foot (for a price). Mitchell’s Canoe and Kayak .
We paid $378.35 for 6 days canoe hire and transport to Powell lake from our Motel and collection from Lois Lake back to the Canoe hire base. We then hitched back into town the 6 miles with absolutely lovely Anne-Marie. She invited us back to her home for ‘real’ tea, in china cups and home made cookies and we got to meet her lovely daughter Elena, son-in-law Don and Scottish Grandchildren.
Day 1. Powell Lake
The weather has been spectacular for the last 5 months and Canada hasn’t disappointed. We overload the canoe with too much food and much to Cory’s disappointment, no booze! He had planned to buy a six-pack and trail it behind the canoe to catch drunks! Or maybe not! But he had dreamt about chilled beer while paddling but it wasn’t to be!
I cannot believe how beautiful and tranquil it was. We had both buckled ourselves into our lifejackets but it was so incredibly hot. The calm waters were sparkling and glistening and with a wind behind us it was breathtaking.
We had been told that the campsites were well sign posted with orange triangles, some of which had faded to white, which you couldn’t miss. Be aware, that you ‘can’ miss them and in cases, they simply don’t exist. The best signposted site was our first campsite and it set the bar too high! All others failed to reach that standard.
Amazing floating cabins line Powell Lake, submerged skeletons of trees poke out of the water or lie submerged like hippos walking underwater, ready to bump you if you get complacent and don’t remain vigilant.
Pacific Loon call to us at our passing and Great Blue Heron slowly flap above us as we gently paddle along. Power boats and Speed Boats buzz up and down the lake which cause wakes to bump us, eventually, as they travel over the lake towards us but we don’t encounter any other paddlers.
Our $5 recreation map is a bit of a let down, it feels more like a brochure and lacks proper topography thus, it isn’t ideal for navigation. However we do refer to it often, due to the tropical lushness of the forest, spotting the orange triangles for campsites or picnic sites is not as easy as we had thought it would be.
Powell Lake Campsite is amazing, pristine sands and logs to sit on, rakes and brushes to keep things clean and in the forest, there are picnic benches and pit toilets. I complete the trail register and expect to find one at every campsite on the trail but no, the trail register is a one off. I wonder if one of the locals in a nearby floating house has ‘adopted’ this campsite. It is so well cared for and loved. Thank you, whoever you are!
We erect our little tent on the beach, Cory is first to go for a wee dook to freshen up. By the time I think I would like to have a dip, the air temperature has cooled too much for me to be brave. I live to smell stinky another day.
At night, when we awaken for our ‘call of nature’ the night sky is breathtaking. The Plough is sitting onto of the hill, across the lake, as if the farmer just parked it there while he took a break and the sky is just as dazzling as the lake was during the day.
Day 2. Powell Lake, Goats Lake to Windsor Lake (portage is 2.4 km predominantly steep up, hot ‘n’ sticky).
Lazy days are called for as 6 days is more than enough to paddle the canoe trail. It means we can take our time and enjoy. Nonetheless we are on the water early and heading towards the straights which will take us to Goat Lake. People are having their morningcoffee on the porches of their floating cabins and wave and give us a cheery ‘good morning’. Fishermen chat to us as they relax on the water. The pace of life is slow and soothing.
We cross more skeleton woods as we pass through the narrows into Goat Lake and the little beach. When we arrive, we meet our first other paddlers, whom we will play hopscotch with for the rest of the trip. 3 adults and 1 girl. She is busy catching the numerous frogs hopping about the shallows, trying to avoid young girls. We see our first giant tadpole, the size of my hand, dead, with pointy teeth which would be the envy of any piranha.
Cory fuels up as he prepares for the portage over The Hump. We decide to take the bags and kit over first to give us an idea of the terrain and route, then return for the canoe.
It really does feel like a tropical rain forest, so humid and sunlight streaming in from above. Clockwise, the route we have chosen, means this is a very tough portage. It is steep, narrow, up, long and very hot. Our canoe weighs 70lbs and is made of fiberglass, thus a lot of weight to carry under any circumstances, never mind in steamy forest, uphill!
I am shattered after walking the bags over!
We return and I direct Cory, as best I can, while he walks about with a canoe on his shoulders! It takes 1hr30 minutes to get to Windsor Lake with the canoe on his back. Thank goodness he is a big strong man.
The Windsor Lake campsite as a food pulley, picnic benches and a cute pit toilet built into the skeleton of an old tree.
Hot and sticky we strip off and head to the jetty on Windsor Lake to cool down and have a dook. The air temperature is hot and the water temperature is just the refreshing side of ‘soup’. It is paradise!
Day 3. Windsor Lake (0.7 portage) Dodd Lake to Ireland ( 0.8 km portage)
The internal lakes have very few or no power boats. The waters are like mirrors reflecting the beauty of the forest and blue skies above us. We paddle along, now without lifejackets, it is so calm and so hot. We watch Osprey fly overhead and frogssunbathing in the shallows. It is hard to describe the beauty of the canoe trail with the idyllic weather we enjoy of The Sunshine Coast.
The portages have canoe stands are frequent intervals, a lot of them having been renewed within the last year. Their frequency is welcomed however some have been built for midgets! Cory starts his weighted squats sooner than planned as he has to almost sit on his bottom to get under the canoe.
There are numerous board walks and bridges to make the portages as foot friendly as possible and the trails are very well maintained.
We miss the picnic area for lunch, we couldn’t see any signs and almost went past the landing area due to the lack of signage but we get out the map and realise our error.
Then after lunch, Cory portages the canoe to Ireland Lake, to get away from the Sunday crowds at Dodd Lake. It is worth it! We have Ireland lake all to ourselves and the waters are even warmer and the frogs entertain me for hours.
Day 4. Ireland Lake,(2.4 km portage) Nanton Lake and Horseshoe Lake
Ireland Lake is tiny and we are across it within 10 minutes. Is it called Ireland Lake, because that is what it looks like from the air? Then we have the portage to Horseshoe lake.
This is the most entertaining portage! The trail follows a creek and the trail itself is gorgeous. What we didn’t expect was to be part of a BBC trailer. Garter snakes have come out onto the trail to warm themselves in the morning sun. We are the iguanas of the Galapagos and the snakes slither (thankfully away and not towards us) as we pass by. But you cannot see them! They are so well camouflaged in the dappled light!
This is what we feel like!
After the ‘thrill’ of making this crossing 3 times, 7.5km, it is time for a wee rest and a clif bar or two….
More dreamy hot weather and relaxing lunches and cups of tea as we take shelter in the driftwood shade offered on the little islands or the shores of the lake.
When we arrive at Horseshoe lake and find a tropical paradise of a campsite in an old quarry, complete with Tarzan, picnic benches and curious chipmunks and squeaky squirrels. We head back to the water and enjoy the best swimming so far. The water has pockets of hot water. The bottom of the lake bends in, to make the ‘horseshoe shape’, near the dam and the waters have so little movement, that it is possible for the temperatures to build up. It is wonderful. We head back to our little Amphitheatre and set up camp, have our ‘tea’ and then head back out to the warm waters of the lake for a pre-bedtime dook.
Day 5. Horseshoe Lake to Lois Lake (1.7km portage)
We had thought we would camp at the top of Lois Lake and base ourselves their for the last night. However we had misread the map and their was no campsite at the top of Lois Lake, it was half way down the portage from Horseshoe lake. We then planned to paddle west towards Khartoum Lake and find a campsite.
At first on Nanton Lake the waters were pond like and calm but once we got out onto Lois Lake the winds had picked up and it get choppy! The wind was favourable for getting to Khartoum Lake but I imagined that the next morning we would have a battle to traverse Lois Lake for our pick up at the end of the trail.
Eventually, around lunchtime, we found a gorgeous sandy beach littered with driftwood and huge upturned tree trunks to offer us some shelter from the still blazing hot sun. We hid behind an ancient bleached tree root and charged our phones, as for the first time in 5 days we had mobile reception.
We ate, slept, filtered water and enjoyed the stunning beauty of our own little beach. The Ospreys swooped and called over head and Mr Raven called in a few times to welcome us.
Day 6. Lois Lake
We thought we wouldn’t sleep after such a lazy day but we did sleep. The moon peeping out and the stars shining bright above us. The water stopped sloshing against the shore sometime during the night and we were almost convinced the lake had disappeared.
While having our morning cup of tea, Mr Otter swam past, not spotting us, and dived and popped up and dived and popped up again, looking for his breakfast.
Despite the calm waters of the night the wind had picked up again. The pond like waters were gone and we faced a headwind as we headed towards the westerly end of Lois Lake.
We paddled and then sought shelter to rest and tackled the traverse section by section. The sun broke through the clouds just enough to give my phone a little bit of charge on the phone for calling for our pick up.
Again the lack of orange signs lead to a bit of confusion about where we should land. The map indicated we had missed the jetty but again, we didn’t see anything resembling a jetty!
By the time we decided on a particular sandy beach there were a few spots of rain and the wind had a chill to it. We hunted out our gortex jackets and wrapped up against the change of weather.
Cory managed to message Mitchell’s Canoe with our location and I kept myself busy filling my mug with the sweetest brambles in Canada.