Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit '07 {Day 7: The Chute, McCleary Lake and Cariboo River }

The day our Bowron trip truly became high adventure:
3 canoe flips in one day!
Packed and ready for action, the Scouts prepare to ride the rapids.

Ready for the rapids, after a warm breakfast of pancakes with PBJ toppings, we made a few canoe personnel swaps to ensure strength and experience in the helms.  Each canoe in turn took on the "chute", the rapids at the end of Isaac Lake leading to Isaac Falls.  Scouts' boats went first, with adult leaders on hand down-stream for any necessary rescue efforts, (and for the photo opportunities, of course).  The first three canoes managed the "chute" without incident, then Patrick and Eric ran aground, having failed to make the turn against the raging current.  That's when I overheard two men on the shore discussing their nickel bet that one of our boats would flip.

Patrick and Eric failed to make the turn, and smacked the shore at full speed. 

Ron, Peter, and Linda paddle through the rapids and prepare to make the turn downriver.

"I hope we don't flip, cuz I'm wearing cotton underwear." ~Peter

One small paddling mistake and FLIP, into the freezing river current.
"Stay calm!" we yelled to Linda and Peter as they bobbed by, having been ejected from their canoe as it flipped in the rapids of the chute.  Ron stayed with the canoe and managed to haul it to shore after swimming alongside it at a 30 degree angle. Tim attempted to grab Linda's outstretched paddle to pull her and Peter to shore, but instead Tim was pulled into the river with them.  He regained his footing and brought them safely to shore.   Then the bailing began.  Peter's canoe seat, Ron's shoes, and a few water bottles were lost to the current, but no one was hurt.  We counted our blessings.

Bailing and bailing, and more bailing; Ron readies the canoe for the rest of the day's journey post-flip.

Just in case we didn't really feel like portaging... the sign says it all!

T lines up the cart under the canoe before starting off on the portage crossing.

Back to back portages followed, and the second was the first portage on which Patrick and Eric's canoe didn't flip off its cart onto the trail.   Paddled along a tiny, delightful McCleary Lake to a sandbar to enjoy our picnic lunch.  Moose tracks dotted the surroundings, but none could be seen in the flesh.  To our delight, there were wild strawberries in season, which were delicious!

Moose print along the sandy shores of McCleary Lake

Next stop: Cariboo River... with a pair of canoe flips to keep things interesting.  Our first mistake was veering right when we should have stayed left at the first fork; then in the current we should have stayed left instead of heading to the right ~ right into a tree protruding off the high bank over the water.
I ducked, Joseph ducked, and Tim tried to duck but was struck by the branch and FLIP, we were upside down in the freezing water.  I screamed, "We're down!" to alert the Scouts who were upstream near a bend, and tried to grap the paddles as they floated by...  Joseph yelled, "Get my sandal!" and I reached it just before the current took it forever.

In an attempt to offer assistance, Ron, Linda, and Peter suffered the same fate in the same place: FLIP.
"Help them!" Tim yelled, as I found a deer trail along the high bank and ran upstream to find Peter perched in a tree (he later told us his monkey skills had come to the rescue).  Ron held fast to the tree with one hand and somehow managed the canoe against the current with the other.  Linda was trapped between the canoe and the tree, in a very swift current.  She managed to climb up onto the bank, and Ron released his grip and floated downstream with their canoe to a gravel bar to begin the bailout.  Tim and Joseph worked together to bail our canoe, and after some time we were finally ready to carry on. 

Zac takes it easy on a day's break from steering duty.

Joseph and Tim, surrounded by gear
We camped, we cooked, we cleaned up.  We thanked God for our safe travels.  We slept.

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