Back in July, I began to relate to you, my readers, what my trip to the Bowron Lakes Provincial Park
was like. I shared up through Day 4
, and then I stopped. I started to type up part of Day 5, but lost heart. I was still so excited about the fact that Tee and I made it through the whole experience, that I didn't want to dwell on some of the more negative aspects of our trip. I chose, instead, to not continue the story for the time being. I didn't want to break the spell this majestic area caught me up in.
Starting on Day 5, our trip had turned for the worst. We had some of the crummiest weather imaginable. Okay, I take that back. It didn't actually snow; we just had some rain mixed with snow and bouts of hail that day. We entered the river portion of our trip, as well, and it took a toll on our nerves as the water mutated from Carribean blues and aquamarines to chalky, milky liquid as clear as a cup of coffee mixed with ample powdered creamer from the local convenience mart. Two of the boys in our group were capsized by deadheads on our Green River trip
, and their tension on the rivers was immense.
On Day 5, a group of Canadian fishermen asked if I was along on the trip to be the group's cook. On the one hand, the men of our group were horrified at the fact that those guys asked such a question. On another hand, I was the butt of all the "Cookie" jokes. The worst damage was that the men in our cozy band appeared afraid to be lumped in with the Canadian fishermen's bias, and they treated me with kid gloves even more. They didn't want me to participate in camp chores; when it was my turn on the roster to cook dinner, they didn't want me to fix the meal. I really needed a friend, as all of us had drooping spirits, but this was the pinnacle of my loneliness on the circuit.
We were all ice cubes when we reached the public shelter on Lanezi Lake, our end destination for Day 5. I'd donned rain pants half way through our canoeing day, to try and warm my frozen legs. As we reached our goal, and started pulling in toward shore, I fell as I tried to climb out of the canoe. The pant legs of the rain gear I'd borrowed from Lew were too long for me, and caused me to stumble, submerging my whole body in the frigid water. Not an inch of me was dry, nor warm. After we finished our beaching chores and got a fire going in the shelter, I still didn't have the luxury of changing. There was no place private to change. I'd hide my eyes as boys hid behind each other, sloughing off drenched gear. There was no one to help me be modest. I ended up, finally, after I couldn't bear the chill any longer, changing in one of the kybos. Even then, the lock didn't work well, and one of the kids burst in on me as I was pulling up my fleece pajama bottoms.
I think I had a touch of hypothermia, but the warm fire and coffee, plus some quiet reading time, helped. What didn't help was that we had a passel of folks from around the world sharing the same shelter, to keep out of the inclement weather. Someone nicked my drying polypro long underwear and my swimming trunks. Being down two clothing items (one of which was my warmest), for a person that bled on everything else they had, was a disheartening experience.
Day 6 held some of the most spectacular scenery of our trip. The hike to the 80 foot Cariboo River Falls was incredible. We also had to dig far reaching trenches around all of our tent pads to keep them from flooding in torrential downpours, as our camp area was at the bottom of a hill, and the rainwater slid down the hill, racing toward Rum Lake. This was also the day of the 3 inch long, black leeches. The calls of the pair of loons almost made up for the miserable wetness of Day 6.
Day 7, Tee suffered from hypothermia. His fleece jacket got soaked, and his rain jacket was so saturated that it stopped being waterproof. Not one of his pieces of clothing was dry. We had to stop the group and cobble together some dry clothing and a dry stocking cap, cover him with a neon orange emergency poncho, cinched at the waist. The quick action of Vlad the firefighter, after he saw me trying to help Tee find something dry to wear, stemmed the horrible shivering my boy was experiencing. We then had to press on. Otherwise, he'd have been in even worse shape. This also was the day of never-ending mini portages that L hadn't really told us much about. One campsite we stumbled upon was closed, due to bear activity. We also almost had a mini-mutiny, when all the older boys wanted to go ahead and canoe back to the Lodge on Bowron Lake, which was another whole day's worth of canoeing. Tee and Little D wouldn't have made it, so Pirate Jay had to squash the mutinous behavior. Yet, I was left with the impression that Pirate Jay and his 3 friends wanted to move on as much as the older boys did, and that they were a wee bit resentful when Renton and I stood up for our sons. We knew our kids wouldn't make the trip, and then we'd be in a world of hurt.
Day 7 was also the day the bear invaded our campsite. I was napping in our tent, when the bear made his first foray into camp. Tee stopped by to wake me, "just to let me know he, and the guys, would be heading to the shelter down the beach. Just to play cards." No mention of the reason for the mass exodus-- you know, that bear. The men stayed behind, debating if I was crazy, or delirious, for my supposedly relaxed response to the bear. They didn't know Tee never mentioned the animal to me. When the bear made attempt #2 into camp, they chased it away by banging cooking pots with wooden spoons, and waking me up as well. I climbed out of the tent, found out Tee's omision, and we all hi-tailed it to the shelter.
Day 8 was the only day I cried, really cried. I had a few moments where I'd tear up for a minute, from fear, frustration or exhaustion, but I didn't have a full-out, good cry. When we reached the shore of Bowron Lake, and I realized we'd made it-- we did it without maiming ourselves-- I bawled. I also broke down that evening when one of the adults in the other canoe group, the self appointed co-president of A.N.A.L., tried to make Tee and Little D sleep on the floor of an overcrowded cabin, when their cabin had been given away on accident by the Lodge . We had room in the "girls' cabin." D and I were the mothers of the two boys in question, but no, this man wouldn't stand for this supposed breech of BSA rules. I wasn't going to give in without a fight. We'd made it through our 8 days on the circuit, without an experienced guide, to only come back and face the possibilty of another broken bone just because this authoritarian said so. It almost came to blows-- this joker doesn't know how close he came to being pummled. The experience, so anticlimatic in comparision to the celebration that should have been occuring, brought me to tears, massive amounts of them.
This is where Let's Yak about Art
comes in. Chris Harris
, among his numerous accolades, has been a Bowron circuit guide for 35 years. He's also an incredible photographer and published several books that include his photographs. We had the opportunity on our trip home to visit his gallery. The side trip to Harris' gallery was the tiara upon the rag-festooned conclusion to our trip.
If you're ever in South Cariboo
, I encourage you to take a detour off the beaten path to his gallery. It really is straw bale construction, as is his house, and it's gorgeous. The landscape is all plantings native to the British Columbia praire, an endangered ecosystem. Mr. Harris gave us a special tour of his gallery, and explained the photo technique he uses to take pictures like Forest Trail
You can take a look at his web gallery here
. Of course, my favorite photos of his are of the Bowron circuit
. You can feel the breeze, smell the crisp air and experience the gentle sway of the canoe as you view his work. Toward the Chute
holds a special place in my heart, and I purchased a small print of this photo. We had the best day at the Chute, riding the river current with our pfds helping us bob along. The double rainbow over the Isaac River, blueberry pancakes and meeting a new friend made the Chute a place of special meaning in my personal sphere.