Sunday, July 06, 2008

Stillness, solitude and swarms of mosquitoes

I'm back from my trip to Bowron Lake Provincial Park. It was remote, rugged and spectacularly scenic.

Five friends and I spent eight days paddling 10 lakes around the world-famous Bowron canoe circuit. The circuit includes lakes, rivers and portages totaling 116 km. We paddled an average of 15 km per day and set up camp at a different lake each night.

It was a blissfully simple existence. No cell phones, no laptops, no electricity, no running water, no contact with the outside world. It was completely silent, except for the call of the loons, the crackling of the fire and the howling of the wolves.

Of course, it's easy to romanticize the experience as I sit here writing about it in my warm, dry, mosquito-free apartment.

It wasn't all rainbows and snowcapped mountains. My tent leaked and I spent a few rainy mornings waking up to find my mattress and sleeping bag floating in a puddle of water. The trip started off cold and ended blisteringly hot. We spent the first half of the trip fighting off hypothermia and the second half worrying about sunstroke.

The mosquitoes were the worst part. They were so bad that we spent almost all of our time at the campsites hiding inside our tents. It wasn't exactly the kind of vacation where you could lounge on the beach reading a book. Unless you covered every inch of your body in deet first.

As for the fishing, it's a good thing we packed enough food for eight days because if we had relied on fish for dinner, we would have starved.

We ended up buying fishing rods and licenses on the drive up to Bowron Lake. After we bought our licenses, we asked the woman working at the shop if she also sold guidebooks on how to fish. She seemed amused by the stupidity of our question and gave us a look that said, "You city slickers should have figured that out before you bought a license."

Unfortunately, since none of us had much experience with fishing, we couldn't figure out how to put the line on the spool. And because the area was so remote, we didn't see any other people until the fourth day of the trip. Luckily, the first person we spotted was a serious angler from California who helped us put the rods together and gave us some tips on how to fish.

Thanks to his tips, we caught three weeds and one log. We didn't catch one single fish. Unless you count the dead fish that got tangled up in our line.

Overall, it was an amazing wilderness experience. We saw more moose than people.

We paddled through rapids and portaged around waterfalls.

I swam in every single lake we camped at, no matter how cold. Plus, swimming in the lake was one of the only ways to escape the mosquitoes. Everyone else thought the lakes were too cold so I mostly swam alone.

These are just a small sample of my photos. The rest are on my flickr page, which you can view here.

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