September 19, 2008

There's No Such Thing as "Enough Boats"!

We are in the Vancouver area this weekend and finally have a decent internet signal again!

For the past 16 months, everywhere we go people alaways comment on how we could fit four boats on top of the truck, and of course, why two people need four boats? Well, as all you fellow paddlers know, you can never have "enough"....

Part of our "rethinking" the RV lifesye, and making a few changes is to allow us to do much more with different gear. We had thought about getting a square-end canoe, that could be paddled, or, used with a small motor thereby greatly expanding hwo far we could go, and allowing us to "self shuttle" on trips. Careful searching on the internet only turned up one comapny that truly made a light weight square-end, Clipper Canoe made by the great folks at Western Canoe & Kayak, who agreed to set up a demo for us if we visited them in Abbortsford (near Vancouver).

We were disappointed in the square-end, being quite heavy and very wide...too much so to act as a tandem "paddle" canoe. So, we tested two boats Tuesday on the Fraser River both with & without a 2HP motor (that provided). We ended up liking the 16-1/2ft Tripper S which did a good job with both of us in it with & w/o the motor. After we each paddled it solo ("S") and found it to be acceptable to use in that maner also (like if I want to >go fish by myself). I also used the motor solo, our minds were made up, this was the new boat to add to our growing fleet!

It was pretty amazing how fast the boat went, paddling, or with the motor at only half throttle. Back at trhe factory Marlin (the owner) made us a "special deal" on a Custom Ultralight that he had in stock that had a couple of almost imperceptable blems on it's finish (we'll puts lots more than that on the first few trips out! ) > >if you are interested in the complete specs:

I'll pick up the tiny four-stroke, 26lb Honda 2HP motor to go with it when we get back into the states..

So, just how do we get (now) FIVE! boats up there? Turns out it was easier than we expected. With a few suggestions and "spacer boards" at the factory, we were ready to head on to Vancouver Island in short order.

We missed the ferry to Victoria, and had to go to Nanaimo (about 100 miles north), which turned out to be a great detour. Kim found Living Forest Campground in ther trailer guides, and it is simply beautiful. We ended up in one of the best sites in the 55acre park, on the very end of a small point overlooking the mouth of the Nanaimo River and an expanse of saltwater marsh.

Anxious to try the new rig out, we carefully unloaded and placed it in front of the truck. Kim commented "we better get a picture of this sleek shiney hull right now, it'll never look like that again"....and I must admit that Western does a magnificant job of fit & finish on their boats!

From the looks on our faces, you can tell we are delighted with the decision. Paddling happily upstream, in strong current, against a ten mile an hour breeze, we moved swiftly along.

The ducks and geese (mostly Mallards & Canadians) were in the area in high numbers, but interestingly were sppoked at the mere sight of a quiet canoe approaching.

We had watched an old Bill Mason canoe video at Western, and I guess Kim just had to try some of Bill's canoe anticks...of course she didn't jump the docks, boats & ramps like he did....

The paddle up the River was nice, and the trip downstream (tide now going out & wind at our backs) allowed us to just sit back, relax & enjoy the moving past briskly. It was interesting to see the local Natives "sight fishing" along the banks....

Into a small bay at the mouth of the River, and along a beautiful high bluff on the farside of the Campground, what a great first paddle!

September 11, 2008

Bowron Lake Paddle

Bowron Lake Provincial Park is a BC wilderness park covering more than 300,000 acres of land with a system of six major lakes two rivers and several portages. Forming a backdrop are the rugged and majestic Cariboo Mountains. The complete canoe circuit is 72mi and Kim & I decided to do a 3-day, 2-night trip known as the West Side Trip, that takes you from the top Bowron Lake (Start) to Unna Lake and back.

Bowron is quite large, and I guess we were lucky today, the wind was nil, sun shining brightly through an indigo blue sky. What a great way to start a paddle!

We took our time crossing the Lake, alternating between open water and jaunts along the rocky shoreline.

As we approached the southern end, we noticed a few boats returning. After a couple of conversations, it was apparent that doing the entire circuit was indeed worth the effort. Most of the others had spent a week or so out, enjoying this great water wilderness.
The Lake narrowed into a flat, dead calm marshy area. A few puffy clouds developed overhead, adding to the beautiful reflective drama unfolding in the water and mountains ahead.

It wasn't long before we found the small channel through the brilliantly colored grass, a helpful sign seemed to point directly towards this muskrat lodge, signaling a short break to just enjoy this area that reminded us of Louisiana marsh!

We reached a wonderful campsite in the Swan Lake area, and decided to just stop here and enjoy the area. Our new 3-man REI sale tent popped right up, firewood was already provided...a little splitting, and we were in business!

We enjoyed a fantastic sunset, and as darkness grew, I setup my ham radio rig in the tent to try to get info on Hurricane Ike.

Morning brought another spectacular day on the water. An exploratory paddle was in order, so south we headed along the twisting shores of Swan Lake. Interesting shallows & pockets added to the diversity of views. Misty fog hung in the backwaters, while ultimate stillness across open stretches laid out vast mirrors ahead.

Having picked up some more firewood on the paddle "home", we settled in early that afternoon to just relax & enjoy the sites & sounds of camp......

On the way in, we had noticed an interesting campsite that deserved a closer look on our final day. Hidden at the rear of a quiet pocket, we found an old cabin, a well preserved piece of history. Although it was locked, we did manage to get a view of the nice modern king bed inside!!

Just a hundred or so yards away was a more recently built cabin, open for group use. We enjoyed "exploring" it's interior, paying particular attention to the numerous hand-made artifacts hanging from the ceiling.

We sat for a while out back, just enjoying the beauty of the marsh, and watching the many birds looking for an easy breakfast aong the tall grass.
The trip out was every bit as enjoyable as paddle in, and now the current is with us, allowing us to just sit back and enjoy the colorful grasses sway like Hawaiian skirts below.

Again luck is with us on our return through Bowron Lake, and as I watched Kim round the last point with "civilization" in the distance, deep inside I know that one day we'll be back to explore & enjoy the entire 70 miles of this Canadian treasure!

September 9, 2008

Hazelton Totems

Someone along the way told us that Hazelton had the best collection of authentic totems in all of Alaska & BC, so off the beaten path we go to find a nice, low-cost municipal rv park. To our surprise, the park is located next to a row of preserved & re-created long houses, very authentic in their construction and the contents inside. The fronts of these were decorated in intricate patterns, all hand carved & painted.

They offered a great tour inside, complete with an individual guide, and ceremonial artifacts and a fire going in each. We respected their request of no pictures within, so I guess you'll just have to take a vacation there to see for yourself.

There were several nice examples of totems outside...but we learned from our tourguide that a few miles away, in the older section of town, a larger number of well preserved totems were standing at a public park. It was an overcast day withlight rain falling when we found the place. So, the light was pretty poor, I apologize for the pix, but at least you'll get a feel for the uniqueness of these giants....

September 7, 2008

Hidden Hyder (Alaska)

After a few hundred miles through Canada, we pop across one of the smallest. most remote border crossings in the North into the small hideaway of Hyder. It's late afternoon, chilly, we're near the water, what there is of a town appears deserted, but we amble along muddy, pot-holed streets and find a small RV park behind the only local bar. Though sparce with no hookups or other guests, the view out our back door is actually pretty nice.

The attraction....Fish Creek! One of the best places in Alaska to see bears. So, next morning off we go, noticing a few of the unique old buildings & signs heading north along the Salmon River.

A small interpretive area informs us of the story of the local bears, and how the Park Service built the long, protected (well somewhat) catwalks for tourist to enjoy an overhead view of the magnificant creatures feeding below.

It wasn't long before some of the "locals" started showing up. This particular "mom" had actually learned to hunt underwater, an extrememly unique trait according to the rangers.
With her skill and years of experience, it wasn't long before a meal was captured.

After a couple of hours of bear viewing, we start the twenty mile drive northward up the River valley to see Salmon Glacier, the most accessible view of a glacier in North America. The winding road was built buy the gold mining interest which flourished here in the twenties. As we continue to ascend, we get our first view of the Glacier, only to realize later that is is actually the southern finger of the massive iceway.

After more careful driving around muddy hairpin curves we reach the overlook, where this backdrop is a stunning setting for a relaxing picnic lunch!
Kim takes a short hike up the mountain on the opposite side, fascinated by the mixture of rich color & textures.
We decide to explore farther north, and it isn't too long before evidence of active mining appears...yes, there is still gold to be found in "them there hills"!
We're greeted soon by a curious marmot, who allowed me to get this nice closeup...I think he was fascinated by the sparkle of my lens...what a great pose. Around the next bend is more evidence of past mining, as we find an open tunnel to explore.

Shortly before turning back, we find a series of "mini-glaciers", along a unique stretch of the upper valley that resembled a moonscape. Later in the afternoon, we're treated to those saturated afternoon sun colors, a great prize to end an awesome day above the glacier!