Thursday, August 19, 2010

Daddy - Daughter Canoe Camping Trip

I spent two nights last weekend canoe camping with my soon to be seven year old daughter Megan. We had a bit of a rough start, but ended up having a wonderful trip.

Originally I had planned to park at the Lindsey Lakes campground and hike the 1.5 miles in to Culbertson Lake, pulling my canoe and all our gear on the canoe cart. Due to a bit of a late start, we ended up changing the plan and going to a lake that was a closer walk from the car.

Boy, let me tell you, I'm glad we changed our plans. After initially loading up the canoe it seemed to pull rather well in the flat dirt parking lot. Then we hit the first hill. Man that's tough pulling about 150 lbs of gear and canoe. Next we hit dispersed rocks on the hill of the dirt road. Every time the wheel caught a rock it was a dead stop and a heave to get it going again. Within about 40-50 yards of the put-in I got a little bold and started trying to power through it. The momentum helped a bit on the first few rocks, then the wheel caught a big root and SLAM the canoe went down. After inspection I found that the aluminum bar holding the wheel had sheered clean off. We wouldn't be using that cart anymore.

Well, whatcha gonna do huh? I immediately set out carry the gear up the remaining portion of the trail (which was even steeper and other words the cart would have never made it). After 4 or 5 quick loads the job was done and we packed the canoe up and headed off across the lake; none too soon as the sun was beginning to set at this point.

With a light breeze, the conditions were beautiful for a paddle. We bee-lined to the opposite shore and began searching in earnest for a suitable camp. The first cove was disappointing, as the terrain past the shore was steep and thickly wooded. The next cove provided a spot or two that may have worked, but were far from ideal. Even with the light fading fast I decided to push on. Finally at the far north-eastern corner of the lake a perfect camp came into view. It had a nice soft grassy landing, followed by the intricate fire-ring hidden behind a fir tree that someone had made with a wind block built in against the prevailing winds and complete with a log bench. Just beyond that was a ring of thick White Firs with a perfect flat and cleared section for a tent. Beyond that was a hillside covered in wildflowers. What a great find!

The first night felt kind of like a mad rush. It was already coming up on 8 o' clock by the time I had set up the tent, got some beans cooking on the stove and started a fire to cook the hotdogs. Soon after Megan had retired to the tent to read some books while I dragged our food bag/ice chest off into the dark woods to find a suitable set of trees to hang from. It didn't help that one of my three ropes that I usually use was missing from the bag (I use two 25 foot sections to hang carabiners from trees, and a third 50 foot section between the two, to which the food is attached in the middle and raised). I made due with what I had, but only managed to get the food about 8 feet off the ground. About two to three feet short of my normal minimum (I managed to get it a bit higher the next day).

Fortunately, no bears (at least no tall bears) visited our camp that night, and we slept rather well. In the morning I got to check out the area a bit more, and was even more pleased at the spot we had found. Clear across the lake near the trail that goes into the backcountry was the only other occupied camp on the entire lake. Voices drift easily across the water, but still the separation was plenty that we felt very isolated in our surroundings (Megan was a little bummed about this at first, as usually she likes to make friends with neighbor kids while we are car camping).

We spent the rest of our stay (which included that day, another night, and the next morning) hiking, paddling, fishing, and swimming in the chilly waters of Island Lake further up the trail. We saw an Otter family of three constantly swimming near our camp (and munching on crawdads by the sound of it), found an eight inch brook trout connected to a line from a spool that the previous occupants mysteriously left behind, and watched in wonder as an Osprey dove down right in front of us to snatch the same fish from the water after I was unable to revive it enough to survive.

I had a wonderful time spending some quality alone time with my little girl. Too rarely do we get time like this to spend together uninterrupted.

The paddle and hike out was a real challenge without the cart. I calculated the distance from the car to the put-in to be about four tenths of a mile. With each round trip being near a mile I carried as much as I could and we managed to get everything in three loads (including the canoe). Man I was sore and tired after that!

Still, I would do it again a thousand times over again (though maybe I'd bring less stuff if I knew I'd be carrying it all out).

** I was purposefully vague about this location, as it is a short distance from the masses of people. Anyone with a blow up raft could make the paddle to this gem of a spot, so I thought I wouldn't make it so easy to find through a google search. Still, anyone familiar with the Grouse Ridge area would know where this is right away. Email me if you would like more details. **

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool trip. I thought I was the only one crazy enough to attempt this with a non-inflatable boat. I only went with a kayak though. Nice work lugging a canoe up there.

On my trip I hiked to middle Lindsay. Paddled to the far end of that lake. Did a 100 yard portage to upper Lindsay. Paddled to the far end of that lake. Did a 200 yard portage to Culbertson.

I don't recommend doing this. It was one of the few times I wished I had a machete :)

My rig at the gate:
My cart is the frame from a Baby bike trailer.