Canada, BC – the last part of my timeout
Pleasant anticipation? Sure, I was looking forward to my next trip with Kris to Canada, even when it was the last part of my “timeout”. We were heading for British Columbia – Canada, a well-known paddling destination. I wanted to spend two months there. First, explore some of the harder rivers with Kris and then do some easier ones with Steffi.
Kris and I had a very uncomplicated journey. We were able to check in our paddle-bags as skiing equipment for free. Because we had more than 15 hours time in Zürich we decided to visit Richi, an old kayaking buddy. Together we paddled several different rivers years ago so there was lots to talk about. Once in Vancouver we did not waste time and quickly rented a car to get up to Whistler as soon as possible. There we could base out at Ric and Hector’s comfortable house. Kris bought a “Stomper 90” and I got myself a “Shiva M”.
The first river was the homerun of the Whistler boys, the Callaghan. Kris and I each got a “pilotboater” whom we followed very closely. We more or less styled all the rapids without scouting a single one. The beta on the lines sounded like this: „Ok guys. Stay on the left avoiding the big hole, then use the diagonal to surf into the middle and then there is that drop. You wanna have a massive boof on that but… ahh fuck it! Just follow me but don’t forget the big boof!” The gauge at the take out was at 3.1. A very high level, not only for us first-timers. What a start!
The level on the “upper Cheakamus” was on the local side of high. It took us only 20 minutes to bomb down the 5km. But you must never let your guard down in BC because sometimes there is a tree blocking your way, which was not there some hours ago.
Due to very good weather and temperatures above 32°C the river levels went up and up. So we decided to check out “Skookumchuck” together with Phil, an Australian guy. A quick look on the tidecharts showed perfect conditions for the wave and so we exchanged creekers with playboats and headed on to Egmont. We were not the only ones able to read tidecharts so that there were 20 more boaters waiting in the eddy above that amazing wave. Among them paddlers like Ben Marr or Rush Sturges. The “Demshitz Boys” had some big air as well.
Waterlevels had dropped once we were back in Whistler so we could check out more rivers in the area. One day we headed over to the Birkenhead. We checked the level from the bridge and it looked juicy. At the put in Ric was convinced that it was definitely on the local side of high but still good to go. After some full on paddling and one or the other hairy situation we decided to abort our mission at the put on for the lower part. Back at the bridge we checked the level again. It had gone up for another 30cm.
When we were not paddling we chilled at “Lost” or “Loggers Lake”. We had a blast using the ropeswings. One day Basti, a German dude working in Vancouver, showed up. Together we went biking and I was surprised about the well-maintained bike-tracks.
One day “Skookum Creek” near Squamish” was on the board. This steep creek has a perfect 10m must drop and a 20m slide that is very hard to portage. To be honest I was nervous as we started driving up the dirtroad. But where we expected the put in we found a huge construction site. The workers were friendly and even helped us to look for a possibility to get down in the gorge. As we found a possible “put-in” we decided against paddling because it was already too late. With mixed feelings we drove back to Squamish and paddled “Box Canyon” on the Ashlu on the next day. The fact that Kris could not remember all the lines in the tight gorge caused some hectic paddling above the rapids. In the very beginning there is 50/50, a nasty looking doubledrop. Kris showed us the line and Phil and I followed him shortly after.
On the next day we were thankful for our 4WD because the dirtroad up to the put-in of the “Minerun” on the Ashlu was quite bad. We met other paddlers, some Austrians, there. Again the river was in a deep and narrow gorge that made scouting and portaging a mission.
I paddled the Callaghan with some guys from Quebec another time and then I headed down to Vancouver to pick up Steffi from the airport. Kris and Phil stayed in Whistler.
The tides were right so we headed back to Skookumchuck for some more surfs. This time there were just two more paddlers – so it rocked.
We had to take two ferries to get to Vancouver islands some days later. Tofino is a must see according to some people recommendations. The coastline was supposed to be rough and wild but we were not that much impressed so we headed up north bound for “Cape Scott Provincial Park”.
The western end of America stated our guidebook and that’s exactly how we felt as we reached “Nissen Bight” on the second day of our 22km long hike. Huge paw-imprints in the mud brought back to our mind that we were not alone in the park.
A fifteen hours ferry-ride brought us from Port Hardy up north to Bella Coola, a tiny fishing village. According to some local stories it happens every now and then that there is a grizzly waiting for you in your garden in the morning. “Tweedsmuir Provincial Park” is very near and offers some of the most remote backbacking trips in the country. To make things even more interesting it is a prime grizzly habitat. Steffi and I decided to go to “Emerald Lake”, another multiday hike. We came across beautiful lakes, hiked through black forests burnt long ago and crossed lush meadows. To avoid a bear encounter we kept hitting two stones together. We reached a beautiful campsite located directly next to a lake in the late afternoon. The moment the sun vanished behind the snow-covered peaks the annoying mosquitos were gone and a cold but clear night awaited us. The next morning we were greeted by dark rain clouds and so decided to head back to our car.
A bit further to the east the “Chilko River” was waiting for us. To get to the put in, the “Chilko River Lodge”, of this two-day paddle we had to drive 60km on a tyre-killing dirt road. The lodge is run by Swiss who supported us with the shuttle. Thanks a lot! After a relaxed BBQ in the evening we started paddling at a high water level the next morning. The first 20km were fast flowing water but without difficulties except some logs. “Bidwell Rapid” was definitely harder than expected, so Steffi decided to walk it. What followed was a very long section of non-stop class IV whitewater. Our kayaks were full with gear so there was no room for errors. After eight hours of paddling Steffi was tired and so we were happy as we reached the confluence with the Taseka – the end of the harder whitewater section. We set up camp on an island and I was relieved that there had been no swim. I definitely would have been able to rescue Steffi but to get the boat back is another story. The next day was an easy float down to “Bull Canyon” where our car was waiting for us.
We met some nice dudes in Clearwater and paddled a nice play section on the Clearwater river. Over 7km play-wave followed play-wave, not to compare with “Skook”, but still a lot of fun.
At “Mt. Robson National Park” we organized permits to hike the famous “Berg Lake Trail”. We had four days in the park to explore. “Emperor Falls”, “Snowbird Pass” and our view from our tent onto Mt. Robson glacier were only some of the highlights of that stunning hike.
After a “Park’n Huck” session at “Overlander Falls” we drove south on the impressive “Icefield Highway”. We stopped in Jasper to restock and to do the washing. As we saw the massive glacial recession at the “Columbia Icefield” we were a bit. It’s hard to imagine that those silent giants are soon to be gone forever. In Lake Louise we took the obligatory picture of the lake and the mountain in the back but quickly hurried on to Golden to the “Kicking Horse River”.
There I experienced that, even in Canada, hitch-hiking can be difficult. To no avail I tried to get a ride back so I drove back in our car. We still wanted to paddle so we came up with the following solution. Steffi paddled the harder part in the beginning only and then hiked back to the car on the tracks while I “towed” her kayak down to the take out.
Our next stop was “Glacier National Park”. We hiked up to “Hermit Camp”. At night there were some heavy thunderstorms quite close to us – a very impressive experience.
Slowly time was running out but we wanted to paddle some more rivers. “Stein”, “Nahatlatch” and the “Kicking Horse River” were more than a worthy ending to our Canada trip.
On the way back to Austria I had some time to visit New York. Probably I saw more than other tourist in to days.