- Paddling days to date this season: 49
- Estimated distance travelled this season: 610 km (portaged 162 km or 27%)
- Favorite pieces of gear:
- MEC Expedition Canoe Cart (we wish it had 4 wheel drive)
- Fiskar Heavy Duty Snips for clearing the Harrogate Trail
- # Portages this season: 5
- Longest portage: 95 km over 3 mountain passes including the Continental Divide (Harrogate Pass, Wolverine Pass, and Ball Pass)
- Cumulative elevation gained by canoe during mountain portage: 3173 m
- Cumulative elevation lost by canoe during mountain portage: 2569 m
- Days taken off to heal Taq’s injured front paw: 8
We are out of British Columbia!!!! (No offence to BC, but it took 1 ½ seasons of paddling…)
Terry Fox has been a big inspiration to Geoff since he was a child. There was a lot of snow on Mount Terry Fox; otherwise we would have taken a day to run the trail.
Kinbasket Lake was low when we arrived, revealing the stumps. These were tricky to navigate in some areas, especially when the water was choppy. Bad weather can blow in quickly – luckily it leaves just as fast.
If Taq is tired enough, any place will do to rest his head!
We try to avoid the highways whenever possible. They are busy, have varying shoulder widths (especially narrow on bridges), and usually have broken glass (hence Taq’s paw injury). Taq isn’t afraid of much – only guns and semi-trucks. He would move as far to the side as possible whenever trucks passed.
The Columbia R. flows swiftly below the Kicking Horse R. Paddling against it at high water is already difficult; log jams on shallow gravel bars and sweepers along the bank make it more dangerous. Fortunately, the Columbia R. settles down and becomes a beautiful marshy paddle. It is a bird-lovers paradise.
Dry, flat areas in a marsh are difficult to find. We had to compete with flocks of Canada Geese for this campsite. Unfortunately, they left lots of scat behind. Geoff used his paddle to “sweep” his kitchen clean.
Harrogate Pass was the first of three passes we tackled in our quest to reach the Bow R. It proved to be the most challenging because, although it wasn’t the highest pass, it had the largest change in elevation (a gain of 1338 m from the Columbia R.). Harrogate Trail has had many uses over the years: to transport horses between the Columbia and Beaverfoot valleys, moving whiskey during prohibition, hunting and hiking. It took a lot of work to clear the trail because it hasn’t been used as much in recent years. Geoff and I carried a wee flask of whiskey up the pass to toast those who travelled the trail before us. The last half of the trail was very steep. There was still a foot of snow on top of the pass where Ben Guerard, Geoff, Taq and I posed for a picture at 2129 m.
Thankfully, the Wolverine Pass trail has been designed for travel by horseback, and is still used regularly. As we approached the pass, we could see the Bugaboo Mountains behind us in the distance, with Mount Gray beside us.
Geoff almost navigated a large drift near the top. This picture was taken right before Geoff’s foot sunk in, causing him to topple over and slide down the rest of the slope on his back and shoulders. Fortunately, Geoff held the canoe above his head with his arms straight to prevent him from being squashed by it. Once we established that Geoff was all right, we burst into laughter at the ridiculous sight.
We needed to head back down the pass to resupply and rest Taq’s foot. To protect the canoe from being nibbled on by critters (especially porcupines), we propped it up on the hitching post and ladder at the Wolverine Warden Cabin. We thought hikers might do a double-take upon encountering the 18 foot red canoe – we were right. Some hikers from Valemount sent a note to our webmaster saying that it “definitely stood out” on Wolverine Pass.
Our third and final mountain pass was the Continental Divide, at Ball Pass. A huge fire in 2003 burned a large area of Kootenay Park. The Hawk Creek Trail leading up to the pass was beautiful. There was a lovely contrast between the green forest floor and the blackened trees, with lots of wildflowers and incredible views of the Rockwall in the background.
Geoff and Ben alternated carrying the canoe up the mountain while I carried the pack. It contained, among other items important to our survival, a bottle of champagne. Our celebration was interrupted by a brief rain shower, but it didn’t dampen our spirits. We will be paddling with the current until Lake Winnipeg, MB! YAHOO!
The end picture shows us descending past Mount Ball. *Note: the water is now flowing with us ☺
A very special thank you to Ben Guerard. Who else would offer to help portage an 85 lb. canoe over 3 mountain passes? We were inspired by his strength, stamina and humility during the grueling portage.
For us, paddling into Calgary marked the transition between mountains and prairies. We spent 2 ½ years working here to save money for the trip (you can almost see our old office windows in the background).
Local Media Coverage:
Thank you to the following people:
- Wendy Harrison (Pam’s sister) for opening her home (repeatedly) to us while we organized and resupplied for the next leg. Not only did she tolerate our smelly gear being strewn about her lawn, garage and basement; but she made time to play an enthusiastic game of Rock Band as well!
- Brian McKirdy for shuttling us to and from his home during the portage between Tete Jaune Cache and Valemount, BC. Liz whipped up a delicious lunch with barely any notice of our arrival!
- Horsethief for stopping us on the road during the Valemount portage to give us Thai food for the trip
- Bob Mousseau, Sonny Mousseau and Keith for sharing their Budweiser, spaghetti and good senses of humour on Kinbasket Lake
- Rick (owner of Kinbasket Lake Resort) for allowing us to store our canoe at his campground while we left to resupply
- Phil Harrison (Pam’s Dad) for driving all the way from Fort McMurray (twice!) to assist in difficult logistics. After arriving at Kinbasket Lake, we really enjoyed the large steaks and beverages he brought.
- Tannis & Steve of Sorcerer Lodge for opening their home to us, shuttling us, putting on a great BBQ, and sharing local knowledge of Harrogate Pass
- Deanna Anderson for showing us how to sabre champagne. She knows how to open a bottle with style! Deanna, we’ll be sure to pass it on.
- Mike Archibald and his 11th Grade Social Studies class for their attention and patience during our first class visit ever!
- Will & Dorothy Wardwell for allowing us to base camp on their property while we cleared the Harrogate Pass Trail. A special thank you to Will for serenading us with his guitar on our 2nd Anniversary; and for a copy of his CD.
- Kevin Finnegan (www.goldenhikes.ca) for the “Golden” tip on finding the trail up Harrogate Pass. We regret that Taq’s sore foot prevented us from hiking with him.
- Ken Schroder of Parks Canada for sharing his knowledge of the history and culture of the mountain parks; and critical trail tips for Wolverine Pass. It was the key to our success in Kootenay National Park!
- Mike Matthews and Jane Crow for inviting to their lovely home and garden for dinner.
- Wendy Bush & Doug Brown for sharing their home with us, regaling us with lively local stories, and helpful tips on archiving our adventure.
- Christine Clitheroe & Peter MacDonald (Geoff’s brother) for providing a great place for Taq to recover from his paw injury
- Nelson of Canadian Rockies Rafting for his invaluable information regarding the log jam at Dead Man’s Flats and the portage around Horseshoe Canyon on the Bow River.
- Freda and Blaine Montague for inviting us into their RV during pouring rain and warming us up with tea and cake.
- Brian and Burdine Rex for storing our canoe while we resupply in Calgary
- Edwin MacDonald (Geoff’s brother) and Wendy Lumby for allowing us to use their home and computer while we resupply and write this newsletter.
Where do we go from here?
We are looking forward to 2,000 km of sunny skies and downriver paddling to Lake Winnipeg. The Bow R. joins the Oldman R. and turns into the South Saskatchewan R. at The Grand Forks, AB. At Medicine Hat, the river turns northeast and flows through Lake Diefenbaker, SK, to Saskatoon. Near Prince Albert, SK, the South and North Saskatchewan R. merge to form the Saskatchewan R. We’ll then paddle near Cumberland House, SK, then through The Pas, MB, into Cedar Lake and through Grand Rapids into Lake Winnipeg, MB.