So Neil and I went on a canoeing/camping trip.
Oh my holy hell.
Honestly, I had a good time – but I’m not particularly pleased with:
-the guy who rented us canoes
-the BC Forest Service
-those who use their campsites regularly
We did the Sayward Lakes canoe circuit, which has been advertised all over the place as perfectly suitable for novices. The recommended time for the journey is 3-4 days, and we allowed 5, so we figured we’d be good with the time and our levels of fitness and experience.
Boy were we wrong.
Well, not so much us – but this is definitely not a trip for novices to either canoeing or backpacking. Or those who have a strong aversion to poor planning, bad direction or piles and piles and piles of shit.
For those not “in the know” – canoes come with wheels these days. They fit nicely in the bottom when you’re paddling, and strap to the underside for portaging. So you’d expect that the person renting and instructing you on the use of said wheels would tell you the correct way to use them. You’d be wrong. We were told to put the wheels on the back 1/3 of the canoe and pull it along behind us. Because we’re bumping down root- and rock-covered trails, the wheels would bump bump bounce off the narrow back end. Not to mention the incredible amount of effort required to pull the canoe (loaded with our stuff) through the forest.
Thankfully we met another canoeist along the way who had his wheels right under the middle of the boat. After we tried that method we found the canoes were much easier to maneuver, dealt with the weight much better, the wheels actually stayed on and portaging was all around much more pleasant.
So now that we’ve figured out the wheel situation, you’d expect that an advertised canoe portage trail would be suitable for the wheels that everyone is allegedly using. You’d be wrong again. In various places there are logs over the trails (unstrap the wheels, lift the canoe, strap back on), the corners are too narrow to get the canoe around, there are dangerous downhills (tricky to walk down, let alone wrangle a canoe on wheels without letting it go). In one shining example, we canoed down a canal, only to find that there was a giant log at the output to the next lake! We had to precariously get out of the canoe onto the log, drag the canoe over some bushes (growing out of mud) around the log, and put back in (covered in mud of course) without falling in the lake and/or tipping the canoe.
But we made it. Because at least the trails, while difficult, were well marked and the map was easy to follow, right? Oh no – wrong again. Trail markers were mostly nonexistent. When they were visible they were in stupid places (like 6″ off the ground), or faded out to grey so they were nearly impossible to see from any distance. One part of the trail (Twin Lake and Swamp Channels) had very little direction on the map or trail (we were “lost” for a good 2 hours), and finally sent us over 3 beaver dams to get to the next lake. Sorry Beavers. Nevermind the danger of leaving people to “find their own way” in the woods, the destroying a dam thing just can’t be ecologically sound…
At least the camping was nice, though! Except, not so much. I understand that part of the allure of visiting a BC Forest Service campsite is the fact that they’re a) usually fairly remote and b) usually free. The downside to that is the fact that they rarely had any facilities. No worry – people will just dig a hole. Except they don’t. The campsites are COVERED in landmines. People seem to just shit where the urge strikes them. It’s completely gross. Add to that the fact that our dog fancies herself a turd-burgler – we learned pretty quick we had to keep her tied up in camp, or risk having her run off and return with an upset tummy and some VERY bad breath.
So the canoes sucked. The trails sucked. The campsites sucked.
At least the weather was nice? Hahahaha. Of course not. There was rain on the first night, and record breaking rain on the 2nd night. Raindrops falling so hard and thick that they hurt.
So is it any surprise that after night two, Neil and I bailed? The entire group decided to cut across a logging road that bisects the circuit and head back to the starting point. If the weather improved or the group was up to it, camping would continue at sites on the lake where we initially put in so at least we were somewhere familiar, shit-free, and within reach of the cars should the situation not improve. Neil and I took that opportunity to finally escape the rain (which it did for one more night) and actually ended up spending the next two days at his parents’ lodge instead of camping. That was entirely pleasant and relaxing. The rest of the group had a great time on the last night as well – the weather cleared right up and the lake itself was gorgeous.
So while I’m definitely still a fan of camping, and definitely still like canoeing – I have a strong suspicion that in my world, never again shall the two meet.