In August of 2001 three friends arranged to paddle over 700 kilometers through some of British Columbia's most beautiful and rugged terrain, the Chilko, Chilkoten, and Fraser Rivers - completing the journey in Vancouver. For one of the adventurers, organiser Bruce Kirkby, the river trip was the last three legs, "Each leg of the journey is a staggering challenge; each, in and of itself, is the trip of a lifetime. Together they form a three-month odyssey of epic proportions." Bruce has a 3 part article in the Globe and Mail on his adventure.
Pick up a copy of Bruce Kirkby's
Shaun Boughen, Derrick Law, and Ian Symington (shuttle bunny) departed Whitehorse, Yukon for a 2200 kilometer shuttle to the put in where they would meet up with Bruce. Ian (aka, Symo, Tex, and "bloody big Aussie") having the pleasure of driving the car 2200 kms back to Yukon.
On the last page of this travelogue is a link to the pictures described on this journey.
Day 1 - August 5, 2001 Whitehorse-Liard-Toad River
Planning to be packed and on the road by 9am, we finally rolled out of Whitehorse at 2:30pm. Ah, the leisurely life of a boater.
We made great time, averaging well above the posted limits all the way to Watson Lake where we chowed at the Watson Lake Hotel, in the funky, dark lounge and played a couple games of pool while we waited.
Two hours later we pulled into Liard Hot Springs, debating where to stay since the campground was full. We chose to soak for a while and continue driving until we found a rest area where we could just set up the tents under the shacks.
There were a pile of 20-somethings partying in the cooler part of the springs as it was a long weekend in BC. All was fine until one bonehead threw his beer bottle into the bushes where it broke with a seemingly thunderous crash. Within 5 minutes the Park Ranger was in the water with his flashlight throwing people out - until he noticed the nubile young women when his demeanor changed noticeably ;-)
We left shortly after, and made it to Toad River Lodge. They have rooms open and you just walk in and pay in the morning, very convenient for middle of the night road weary travelers! Sleep was so very needed.
Day 2 – Aug 6 Toad River-Prince George
Had set the alarm to go off at 8:30, but we woke at 10... this is becoming a familiar story! Food at the Toad River Hotel is not good from what we sampled, but we weren't expecting so either.
The drive was pretty much a blur, (speeds not recorded to protect the guilty) and only stopped for fuel and finally a beer and a bite in Dawson Creek. We did however, chance upon a number of goats, deer and caribou in the Stone Mountain area.
Rolled into Prince George around 10:30pm and followed directions to a good friend's house where a full on bbq and cold beers were waiting; Nick is a fantastic host. He was on the Karnali trip last October in Nepal, and was renowned for his morning trumpet wake up.
Tomorrow we head to Williams Lake to pick up Bruce, gear, and groceries. Then drive south-west 4 hours on some questionable roads to Chilko Lake.
Day 3 – Aug 7 Prince George-Williams Lake
As per usual, we awoke later than we anticipated and didn't leave Prince George until 12:00, after having a relaxing coffee with Nick.
We rolled into Williams Lake around 2:30pm and pulled into the Sandman Inn where Bruce was waiting in the lobby. Shaun had an enormous list of things to do, Bruce had done most of the shopping the day before (when he expected us.... a little mis-communication) but we wanted a few last minute items.
Bruce had been staying in the hotel for 8 nights recovering from a bad round of gardia that caused him to lose 28 pounds. We rarely saw him without a big gulp or a bottle of water in his hand as he was still trying to re-hydrate himself.
We picked up such necessities as spare paddles, kayak back bands, and coffee at Red Shreds, a fantastic bike/board/kayak shop in Williams Lake. Mark bent over backwards to ensure we had the last minute gear for our trip. If you ever visit Williams Lake, make sure you stop in and check out the store.
Our errands took longer than expected and we decided to stay the night and head out in the morning. A feast at the Oliver Street pub was a great end to our last evening in 'civilization'.
Day 4 – Aug 8 Williams Lake-Chilko Lake
Once again, we slept longer than we had hoped, not leaving town until 1:00pm. The road to the Chilko Lake cutoff was perfect, then turned into a rough dirt road for 55km. The lake was spectacular, varying shades of crystal clear blue water nestled in a beautiful valley.
There were at least a half dozen boats on the lake fishing for it's prized Dolly Varden. We were lucky to get the last camping site that just happened to be right on the lakeshore, making a perfect launching platform for our raft and kayaks.
Our neighbors had a couple kayaks with them, so when they returned from a hike to the ridge overlooking the lake we discussed the Chilko at length. Hal and Tracey live in Canmore but have a cabin in Golden where they ski and kayak the Kicking Horse river. Talk about a charmed life!
After a delicious dinner of bbq steaks, Shaun, Symo, and I decided to head to the Chilko Lake Resort for a cold beer. We didn't think that it would be open at 11:00pm but there were a few people sitting around. There was a foosball table which we immediately descended upon and challenged the locals to a match. I played against a 20 year old woman who was concentrating so hard on the game, and was so good that she destroyed me in the first game. By the third game I was able to squeek out a win by one point - only because she was dead tired.
We started talking to the only other people there, managing to get one into a doubles game with the bartender versus Symo and I. We must have played a dozen matches, winning a fair share. Turns out that one guy was Bill Muckalt, a hockey player that just got traded to Ottawa, and his step-father Al, a local guide. They were heading out the next day for some fly-in fishing. We ended up staying until 4 in the morning as the bartender would keep pouring drinks until there was no one left to pour for. Bill had some great stories from his seasons playing with the Canucks and Islanders.
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