K2inCanada's Blog

August 16, 2016

First ever …

Filed under: Canada, Hike, Paddle — K2 in Canada @ 7:28 AM

BC Day Long Weekend Jul 30-Aug 1. Despite the traffic disaster last year (see here) we went on a road trip again but only for two of the three days. We packed up the new tent Saturday morning and headed into the interior to do our first ever whitewater canoe trip on the Sunday. On the way we stopped at the Coquihalla summit along Hwy #5 for our first ever hike in that beautiful area. For many, many years we wanted to do Yak Peak but after reading up on the hikes in the area we decided on Needle Peak instead. We were not the only ones. I was surprised about the amount of cars parked at the trail head. The stats for this hike aren’t nearly as daunting as Outram and it seems more people like to show themselves hiking along here. We passed a few groups going up through the forest. It was reasonably steep. Once in the open on the ridge the crowd thinned out a bit and it’s an easy ridge walk with great views over Yak and the surrounding mountains until you reach the start of the scramble. Here people started to bunch up again. We saw people in sandals up there for crying out loud. It might only be a 880m elevation gain but by the time you reach the top your are at just above 2o00M elevation! We saw a plane flying BELOW us from the top. And there definitely is some scrambling involved in 2 sections getting to the top. It was fun though. We got lucky at the top with a big group just leaving when we got there. So it was relatively quiet. Only got bothered by a type of squirrel – a ground squirrel size chipmunk. The little critter already had its cheeks full of stuff but had to still take a bite out of my camera as well. And it was windy on the top – all the way up actually – and almost cold despite endless sunshine and blue skies. We huddled in behind a rock as much out of the wind as we could with our feet dangling over the drop-off to have our snack and to enjoy the great views. I was worried that the way down would be trickier than up but it was fine. Only the wind got even stronger and it really felt like it was trying to blow us of the mountain in sections. Hands were used a lot – I should have brought work cloves to protect them from the sharp rocks. We made it back to the ridge safe and sound. Since it had taken us only less than 2hrs to the top we decided to do a little detour to an alpine lake on the other side of the ridge. What a neat little lake – great for camping if you want to lug your gear up here. That detour added about 45min to the trip and we were back at the car 5hrs later.

Next up – finding a campsite on BC Day Long Weekend. Actually first we dropped into Merritt for an early dinner at the Pub. We, make that Jeff, had two options scouted out for the night. Either a small provincial park in Savona, the place where we were to meet the people that were going to take us whitewater canoeing. Or Leigthon Lake, one of our back in the days spring fly fishing destinations before they made it into a provincial park. We definitely were looking for provincial park to avoid any noisy crowds. We decided on Leighton, thinking it would be higher in elevation and therefore cooler at night. Well, we did not have to worry about being too hot that night. As we left Merritt heading north towards Logan Lake we could see big dark black clouds ahead of us. As we got to near Logan Lake their was lightning as well and the first rain drops started falling. It rained when we arrived at Leighton and it was cold. Lucky for us the rain stopped long enough to set up camp and for me to go for a short walk. But most of the evening we spent sitting in our camping chairs in our nice big vestibule reading – tent fulfilled its purpose :-). We were in bed by 9PM I think. But our tent did well in its first ever BC drizzle.

Sunday – Canoe Day! We were going to canoe the Thompson River from Savona to Ashcroft. The Thompson is a big river. We had done organized whitewater rafting trips in big inflatable rafts in the lower Thompson before and those rapids are massive (Class 3+ and 4). It was a blast but I could not see myself going through those in anything less than a big inflatable raft. Definitely not in an open canoe! Apparently our stretch had only up to class 2+ rapids. Classified on Wikipedia as “Novice” = “Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily avoided by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated Class II+”. But off course I did not look that up till after we got back. They were classified by Darryl, our experienced leader of the day as “Open canoes may take on water and we will likely have to rescue a boat”. I was a bit nervous not being the most comfortable around waves and was prepared, somewhat, to go swimming.

Lucky for us, it had stopped raining when we got up. But the sky was still grey and everything got packed up wet. As we dropped down into Savona the sun broke through the clouds and we had breakfast at the spot where we thought we would meet the other – Steelhead Provincial Park – overlooking Kamloops Lake. The lake looked calm and beautiful and I was thinking this is going to be easy. It almost felt warm in the sun. The time to meet the others came and went. We were wondering if they maybe canceled last minute and we didn’t hear about it since we had been on the road. But a quick call to the organizer’s wife confirm that the trip was still on. So where are they or where were we supposed to be if not where we were sitting? As those thoughts crossed our minds Darryl drove into the parking lot, spun around right away telling us to follow. Of course the launch spot was nowhere near the actual provincial park but on the other side of the highway. Here the lake turned into a river again and I was much less feeling like this is going to be easy. Darryl quickly helped us to set up our canoe – mostly filled with flotation bags and just enough room for us and the bailing buckets. Yep, I was now SURE we would go swimming. We meet the other 3 paddlers. Darryl’s paddling buddy Christina – who had brought a bike helmet, why did I not think of that. And Scott and his young son Jonas. The guys left us girls behind to watch the boats while they were doing the car shuttle to Ashcroft. As we waited and chatted dark clouds started to move in and a pretty steady wind was blowing out of the west up the river. It was not warm. About 45min into the wait is started raining. And not just a little drizzle but a nice heavy downpour with strong winds. Of course I had left my rain coat in the car. It’s supposed to be 25-30C and sunny in the interior this time of the year, not 10-15C and rainy! Within minutes Christina and I were soak to the bone and cold. We huddled in behind some bushes to at least get out of the wind. No trees around to stay out of the rain. Anyways, the rain only lasted 15min or so and as it stopped so did the wind. Much better. The guys drove in shortly after. Time to finally do some canoeing!!! But first I changed into a dry shirt and put my rain coat since I could see more black clouds where we were heading.

I was in the front, Jeff in the back. He at least knows how to steer a canoe. First off we practiced some eddy turns in calm water. The front person has to post their paddle and lean right into it … or the current could push the canoe over. Worked like a charm. Canoe also felt more stable than I thought and was gliding easily over the moving water to wherever we wanted it to go. We were ready! Off we go down the mighty Thompson River in an open canoe. It didn’t take long to the first rapid. We got out and walked up the steep bank to scout it out. There were a few lines through, some easier, some harder. To me they all looked hard – breaking waves and fast moving water. Do I really want to do this? Oh well, sure didn’t want to walk to Ashcroft so back into the canoe we went. Darryl and Christina were going for the bigger water while Scott and Jonas went for the saver water. Guess whom we followed…yep, right into the big stuff. And we actually made it through without tipping. It was actually fun and the canoe handled the rapid very nicely. We took on a little bit of water but not much. Oh yeah, we can do this. Let’s do some eddy turns in actually moving water. We were a bit off on the timing but made it. Next 1 or 2 rapids, no problem. We missed an eddy turn and almost got stuck in some really shallow water. But we stayed up. Then there was the big one: Train Bridge Rapid. We pulled out again to look at it. This one looked MUCH bigger, water stacking up high against the bridge pillars. Darryl and Christina went for the biggest water. This time I voted against following them and go for the somewhat less scary looking side. To get there though we had to ferry across the river. It looked like we would have plenty of room to make it across but the bridge came flying towards us. I paddled as hard as I could but we never made it all the way to the safe side. Last minute we pulled the canoe around to not crash sideways into one of the pillars and just went heads first for this big wave between two pillars just off the centre. A bit dicey for a second but we made it. I looked ahead for Darryl and Christina but could not see them right away – they had capsized! Scott and Jonas flew by us on our left to go for the rescue. We just hung back as we were told and watched it. In no time they had the canoe back up and were paddling again. I was watching so intently I forgot to take pictures of the rescue. I think this was for sure the biggest rapid. A couple more smaller rapids and we stopped for lunch at Juniper Beach. Till then we had some strong winds and some light rain showers on and off but during our lunch the sun came out and it calmed right down. Nice to warm up in the sun, especially for the two most adventurous canoeists that got wet.

Lunch was at about the half way point – couple of hrs of canoeing. The second half saw more rapids, none as scary big as Train Bridge but some pretty big standing waves to get through nonetheless. We also tried more eddy turns in bigger water – we sucked. Almost tipped the canoe twice. One time I could have sworn we would go in. I tried to post my paddle but I think I was to early and there was no back pressure on my paddle, so I sat back up when all sudden the current pushed the canoe around. Jeff said we almost took on water we were leaning so far over to the WRONG side. No idea how we stayed up. The tireder I got the worst our eddy turns. I think that’s were it would have been better  to have a more experience person in the boat who can read water and call the moves. We seem to never start the turns at the right time. It got so bad that we got stuck in one eddy and the only saving grace was to go ahead into the following rapids. Until then we always followed Darryl or Scott to make sure we took the correct line. This time, they were still behind us, in the eddy to check the rapid out before going down it. Oh well, there was no checking it out on our part, we just went for it. Right in between two huge waves. We took on quite a bit of water but we stayed up. Yeah!! Then one of the last rapids… “don’t tip here since a rescue would be difficult in this spot”… I did not need to hear that. We took the easier line but again flunked the eddy turn after it and ended up spinning around a couple times and going downriver backwards. Experienced canoers do that all the time, no sweat. But to me that was one of the scariest moments. I hate going backwards! Again, we managed somehow, not very gracefully but we made it. And shortly after we were at the pull out in Ashcroft. A small beach area and not to be missed since after this the canyon would start and the difficulty rating goes up quite a notch. We did not miss the turnout :-). Never mentioned it yet but stunning scenery all the way! It took about 5hrs. I am amazed we did not capsize! Thanks to Darryl for getting us into a canoe and taking newbies on a trip like this! Jeff is already scouting the canoe races we could do next year … 🙂

We loaded the canoes and drove back to Savona to pick up our car. Now the long drive home. But traffic was light since it was only Sunday and Monday would still be off.


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