Family Travel: Giving Tweens the Gift of Backcountry

Probably the greatest gift my father ever gave me was our backcountry trips. I don’t remember much about the preparation for those trips–it seemed like we simply got in his ancient Peugeot equipped with sausages and juice crystals and off we went.

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I knew that I wanted my own children to have the same experiences I remembered from my time in the BC wilderness, so I decided it was time to take our girls (ages nine and twelve) with my experienced and capable husband on a backcountry canoe trip. I knew it would be a great gift to them, particularly during a time when travel was restricted. A canoe trip to the iconic Bowron Lake was sure to be memorable.

I started planning for the trip when I made a BC Parks reservation. Once I gained access to the reservation date in late July, I decided to then work on booking a cabin for us to stay at both at the beginning and end of the trip. I booked a cabin at Becker’s Lodge located on Bowron Lake, which turned out to be a brilliantly run accommodation. I also downloaded the MEC gear list. I looked for information online, but more helpful were books that I borrowed from friends and the library.

As a teacher, I couldn’t resist having some knowledge and area history to pass on to my kids as we travelled. Once we had bought, rented and borrowed the gear we needed and secured rental of a cabin at the beginning and end of the trip, the day arrived. We drove from the Lower Mainland for the better part of a day to Bowron Lake Provincial Park.

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The trip began with an orientation at the trailhead with the park ranger. We weighed our gear and, as expected, we had to carry the backpacks. The food was allowed to be stored in the canoes as we wheeled them along the trail. Our first portage was a challenge as we had yet to figure out balancing our canoes on the wheels. We paddled tiny Kibbe Lake and then completed a short portage, which took us to beautiful Indian Point Lake. We camped on Indian Point Lake with another family at the campsite beside us. It was a beautiful spot overlooked by mountains on all sides and we were lucky that the site did not have many bugs. We swam during the warm afternoon and enjoyed the sunset.

Our second day consisted of a paddle through the rest of Indian Point lake and a gorgeous shallow area. I knew that if we missed the west side of the circuit as a result of the wildfires that were burning there, we may not have seen the wildlife that grazed the grassy shallows. It turned out that there were many grassy areas on the east side, though. There, we saw beaver houses, eagles, fish, loons, and many plants. At the end of Indian Point Lake was a floating dock that led us to the largest lake on the Bowron Lakes circuit: Isaac Lake.

This is where we got our fishing gear out and on the first day, we caught a gorgeous rainbow trout. I am not much of a fisherperson, but my older daughter was keen and so we tried our luck using borrowed fishing gear. We caught and ate three tasty rainbow trout in total, frying them on our little stove. Near the end of Isaac Lake, where we had to turn around at the head of the Isaac River due to the fires on the west side, we spotted a cow moose and her two calves.

One morning, we spotted a black bear meandering along the shore. While we were lucky that the park was quiet this year, part of the joy in backcountry travel included the rangers and other paddlers we connected with along the way.

The weather was remarkably warm on our trip, and I do think that trips are that much better when the weather is good. Through the rain and smoke we encountered during the last few days of our trip, we were comfortable in our rain gear and we also used the wood-burning stove one evening in the public cabin on Kibbe Lake.

The girls and I wrote in a notebook every evening. We played cards, and we looked at our map since there is no service anywhere in the park for electronic devices. The evenings provided quiet time to reflect on the day and connect with each other.

I feel immensely grateful that we were able to spend time in Bowron Lake Provincial Park this past summer. After we returned home, some of our friends shared that they had thought that we were over-ambitious. Yet, with good planning and our own past experience, it was a wonderful trip. Being in the backcountry together turned out to be the gift I had hoped it would be for my tweens.

Story by Genevieve Taylor

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