Building An Earthship In Darfield, B.C.

We are a family of five living in Darfield, BC.
Our house is six hundred square feet in total and we are feeling cramped.

We have decided to build an earthship!

So starts the adventure ...

Friday, August 21, 2009

First installment of our Bowron Lake trip

We've been procrastinating about posting about our kayaking trip in Bowron Lake Provincial Park. So many things needed to be done when we returned; unpacking, 4-H, wisdom teeth removal, repairs to equipment and organizing ourselves for our next round of earthship volunteers.

Preparations for the trip took about a week. We evaluated our equipment, filled in the gaps ($700 worth), built a kayak rack for our trailer, planned menus, dehydrated food, froze food, packaged food, made checklists, marked checklists off...I was EXHAUSTED before we even left.

For the 10 days before we left we had been looking after hens and lambs for our neighbours and friends, the Schillings, while they were on holidays in Saskatchewan. They looked after ours when we left; however there was a three-day overlap where none of us were in the North Thompson. Thanks to Mickey Kinloch, our across-the-road neighbour, our lambs were fed, the eggs collected (they started laying in earnest and word has it that Mickey stuffed the overflow egg production in neighbours' newspaper boxes while we were gone! Excellent!) and our garden watered.

Our 350 km drive to Wells, B.C. took us most of Thursday, August 6th. Our kids used to sleep on long trips, now we have to stop for pee breaks, photo opportunities, lunch, to stretch our legs...

We arrived at the Bowron Lake provincial campground late afternoon where we had arranged to meet with Mike and Linda Casey (in the photo), friends of the Burkholder family from way back. Mike and Linda are avid outdoorspeople and hunters so their wilderness experience was welcomed by all of us. Later that evening my brother Tom and sister-in-law Stephanie showed up with friends Alan Yu, Pawan & Simita Pandoh. That evening Chris, the kids and I took the mandatory orientation which told us which beverage containers were prohibited -- somehow a Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade (or two) appeared on Day 3, emerging from my dry ice bag, much to my delight, oops, make that chagrin, along with crispy cold butter and sausages. During the orientation we were warned of a bear sighting at site 15, which was closed for the short term.

The best news was that a group reservation had canceled and we were offered the spot! Although Stephanie had tried to reserve our troupe of 12 people as a group (which guarantees a camping spot each night) we were too late back when she reserved in April. But now, there was a campsite waiting for us every night as long as we followed the 7 night schedule. No problem, we had only planned on spending 8 days in the park anyway.

The morning of August 7th we took all our belongings to the scale to be weighed. Because of the phenomenal traffic on the Bowron Lakes circuit, each boat (canoe or kayak) can only carry 60 lbs of gear/food in the watercraft while portaging to save the portage trails. We had weighed our gear before we left and we knew we were going to have to carry some of our gear in packs on our backs during the portages. Fortunately, we Newtons had three boats, so we could carry 180 pounds in the boats on the portages.

After hearing lots of stories of the strictness of this weigh in procedure we were pleasantly surprised that the parks official was fairly lenient. I figure that we probably ended up with her o.k. on about 70-80 pounds per boat. By the time we were weighed in we were left with about 15 pounds of gear; not worth bringing a backpack. We had also been told that if the kids were carrying backpacks and became tired they could throw them in the boats on the portaging. The trails were hardpacked because of the hot weather and because our first meal was a fairly substantial one, we stuffed our pockets with a few things and threw the remaining gear in the boats. Backpack-free! The photo of the five of us is our starting photo taken at the very beginning of the circuit. The first portage starts right behind us. Notice our smiles, notice our clean clothing, notice how well the kayaks are packed with all our gear stowed below decks. Notice my new camping sweater...made to dry quickly and keep me warm. I was to quickly give this to Katie when her 4-H sweater got soaked on Day 2 and never did get dry again. Katie assured me every 8 hours after getting my sweater, especially on the cold rainy days, that she was "really warm".

The circuit started with a 2.4 km portage from the registration cabin (go to ) for the park brochure and map. We were a little worried about how the kids would do portaging the Pungo but they did quite well, although later they figured out if they fed half a paddle through the front carrying handle, they could be as effective as horses in pulling it. Yes, we got the sound effects for most of the 8 days, too!

We hit a little glitch at about the 1.8 km mark when Tom and Chris went back to look for Pawan and Simmie, who had still been weighing gear when we left. They had too much to put in the canoe and hadn't brought backpacks, so Chris ran back to our truck and grabbed one of our backpacks for them to use. The photo to the left is Pawan (pronounced Paw-ven) taking a break at one of the rests on the very first portage. When we got to Kibbee Lake we all piled in and paddled to group site #7.

While we were eating we could hear a bit of yelling at site #6 and wondered if we had a rowdy bunch of neighbours. By 9:00 pm we were all in bed, with Stephen in his own tent, the girls in theirs and Chris and I in ours. At 9:20 we heard somebody in our campsite warning us that they'd chased a black bear away and it was headed our way. I got out of the tent, as did Tom. A few minutes later most of the adults were out of bed, too. As a group we decided to wake up our wilderness experts. I leaned down to their opening and whispered, "Mike?" No answer. A little louder, "MIKE?". I got a groggy reply and told him what we'd heard. There was a silence and Mike replied, that he wouldn't worry about it too much. Linda helpfully added, "I've got some bear spray here, just in case."

Which reminded me that I should grab ours. Which I did and joined the other adults who, I have to say were a bit giddy. There seemed to be a lot of jokes about bear bait and such. Unfortunately, the portage hadn't worn out Katie sufficiently and she was still awake when we were warned by our neighbour. So we spent a lot of time hanging around in the near dark trying to re-assure her.

About 9:45 we spotted him. Everyone was quiet for a bit and we watched him walk across our campsite, about 30-40 feet from us. I haven't seen a bear up close in quite a while and it certainly struck me how lithe and graceful they are...until it walked up to Stephen's tent and started sniffing it. And it suddenly struck me that it was quite possible, despite our years of warnings, that one of the kids may have taken food into their tents. So I started to get a bit agitated and woke Mike up, who unzipped his tent and stuck his head out. The bear turned around and walked back towards us and that suddenly was enough for us. We started banging pots and making noise. Katie blew her whistle.

I don't think Mike was in accord with our methods as he quietly said we should just let him be. After what seemed like far too long, it seemed like we managed to scare the bear off. At this point Katie was in a right state and Chris and I decided to move our real estate. We moved our tent to the same tent pad as the girls and Katie slept with me. Chris moved in with Stephen. Neither Helen nor Stephen woke during the evenings activities!

The next morning I was awake at 5:30 and decided to sit by the lake and write in my journal, which I had optimistically brought along. Here is my journal entry for August 8th, 2009:

I'm writing this at 5:45 on Saturday. The sun isn't even up on Indian Point Lake but the sky, which has been clear for days, promises a great sunrise at some point this morning.

Last night a camper from the site next to us came over after we had all retired to our tents to warn us that they had chased a bear away and it was headed our way! Talk about heart racing information!

Chris and I got up as did Tom. Eventually all the adults were out of their tents and by consensus I woke Mike, who has probably had
more experience with wildlife (dead or alive) than all of us put together.

After explaining to him what we had been told, he groggily replied "He's probably
not going to come anywhere near us". After brief directions about where their bear spray was...silence pointedly emanated from their tent.

By this time, Katie, who was still awake, of course, had gone from quietly falling to pieces to sobbing quietly in the tent she shared with Helen. I told her if she felt better about it she could join the adults. Helen and Stephen were taking a page from Mike and Linda's book and continued to sleep.

With Katie by my side, and the other six, non-Casey adults now dressed and gathered in front of tents, we waited. Self deprecating comments about our ability to outrun a bear followed comments about how the bear would find the shortest person the tastiest.

Katie is tall but still is 4 or 5 inches shorter than I am. I felt her stiffen next to me, even more so when Simmie laughed and expressed great relief that we had children with us so that she wasn't the shortest person in the group! Helen and Stephen....SH*T!

How do I explain my expletive? Well as I was writing I heard dishes clanking and thinking that Chris had woken up and was making tea for me, I stood up to look over the tent, only to be staring eyeball to eyeball with the bear! O.K. not quite eyeball to eyeball, but about 25 feet separated us. It's an interesting observation about my personality that I sat right back down, wrote my expletive, underlined it and put an exclamation mark at the end before I unzipped the tent and dove in. Katie and Helen were awake and wanted to get out. I had a split second debate with myself about what to do to avert panic, but decided the truth should prevail. I whispered the news to the girls and got some very round eyes.

I then leaned over and woke up Mike. (I seemed to wake him up a lot.)

At this point everyone got dressed and got out of their tents. After pacing the campsite the bear headed to the water and our boats. Our kayaks to be exact. After a few minutes the men started banging and yelling and it disappeared into the bushes. With half of the Newton stash of peanuts/smarties snacks for the week. (We figured this out later when Mike retrieved the bag which had been stashed behind my seat in the kayak.) I take full responsibility for this oversight; it wasn't the usual place for our food and I missed it the previous night when we emptied gear. However, this bear had obviously found human food many times before so I can console myself somewhat that I didn't actually create a problem; I just fed it.

Our group made breakfast and stayed close together around a single fire pit (not lit, there was a campfire ban in effect throughout B.C.) We kept an eye on the bear but after a while it got nosy again and Mike thought we should pack up and leave. My last sight of this bear was Pawan standing on the lakeshore with his arms spread, yelling and trying to back himself into his canoe with an approaching bear, while the rest of us were pushing off!

Here are some more photos from our first few days on the circuit. Installment #2 to be posted in a few days.


Hester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I don't know if I should let Jim read this. One of the reasons we gave up camping was that he could never sleep, worrying about bear attacks. Weirdly, several places where we camped later did have bear attacks, one fatal.
Glad your bear went away on his own.
Cheers, Jan
P.S. Great shot of you in the kayak, Sandra!