Wells Gray Provincial Park | Canoeing Murtle Lake: Pt. 2

Song in Headphones: Open Shores

A Prologue |

My arms were on fire. I was so exhausted it was to a point I wasn’t even looking up. My arms were moving in this repetitive motion, I was unconscious of my other surroundings. I remember being disillusioned, looking at the tree line and seeing us move maybe a foot every 5 strokes. How are we going to get out of this? The thought of us being pulled so far back into the rapids left an unsettling feeling in my stomach. I eventually forced the image out of my head and just focused on paddling. The hardest part was getting around the bend and angling the canoe so that we wouldn’t get pushed into the left bank and really get screwed.


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Day 4 | Tropicana to Kostal

Today, we headed for our third campsite: Kostal. One word I’d use to describe Kostal? Mosquitoes…a whole shit load of them. I don’t usually get annoyed by mozzies, but this was on a whole different level.

Kostal Site rests nice and close to the shore. It faces east which makes for a gorgeous sunrise every morning. We got to Kostal around 10:30. Arriving at the site, we unpacked and set up camp right away. Our plan all along was to make it to Kostal, then set out to do the McDougall Falls Hike.

To access the hike was about a 45-minute paddle east. We first made it to the abandoned shelter (thinking this was where the trail head was…which it wasn’t). This shelter was super old…like early 1900’s, ghosts-live-here old. Inside were four bunk beds and a few old metal beds that still had the rickety springs on it…eerie I know. After exploring the ruin, we came to realization this was not the trailhead location. Turns out it was another 5 minute paddle down the bank.

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The McDougall falls hike says it’s a 1.5 hour round-trip. Well that’s a lie. It took us at least 3.5 hours. The trail itself is super easy and gains minimal elevation. In fact, you’re situated pretty close to the river the entire way. Its ragging rapids yell out the entire way making it difficult to hear anything else around you.

Around half way from the falls, we all experienced something out of the norm. I was leading the hike at the time when all of I sudden I was stopped in my tracks. Bear?! Someone said. At first I couldn’t see anything ahead or around me. It wasn’t until I took a few more paced forward when I finally saw what they were seeing. Ahead of me was a medium sized bush – that was shaking. Oh shit. “HELLO!!” I yelled, and the bush stopped for a second, then continued to sway back and forth again. Mother of god it’s a bear…it HAS to be a bear. I continued to take a few more steps towards the bush until I saw this massive brown thing. Maybe it’s a moose…oh my god it could be my first moose sighting! As the brown thing came into focus it’s repetitive back and forth motions started to make sense: OK, these are two moose totally going at it. I figured if we slowly approached the two lovers they’d get scared off and do their kinky business somewhere else. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but as I got closer the big brown mass wasn’t a moose…but a fallen down tree. Half of the trunk was in the rapids, and the other half was on land. The rapids caused the up and down movement of the tree…darn it anyways.

We reached McDougall falls, relieved and eaten alive (well…I was eaten alive). The falls itself are beautiful, massive and serene. We all sat down, took in the view and ate lunch.

After enjoying the falls, we headed back. Even through it wasn’t an excruciating hike, we were all too excited when we saw our canoes once again.

I forgot to mention, when making your way to the trailhead of McDougall falls, the last part of the way situates you in a moving current (which of course is great to paddle with), but what we forgot about was the fact in order to make it back to Kostal, we would have to paddle against this mofo of a current. It was tough, and excruciating work, but we did it. Paddling through it put me into a totally different mind set. I had never work so hard to save my life.

As you could imagine, we were staved arriving safe and sound to Kostal – just in time for poutine! The mosquitoes only got worse as the night went on; needless to say, I finally whipped out my mozzie head net.

Day 5 | Kostal to Leo Island 

Rise and Shine. I was up at 5 this morning (don’t as me why). On the plus side, I got to experience the most beautiful sunrise of my life. By 8:30 we were all packed up and ready in the canoes. The water was still calm as ever which made for the most tranquil paddle thus far. Our initial plan was to scout out Smoker Island to see if there were any tent spots left. Turns out there weren’t enough spots for the 8 of us, so we continued on to Leo Island.

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How cool it was to camp out on an island! We arrived to Leo only to be greeted by a lovely, spunky couple from Calgary. There was plenty of room, and all 8 of us set up tent. I hung my hammock and we all sat down by the fire and played a couple rounds of coup. It took me back to my last backcountry trip this past New Year’s.

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So far into this trip, I hadn’t taken one nap. I tell you, after a few games of coup it hit me. I read my book for maybe 10 minutes and completely passed out in my hammock. It was the best 2-hour sleep I had all trip. In fact, it convinced me to finally be the hard-core camper and sleep in a hammock overnight sometime in the next 3 days.

Chili was for dinner. I ate 5 cup of that goodness — I’m not even exaggerating. I fell into this massive food coma.

Day 6 | Leo Island 

Today was a little different. We didn’t pack up our gear this morning. Instead, 5 of us tackled the Central Mountain Hike (the 7.5 km long treacherous incline of a hike). Like Mcdougall Falls, the 5 of us had to paddle about 20 minutes from Leo to the trailhead.

For those fellow Vancouverites and grinders. The first 1/3 of this hike was pretty much the grouse grind in steepness…minus the stairs. Hiking the Mountain, you gain a total of 1037m in evelation. The plus side, hiking up this high, you get to experience three zones: the montane forest, subalpine, and finally alpine. Personally, subalpine is my favourite kind of zone to hike around.

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At the time we went, the rangers hadn’t yet gone up the mountain to clear the trail, so I found it quite over grown in some area. Also, in parts, it was difficult to trace the flagging tape. 3 or so hour later we made to the peak. What a view I tell you. You’re up there and Wells Gray Provincial Park wraps itself around you. I felt incredibly small. Check out some of the footage I took at the top here!

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At peak, you’ll also come to find a stack of piled rocks. Underneath the stones was an old, aluminum first aid kit. It acted like a geocache/time capsule thing. Inside were old candies, hair ties, and hundreds of notes people had left – including one from Sandra Bullock herself!! Who knew she’d come to Canada and hike a mountain in the middle of nowhere?!

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The Clouds started to roll in as we started to descend. A little downpour happened on the way down, but stopped once we got back to our canoes. Arriving back to Leo Island, it was time to pursue my backcountry dream – sleep overnight in my hammock. Seb (having done this multiple time) was a champ and we put together a hammock bunk bed. Once those were all strapped in, we protected them with a tarp (who knew if it’d rain again…*cough* keep reading).

Tonight was my night to cook dinner for everyone. Butter Chicken and Samosa Mashed potatoes! Turns out when you buy butter chicken mix in the indo food isle at the grocery store, “Mild” means really spicy…

Bedtime rolled around and we all climbed into our sleeping bags. Finally, I was able to sleep out of a tent! I prepared myself with fleece, a touque and my bug face net. No mozzies tonight! It was 11 pm when we both settled down in our hammocks. 5 minutes in we both saw a bright flash in the distance to the east…lightening. Hoping it would blow by, we went back to sleep. 2 hours later, the wind really started to pick up. Its strong gusts caused our tarp to shutter and clash. I was getting no sleep. This isn’t going to end well. At exactly 2:30am we both woke up to the brightest beam of light. The lightening had followed us. I remember freaking out, and deciding to head for the tents.

Day 7 | Leo Island to North Murtle Lagoon 

The wind was being very stubborn, and we woke up to whitecaps on the water. Any canoe-er would know it’s not the safest, let alone easiest way to commute on the water. All of us hung around on Leo and kept an eye on the lake to spot a clam break to head out. Well, 2pm rolled around and still there was no hope.

Dan and I decided to whip out our ukuleles and became the source of entertainment for the next two hours. Check out the movie I made here. There is footage towards the end of our killer jam sesh!

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4:00 approached and the water still looked a bit iffy, but we knew we had to set sail before dark – we had 15 kms to paddle…it was going to take a while. The next 3 hours consisted of us battling some swells, and forming a catamaran with all 4 boats for stabilization. Good thing we were going with the wind. We arrived to North Murtle Lagoon Campsite around 7pm so dinner and fire building were the first priorities.

Do you remember the first time you saw Mickey Mouse? Do you recall how surreal it seemed and thinking to yourself: he actually exists?! Well…I sure had that moment…and no, Mickey Mouse was not in the wilderness.

We’re all eating dinner around the fire when all of a sudden; we were all taken back to the sight of a lady moose. She was beginning to enter the water for a swim just to the right bank. I’m having difficulty describing how I felt, because it still seems like it never happened. Guys, I saw a MOOSE! I’m officially a Canadian Canadian. All my life I grew up knowing about these animals on TV, and in books; never would I have guessed today would be the day.

This trip couldn’t have ended on a better note. I’m someone who believes that things happen for a reason. I absolutely believe we were meant to paddle those 15 km’s and battle the wind and the waves. I was meant to see my beautiful lady moose under the most beautiful sunset.

Until next time, Murtle...
Until next time, Murtle…

If I haven’t convinced you to experience Murtle Lake, then I don’t know what else to tell you…I’m out of words! This place is an absolute hidden gem of British Columbia.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you plan a vacation like this one soon!

Charlotte xo

Well, that was my adventure! What’d you think? Have you ever seen a moose?!

 All Ideas and Shenanigans are Property of hiatushunnie.com

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