My husband and I were looking forward to celebrating his 50th birthday on a beloved 70 mile canoe trip in Canada’s Bowron Lakes Provincial Park. We decided to take our then 19 year old son, 16 year old daughter, and our daughter’s friend as a last “family” vacation.
We packed for weeks. Mountains of food to keep us going for 10 days of paddling and clothing for any weather condition was heaped throughout our house. My husband crafted canoe carts out of spare lawn mower and hand-cart wheels to ease the steep portages.
Upon reaching Canada, the skies took on a grayish cast from the 50+ massive fires springing everywhere that year. The farther we drove north the worse the visibility. The smoke became so thick that everything stunk and tasted like a campfire before we had even camped one night.
When we reached the park we were told that we could only go halfway around the circuit as one of the fires had closed the lower corner of the park. Willing to make the best of things we gamely struck out on the circuit.
The first night a Canadian black bear prowled around our tents. Being a teacher, I proudly showed the rather large foot print to the kids and explained how I knew it wasn’t a grizzly (which is also native to the area). Understand, my son is deathly afraid of bears and wanted to turn around right then. My husband and I convinced him that it was unlikely that the bear would be at our next campsite. Needless to say he was the first one in the canoe when it came time to head out. Unfortunately there WAS a bear at the next campsite… and the next. Later we found out that my daughter’s guest had kept ramen noodles in his backpack which is why the bears had been attracted to our campsites.
Now, completely freaked out, my son had had enough. On the fourth day of our trip he jumped into one of the kayaks we were also using and paddled hell bent for leather back towards the starting point. My husband and I gave chase in a canoe and finally caught up with him in the late afternoon. Remember, my son was 19 years old and we were around 50. We were totally exhausted and could hardly make camp that night.
That is when it started to really rain. We strung up tarps to cover our kitchen and watched sadly as the pooled water dumped off the edge onto our eating area. Everything was wet despite tarping the canoes and wearing rain ponchos as we were paddling.
During one of our last portages my very petite daughter ended up taking the weight of a loaded canoe when I tugged my end too hard. Her shoulder ended up being severely wrenched so she was unable to help with the final portages and paddle the canoe. Down a paddler we had to work twice as hard to make headway. To add insult to injury one of the home-built canoe carts disintegrated on the last portage so we had to make an extra portage to collect the canoe, its baggage, and the broken cart.
So finally we are back in the car, so tired we can hardly move and headed for the nearest motel which was 3 hours away. At midnight we pulled into the motel collapsed. The next day my leg started itching. A red rash developed that slowly spread to all my extremities. When I got home I was diagnosed with mange mites that I had contracted from the motel bed. Of course by then my poor husband was infected too. We had to slather ourselves with a noxious cream to get rid of them.
But we had one final disaster… We decided to push through and drive home from the motel throughout the night. About 3:00 in the morning, only an hour from home, we heard a loud thump and felt the trailer carrying our canoes give a lurch. We all piled out of the car to diagnose the problem. Our trailer’s spare tire mount had fallen off, had gone under the wheels, and was laying somewhere on the dark highway. We searched along the road with flashlights trying to find the wheel. Just as my daughter said, “There it is,” a semi came over the hill and ran square over it mangling the rim.
At that point we could only laugh.
You might want to know that just prior to this trip while driving to Alabama a funnel cloud came down on top of our car. But that is another story.