|Goose Lake (Mohun North) July 2012 (looking towards the 1st portage ~3km further)|
My first longer paddle was with Darcy and Scott and we went from Storey's Beach around Salmon Point and into Saratoga Beach. It wasn't a long paddle really, maybe 8 km's on a glass calm day. But it was long enough to give me a taste of leaving the harbour, to get out there so to speak. It was enough to let me know what kind of paddling I really wanted to do.
I began to look for something more challenging. Somehow, the idea of doing a solo paddle of the Sayward Forest Canoe Circuit began to really grow in my mind. I began to seriously look into it. No one I talked to had heard of anyone who had done it on a SUP board before- so that made the idea even more interesting.
And so it was that I came to be standing on the shore of Mohun Lake a little after 7:00 a.m. on August 20/2012 all set to go.
|My board set-up for the 2 day trip (Mohun Lake)|
It was a still and windless morning when I set off and no one else out there. Perfect. It's a really nice ~4.5 km paddle to the end of Goose Lake and the first portage. This took me almost exactly one hour. Because I had cached my overnight gear at the start of Amor Lake on a recce trip a few days earlier, I only had to do the 1.6km portage to Twin Lakes once carrying my board, paddle and a light day bag.
The portage trails for the whole route are in really excellent shape and most canoeists use some kind of set-up on wheels to pack everything across in one trip.
I plunked my board in at the start of the channel leading to Twin Lakes. It is quite open and clear water at the start but soon narrows down into some pretty thick vegetation soup.
|This first shallow and more swampy part is one of the trickier sections on the whole route for SUP'ing|
By moving right up near the front of my board, I found that lifted the fin high enough out of the water that I could keep moving and only needed to step off on the beaver dams which are solid.
|Nicer part of the channel leading to Twin Lake|
Following along the shoreline on my left, it didn't take very long to cross Twin Lake and land at the small Forest Service campsite at the end of the lake. This site is accessible by road and is only 4km off Hwy 19.
The start of the .8 km portage to Amor Lake is about 50m left and on the other side of the logging road. Two hours after leaving the Morton Lake put-in, I dropped my board in the water at the start of Amor Lake. I picked up my cached overnight gear there. From now on, I would need to do the remaining portages twice to get everything moved.
Amor Lake is often touted as the most beautiful lake on the entire route. With it's many white sand beaches and small islets, I can see why. Although I could see some of these tantalizing white sand beaches in the distance on my right, I didn't really have the time to go exploring over there, but I'll be back and spend more time at Amor Lake.
It's a really nice 4 km paddle to a very short 100m portage leading to Surprise Lake. This is where I met the first people I'd seen, a party of four from the southern part of Vancouver Island. They were 'surprised' to see me and my unusual mode of travel. One of them took the picture below.
|Start of Surprise Lake|
It's only a 1km paddle to the end of Surprise Lake and that marks the start of the longest portage on the circuit, 2.2 km leading to Brewster Lake. Much as I would have liked to socialize more with the canoeists, I couldn't linger if I wanted to be sure reaching my goal of being well past the halfway point in the circuit on the first day.
I had read on one of the on-line forums about the Sayward Canoe Circuit that one could save a few minutes by following the logging road portion that parallels the second half of the portage trail. I decided to take this advice and it worked out well. I reached the end of the portage with my second load 4' 45" into the day.
No sign of the next lake, so I just headed down the bushed in creek and trusted I was going the right way.
|Start of creek leading to Brewster Lake|
I really enjoyed these creek and channel sections of the circuit. Really interesting paddling and I never knew what would be coming up around the next turn. I just hoped it wouldn't be something like a mother bear and cubs.
Coming out of the confines of the bushed in creek into the openness of Brewster Lake was one of the highlights of the whole trip for me. Mirror calm and silent. I just paddled slowly out into the immense stillness of this place.
|Start of Brewster Lake- a special place|
The first few km's of the 5.5 km paddle to the far end of Brewster is really one of my favourite memories of the whole trip- just gliding along a blue silk surface of complete stillness. After such a beginning, I must admit to a temporary sag in my spirits, a jarring of my perceptions, a feeling of disappointment when I came within sight of a large cluster of boats, campers, trailers and RV's along the beaches near the far end of the lake. The easy road access to such portions of the route is somewhat of a mixed blessing.
The guide said to portage around the log jam at the bridge trestle near the end of the lake. I decided to take a look at it first. I didn't really want to unpack my gear and carry everything over the short portage and re-pack again if I didn't have to.
I pushed and pried and nosed my way into and through the logjam without much trouble and was feeling quite proud of that accomplishment.
Alas, that feeling only lasted a short time. It lasted right up to the moment I stepped off my board into the shallows a few feet from shore at the end of the lake and promptly plunged in up to my waist in really, really deep mud. It was like quicksand in that the more I moved, the deeper I sank. When I tried to use my paddle to push down against something solid, it sank in right up to the handle at the top- almost 80 inches without encountering anything. So it was well over my head and I'd certainly never been in mud that deep before.
I now had moved in a single moment from the sublime at one end of Brewster Lake along with the paddle mastery of the logjam to the frankly ridiculous Mr. Bean like situation at the other end. Fortunately, I had a firm grip on my board which provided the only means I had of getting out of this mess on my own in a reasonable amount of time.
Otherwise, I could have been stuck there quite awhile. Even with my board, it was quite a struggle to make any progress-especially while trying not to lose my sandals in the process.
It would have been hard on the feet to do the rest of the circuit with no footwear. I had to first get a portion of my upper body onto the board before I could get the leverage to even try to extricate my lower body. Although solid ground was only 10-12 feet away, it felt like a mile in terms of the effort I had to make. It was exhausting work- and I was really, really glad I didn't have an audience. Although it would have made for a humorous video.
|Beware this place!!! The innocuous looking diabolical, bottomless mud-hole at the far end of Brewster Lake|
Map showing the second half of the route.
I now felt good about my progress. I was clearly past the halfway point and there was plenty of daylight left. Thankfully, there were no further challenges of the mud pit kind and I made good time paddling and portaging the next three smaller lakes- Gray, Whymper and Fry.
The 'Water-Shield' garden paddling of Higgins Lake
Higgins Lake is small but beautiful- another place I'd like to return to with more time to spend there. Another short portage leads to Lawier Lake.
Another short paddle, another short portage and then I launched a final time back on Mohun Lake now for the final ~5km paddle to my starting point of the day before, Morton Lake Park.
There was a stiff wind blowing straight into my face for the first ~3 km of this portion and it was the hardest paddling of the whole trip. I stuck as close to the righthand shoreline as possible, getting what little shelter I could from the wind and whitecaps. No pictures from here and somewhere along the way, my water bottle got washed out of it's bungie cords.
I just kept going- digging hard and repeating like a mantra, "Starbuck's! Starbuck's! Starbuck's!" The morning without a coffee to start with was beginning to catch up to me. The wind kindly relented and quite suddenly dropped right off for the last 2km to the end of my trip.
"What, no media scrum to greet me at the end of this historic journey!?" And I had my speech all prepared too.
The section from my camp at C-1 to the the take-out at Morton Lake Park took only ~5 hours, so really- the circuit just took a day and a half.
A wonderful trip to do on a stand-up-paddleboard, I highly recommend it.
If you would like any further information about SUP'ing the 'Sayward Forest Canoe/SUP Circuit' feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org