2 years ago, I enjoyed one of my best canoeing experiences, when I visited Lakeland Canoe Circuit, near Lac la Biche, Alberta. One of my good friends had a similar experience, in the same location, a few years earlier. We talked about trying to enjoy the area together. She really wanted to share this lovely area with some of her closest female friends, from Southern Alberta. Early this year, we began to look at our schedules to see if we could find a time to enjoy the area together. She talked to her friends, and we decided to make our trip at the end of June. For her friends, this was their very first trip without cars, and for one of them, it was her first time ever sleeping in a tent! We talked and planned a lot, to try to make this a very special weekend for everyone.
Thursday night, we met at Beaver Lake Provincial Recreation Area, just south of Lac la Biche. Because our cars were parked nearby, we could use a lot more equipment and clothing. Taking showers and using flush toilets were also possibilities. We took time Thursday night and Friday morning to determine exactly what to pack for the next part of our trip, and what to leave behind. Thursday night rained heavily, and we could see from the forecasts that rain and lightning were going to be continuing all weekend. Because of the weather and our friends’ inexperience, we decided to make our backcountry trip as “easy” as possible.
Around noon, we arrived at the Jackson Lake Staging Area, a parking lot where we could load our canoes onto wheeled carts, for the next part of our trip. All of our gear was packed inside the canoe, and we paired up for a 3-kilometre hike, down the trail to the lake. The first time I did this, I was shocked at how easy the hike felt. This time, it didn’t feel so easy. I think this is probably because I broke 3 bones in 2014/15, and I’ve needed to take a lot of time off exercise, in order to heal from my injuries. There is a lot that I can do now, but I can’t do it as easily, or as quickly as before. At any rate, we arrived at the lake about an hour after leaving the parking lot. When we arrived at the dock, we unloaded and reloaded the canoes, this time in the water. My friend and I each paddled “stern”, in the back of the canoes, since we needed to steer for our friends without paddling experience. The water was calm and lovely. In order to keep things simple, we had decided to stop at the main Jackson Lake campground, just before the lake joins with Kinnaird Lake. On arrival, we set up our tents and organized all of our gear.
For the next 2 days, our focus was on relaxation, conversation, fun, and the natural beauty of the area. The campsite we chose is very big, enough to accommodate a scouting or school group. Since we had it to ourselves, we could arrange things in any way we wanted. Throughout the 2 days, there were several periods of rainfall and thunderstorms, primarily at night. We used tarps to protect ourselves from getting really wet. Whenever we felt hot or dirty, we wandered over to the water’s edge and had a swim. There was a trail through the campsite, so some of the women went for a short run every day. A big bag of wine managed to disappear. We cooked and shared some delicious meals, including a fantastic steak dinner.
One of my favourite things about the canoe circuit is the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds the campers. Loons were never far away, and their haunting cry warms my soul. There were tiny ripe strawberries, wildflowers, butterflies, and many kinds of water birds in the area.
Sunday morning, it was time to pack up, paddle back to the trail, and hike back out to our cars. I’m so glad that we all had this peaceful time to share with each other!