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Published: July 28th 2017
Geo: 51.6509, -120.035
Dawn broke on our third wedding anniversary and the rain had eased away, leaving blue skies and puffy clouds. After a hearty breakfast and a surprisingly ok sleep in our insect-infested cabin, we met our guide for the overnight canoe trip - Kevin, a self-confessed Redneck - and left the camp behind, heading out through the shade of pine forests, their dropped needles spread over the floor like a carpet, for the Clearwater River and eventually the lake of the same name.
Our first stop was Dawson Falls, a short walk away from the road, through shady pathways. We heard the falls before we saw them, a great thundering roar which echoed in the silence. As we approached, we saw the beauty of the cascade of water as it tumbled down a wide horseshoe - its three tiers, created by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago, merging together creating a vast expanse of rapids. Moving closer, we saw a rainbow that had formed in the fine mist that drifted from the falls - what more fitting way for us to celebrate our anniversary than with a beautiful rainbow in a stunning location?
After a short visit to another incredible waterfall - Canada has a plethora of amazing cascades - we ate lunch basking in its beauty and then heaved all of our overnight gear onto traditional native canoes, two to a boat, and began to paddle down Clearwater Lake, which was absolutely stunning. The crystal clear water shimmered as we paddled down the river, taking in the stillness and the scenery as we passed. Pine forests stood sentry on either side, while the lake, one of the largest in the area, stretched out in all directions. The journey was silent, except for the gentle lapping of the water against the canoe as we pushed on awestruck. After an hour and a half, and seven kilometres, we had almost reached our destination, when the sky grew black and thunder rumbled. Lightning flashed in the sky. All of a sudden, the heavens opened and we were hit with a deluge of rain that soaked us to the skin. We powered on, all the more eager to get to our destination and get a fire paging. Our guide pointed out where we would have gone for a hike, has we not been caught in a storm - a viewpoint called the Eagles Rest - an incredible lookout over Clearwater and the surrounding landscape. However it was not to be and so we pushed on to our campsite.
By the time we arrived, the rain had stopped and the sun was peering tentatively through the clouds, the campsite itself was beautiful - a real wilderness experience. Situated in a pine forest right on the edge of the lake, we were surrounded by pine blanketed mountains on three sides, the lake making up the fourth side as it stretched out in front of us like a mirror. We quickly pitched the tent and camp and then changed into our swimsuits and plunged into the freezing lake. Cold, Baltic, freezing - none of the words do justice to quite how cold the glacier-fed lake was! Stunned and breathless, it was all we could do to keep breathing and moving until our bodies slowly became used to the chill. After around ten minutes of panting, it had finally become bearable to be in the water, which was so clear we could see to the bottom, so we swam out towards the middle of the lake. As we moved away from the shore, there was a sudden streak of fork lightning that illuminated the sky cracking down onto the iron-topped mountain in front of us. I don't think I have ever moved so fast in my life and I raced out of the water to the safety of the shore and the warmth of the camp fire, where we toasted marshmallows and enjoyed s'mores as we dried.
After we had dried off, a couple of the boys from the tour announced that they were going to paddle the kilometre back to the hike from earlier. I hopped in the canoe with Jamie, one of the boys who happens to be from Stoke! We paddled out in the sunshine across the glass-clear lake to a vast area of pine forest. From here, it was a steep 3km hike to the top through old and new growth forests, the trail twisting and turning until we reached the final climb to the summit. It was an almost vertical climb of around 100 metres, which saw us scrabbling over rocks and hauling ourselves up on boulders, before a final clamber over a steep ledge with a drop off on one side. Mosquitoes swarmed around us as we sweated up the final push, puffing and panting as we went. However, the view from the top was spectacular and straight off the front cover of a travel magazine. In the late afternoon light, the lake was glowing a pale blue colour, pine trees reflected in its mirror-like surface. Mountains backed the lake, the stone changing colour with every passing moment we stood and stared at it. After a while, we decided to tackle the steep climb down and battled through the mosquitoes until we reached the tranquility of the lake. During the 30 minute clamber down, the sun had begun to set, turning the sky into a deep purple and edging the clouds with a pinkish hue. This vista was reflected in the surface of the lake, making it difficult to know which way was up and which was down.
We paddled back to the island and were met with an incredible chilli dinner, which we enjoyed around the fire, waiting for the sun to finally disappear and for the darkness to fall so we could stargaze on the lake. We paddled out to the middle of the lake in a flotilla of canoes and lay back in the darkness as the stars began to appear one by one. Constellations began to reveal themselves against the black velvet of the sky, and then suddenly a shooting star streaked past us. Satellites high up in the atmosphere cruised by and then more shutting stars, one with a red tail, like a firework, arced over us, falling quickly and fading out on the horizon. Just as we were about to leave, we saw what looked like a huge satellite, moving faster than the others we had seen. Kevin told us that it was the International Space Station, impossibly high above us; we watched it in awe as it passed by, until it was out of view, before paddling back to our wilderness camp and sleeping under the stars that had dazzled us. It was a perfect end to our third wedding anniversary, and one to remember for a lifetime.
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