It is becoming increasingly popular to take a babymoon - one last vacation before the baby. I wanted a last vacation before the baby as well, but I think my choice of vacation at 7 month pregnant is slightly out of the norm. I thought about it for a while; I definitely wanted camping, but would biking or canoeing be the better choice. I prefer wilderness, but didn't want to go too far from road access. In the end we decided on the Sayward Canoe route with out friends Scott and Sandra and their two kids (5 and 2 years old) over the May Long weekend. It provides wilderness, but the road is never more than short paddle away.
The Sayward Canoe route is located in the Sayward Provencial forest close to Campbell River on Vancouver Island. It consists of four larger lakes and a number of smaller lakes linked together by portage trails. In total approximately 40 km of paddling and 8 km of portaging. The route is mostly done in 3-4 days, but we opted for 5 days to accommodate me and the kids.
Video trip report
You can start the route at many different location, since there are multiple car accessible landing sites. The most popular location to start at is Mohun provincial park. Since the parking lot is within the park I felt it was a safe place to leave the car. The many campsite make it possible to split up the trip in many different ways, but we chose the following:
I don't really know much about canoeing. I used to go canoe with my family as a child, but never learned any proper technique. The route is pretty straight forward though, since it is mostly small lakes and calm rivers. We had really nice weather all the way through, so wind on the lakes were never a problem. Around Whymper Lake there is a few short rapids. We chose to mostly portage. Part of the river in the area didn't have a portage trail, but was still pretty fast flowing. It was mainly tricky to paddle due to the thick bush overhanging the shore on both sides. It felt like canoe bushwacking.
I was a bit worried about the portages beforehand, but they turned out to mostly be quite easy. All but one (Higgins to Lawier lakes) are doable with a canoe card. Our first portage was a solid 1.8 km, so we had lots of time figuring out the best method. First we had everyone together, but it turns out that kids are mostly in the way, when you are trying to portage a canoe. We also figured out that it is easier to just have one adult per canoe. Christian put the wheels towards the back of the canoe, moved all the stuff to the back of the canoe and towed it from the front. Scott did something similar with the help from their 5 year old, while Sandra and I walked with the two youngest, while each carrying one pack.
There are a lot of campsites along the route. There are vehicle accessible campsites, and water only accessible campsites. We chose to stay only at the water only accessible campsites, and it was easy for us (despite the long weekend) to find campsites we did not have to share with anyone else. On the first night we stayed at a 'rustic' campsite on Sterling Island. On the rustic sites there are no tent platforms or picnic tables, but we still found a very primitive toilet. On the rest of the trip we stayed at developed sites. They were all really nice. The campsite at Brewster Lake had a nice sandy beach, where the kids enjoyed digging and the adult enjoyed a swim. Our favourite campsite was on Fry lake. The picnic table was nicely shaded, but still had a great view over the lake. The rope swing was great too, or so I hear. The camp did however have the worst neighbours. There were several parties around the lake, and one party kept coming through the narrows in their speed boat way to fast. Our last campsite on Mohun Lake island was really nice too with a shaded cooking area and a nice view.
I found that it took the kids longer to get into the rhythm of the trip than usually when we go camping. I guess it was the somewhat unpredictable nature of the trip. They never really knew how long we would be paddling or hiking and how many times we were going to switch it up. It is not like biking, hiking or even canoeing without portages, where we would usually go for a few hours, then brake for a few hours and then go for a few hours. On this trip we had lots of little brakes, but rarely really long brakes, where the kids could play uninterrupted. Kids are also inherently in the way, when you are trying to portage a canoe. All this combine resulted in slightly more conflicts and/or complaining than we normally see while camping. Don't get me wrong they still really enjoyed themselves. In the canoe they would paddle, hang over the side of the canoe, or eat snacks. During the portages we would play a lot of catch, go fishing in the streams or collect sticks and rocks. At the campsites the kids really enjoyed their camping chairs. I was amazed at the kind of terrain those little chairs can sit on and mostly not fall over. They could sit in those chairs for hours, although they would always be moved around a lot, telling stories and singing songs.
Despite the long portages this is a really good route to do as a family. The paddling is easy, the portages are mostly wheel-able. The many campsites make it so flexible and accessible. I highly recommend it!
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