Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ross Lake Canoe Trip 1.0

My husband and parents and I just got back from a canoe trip on Ross Lake in North Cascades National Park. It was incredible! The lake is beautiful, surrounded by towering hillsides, snow-capped peaks, and over half a million acres of wilderness. To get to Ross Lake, you actually have to park at a lower lake, called Diablo. You paddle up that lake, then portage over land up to Ross Lake. Ross is a long lake, stretching about 20 miles North and South, going up into Canada.

We had beautiful weather going in. The sun was out and the water was completely glassy. We paddled up Diablo (one of the most beautiful lakes I've seen), waited for portage to Ross, then paddled up Ross to our first campsite at Big Beaver Creek. There were about six other groups camped out there that night, but we had a great campsite and it didn't feel crowded at all. The next morning we set off up the lake to our next campsite, Ten Mile Island (which is, oddly, eleven miles up the lake). This time there was plenty of wind whipping up waves, but we paddled on through it all. We checked out a mysterious, deep canyon called Devil's Creek and got to our island campsite around 1:30pm. We ended up having the whole island to ourselves. After setting up camp, Gordon and I paddled across the lake to check out a waterfall. After nightfall, I took a dip in the lake to clean up. It was raining very hard at this point, but the air and water were warm.

We broke camp the next day and paddled back down the lake to our final campsite, McMillan. The weather was quite stormy and we fought wind and waves the whole way down. We stopped several times along the way to dry off, rest, and regroup. Nearing McMillan, with just one small bay to go, we ran right into a nasty squall. The waves turned to swells and we were pushed around relentlessly. Gordon and I nearly tipped the canoe. Even paddling with all our strength, we hardly moved. Finally we got both canoes around behind an island where the water was calmer. We waited out the storm there for about twenty minutes. After that, the sky cleared and the sun came out. We had an easy paddle around the point to our campsite.

Our final day of paddling went pretty smoothly. We paddled back down Ross Lake in fairly smooth water, then got portage down to Diablo Lake. We had to battle wind and choppy water on Diablo, but we made good time and stayed pretty dry this time. All in all, it was a great weekend. Just the right mix of challenge and relaxation. We will definitely be doing it again!


Derek and Sara said...

Cool!! I've got a couple of questions for you as we are planning to do this trip this summer.

1. how long was your canoe? It says on the site they will shuttle only 14 foot or less? Is that just for motorboats or all watercraft? long roughly does it take a couple people in decent conditions to paddle a canoe 5 miles?


Jillian said...

Hi Derek and Sara! Sorry it took me so long to respond. I don't regularly check through my older posts for comments. I did try to contact you through the link on your name, but couldn't get into the site without username and password (beautiful photography, by the way).

To answer your questions:
1. I have no idea how long our canoes were. Very helpful, right? They were...regular size? The seated two people with room for gear in between. There were a lot of canoes and kayaks at the shuttle, a wide variety of types, and I didn't see anyone turned away. I wouldn't worry about that. They just throw them all on a truck and drive around the dam. It's pretty low-tech.

2. It really depends on the weather. In smooth water, with a steady paddle, you can really get moving and cover 5 miles in an hour easily. We hit some really heavy wind a couple times (I hear this is common in the area; the wind often sweeps up the canyon) and then you can be paddling pretty hard and make hardly any headway. I realize that makes it hard to estimate how far you can get in a day. My husband did this trip a few years ago with a friend of his and they didn't even end up staying at the campgrounds they had reserved. They just paddled as far as they could and camped at the next open spot. This is technically against the rules, but if you are there in the low season (may) you pretty much have the lake to yourself :).
Enjoy your trip!!

derek and sara said...

Thanks for the info! We are doing it this coming week. Looking forward to it :)