After heading to the 2011 Penticton Ironman to cheer my cousin Dale on in his very first Ironman (congrats Dale on an amazing finish!!!), I zipped over to Blue River to meet Dad for a few days of paddling at Murtle Lake.
For those who aren’t familiar with Murtle Lake, it is absolutely amazing. There are only canoes and kayaks allowed on the 20km long lake which includes two “arms”. There is endless fishing, sandy beaches and a couple of good day hikes as well.
As soon as I got out of the car in Blue River to swap gear into Dad’s car for the 20 some km drive up to Murtle Lake, we were greeted by some very welcoming mosquitoes…which was a bit worrisome given our lack of bug dope (we thought for sure it was too late in the season for these pests).
Once we got up to the parking lot, we made quick work of loading all our gear into the canoe and setting up the canoe cart. We also happened to meet a nice couple who gave us some bug spray (we were being eaten alive while we prepped our canoe). Once the canoe was packed, we headed up the 2.5km portage trail (some call it “level”), but we’ve never gotten from the parking lot to the lake or back without being drenched in sweat…even using a canoe cart! This time, we had some issues with our new cart on the way in, so it took us a bit to get sorted before we reached the boat launch.
As soon as we made our way through the lagoon that opens up into the lake, the clouds rolled in and we ended up paddling the entire way to our campsite through a squall (white caps and all). It was not the leisurely paddle we were hoping for! Once Dad steered us over to the shoreline, we were a bit more protected…but by the time we got to the campsite, I was drenched!
We usually like to camp at the site “Birch Beach”, but as we pulled up (after about 3 hours of paddling into a head wind), we saw the two camping spots on the site were full, so we continued on. Side note – you cannot book sites in advance at Murtle Lake, you have to paddle in and find a site as you go. Also it is $5/night/person.
Just around the corner from Birch Beach we came across Cottonwood…it was vacant and on a beach, so we started setting up. It was good timing as several canoes and kayaks were close behind and also looking for sites. We ended up meeting a neat couple from Germany who stayed in the second camping spot at the Cottonwood site.
Once we reached shore, the squall began to die down and we were able to set up camp in fairly dry conditions.
On our second day at Murtle, we hiked Central Mountain. It is a great quick hike (about 4 hrs round trip) up to a great view of the West arm of the lake. Well worth the initial steep climb.
Every day we would see loons going back and fourth…there must have been about 30 of them…and they’d just go back and fourth looking for minnows all morning long. Well, on our third day, I saw a large loon, and something about it caught my eye. I think it was because it seemed to be going a different direction from the other loons. As it got closer to shore I was thinking ‘hmmm that isn’t a loon…maybe it’s a wolf’…ok, so maybe that wouldn’t have made sense (what would a wolf be doing swimming across a huge lake?). Dad was busy chopping wood, so I got his attention. He said “no, that’s no wolf…that’s gotta be a moose, grab the camera!”…so I did…and as it got even closer to our shore…we realized it was a black bear! And a cute little one at that. He must have only been a year or two old…he saw us and ran the other way (in all fairness…we hadn’t showered in a couple days). It was pretty cool, he must have swam about 2kms from the other shore.
Our time at Murtle was lovely. Plenty of fishing, travel scrabble, wood carving, and lots of relaxation. Our paddle out was like paddling on glass…it was quite quick and smooth compared to our adventure in. We even managed to muster enough energy to pick a gallon or two of huckleberries on our drive back down to Blue River.
On our way out from Murtle Lake, we stopped for dinner in Blue River. Mike Wiegele has a pretty good restaurant right on the highway, so if you’re driving through, I highly recommend it. Also…it was an added bonus that the US Open Tennis was on while we ate!