So... I'm turning over the reins for this post to Jason. He went on what he describes as "epic" (I think "a bit foolish - especially for this time of year - and definitely lucky") stand-up paddleboarding adventure today. Here is his tale.
What's SUP, Cowichan?
Pete had this idea that if the water levels were high enough we could paddle from Somenos Lake (Forest Museum) all the way to Cowichan Bay using the Cowichan River tributary system. Today was not raining which meant that it was the day to go. We set out at about 12:30 from the Somenos Lake boat launch next to the Forest Museum. I found a good use for my old Desoto two-piece wetsuit as the only way Alison wanted me to go was to be as safe as I could. Pete arrived wetsuitless as he had some challenges putting his new X-Terra suit on. The zipper goes on the back, Pete.
Boards unloaded and ready to paddle.
We paddled across Somenos Lake on calm waters as a warm up to the tributary system. The water level was really high as we entered into Somenos Creek. We cruised by a beaver dam but couldn't find him. He was probably in Cumberland building more trails for Kirsty to enjoy. Lots of oak trees were lining the creek. We rode under some bridges on our bellies so that we didn't have to portage any road crossings. All went well up to the Tzouhalem Road bridge, where a low hanging pipe meant we had to exit and cross with our boards. We had a nice audience as we were attracting attention with our journey.
All was well until we hit the Cowichan River. See Alison's post below for photos of what the river is like this time of year. Yes, this is the same river that we now had to navigate on our SUPs. Pete went first and made it across to slower waters. I followed and bailed to an audience of spectators who had stopped to watch us. I couldn't swim with my board and paddle across the river so had to ride out some rapids hanging on for dear life. My Dirty Dog sunglasses didn't make it.
Back up, we were absolutely flying on our boards in the Cowichan River towards the ocean when we came upon a log jam blocking the entire river. Holy crap, we had to get to shore against the currents FAST or end up as permanent members of the log jam. We managed to navigate our way through the high waters to the shore, but not before Pete went for an unwilling swim. We climbed out with our boards at the Butter Church in the Cowichan Tribes Reserve and made our way down the road about 500m to set in again.
Portage at the Butter Church
The next section of river was truly spectacular for wildlife viewing. We saw salmon under our boards, bald eagles (both juvenile and mature), miscellaneous sea birds, and herons. When we hit the river estuary everything slowed down and I knew that we had made it. As we paddled out all of these heads popped up all around us. There were at least 75 harbour seals surrounding us for a look. So cool.
The last part of our journey was across Cowichan Bay. A California sea lion that was living on the breakwater barked loudly to welcome our arrival. We loaded up the boards, shuttled back to Pete's car and were finished.
My board took a bit of a beating with some huge dings out of the side. All in all I would not recommend this "3 hour tour" to anyone. It was not safe at all in the winter. Again, have you seen the pictures in the previous post? This is why Alison didn't come; someone needed to be home to call 911.