by KORIE MARSHALL
Jeremy Sergeew leads a busy life with his wife and five children in Whitcourt, Alberta, and wouldn’t want a life without his family. But taking on an adventure each year – reminding himself he’s still alive, still dangerous – is a way he and some of his friends found to battle the ordinary routine, and recharge themselves so they have the energy to care for others.
“Around Christmas 2014, I was just playing on Google Maps, when I saw this lake – secluded, not touristy, and untamed,” says Sergeew of Kinbasket Reservoir. “There were no campgrounds, no roads.” He’d never been on Kinbasket, and further research revealed stories of injury and deaths on the lake. He was told there were major log jams, and when storms blew in he’d have to pull his boat way up on shore or the logs would crush it.
“I was told of the dangerous animals: mountain lions, bears, squirrels – rabid squirrels,” says Sergeew with a touch of humour. “I was convinced it was the lake for me.”
Sergeew grew up in Summerland BC and took adventure tourism business operations at the College of the Rockies in Golden, BC. Last summer he, his wife Loralei, and their friends Christena Robinson, Judith Rau and David Rau traveled from the Valemount Marina to Beavermouth – 200 km away at the south end of Kinbasket – on an open-top inflatable boat with a tow-behind for extra supplies.
The lake was a bit choppy on the first day of the trip, says Sergeew, and they made camp the first night about 30 km south of the Valemount Marina, in a sheltered bay.
“I didn’t sleep much as there was a big kitty skulking around,” said Sergeew. To keep an eye on things, he slept in a hammock with a shot gun and bear spray handy, but didn’t have to use it. At one point later that night, he swore he heard it purring, and got up to try to scare it away, but could find no tracks of it.
“But as I circled the tent, I could hear it inside the tent, and thought ‘oh no, it is going to kill my friends!’ I opened the tent, and it was David snoring, which sounded just like a cat purring.” He says he was so sure – but that is why you check, and don’t let your imagination run away with you.
Day 2 was stormy. “As we got back on the lake, I saw a big black line on the water. I was warned about this black line, and when I saw it I was supposed to get off the lake.” But as he turned for shore, the motor quit running – the gas line wasn’t sealing properly, and was causing the motor to stall.
“The waves came up a lot quicker than I expected, and found it was no exaggeration about the 6- to 8-foot-tall waves.” Luckily the rigid hull on the inflatable boat allows it to keep floating, no matter how full of water it gets, and they managed to get back to shore before the storm got any worse. They waited out the worst of it under a tarp, for about an hour, and then fixed the fuel line and set out again. It drizzled for the rest of the day, but cleared up that evening.
The next three days were beautiful weather, says Sergeew, and the rest of the trip was sunshine and relaxation. “We had no luck fishing, but we didn’t try that hard.” They watched a black bear swim across the lake, and found some excellent cliff-diving areas up the Cummins River, on the east side of the reservoir near the Golden end, and a spire about 50 feet or so high.
There was some excitement, like when Robinson sat on an ant hill, and had to go swimming to get the ants out of her pants.
“If you are patient enough and quiet enough, more wildlife starts to poke their heads out,” says Sergeew.
On Day 4, they stopped at the dock in Bush Harbour to stretch their legs, and talked to an older local gentleman. They told him they were surprised there weren’t more people on the lake, it is so beautiful.
“He said ‘no! It’s a horrible lake, full of log jams, and it kills people and the weather always sucks.’” Sergeew says he looked around at the beautiful calm weather, perplexed. But the older gentleman added “And that’s how we like it, with no one else here.”
They were sad to leave their camp on the last day, with only 30 km to go, but they were also getting low on fuel. Sergeew says he’d brought 125 liters of fuel, and they only had 5 liters left when they got to Kinbasket Lake Resort, where their friend was meeting them with a truck.
“I don’t know if this was good planning or just really good luck.”
He’s not sure what his next trip will be, says Sergeew. “But I will remember this trip as one in a million.”
Advice from Jeremy if you’re considering a trip like this on Kinbasket
• Bring an experienced guide. “I have been on lakes, rivers and the ocean my whole adult life. I am very comfortable around water, yet the things this lake could do surprised me greatly.”
• Being able to read the weather, the lake, and being comfortable around wild animals is a must. “Knowing when an animal is just curious and when it is going to attack is a must.”
• Make sure more than one person has some advanced training in first aid. “Broken bones and big cuts are easy to come by with a misplaced step on a rocky beach. Remember, there is no help out there, so don’t take stupid risks.”
• Bring a Spot GPS or equivalent, and have someone monitor your progress. And tell more than one person your route plan.
• Have a plan b, c, and d. “You have to be able to roll with what nature gives you, or you will be fighting her the whole way.” You can reach Jeremy at email@example.com for more info.