Back in 2008, we set out on an adventure in the Canadian wilderness around the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit. For those unfamiliar, it is a 116 km stretch (roughly 70 miles) of hiking, canoeing, and portaging. Rowing through waters, backpacking mountain paths, carrying all food, gear, and supplies for the duration, which is typically 6-10 days. There were six people in our group, three canoes among us.
Here is the thing about Bowron: once you set out on the circuit, the only way out is through it. Going “through it” means paddling a canoe, filtering mountain water to drink, locking food in steel bear-proof lockers, and sleeping under the stars. No vehicles, mini-marts, wifi hotspots, or Airbnbs are available once you hit the trail.
As a group, we agreed to rise early each morning to get ahead of other paddlers. In this manner, we’d find a wide selection of open campsites for the next evening. You see, campsites had limited spacing such that if you could not find an unoccupied area, you kept rowing.
Day 1: Our trip was full of laughter and singing. Freshly showered, and with full packs, life felt great. We were right out of the gate and optimistic. Certainly, this trip would be a breeze.
That first night of dinner around the campfire was luxury. We made a fantastic meal from scratch, enjoying the novelty of the new adventure. Consequently, dinner prep and clean-up took almost two hours.
Day 3: One member of our party reported such intense back pain that he was no longer able to continue forward. He (and wife) made the difficult decision to turn back. Our canoe party was down to four.
Day 4: We overslept and had to row all day to find an open campsite. During the paddle, we encountered choppy waves and a torrential downpour. Finally, we arrived at an empty campsite after hours of rowing. It was the corner space where the bears reportedly roamed.
Day 5: We were tired and ready to be done. By this time, our energy went toward filtering water, rowing, and tossing nuts into our mouths to fuel. Around this time, my husband’s rowing instructions evolved from, “row, row, row” to “Dig! Dig! Dig!”
We had become a lean, synchronized row team entirely focused on one thing: getting through the circuit.
Truth be told, we experienced a profound gift of majestic beauty among snow-covered mountains, glassy lakes, and sandy beaches. We made many memories- even rowed by a giant moose!
But regrettably, only four of our original six-member team completed the full circuit. To this day, I wish we could have all enjoyed the final days together. Yet it wasn’t in the cards, and it wasn’t in our control. Nevertheless, our eventual reunion on the shore was beautiful. The two members of our tribe that left early were standing there waiting for us with enormous smiles- fresh, fed, and fully rested. We embraced, celebrated, and shared stories over a delicious meal.
Today: The resilience we found out on those lakes is a reservoir we tap in challenging times. As the ease and novelty fade, you notice strength, depth, and endurance emerge. If you have hiked the PCT or experienced pregnancy, you know this resilience. Furthermore, you know that as we move along, we begin to row better.
And while rowing, we can remain on the lookout for invitations. For example, invitations to be encouraging and helpful to others. Or invitations to be creative in using what we have, possibly even discovering something new.
Right now, we may be on a circuit that requires endurance. That is to say, the only way forward is through it. And so, we remain centered in the grace of this day. We carry a grounded faith that, even amid the uncertainty, it will be alright.
Just keep rowing.
About the Author: Jen Macnab is an avid reader, writer, and runner who recently resigned from a full-time career in higher education to pursue balance and simplicity. Jen launched Toward Thriving, LLC to support others on the journey toward best self.