Moyie Lake. We’d driven by it many times on our way to the coast. I would look at it as the car sped by and say, “I think that would be a great lake to paddle.” “Too much wind,” my husband would comment. “Those long thin lakes running between mountain ranges form a wind tunnel.” He knows I don’t like rough water.

With a sister living in Invermere my opportunity finally comes. “I’m coming out to paddle with you.” I speak with excitement over the phone. “Pick two new lakes for us to conquer.” Moyie is her first choice.

We drive the 160 km south from Invermere on good roads, ending at the south end of the lake, where we had been told there was a boat launch. As we drive in we find we are entering a private resort. Brashly my husband continues past the Private Property, No Public Access signs to the water’s edge where we discover an awkward looking launch and three men loading a boat for winterizing. They tell us there is a provincial park at the north end of Moyie with a good boat launch and declare it is the best part of the lake to paddle. Back we go to the park we’d passed, where a twisting and poorly signed road leads us eventually to a good boat launch with several cottages on either side.

I looked down the length of the lake, several kilometres. The water is glass smooth. On the west side high cliffs of striated rock rise from it’s mirror like surface. The lake is so clear I can see layers of broken rock like a multi tiered necklace lining the steep walls, where for thousands of years rock has peeled away pried by the harsh temperatures of winter and the stunning summer heat. A small flurry of wind ruffles the water as I push off. Torn between wanting to paddle a glassy surface, but knowing a breeze would alleviate the 26-degree temperature, I head out along the west side, my sister paddling just behind me.

Two young men on Sea-Doos set off right on our tail. Oh, no, I think. We’ll have not just the noise disturbing our paddle but the rocking of quartering waves as they turned in a flurry of circles. But after a half dozen reckless spins they head off toward the east shoreline, where grassy hills lead up to a railway track and above it the highway. Indeed, all of the motorized boats kept to the east side of the lake to avoid the rocks.

My sister takes pictures as much as she paddles. Photos of moss-covered trees overhanging the water – their lime green curving branches a strong contrast to the hard edge of the stone. Which, by the way, is my favourite element of nature. I just love rock. So, I spend a lot of my time awed by the many layers of white and beige sandstone crushed to narrow strips by the weight of granite and basalt. Huge slabs tilt on crazy angle, squeezed out of seams enlarged by thousands of years of contraction and expansion, they hang precariously, ready to fall at any second.

The layers of rock under the water are just as fascinating, forming petal like curves along the cliffs, layer upon layer leading further into the lake. The sun shines, cool water flows under my bow, birds flit through the trees. The soft swish of my paddle rising and lowering whispers through gathering silence. I am in the zone.

We meet several other paddlers along the way. Women, like us, enjoying exercise in nature. Breathing in clean air, beauty and the many freedoms Canada provides. We chat across the crystal surface, learning things about the lake, weather and women.

We eat our lunch on a fallen tree sand blasted to smoothness by wind and ice. I have more trouble getting out and into my canoe, as I formed the habit of launching and landing bow in, whereas my sister more often loads parallel to the shoreline. I choose a patch of shallow water over several large flat slabs of rock, rather than the many jagged smaller pieces. Awkwardly, I clamour out, anticipating a hasty swim at any second. I believe my awkward egress, and ingress after a tasty picnic, is the only imperfection on the day. Easy drive, pristine waters, fascinating scenery, great paddling companion. Moyie, my idea of perfection.
Photo by B.L. Thrasher