Project Paddle: Day 1 (Burnaby Lake)

Sunday, February 13, 12022 HE

I came up with the idea of trying to circumnavigate some select lakes in the Vancouver area. For more details, check out this post.

The first lake that I decided to tackle was Burnaby Lake. It is one that I have paddled on before, but I have never tried to circumnavigate it. So, it seemed like a great place to start. Familiar, not too big, and relatively close to home.

Burnaby Lake

Rationale: I have paddled Burnaby Lake several times but never circumnavigated it. Plus, Still Creek figures prominently in my introduction to SUP touring.
Estimated Travel Distance: 16 km
Estimated Area: 0.24 km²
Estimated Circumference: 5.5 km

I set out early from my place, knowing that sunrise was at 0724. Nautical twilight was from 0614 to 0651, and civil twilight was from 0651 to 0724. I was ready to get on the water at 0640, launching from here in Still Creek. It was a cool and crisp morning, but it was a great morning to be out on the water if dressed for the occasion. I had no intentions of taking a dip, and Burnaby Lake is generally calm, but just in case, I was wearing a semi-dry suitbooties, a wool toque, and neoprene gloves. Beneath my dry suit, I was wearing base layers of long pants and a long sleeve top. I decided to wear my PFD for extra insulation rather than my waist-belt inflatable PFD. I was paddling at a very leisurely pace and took a fair amount of photos, so my hands were definitely cold for the first half of the trip. The scenery was so spectacular I was taking a photo every few metres. Below is the view of my launch site looking southeast towards Burnaby Lake. As I launched, the water had an eerie layer of fog, adding to the mystic of the paddle.

Launching into Still Creek.

The sky looked promising for the day. But it was an omen of a change in weather approaching. As the saying goes, Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.

Making my way down Still Creek toward Burnaby Lake.

I had read that Venus would be visible in the morning, so I hoped to spot it. The water levels were much lower than any other time that I had paddled in Still Creek, so I moved cautiously, taking in the amazing sunrise.

The sun rising over Still Creek.

I wasn’t the only one out on the water in the twilight. As I neared the channel that enters Burnaby Lake, I noticed a dinghy in the distance near the shoreline. As I approached, I realized that someone was lying in the vessel. They looked warmly dressed in a blue parka with yellow reflected stripes, and their hood cinched over their head. I concluded they were a researcher of sorts, taking measurements, as the small vessel appeared equipped with instruments. As I quietly paddled past, the occupant awoke, and we acknowledged one another. He commented that I was out on the water early, to which I replied that so was he. Shortly after passing him, I spotted a small bright object in the sky. The light was either a satellite or the planet Venus. I checked my Sky Tonight app to confirm, and it was Venus!

The video below gives you a sense of the sights and sounds of Still Creek as I approach Burnaby Lake. Venus is the bright light in the sky near the end of the video in the centre, just above the cirrus clouds.

Birds sounds and Venus.

In the image below, you can see Venus. Venus is the light in the sky, just above the cirrus clouds, slightly to the left of the centre of the image. It was much brighter in real life.

The fog really added to the mystic of the morning, giving a surreal feel to the lake. The water was incredibly shallow as I entered the lake. My paddle made contact with the soft bottom a couple of times. In the low light of the twilight, I couldn’t tell the water depth, so I paddled forward slowly.

Clouds in the sky and on the water.

As I mentioned above, my progress was slow due to my awe of the morning beauty and frequent paddling interruptions to take photographs. As well as not wanting to catch a fin in the shallow waters and plunge to a muddy immersion.

Clouds near the headwaters of Brunette River.

The colour of the sky with the clouds was spectacular, especially coupled with the reflection on the calm waters.

Calm waters in Burnaby Lake.

The moisture and dust particles in the distant sky were scattering the shorter wavelengths of light (e.g., blue) and allowing the longer wavelengths to penetrate the atmosphere (i.e., red). The scattering of shorter wavelengths is the science behind the old sailor’s adage, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” There is some truth behind the saying as to be expected. The change in the weather was to come later, however, not until the evening. But for me in the morning, the blocking of blue light made for a picturesque paddle.

The sky’s warning.

And the colours of the sky only become more extravagant as I continued onward.

Burnaby Lake reflections.

Paddling Burnaby Lake in the winter lacked the characteristic lily pads along the outer edge of the lake. As such, the beaver dams and habitats were much more visible. I saw several wakes on the water surface, a sign of beavers below. Two beavers were near their dam, at the water’s surface, slapping the water to warn others of my presence.

After making my way past the headwaters of Brunette Lake, I was into unchartered water. I had never been to the docks on the southeast side of the lake. Nor travelled along the eastern or southern edge. Check off both for this trip.

Below is the view back northward from the southeastern part of the lake.

The North Shore mountains.

I tried to make up some time along the southern shore. Fewer photos, more paddle.

In the distance, I could see the researcher was now out and about near the mouth of Still Creek.

I was actually surprised at how much of the lake there was. Without the lily pad cover, I saw how much the lake extended on its southern border. I have always thought of this area only as marshland, rather than the lake. With the lily pad cover in the warmer months, it does look more like land than water. And, when you view it on Google Maps, depending on which map view you use, you can see what I mean. The lake either looks like the outline of a manta ray in map view or a long rectangle in satellite view.

Burnaby Lake on Google Maps map versus satellite view.

I can’t stress how impressive the reflections on the water were. Below, again, is the view northward from the northwestern aspect of the lake. It almost looks like a split mirror image.

Split image.

And after I passed by the Burnaby Lake Rowing Pavillion and turned back to face southeastward, the sun had come into full view.

The sun has crested the horizon.

The lighting was beautiful as I made my way back to the mouth of Still Creek. And I could see the silhouette of the researcher busily at work, now on the lake.

The sun is out!

I paddled slowly through the shallow area at the mouth of Still Creek. There is signage there that warns of the shallow depth. And with the sunlight, I could now see just how shallow the water was. I made my way back up Still Creek toward my launch spot, soaking in the sights under the new light.

Heading back up Still Creek.

The frosted grass along the riverbank looked like a shaggy overcoat insulating the ground. Below is the view back toward Burnaby Lake from the last bend of Still Creek before it empties into the lake.

Frosty banks.

And the view up the creek.

Up Still Creek.

And one last look with the sun in the full view back towards the warrior’s estate lake.

The end of a great morning paddle.

Below is a recap of the route that I took created on Relive. I recorded my trip with Geo Tracker. If you cannot view it below, here is a link to the video on Relive’s site.

Here are the map and statistics of my paddle from Geo Tracker.

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