Trip Report – Strathcona Park-Ralph River – 15-18 June 2021

When the kayak trip to Bligh Island unraveled, the remnants of that trip booked into the Ralph River campground at the last minute.  This was not a carefully scripted trip; we mostly made it up as we went along.

Day 1 – After a late start and a ferry overload wait, we arrived at 3:00 at the campground, set up the tent amongst the amazing old growth trees in the Ralph River campground, and left to begin hiking at 4:00.  Given the time available, we explored some of the trailheads in that area: the Auger Point Traverse (steep), Shepherd Creek route (impressive canyon), Flower Ridge, and Price Creek (river views, then follows an old level road for a while).

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Day 2 – We hiked up the Buttle Bluffs and Park Main logging roads from the Western Mine road.  These are steep, gated roads surrounded by clear-cuts, but they provide excellent views and a rapid approach to higher elevation destinations.  The spring flowers were still quite good, the geology was fascinating, and there is an excellent water falls at 5 km.  The views of the Buttle Lake valley are really exceptional.  We continued about 7.5 km and 840 meters elevation gain, until we crossed a high point in the road and could see into the next valley surrounded by high mountains.

Day 3 –  We planned to kayak on Jim Mitchell Lake, but that didn’t work out because the condition of the Jim Mitchell Road changes from 2-wheel drive to 4-wheel drive at the Bedwell trailhead.  We didn’t have the right vehicles, so we walked up the road to see the Lake.  We returned part way down the road and then followed the Bedwell Trail out through a beautiful old forest to Thelwood Creek and the suspension bridge for lunch.  After lunch we drove just a bit further and walked the short approach to Lower Myra Falls.  This is always a beautiful falls, with great rock ledges and pools.  There was lots of water coming through the falls with the spring run-off.  The final short hike of the day was the Shepherd Creek loop, which leaves from the Ralph River bridge.  This short trail has a lot of variety with the river, some big trees, a mossy bluff, a wetland, and interesting saprophytes and fungus.  We still had time to explore the campground which is nestled in a beautiful forest between the Ralph River and Buttle Lake with lots of shoreline and views.  There were other folks from Quadra so the evenings were very social.

Day 4 –  We packed up the camping gear and drove to the Buttle Lake boat launch to kayak on the Lake.  We crossed to Rainbow Island in a freshening breeze.  At the moment it’s not an island because the water level in Buttle Lake is quite low.  We paddled to the south, sheltered side, explored a bit and had lunch.  There was a racing shell boat practicing in the lake.  After lunch we poked around some cliffs and an island to the south before returning to the boat launch.  Further exploration would be great, but more water and less wind would have been ideal.

This is an exceptionally beautiful area with access to amazing hiking at the Lake level or in the surrounding mountains.  The combination of the fjord-like lakes, the mature forests and the numerous mountains makes this a wonderful base for hiking and boating.

Debbie

Trip Report – Morte Lake Loop – 9 June 2021

The hike around Morte Lake is a familiar classic to many of us. There have been lots of changes in the past two years so this hike gave us an opportunity to experience some of those changes. Volunteers have been busy creating alternatives to trail sections that were wet or seriously eroded.

In spite of grizzly bear sightings and a rainy weather forecast, seven of us met at the Morte Lake parking lot and set off under sunny skies. We hiked counter clockwise, stopping for a snack on a bluff overlooking the lake. It started to rain lightly as we ate our lunch at the sandy beach on the south end. We returned to the parking via lower Deadfish Trail. It was a great to spend the day hiking and chatting with new people after so many months of isolation.

4 hours total (with snack & lunch stops) 9.5 km

Diana
 
Thanks to Diana and Norris for the photos
 

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Hiking – Morte Lake Loop – 9 June 2021

 

Trip Report – South Heriot Ridge Loop – 2 June 2021

This  was the first Club outing since Dr. Bonnie Henry re-opened adult outdoor sports in British Columbia.  It was great to go out with a group again.  The six of us first talked a bit about work that has been done documenting the geology, plants, animals and Indigenous history in this area.  We started out on the Homewood Camp trails leading to the first and most easterly bluff with views to the south and east.  We descended and continued on to Homewood Bluff for more views.  After a brief section off-trail we followed a forest trail leading to a short, steep ascent and High Bluff.  We stopped for lunch, then descended and made our way westerly across open mossy bluffs below the Citadel.  We climbed up a line to the plateau on the Citadel and visited the emergency communications tower with entirely different views to the northeast.  It was quite warm and humid, so we vegged out a bit on the helipad before continuing along the ridge and joining the Hopespring trail.  This trail led us to North Gowland Trail and then the Isle of 19 old growth Douglas firs.  We admired these survivors of the 1925 fire before crossing the small bridge, and again out onto mossy bluffs.  We followed a good line down to a forested logging road, where a Barred Owl sang to us, and a then short trail section leading back to North Gowlland Trail.  From there we walked east back to the vehicles.  7.7 km; 4¼ hours.

Debbie
 

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Hiking – Homewood and N Gowlland Trails – 2 June 2021

 

Trip Report – Cortes Island – May 2021

Day 1 – With Dr. Bonnie Henry’s encouragement to go camping locally, we stayed three nights and four days on Cortes Island, using the Smelt Bay campground as our base. After taking the ferry on Monday to Cortes, setting up camp and after having a sunny, relaxed lunch on the beach at Smelt Bay, we went to Manson’s Lagoon at a very low tide so that we could walk to the little island and explore the intertidal zone. (1.5 km; 1 hour)  After that we hiked to Easter Bluff, a short walk rewarded with excellent views to the south and east. (2.3 km; 2 hours)

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Day 2 – The night was quite cold, but we warmed up hiking up to the summit of Green Mountain, the highest point on Cortes Island, but still a very accessible trip. The loop around the top provided great views in most directions. (4.3 km; 2 hours)  In the afternoon, one couple kayaked on Hague and Gunflint Lakes, while the rest of us kayaked from the Whaletown government dock out to Shark Spit, once again at a very low tide. The launch down the steep ramp was quite extreme.  We walked around the Spit before portaging the boats over the spit and exploring the islets and coast around Uganda Passage.  (9 km; 2.5 hours)

Day 3 –  Rain was forecast overnight and into Wednesday, but we really only had drizzle overnight and it was dry by morning. Still, for breakfast we took advantage of the beautiful picnic shelter at the Smelt Bay campsite, with its timber-framed structure, wood stove and picnic tables. We then set out for the long loops at Kw’as Regional Park. Starting near the Cortes Motel, we hiked the eastern side Millennium Trail out to the Swim Rock for lunch. We followed along the Rock Face trail on the Hague Lake shore and visited the amazing Survivor Fir before crossing the narrows and hiking the loop out to the bench on the Pierre de Trail. Returning by the Cedar Ridge, we re-crossed the narrows and followed the Gunflint Lake shoreline stopping at the old steam donkey and then back to the cars. (12.4 km; 5.75 hours)

Day 4 –  Wednesday night was cool and windy, but Thursday turned into a lovely day. A few headed back on an early ferry (which it turned out didn’t run until 3:50), while the rest of us hiked in the morning at Hank’s beach, catching the low tide, sunny facing shore and great views. We rambled over the rocky bluffs and explored some tidal pools.  (3.2 km; 1.25 hours)  We then headed over to Squirrel Cove for lunch on the beach. We carried the kayaks a long way to the water and paddled into the protected anchorage, through the islands, enjoying the intertidal life. We were happy to see that the purple sea stars are returning very well. We stopped at the creek into the Squirrel Cove lagoon and walked across to the lagoon. In addition to the excellent intertidal life, there were duck and chicks in the lagoon. (7.7 km; 2.25 hours)  After ice cream from the Squirrel Cove store, most of us took the last ferry home.

There is so much to see and do on Cortes and we packed a lot into four days. The weather was kind to us, the low tides fascinating, and the spring growth lovely. We are so fortunate to have this nearby.

Debbie

Thanks to Norris and Bonnie for the photos

Trip Report – Shellaligan Pass Loop – 18 Nov 2020

In damp, cloudy weather, eight hikers enjoyed our first “Hot Chocolate” hike of the season, perambulating the beautiful Shellaligan inland loop clockwise. We set off from the first parking lot from the turn off from Valdes Road, a good decision in retrospect as the logging road was blocked further on by downed trees from the previous day’s windstorm. The first part of this loop is on good logging roads, watch for signage for the turn-offs. Soon we turned right off a wide logging road, onto the trail, this turn easily missed so now marked with extra orange flagging tape. We followed this lovely, easy trail through a veritable sea of green, alongside a very full creek, to the shore. Here we admired the “neurotic sapsucker tree” and noted the collected marine debris awaiting pick-up. Soon reaching the trail sign a bit inland, we headed back on the “shortcut to parking lot” to the “middle” parking lot, turning right onto the logging road back to our cars. Just under 2 hours, good exercise, good company, home by the fire by early afternoon, a great first “Hot Chocolate” hike. 4.9 km; 1½ hours.

Thank you to Norris for the photos!

 
Valerie van Veen
 

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Hiking – Shellaligan Pass Loop – 18 Nov 2020

 

Trip Report – Kw’as Park, Cortes – 11 Nov 2020

We were a group of four on the Remembrance Day hike to Cortes Island.  The ferry was uncrowded and the crossing calm.  We began the hike at the trailhead near the Cortes Island Motel and walked through this beautiful rainforest.  We ascended up toward the Summit and then along the Millennium Trail undulating over rocky bluffs through some old growth trees.  We had views of Hague Lake before we reached the Swim Rock, where we stopped for lunch.  The water and the weather were calm, and we chatted with a local woman who was fishing from her kayak.
 
We continued on the trail high along the shore with great views and descended the ladder along the Rock Face.  We made a short side trip to visit the Survivor Fir, which we measured as 7.9m in circumference.  We crossed the bridge across the narrow waterway between Hague and Gunflint Lakes and walked the loop to the south, including Pierre de Trail and the Cedar Ridge.  We also enjoyed the large Douglas fir at the junction, which we measured as 8.35m in circumference.  We returned over the bridge and walked the trail along the west shore of Gunflint Lake, with great views along the way and the steam donkey remains.  We continued on through the Spruce Grove and returned to the vehicles.  
 
It was a great hike with lots of variety and highlights.  The trail was very quiet at this time of year.  After the hike we stopped at the Cortes Coop for delicious refreshments before taking the ferry home.  8.9 km, 4½ hours.
 
Debbie
 

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Hiking – Kw’as Park, Cortes – 11 Nov 2020

Reconnaissance Report – Snowden Forest – 6 Nov 2020

Having now hiked the Lost Lake area three times, I was really keen to check out the trails further west,  particularly “Lookout Loop” and “Enchanted Forest”.  Armed with an old Ministry of Forests “Forest Recreation” map and the more recent coloured map, I headed out with my daughter and her dog on a lovely crisp fall day. We passed the Lost Lake parking lot, and the Riley Lake parking turn-off shortly after, and using the Ministry map (the coloured map has a logo right over the relevant section) we found the turn-off to the Elmer Lake parking lot, as marked on both maps. However, though marked as an almost straight north logging road, this quickly became a network of logging roads, with no signage anywhere. The northerly route eventually turned into a narrow, unmaintained quagmire, unnavigable if we hadn’t been in my daughter’s Honda Ridgeline. Obviously, this access route would be impossible for club members. We tried a few more logging roads that quickly opened out into recent clear-cuts with signs of active logging. Most regretfully, we turned around and headed back into more familiar territory.

We turned off at the sign to the Riley Lake parking lot, a bit further west of the more popular Lost Lake parking lot. Finally on foot, we headed up the Riley Lake trail. We soon came to a map which outlined the very area that we had been trying to access, now off-limits as active road construction and logging is presently underway there. So that explained the lack of any signage. To avoid the logging, the northern stretch of Riley Lake trail is being redeveloped, it is wide and with a good dirt base, easy walking. Eventually as Riley Lake trail turned west then SW, it became a narrow trail off the developed pathway, (not signed, used our compass and common sense). We followed the narrower trail to Pepper Spray (signed) to a T-junction with Cheshire Cat. Here the signage was very confusing. The right hand branch was signed “Out” but this would lead, eventually, to the very parking lot we had tried to find earlier, and would be in the closed area. Ignoring the “Out” sign, we went SE on Cheshire Cat, which came down to a clearing off the main road. We decided to follow Cheshire Cat back north, then took Oggies right back to our truck. Altogether about 2.5 hrs without a rest stop, easy to moderate hiking through beautiful woods. The short drive to the Riley Lake parking lot is a little rough, I think the Trimac trail links the Riley Lake trail to the Lost Lake parking lot, which would be more convenient. Definitely another hike to do in the beautiful Snowden Forest.

Valerie

Reconnaissance Report – Century Sam Lake – 7 Nov 2020

Another weekend was forecast to be fabulous, so we did another short-notice hike to check out a place we had never been to.  It’s a difficult place to get to in part because the logging company keeps the access road closed most of the time.  When it is open, the gate is locked promptly at 6:00 p.m.  There is a long drive inside that gate, some of which has great views of Comox Lake and mountains along the way.  Then there is a 2 km section which has water bars (cross ditches) making it accessible for 4×4 only and then there is the hike itself.  The trail is well worn, but hardly improved, so it is slow.  And this makes it harder to do as a day-hike.  We parked before the water bars and hiked up the logging road to the trailhead.

The trail isn’t special.  It’s often muddy, rooty and slippery, there is a lot of deadfall, there is a headwall below the Lake with a few places which require a bit of scrambling (and could use a rope).  Also, for us the trail was frequently icy, and occasionally the rock had a thick coating of ice. 

The destination is quite nice.  Century Sam Lake is a glacial blue – it would be great with sunshine on it.  We were too late in the season for that.  The Lake lies in a hanging valley below Comox Glacier.  A kilometre or so beyond the lake there is an ice patch with ice caves.  Fantastic.  For us, there was a strong, cold winter wind blowing across the lake, so we did not stay long.

This has become a very popular destination in the summer, when it is green, and you can see why.  Even now, late in the season, there were lots of people there.  Our whole hike was 13.6 km, 7 hours, 568m elevation gain to 1,000m at the ice caves. For just the trail portion, it was 8.3 km, 5¾ hours, 400m altitude gain. 

Norris

Thanks to Norris, Stephen and Carrie for photos

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Trip Report – South Morte Lake – 4 Nov 2020

This hike was a substitute for a trip to Cortes, which we put off because of the wind forecast.  Seven of us hiked a loop from the east end of Reed Lake up and over to the south shore of Morte Lake and back.  We only had a few drops of rain, but the trail was really wet, having had some heavy rains this fall and over 40 mm 24 hours earlier.  
 
We started along the north shore of Reed and Mud Lake to the South Bluff trail and the beach and viewpoint at Morte Lake, where we took a short break.  We then followed the official Morte Lake trail, turning on Nirvana and continuing up on Seven Sins to the viewpoint for lunch while it was nearly sunny.  We then turned down on Deadfish and Lost Rider and back to the vehicles.
 
The mushroom were still great and everything was very, very wet.  7.2 km, 3¼ hours.
 
Debbie
 

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Hiking – South Morte Lake – 4 Nov 2020

Trip Report – Big Tree – 28 Oct 2020

The destination for this hike was to the biggest tree on Quadra.  Five of us set out to visit it and other big trees in the area.  It’s in the Park, but there is no trail to it.  We parked the cars where the logging road gets steep and hiked from there.  Leaving the logging road, there is a short section of deadfall and brush.  Once in the Park the forest is more open and there is a path.  The big trees are in a deep valley with a little clear stream running through it. We measured around a few big Douglas fir trees, then had lunch and visited Clear Lake.
 
The biggest tree we measured was 7.4 meters around.  We think it is the same one as featured in this drone video.  The video says 9 metres around, but we suspect that was at the very base of the tree, which is not the standard way to do it.  It also says 800 years old and 90 metres high Watch that video here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MARVLftC-YY     4.9 km; 3 hours.
 
Norris
 

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Hiking – Big Tree – 28 Oct 2020