Category Archives: park

Cape Scott

Earlier this summer I made the long journey up to the northern most point of Vancouver Island and spent 5 days exploring the area in Cape Scott Provincial park. I have never explored the much of northern Vancouver Island but it has always been a place I have wanted to see more of. Cape Scott is an interesting mix of natural beauty and history. It is the site of a number of separate attempts at early settlement and later on a top secret radar instillation that is now home to a lighthouse. After a lengthy drive on winding roads to get to Port Hardy you turn off for the final part of the journey to access the park, 65km of gravel roads that passes through the the small town of Holberg before reaching the trail head. From the trail head there are a number of options but we decided to setup a base camp at Nels Bight, a 2400 meter long sandy beach about 17km from the parking lot that includes a ranger cabin. This central location provides a good starting place to explore the beaches in the area.

_D8C8575_web

Hiking through lush forests en route to Nels Bight

Nels Bight is a stunning beach that offers stunning views and a fantastic place to watch the sunset. Over the next 2 nights we experienced very different weather patterns, our first night was clear without a cloud to be seen. Waking up the next morning we got to see something a little different as a heavy cloud had rolled in, while the it was sad to loose the sun the fog and cloud made for some unique photo opportunities.

The sunsets on a beautiful evening at Nels Bight

The sunsets on a beautiful evening at Nels Bight

Fog and clouds shroud Nels Bight

Fog and clouds shroud Nels Bight

Under the cover of cloud we made our way towards Guise Bay, Experiment Bight with the Cape Scott lighthouse before returning back to base camp at Nels Bight. Guise Bay was one of the more stunning beaches that we got to see, had it been warmer out it would have been something you could almost imagine as being tropical.

Looking over Guise Bay from the sand dunes between it and Experiment Bight

Looking over Guise Bay from the sand dunes between it and Experiment Bight

Guise Bay was the site of a number of building from a secret radar station at Cape Scott operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, the current site of the lighthouse was also used for this installation and in fact the lighthouse sits on the same foundations as the old radar dome. Signs of these prior uses are clearly visible, some more than others such as the old plank road that leads from Guise Bay to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is somewhat utilitarian and is not what one would think of when you think of a lighthouse, it is simply a light mounted on a short tower located on the highlands of the cape. Experiment Bight is separated by a small band of sand dunes from Guise Bay, these sand dunes are not something that is commonly found on Vancouver Island so it was neat to explore them on the way over to Experiment Bight.

Looks out towards Guise Bay through a gap in the sand dunes between Guise Bay and Experiment Bight

Looks out towards Guise Bay through a gap in the sand dunes between Guise Bay and Experiment Bight

Flowers grow in sand above the high tide mark at Experiment Bight.

Flowers grow in sand above the high tide mark at Experiment Bight.

By the time the sun was setting it appeared that the fog and clouds that had hung over us all day was starting to clear making for a very different sunset compared to the previous evening.

Twilight as the last of the sun shines through a break in the clouds

Twilight as the last of the sun shines through a break in the clouds

After a day of fog and cloud we once again woke up to beautiful clear sunny skies, this morning we packed up camp and made our way over to the less popular Nissen Bight for the night. The relatively short hike over to Nissen Bight passes through the main Cape Scott settlement area which has a number of remains of attempts to tame the area by settlers in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s although some did stick around until the 50’s most had left with the onset of World War I.

Old tractor at an old homestead site

Old tractor at an old homestead site

Nissen Bight and Fishermans Bay are very close to each other and can be accessed by a short trail or tide permitting over the beach. Nissen bight offers a less populated camp site although the water source is some distance from the main camping area. Nissen bight is also the start (or end) of the North Coast trail.

Sunset as viewed from Fishermans Bay near Nissen bight.

Sunset as viewed from Fishermans Bay near Nissen Bight.

After a night at Nissen Bight it was on to our final camp destination at San Josef Bay before heading home, although it was a long day of hiking it was easy going as it is mostly flat (or downhill) the whole way. San Josef Bay is a stunning white sand beach which has some unique sea stacks and caves between 2 bays. The sea caves and 2nd bay are only accessible when the tides permit, there is a steep overland route but it looked rather difficult. It should also be noted that while San Josef Bay does have a water source it is located at the 2nd beach which may be cut off due to the tide to keep that in mind when planning (we collected water at Eric lake). San Josef Bay is a popular location for day hikers or less adventuress hikers as it is a short few kilometers from the trail head so expect it to see more crowds than other beaches in the park.

Sea stacks at San Josef Bay

Sea stacks at San Josef Bay

Cape Scott is an iconic hike and is well worth the journey to get there. It offers an amazing selection beautiful natural sites with some neat history which is not something you experience at most hiking destinations. While the hiking is relatively easy the distances getting out to the beaches near the cape are long and depending on the conditions can be a challenge in that regard.

 

Also posted in camping, hiking Tagged , , , |

Century Sam Lake

Century Sam lake is a spectacular alpine lake located in the shadow of the Comox glacier. While the hike is steep at time it is relatively short. Unfortunately access to the trail head can be a pain. The first hurdle is that it is accessed via private logging roads controlled by TimberWest and generally the area is gated off. Access can be checked through their website, you want to check the status for “Comox main”. The last hurdle that is the last KM or so of road is in poor shape and has a number of large washouts which will require a decent 4×4 vehicle to get past. If you do not have a vehicle capable you can walk but this will extend your hike somewhat.

Assuming you can gain access to the trail head there is a lovely hike starting relatively flat following a creek through some mature forest and a few slide paths before getting into a step section of forest that you will make your way through until you reach the lake at the top. While the lake is stunning one of the other attractions is a snow cave which is often formed in the snowfield just beyond the lake.

_D8C1922_web

Crossing the steam near the trail head

The lake is filled from a snowfield and the Comox glacier (I assume) which sits above the lake which gives it that stunning “alpine” lake colour from the particles suspended in the water.

Looking down onto Century Sam lake

Looking down onto Century Sam lake

One of the big draws of this hike is the “snow cave” that is formed in the snowfield at the far end of the lake. While this is a stunningly beautiful feature use extreme caution if you decide to explore inside of it, there is no knowing when/if it will collapse.

_D8C2037_web

Water coming down the side of the surrounding mountains with the snow cave in the background

_D8C2030_web

Melt water pouring out of the cave entrance, notice the collapsed snow and ice

_D8C1992_web

A large ice arch formed in the remaining snow and ice

Inside the cave while eerie and ominous is a pretty amazing place once you get past the constant deluge of cold water falling from the ceiling.

_DSC6306_web

Looking out towards the entrance of the cave

_D8C8898_web

A fellow explorer standing in one of the cave entrances

_D8C8926_web

Melt water carves it’s way through the ice and rock towards the cave entrance

Century Sam is a trip well worth taking assuming you are able to gain access to the trail head. It is one of the more unique hikes I have done on Vancouver Island and given the relative ease of the hike given the nature of the scenery it is certainly very rewarding. The trail is usually in good condition as it is maintained by Comox District Mountaineering Club and is well marked for the most part.

Also posted in hiking, landscape, photo Tagged , , , |

Supermoon

Last night there was a so called “supermoon“, a supermoon is when the moon is (slightly) closer to earth due to the shape of it’s orbit in conjunction with it being a full or new moon. While not totally uncommon this phenomenon only occurs about once every 14 months.

To take advantage of this I went down to Pipers Lagoon as I figured it would offer some of the best views in Nanaimo. It seems that a number of other people had the same idea and there where a number of other people and photographers who had the same idea.

_D8C0038_web

The moon rises over horizon.

_D8C0060_web

As the moon rose the tide receded leaving exposed rocks behind.

_D8C0166_web

Once up the moon continued to dazzle

 

Also posted in Flickr, landscape, photo Tagged , , |

Hiking from Paradise Meadows to Wood Mountain

Early this summer I hiked from Paradise meadows (Mt Washington) to Wood mountain (Old Forbidden ski area), this was a trip inspired last year when doing another hiking trip I saw a sign indicating a trail over to Mt Becher which previously I had only been to in the winter. The hike starts off walking though Paradise meadows out towards Kwai lake.

_D8C7318_webEasy walking along the boardwalks through Paradise Meadows

Stopping for lunch always somehow sends out a silent signal to let all the grey jays (whiskey jacks) in the area to flock to you. This time there where a number of juvenile birds that  seemed not only hound us for food but also the parents.

_D8C7357_web

Once you are nearly at Kwai lake the trail gets a bit more adventurous, this is where you turn off of the established trails in the core area of Strathcona park and start to head towards our camp for the night at McKenzie lake. While the trail was clearly not traveled all that much it was still easy to follow despite the small snow patches. Even though the trail was clearly not maintained anymore it was still easy walking through a mixture of sub-alpine forests, meadows and past a number of streams, tarns and lakes.

_D8C7432_web

Before arriving at the McKenzie lake campground there was a real treat as we had to walk through a swampy meadow that had a number of wildflowers out in bloom which added a lovely splash of colour since the weather was rather dull.

_D8C7496_web

The campsite we stayed at is located on McKenzie lake but Douglas lake is only a short walk away and looked to have spots for a few tents. We had a bit of a cool wind coming off of the lake and seemed like Douglas lake would have been more sheltered from the wind but since we had already setup at McKenzie lake we stayed there.

Both of the lakes where bigger than I expected and similarly beautiful to other alpine lakes I had visited in the region.

_D8C7552_webLooking out over McKenzie lake from camp.

_D8C7537_crop_webLooking down McKenzie lake to the further point from camp.

Although the weather had not been ideal on the first day there had only been some minor rain but starting early on day 2 that seemed to change. A rain storm soon settled in for most of the day as we hiked back to the car we had left at the Wood Mountain parking lot. Before leaving camp I spend a little big exploring and taking in some of the sights and scenes around the lake.

_D8C7582_webLooking out from camp while waiting for the rain to hopefully let up

_D8C7521_webA nice cluster of Veratrum viride near Douglas lake.

Hiking out of McKenzie lake was one of the highlights of the trip as we enjoyed a brief (but welcome!) period of sunshine while we hiked through more of the meadow we had to hike into the camp site the previous afternoon. It did require some careful navigation and a leap or two to navigate some of the swampier areas.

_D8C7606_webKyle demonstrating his excellent sherpa skills while helping carry bags across one of the trickier crossings.

The remainder of the hike was done in rather poor weather conditions which resulted in a real lack of photos although the scenery certainly did not disappoint. After leaving the meadows outside of camp we quickly got into old growth forest that continued until we reached the old ski area. Hiking down the Mt. Becher trail was certainly interesting since I had previously only done it in the winter.

This was a wonderful one night hike that I would not hesitate to do again, I think the biggest downside to this is the requirement to juggle cars as you need to leave one at each trail head but in reality the drive between them is not that long. The first day was a little long (~16km) but the hiking was easy and mostly flat, the 2nd day was shorter in distance but did involve more up and downs until you reach the main Mt. Becher trail at which point is is pretty much all downhill until you reach the parking lot.

Here is a map to give an idea of the route and distances involved, the total distance covered was just over 27km (~16km on day 1 and ~11.5km on day 2)

map

Additional information:

Also posted in camping, hiking, landscape, life, nature, photo Tagged , , , , |

Carmanah Valley

Carmanah Valley has always felt like a bit of a magical place to me, where else can you walk among giant trees that have been standing for several hundred or even a millennium. Just trying to think back to what was going on in the world when those trees had started growing is a fascinating experience. The sad truth when it comes to this is that these trees and habitat are extremely rare. There is less than 2% of this type of old growth habitat still left in BC, and the rough and bumpy road required to access this park winds through the swathes of clear cuts that demonstrate the immense scale of the forest industry.

While there is not much of this habitat left we are lucky to have what we do have as it is truly specular. Spending time amount these living giants is not something that can easily be described and is best experienced for oneself if at all possible. Other than access being a little tricky due to the fact you are required to travel on rough logging roads for about 2.5 hours (one way) to gain access to the park. Once reached the park offers easy walking and lovely camping if desired with some of the most spectacular views I have experienced on Vancouver Island.

_D8C6644_webThe Heaven Tree

While there is a trail much of it is no longer maintained and some of the boardwalks and wooden structures are starting to show the side effects of being located in a rainforest.

 _D8C6631_web

_D8C6409_web

One of the more famous attractions of the park is the “three sisters”, a trio of huge sitka spruces arranged in a triangle with a platform that allows for visitors to gain a unique perspective of these huge trees.

_D8C6592_webLooking up between the “three sisters”

If you are planning a visit there are some great camping opportunities if you are will to hike down to the gravel bar that is near the three sisters. What more can you ask for, camping among ancient giants next to a lovely river.

_D8C6585_web

Carmanah is a unique jewel and will leave a lasting impression on visitors, if you are able to make the trip out that way you will not be disappointed. The only downside is that after seeing these giant trees “normal” trees just don’t have the same impact they once did.

Also posted in camping, hiking, landscape, photo Tagged , , , |