Call it our wedding anniversary, the final weekend before school, an early celebration of Octavia’s birthday, or just Labour Day; on September long weekend, I led a group of families on a traverse of Strathcona Park.
I’ve hiked the route between Raven Lodge and the Old Forbidden Plateau ski lodge on two previous occasions. Each time, I vowed to return to do it as an overnighter. Though a bit of a longer route, it meanders Forbidden Plateau with very few steep climbs; a fit group can complete it in about nine hours. In terms of a hiking route, there are very few like it on Vancouver Island. So when the question, “what to do as a family trip for our various celebrations in the face of COVID 19?” arose, I proposed doing the traverse as a family trip.
Distance: 26 km
Starting Elevation: 720 m
Maximum Elevation: 1226 m
Total Elevation Gain: 727 m
Total descent: 1100 m
Planned as a do-over of an unsuccessful trip in 2018 this trip filled up quickly when posted on the schedule. By the time the week of the trip arrived the group reduced to just Gord and I. Leaving Nanaimo at 06.30 on Saturday we arrived at the trailhead at 09.00 and were set up in the lower meadows 3-1/2 hours later.
Why the Hinde(less) you ask? Because we didn’t summit the Golden Hinde, which, for most people, would be the primary objective of this trek. For me, and for most of my group, it wasn’t a big disappointment, because for us it was about the journey, not just about bagging the highest peak on Vancouver Island.
We were two groups of four, with the other group canoeing over Buttle Lake before traversing across Marble Meadows and then to the Hinde, attempting it on the 21st. Aftrer coming within 200 meters of the top, they turned back due to hazardous snow conditions. My group hiked up the Elk River Trail to Elk Pass and then across to the Golden Hinde, making it to the South Tarn at the base of the mountain on July 21. Our hopes of a summit attempt on the 22nd, however, were dashed when we heard from the other group (via our inReach satellite communication) of their aborted attempt. To be honest, though, I’m not disappointed. I was tired, and climbing the mountain (which I had bagged in 1998) and then having an arduous 3-day hike to Buttle Lake before the short canoe back to my truck wasn’t appealing. And frankly, I don’t have the confidence on steep pitches, especially snow, that I once had.
What a difference a year makes! Last year when we hiked this trail, we saw nary a soul past Mount Albert Edward, but this year we met more than 20 others. One big group of about 20, a group of 3, a solo man and his dog, and two runners completing it in a day. The trail is also much better defined than it was just last year – a well-worn tread with many cairns leads the way. Although it is popular and pleasant, it’s far from a “walk in the park,” as over it’s 30 km it gains 2150 m and loses 3000 m. Lots of ups and downs! Since we started from Mt. Washington’s Raven Lodge with an elevation of 1100 m., we had an overall elevation loss of 850 m.
We started off with a stroll through Paradise Meadows
Four years ago, I went on an Island Mountain Ramblers’ trip to Lowrie Bay, and caught the bug–the bug of venturing (at low tide) along the shore and over headlands to the end of Hansen Bay. So when our trip to Nootka Island was cancelled due to COVID restrictions, I decided to return to Cape Scott, with the hope of forging our way along the lagoon to Nels Bight.
June 7 – camped at San Josef Bay (#3 on the map)
June 8 – over Mt. St. Patick to Lowrie Bay (10k; 6 hours 20 minutes)
June 9 – attempted to get to Rasmus Creek, but fallen trees forced us back and we camped just south of the point leading into Hansen Bay (a 10-hour day!)
June 10 – back to Lowrie Bay
June 11 – home sweet home
June 7 – a short 2.5k walk to our campsite
San Jo–arguably the nicest beach on Vancouver Island!
We managed to squeeze all 6 of our tents into this spot in the trees
Our beach-side kitchen, dining and living room
June 8 – up and over Mt. St. Patrick (416 m.) to Lowrie Bay
A rough trail, but oh! the view from the summit!
Bill with some fancy footwork crossing Russell Creek
June 9—some beautiful and challenging seaside hiking
And the bushiest whacking I’ve ever experienced, especially with an overnight pack!
But fabulous flora along the way
Our camp in a small cove on June 9
Michael caching food for the night
June 10 – return to Lowrie Bay
Eli with a sea lion skull
Thankfully, the bear appears to be well fed!
Luckily, the weather cleared up and we relaxed back at Lowrie Bay
I had fun with this Japanese light bulb that I found, intact!
June 11 – back up Mt. St. Pat
And along San Jo Bay and back to the trailhead
Yes, my hands took a beating, but it was worth it!
I’m a prisoner to my work schedule, and my summer vacation kicks off in the final weekend of June. However, since meeting Phil, I’ve come to participate in an annual pre-summer trip known as the Birthday Hike. This annual prelude-to-summer trip has brought us to some of the best places on Vancouver Island.
For two days, starting June 22, 2019, we set our sights on the three peaks which rise high along the ridge, on the west side of the Elk River Trail. The ridge is among the best Island Alpine I’ve had the pleasure of hiking; its near-pristine nature is protected by the awful bushwhack of Butterwort Creek on one end and a gnarly few steps on the other. It’s the type of terrain that is only visited by the crazy few who would seek out these diminutive objectives over the many giants of the Elk River Valley.
Total Distance 28.6 km
Starting Elevation: 312 m
Maximum Elevation: 1826 m
Total Elevation Gain: 2421 m
Friday, Aug 16: At 8 am, nine of us met at the resort at Great Central Lake to catch the Della Falls water taxi. Due to our numbers Doug, owner of the water taxi, had arranged for two boats so we could all arrive at the same time.
The party of six Ramblers set off from the well marked parking area on Western Mine Road. From there the group started the trail that climbs and weaves its way into the alpine. The relatively gentle gradient that gains 1,100 meters to the ridge crests at kilometre 8. The trail is dispersed with a few rolling treed areas that offer some relief from the grade as well as an impressive view point over looking the Myra Falls mine site.