06-Aug-2008 -- On August 5th I drove north on Vancouver Island from Victoria to Campbell River, with the goal of getting to the 50°N 126°W confluence, and possibly doing the hike into Gold Lake, both of which are located in the northern tip of Strathcona Provincial Park.
I turned off of Highway 19, north of Campbell River, onto the Menzies Main Forest Service Road. This is also the road to Morton Lake Provincial Park. At 23.5km I stopped at the bridge over the Salmon River. Unlike Tim's visit there was no water in the diversion canal.
At 35.9km is the junction with South Fork Main, where you stay to the right. At 39.1km Grilse Creek Main is to the right, so you stay to the left. At 41.7km is a small bridge, and then the junction with Menzies Main 1100 (Men1100) on the left.
It was almost 6PM, and it looked like Men1100 went up the hill, so I thought I would do some exploring, and maybe even find a place to camp. Gaining some elevation (in 4 wheel drive) I reached a spot that had a view of the valley, but went a bit higher to another spot with a view, and made this my camp spot, on Men1144.
The next morning I took a picture of the valley, which shows the general location of the confluence. It is "just over there", where the arrow is pointing, through the small valley between the second and third peaks.
Back down by the bridge, I continued on Menzies Main FSR. At 42.3km on my truck's odometer was the "44 KM" sign, so my mileage numbers are a bit less than the 'official numbers'. 2.5km further is the junction with Men1400, where I took a picture of the view.
The Campbell River Search and Rescue Society's "2004 Logging and Highway Road Map" (Buttle/Comox Lake to Sayward) indicates that Menzies Main branch 1500 (Men1500) is the road to the trailhead for the Gold Lake trail. Due to a washout, that branch road is blocked right after it leaves Menzies Main. A couple of hundred metres further along, "Menzies Main" now consists of a rough path across a rocky riverbed. Even when there is no water, you may not be able to drive beyond this point with a two wheel drive vehicle.
On the other side of the washout, on the left, is a sign for the Gold Lake trail. A rocky section of road parallels the washout area in order to provide access from Menzies Main to Men1500 and on to the trailhead. If you are doing the Gold Lake trail hike, and have to park just before the washout, it is about 2.2km to the trailhead.
I continued along Menzies Main after the washout. At the "48 KM" sign my odometer read 46.5km. At 47.2km, the 'open road' ends. I had spoken with someone at the Ministry of Forests before my trip, and he had said that last year they had "brushed out" Menzies Main, past the Gold Lake trail turnoff. This is obviously where they stopped.
An old overgrown road is straight ahead (probably Men2300), and Menzies Main curves to the left. Just a couple of hundred metres down the road you can't drive any further due to trees across the road. People have cut parts of the trees to allow for access via smaller vehicles (e.g. quads, snowmobiles). A number of factors (distance, elevation gain, brand new hiking boots, projected temperature above 30°C) made me decide that I wouldn't attempt to reach the confluence from here today.
I turned around and drove back to the turnoff for the Gold Lake trail. After 1.5km is the Strathcona Provincial Park boundary sign, and at 2.2km I parked at the trailhead. There were a lot of mosquitoes at the parking area, but not on the trail, so I wished I had prepared my pack and put on my boots back at the main road, to minimize the time with the mosquitoes.
The BC Parks trail info page indicates that the trail to Gold Lake takes about 2.5 hours. The directions to the trailhead are incorrect in that the gravel road access is via the Menzies Main FSR (it is not called the "Salmon River main"), and the distances are also incorrect. The trail is not a high use trail, and there are a number of places where you have to detour around fallen trees. Other than a few bits of flagging tape at some of these detours, the trail is not signed or marked. Update: as of August 29th the park rangers have updated the trail information, and have removed the windfall from the trail.
After about 35 minutes on the trail you get the first view of Eena Lake through the trees. Closer to Gold Lake there is a stream crossing. This stream is a tributary of the Gold River. There are a number of fallen trees, of various ages, where the trail meets the stream. Some of these have footsteps cut into them, and the "official" crossing is the log shown in the picture. The log's surface is starting to rot, and there is a smaller tree that has fallen across the log, making this method of crossing the stream 'less than optimal'. I straddled the log and slid across, but the smaller tree makes this a bit tricky.
The section of trail on the other side of the stream crossing is one of the nicest parts of the hike. For the first part you have the sound of the stream, and this area has a fair number of very large old growth trees.
The trail comes to a camp spot in the trees, and just beyond that to a gravel bar at the edge of Gold Lake.
The confluence is "just over there", where the arrow is pointing in picture #1, 2.86km away, on the other side of the ridge.
After some lunch, and time relaxing, listening to the loons and watching the fish jumping, I headed back to the trailhead. It took me 15 minutes longer to go back (2.5 hours vs 2.25 hours) due to the midday heat, running out of water, and the slight elevation gain from the lake to the trailhead. I crossed the stream "on foot" this time, and the couple of quick 'running steps' through the stream meant hardly any water in the hiking boots.