01-Jun-2002 -- The confluence of 50°N and 126°W is in an area of which I have spent a fair amount of time. It is located in the extreme northern corner of Strathcona Provincial Park within a few hundred meters of Vancouver Island's drainage divide. The Gold River watershed flows West into Muchalat Inlet and the Salmon River watershed runs East into Johnstone Strait.
The confluence is right in the heart of what is probably the worlds best Roosevelt Elk range. On this particular outing we saw no elk, which is unusual, we did however see four black bears and a few Columbia black-tailed deer. The area also has a fairly high population of cougar and wolves.
My friend and I got a fairly early start from Campbell River on Saturday, June 1, 2002. We headed North up the highway a short distance before turning West up Menzies Main logging road. At about 40 km in the road became increasingly deteriorated. I was able to negotiate my 4x4 to within 3.5 km of our goal but then vehicle progress was halted by a major washout. From this point we began our ascent on foot up the remnants of the old logging spur in the direction of a small pass close to the confluence.
The first leg of this accent afforded wonderful views of the surrounding mountains, most of which were still capped with a fair amount of snow. Spring, which is late this year, was just starting to get underway. Below could be seen beautiful meadows near John Fraser Lake. We were expecting to see Elk, but never did. The sudden arrival of warm weather probably has them bedded down in the shaded thickets.
At 1 km from our destination the logging spur ended just short of the pass. We were able to continue another short distance on well used elk trails that entered virgin old growth timber. Large cakes of melting snow and huge windblown Douglas Fir on steep slopes made the progress very slow. The steep side hilling was causing my friend some problems so he reluctantly decided to retreat back to a sunny spot and wait for me. I continued through the pass finding the melting snow very treacherous. Trees buried by the winters snow were releasing themselves like catapults as I passed near.
I stayed well clear of deep tree wells but did go through a few times where little creeks had undermined the snow. At one point I broke through where the snow lay between two huge logs and fell short of slipping into a deep crevasse. As I sat on the rim I realized I might not have gotten out of that one.
Through the pass I found myself on a very steep south facing slope where there was no snow. The dense timber made GPS reception spotty and I ended up descending too far and had to side hill back upward toward my destination. A fresh deep gorge created by a landside blocked my progress. I was able to carefully skirt upwards along its rim and arrived at the confluence which was fortunately not in the ravine.
This area is full of beautiful scenic spots with great views of Vancouver Island's rugged mountains but unfortunately this confluence is not one of them. The root ball of a recently fallen cedar provided about the only level spot. From here I let my GPS average and finally got it to "0". I took some photo’s of the immediate area and tried to get some pictures of the beautiful mountains to the south but trees screened most of the view. I also mounted a small 2" engraved brass disk onto a standing fir tree before hastily making my way back. It had taken me 2 hrs in this day's conditions to travel that last 900 meters and I was overdue.
All in all the trek had been a fairly good experience. The confluence site itself was a little anti-climatic but the neighboring mountains and valleys are well worth exploration. In better conditions the route to the confluence would have been much more pleasant. It was nice to get back to the truck.