08-Jun-2002 -- This is the second visit of my first dedicated overnight confluence trip.
The point is part way up a ridge above Gold Lake, just outside Strathcona Park on central Vancouver Island. There are two possible approaches: Hike into and halfway around Gold Lake and up the side of the mountain, or else choose the way I took, which requires less climbing.
I had been planning on doing this trip and 50°N 125°W for several weeks. I checked the site the day before I left for the trip, and found that someone else had submitted a visit already! I was quite discouraged, and rearranged my travel plans to visit 49°N 124°W with Dave, Neale, Bob and Noel instead of this one. As we were walking at that point, Dave (DCP Coordinator for Canada) put forward the possibility that this submitted attempt may have been someone playing around with the site, and not an actual visit, as he had not yet reviewed this submission. I reconsidered, and decided to go for it, and hit the road as soon as we were done the visit.
I headed north on the new Island Highway, not stopping for anything except fuel and Doritos. I drove past Nanaimo, Comox, Courtenay, and Campbell River, then turned left on the Menzies Main forestry road. This road starts out as a gravel superhighway, and slowly gets narrower and narrower. I passed a few recreation sites on lakes. I drove over the Sayward Forest Canoe Route. The road was very dusty and it was hot out, so I had a choice of being choked with dust or baking with the windows closed. I chose the dust. I looked into the woods as I was driving along through the wilderness, and I was startled to see a a concrete canal with some large gates nearby. I did some looking when I got back to work (I work for BC Hydro, the provincial power company), and determined that this was part of the "Salmon River Diversion" - diverting water from the Salmon river to Campbell Lake for use in generating power at the Ladore and John Hart generating stations.
Further along, I caught a glimpse of an elk at the side of the road, but I was much too slow to take a picture. I kept going past an active logging area with fresh cut logs piled up on the side of the road. The road kept getting narrower and narrower. I started encountering dips in the road - areas where a culvert had been removed. The first few were fine, but as they got deeper, my bike (on a rack at the back of the truck) started scraping the ground. I removed the bike and the rack, and put them in the back of the vehicle, but the trailer hitch holder still scraped. No damage done - it's solid.
The kilometers continued to tick down, as I passed the turnoff for Gold Lake and kept going, still on Menzies Bay Main road, now quite diminished. Finally, at about the 53 km mark of the Menzies Main Road, I got to a point which was definitely impassable - 3 logs across the road followed by a missing bridge. There was a sign indicating that this was a "Watershed Renewal" area. Apparently, watershed renewal means removing all culverts and bridges.
I parked the truck at the nearest pullout and pulled out the bike. I still had about 3.5 km to go to the confluence point. I put the GPS on the nifty Garmin handlebar attachment, and rode up the road towards the confluence. The road conveniently went in the correct direction. I had to jump a creek and ride through a bunch of removed culvert dips. The road was fairly rough going, being quite steep and unmaintained.
At one point, I caught a quick glimpse of a bear. My heart would have raced, but it was already working at max capacity, so it just jumped around a bit in my chest. Fortunately, the glimpse I caught was of the rear end of a bear, which is the part I prefer seeing (no claws or teeth). The bear must have heard my bell ringing, or heard my wheezing and panting trying to get up the hill, and steered clear of me.
I climbed for about 2 1/2 km, thinking all the while that this will be pretty sweet to ride down. Eventually, the road and the clearcut which it served ended, and I had to start walking the last km to the point. I checked the elevation of where I was and of the confluence point, and discovered that the best strategy would be to gain some height, then follow the contour line. I started heading diagonally upwards through the clearcut, then through the woods. The terrain was standard temperate rainforest, with slopes varying from 20 degrees to vertical - there were some real rock cliffs along the way.
Once I got in the trees, there were many sections which still had snow covering the ground. The snow actually made for easier going. It was quite solid and compact, and gave better grip and surface than the slippery roots and moss on the ground. I was hiking in my biking shoes, which have good tread, but also have a metal SPD cleat in the bottom, which tends to slip on roots.
I gained elevation through the trees, and watched the meters click down on the GPS. At this point, I began feeling rather tired, and contemplated why this might be. I realized that I hadn't had anything substantial to eat since 10AM, and it was now about 7:30 PM. In my eagerness to get to the confluence, I forgot to have lunch. Note to self: bring powerbars on future confluence trips - or maybe just eat first.
I got my second wind around 400 m away from the point. As I approached within 25m, I realized I was about 100 ft too high, so I scrambled down the very steep slope - I just about slipped further down than I wanted. I arrived at about 8 PM. The confluence is located just up from a creek which flows down to Gold Lake. I could catch a bit of a glimpse of the lake through the trees. If I had more time, I would have liked to hike into the lake, but darkness was coming, so I took some pictures, made a quick monument, and tried to take some pictures of the GPS.
I was curious about the possibility of the visit from the week before being real, so I kept my eye out for signs of other visitors. I found a piece of pink flagging tape about 35m from the confluence, and I saw footprints in the snow which looked about a week old - I realized that the other visit was legit, and I am the second visitor. Since then, the someone in question completed their submission, putting me in second place for this spot.
The hike back was straightforward. I headed generally downwards and back towards where I left my bike, and came out just below it in the clearcut. The bike ride back was indeed quite sweet. The missing culverts were like big jumps with a big splash in the middle. After a few of these, I was reminded of the last time I tried big jumps on my bike, and the scar which I still have from that experience. Considering also my level of fatigue, the distance to the nearest hospital, and the likelihood of being found any time soon if I became incapacitated, I slowed down a bit, but still enjoyed the descent. I jumped the creek and made it back to my car at about 8:45.
The return trip was much quicker than the outbound trip. I threw the bike in the truck and headed back to civilization, where I had promised to call my wife so that she would not have to send out a search party. I saw another bear on the way back, scampering across the road. Again, I was not nearly quick enough on the draw to get a picture. I got back to Campbell River around 10PM, had a bite at the A&W, and crashed at Janet's house (thanks Janet). On to 50N 125W tomorrow...