Continued from Part 1…..

Gold River and Upana Caves.

After Strathcona, we hit the road to gold river, the Hwy 28 cuts through the middle of Strathcona park and you are not short of some incredible views driving through it really is one of my favorite places in Vancouver Island.

Upana Caves

Shortly we hit Gold River a small town where you can stock up on gas, supplies, Wi-Fi and beer. After doing just that, we continued on towards Tahsis to stop off at the Upana Caves, if you are in the area, these are definitely worth a visit. They are easy to access and don’t require skills to have a rummage around in them, obviously make sure you have someone with you and wear the necessary protective gear.

The caves range from large and easy to get through, to some more challenging and tighter squeezes. There are maps at the site to help guide you through the Caves but remember to know your own limits if you are going to go in.

Woss Lake

From here we drove down the road to Tahsis, it is a continual mixture of gravel road and bits of paved road thrown in, it is quite an active road for industrial vehicles, so please watch you speed and respect larger vehicles.

Tahsis is a small community – from here you have access to a number of other caving sites for the more experienced.

You can also access the trail head that leads into Woss lake provincial park from here.

We then turned around and headed back towards gold river, but instead of taking the right-hand road at the junction we continued on towards Muchalat Lake, there are sign posts along this road and we followed the signs for Woss.

I had planned to check out a campground along the way and then overnight at Woss Lake Campground.

We pulled into Vernon Lake Rec site around 17:30 and as soon as we got out the car at one of the sites, Maverick our border collie, ran and jumped straight in the lake, so we allowed him to make the final call and decided to pitch up at Vernon Lake instead for night.

Vernon Lake Recreation Site: Is very rustic, with pretty dilapidated pit toilets and little shade on the campgrounds, but it does have about 15 lake fronted spots with little mini-private beaches, fire-rings and gorgeous views. So overall, I actually quite liked it.

 

The next morning, because I was freezing and Roxy was awake at 5:00- we were on the road by 6:30 and heading to Woss Lake, we decided to take a drive down the lake and up one of the side logging roads to a spectacular view across the Lake with a great spot for camping. Awesome hidden find – let us know if you fancy the coordinates.

 

From here we walked along an old logging road to the border of Woss Lake Provincial Park, along the way we found some fairly recent bear scat but despite scouting around, no sign of the wee little things.

Woss Lake Campground: Is again, very rustic like Vernon Lake, but has a lot more shade, I would say it’s probably the better spot over Vernon Lake if you are looking for a place to stay for the night.

Schoen Lake Provincial park

Our last stop along this little trip was Schoen Lake Provincial park

Schoen Lake is located off the Hwy 19, from Woss Lake you follow the signs for the Hwy and turn right onto it, back towards Campbell River.

Shortly you turn right off the Hwy 19 again and follow the signs for Cain Ski Hill and Schoen Lake, the road will eventually fork with Cain Ski to the left and Schoen Lake Provincial Park to the right.

The campground is well kept and there are a number of sites located on the water front, there is a beautiful beach and swimming area. If you wanted to do some trail hikes though, you would probably need to drive to one of the trailheads located on the other side of the park. But overall definitely worth a visit.

If you need any advise on road conditions or journey times – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Our latest trip takes us through Campbell river, Sayward Forest, Strathcona Park, Gold river, Tahsis, Woss Lake and Schoen Lake. The weather was gorgeous, the views spectacular and we went scouting for bears.

Our first stop was Campbell River, a large town 265kms north of Victoria.

Victoria → Campbell River

Take the Highway 1 north towards Nanaimo, you then have 2x options you can either take the direct route, Highway 19 north which bypasses all the towns on the way or the scenic route – the Highway 19A which winds along the coast. If you have time, personally I would take the 19A the best way to Overland is by seeing the sights.

There is plenty to do in and around Campbell river, but make sure to budget the time to spend a few hours in the town itself. There are plenty of options to choose from;

  • Kick back and enjoy the culinary delights of a number of fantastic restaurants overlooking the ocean.
  • Take sip of some of the local craft beer.
  • Campbell River is also a great option for taking a Wildlife or Whale watching tour.
  • Cycle Tours
  • Kayak Tours
  • Elk Fall Provincial Park

Sayward Forest

After Campbell River, we headed north continuing up the Hwy 19 before turning off into the Sayward forest area.

This area is great for exploring, there are tons of little lakes and forests and tracks that we could have easily spent weeks exploring.

This area is also home to the Sayward Forest Canoe Loop, which is a great loop paddle through 12 different lakes and approx. 7-8kms portage. You get to experience some of the calm pristine areas that can only be seen from water whilst making your way at your own pace. For more information get in touch.

The gorgeous beach of Brewster Lake

Our first stop was Cedar Lake Rec Site– A small little campsite, the tight road getting to it means it often rules out big rigs camping there. It is very rustic, but all sites have a picnic bench and fire-ring, and most are water fronted with the most spectacular views.

There are a number of great and free recreation sites around this area, so you have plenty to choose from if this one is full- if you want a list of our favourite lake campgrounds on Vancouver Island – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

From here we continued our way slowly through the Sayward Forest and then decided to loop around and through the Snowden Demonstration Forest.

Snowden Demonstration Forest

This area is fantastic for Mountain Bikers on Vancouver Island. You have a range of trails to choose from that suit both beginners and more advanced along with a number of hiking options. You could camp at a number of sites along the Lower Campbell Lake – (Loveland Bay, Burnt Beach rec site etc) and then bike into the forest and spend the day exploring. Finishing off with a cool dip in the lake and an ice cold beer.

 

After Snowden Forest we followed Campbell Lake Main Forest Service Road along the lake before turning off and driving towards Strathcona dam and then joining Hwy 28.

See our Mountain Bike tour for potential tour options.

Strathcona Provincial Park

After we drive into Strathcona Provincial park and turn off Hwy 28 onto Westmin Road following Buttle Lake. Tonight’s campground is Ralph River.

Ralph River campground is a well-kept site – the water comes from hand-pumped water wells and also comes with garbage disposal and pit-toilets. Ralph River is one of a couple of options the other driving accessible site is Buttle Lake Campground. Both are reservable, but book up fast.

From here you have a number of day hike options.

A great little morning hike that we recommend is the Bedwell Lake Trail, this is awesome if you just want a casual hike with some stunning scenery – from Ralph River Campground continue down the Westmin Road, at the end of the lake there is a gravel road called Jim Mitchel Lake Road, turn left down here and follow the road, enjoying the spectacular views of the mountains as you do so. There is a small parking area to the right and the trail head is just down the road from here.

The hike has some pretty steep sections, but the trail is very well maintained, I recommend taking a picnic up with you and enjoying the surrounds for a bit before making the return journey back down.

……To be continued in Part 2

Part 2...

 

As the camping season gears up, I think its important to remind everyone to follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ camping rules.

I was out near Woss Lake Provincial Park the other month on one of the trails quite far from anywhere and came across an old campfire, whereby someone had thrown their beer cans into it and then left them. Please don’t be that type of camper 🙂

“Leave No Trace” Camping Ethics

  • Leave No Trace of your visit to by incorporating these ideas and practices into your wilderness experience. They are especially important when camping in wilderness and alpine areas to protect the natural environment.
  • Clean your camp when you leave. In wilderness areas, spread use and avoid places where impact is just beginning. Pay particular attention to what you do in and around your campsite; you are camping in and amongst sensitive plants such as heather meadows. These are among the most fragile ecosystems because of the severe conditions and the short growing season. What may seem like a harmless activity can cause long-term damage.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack out all trash and food waste left over from cooking. Bury human waste at least 20cm deep and 70m from any water source or wetland. Mix in dirt and cover to disguise the hole. Human waste that cannot be buried in solid ground must be carried out.
  • Pack out all toilet paper — do not burn it. Urinate on the soil surface, away from vegetation and water.
  • Waste water from cooking and washing: Use hot water and elbow grease, not soap. Remove all food particles by straining cooking and wash water before disposing of it using a broadcasting method. Pack the particles out with leftover food. Avoid contaminating water supplies by not washing directly in the water. Soap is not necessary. Rinse off at least 70m from any water source. Minimize tooth brushing impact by using salt or baking soda instead of toothpaste.
  • Leave What You Find: Avoid site alterations. Leave all sites as you found them. Do not dig trenches, level sites, or construct tables or chairs. Avoid damaging live trees and plants. Never hammer nails into trees or girdle trunks with tent lines. Leave natural objects and cultural artifacts. All natural and cultural resources such as rocks, antlers, or fossils, pot shards, and projectile points, must be left undisturbed. It is illegal to disturb or collect these resources.
  • Respect Wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow, approach, or feed them. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely. Avoid wildlife areas during sensitive times.
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

Save and considerate camping guys.

 

Fancy pushing the boundaries a bit and finding some remote locations?

Here are 9 of our favourite wilderness spots that you can get to with your vehicle. There are still many more amazing locations that can only be accessed by boat, kayak or foot.

 

1. Carmanah Walbrahn Provincial Park – An easy(ish) access from either side, although we prefer the west side, this protected area is home to some giant trees, wilderness trails and abundant wildlife. Check out our visit there (Insert) for pictures. There is space to camp either at the park entrance or backcountry camping is allowed in the summer months.

2. Cape Scott – The northern most protected area on Vancouver Island this is a rugged coastal wilderness famous for wolfs and other wildlife the rocky coast is punctuated by fine textured white sand beaches.

Note there are some road closures in this area at the moment.

June 3rd – June 7th 2019

June 10th – June 14th 2019

San Josef Main FSR

3. Telegraph Cove – You might have guessed it, named after the old telegraph system this was the northern terminus for the telegraph line. A 1 room telegraph shack that loggers, fisherman etc could use to stay in touch with the outside world. This is a great launch pad for excursions into the great bear rainforest or whale watching. Many of the old buildings still exist – built on struts in the water and connected with boardwalks although it has now modernised over the years.

4. West coast Trail – Technically the ends of this trail are vehicle accessible, but the vast majority of this 75km backpacking trail is not. Developed in 1907 to help facilitate the rescue of shipwreck survivors it is rated as one of the best hikes in the world. Only open from 1st may to 30 Sept and requires booking – if you have short time or not planned a trip, also consider doing the Juan De Fuca trail a bit further south on the Island

 

Main cave entrance – Upana Caves

 

5. Tahsis (For the Caver) – Tahsis was first settled by the first nations and remained largely unchanged until the 1900s when logging was first introduced. The first logging community was developed as a floating settlement to begin with – this area is still well known for its abundant wildlife. For the avid caver there are a number of great spots – from Coral caves to Weymer caves in Weymer Creek Provincial Park. If you are not an avid caver but want to check out and easy accessible site – we would recommend the Upana Caves located roughly 15 kms down the Gold river-Tahsis road, these caves are easy to get to and easy to explore around.

6. Coal Harbour – A marine hub this is worth a stop to look at the 6m Blue whale jawbone (the largest ever found)

Strathcona Park

7. Strathcona Park – The oldest park in BC, and by far the largest on Vancouver island, you have plenty of options to choose from here. Hiking, biking, relaxing are all on the menu. This park is famous for its numerous mountains, lakes, waterfalls and glaciers. You can do this the easy way or you can make it very difficult for yourself by hiking through it.

8. Hot Springs cove – technically shouldn’t be in this list as you need to take a boat from tofino but regardless, needs to be on here. You can do this as a day trip from tofino, but be warned that it gets busy in the peak seasons.

View of Woss Lake

9. Woss Provincial Park – You can drive to either the end nearest to the Hwy 19 and camp at Woss Lake Campground, but this won’t get you into the park, if you want to go inside the park, the best option is to drive to Tahsis and walk into the park from there – but you must note that this really is wilderness camping so make sure you do this safely.

Now heading back towards Nitnat Lake, the original plan was to go to tofino, but a reported heavy storm coming in succepered that plan and I had noticed a potential road leading down to the west coast trail so I thought I would do some more exploring back in that area.

Cathedral Grove (in the rain)

On the return journey, the dogs and I stopped off at Cathedral grove, located along the Hwy 4 between port alberni and the Hwy 19 Junction. This is another old growth protected area set in the Macmillan Provincial Park. The area has large amounts of sitka spruce, cedar and other beautiful trees and easily accessible for all abilities.

In Port Alberni again we refilled on gas and headed through port alberni and back to Nitnat, now remember it’s been raining pretty hard all day. Now, to make the drive harder it starts the hail, and it covered all those water filled potholes with a nice layer of hail slush.

The result? You cant see the potholes anymore – great fun 🙂

We eventually got to Nitnat and decided that we needed something dryer for the night and forked out for a night at Nitnat Motel. It was a wise choice as the thunder and lightning arrived soon after that. I think the dogs were most happy about this decision.

 

The next day is where the fun really begins as we try and find some new roads.

Again the importance of us doing these routes is so that we dont send you down some roads like these.

First stop – I wanted to try and connect the Rossandar Main road down to the west coast trail – I had to options and set off back towards Carmanah Park, but turned off right before. The road started out really good, but then started to narrow as there was a large amount of mature vegetation grown in on either side of the path, at a fork – I took the right road and the road narrowed to the point I decided to stop at a turning point to walk and see if it opened out again. (Obviously it was raining still), I’m glad I didn’t try and squeeze the car down here and damage the paint work, because this road leads to a dead end completely.

Mission number 1: FAILED.

Next mission Nitnat lake camp – located further down the lake than the other camp. But due to the storms of the past few days there were 3 or 4 large trees blown down blocking access.

Boardwalk at Carmanah Walbran Park

Mission 2: FAILED

Next was to try and go into the other side of Carmanah walbran to the former hummingbird research camp, the start of this road was great – but it soon became apparent that this too had not been used in a loong time, and it became slow going, I had to get out and move several types of debris from the road. Over a number of drainage ditches and around some very tight corners, eventually the road narrowed too much to get through without again significantly scratching the sides of the car, and I was forced to reverse 1km back to find a turning point. On the positive, it was a stunning view of the valley and a really pretty road. You could also camp at the section down this road as well where they have cut into the side of the mountain for turning large vehicles. 

Mission 3: FAILED

Next go into the other side of the Carmanah Walbran Park – again there was quite a bit of debris to move on the way, but we did manage to find it and get there.

Carmanah ‘The other entrance’

There is a small campsite located here and the area is maintain by the ‘Friends of carmanah walbran’ group. There is not car camping spots available really unless you camp on the side of the road. This is great to access a different part of this stunning area. There are a number of great little trails around here as well. Both sides offer very different perspectives of this beautiful Valley. 

 

Mission 4: ACCOMPLISHED

After our visit to Carmanah it was time to head back to home.

We now headed from here to port renfrew, along the way – keep a look out for Big Lonely Doug located once you reach the gordan road and running parralel to edinburgh main. Once reach Port refrew its paved road again and finally – THE SUN CAME OUT.

This is a fun, winding coast road that has stunning view of the ocean and just a great end to this little trip.

 

2019 FAROUT PRE-SEASON TRIP NUMBER ONE  – COMPLETED

 

I recently went on a short excursion to test out some of the routes we will be offering this season and to check road conditions to the various camps – we don’t recommend any unpaved roads to clients that we haven’t personally driven and you will see why this is so important.

 

Myself (sam), Roxy and Maverick all piled into Roxanne, with all our gear, beer and food and headed out of Victoria, I was hoping to miss the rush hour traffic out of Victoria but unfortunately this was not to be, nothing more frustrating than sitting in stand still traffic. Finally once out past the sooke turning it was smooth sailing all the way to duncan whereby we turned off HWY 1 onto the 18.

A short drive down here and we were at Cowichan Lake, as we had left in the afternoon, we didn’t hang around too long but we do strongly suggest taking the time to have a wander around. A quick re-fill on gas to make sure we were 100% full before heading off into the backcountry.

After Cowichan lake we passed through Youbou and here you will see a sign ‘’End of guided roads’’ and the last of the paved roads for a few days. It was dirt and gravel logging/industrial roads from here.

Just before dusk we pulled into Nitnat lake campground. Parked the car and let the dogs out, cracked a beer and took a nice walk along the beach as the sun settled behind the mountains. Once back at the car, I set up the camp and went to start dinner, I packed in a rush as I was looking after our 8 month old daughter during the day and she wasn’t in a helping daddy pack the car mood, seems I made a serious schoolboy error and forgot the matches/lighter – which I would love to say is the first and only time I have done it, but it isn’t. No hot dinner for me tonight :(. During the night it started raining, and it wouldn’t stop raining until I was an hours drive from home……in a few days time 🙁