Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook - Map 36 D1
Atlas of Canada Link: Anutz Lake
Latitude and Longitude: 50o 17' 59" N - 126o 55' 0" W
Trip Date: June 21st, 2009
I arrive late Sunday afternoon, wind blowing straight at the beach, sun bleaching the view. An assortment of robins work the Thimble Berry and Pacific Ninebark bushes. No one is at the site but there are deep ATV ruts along the beach and in the middle of the field, a circle where an ATV went around and around. It feels a bit like a ghost town.I decide to camp close behind the row of bushes that separate the beach from the campsites.
I cook dinner, read for awhile, then explore the beach to the west and discover a place where water has created a flow of limestone out from a small opening in the rock — a white tongue of stone. I climb up onto a 14 foot high rock outcropping and watch the waves, listen to the wind in the forest.
Red Paintbrush shocks from side to side in the wind. I scramble down onto some lower rocks worn by water, the waves making hollow gurgling sounds below my feet somewhere under the rock.
Then around the corner I find a sculpted stone with a hole right through the middle.
I explore the forest; find a trail that leads back to the campsites through a nice mature second growth woodland, stopping briefly to admire a patch of Pacific Lilly of the Valley.
Still no-one at the campsite when I break out of the forest into the open field. The 10,000 clusters of Pacific Ninebark blossoms bob at the margin of the meadow, Yellow Salmon Berriers, gone pink where eaten by some animal shine in the growing dark.
I photograph a Nootka Rose and examine the berries forming on a twinberry bush, the woundlike bracts somehow disquieting my mind when I look at them up close. I crane my neck to look at mares tails in the sky, listen to a bird call I don’t recognize, the sound like a child’s toy whistle, a single rising note, as if questioning, tentatively, the coming night.
I accept that the wind is not letting up tonight, return to my camp, try to read but the noseeums find me. I put on bug spray. A male grouse thumps his call, almost too low to hear, while the robins give up their evening melodies to a scattered ramble of chirps. Sky goes pink, then a few puffy clouds are left, orange around the edges.
Then the silence after climbing into my sleeping bag inside my tent. I fall asleep sometime after 10:30, wake after midnight chilled and pull on my sweater, the tips of the trees out the tent window are still against the dark grey sky. The night never gets completely dark in June. At 3:00 I wake and listen to the grouse call, It is the only sound in the darkness. At 6:00 I scramble out of the tent and walk to the beach. The sun is just lighting up the peaks of the Karmutzen Range (Nimpkish Lake was named Karutzen lake for awhile) and a mist is rising from the lake.
I hurry back, put my down vest over my wool sweater, then the PFD, pulling on my paddling boots and gortex pants. I take down my canoe, load up some food and other supplies and am on the water in a few minutes, paddling towards the western area where two creeks empty into a marshy estuary.
Fish that have been lolling at the surface break away from me in the early light and disappear amid the Lilly pads.
The current moves in swirls between the floating pads and I can see that a beaver has been at work attempting to bridge the entire estuary with a low dam. I find an opening and push through.
There turn out to be three inflows; all but one shrouded with sedges and rushes and the middle one has a curious feature. A log is wedged between the banks, forming a natural dam so that the water on the other side of the log is several feet higher than where I float in my canoe. There is a deep hollow sound of water like the sound of a bathtub filling as the water flows from beneath the log into a collection of smaller debri and I wonder how long this tiny cascade will exist. I listen to it for awhile before exploring some of the floating gardens growing on the ends of a half submerged logs. Yellow Monkey Flowers bob over the water along side Fire weed and gracefully curving sedges, each blade pointed with a shinning drop of dew.
I turn and paddle down the western shore towards the river that connects Anutz and Nimpkish Lake. Stickleback cruse in the shallow water along the river banks, a king fisher skims the surface going past fast, his flight arch taking him sharply up to light on a tree branch, scold me, then head off down river. The current picks up over the shallow bars of gravel, then deep clear pools green towards the stony bottom. Widgeon grass sways like the skirts of a Hawaiian dancer as I go around a corner and under an overhanging tree.
I pass two side channels which I know are oxbows from examining the area on Google Earth. Then the final long stretch and the narrowing just before Nimpkish Lake, where the old pilings are. I drift out into the lake on the current, paddle to shore and stroll the beach, eating a granola bar and drinking some water.
The sun crests over the mountain but only flashes briefly before disappearing behind clouds; there is a tiny riffle far out on Nimpkish Lake. I take off my down vest and drink some more water.
The paddle back upriver is slower, working only slightly harder against the current. Robins, always lots of robins, call in the salal and I turn in at the first oxbow to listen to them. There is a family of mergansers, the young fledglings lanky and shy, and as I drift towards them the hen takes flight, the ducklings disappear under the brown surface like skin divers. I turn around and head back, but some of the ducklings have surfaced behind me, lurking under the edges of Lilly Pads, and I startle them back underwater. Out on the river again I turn upstream and the hen angles in behind me to find her offspring.
I notice a beaver lodge I hadn’t seen on the way downstream. New branches are piled on one side, leaves wilting, the bone-white cuts concave and drying in the still air. As I turn the corner and make my way up the straight run to Anutz Lake a bald eagle circles above the tall pine trees that grow along the eastern shore. I suspect these trees are old; beyond the reach of loggers in the marshlands. As I stop to look at them the waves from my boat reach the shore and rebound back, so that I am rocked gently in their soundless echo.
Half way across Anutz the sun breaks out, I take a picture of the vista, with sunlight on different altitudes of land. In the middle of the lake I can not hear anything.
The green of the new sedges along the shore glows in the sun, a warmth that goes deep into the brain, gentle x-rays etching solitude in memory.
For More photos of this trip, see the gallery here: http://www.stillinthestream.com/files/AnutzLake/index.html