Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Larry Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook 4th Edition - Map 14 D5
Atlas of Canada Link: Larry Lake

Degrees, Minutes, Seconds: 49° 7' 5" N 125° 26' 18" W
Decimal Degrees: 49.118° N 125.438° W UTM
Coordinates: 10U 322073 5443446
Topographic Map Sheet Number: 092F03

Trip Date: May 11, 2011

Larry Lake
Larry Lake sits in a stoney depression on the top of "Hydro Hill" on the way from Port Alberni to Ucluelet and Tofino. After descending from Sutton Pass down the picturesque Kennedy River valley the road takes a winding jog up and over Hydro Hill before descending again to the shores of Kennedy Lake. It's one of those "blink or you'll miss it" spots, a mere gap in the rocks where motorhomes and 5th wheels pull out for a break. There are often anglers at the water's edge and the day I was there the couple who were fishing caught two nice trout on a simple worm in the time that I was out on the water.

The put in is a tad rocky and not ideal, but a light solo goes in no problem. I paddled the lake clockwise and within a minute I was behind the first point and in a different world. The traffic noise fades and there is the sound of water trickling down stone and wind through pine needles.

The First Point if Paddling Clockwise
The rocks drop steeply into the water and continue into the depth. Shore pine are everywhere, in appealing bonsai like shapes, and even the hemlocks are graceful in their form.

After making my way slowly through the first bay, I got out on the first little island which is really charming. Like spending some time on the back of a turtle.

Small Island

Small Island
As I paddled away from the first small Island I made a deliberate attempt to slow down and look at each tree and rock formation. There were some larger trees overhanging the water and a pleasing vista when I looked in almost any direction.

North Western Shore
 Rounding the bend into the northern bay I had the great pleasure to examine up close a recently cleaved cliff revealing the complicated combination of limestone and basalt. The face was already stained with a variety of lichen and algae.

I paddled through the little bay on the northern tip of the lake where the only outflow from the lake drops sharply towards Kennedy Lake.

Lots to Look At
Then, feeling ready for some lunch, I made my way over to the "large" Northern Island.

A 60 second paddle.

Lunch in Sweet Solitude

A Short Climb to Look Down on the Lunch Spot

Looking North West

Everywhere a Bonsai

Evergreen Huckleberry -- not so green but lovely anyway!

Two Kinds of Stone
With lots to see in a very small area, Larry Lake has got to be one of the most compressed areas of beauty on Vancouver Island. Anglers know about it already, but I think the meditative paddler will find much here to contemplate as well.

Thanks Larry, your lake is awfully nice.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Patterson Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook 4th Edition - Map 24 E7
Atlas of Canada Link: Patterson Lake
Latitude and Longitude: 49o 20' 59" North 124o 58' 59" West

Trip Date:May 11, 2011

Me taking in the last warm glow of the setting sun on Patterson Lake
The sign at the head of Turtle Main is worrying. Then just past the power lines, a shinny new yellow gate, open but with the pin just sitting on top, like someone is planning to lock up later. I drive through reluctantly. Last night I had hoped to paddle on Trail Pond today. Something happened on that little gem of a lake that is forming an important thread in my new book. It had to do with a duck, and I wanted to paddle it again to be there and to remember in the spot it happened. But as I stand looking out on Trail Pond on the new road bed, covering over the old with a layer of rock and course gravel, I know I can't stay here. 

The hillside that slopes down to the road is newly logged. I let my eyes wander up the mess from stump to stump, to mud, to slash. The raw breaks on all the rocks give the sense that a lot of crushing has gone on. I think about the power of hydraulics, diesel, and the internal combustion engine. I try to imagine the cut in 5 year, in 10 years, in 20 years. This favourite place will not really be bearable for at least that long. Until then I will have to divert my gaze, or go somewhere else. 

Turtle Lake Main -- Information Sign
Today, rather than take a chance getting stuck behind a gate, I go somewhere else, up the valley further, to Patterson Lake. The land around Patterson Lake has not been logged for a long time, there are some nice patches of forest there. But I frown when I see the new road pushed in beside and on top of the old one. The old one had been beautifully gentrified by age, a shady trail on the verge of disappearing. I park in the old spot, bits of crushed rock scattered through the bushes and over the old road from the new road higher up the bank. The moss covered rock the children climbed on during the last visit has been decapitated. 

Despite my sadness, I decide to paddle here before it is logged, perhaps the last time I will paddle it for a while. I sigh, take down the canoe, put it in the water, and head onto the lake. 

The first time I paddled on Patterson Lake I had my two young sons with me in our old yellow fiberglass canoe. We were looking for fish, and the "lake" was a disappointment. Too shallow and marshy for fish of any size or abundance. We packed up and went to Dickson Lake that day. 

The peat Islands near the first Put in on Patterson Lake
Then, about 10 years later I returned on my own. I saw the place differently. I had different eyes, a different need. 

Kalmia microphylla -- Western Bog-Laurel near the first put in on Patterson Lake
Today I paddle out through the weedy channels and notice Western Bog-Laurel is in boom on the peaty islands. I examine the bog laurel to see if it's stamens are triggered or not. As the flower unfolds it's 10 stamens each have their tips tucked into a small pouch at the tip of the petals and there they remain, held with tension, until an insect comes along. As the insect seeks the nectar it brushes the stamen which springs loose and dusts it with pollen.

Kalmia microphylla - Western Bog-Laurel
The majority of the stamens on the plants I examine are not yet triggered. 

I move out beyond the peat islands and disturb some Canada Geese who honk at me and fly a short distance away. I turn away from them and go around an rocky island. Further down the lake a Kingfisher splashes into the water like a thrown stone, a flock of birds peep in the forest, creepers maybe, and the burbling call of a Winter Wren rises from a thicket of salal. 

Here is a video of my paddle through the first part of the lake. It is about 3 minutes long and due to the quality of the upload, the end is actually the clearest:

When I get to the main beaver dam, the new bull rushes are a foot above the water along the shallows and the old cat tails are inflated into fluffy plumes. I get out and carry the canoe over the dam and proceed down the lake. At the far end I can see the road again, and a new clearing on a stony shelf. 

The far end of Patterson Lake, where it drains towards Sumner Lake
Someone has arranged rocks for a fire pit. Last year when I paddled here, this end of the lake felt remote and safe. Now, it feels like all the other places in this valley, slightly trampled, threatened, vulnerable. 

The New Clearing
While I am pondering the change, a raven flaps down the length of the lake and perches near me, watching me. I wait for her call, for the warning to others. But all she does is turn around on the branch, tilt her head and stare at me for a long time. 

I go to the outflow and look over the lip of the dam down into the narrow little revine beyond. The beaver dam here is multigenerational, dirt and wood along the lip have filled in and formed a kind of solid mass. I turn around and head back up the lake, this time hugging the southern shore, looking at all the trees, remembering them. An eagle rounds the bend in the lake, flying between the trees and swoops down towards me. I look up as she flies over, the tips of her wing feathers dark against the bright sky.

As I approach the middle beaver dam again I here the high peeping of a duckling and look amist the burgundy stalks of a water shrub and see a grey and white speckled ball of fluff, it's big eyes in it's small head. I hear another peeping start up deeper in the sticks, and then another. I look around for mom or dad, but they don't seem to be anywhere around. 

I paddle on and when I step out of the canoe at the beaver dam the late afternoon sun comes out and I set up my tripod to take a photo. Then I take a couple of shots of myself as if to say, I was here when...

Patterson Lake is on Timberland land, privately owned, gone forever from the commonwealth. Part of land that was traded to a coal barren for a railway. I paddle here because of the benevolence of Timberland, because of Timberland roads, and because the province of BC enforces certain rules on logging practices. 

The trees within a short distance of this wetland's shore will not be cut. Patterson Lake will be preserved, even if the forest around it is taken. 

I feel weary as I load up my vehicle and wash the pond algae from my canoe. I turn off the radio as I drive through Port Alberni. Cameron Lake is as flat as I have ever seen it when I drive by. I had gone to the woods for restoration, for rejuvenation. I'm filled with a mixture of gratitude and sadness. Sabi is elusive today.