Sunday 20 April 2008

Whymper Lake

Vancouver Island Mapbook - Map 39 G7
Atlas of Canada Link: Whymper Lake
Latitude and Longitude: 50o 2' 59" N - 125o 35' 59" W

Trip Date: April 18, 2008

It’s funny where you end up sometimes. I headed first to Snakehead Lake but found the lake whipped up by a strong wind from the North, so I headed to Camp Lake, but loggers and equipment were everywhere and the crew boss was not happy with me “bombing along” his road, so I left and headed back to the Sayward Forest again. My son and I paddled there the week before and on our way past Whymper Lake I said to him, “that looks nice.” So I went to Whymper.

I think it is fairly safe to say that almost no one goes to Whymper Lake on purpose. Paddlers on the Sayward Forest Canoe Route must pass through the lake, but it would take a determined small water paddler like me to find this little jewel with so many larger gems near by. There is no boat launch ramp, no trail to the lake edge, only the portage trail which is all but unseen from the roadside.

I decided to see if there was a way to enter the creek above the lake so that I could paddle down the bushy corridor leading to the lake. I found an overgrown road leading to a crumbling old bridge but the alders were completely covering the road and I was only able to pull the Tracker off the main road enough to unload. A short bushwhack to the creek edge and I was away.
Whymper Lake
The lake is essentially a swelling of the creek and I could always feel the tug of the current on the hull, even in the largest flat part of the lake. The wind was gusty, but such a small body of water does not allow any kind of real chop to develop and I found that if I cruised near the shore, the wind hardly bothered me.

I paddled around for about two hours looking at the new bulrush leaves poking out of the mud, watching migrating water fowl pass overhead, and examining a profuse amount of what I later identified as Sweet Gale, or Myrica gale. The waxy catkins of this aromatic wetland shrub appear before the leaves and these catkins were just cracking open in the spring sunshine. The golden hue of them lit the grey boarders of the lake with a gentle glow.

Sweet Gale is reported to be on the badge of the Campbell clan, and having found this shrub in great abundance this close to Campbell River seemed apropos.

According to Mrs. M Grieve, “The leaves (of Sweet Gale) are often dried to perfume linen, etc., their odour being very fragrant, but the taste bitter and astringent. The branches have been used as a substitute for hops in Yorkshire and put into a beer called there 'Gale Beer.' It is extremely good to allay thirst. The catkins, or cones, boiled in water, give a scum beeswax, which is utilized to make candles. The bark is used to tan calfskins; if gathered in autumn, it will dye wool a good yellow colour and is used for this purpose both in Sweden and Wales. The Swedes use it in strong decoction to kill insects, vermin and to cure the itch. The dried berries are put into broth and used as spice. In China, the leaves are infused like tea, and used as a stomachic and cordial.”Gotta love a shrub that can do all that.

I look forward to visiting this area again after the plants leave out. I noticed Caddisfly larvae moving on the muddy bottom and would expect this to be a productive section of stream for the fly angler even though my dry fly arrangement did not produce any takers and I had left my wet fly reel in the vehicle.

If you decide to seek out this lake be aware that the shoreline is composed of fragile bog plants. I recommend doing as I did and enter the lake via the stream where the creek edge is less vulnerable to human impact.

For more photos go to:
and click on the 100 Lake Project link.

©Richard R. Powell

Sunday 6 April 2008

Review of the Wenonah Solo Plus on Somenos Lake

Vancouver Island Mapbook - Map 11 A3
Atlas of Canada Link:
Somenos Lake
Latitude and Longitude: 48o 48' 0" North 123o 42' 0" West
Trip Date: April 4, 2008
After purchasing our new Wenonah Solo+ canoe from Ocean River Sports in Victoria my son and I stop at Somenos Lake in Duncan to try it out.

The Boat Ramp off of Drinkwater Road.

Our Solo+ is an ultra-light composite lay-up with gel coat, web seats, and aluminium gunwales. Wenonah’s ultra-light lay-up involves a vacuum cured Kevlar hull with foam core reinforcing. Total package weighs in around 45 lbs. This review is based on comparing it to my old flat bottomed fibreglass tandem scout canoe, my graphite/Kevlar Spitfire, and my paddling experiences with single and tandem kayaks.

On First Sight: I was pleased with the overall look of the boat; the gel coat was uniform, the finish inside was even and the boat felt solid and tight when picked up – no fabric flexing or oil canning. There is a slight amount of rippling below the gunwales where the Kevlar is thinnest. The hull shape is not as uniform as my Spitfire. It definitely has the look of a factory made boat, but clean and well put together.

First paddle: We took the canoe out first as a tandem and I was immediately impressed with the tracking, stability, and movement through the water. There was very little bow wake until we really pushed it, and the progress along the marsh area we explored was quiet. It was the sort of situation in which you appreciate the boat’s smooth long glide. The tracking has to be the most significant performance feature compared with my other canoes. It felt similar to the tandem Kayak I have paddled in often, going steady and straight with minimal effort required to keep it on track. I was able to take a number of photographs while my son paddled in the bow. He made some corrections and kept the boat on course. The seats were still comfortable after two hours on the water.

Somenos Lake is bordered by a large marsh and Garry Oak meadows and we were bombarded by swallows as we made our way beside various woody marsh plants beginning to show green buds. Cat tail shoots were visible amid the brown remains of last year’s growth, but the oaks were still fast asleep and the aquatic plants were brown and lifeless. Red wing blackbirds were calling all through the bushes, however, and Mallards, Herons, Cormorants, and Canada Geese were all around us.

We paddled down Somenos creek past two beaver lodges but saw no sign of dams. A marsh wren was busy in the debris of the creek and we were able to get right up to her before she darted into the bushes. We could see a Gary Oak meadows on the left and I imagine it would be spectacular in May when the meadow flowers bloom.
Fishing: About half way through the paddle we took out our fly rods just as the wind picked up. We found casting easy and comfortable from the boat. We did not stand up, but from the sitting position the boat was hardly affected by the jerks as we pulled our lines off the water.

As we fished we moved along in the wind, but compared to my old scout boat, the amount of drift was much less. In the scout canoe we would have drifted halfway down the lake. The solo+, with its narrow waist and low profile just does not catch the wind like a traditional design.
Solo: We then tried the boat solo. My son liked how quickly he was able to get up to speed and I liked the fact that I could get out of my seat and adjust the foot brace without capsizing. My Spitfire is much more responsive but has much less primary stability. The Solo+ provides a very stable platform and I relaxed as I put it through its paces.
Turning is an issue. Compared to my 12 foot Spitfire it is much more difficult to pivot or turn sharply and I personally would not be keen to take this boat down a river with sharp bends and rapids. Class 1 straight runs maybe, but for a non-adventurous paddler like me, it would be less than ideal. When the weather is warmer and I feel comfortable falling in the water I will experiment with more dramatic leans and pries.
The solo paddling station is certainly the widest I have been in, with the possible exception of Native Watercrafts Ultimate 12. I felt that I wanted to scoot over to the gunwales to get my arms over the paddle when using a single stick, and the 240cm double felt suddenly short, forcing me to increase the angle of the blade. I will experiment with positions and strokes to see what is most comfortable.

The Solo+ appears to achieve its good solo feel by employing a deep tumblehome at a point in the hull where there is little freeboard. The overall effect is to put you close to the water in the centre of the canoe. Because of this design feature the solo seat ends up being close to the bottom of the hull. I didn’t try kneeling, but with the seat tipped on an angle it would be a challenge to get your feet comfortably under the seat.
Conclusion regarding the Solo+: I purchased this boat as a second/guest boat so I can invite family and friends to join me on the water and was attracted by the multi-use capacity and the combination of manageable weight and stable design. Overall there were no surprises with the boat and I am happy with the paddling experience.

Pros: Stable, multiple-use, good glide and tracking.

Cons: Minimal rocker and sharp entry lines impede quick turning, and the overall length widens the solo station – long solo trips may be harder on the arms than a more narrow dedicated solo boat.
General Impression of Somenos Lake: I chatted with two Duncan residents while we loaded the Solo+ back onto the Tracker and both seemed to have come to the lake to simply look at it in the evening light. It was a beautiful end to the day and both men talked of fishing and reported that the lake is stocked with catchable Fraser-strain trout. One of the fellows told us about two Bass holes he knew of on the lake and I appreciated the friendly advice.

Earlier, as we headed onto the lake, three car loads of young people had arrived - music blaring - and I guess a lake in the middle of a town is bound to have high use. The sheer proliferation of birds near the marsh was staggering, however, and I marvelled at this diversity so close to human activity, literally within a half a kilometre of the Island Highway. We will definitely be back to enjoy the lake and marsh when the spring growth is at its height and the meadow flowers are out.

© Richard R. Powell