Saturday 14 November 2009

Kissinger Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook Fouth Edition - Map 9 A1
Atlas of Canada Link: Kissinger Lake
Degrees, Minutes, Seconds: 48° 55' 15" N 124° 28' 53" W
Decimal Degrees: 48.921° N 124.481° W
UTM Coordinates: 10U 391470 5419726

Topographic Map Sheet Number: 092C16

Trip Date: June 30, 2009

In the canoe beside me two men cooperate. Patient, they talk out their preferences, a way to paddle together, a civilization of two. I am in a single, responsible only for myself, able to watch human friendship set against a precedent beauty.

Right now they paddle along a shoreline of giant broad leaf maples, the sun illuminating several layers of canopy, leaves like mirrors turning the light away from the dark under story, only the greens getting through, so that even the death of rotten wood and humus is coloured the shade of deep green water. The sun also breaks through to patch the lake with ragged beams through which the paddlers go, paddles glinting brightly on the forward swing.

As is often the case at times like these I think about all this matter bathed in the filtered fission energy that powered out from our very own star. This matter itself the result of ancient cataclysmic star deaths, all those years ago, worked on by time and sunlight, scaled into beings that can balance inside a curving hull. Also, the distant and ancient breath of stars that moved relentlessly through nothing, till it ended abruptly at something, this ball of coagulated earth.

And on the ball, moving like a plague, we engineer a sickness for our grandchildren, a hurdle too high for most animals, no matter how frantically they leap. A rain of bees drops off the grid, a storm of frogs thunders out of existence, the cascade of death like Della falls, spectacular in it's long streak upon the dark stone of history. Only a few of us turn to look, only the odd cocked ear, only a rusty stain of inquisitive sadness on the soul of a few sunburned biologists and we children of privilege. For the majority of us humans existence is a dust of dried sweat and grime to salt our dwellings at the end of a long hard day in the sun. Salt and dust. What we are made of, what we make of things.

Who moves like the moon upon the night, who glides like mist upon a lake, who rides like clouds across a crystal tarn? Not me. Not us. We go down on things, violent scavengers, cunning as knives. And each blow releases from us a larynx keened cry, saddle shinny and brittle as glass, the cry of conscious paradox. What we must do to live is an exquisite sacrifice; we must die a little with each bite we take. Today, for me, it is a swath of forest beyond this happy mere. Today for me it is salty tears for the gaps in that forest.

One of the paddlers with me is a leader in environmentally responsibility. Car poor, bike powered, vegetarian, energy efficient, example to me and others, his values pounding out of him like heartbeats. He has ridden his bike around Cowichan Lake. Not something I would ever do. The other paddler, like me, makes a sincere effort. Middle class piety from our deepest hearts. I felt our good intentions like fellowship as we bounced from pot hole to pot hole in my 4 wheel drive to get to this oasis of calm. Burned fossil fuel mixes with dust along the logging road that leads to Kissinger Lake. A wake of carbon to get to the pristine nature we long to see before it is gone.
On the way here we passed three logging trucks, two with old growth trees filling their trailers. Yes they are still cutting away at the 20% of old growth left on the island. Only 110 hectares of protected Douglas-fir forest remain on the east coast of Vancouver Island, while just two percent have been set aside as federal, provincial and regional parks. It's open season on the rest. According to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, BC Government studies estimate that the current level of cutting is 30 percent above sustainability. The knives of the forest companies spin on chains. Shouts of "timber" echo across each section cut. The forest peels away like the skin of a fruit under the thumb of hungry homo sapiens. Logs from private land are sent away for someone else to use. On Vancouver Island we are mainly cutters now, working for overlords. Even pulp is mostly made elsewhere. Cutters and scavengers caked in salt and saw dust. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

Two dragon flies collide above me; distract me with their paper crinkling sounds, like paper swords clashing. This particular variety is birdlike with their wing patches and silvery bodies. Damsel flies, two kinds, sway above my gunwales, deciding to land or not. A rough skinned newt surfaces, then begins her lazy decent to the bottom again. I photograph a floating garden, this one featuring a central strand of Sticky False Asphodel and a fringe of Marsh Cinquefoil and the insect eating Sundew, drops of nectar glistening in the sun.

Friday 2 October 2009


I tried out the Jalbum site for photo presentation. Pretty nice actually....

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Gray Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook - Map 39 G6
Atlas of Canada Link: Gray Lake
Latitude and Longitude: 50° 3' 25" N - 125° 35' 49" W

Trip Date: August 21st, 2009

There are 4 vehicles already occupying sites when we arrive late Friday night after spending the day working our way up island, stopping to buy groceries and tea at the Courtney Tea Centre - one of the best tea retailers on the Island by the way. The Gray Lake Recreation Site has 6 sites, so we have our choice of two. We quickly set up camp and then head out for a paddle, just as the mist starts to rise off the lake around 8:00 pm.
We paddle north, away from the sandy beach and James heads off into the growing dark. I set up my camera on the tripod and start taking pictures. The aperture is wide open and the shutter speed down to 1.3. I can hardly see anything through the view finder.
After a few minutes the auto focus on my camera stops working, too little light. I set it to manual and keep shooting.
Finally, as the last light ebbs from the sky I get a nice shot of the mist after waiting for the canoe to come to a complete stop and I hold my breath while the shutter yawns open for 3 long seconds.
Within minutes I find it hard to see anything and rummage in my bag for my headlight. Down the lake I see Jame's headlight wink on. There is a chill in the air now and I listen to the silence, the smell of cedar faint and mixed with something indistinct, a soft earthy smell, plant essential oils breaking down after so many long dry days. There is a fire ban, so there is no smoke, no cheery flickering lights along the lake, only the darkness of trees against the slightly less dark blue black sky.

In the morning, startling James with my suggestion to paddle before breakfast, I head for the shore, the canoe beaded with dew, my warm pollen sweater a reminder that late August nights can be cool.

After James has a bowl of cereal he joins me on the water and we paddle down the misty lake, taking it easy, enjoying the atmosphere and watching time pass. On the remote western shore, something large thrashes in the underbrush as we glide by, but we don't see what it is. We keep going to the end of the lake and head up the inflow.

We paddle up stream, water dripping from the bushes on shore, a silence amid the trees that seems to absorb our voices, we talk in low tones, pilgrims visiting a holy site.
After passing an open marshy area, we travel between high rounded black banks, grooved here and there with otter and beaver trails, the sharp tooth-edged stubs of willow and sweet gale where the beavers have harvested. The canoes drift to a stop where the creek turns into a rocky trail, the water to low to paddle further.
We head back, the day still gaining light. On the lake again a woman steps from a camper on shore and seeing us, waves. We wave back. A man steps from the trailer behind her and puts his arm around her waist. We glide on, the bows of our canoes peeling open the refection of the sky.
For more images from this paddle, please visit the photo album here:

Sunday 9 August 2009

100 Lakes Visited

Bear Lake

Yesterday I visited the 100th Lake in my exploration of lakes on Vancouver Island. Of those 100 lakes visited I paddled 54, some more than once (Trail Pond, Turtle Lake, Mohun Lake, Bear Lake, Somenos Marsh, and Westwood Lake).

The reasons for not paddling 46 of the 100 were varied. Some had no easy access, or the lakes did not look interesting, or I didn't have sufficient time to paddle the lake on the day I was there, or I ended up paddling somewhere better.

I have posted a list of both the lakes visited and the lakes paddled so far here:

Of the lakes visited but not paddled, I plan to paddle 24, but only 10 are high on my list. I still have about 30 other lakes to investigate first. I expect to paddle another half dozen before 2009 comes to an end.

Of the 54 lakes paddled so far only a handful were less enjoyable than I expected before visiting them, and only three actually disappointed me (Cedar Lake, Hawthorn Lake, and Darkis Lake). Some others such as Dougan and Echo Lakes turned out to be prettier to look at from the highway than to paddle on (and both suffered from excessive traffic noise).

Afew turned out to be more rewarding than I expected. Anutz and nearby Atluck Lake both overwhelmed me with their interesting shorelines and scenery while Spirit and Grace lakes provided a sense of remoteness and peacefulness that was out of proportion to their setting. Subtle beauty and a satisfyingly untouched quality seem to be the reason for these shallow quiet lakes charm.

Grace Lake

Some urban lakes turned out to have surprisingly natural shorelines (Thetis Lake and Westwood Lake) while some wild lakes suffered from overuse as evidenced by severely trampled and eroded shorelines (Spectacle, Peak, and Twin Lake).

Peak Lake

I have learned how much water level can effect the feel of a lake. Somenos Lake dropped 4 or 5 feet over a few months changing the paddling experience significantly, and the exposed beaches of Buttle, Elsie, Darkis, and Klaklakama Lakes detract from otherwise promising locations.

Some of the jewels of the island felt vulnerable and fragile. Mohun and Amor lakes are world class paddling destinations yet active logging throughout the Sayward Forest threatens to reduce the recreational value significantly. Many areas are closed for logging and I will be returning after the fact to see what is left. This whole area should be protected for posterity now. While the logging that is going on is responsible, it's just too pretty an area to scar with clear cuts.

Mohun Lake

Other gems, like the swamps and lakes of the Stamp and Ash valleys are on private land and at the mercy of the giant forest companies who own them.

Moran Swamp

Pat Bell, minister of forest and range, said in response to recent questions about the status of large trees on Vancouver Island that sufficient old growth is already protected - the rest is free to be logged. This comment reinforces his January declaration that the old growth ecosystem is amply protected. Mr. Bell sees no reason to protect more forest from the saws. I do.

I witnessed in July of this year one logging truck on the Cowichan Highway (Hwy 18) with three massive tree trunks filling it's trailer. These are very large old-growth trees, and the loggers are obviously active in our woods getting every last one.

I need to learn more about the BC government system and discover if it is possible to bring the aesthetic quality of our wetlands and forest into focus before it is too late. How can such beauty be destroyed for the profit of so few when if they are protected they can benefit so many for so many years to come?

Surely money isn't the only abstract construct that can be extracted from these locations. Should poetry, tranquility, and the healing power of nature feature in my writing? A lake without a large clear cut beside it is significantly more attractive than a lake with a tiny ribbon of trees between it and the surrounding expanses of dead stumps, slash, and torn up soil. Will it help to paint this picture? Can my writing and photography have any effect?

Sunday 2 August 2009

Hand Made Paddles

James and I stand in the airy workshop of Larry Bowers. Around us are the hulls of canoes Larry is building, in various states of completion. There is a sweet smell of wood and varnish. Larry takes from the wall several patterns for canoe paddles and we ask him about the advantages of each. He shares stories about a few of the paddles he has made. We look at and hold a few of his favourites. Paddles, even more than canoes, connect us to water. Beautiful paddles connect us to something deeper.

James has done his research. He laid out his findings to me on the drive from Nanaimo to Campbell River where Larry lives and runs his business. James is keen on a traditional Algonquin blade pattern and his reasoning is this: the Algonquin blade has a slightly narrowed and rounded tip, allowing a clean entry to the water with less friction than other designs. Between a ½ and ¾ of the way up the blade it widens slightly before tapering back to the shaft. The advantage of this shape is that when the blade is drawn back from that initial entry and submerged fully beside the canoe the wider section of the blade engages at a point where the arms have their greatest leverage, putting the maximum blade surface in the water during the most powerful portion of the stroke.

It is a logical and persuasive argument and as we stand looking at the templates we listen to Larry tell of the two paddles he has favoured over the years. One of them is very close to the shape of the Algonquin blade. Both James and I decide to order this blade shape from Larry. But I am also attracted to an unusual shaped blade that Larry describes as a Cree design. He tells us that he used the template to build a paddle once but that he rounded the tip more, moving the shape from an exaggerated “tip-heavy” design to a more beavertail-style tip. It turned out to be a good one.

Unlike a standard beaver tail, this “Larry Bowers” custom shape (on the left in the picture above) has the long straight sides of the Cree style with the pleasing tip of the beavertail. I decide on this blade shape for my second paddle. It seems to defy the logic associated with the Algonquin blade, and while my rational mind is warning me to reconsider the choice I have a strong intuition telling me there is something right about the shape. I wonder if I am being drawn in by the novelty of it or maybe it’s aesthetics, but secretly hope there something I don’t know yet about this design that makes it a winner.

Next we talk about shaft length. I produce from the vehicle an old cheap beavertail paddle which I inherited from my father and found to be just the right length for the low paddling station of my Placid Boatwork made Spirtfire pack canoe. For the Algonquin blade I request the shorter shaft length creating a 58 inch paddle with 25 inches of shaft and 27 inches of blade, 3 inches of throat, and 3 inches of grip. I learn later that this is a very close to the average for historical paddles that Doug Ingram reports in his online article, Historic Paddle Reproductions (

I order the Cree blade in the dimensions that Larry recommends, trusting this craftsman’s experience and familiarity with the material. At 59 and ½ inches it will be longer than any of my other single blade paddles and I plan to use it primarily with the Solo+.

John Bell of Red Tail Paddles states, “Probably 90% of all adults can use a 54 inch paddle with a 20 inch blade,” though Bell does make paddles up to 63 inches long. His comment worries me, causing me to wonder if the Cree paddle will be too long, but then when I browse pictures of old voyageurs in their canoes and recovering from the day’s paddling in their 19th century camps, I notice how long and thin their paddles are. The voyageurs used various lengths of paddles but almost all of them had thin blades because they paddled hard and fast. Such hard fast paddling put tremendous strain on the paddles and ones made of spruce, though light, broke often. Therefore the Voyageurs chose hardwoods for their paddles, and made many of them, often on route.

The paddles Larry makes for us are a combination of spruce and yew (Spruce on the left above, and Yew on the right). The spruce is Sitka Spruce, a clear springy wood from the noble giants made famous on Vancouver Island as part of the sky garden ecosystem studied in the Carmanah Canopy Project.

The Sitka Spruce tree grows with a very straight trunk and is one of the tallest on the coast, only surpassed by the Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock. The light straight grained wood is used for everything from guitars to boats and contains pleasing mottling where the wood is rounded. The yew wood used in our paddles has a pedigree.

Sometime before his death in 1944 my grandfather strode into a forest near Nelson and cut down some yew trees. As a woodworker raising a family through the great depression he made a wide assortment of wooden objects for people, from cabinets to houses. The Yew he prized for rifle stocks. Two pieces of yew were carefully dried and stored for future use. The years passed and my father inherited the wood and stored it in our woodshed where I saw it from time to time while growing up. When my parents moved to a smaller house upon retirement the yew wood passed on to me. It sat in my woodshed for another 10 years.

Larry explains to us that he regularly uses the hard and durable yew wood laminated onto spruce to create a resilient and responsive paddle. Larry demonstrates by leaning hard on his own laminated spruce and yew paddle so that the paddle bends dramatically and springs back. Yew was a choice wood for archery bows for centuries and is still used today for this function.

A few months after we placed our order Larry calls to tell us the paddles are ready. We head to Campbell River to pick them up. They are beautiful hanging in his shop and I can’t help grinning as we examine their beautiful smooth surfaces and deep natural colors.

After chatting with Larry for awhile we stop only briefly for cheesecake at Cheescake 101 a short distance from Larry’s shop, before beetling out to Echo Lake to try out the new paddles. Larry has also given us to try a paddle he just made for himself, along with a much shorter paddle that James spied in Larry’s shop.

On the water I notice immediately that the paddles feel too long for the pack canoes, but a curious thing happens. The very long Cree style paddle has an interesting quality. Trying to lift the long blade clear of the water proves to be a little awkward but keeping the blade in the water and knifing it forward in an Indian stroke is enjoyable and effective. The power in the correction is impressive as the long blade rises almost vertically at the end of the power stroke before slicing forward for the next stroke.

I look over at James and notice that he is trying different holds on Larry’s paddle, abandoning the high grip and grasping the paddle at varying heights along the shaft.

I switch to the shorter Algonquin blade that I had designed specifically for this boat and appreciate immediately the familiar shaft length from my Dad’s old paddle. Interestingly, however, the paddle does not function as well on the Canadian stroke. I adjust myself accordingly and find the Indian stroke works extremely well with this paddle. James passes off Larry’s paddle to me and I pass over my paddle with the shaft length 3 inches shorter than his. He tries them both and decides that for his Rapidfire a shaft length somewhere in the middle would be perfect.

The following weekend I take my Wenonah Solo+ to Westwood Lake, the water jammed to overflowing with Nanaimoites seeking relief from the 37 degree summer hot spell. I paddle to the far end of the lake, trying my two new paddles and comparing them with my shorter Redtail Ottertail as I go.

The Redtail is 53 and ½ inches long, a full 6 inches shorter than my new Larry Bowers Cree, and a mere ½ inch shorter than John Bell’s recommended average. The Redtail Ottertail and the new Algonquin are almost identical in blade shape, the Algonquin blade being about 3 and ½ inches longer with a ½ inch longer neck transition. They perform similarly, but the slightly longer blade on the Algonquin gives a notably better grip on the water, and the bobbled grip allows me to spin the paddle effortlessly while performing the Indian stroke.

The Cree surprises me by feeling less substantial than the Algonquin in the Solo+ and I compare the blade shapes and discover that while they are identical in length, the Algonquin is wider in the middle. This slight difference is noticeable on an extended paddle around the lake. Both blades whistle nicely on the forward underwater slice and the do not seem to resist as much as the Redtail.

Sure enough, on examining the blade edges Larry’s paddles are more knife-like at the edges and the blades are noticeably thinner. I spend about an hour sculling and testing pries, jams, and reverse sculls. For all these actions the Cree style is superior, though challengingly exact in a bow jam, perhaps because of the long length and the Solo Plus’ minimally rockered hull and sharp entry lines.

I find a private bay on the south western end of the lake and practice maneuvering between the many deadheads and dead trees there. The limitations of the Solo+ in such situations becomes apparent. This straight tracking canoe with it’s excellent secondary stability is not easy to spin, even when heeled.

The surprises of the paddles and my continuing curiosity over the blade shapes drive me to research. I get the best book I can find on the subject out of the library — Graham Warren and David Gidmark’s Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own. On page 12 of this detailed and informative work I see a diagram of a Passamaquoddy paddle which is very close to the “Cree” design Larry showed us. On the same page the Algonquin shape is clearly illustrated. The Cree paddle diagram on the page is similar, but has a clear transition at the neck, but on the next page is a Western Cree paddle that has less of a distinct transition. I study the drawings in detail and decide that Larry’s design in a cross between the Passamaquoddy and the Cree. It has the long blade and straight taper of the Cree, with the smooth neck of the Passamaquoddy.

A few days later I am browsing Bark Canoes: The Art and Obsession of Tappan Adney by John Jennings, when I come across, on page 80, a paddle blade that almost exactly matches the design. It is an Iroquois paddle (pictured above). Later in the same book, page 127, is another paddle that looks similar leaning against an Ojibway Style Tetes de Boule canoe that Abney found in Grand Piles Quebec in 1925. (see below)

Warren and Gidmark put Iroquois blades in three catagories: Beavertail, Elongated beavertail, and Straight-sided rounded. Ojibiway paddles turn up under Elongated beavertail and Straight-sided rounded, as well as Ottertail.

Of the 10 basic categories Warren and Gidmark sort all historic blades into, 5 have the widest part of the blade near the middle of the blade, 2 have the widest part near the neck, and 3 have the widest part near the tip. Clearly the majority of blade shapes from indigenous tribes of North America place the widest part of the blade near the middle to take advantage of the mechanics James had described to me earlier.

I finally decide that the 9th category most closely fits my Cree style blade, what Warren and Gidmark call the “Straight-sided, rounded” blade.

A search online of the major paddle manufacturers reveals that most produce a version of the Ottertail, Beaver Tail, Elongated Beaver Tail, or the contemporary White water paddle (large surface square bottom). One company, Shaw and Tenney, has a paddle they call the Racine. They explain that it is a replication of a paddle originally sold by the Racine Canoe Company of Wisconsin. The paddle was offered with the sale of each Racine Canoe Company wood/canvas canoe sold until the company went out of business in the 1920’s. Shaw and Tenney report that the Racine is becoming their best selling paddle with many repeat orders. They claim that it is a very quiet paddle, and, because the blade is only 5” wide, lends itself well to the North Woods stroke as well as to solo paddling. The Racine is available in the two original lengths, 58-1/2" and 63-1/2", which they say seem to work perfectly for everyone.

I can find no other paddle on the market that matches the profile of Larry's Cree design. Even the Racine is closer to the Algonquin design with its very slightly tapering tip. Interestingly the majority of traditional wooden paddle builders (Turtle, Kettelwell, Redtail, Greyowl, and Shaw and Tenney) sell version of the Ottertail or Algonquin, usually with a Beavertail or two to round out the selection. A few, such as the noteworthy Whiskyjack, almost exclusively produce modified white water blades. Still others such as Anderson, Carlisle, Cricket, Foxworx, and Sawyer, produce beefy versions of the ottertail and Algonquin along with a plethora of square bottomed whitewater styles.

Beefy blades with areas larger than 140 square inches are generally recommended for short tripping, white water, and sprint racing, as well as dragon boating and stand up paddle boarding. The larger area provides greater thrust. Thrust is proportional to blade area according to Warren and Gidmark (blade area x (stroke rate)2 and sustainable stroke rate is proportional to 1/(blade area). Stroke rate has a greater effect than blade area does because its contribution is squared. Aspect ratio is another important factor in beefy blades. Short fat blades exhibit more drag than long narrow ones of the same surface area. So in effect you get more bang for your buck with a short fat blade. Shorter blades are also easier to handle when the blade is lifted out of the water while paddling or when switching sides. But short fat blades have a few drawbacks. Firstly they are more difficult to keep close to the hull when paddling and secondly they splash more on entry. Also they flutter more when doing a below water slice and tend to catch and veer more in the hands of a novice.

The lower aspect paddles, on the other hand, while providing less overall drag, go deeper into denser water, slice better, and enter the water with less splash. Low aspect paddles are longer, and therefore less effective in shallow water but more effective for long reaching braces. A low aspect paddle with a blade that concentrates more area farther away from the paddler’s fulcrum (like my Cree style paddle does) provides more leverage making it better for sculling and steering. Doug Ingram of Red River Canoe & Paddle is a paddle builder who helped clarify for me the great diversity in Paddle blades. Ingram produces the widest range of blade shapes on the market and his Cree replica convinced me that Larry was, not surprisingly, right to call my paddle a Cree design.

Ingram writing about historic North American paddles says, “Amongst the many different blade shapes that have been conceived, traditional blades can be loosely categorized as being either straight-sided or round-sided. Surface areas are concentrated near the throat, evenly along the length, or near the tip. Tips are pointed, rounded, or blunt. I began to wonder what, then, are the constants of these traditional designs. Blade length varies, but averages in the 27- to 30-inch range. Width also varies, but blades are rarely wider than 6 inches.” Ingram’s conclusions were that trial and error sifted out the lengths and blade shapes that survived.

Ventilation seems to be an important factor in this sifting process. Large blades with abrupt transitions at the throat allow air to enter behind the paddle, making them inefficient if paddled too quickly. The other factor that creates ventilation is when the blade is not fully immersed in the water. The short fat blades lose most of their aspect ratio advantage if the blades are not fully immersed while paddling.

Straight Stick

Intuition and time on the water teaches most people this lesson, and I notice when teaching new paddlers that I often have to encourage them to get their blade hand close to or in the water. This advice does two things. It fully immerses the paddle blade and lowers the paddle overall, bringing the grip hand lower as well. Many photos of people paddling, including two of the 4 pictures on the inside cover of the instruction booklet that comes with every Wenonah canoe, show paddlers with their grip hand high in the air, sometimes over their heads!

The optimal position advocated by many instructors is to have the grip hand move in an area between the shoulder and the lower ribs. Never higher than the chin. Doug Ingram introduced me to several helpful ideas in his article. Most important was his description of the “Northwoods Stoke” which seems to be a modified Canadian stroke that keeps both arms low to the gunwales. The lower the arms, the less energy is used holding them and the paddle in the air.

I now finally understand the purpose of the large grips on so many traditional paddles. The way of holding the paddle grip in the Northwoods Stroke had never occurred to me but I plan on experimenting with it in the future.

There is not a lot of information out about the Northwoods Stroke online but Ingram’s own photos are clear, and several helpful discussions exist on various forums about the style. Another idea introduce to me in Ingram’s article is that of the round Cree grip. This is perhaps the best article on the internet about historic paddles. I encourage you to read the whole piece at

For additional images of my new paddles go to the photo album:

Westwood Lake at Sunset

Thursday 23 July 2009

Aesthetic Value is as Important as Economic Value

On my travels around Vancouver Island I see first hand the ugly impact of logging on our own rainforests. I'm not against responsible logging, but we have to leave larger areas of old growth to preserve the genetic diversity and aesthetic value that used to dominate this island.

I wonder if people realize how much beauty has already been lost. It is staggering. Almost all the lakes I visit have ugly logged sections around them. It takes 300 years to grow a mature forest. We are not going to see them again in our lifetime, so we should think seriously about how much we cut down. Aesthetic value needs to be recognized along with economic value.

If you walk in an old growth forest, or paddle beside one, it changes you, and if you plant and protect more forests, they can save the world. Where are BC's environmental laws? Almost non-existant. If our government won't respond to this urgent need, we need to look elsewhere. Here is a way you can help:

Thursday 2 July 2009

Anutz Lake

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: