Saturday, 16 May 2009

Hawthorn Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook - Map 15 B6
Atlas of Canada Link: Hawthorn Lake
Latitude and Longitude: 49o 3' 0" N - 124o 46' 0" W

Trip Date: April 23rd, 2009

I spent the day exploring lakes along Bamfield Road. Unable to find a trail to Black Lake, I decided to head for Lizard Pond, but encountered active logging just past Hawthorn Lake. So I returned to Hawthorn and put in with fairly low expectations. I followed a pair of Barrow's Golden Eyes for several meters and was surprised when they did not fly away. As my canoe drifted sideways while I stopped paddling to raise the camera for a shot, the size of my profile suddenly registered as a threat and they took off. I later encountered more Golden Eye on the far side of the lake, and they too were slow to spook.

These are perhaps my favorite local freshwater duck -- much more impressive than the Common Goldeneye. This little sea duck is less dramatic than the Wood Duck, but more aproachable, and the startling contrast of the male's purple head with the yellow eye ring can be quite entrancing.

Shortly after that I observed numerous newts sunning at the surface of the lake, only tilting downward as I approached. A flash of orange belly as they turned to dive confirmed for me that they were Taricha granulosa, the Rough-Skinned Newt.

The Rough Skinned Newt is the only newt I have observed so far on Vancouver Island. The other common resident Aquatic Salamanders, the Northwestern Salamander, and the Long-Toed Salamander, have so far eluded me, but the Rough Skinned Newt seems to be everywhere. I have seen them in roadside ponds near Courtenay, and in McNair Lake near Campbell River. On McNair, I was fortunate to see a group of them gathered in a ball, a behavior I first read about in Corkran and Thoms' Amphibians of Oregaon, Washington, and British Columbia, the book I recommend to budding phibs, or amphibian watchers like myself.


  1. jerry.dowd@crowley.com3 June 2009 at 14:50

    I live in Seattle area and thinking about purchasing a Spitfire for lake exploring. Any reservations after you have paddled this canoe for a while?Have the gunwales held up ?.....jerry

  2. Hi Jerry,

    The Spirtfire is an amazing little boat, and after many paddles I am more in love with it than ever.

    There are two things I don't like about the boat, but they are minor.

    The first is that no matter how I adjust the trim, it still weathercocks to one side when I stop paddling. This is only really an issue if you plan to take lots of photos from the boat.

    The second drawback in the one inherent in any boat this size - not a lot of room for gear.

    The best things about the boat are the durable construction, aesthetics, efficient design and weight. Mine is 22 lbs.

    The gunwales are holding up well,with a slight fuzzing, but nothing major. I have taken it down creeks, into shallow water, and only have one major ding so far. I am careful to avoid hitting things, but I have to say I am a big fan of Placid Boatworks Boats. They have a winning formula. Tough but light.

    Bottom Line: This is a light durable pretty little canoe that I can carry on my shoulder down through the trees and set in almost any piece of water. Because it is so light, I actually use it a lot.

    Wish I were out in in now!

  3. jerry.dowd@crowley .com4 June 2009 at 13:21

    Thanks for the reply.I'm planning to use the Spitfire in a similar manner but for the lakes around Puget Sound / King County. I already have a Bell Magic in Kevlar and a Bell Yellowstone Solo in RX.I do like the size of the Rapidfire but its pretty close to the 16' Magic. With the Spitfire,I cover all the bases.I plan on retiring at the end of the year and want to devote time to paddling as many lakes as I can. Thanks again replying

  4. Hi Jerry,

    I looked at the Merlin 2 in the Black Gold when I was considering what to buy, ended up very challenging to obtain in western Canada. When I think about it now, I am still attracted to the Merlin, but for the extra weight savings, I'm still sold on the Spitfire.

    Happy Paddling!