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: http://stillinthestream.jalbum.net/Gray%20Lake/index.html


  1. I went to your jalbum link and was pleased to see that you had captured a picture of our Boler the first year we camped with it! Your pictures have captured the feel of Gray Lake mornings every time we have camped there! Beautiful!

  2. Hi Shelley,

    Thank you for your comment! Gray Lake is one of my favorites, but I have only experienced the deep calmness of this trip a few times. Glad to hear it is a reliable occurrence. Do you still have your Boler? It is one of the camping options I have considered from time to time.

    Hope to see you at Gray Lake sometime!