Sunday 17 October 2010

Second Nanaimo Lake

Trip Date: October 17, 2010

Off road vehicles, 2 of them customized 4Runners, with chopped beds, external cages, and large tires, in a line as a local explains to them that the gate has just been closed. Disappointment and anger on the young men's faces. I wonder, "where will they go now?"

We are not headed for points further up the valley -- we are just going to the boat ramp, though the image does give me a twinge of chagrin. All this land owned by a forest company and the public barred from using it much or most of the time. An old deal which has rubbed people wrong year after year. A give away to big business in exchange for a railway that is only lightly used these days.

The boat ramp has a number of vehicles parked around it. Guys out on the water fishing. We put in with the sound of retreating 4x4s and paddle out and away, heading down to look at the outflow.

The autumn colors warm the landscape but we can see our breath in the shade.

As we approach the bridge we see the smooth surface tilting into rapids so we turn around.

We head back towards the main lake.

The sun is warm and provides a sense of comfort. Two ultralight planes fly low overhead, heading up the broad valley slowly. The day has the feel of a Sunday, lazy and relaxed.

In the distance we see another canoe. People are out enjoying the air, water, and sunshine.

The bushes along the shore are various shades of burgundy and amethyst. The Ninebark is yellow and orange.

We paddle slowly and take it all in. Further up the lake we coast beside a large wall of stone with large and small trees growing out of cracks. It is too dark in the shade of the hillside to take pictures. I have to just soak it in. I keep looking and looking and can't get enough. At one point a bright yellow clump of Ninebark protrudes out from between a vertical  fissure in the rock face. Paul and I both comment repeatedly on the beauty. We talk about people we know that have a hard time seeing it or valuing it. I think about learning to appreciate abstract art in my first year at University. Removing preconceptions and expectations and just looking at what is before you. Letting the art evoke a feeling.

We round the corner and eat our lunch on a log strewn shore with the sound of water or wind, we never can decide which, coming from the dense forest behind us. Two fly fishermen go by in a skiff. We chat with them and they tell us that the Elk were not on the gravel bar today.

In order to make sure we are out before the gate is closed, we cut our trip short and head back. On another day we will explore the sand bar and maybe see those Elk. Two blue herons fly over us low and close enough to see the feathers moving in their wings.

We stop on the way home and wander into the woods looking for Mushrooms.

There are Chanterelles -- slightly waterlogged and perhaps indicating the peak of the season, and a small patch of Hedgehogs, firm and smelling sweet. These are Hydnum umbilicatum. I have not gathered them before.

The teeth or spines are clearly visible under the magnifying glass when I get home.

There is also a Western Amethyst Laccaria, which I am not as sure about both in the field and when I get home. But when I look in the books I gain confidence. I will do a spore print tonight.  Edibility of this mushroom seem in question but it has a lovely fresh smell.

I also saw but did not gather what I think was a either a Zellers or Admirable Bolete. Being not on wood, but on the side of the road, I lean towards the Zellers.

I have a satisfied sense of gratitude as I put my mushrooms in the fridge at the end of the night. It has been a good day.

Monday 11 October 2010

Stella and Lower Stella Lakes

Trip Date: October 3rd, 2010

James and I had visited the area of Stella, Lower Stella, Pye and McCreight Lakes last year but the day had been windy and the lakes were uninviting. This day the Weather Network predicted low winds so we decided to try again. A sign at the entrance to Rock Bay Road informed us that the road would be closed the next day for logging in the Stella Lake area. We congratulated ourselves on visiting the lakes just in time.

We stopped briefly at McCreight, but the long narrow valley seems always to channel wind down the lake. Today was no exception. We drove on, enjoying the country between McCreight and Stella, a lowland of meandering streams and deep water marshes.

Lower Stella looked calm and inviting, but we checked our watches and decided we could probably get a paddle in on both Stella and Lower Stella; so headed on to Stella. At the put in a lone angler was navigating his aluminum skiff with an electric motor towards the beach where he was camped. The wind was running out of the South East and the sheltered bay was inviting enough. We set off along the North Eastern shore protected from the main wind by the protruding headland at the transition to the main lake.

Once we passed the headland we headed Southwest towards the island that stands off from the point between the two large bays on the Northern end of the lake. Rocky on the southern shore and lush and dense with foliage on the Northern side, the island does not appear to receive many visitors. No obvious campsite was evident but there was a fire ring on the high rocks on the western side. I got out and crashed through the bushes for awhile trying to find a route to high ground before giving up and returning to my canoe.

We headed back to the put-in, enjoying the Northern shore and outflow before taking out and heading to Lower Stella.

Lower Stella is the haunt of generations of anglers. A grandfather on our last visit was introducing his grandchildren to the special place. A fisherman's poem is carefully nailed to a tree near the put-in and because there is no easy way to launch a boat of any significant size, I suspect only canoes, light skiffs, and pontoon boats make it onto the lake.

The light was fading but we headed out, circumnavigating the lake counter clockwise. The inflow is picturesque, but the most endearing aspect of the lake is the long southern shore with it's grassy fringe and striking contrast of light alder trunks against the dark forest behind.

With the chill of evening penetrating our shirts we finished out paddle and headed to have a look at the Pye Lake Rec Site, which we found and wandered through in the last light before dark. Pye was also calm and we wished we had a little more day left to explore it. We decided to return again on another day.

Fore more photos of Lower Stella visit the photo gallery here.

Thursday 7 October 2010

McNair Lake

Trip Date: October 3, 2010

As I gingerly ease the Tracker in and out of the large holes that crater the road leading away from McNair Lake, the springs in the seat creak and we sway this way and that. My passenger (contented and glowing from sucking in great drafts of beauty) leans over conspiratorially and says  "You won't blog about this place, right?"

I've heard this appeal before. The concern seems to be that if I show people what a special place it is they will all flock to it and trample the beauty into mud and gravel and then throw beer cans and old tarps in the water. We have seen this in too many other places already.
Lunch At McNair
The trouble is, that if the yahoos don't be-spoil it the forest companies probably will. The trees around McNair are getting big enough to harvest. Before long the saws will start to whine and the hillsides will lose their beautiful blanket of undulating fir to be replaced by a patchwork of logging cuts. Beauty is not nearly as valuable as logs and fiber.

I'm not against logging. I'm not a tree spiker or tree hugger. But I have to confess I feel pretty sad to think that this area will soon look like a half plucked chicken.

The Sayward forest should, in my humble opinion, be protected because of it's beauty. But my opinion isn't likely to have much effect on changing the fate of this place. Still, I do what I can. And part of what I can do is post some photos and at least let posterity see what a beautiful place this was before the loggers had their way with it.

Because of course once the saws get busy it will be a hundred years or more before it will look like this again. I'll be long gone by then. I wonder if my photos will remain? Probably not.

So what is this post about then? Perhaps just one human mind contemplating how everything changes and celebrating the beauty while it is still here.

For more photos of McNair Lake, click here.