Archive | June 2013

Strathcona Provincial Park’s Karst Creek Trail

Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island has numerous excellent hiking trails.  From TeresaLupin Falls to Upper Myra Falls, there are several to chose from that skirt around gorgeous Buttle Lake and are easy hikes for those looking for a way to enjoy the park in just a couple of hours.

Yours truly on the trail

Yours truly on the trail

On Sunday, my friend Teresa and I hiked the Karst Creek trail and were 020pleased to re-discover its unusual attributes.  At one point along the trail, the sound of rushing water is evident, but you can’t see it!  Further along, a gorgeous waterfall gushes down from the rock face only to disappear underground.

Giant cedars have fallen down over the trail, but didn’t impede progress as they have been cut through and the trail is well maintained.  Many more trees show signs of having been burnt.  This time of year, wild flowers are blooming along the trail and the scene is rich with the contrasting colours of green moss, gray rocks and purple blooms. 007

022The trial is aptly named, as the meaning of karst is ‘an area of irregular limestone where erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes and underground streams’.  Across from the trail in the parking area on the lake side, day trippers can picnic and enjoy the grander vistas of Buttle Lake surrounded by mountains.  On the day we were there, the lake was particularly calm and produced a mirror like effect of the towering mountains and clouds above.

Other highlights of the area include Strathcona Park Lodge, http://www.strathcona.bc.ca/ just a few kilometres before the entrance of the park, which is open for lunch and dinner, and a great place to stop for an afternoon refreshment.

To find out more about Strathcona Park’s numerous trails, visit BC parks website http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/strath/trails.html

Christine Scott put together a great little booklet called ‘Nature Strathcona’ (2007) that describes the park’s trails and is available at many outlets in Campbell River.

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Mermaids In the Passage

Campbell River has long had a reputation as a place for sighting exotic marine mammals.  While visitors and residents alike often spot pods of Killer Whales making their way through Discovery Passage, from time to time another type of large fin has broken through the surface of the water that doesn’t belong to a whale but to another kind of marine mammal that is more closely related to human beings.

Mermaid in passageCGLocals have dubbed these creatures ‘Mermaids of the Passage’.  Although today the public is quite skeptical about the existence of mermaids, in earlier times the existence of mermaids was an accepted fact.  Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, they were said to lure many a sailor to his death with their siren songs.  In fact, this could account for the large number of curious shipwrecks along our coast that can’t be explained by poor navigation or inclement weather.

One of the first documented sightings was in 1792.  On sailing past Quadra Island, Captain Vancouver wrote in his journal “Numberless mer-maidens, enjoying the season, were playing about the ship in every direction.”  This was corroborated by Captain Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra who wrote that many of his fiery blooded Spanish sailors were so enthralled by the sight, that they willing threw themselves into the sea with the purpose of cavorting with these maidens, only to drown in the whirling waters.

The local native inhabitants too, have a very old related story.  Long ago, when young men reached puberty, they were encouraged to ‘take the long swim’ from their village to a nearby small island where these maidens were said to cluster.  And from time to time, children with webbed toes appeared in the village who were said to be able to hold their breath under water for extended periods.

More recently, Ken Blackburn, Director of the Arts Council, whose office at the Sybil Andrews Cottage is located at the shoreline, had his own experience to relate.

“I was in the cottage, and thought I heard singing coming from outdoors.  Curious, I stepped outside.  It was hard to describe, it seemed to get right inside me.  Before I knew it, I was standing knee deep in the cold water, and I could have sworn I saw a silhouette of a naked woman sitting out on a rock.  It definitely wasn’t a cormorant.  Luckily, my assistant called me before I went out any further.  It was an eerie experience, and I don’t know what might have happened if I hadn’t been called.”

Blackburn is now advocating that Campbell River erect a monument to the Mermaids of the Passage in the spirit of the famous statue at Copenhagen, and he generously donated this photo that was given to him by a fellow artist who had a similar experience.

Anyone with a related sighting is encouraged to get in touch with the author.

By Catherine M Gill-Bert

Author of Shipwrecks and Polynesians on Our Shores.

Discovering Desolation Sound

Museum Guides Luisa Richarson and Danny Brown

Museum Guides Luisa Richardson and Danny Brown

Considered to be one of the west coast’s premier cruising destinations, Desolation Sound abounds with both history and wildlife.  On a recent trip with Discovery Marine Safaris and the Museum at Campbell River, we cruised over to this area from Campbell River, heading south and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeast, passing historic Cape Mudge Indian Reserve on Quadra Island and the Island’s lighthouse built in 1898.  Captain Vancouver visited the Coast Salish living on Quadra in 1792, commenting that they “conducted themselves with the greatest civility and respect”.

Later, Quadra Island became an important centre of industry for logging, mining and fishing many years before central Vancouver Island became settled.

One of the most intriguing islands on the route is Mitlenatch.  Now a wildlife sanctuary under the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAprotection of BC Parks, it has the largest seabird colony in the Strait of Georgia.  On our trip, we spotted many birds, sea lions and seals along the shore.  Because of its unusual climate, Mitlenatch has unique flora and fauna like cactus, which is not found on other Gulf Islands.  Sheep were once kept there despite the arid climate and it is thought that they must have found moisture in the moss to slake their thirst.

HernandezThe next island ahead is Hernando, named for the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes, for whom Cortes Island is also named.  A private island, it is coveted for its lovely sandy beaches.  Cruisers then pass by the Twin Islands, which were owned at one time by German royalty and made famous by visits from the British Royal yacht which once brought Queen Elizabeth to these wild isles.

Entering into Desolation Sound, it is difficult to believe that Captain Vancouver once proclaimed the area to be so dismal, that he named it as he did.  With the vista of the snow capped Coastal Mountains to the east, the verdant landscape of West Redonda Island and picturesque Lewis Channel to the north, it represents the quintessential beauty of British Columbia’s west coast.RefugeCove

On the southern tip of West Redonda, the boat cruises into the sanctuary of Refuge Cove, long a boater’s safe haven.  Today, it boasts a marina, fuel dock, general store, restaurant and art gallery.  The Museum’s tour includes a stop for lunch here and an opportunity to get off the boat and wander around, taking in the quaint surroundings.

Heading back out into Lewis Channel, cruisers have an excellent view of Cortes Island and the settlement of Squirrel Cove to the west.  One of the highlights of the trip is a chance to see and take pictures of gorgeous Cassel IMGP0162Falls on the west coast of West Redonda.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way back, our group had the fortune to come upon a pod of several transient Killer Whales, identified by Discovery Marine Safaris’ staff.  Always a delight, wild life viewing is often a part of every trip with the crew of Discovery Marine Safaris sharing their knowledge of where and when exotic marine mammals like whales are likely to appear along the route.

As these photos reveal, taking a camera along is a must! The Museum is offering three trips to Desolation Sound this year on Sundays in July and September.  For the 2015 schedule see the following: http://crmuseum.ca/historic-boat-tours.   Call 250-287-3103 to reserve.