This week the 15 Retreads, lead by Willa Suntjens, piled into three vehicles and made the 95 kilometre trip over logging roads to visit the Carmanah/Walbran Provincial Park.
We assembled at 8:30 a.m. and took off on the sunny side of the lake up through Youbou. From the former Youbou mill site we were on dusty logging roads. The road surface was generally better than expected but the following vehicles often had to drop back to let the dust clear. We did not pass forestry trucks, but did see occasional cars and pickups emerge from the dust or around sharp curves. An unnerving experience!
After some time we reached a T-junction beside the Nitinat River. Here, a right turn takes you to Port Alberni or Bamfield and a left turn toward Nitinat and the Carmanah Park. We resisted the urge to pop into Bamfield for a coffee and headed south toward Carmanah. Down past the Nitinat turn off, around the river and up a long climb and eventually, after many curves and bumps, we arrived at the entrance to the park.
From the Park we hiked down a fairly long steep slope and were already thinking, “oh dear, we have to come back up this at the end of the hike.” About 20 minutes in we reached the first huge tree which has been protected with a board walk. At a junction in the trail we continued straight on toward the Heavenly Tree and Stoltzman Memorial Grove. We reached this grove and found it a quiet and peaceful place, especially as we took time to read the story of Randy Stoltzman and his efforts to save these beautiful big trees.
After this grove, we stopped on the gravelly banks of the river where we enjoyed our lunch break. We again enjoyed the quiet and expansive forest across and the nice clear pools in the river.
After lunch we headed upstream for about 30 minutes to the Three Sisters grove of trees. We found three huge sitka spruce growing in a triangle. Once again — because of the heavy human traffic — they had been protected with a board walk. They were amazing trees that made the visit worthwhile.
All told we hiked about 7 km. About half of this distance was on a kind of hikers highway. Yes, we were hiking on boardwalks that were in fairly good shape with occasional evidence of maintenance. Here and there we had steps up and down through creeks. There were good signboards and maps. Of course it was true that we had to hike, slowly, back up the long steep hill to reach our vehicles. That took some effort and perseverance but exactly the 20 minutes as posted on one of the signs.
And so back over the winding dusty roads to Lake Cowichan, satisfied that we had seen a truly amazing part of this island. Hiking with the Retreads has truly introduced us to some wonderful parts of the Cowichan.
-submitted David Kidd