Canada Learning Curve
We’ve got a lot of experience looking at U.S. topographic maps. The contour intervals, the scale, how the curves are smoothed on a steep slope… Things are a bit different here. Hig complains that the maps aren’t as good as Alaska ones (some of the topography does line up pretty oddly). But either way, some of the slopes we thought we might do while looking at our Seattle computer screen turn out to be broken by vertical cliff bands of granite
The mountains above Howe Sound are still covered in 12 feet of snow on the ridges, filling all the places that aren’t cliff bands. So when we abandoned our ridge route in favor of a “short cut” down into Red Tusk Creek, it involved crawling through snow tunnels in a steep gully beside the cliffs, wedging between the dirt and the snow, and getting utterly covered in mud.
As a result (and to make up a little time), we’ll be taking a route closer to sea level from here to Campbell River. Don’t quite have maps for all of it, but I think we can figure it out.
Out here in the lakes and bays and valleys, we’re in the industrial wilds. Few people, but little wilderness. Powerlines drape the hillsides, while logging roads snake across them. Salmon farms dot the inlets. Pretty much everything is either logged, dammed, farmed, or all three.
One particularly ironic example is Salmon Inlet. From Red Tusk Creek, we followed the logging out to Clowhom Lake. Floating the lakeshore in our packrafts, we floated over the stumps of giant trees 10 feet under the water, wondering why the lake level had changed so much. Clowhom Lake was dammed by BC Hydro in the 50s (as Len, who runs the Clowhom Lodge) was telling us.
Clambering over the dry sculpted granite beneath the dam – it would have been one of the more impressive waterfalls I’ve seen. But it’s completely cut off. As a result, Salmon Inlet is totally devoid of anywhere wild salmon might run. The only salmon here are Atlantic, in fish farm pens. We paddled past three of them, and we could smell the stench from a half mile away…
Watersheds are sensitive places. We’ve been kicked out of two of them already on this trip. And if you think a couple of hikers might do some damage to the drinking water, what do you think logging will do? Here in Egmont, they’re trying to stop the logging of their drinking water watershed, currently a 100 year old second growth forest. Check it out at Save Our Watershed.
Almost all of the forest around here is second growth. The big old trees left are all on steep slopes, logged by helicopter – a dangerous and expensive job. Talking to a faller for a heli logging company by Clowhom Lake, I’m glad I’m not up there, balancing on a tiny board 30 feet up in the air, reaching out to do tricky cuts with a 42 inch chainsaw… But the economics for the tight-grained wood in those slow growing trees drive the operation. Someone’s getting rich from it. And as the faller says: “It’s all government bull***”
But it’s a beautiful time to be paddling these bays. Warm sunny days under bright blue skies, and dark starry nights. Last night we paddled well into dark, watching some of the most amazing phosphorescence I’ve ever seen. Along the shore, we startled schools of small fish. They zipped away from our raft in every direction, leaving glowing trails of bubbles behind them, like underwater fireworks. It was awesome.
I’m in the small town of Egmont right now, stocked up on food to head to Powell River (a strangely large proportion of cookies this time). We’re using the internet briefly here at the kind offer of the Egmont Heritage Center Museum (sorry no time for pictures right now), and hope to paddle out while the weather’s still good. The new route plan avoids the snowy cliffy mountains for awhile, in favor of some really cool looking lakes.