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Carmanah Valley Road Trip
November 15, 2008

If you plan to visit Victoria then make the effort to arrange a side trip to the Carmanah / Walbran Provincial Park as well. The trip into the Carmanah Valley via Lake Cowichan will take about 4 hours. You will need a decent vehicle, the road turns to gravel once you get past the lake and can be quite rough in sections, the pot holes are numerous and quite deep. You can gas up in the Cowichan Village but after that there are no stores or cell phone service. The route is pretty well marked and there are signs at most forks in the road. Prior to making our trip I purchased a copy of the Back roads map book for Vancouver Island but didn't really need it. I also brought along my GPS and recorded our track on the way in. If needed I could then use it to track my way out.

The day we went up it was overcast but warm, a typical day on the West Coast of BC. We left at 8:00 am hoping to get there around noon, which we did. It was amazing how few cars we saw, once we were past Lake Cowichan there were no vehicles at all with the exception of a loaded logging truck parked on the side of the road. We figured it must have broken down and had to be left there until a mechanic could get out there to repair it. We stopped took a few pictures and marvelled at the size, the log bunks are 12 feet wide.

The Carmanah parking lot was empty when we arrived and stayed that way. We were the only visitors to make the trip that day. We ate lunch and then dressed for the decent into the valley. It wasn't raining, it was kind of misting, I opted to where my rain gear, which was an error.

The path into the valley descends rapidly, very quickly you get the feeling you are entering a very different environment, which you are of course. The trail going down is gravel and well maintained, at the bottom it levels out and switches to a boardwalk. The boardwalk was very slippery. We both slipped numerous times even though we were trying to be careful. Some sections of the walk way had recently been replaced, the new wood was a lot easier to navigate. If I ever make the trip again I think it would be worth it to try and insert some kind of cleat into your shoes or wear golf shoes. The problem might not exist in the summer months though with the increased foot traffic and lower humidity.

The boardwalk weaves along leading to the various points of interest. Many of the trees are dead at the top or broken off. Quite often I would be looking at the base of a tree taking in how large it was and then look up and it would be broken off 50 feet up. There were also many trees lying down, their massive roots that had previously clutched the earth now tipped into the vertical position. I guess it is all an example of a forest in transition. I do kind of wonder though if the transition is occurring at an accelerated rate, there seemed to be a lot happening right now when you consider a Sitka Spruce can live up to 700 years.

We wandered around for a couple of hours, at 2:30 it was time to make the trek out. This was when I really regretted my choice of clothing. I had been carrying my coat for the last hour and was way over dressed. Under the same weather conditions again I would just where shorts and have dry clothes stored in the car. We hiked up the hill, I took numerous breaks, not wanting to test my heart to much, we were a long way from a defibrillator.

The trip out was uneventful, we saw a hunter cruising along in a pickup truck. It was almost dark by the time we got to Lake Cowichan. My buddy spotted a couple of Elk in the timber about 100 feet in, it was exciting since I had never seen Elk in the wild before. We backed up and watched they did not seem too alarmed by our interest and leisurely headed deeper into the forest. It now became clearer to me what the hunter in the truck was up to. Too bad it was too dark to take a picture.

The entrance to Carmanah / Walbran Provincial Park

A large Sitka Spruce

The boardwalk in the Carmanah Valley

A reality check

The Three Sisters

They don't come much bigger than this

Pacific Logging Truck

GPS Carmanah track overlayed Google image
On the way up to the Carmanah Valley I recorded the track with a Garmin 76CSx. I saved the track and opened it in the Map Source software and then used the "View in Google Earth" option. It displays the track over top of the Google satellite image. You can click on the image for a larger version.