Buttle Lake, Strathcona Park

April 02, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I spent several days in Strathcona Park since the weather was good. The mornings were a bit chilly at 5*C but it warmed up to ~16*C by afternoon. The sun takes a while to climb over the mountain and swing around to the west therefore the mountains on the west side of the lake is in full sunshine early in the day but the east side is in the cool shade until around 9:30 am.

When I first arrived, I drove down to the Buttle Lake boat launch and saw a tent erected at the lone picnic table. Not legal to camp there but the campgrounds haven't quite opened yet. The lake level is quite high up which isn't surprising at this time of year. What was quite surprising is the snow level which was about 2/3 rd up the mountain. I thought it would be lower down considering we had a fairly good dump of snow this year despite El Nino.

I checked out Lupin Falls and saw that it was flowing with a good volume of water but not as full as I have previously seen. Higher up in the mountains, the temperature is most likely below zero and the snow pack hasn’t really melted fully. I climbed up the steep slope which gives a mid-view of the falls. Although I've photographed this falls many times, I always feel compelled to take photos whenever I visit but this time I used my 28 mm lens rather than a wider angle. I casually walked the loop trail to the small creek where a stand of Red alder and Douglas fir trees line the creek.

I next visited Karst Creek and noticed that there was some water flowing down the usually dry creek bed as I headed up the trail. The flow wasn't much but it increased the further I went up the trail. At the crossing point, the water was low enough to boulder hop across. I took photographs of the moss covered boulders and the creek.

There is one part of the creek where the water flows over a boulder and drops to form a nice waterfall but the flow rate wasn't great enough for a nice waterfall. On top of that, there is  now a log which has lodge on top of the boulder and points downstream thus ruining the shot.

The Karst Creek waterfall is flowing at a good clip but not with a great volume of water to create over-spray therefore I was able to stand in a clearing to get a good shot. I noticed a lot of rockfall from the cliff beside me; not a safe place to stay for any length of time.

I also took a 14 second video of the falls using my D800 camera which appears to shoot better vids than my video cam.

I continued along the loop trail at a leisurely pace and stopped to photograph lots of beard lichen dangling from bare branches of trees; something which I never bothered to photograph until now. When the tree leaves are gone, the lichen are more visible.

I drove back to my favorite area near a culvert and parked there for the day. I scrambled down to the  lakeshore and ate my lunch. The sun had swung around over the trees and lit up the area where I rested so it was quite hot because there was little to no breeze. The reflections of the mountains on Buttle Lake was nice and the water level was up to some of the cut trees along the shore. The cut trees are due to the making of the reservoir which serves several dams along the way to Campbell River. One cut tree with its roots exposed had provided a nice shelter during the previous years when I boarded up the sides. The boards are gone so I piled up some rocks along the sides and sat underneath when the sun got too hot.

When I was resting about in the sun, a butterfly flew about and around me and eventually landed on my pack. I was able to get a good video of it. Not long after, four more butterflies came around and landed on my boots and socks. A bumblebee flew around me and landed on my shirt but I scared it off. For some reason, the bee was attracted to me and my stuff lying around.

I cooked dinner by the lake in my make shift shelter and enjoyed the rest of the day. There was still a lack of a good breeze; something which I have rarely seen since the winds usually pick up by late morning or afternoon at the latest. The sun was hot and the day reminded me of summer but when the sun descended behind the tall mountain ridge across the lake by 6 pm, the air started to cool down. Further up the  lake where the mountains are not that tall, the sun still shone.

There was a thin layer of light clouds in the sky when the sun was setting and I knew that they would light up so I got ready for a photograph. I used my 15 mm 180* fisheye lens for a shot.

I slept at roadside and there was no traffic at night like there usually is when the Myra Falls mine was operating however it is shut down and only maintenance staff are there. The air cooled down quite a bit but my down sleeping bag got overly  hot  at times. I saw a 1/2 moon in the sky and thousands of stars on a clear night. Some mine workers drove by around 5 am and Nyrstar bus drove by around 7 am. Not  much traffic like there used to be.

Early morning of the mountains across Buttle Lake from where I camped.

I drove to the Augerpoint trailhead and walked down to the shoreline before driving back a short distance and hiking up the Jack's (Augerpoint) trail. I wasn't too sure how far I'd get since I wasn't in very good shape  yet. My pack was quite heavy and I didn't bother to bring my hiking poles. I hiked quite slowly and could feel the strain on my legs on the uphill sections. There was more debris which had fallen across the trail but it was easy to get by. This trail is not  maintained by the Parks since it isn't a formal trail. One part of the trail was obliterated by a fallen tree which made it difficult to get by. Strong winds must have toppled the tree and the trail lay underneath but not visible therefore anyone not familiar with the area would find it confusing where to continue. About 30 minutes from the start of the trail, there is a nice viewpoint which overlooks Buttle Lake and the mountains but it took me a tiring 45 minutes to reach. I was sweating a lot so I rested and cooled down before heading up further to a second but obscure viewpoint. I past a small stream which only flows during spring before drying up. This means that there is some snow higher up in the forest. After hiking for about 2 hours, I gave up trying to reach the pond in the forest. I felt really exhausted and very hungry. Normally, I usually take an protein and carbohydrate drink before I start but I only  had a protein shake. The lack of carbs and not being in shape got me really tired so I headed back down.

Boulders in the forest.

I felt so dead when I got down that I just drove back to where I had camped and ate lunch and rested by the lake. It took about an hour later before I started to get my energy back. In the meantime, 4 butterflies came by again and so did a couple of bumblebees. At least there are no mosquitoes yet.

There isn't much of a shoreline because of the high water and I wanted to skirt along the shore but the water was right up to a cut tree with a tangle of exposed roots that I needed to get around. In addition, the banks along here are steep and eroded but climbing them isn't the problem; the problem is getting down. The water depth looked quite deceiving and it was difficult to gauge how deep it was near the dead tree. It looked shallow enough so I wore my shorts and planned to get around as fast as I could but surprisingly I sank up to my waist. I climbed up onto the exposed tree roots out of the frigid water and made the rest of the way across.  Just being in the water a short time period numbed my feet and made them painful.

I noticed more erosion along the banks and undercutting of the soft soil. One small tree which stood erect last year is leaning precariously due to erosion of the bank underneath. The landscape is forever changing and the banks are slowly disappearing and receding back. It would be a matter of time before the tall trees further back topple over and litter the shoreline. That's what happens when the lake reservoir was created by cutting down a lot of trees along the shoreline.

A fisheye shot between two Douglas Fir.

The sun went down behind the mountain ridge by 6 pm so I got back in the car and read a book. Next day, I drove back to another roadside stop which gives easy access to the lakeshore. There were a couple of illegal firepits along the lakeshore which I dismantled and scattered the rocks.

For the third day in a row, there was a lack of wind which is very unusual. This makes for nice reflection shots although the sun is too bright for any decent shot.

Later on in the year, these cut trees with tangled roots would be high and dry when the water level is lower.

I drove back to Lupin Creek near the parking area and hiked a disused logging road into the dark forest. This area is not well traveled but does make a pleasant walk up a rough moss lined path with a creek and grove of alder trees.

Further up, I had to cross the small creek a couple of times as the path headed up a narrow part of the valley. Funny that I didn't see any signs of bear activity in this area. When I had walked enough, I headed back down the trail and drove to a pullout which gave steep access to the lake. The limited shoreline made it difficult to skirt along it and I had to squeeze through a narrow tangle of tree roots to an area with more cut trees with exposed tree roots. I figured I could make a nice shelter using the cut tree so I gathered driftwood and piled it along the sides and back to form a nice comfy shelter. I ate my lunch and relaxed while the sun slowly came around and lit up the area where I rested. I heard a boat which looked like a small speck cruising about along the opposite shoreline. Voices are sure audible since the lake is really all that wide but sound travels a long distance.

It was good to be back in Strathcona Park after a 6 month absence. It would take me until July before I get into really good shape for a backpack and that would give a chance for the snow to melt high up in the mountains.

 


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