This weekend I went to Victoria, BC to visit Emily, who is herself a visiting researcher for a month. Of course the pacific northwest has ALL the mountains, so when I found out she’d be there for a month I bought plane tickets and the scheming began.
After deciding that taking the ferry and doing the border crossing back into the US to go to Olympic or the Cascades might take up all of our limited time, I began a furious, in-depth google search of things to do on Vancouver Island, by which I mean I looked at google maps and saw a park called Strathcona. Then google images showed me that Strathcona was full of snowy, imposing looking mountains. And thus a plan was hatched!
Of course when this weekend finally came around, the weather looked iffy and it was supposed to be colder than usual for April. We decided to go anyway and had a half fail times, half pretty mountains times weekend adventure.
As we were driving up on Friday it was raining pretty continuously. By the time we arrived at Buttle Lake campground the rain had actually stopped so we set up shop. The campground was EMPTY save one other group. Even if it had been more crowded, the campsites were very decently spaced and many of the sites are next to the lake with direct beach access. I was pretty creeped out by the lack of people because I am a wuss and thought that the bears would sense our relative vulnerability and come in for the kill (they did not).
Once we set up shop we realized we didn’t have a lighter to ignite the gas stove and had to drive 40 minutes round trip into Gold River to get one. That was fail #1. After we procured said lighter and drove back to camp, we realized my camp stove was actually broken and just shot jets of fire horizontally out one side instead of under the pot. Hey kids… don’t buy cheap camp stoves on Amazon!! After our second defeat we gave up on life and had PB&J for dinner.
The forecasted lows for the weekend were mid 40s so I figured my EMS Boreal 20F bag would suffice for this trip (spoiler alert: I am dumb). Well… the temperature decided to dip to just above freezing and I found myself shivering all night and getting just nauseated enough to not sleep AT ALL (reiterate: i am so, so dumb). So when our only good weather day rolled around, I was not feeling so hot. We had originally planned to tackle Elkhorn mountain (to just below the technical section) but switched to Crest mountain because of my general physical malaise and because it was shorter and therefore presumably easier (spoiler: HAHA NOPE).
The Crest mountain trail is only ~3 miles one way, but the elevation gain is nearly 4000 feet. Half delirious sleep-deprived me said “oh, that’s steep but we’ll just go slow.” That was dumb. This trail was STEEP, you guys. Like, for real. We trudged along at a snail-like pace due to my malaise and I had to stop several times when my residual nausea became too prominent (I am really fun to go on trips with).
After about 3000 vertical feet we finally found a decent vantage point to view the awesome mountains across the street and called that our “summit” for the day. After about 5 minutes admiring the views it began to hail on us, so we called it a day and headed down. That night we stayed at the super luxurious Gold River Chalet because parting with $75 sounded better to me than a repeat of the night before (WORTH IT). Well rested, the next day we hiked along the Elk River trail and saw some very mossy trees (and mossy rocks… and mossy ground). Apologies to those from the pacific northwest who don’t find pictures of moss as exciting as I do.
After our Elk River stroll we drove back down to Victoria, thus completing our half fail/ half mountains weekend. I definitely have plans to return to Strathcona. This park is amazeballs and there are a lot of awesome looking overnights and longer hikes we didn’t have time for (like this one and this one…). I’ll be back, Strathcona, you hear me!!!