This summer is turning out to be the summer of amazing weather and epic trips --KNOCK ON WOOD.......
Phillips Ridge as viewed from Flower Ridge, Mt. Myra on the left
The Island Mountain Ramblers and the Comox District Mountaineering Club (CDMC) jointly participated in a hike lead by Ken Rodonets from August 2nd - 4th, on Flower Ridge in Strathcona Provincial Park. Flower Ridge is a well defined and often traveled trail that ascends quickly from Highway 28, the main road from Campbell River to Gold River, and up into the low alpine, around 1400 m. The ridge juts into
Strathcona Park and offers views of many surrounding ridges and mountains.
Total Distance: 31 km
Starting Elevation: 230 metres
Max Elevation : 1640 meters
Total Elevation Gain: 2379 meters
Starting Out - Trailhead to the top of the Ridge
This was my first trip up Flower Ridge. I started in Nanaimo, leaving town at 6:30 am, to rendezvous with Ken and some other CDMC members at his place in Courtenay at eight. After a quick hello, we hit the road turning west at Campbell River on Highway 28, toward Gold River. The highway trends south and when you reach the Buttle Narrows Bridge, you continue south onto Westmin Mine Road, also knows as the Buttle Lake Parkway. The hike is located in Strathcona Provincial Park and is easy to spot, a sign marks the Henshaw Creek Trailhead and Flower Ridge. Since the trailhead is immediately at a bridge over Henshaw Creek, there is also a sign marking the river.
We arrived at the Henshaw Creek trailhead, just down the road from the area where John Young and I started our Sheppard Ridge hike in 2011. Between the two outdoor clubs, Ken managed to muster 10 hikers in total, eager to hit the hill.
We departed the parking lot by 10:40 and we were happy to hit the dense old growth forests of the lower section early in the day, as it provided a reprieve from the sun that would ultimately bake us all weekend long.I describe this day as having two portions, up and across. The up portion, from 230 metres at the car park, to 1450 metres at the apex of the day's hike along the ridge. The climb through old growth forest is filled with thimble berry, oregon grape, and all manner of dense moss eventually gives way as we emerged into the subalpine tundra filled with an abundance of heather, wild blueberry and the odd patch of desiccated moss. The dry July and August combined with high temperatures have left the ground parched, as well as the hikers who quickly drank through the two liters of water which most carried. Even with the dense umbrella created by the big tress, the temperature was in the high twenties and even more extreme in the high subalpine tundra of the ridge proper.
dozens of butterflies played in the sun spots that pierced through the forest
We ascended slowly, taking a lot of breaks for water an to enjoy the view if Buttle Lake and to observe,with less admiration, Westmin Mine at the base of Mt. Myra.
We anticipated a longish hike for the short distance, around four to five hours. Our group was in no hurry, we reached our destination by four thirty. In total we ascended 1400 metrers and walked 8.8 kilometers. We made our camp at two large tarns. These beautiful clear pools created by melting snow, are below the effects of the wind and therefore permitted perfect reflections of their surrounding landscape.
After the long day, we felt as dry as the dried out remains of the heather flowers on the ridge. When we reached our camping area, many of the hikers stripped off their hiking gear and plunged into the waters. I was so thirsty that first I purified and drank two liters of water. Soon enough I too succumbed to the tepid pools. I plunged below the surface and as I opened my eyes and looked across I discovered the water was turquoise!
In the evening Ken pulled out some large tea lights and we put them in a pot before lighting them, they functioned wonderfully as a campfire. Though they provided no heat they created a centre of focus. All the campers sat, watched and shared each other's company. As the sun descended, we were treated to a rare experience (at least for someone who lives at sea level) of watching the sun descend and create layers if colour and depth across the mountains to the west, Tom Taylor, Mt. Myra, Mt Mariner, Big Interior and at least a dozen more. It was a great day.
Image of 9 Peaks, one of the IQ9
The Golden Hinde, as viewed from FLower Ridge; the highest peak on Vancouver Island and one of the IQ9
Day Two - Campsite to Ridge End
I woke around 6:30, the sun was up, as were a few of the other campers. The group planned to head to the end of the ridge and back, leaving our current site as a base camp of sorts. We left camp around 830 heading along the ridge, South-by-southwest. Even at this early hour the sun was hot and the sky had only a few puffy clouds, we could tell we were in for a scorcher.
The route a long the ridge is very easy to follow. Although, there is no official Parks BC path and it is easy to poke about across the entire ridge, if your destination is the end of the ridge then the path is well worn. Where it becomes difficult to see due to changes in the landscape, cairns mark the common route. Following this route, we hiked for three hours to reach our destination, at the the end of the ridge, only seven kilometers from camp. From this vantage point we were right above Green Lake, at the valley between Flower Ridge and the mountain range knows as Mist Horns, Rousseau and Septimus.
Dean points to the distant summit that we contemplate climbing. In the background Mist Horns, Rosseau and Septimus
We ate lunch, one of the other hikers and I contemplated hiking forwarded to the summit of the next peak. After considering our situation, low on water, we chose not to carry on and instead lead the group back to our base camp. Including lunch and travel the we were out 6 hours and hiked close to 14 kilometers.
The day's achievement was celebrated with another dip in the tarn. I'm not sure how it's possible but I enjoyed this swim even more on this day than the first. Each person from the group swam in the waters, cooling themselves and rehydrating after a day that had temperatures cracking thirty degrees.
I was in bed soon after dark, the night was refreshingly cool. I woke at nearly three in the morning for the obligatory pee break. I was happy of it as I wanted to watch the stars. I wasn't disappointed. As an outdoor enthusiast I have spent many nights in a tent, all over Vancouver Island, this night was in the running for the top! When I looked up I could easily see Milky Way, a veritable cloud made of an unfathomable number of stars. Pleiades was more evident in the sky than I had ever witnessed, I could even see the smaller stars clustered around the Seven Sisters. I fiddled with my camera and captured a few good shots.
Pleiades, Seven Sisters
Day Three -- Return to the Car
We left camp just before 9 am and walked the ridge to the start of our descent. We enjoyed a snack in the shade, keeping out of the sweltering heat. The group took several breaks to insure that everyone hiked together. By 11:30 I decided to forge ahead and make it to the bottom quicker, the slow pace descending was tiring on my right knee. I made it to the bottom by 12:30.
I had time to stretch and freshen up before the next member of the group arrived, an hour later. Once everyone was there, we clamored in our respective vehicles and whisked off to Buttle Lake where we enjoyed a refreshing swim.