The morning started at a very relaxed pace. The morning's late departure time that afforded me the luxury of sleeping in and being able to make breakfast before heading to the rendezvous point at Southgate Tim Horton's for 9 a.m.
Sunday December 7th, our plan was to hike along Camus Ridge to Thistle Mine and do a loop on the return to visit Christie Falls. The route is easy and for the most part well marked. On our route we did have a short section of walking overgrown trail. The biggest challenge is picking the correct route amongst the many trails and old service roads penetrating the regrowing forest. Many different roads and routes cross each other and we zig-zagged across many of them. I made an error on this trip, I didn't look up information prior to hiking. Post-hike, once doing some research, I find a need to return to the mine to see everything. Lindsay Elm's site beyondnootka.com hosts excellent information about the mine. I recommend checking the details before hiking.
Total Horizontal Distance: 16 km
Starting Elevation: 5 m
Maximum Elevation: 240 m
Total Elevation Gain: 800 m
Time: 5 h 45 min
The mid-morning sky was gray with light fog adding depth to our view and mists depositing moisture over the trees and mosses. We accessed our destination by turning west at the gas station, before Ladysmith onto Oyster So-Lo Road. After turning off the highway it was only about 3 minutes before we reached the gate.
A good portion of the hiking is done on service/access roads. The roads are in good repair and pleasant enough to walk. Because the day was moist, there was no drudgery nor dust along the roads. We approached Thistle Mine via Camus Ridge. Though getting to the ridge was not difficult, it is necessary to know where you are going.
From the car, walk past the gate and follow the road, eventually you will pass the power lines service road (about15 minutes), cross this and continue on the road beyond. As the road twists and turns you will come to a hill heading down with an obvious sharp right hand turn at the bottom, about 1750 m or 35 minutes from the car. The junction point for Camus Ridge about halfway down the hill on the right (north-east).
Once on the ridge I was shocked by how beautiful the terrain was and how easy the path was to follow. Yet there was evidence that the ridge is not often walked! There was plenty of moss on the route,not booted through by use. Do yourself a favour and find the time to walk this little gem. Because we were hiking in the late-late fall there were flowers, however our leader confirmed that in April/May there are plenty of Camus flowers blooming on the mossy slopes. I will be sure to revisit this section in the Spring with Hemingway.
My only complaint about the ridge is that it was too short! It is a great route to take if your goal is Thistle Mine. The quickest route to the mine is along the service roads but the ridge gives a more scenic though longer path. Eventually the ridge ends and you descend back onto the service roads. It is important to have a map as there are lots of different routes in the area. From the car using this route, the mine is about 7 km in horizontal distance, we were at the entrance in about 2 hours. The entrance to the mine is easy to find, There is a seven foot high hole carved into the side of the granite cliff-face. After some research, done when I returned home, it sounds like there may be another entrance higher up to a different adit.We explored the mine and all of the lower adit. There is no risk of getting lost as there are no twists in the route and it loses and gains no elevation; it's a deep hole with two arms in the side of the granite cliff.
There is evidence of past mining activity, still after years of inactivity. There are timbers in place and there is still rusted old mine-car rail on the ground. There is evidence of recent use of the mine, multiple garden hoses and irrigation hose and a fair amount of tuck tape. One of the hikers suggested someone was trying to use the water in the stopes to irrigate pot plants. I can't confirm this.
We ate our lunch after exploring the mine. Alessandro brought his Italian stove-top coffee pot and his Biolite Stove to make us all some espresso. Unfortunately we didn't have enough dry tinder to start the stove and we were all left with an empty cup! Kudos for lugging that equipment in and thinking of us all! I'm sure next time it will fire up, he will be prepared.
To finish off the day we hiked south to our final destination, Christie Falls. Our route eventually connected up with the Trans Canada Trail -- Haslam Creek section, and crossed the bridge to the Sportsman Club fish hatchery. From hatchery we followed Bush Creek closely, an obvious route is apparent leading up. We admired the many smaller falls and once at the first big fall took a moment to enjoy the view. We crossed Bush creek via a log and rope route and in short order found ourselves at the base of Christie Falls! A million photos were taken.
We did some more exploring on the hike, including a steep ravine cut by Bush Creek and observed what looks like an old camp. The hike back to the cars was quick. The day was short but sweet. On our final kilometre to the car the sun came out and gave us a little extra push, as we made our way back to the vehicles.
On a less exciting note, I was disheartened to see that there was dumping at the gate, where we parked our cars. The type of garbage is ridiculous: CRT TV, CRT Monitor and even 8 tires! Of course, there were other types of garbage too, however, these items disturbed me the most because they are free to dispose of. One of the hikers did his part by loading the CRT monitor into the back of his car for disposal at a facility. Thank you!
The hike was very easy and I'll be sure to revisit the site again.