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post #1 of (permalink) Old 07-07-2011, 11:20 AM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: nanaimo, BC, Canada.
Posts: 117
Default Carmanah/Walbran

Did a daytrip to Carmanah/Walbran yesterday (Wed. July 6). First of all, the road is in excellent shape, but very dusty. It gets a bit rough for the last 10 km. climbing Rosander Mt. (large, sharp rocks), then a lot of big potholes once on top. Easily doable in a car, though. Took 3 hours from Nanaimo at a leisurely pace. I was not sure what to expect at this park, but it was not what I found. As you approach the Park, the road starts to get a bit brushed over. There is a large parking area and a big, fancy sign. The trail down to the valley bottom is crushed gravel. Going upstream to the "3 sisters" is about 95% boardwalk. The trail beyond this is closed. Going downstream to the "Heaven tree", and the Randy Stoltmann Grove is also a lot of boardwalk. All the boardwalk looks to be quite old with some repaired sections that also seem to be a year or two old. The bear caches were non-existant. The signs were there, but the caches were not. It would appear to me that BCParks would like to shrink this park down, rather than do any trail maintenance. Well over half the trails in there are now "officially" closed and off-limits.
I can't describe the majesty of the trees in this place... they are truly giants. Pictures don't do them justice. It is an awe-inspiring place and I will be returning to camp and explore.
Nitinat Lake
Trail and Boardwalks
The 3 Sisters
This gives an idea of the scale of the trees in this place.

Carmanah Creek
I was expecting something much more rugged than I found. I thought there would be mud like the Parks site says, but I found a place designed for tourists, that has been let fall into dis-repair. I suppose that if the trend continues, the forest will reclaim all the boardwalks within a few years and it can be a "wild" place again.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 07-07-2011, 11:58 AM
Summit Master
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: , vancouver island, Canada.
Interest: Backcountry migration,blending far off-trail to witness Life
Posts: 3,022

Could some reasons for the trail closures be for the protection of the trees?
Too much compaction of root area was one reason for the original trails being re-routed several years ago. Cedars in particular are sensitive to too many footprints.

Another concern could be over-head loose LARGE branches hanging up .
These spears are dangerous .

Or just plain budgetary cutbacks ?
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 07-07-2011, 07:13 PM
Scaling New Heights
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Langley, BC, Canada.
Posts: 60

Nice pictures! I have the exact same shots from trips I did 9 and 11 years ago. Where did you camp while you were there? I recall an "camp" area near a river...?

One thing that really made an impression on me was how the mountains on the drive there looked like someone had taken a Bick razor to them and then all of a sudden you arrive at Carmanah! I'm sure things have grown up a lot in the past ten years though.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 07-07-2011, 07:54 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Abbotsford, B.C., Canada.
Interest: Hiking, Snowshoeing, and Photography. Enjoying the outdoors fresh air and fitness experience.
Posts: 17,919

Beautiful ! Mint thanks for sharing your account and photos, truly a beautiful area with the awesome giant trees.

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post #5 of (permalink) Old 07-07-2011, 11:24 PM
Scaling New Heights
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada.
Interest: Hiking, Skiing, Packrafting, Mountaineering
Posts: 68

Carmanah is amazing. It's a very special place and it's really neat how few people go there. I was there for 3 days, 2 nights about 4 weeks ago.

Greyhound is mistaken when he says the trail is closed beyond the 3 sisters. Just after the 3 sisters there is a sign that says 'trail closed ahead' but that doesn't mean it's actually closed at this point. The trail is actually still open for lot further, if it ever does close at all. My wife and I hiked north another 3 kms or so up to the next camping spot without bumping into the actual trail closed sign. The trail is a bit brushy and eroded in spots, but mostly it's still good trail. It's mostly dirt as boardwalk wasn't build much after the 3 sisters.

If you hike south, just after the Randy Stoltmann Commemorative Grove is another sign that says 'trail closed ahead'. Again, this sign doesn't mean the trail is closed, just that it does close at some point ahead. We kept hiking here for another half hour or so until we reached the real 'trail closed' sign which happens to double as a communications board for people wanting to see the giant. I wanted to hike it, but my wife wasn't up for 3 hours of struggling to find the brushy trail. As per the comments inscribed on the sign (see attached pic), the trail has been hiked in recent years and supposedly it takes about 3 hrs each way. Other hikers had worse luck.

Regarding the actual park, I think BC Parks made a bit of a mistake with installing the infrastructure that they did when the park was built. The main trail is great, but building the separate campground with about 30-40 spots near the parking lot was a total mistake. No use uses this, because who is going to drive 3 hours down a gravel road just to car camp in an area that doesn't even have the amazing trees? The whole thing just should have been scaled back a bit more originally so it would be less to maintain. The trail north to the 3 sisters is mostly boardwalk and in great shape. The trail south is also in great shape to randy stoltmann grove and then okay for another 30 min or so before it's closed and becomes super brushy. Aside from closing the access to the giant, I don't think BC parks is really trying to shrink this park. It's just a lack of visitors that have led to this situation....and it's not a bad situation. Carmanah is unbelievable and I feel lucky to have visited (everyone should go for 1-2 nights), but it's sort of place that deserves to be left as a wilderness preserver rather than as a main recreation site.

The trail north of the three sisters is slowly being retaken by nature, because it's not really a great spot for a hiking trail in the first place. Aside from some awesome trees and the occasional nice view of the creek, there's not a lot of attractants for hikers. There's no view points, lakes, cliffs, oceans, peaks or even a destination. IMO, People should come to Carmanah to hike to the Randy Stoltmann Grove and up to the 3 sisters, spend a night camping on the gravel bar near the 3 sisters and then head back home knowing they've left one of the most amazing forests in the world in as great shape as they found it.

Regarding the place being 'designed for tourists' and 'hopefully it can be a wild place again', this wasn't the impression I got. Yeah there is an unneeded car camping area, but besides this there's just a few kms of boardwalk trail in an otherwise extremely wild forest. The main think that impacts me in Carmanah is just how wild it is. There's just one little trail winding along in an otherwise huge untouched old growth forest. The board walk trail was a fairly good idea because it has held up well (it's still 98% sturdy trail) and it keeps the walkers from impacting the ground/mosses/ferns etc.

Looking forward, one trip idea that I think would be awesome would be to do a combined Carmanah/West Coast Trail trip. This isn't allowed, but you could drive to Carmanah, hike 3 hours on the closed brushy trail to the Giant (largest tree in Canada) and then hike another 1-2 hours along Carmanah Creek and you're at the west coast trail. Then hike around there for a day or two (without paying the ridiculous WCT trail fee) and then head back. Obviously this is against the rules and you risk fines, but it would be an amazing low cost way to see the Carmanah and WCT areas.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 07-08-2011, 12:48 AM
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Location: Vancouver, , .
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Far too many years ago Robin Tivy and I did a bicycle trip from Swartz Bay via Cowichan Lake and Rosander Main to visit Carmanah. Rather than camp in the park, we visited the Carmanah Giant and then hiked out to camp on Carmanah beach. This was the weekend when various artists were in there making paintings etc. that were sold to help preserve the place. Their traffic made the dusty road rather busy, but the artists and environmentalists were very considerate of us and we had fun meeting them. Robin and I continued over the mountains past McLure Lake to Port Renfrew and back to Swartz Bay. A fabulous adventure. Good to hear it's not crawling with people.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 12:53 PM
Hittin' the Trails
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: It\'s not a city yet!!, BC, Canada.
Interest: Anything outdoors that I can afford the money and time.
Posts: 36

Quote: "This gives an idea of the scale of the trees in this place."

If you look closely at the top of that log, someone has carved their count of the rings. Apparently, that tree was 540 years old when it fell...

The trail continues in good condition all the way to grunt's grove. It's following ribbons blindly after that and if you make it to Paradise pool, the trails becomes non-existent. I drove all the way to the North end of the park to see if I could find the far end of the trail. I met some professional trail builders there surveying the condition of the lost trail to see what it would take to repair it. We hiked around 8 or 9 km in well past the old "Bear Paw Camp" which was completely overgrown. This was one of the most intense hikes I've ever done. Keep in mind that every huge tree that has ever fallen there, is still there. There is virtually a natural obstacle course on a huge scale. you have to climb over 10 foot obstacles constantly.
While hiking, they told me about the park management and how the trails are falling apart, because they do as little as possible to still have the government cheque come in. They said they have approached B.C parks about repairing the trail and were shut down immediately because B.C. Parks refuses to spend any money there due to the lack of visitors.. They said that with no visitors in the northern 20km of the park, it won't be long before they shrink the borders of the park to the touristy area and log the rest.They wanted to try and get some sponsors together and raise money for trail repair to the north end, as it would be more accessible. And with more people using the park, it would get more funding, and, thus, not be logged..
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