VI = Vancouver Island Casual but Unmaintained in Carmanah-Walbran: "If It's Broke, Don't Fix It." - ClubTread Community

User Tag List

 21Likes
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of (permalink) Old 02-17-2018, 07:38 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Saanich, BC
Interest: Photography, backpacking, hiking, Nordic and Alpine skiing, drawing, game development, mapping.
Posts: 19
Smile Casual but Unmaintained in Carmanah-Walbran: "If It's Broke, Don't Fix It."

Before I dive into this, I would like to enter with the disclaimer that I currently work with Parks Canada and I have worked with multiple Park Operators both on the Mainland and on the Island. Therefore, my views are informed and when I make statements about maintenance and quality, I am making them from the point of view of someone with a bit of experience in that department.

Getting There

Is awful. All things considered though, it's great that these roads remain (mostly) clear and open to the public. We had to drive into six-inch deep mud to bypass a fallen tree about four kilometres from the parking lot, and there were a few crazy truck drivers who didn't even lift a finger in acknowledgement when we pulled over to let them by. We also blew two tires catastrophically and had to limp out to Ditidaht FN, but that's a whole other story. Views along the way were gorgeous.





The Frontcountry



Pulling into a remote wilderness park, you don't expect to see a beautifully painted, classic BC Parks Sign. Part of this single-night trip was a mission to map the park in OpenStreetMap more accurately (which is now done, changes are uploaded and should appear soon). I was expecting the road to just end after the sign with room for maybe two cars and a picnic table for the "walk in" camping. Boy was I wrong. That parking lot could easily accommodate thirty cars or more, but there was something odd about it.



Maps, including those online and those on all the boards in the park, still mark a "ranger station" at the trailhead. I was curious where this was, and then I realized that this gate probably led to it. Or, rather, where it used to be. That gate can't open in either direction due to the trees growing around it. The building from the station itself isn't there (if it ever even was). I had already had my first taste of what I'm going to from this point on call "Carmanah-Walbran Neglect." The parking lot itself also showed signs of low usage: moss covered the entire place, with only the track down the middle being exposed gravel. Some of the concrete parking barriers were haphazardly strewn about. A sign near the pinned post to the trailhead clearly still bore the outlines of the words "refer to park brochure," despite BC Parks having been too cheap and uncaring to provide a brochure even online. The picnic tables at the parking lot were crooken and rotten, the firepit laying on its side when we arrived. The only thing I can say positively about the the parking area is that the outhouses were stocked with hand sanitizer (albeit in a really mold covered dispenser) and two full rolls of single-ply in each of them. Fairly impressive, though I doubt that needs to be restocked more than once a winter.



Walk-In Camping

We opted to take advantage of the "short term vehicle camping" option due to heavy rains, but we still walked the length of the "campground." Again, I was hugely disappointed. I mean, for the remoteness, it's amazing. But for what they claim it is... well, they have certainly bitten off more than they can chew. Let's compare claims versus realities:
Claims
  • 12 Campsites
  • 2 Bear Caches
  • 2 Outhouses
Reality
  • 8 Complete Campsites (only 8 of which were to BC Parks standards for front-country camping)
  • 1 rusted out, crooked bear cache
  • 1 outhouse, at the far end of the campground from the entrance (>5 minute walk)

I don't care that the walk in area was minimal: that's expected, and for it to exist at all is a blessing. What I cannot understand is why they cannot correct their clearly aged signage. Be honest about it. What we're left with is a 1km long overgrown campsite that takes ten minutes to walk the length of, so spread out that I recommend bringing a bicycle to make getting around the site easier (I am not joking, bring a bike). I wouldn't have so much of a problem with this if I didn't have experience working as a park operator, knowing the standards to which campgrounds can and are expected to be kept. I mean, part of our weekly routine where I worked was to wash the yellow gates. Tent pads were raked daily to prevent moss growth. Outhouses were sprayed with disinfectant, signposts painted once a season, and the moment a picnic table started to rot, it was in with the new. Fire pits had to be dug to a specific standard. And I wasn't just working for an anal employer (though, to be honest, I was), we were supervised by a former park ranger who knew what QC was expecting. In other words, whoever is maintaining the Carmanah facilities needs to work on their image. I will continue this rant later. Here is a shot of one of the best frontcountry sites available, surrounded by towering Redcedar and with the sound of a creek roaring by. I claim it next time I come through there, it's a beautiful setting.



Hiking



What a beautiful area. No, I wasn't a salty grouch the entire time I was there. I am in love with the forest in this park. It's absolutely spectacular, and to know that you are in a watershed that is virtually undisturbed today is a blessing like nothing I have experienced. It's solitude and natural beauty. We hiked, quite literally, every inch of maintained, public trail in the park, because there aren't that many inches of it.

With the closure of the spectacular Stoltman Grove in 2017 and the removal of the viewing platforms at Coast Tower and Three Sisters, there isn't too much left in terms of "feature attractions" (though I wholly support the removal of these platforms as they are harmful to ecosystems and root systems). The closure of Stoltman Grove, however, was disappointing. To think that the grove was named in honour of a man who devoted his life to conservation in the valley had simply been closed because they didn't care to maintain the trail any more is, frankly, disrespectful of his legacy. What's even worse is that they can't even claim it was for conservation reasons: Signs in the area are still standing. Today, the boardwalk ends abruptly with the sign in honour of Randy Stoltman and no context whatsoever. At least the root systems are likely fairing better, and I the area is as beautiful as ever.



The next morning, after a serious rainstorm, we turned right at the junction, heading towards Three Sisters. We came to what I assumed was what BC Parks mentions as a "temporary detour, where the boardwalk ends abruptly at the bank of the river and a fairly well established path bypasses the washout. I assumed this was the bypass because throughout the trees, you can see the broken boardwalk thrown aside and left in the undergrowth. This is all seen from a path where you are stepping through four-inch-deep mud the entire way, wishing that there was a boardwalk. Oh, and that wasn't the temporary bypass. That is a very permanent replacement of trail from a previous washout. This is the point when I created the phrase "if it's broken, don't fix it." They needed a boardwalk there, and if the park operator had their act together, they would have at least moved the old boardwalk (which upon inspection was perfectly sound) into position.

After this permanent detour, we came upon the newer, "temporary" detour that I suspect will eventually become a permanent detour. This involved fording a twenty-inch deep creek that was about twelve feet across, then fording another smaller creek that was about eight inches deep about about eight feet across. This was all with the flagging limited to the most obvious, most straightforward portion of the detour, leaving hikers to guess at their route throughout the rest of it. Luckily the ferns have been trampled enough to find your way. After that point, the boardwalks are in utterly atrocious condition.



There were many places where there was a trail beside the boardwalk, and it was much safer to stay off the boardwalks for two reasons: falling through and falling off. Cedar gets real slippery when it's on a slope and there is nothing added for grip, and myself and my girlfriend fell more times than I can remember while walking on these surfaces. We aren't really novices when it comes to footing - we've scrambled some pretty serious slopes together - but this was dangerous to the point where we left the boardwalk and took the mud instead. Once again, it is clear that the park operator is not doing their duty in maintaining these trails, and again, I can say that they are not being maintained to any kind of reasonable standard.

Verdict

Get your act together, BC Parks - just because they bid low doesn't mean they are going to do a good job (actually, it usually means they aren't). Boardwalks are extremely dangerous at this point, so if you're headed up that way during the rainy season, stay off the boardwalks when they are sloped at all. I can't imagine falling with a heavy pack would be enjoyable, and I'm talking ice-rink levels of slipperiness. The forests, however, are spectacular. It's a stark contrast to the shaved hills surrounding the park. You feel as though you've stepped back in time, into another world. I've been to (and trained in) Pacific Rim, and this place makes the Long Beach unit feel like a regional park. The mere scale of the place is beautiful, and the fact that the entire watershed is pristine makes you feel peaceful while watching the river. I will probably make an attempt for Paradise Pool this summer, but until then, stay beautiful Carmanah Walbran, even if your caretakers clearly don't give two hoots.
martin, guntis, Zoran and 5 others like this.
cjstepney is offline  
Quote
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of (permalink) Old 02-17-2018, 09:39 PM
Summit Master
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: NorthVan
Interest: I enjoy hiking
Posts: 2,856
Default

Thanks for the report We did a big tree trip a couple of years ago around Port Renfrew / Nitinat but did not make it to Carmanah Walbran. Time to go back and check this out!
cjstepney likes this.
martin is online now  
post #3 of (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 01:06 AM
Headed for the Mountains
 
Chris S.'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posts: 303
Default

Great trip report, nicely detailed and awesome pics! I understand your frustration. I don't have the knowledge or expertise as you do, but I respect yourself and the other individuals who take part in caring for our trails. I never knew that Parks Canada outsources the maintenance outside companies. Perhaps this is a cost effective measure. I remember hiking Silverdaisy in Manning Park two years ago and it felt like it was abandoned a decade ago. Stay safe on the trails, and thanks for your service!
cjstepney likes this.


Chris S.
Organizer
The Outdoor AND Culture Club Meetup
Chris S. is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #4 of (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 02:58 AM
Summit Master
 
zeljkok's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Behind the Face Mask
Posts: 4,480
Default

Terrific report, and thanks for significant effort in putting this (considerable amount of) information together! Yay for Parks Canada
cjstepney likes this.
zeljkok is online now  
post #5 of (permalink) Old 02-19-2018, 11:32 AM
Off the Beaten Path
 
kellymcdonald78's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Interest: Hiking, Backpacking, Skiing, Space History
Posts: 723
Default

Fantastic report, very much appreciated
cjstepney likes this.
kellymcdonald78 is offline  
post #6 of (permalink) Old 02-20-2018, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Saanich, BC
Interest: Photography, backpacking, hiking, Nordic and Alpine skiing, drawing, game development, mapping.
Posts: 19
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris S. View Post
I never knew that Parks Canada outsources the maintenance outside companies.
Oh sorry for the confusing - I currently work with Parks Canada as an interpreter, not in maintenance. However, I know their standards of maintenance. I have worked with contractors on Vancouver Island and on the mainland in park maintenance for BC Parks only.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris S. View Post
I remember hiking Silverdaisy in Manning Park two years ago and it felt like it was abandoned a decade ago.
Silverdaisy unfortunately isn't part of Manning Park (that's one of the parks where I've worked), Almost all of Silverdaisy is in a logging/mining area that isn't protected by either Skagit Valley or Manning. I'd love to see that happen, but I'm not crossing my fingers. Beautiful area though.
cjstepney is offline  
post #7 of (permalink) Old 02-25-2018, 04:43 PM
Off the Beaten Path
 
Zoran's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Burnaby, BC, Canada.
Interest: Mountaineering;Bikepacking;Skiing
Posts: 584
Default

Last few summers I did bikepacking trips on Island. This year I am building long route on my BRMB map. Probably I will start in Port Hardy and exit in Nanaimo.

Thank you for your report ...
If earlier I had more information about Carmanah/Wallbran Park I would probably made a detour and see spot you described. Nitinat was fantastic. Love this part of Island.
cjstepney likes this.

Zoran
Zoran is offline  
post #8 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2018, 09:37 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Saanich, BC
Interest: Photography, backpacking, hiking, Nordic and Alpine skiing, drawing, game development, mapping.
Posts: 19
Default

Hey there! As a warning, the BRMB is dangerously inaccurate to the point of causing vehicular damage. I would much sooner recommend navigate using OpenStreetMap, as it is updated constantly and you can edit it yourself when you have completed the trip for the benefit of others.

Furthermore, the trails in BRMB should not be trusted whatsoever. A great example is the presence of the alleged trail between Della Falls and Westmin, where no such trail has ever existed. Another warning is that BRMB does not do an adequate job of marking which roads are publicly accessible and which are not. Do not get trapped behind a locked gate with a full day of backtracking to do - I have only suffered from an hour of backtracking, but on a longer trip such as yours, I can imagine it could build up if a gate is closed at one end of things. I would recommend calling Timberwest and other landowners in the region to ensure up-to-date information on road access. Sadly they generally don't give a darn about letting the public into their forests.

tl;dr: Don't use BRMB for planning. They're a great place to start developing ideas, but literally everything in them should be cross-referenced before you use it.
cjstepney is offline  
post #9 of (permalink) Old 02-28-2018, 07:39 PM
Off the Beaten Path
 
Zoran's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Burnaby, BC, Canada.
Interest: Mountaineering;Bikepacking;Skiing
Posts: 584
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by cjstepney View Post
Hey there! As a warning, the BRMB is dangerously inaccurate to the point of causing vehicular damage. I would much sooner recommend navigate using OpenStreetMap, as it is updated constantly and you can edit it yourself when you have completed the trip for the benefit of others.

Furthermore, the trails in BRMB should not be trusted whatsoever. A great example is the presence of the alleged trail between Della Falls and Westmin, where no such trail has ever existed. Another warning is that BRMB does not do an adequate job of marking which roads are publicly accessible and which are not. Do not get trapped behind a locked gate with a full day of backtracking to do - I have only suffered from an hour of backtracking, but on a longer trip such as yours, I can imagine it could build up if a gate is closed at one end of things. I would recommend calling Timberwest and other landowners in the region to ensure up-to-date information on road access. Sadly they generally don't give a darn about letting the public into their forests.

tl;dr: Don't use BRMB for planning. They're a great place to start developing ideas, but literally everything in them should be cross-referenced before you use it.
Thank you.

I found BRMB great in following or in planing mode. I also use Garmin maps, Ride With GPS and Bivouac. Maybe you haven't noticed in my post I don't drive. When I said biking I mean biking. Not driving to start biking. I bike from bus terminal to the end of my 5-6-7 days trip.

I can't care less about gates or private land. Few times I had guys asking me what I am doing on private land, but after seeing all my suffering they just smile and offer me ride. In US I am more careful. I do not enter private property before asking. Sometimes I carry bike on my back to cross rivers or streams or sections where trail is nonexistent. It is not that bad. Last time I drag my bike under the fence near Sooke river. Big warning that I will be prosecuted but I have job and I was ready to pay fine. I was not stealing anything or meant to do harm to any forestry machinery. I guess no one will put me in jail. :-)
cjstepney and treord8 like this.

Zoran
Zoran is offline  
post #10 of (permalink) Old 02-28-2018, 09:08 PM
Off the Beaten Path
 
Zoran's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Burnaby, BC, Canada.
Interest: Mountaineering;Bikepacking;Skiing
Posts: 584
Default

Maybe is possible to hike from Della Lake to Westmin using Big Interior Mountain Trail? On BRMB maps Della Falls are not connected to Westmin. Trail goes to Della Lake and to Love Lake. No direct connection. I wonder have you ever tried to go around Della Lake and hiked Big Interior trail? If you did, could you post some pictures. Must be beautiful!
cjstepney likes this.

Zoran

Last edited by Zoran; 02-28-2018 at 09:11 PM.
Zoran is offline  
post #11 of (permalink) Old 03-04-2018, 11:19 PM
Scaling New Heights
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada.
Interest: Hiking, Skiing, Packrafting, Mountaineering
Posts: 68
Default

Thanks for the report.

For everyone's information, the Walbran side of the park is actually in pretty good shape. No thanks to BC parks of course, but rather to the hardwork of the Friends of Carmanah-Walbran, which are focused on preserving the heart of the Walbran that contains some of the valley's biggest trees and best waterfalls but was left out the park so Teal Jones could slowly pick away at it with their logging. Thankfully the Friends have been doing an excellent job at protecting the area and Teal Jones seems to be holding back.

Anyways, the Friends have built numerous trails on the Walbran side that are just outside the park and connect with the scant trail in the park. The new Harriet-Nahanni Trail is quite hike-able, as is the trail up to Anderson Lake.

Folks should see both sides of the park. The Carmanah side has the best Sitka's, whereas the Walbran side has the best cedars and the largest Sitka (Maxine's Tree).

There's some good info and videos on these trails here:
https://friendsofcarmanahwalbran.com

You can also get involved and help trail build this coming summer.
cjstepney and treord8 like this.
dandurston is offline  
post #12 of (permalink) Old 03-05-2018, 07:13 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Saanich, BC
Interest: Photography, backpacking, hiking, Nordic and Alpine skiing, drawing, game development, mapping.
Posts: 19
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by dandurston View Post
Thanks for the report.

For everyone's information, the Walbran side of the park is actually in pretty good shape.
No problem. I would put the quality of facilities at the Walbran end of things quite a bit below the quality of facilities along the Carmanah river. That being said, those facilities are maintained with zero government funds and with opposition from logging companies and entirely by volunteers and all that is done while trying to convince the government (without luck) to help them protect such an incredibly important part of the forest. In other words, you'd expect the government/tax dollar-maintained facilities to be a fair bit better than the facilities at Walbran.

Walbran is an incredible place, though last time I was there I felt very unsafe due to the other people around (alcohol consumption around/in water, drug use, loud music, excessive litter). And that was with the presence of the people who take care of the area. Despite its natural splendour I have no intention of returning to the area until I, as a visitor, can feel safe without worrying about the other humans around me. I'd be more than happy if the area was officially protected.

I would be interested in helping build trails (since I do have experience working in trail maintenance), though again, I do not feel safe with the people who were there.
cjstepney is offline  
post #13 of (permalink) Old 03-28-2018, 08:20 PM
Hittin' the Trails
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: , , .
Posts: 36
Default

Shame, shame on me. Since I discovered Bugaboo shortcut to Walbran by following rock blasters years ago, Carmanah side was neglected. This is an eye opener for me. Now I plan another trip there in mid June. Some kind of group would be nice. That why I invite all contributions - except Dan - and all interested people to chat - make plans - around campfire at Shields lake in Sooke hills April 14.
(Dan was invited already )
cjstepney likes this.
trailcutter is offline  
post #14 of (permalink) Old 03-29-2018, 02:38 PM
Hittin' the Trails
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Nanaimo , BC , .
Posts: 5
Default

This is a great article on the Carmanah Walbran Park and it really is horrible that BC Parks has let this park become so run down. BC Parks keeps closing down sections of the trails and taking them off there maps so people cant find them. The ranger station has not been there for many years and very little gets done there now. The writer makes one wrong point to it being the caretakers not caring. I visited the park when there were caretakers working hard to keep the park in good condition. But if the BC Parks does not supply the private companies with the specifications, guidance and money to look after the park, it isn't going to happen. There has never been many signs, good directions to get to the Carmanah Walbran park or any promotion of it. Its like, they want the park to fail. On the positive side if you do go, there are seldom many people and no one to collect your camping fees!:-)

I much prefer the other side of the park now and the Walbran Valley, which is just outside of the park. It has really nice camping sites and many trails in good shape. And like others have said, this is because of the volunteers from Friends Of Carmanah, Wilderness Committee, Ancient Forest Alliance and Walbran Central FB page. Walbran Central was even offering bus service to get people out to the Walbran Valley! These groups are very dedicated to protecting the Walbran Valley and its beautiful old growth forest from being logged. Its very sad that BC parks cant keep their park in even reasonable shape.
cjstepney likes this.

Last edited by gjgary; 03-29-2018 at 02:45 PM.
gjgary is offline  
post #15 of (permalink) Old 03-30-2018, 05:59 PM
High on the Mountain Top
 
xj6response's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.
Posts: 2,129
Default

This is all about choices we make in society. There's only so much $$ to go around but likely most would want more $$ for parks. BC Parks budget is about $50 million/yr ($30 million operating cash and $20 million retained camping fees paid to contractors). BC has more than 1,000 parks, some the size of small countries in extremely remote areas and others the size of a building subdivision. Some are alpine wilderness and some are water access only marine parks. $50 million to manage all that? It seems paltry.

BC's 2017-18 budget total some $50 billion in spending, the overwhelming expenditures being in health care, education, transportation etc. BC Parks spending, while it did increase over the past few budgets, is scarcely a line item on the balance sheet.
cjstepney likes this.

________________________________
xj6response is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page



Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome
 

Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.6.1