Wednesday, August 13, 2008
You start at the portage at the Mr Canoehead forest rec site to cover the 100 metres from Amor Lake to Surprise Lake. The Amor Lake side is a small beach. The Surprise Lake end is a dock, though the dock is coming to the end of its life.
You paddle 1.1 km across Surprise Lake to get to the start of the portage to Brewster Lake. You can not see the start of the portage start from any distance at all. The portage is the only location on the southern shore that does not have logs covering the shore.
The start of the portage has an area where you can camp. This is the longest portage on the route, but not a hard one.
The portage starts with a zig zag up for about 70 metres and then levels off into a nice trail. There is a swampy area about 800 metres in where the trail may be flooded. Shortly after that there is a bridge missing for an intermittent stream crossing.
The trail comes close to the logging road after about 1.2 km - even though you are not supposed to follow the logging road, everyone seems to do so. You make really good time here because the logging road has a gentle downhill grade. The official trail did not have the fallen trees from the winter cleared off it which is at odds with everything else we saw.
The return to the portage trail is very obvious, you can not miss it.
The portage brings you a slough that takes you into Brewster Lake. It can be shallow in low water and pushing with paddles may be needed. There is also a log across the slough at the end.
While I did not check it out to be certain, it looks like you can access Brewster directly from the road about 400 metres after where the portage goes off the road. There seemed to be some launch points we could see from the lake that came right from the Long Lake Mainline FSR.
Amor Lake, named for Amor de Cosmos the second premier or BC, is 362 hectares in size with arms of several kilometers long in various direction.
We had better than wonderful weather when we hit the lake. The water was mirrorlike.
On the arm you enter on from the Twin Lake portage you have a nice beach on the north side where you can camp about 1.1 km along.
The main body of the lake has a number of locations you can camp on beaches. One is at the northern end, off of the beaten path for the canoe route, another is on the west side across from a small island campsite.
The small island you can camp on in the island is heavenly. It is only about 500 sq metres in area but has enough space on it so that all nine of us could camp on it. The site has an outhouse there put in by the Comox Paddlers (trap screen door courtesy of 3rd Douglas). There is a fire pit with some benches around, a work bench for cooking on with shelves. The central camping area is shrouded from the lake by a thin screen of trees.
You can swim here from this island to others nearby.
There is only one road access point onto this lake and it is from a road that is not in the best condition. This means the lake tends to have almost no one on it. The night we were there we shared it with only six other people. Motorized boats are rare on this lake.
The south end of the lake has a large camping area called Mr Canoehead forest rec site. The campsite is on the 100 metre portage to Surprise Lake. There are also camping spots on the Surprise Lake end of the portage. I found this campsite not nearly as nice as the other options on the lake.
The trail starts across the road from the Twin Lake forest rec site and goes along the left side of the creek so you need to turn left over the road bridge to get to the trailhead.
The trail is in good condition but when I walked on the May long weekend, I found a number of fallen trees across the trail By the time we went through at the start of August, someone had cut away the fallen trees.
The launch point only has space to have one canoe in the water at a time.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I found almost nothing online about the Sayward Forest Canoe Route. On the May long weekend I went up to Campbell River and took a look at what I could from the shore. This was not really enough and so therefore I have decided to post much more detailed information about the route on this site.
We were on the route from Sunday August 3rd to Thursday August 7th. We had four canoes with five youth aged 10 to 13 and four adults. We did over pack, we were over prepared and this added to the difficulty of the portages for the youth.
We did 2/3s of the route, leaving at Brewster Lake. We called it there because the route was on the edge of what the youth could, especially the youngest two. We are likely to go back and do it again sometime in the next few years. I may also choose to do it with my brother in law and oldest two boys next summer. It is an amazing and wonderful paddle.
My estimate is that only about 1000 people use the route in any given year. We were out there on part of the BC Day weekend and still there was very few people on the route. We had Amor Lake almost completely to ourselves the one night.
One you start this protage, you will have to continue on through to the Twin Lake forest service rec site to find a place to camp.
The first part from Mohun Lake is not bad, go left when you hit what looks like the end of a road about 100 metres from the water. About 400 to 500 metres in we ran into some problems. The portage goes uphill and the section that was steepest was in rougher condition than most of what we saw on the route. We sweated our way through this section. Once we reached the top the trail was in decent condition and we made a good time to the of the portage.
Twin Lake is 60 metres higher than Mohun Lake, and the trail rises up another seven or more metres above that meaning you gain 67 metres on this portage,
Clearly there had been some trees that fallen on the route over the winter. We saw evidence that someone had come along and cut through the fallen trees to keep the the route clear. I do not know who it was, but I thank them for maintaining the trail.
As a rule of thumb, if you have wheels for your canoe and you are not super fit, count on being able to do one to one and half kilometres of portage per hour.
The far end of the portage does not bring you to Twin Lake, but a someone what swampy 300 metre long beaver pond. The end of the trail does not have a lot of space for gear and people and we felt very cramped with nine of us and four canoes.
There is a short portage at the end of this narrow 300 metre lake/pond. Depending on time of year and conditions, you need to make some decisions at this point. 20 metres away over a small rocky portage there is access to what is shown on some maps as part of Twin Lake. You need to see how deep the water is. The water levels are controlled by a beaver and may be too low to float your canoe.
If the water is low at this point, you need consider portaging an extra 100 metres to your right and find a spot to put there. If not you are going to be punting through mud or swimming through mud and pulling your canoe.
After you get through this you may wonder where the hell the route is. Do not worry, the only choice available is the one you need to follow. That choice involves going over a number of beaver dams when the water is low, also lifting over logs and similar things. Depending on water levels and the work of the beaver, you might also ground out on mud. Our biggest canoe had the heaviest load and had to be pulled through a section of this area. The Scout that had to pull was up to his arm pits in peaty mud.
The channel has few markers, but it really is the only water course, so follow it.
At the other end of this channel you pass the beaver lodge and then hit the properly open water of Twin Lake. Earlier in the year you will have higher water and less problems.
In low water, getting from the end of Mohun lake to the Twin Lake forest rec site takes quite awhile. We took 5.5 hours, but we had to do a double trip on the portage because we only had 2 sets of wheels for four canoes and we had five youth on the trip aged 10 to 13. Others I spoke took 2.5 to 3.5 hours to complete this stretch.
Sayward Canoe Circuit
June 28 to July 1, 2003
The canoe cart tire was as flat as a messed up soufflé. Mark stopped pumping; it was useless.
Earlier in the day, under the bright, sunny skies of Canada Day weekend, we had launched from the shores of Mohun Lake, a long narrow lake near Campbell River. Our crew of seven, full of enthusiasm and ready for adventure, had just started on the portage at the north end of the lake when the bad news about Mark and Cathy's canoe cart brought the expedition to a halt.
We'd just have to make two trips on every portage. We returned to our toils, pulling and pushing our loaded carts on the 1.6 kilometre trail, the first portage of the Sayward Canoe Circuit.
At the end of the portage, we arrived on the shores of a lake the size of a postage stamp. Five minutes later, we portaged over to a small beaver pond. Thankfully, the large rodents had been busy keeping the water level high – we easily hop scotched over their dam and floated down a narrow stream to Twin Lake. Half an hour later, we stopped for lunch at a BC Forest Service Campsite near the outlet of the lake.
Our destination for the night was one of the gorgeous sandy beaches on Amor Lake where we intended to have a refreshing swim. Although only half as long as the first one, the portage to Amor turned out to be the toughest one of the trip. By the time we launched again, we were exhausted. Even with the wind at our back, we landed on the beach past seven o'clock. Undeterred by our late arrival and a few aches and pains, we all splashed into the refreshing water and cooled down before setting up the tents and cooking dinner. The beautiful weather was holding, but high wispy clouds heralded a change, and so did Michel's barometer. As we talked by the campfire, we watched the sun paint a soft yellow hue on the hills across the lake.
The next day, we paddled down to a short portage and hurried our canoes and carts to Surprise Lake in a record time. Two large floating cedar logs served as an ideal loading dock from which to launch onto the lake. We crossed the small body of water in less than twenty minutes.
After a fly swatting shore lunch and a long but easy 2.2 Km portage, we arrived at a debris clogged bay at the north end of Brewster Lake. The wind greeted us as we emerged from the bay onto the open waters. Soon, a thick layer of clouds darkened the skies and the wind whipped up a few broadside waves. We had hoped to camp on a remote beach accessible only by canoe on the western side of the lake, but it was already occupied, so we headed for the BC Forest Campsite on the eastern shore.
The site was full. A family from Campbell River told us that they were soon leaving and offered us their site. We gladly accepted and rolled our outfits into camp. Steve strung up a tarp over the picnic table and we got busy cooking the usual Komoux Valley Paddlers delicacies.
At this point in the trip, Steve and Wendie retrieved their conveniently located pickup truck and left us – they were both working the next day. On the one hand, we lamented their departure, but on the other, we rejoiced because Steve let Mark and Cathy have his canoe cart for the rest of the trip. This meant that we no longer had to do two trips for every portage… or so we thought.
The next morning, within ten minutes of launching the canoes, the skies opened up. Except for Hank who had had the presence of mind of keeping his raingear at hand, we all got thoroughly wet – that's what seventy-eight years of experience do for you. The rest of us quickly landed and rushed for the protection of shore willows, only to emerge as fully clad Gore-Tex warriors. We then paddled into the lake's outlet and followed it until a large logjam barred the way. The portage around the jam ended in a ten-foot drop at the edge of the rain-swollen creek. We manhandled the canoes down and prepared for the most exciting part of the trip – running Whimper Creek.
Propelled by the swift current, we careened down the narrow stream. The vegetation was so high and so thick on each side of the creek that it felt as if we were perpetually falling into a green tunnel. As we sped by, the soft branches of hardhack, alive with a desire to touch us it seemed, reached out from the shore and grazed our shoulders and faces. Too soon, the stream emptied into Gray Lake and the ride ended.
At the south end of the lake, we stopped for lunch under a tarp. By then, the day had turned miserable and cold. This was no time to tarry, so immediately after lunch, we portaged around an old trestle and logjam and continued down the lake outlet.
We tried to run the next series of rapids, but the water was too low to avoid the rock gardens and too high and fast to line, so after a bouncy attempt by Blanche and Michel to run the gamut nevertheless, the rest of the party portaged around the canoe scratching stretch.
The fast running creek then carried us into another narrow, hardhack-lined channel. We enjoyed the wild ride until the current suddenly spewed us out onto Whymper Lake. We leisurely crossed the cattail-lined jewel during a lull in the rain, enjoying a cacophony of bird songs, as our feathered friends crammed the few minutes of sunshine with as many songs as they could.
As we left the lake, the current picked up and the rain came back. Mark and Michel took the empty boats down the next rapids. It was an exhilarating run which required jumping out of the boat midstream to line over a rock studded riffle. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew watched from a bridge overlooking the stream.
We finished the day at the Orchard Meadow Recreation Site on Fry Lake where generous campers gave us an ample supply of dry wood. We got busy putting up a tarp, making a large fire, cooking dinner, and drying up soaked clothing and equipment.
In the early morning of July First, after pinning small Canadian Flags on our canoes and circulating the usual rumours about who snored the loudest, we headed for the narrows leading to Campbell Lake, the largest lake on the circuit. By leaving early, we hoped to avoid the wind on the large lake. Not only did the strategy pay off, but also the skies cleared and we had a glorious paddle along the shoreline.
At the Gosling Lake portage, we met a family who was also doing the circuit. Other than two women whom we had met at the very start of the trip, these were the only canoeists we saw on the circuit.
The trail – I should say the road – up to Gosling Lake was very steep, but by then we were a well-honed team and we hauled our outfit up the hill in no time. At the end of Gosling Lake, we ate up the two hundred meter portage to Higgins Lake and launched onto a watershield-covered channel. The leaves of the watershield, a small, slender version of lily pad, attached to long stems anchored deep down in the mud. The floating greenery formed a living carpet that parted around and under our canoes as we paddled forward, only to float back up after we had passed.
At the end of Higgins Lake, we stopped for lunch before tackling a 300-yard monster of a portage over two rocky outcrops. Using the canoe carts was impossible. Teamwork and the knowledge that we were getting near the end of the circuit made the task, if not easy, at least bearable. We then launched on Lawier Lake, the last small lake of the circuit.
We entered the outlet stream and sighted the take out. While Mark and Cathy unloaded, the rest of us waited – the landing was too narrow for two canoes. To our surprise, a small grey dog came walking by. It was Max! Norm and Denise's little dog.
Norm, Denise, Steve, and Wendie appeared from nowhere and greeted us. Steve and Wendie were sporting full Canada Day matching shorts and t-shirts. Wendie had a Canadian flag painted on her cheek and Steve had a Canadian Flag painted on top his head, and another one at the tip of his nose!
With the help of our friends, the portage to Mohun Lake was a breeze. The greeting party had set up a tarp while waiting for us, and they proceeded to offer us beer, coffee, juice, and salami. After the recounting of stories, and anecdotes, and difficulties, we launched our large flotilla and started back towards where the vehicles waited. With the wind at our backs, we rigged up a sail and cruised down the lake.
What a magnificent way to end the trip. Gone from our minds where the toils and difficulties we had been through; gone were the hardships we had endured; even the memory of the flat tire on the canoe cart dissolved into a wisp of thin air blown past our heads, only to be replace by the swish of another gust of wind swelling the sail, blowing us onward.
The Mohun Lake Campground is located just off of the Menzies Bay Mainline. Launching from there it is a short paddle to the island in Mohun Lake. This island has one well marked campsite on the southwest corner. We had planned to camp at that location but someone was already there. We paddled around the island to find a different location. We did find a good spot in the woods off of the northeast bay on the island. The location is not obvious from the water, but once we walked into the woods 10 metres we had a location where we had no trouble having all nine of us camp, though this location was not appropriate for a campfire.
Mohun Lake does have a moderate amount of motorized boating on it. This is not only people fishing, but also waterskiiing, tubing and kneeboarding.
On the eastern shore of Mohun lake between the island and Morton Lake provincial park there are two nice beaches that can easily be used for camping. The one about 3 km up the lake had an outhouse. With higher water the beaches may not have as much space for camping.
As you canoe northwards, do not take the first channel you see on the eastside at Morton Lake park, keep going another 200 metres north to the boat launch.
Going north on the lake is Morton Lake Provincial Park. This park has an attendant from the start of May to Oct 15th. Camping here costs money as it is provincial park. There is a nice boat launch on the northern end of the park that accesses Mohun Lake. Morton Lake is a popular local swimming location and will be busy in the summer months with day trippers. The campground can also be full and I suspect if you want to use it in the summer you should consider reserving your spot.
The Morton Lake boat launch area offers you tables to eat at, fresh water, garbage drop off and good outhouses.
North of Morton Lake you will see a drop off of motorized boating. About 1.2 km north you come to a narrows that has several old trestles of logging railways spanning over the lake. Only the supports remain.
As a quick aside, historically the region was criss crossed with hundreds of kilometres of logging railways. You can still see evidence of them throughout the area in the form of trestle remains or roads that maintain consistent grades over long distances. The Mohun Lake West forest service road is one example of an old railway bed.
North of the trestle the lake becomes much quieter and much more of a wilderness experience. this is the segment known as Goose Lake on some maps.
There are a number of campsites around the trestles and there are several small islands just to the north of here that also offer locations where you could camp.
At the north end of Mohun Lake is the start of the portage to Twin Lake. There is a camp site here with a fire circle and an outhouse. We chose not to camp here because there was a lot of broken glass here. The site has no beach and has a dirt bank you have to pull your canoe up.
This location is about 1.6 km from highway #19 via the Goose Lake Forest Service Road. I expect that this explains the broken beer bottles. It also makes this a good location to get help if there is a problem.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Mohun Lake Campground: This is located on the south end of Mohun Lake and you can park you car here for $3 a day. The benefits of this as a starting location are the following:
- You start with a nice long paddle to get you into the route
- Your vehicle is very safe
- You avoid the one portage because you can come and get your car and load up at the last portage
- You can exit at the end of Brewster Lake and easily get back to your vehicle a few km away.
Morton Lake Campground: This is a provincial park located 1/2 way up Mohun Lake. It has a park attendant at the sit so someone is around to pay attention to parked cars. I have no idea of costs.
Brewster Lake Forest Service Rec Site: This rec site has an attendant at it so I assume you may be able to park here and have someone paying attention to your car, though I did not ask.
The Strathcona Lodge is located on Upper Campbell Lake and you can canoe from there down to lower Campbell and the Sayward Forest Canoe Route. I met an English couple that had rented their canoes at the lodge and gone on the route, it was not a long paddle for them to reach Lower Campbell Lake. I will be emailing them and asking them about their experience.
One way to avoid the worst portage when there water is low is to park your vehicle at the Twin Lake Forest Service Rec site and start from there. You can then hike out from the end of Mohun and get your car. The problem with this option is that there is no one watching your car and there is a danger that yahoos will find it and harm it.
Friday, August 8, 2008
I will posting details of the route over the next few days and then update information as I get reports from others.