Strathcona Gap – in progress

Vispine logoThe so-called Strathcona Gap in the Vancouver Island Trail extends from the north boundary of Strathcona Provincial Park to the Strathcona Dam just north of the Gold River Highway 28, across private forest lands managed by Mosaic Forest Management.

Completing this section is contingent on reaching agreements with the land owners.  To this end, VITA is currently negotiating a co-operative arrangement with the land owners with the support of Strathcona Regional District.  Both hikers voting with their feet and Mosaic have indicated a preference for a higher elevation trail route rather than the lower elevation route that utilized a lot of existing logging road.  This year (2020), VITA volunteers are undertaking recce (reconnaissance) work to better define, rough in and map the higher elevation trail route, which is described below.

The route leaves Strathcona Provincial Park (at N49° 42.690′ W125° 25.707′) on the ridge that extends NW from Mt. Jutland at a point where the ridge is quite broad.  Continuing NW, the ridge narrows considerably as it turns more to the north and enters subalpine forest.  The ridge steepens as the forest becomes more dense, eventually dropping down to a recent cutblock and logging road (expect thicker blueberry shrub; a  future trail will be cleared through here).

Once on the road, follow it down a series of switch-backs to the valley floor about 1.5 km north of Norm Lake.  Just south of Norm Lake, go right at a road junction and follow recently active logging roads past the south side of Pearl Lake (eventually a trail is planned higher up on the north side of the lake). A short side trip takes you to Glen’s cabin (on east end of lake on a point jutting out into the lake) where you are welcome to stay overnight – please leave it as you found it.  Past Pearl Lake, continue NW on the logging road and go right at a junction 2.5 km NW of Pearl Lake to follow a road into a side valley.  About half way up the valley, follow a skidtrail/backspar trail up the east side of the creek to link up two roads (see Map 4).  Once onto the road that crosses the creek (bridge may be out?) follow it uphill around 5 switch-backs to its end.

Head NNW, initially through a logged area and then into moderately steep, rocky terrain up to near the height of land – this is reportedly a flagged route.  There is a small lake part way up for drinking water or a cool down (steep scramble up rock just below this).  Follow along to the NW just below Mt. Adrian (or go over the summit if you wish); the divide becoming more or less south-north.

2 km NW of Adrian, a serious band of cliffs bars the way  – this has prevented some hikers from continuing north.  A recent recce failed to find a reported ‘easy ramp’ to get down there; indeed even from below it is a difficult scramble up (finding a safe route from above would be much worse).   VITA volunteers have recently (August, 2020) been exploring and developing a safer route around the west end of the cliff band, which adds an additional 2 km to the route.  This ‘end-run’ route involves the following:

  1. heading west (becoming NW) from the N-S ridge about 400 m south of the cliffs and staying below the open rock within patchy subalpine vegetation for about 700 m to the head of a major bedrock cleft in the ridge (a gully of sorts) at N49° 46.067′ W125° 33.266′.
  2. In 2019, hikers North & Grubs found their way down this gully and thence across the open talus slope below.  This involves finding a way through a labyrinth of truck-sized boulders a quarter of the way down – this is no easy feat, especially with a backpack, definitely not for the faint of heart – only very experienced, strong hikers or those with climbing ability should use this route.
  3. If this route is judged too challenging/dangerous for you, then continue NW on the ‘end-run’ route and follow a flagged and marked route down a rocky route with steep sections until you drop down into more continuous forest – with fabulous views up and down Buttle Lake from this ridge.
  4. Once into the forest, curve around to the NE and drop down to a perennial creek that flows from 2 small lakes in the valley immediately north of the cliffs.
  5. Cross the creek and pick up a low ridge running up (west to east) this valley – not yet flagged/marked – to the upper lake.  Cross the outlet creek at the north end of the lake – the beginning of the climb up to Rogers Ridge.
  6. To climb up to Rogers Ridge, initially take advantage of a couple of benches that lead to a long, fairly steep heather meadow and thence into more and more open rock up to the height-of-land of Rogers Ridge.  At this point, you will see the rounded summit of Mt. Beadnell less than a km to the north.

Once onto this height-of-land south of Mt. Beadnell, you will soon pick up the existing Roger’s Ridge trail/route  (a defined trail comes and goes) that initially follows the height of land northwards through some beautiful subalpine parkland terrain/vegetation before dropping below the height-of-land (below/west of Beadnell) on a more and more defined trail heading west that goes to/by the Mt. Adrian cabin.  North of the cabin, stay on the well-defined trail as far as a sign-post indicating the ridge route to Lupin Mtn. (do not take the trail straight ahead at this point.  It eventually drops down to roads in the upper Granite Creek valley – the regular access to Roger’s Ridge).

The ‘Lupin Trail’ stretches 10 km from the junction/sign-post to the Granite Main logging road.  Several orange trail markers lead from the junction towards the ridge.   Once onto the ridge (rather complicated with numerous rocky knolls and flats/depressions with tarns/small lakes) make your way (not marked) more or less along the height-of-land towards Lupin Mtn.  The summit proper is unremarkable, hence an optional side trip.  The trail route passes through a small valley and alongside a small, shallow lake between the west (higher) and east summits of Lupin.  At the north end of the lake, the now marked route initially swings ENE to pick up the main north-trending ridge.  The upper ridge is mostly heather meadow, becoming more and more forested as you lose elevation going north.  In the forest, the trail is brushed out and marked with the usual fluorescent orange trail markers.   The trail  takes you onto an old brushed-in logging road that eventually drops down to a much lower elevation on Granite Main near/above Upper Quinsam Lake.

Trail is planned along the east shores of Upper Quinsam and Wokas lakes, a stretch of the Quinsam River, and past Gooseneck Lake to intersect Highway 28 (Gold River Hwy).  This will be a new light trail almost entirely within or adjacent to riparian reserves along a mix of lakes and streams.  In the Spring of 2020, trail was roughed in for most of the distance between the Sihun Creek bridge (on Granite Main) and the Willington Point campsite on Upper Quinsam Lake, using a kilometer of beach along the lake during lower summer water levels(?)  Until this trail is completed, the hiker can follow a series of logging roads between Upper Quinsam Lake and the highway (you will have to bush-whack/route-find in one short section between the Quinsam Main road system and a logging road that joins the Gold River Hwy.  In the short term, from this point the highway and Strathcona Dam Road can be used to get to the Strathcona Dam.  BC Hydro has a campsite along the river just below the dam (used largely by vehicle campers, but with some nice walk-in spots  for backpackers).

Revised Aug. 30, 2020

Here is a GPS file in gpx format.  Only portions of the track are derived from on-the-ground tracks (some trail sections and most of the road sections are taken off satellite imagery, so the profile shown below is of no use:

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