SMUS/VISTA Trail Building Out-trip a Success

A team of 13 trail builders set out last week to do maintenance and building on the Tuck Lake and Runners Trail near Port Alberni. This is the story of their adventures.

Departing by car and cube truck in the early morning sunshine of Thursday 25 September, 9 St Michaels University School (SMUS) students left on an trail building adventure led by VISTA directors Charles Burnett, Peter Carson and Robert Gunn.


Day 1 (See photo above): Visit to Cathedral Grove to examine ‘class 5’ (wheelchair accessible) trails; provisioning at Fairway Market in Port Alberni; arrival at Franklin Camp; greeted by black bear cub; tents up; water run to creekfall beside Francis Lake; first dinner

Day 2 (see below): Cold night!; Break into 3 teams in the fog; Teams 1&2 work with Robert Gunn on parts of the Runners Trail back towards Alberni; Team3 walks and does ‘trail improvement’ on the Runners Trail section between Frankin Camp and Francis lake; Jaimie and Jacob collected chanterelle mushrooms – yum!


Team 3 notes: Mushrooms and slugs; really good trail through mossy second growth; pendulous lichens everywhere; large pile of old crockery from logging camp; two sections needing work – windthrow in gully, and alder brushed section through clear-cut verge; checked out Francis lake camp site – beauty!;forded creek to get to road; walked back to Franklin along road.

Day 3 (see below): Team 1 worked on the west side of Franklin Camp, improving the Runners Trail and trying to link up where the team got to the day before; Team 2 cleaned up the two sections that were surveyed the day before between Franklin Camp and Darlington Lake; all Teams returned to Frankin Camp and de-camped to Francis Lake; Colin and Vlad improved the stream ford; Jacob and Kevin demonstrated how to make an excellent cook shelter with a super-tarp; light rain through-out day; eveyone warm from working hard; Colin set campfire for second night running; Kevin and Jacob gave fishing lessons; small rainbow trouts caught.


Day 4 (see below): Heavy rain night before; some sleeping bags getting a bit damp and supply of dry clothes dwindling; good breakfats under the super-tarp and everyone in good cheer and ready to work in moderate rain; Team 1 worked on Tuck Lake trail from Francis Lake camp east along northern edge of lake (completed trail improvements and signage to 2/3 of length before turning back at large blowdown at 2PM after 5 hours of work; Team 2 drove to Nadira Bridge, parked and walked east along Tuck Lake Trail doing improvements (vegetation clipping, removing small trees with saw, clearing trail down to mineral soil); returned to Francis Lake camp to find stream at camp swollen and gravel fan in front of tents completely submerged; ford getting exciting – Colin and Vlad’s dam/ford now requires immersion above knee in swift current; everyone drenched from sweat and rain, no dry clothes; group decides that trail building objectives have been met and so… we can make an orderly retreat to the warmth of home!


Team 2 notes: after 3/4 km work to west, following the main river, we (Charles) got confused and we followed a raging tributary thinking it was the main river. Turned out we were working our way norh instead of west. We cut trail up beside this very pretty creek (in full flood) and got up to a saddle, raisedPeter’s guide tarp and had a soggy lunch. Checked GPS and saw error. We needed to push west over this raging creek and one other before making it to Francis Lake from the east. Returned to where the ford should be and clearly we were not going over… so retreated to bus and camp at 2PM. Found camp almost under water (see above)!

Conclusion: We assembled at the Port Alberni Timmy’s for dinner en route home. Warm food, laughter, sore muscles from trail maintenance, sunshine and rain… a rainbow moment. Thanks SMUS team!