Locked in Headquarters Creek Woodlands

I haz old bucket SR601488

More junk in the forest

You might guess from the title of my post that I did end up trying another spot after my previous one had some unwanted visitors. You might also guess that things did not go exactly to plan in my new spot. You would be right on both counts. But the area I found was really nice, even with being locked in!

I left my previous spot thinking I could come back there if my scouting came up with nothing. I already knew from looking at googles Streetview that one area likely was all gated off from access. Yes, the area is civilized enough that some roads can be virtually toured in advance to see what might be there. It’s a lot cheaper on gas, even if the views typically do not go further than the initial access point. So the area I was going to check out did not have any Streetview to tell me if I could get in. But it was only twenty minutes from my current camp – I could check it out as part of my propane refill and partial resupply run. Once you have the RV on the road, you might as well get as much done as possible.

Leaving the junky camp PXL_20220409_182247242

Leaving the junky spot

Propane ended up being another small adventure. The gas station I had picked out did have propane, however no staff was available to fill my tank until 2:30. The job market right now is nuts, a good time to be looking for work, a bad time to be hiring. I queried the clerk where else I might get propane. She directed me to a station up the road that was back at the edge of Campbell River. That would be another twenty minutes, and twenty bucks worth of driving at these prices.  But the local waiting his turn at the till said he had a better idea, looking all pleased with himself. I could go to Salmon Point Resort instead, they could fill my propane tank. That was only half the distance, so now we are talking ten bucks, with the return trip.

I wasn’t sure this was going to work out – locals are sometimes clueless about what facilities are actually available for RVs I have found. In this case, the local was correct, the resort was able to fill me up no problem. If you are thinking of staying there, it’s currently $47  (low season price) for a nice beach spot in what looks like a nice clean campground. All the cheaper lots are taken by long term stays until mid-April. I was just happy to save twenty bucks in gas not having to go all the way back to Campbell River.

My remaining resupply was uneventful – I didn’t really need to shop yet, but since I could hit a grocery store on the way to checking out my potential spot, I might as well take advantage of the free travel. The Courtenay Country Market is a nice little grocery store. I was surprised something so small was still around so close to Courtenay, a Costco is only a few minutes away. It only had the selection of a small grocery, but the ‘dinner sausage’ from there was awesome!

Muddy road in PXL_20220410_222302974

Muddy wood lot road

I only had a short drive from the grocery store to my potential spot. Driving in was a bit confusing, there are multiple right turns, and I needed one of the middle ones to get to the back road that would take me into the crownland forest. My first try took me into a woodlot that was not the one I wanted, the second try also took me into a woodlot. The road was pretty muddy, I was a little worried about getting stuck. But I could see my forest road continuing at the end of the mud so I gave ‘er all and got through. Now getting in this lot I had passed a red gate with a sign warning me it could be closed at anytime. No problem, I thought – it’s a wood lot, why would they close the gate?

Boondocking w a creek PXL_20220409_204924191

I drive up the forest road – it doesn’t look like it gets much use, so that is promising. I stop at a little pull out, and quickly walk up the road to check for a better spot. The road ends after a climb up to a not so level turnaround, so the pull out is my spot. It is a nice and level, with a little creek burbling beside me in the trees!

Very clean site PXL_20220409_210814084

I look around the site. It is a pretty managed forest, very clean here. In fact, things are a little too clean – no fire pit, no garbage, little evidence that anyone has parked here other than a little pile of cut wood that has not been burned. Something is not quite right here. I decide to take a walk back down to the gate and see if anyone is around – I could see from the tracks that someone had been working there – perhaps they would know the deal for camping back here.

Closed gate PXL_20220409_212412936

I’m trapped inside by this gate.

I walk down the road, and through the muddy bit, seeing no one. Walking back to the gate, I see it is closed now, and upon closer inspection, very definitely locked. In hindsight, I should not have been surprised the gate is locked. Looking around the woodlot I see things that could definitely be stolen beyond wood. I’m not too concerned at this point – I’m thinking the gate is locked after business hours. It is a Saturday afternoon, perhaps they closed early. I might be stuck here for Sunday as well. Having just resupplied, I had no intention of leaving quickly anyways, I was hoping to stay here until I was close to my next resupply, then leave and get off Vancouver Island at that point. A quick exploration around the area revealed that this was the only way into the backroads here, everything else had been blocked off. I figured I might as well make the most of it and enjoy my spot – it could well be I’m not supposed to be in here, but hey, I saw no signs about trespassing or camping anywhere.

Mt Washington parking PXL_20220410_203813801

Mt Washington base parking

As I suspected, the gate remained locked on the Sunday when I went down for a walk. I had walked every potential exit, including a backroad and all were blocked off. So the forest is being managed by having one exit in and out of it controlled by a gate. At this point, I’m not looking for anyone to let me out – I’m trying to stick around for a few days as I’d rather not move again until the weather warms up and I can head for the mainland. I exited on foot past the locked gate and proceeded up the road, which leads to the Mt. Washington ski hill. There is a parking lot at the base of the road going up I wanted to look at, plus the logging roads leading into the private land all around here. The parking lot is your standard gravel lot other than the bonus of having a porta potties, and possibly being lit at night. I see a couple of likely stealth campers / boondockers parked here. There are no signs saying you can’t stay overnight. The lot is meant to be parking for people going up to the ski hill leaving behind their less snow capable vehicle and getting in as a group to head up in something more snow capable. I think you’d be fine for a night parked here, if you tried for an extended stay someone might eventually come along and shoo you out of there. But it’s a parking lot – not nice camping for sure.

Private logging road PXL_20220410_203442817

The sign a little further away says NO TRESPASSING

Right beside the parking lot is a junction where a main logging road crosses the highway going to the ski hill. Unlike the north part of Vancouver Island, the logging in this area is all marked as private land on the BC recreation sites map, including the access roads. Checking the signs, I see the side going to Wolf Lake was marked with a ‘no trespassing’ sign as well as the standard signs warning you about private logging roads. That nixes me going in there for sure, no grey area when it is marked private on the map and signed. The problem once you travel south of Campbell River is that a lot of logging areas are now private land. There are bits of crown land, but they tend to be surrounded by civilization, and thus more people or more control, such as gating off access to vehicles. You can’t just go further into the wilderness and camp – that actually tends to be where more of the private land is, even way out in the boonies. That is what happens when the coast gets filled with small cities all the way from Campbell River down to Victoria, there is no space left that is at least an hour away from the nearest city. What crown land there is, you’ll be sharing with others, and you may have locals resentful that you are on what they regard as their land.

Overnight spot PXL_20220410_224855405

Little spot right beside the paved road

The woodlands I was on straddled Highway 19. I decided to check out the woods on the other side of the highway to see if there was any boondocking there. This is the area I had already scouted with Streetview, seeing gates on the accesses I could explore virtually. Visiting in person, I saw that the access to roads is gated here too, although I do find one little spot that is permanently blocked off,  leaving a little siding off the road. You certainly could park here for a night as a stop over, but I wouldn’t want to camp here.

Junk at the gate PXL_20220410_231402834 Walking down the road, all the access is gated. The forest also has a power line running through it. The utility company on the island has gated off the roads accessing its lines, so this gate does not surprise me. One of the reasons they gate stuff is the people going in and leaving there garbage behind. Now the people just leave their garbage at the gate.

Yahoo access PXL_20220410_231043802 Of course barriers and gates need to be robust, covering every possible access, or people will just go around them, or break through them. This was recent, like in the last day or two. I could see on the road I walked down to get to this that the mud was freshly churned up – the puddles were still murky where they had splashed through. It only takes a few 4x4s like this to completely thrash a road for regular use, not to mention the vegetation damage done as the 4x4s start going around the worst holes they have created. So while I did not explore every possible access to this forest, I doubt any road in is open – everything I checked is barred, blocked or gated. That is how you get crown land with no camping, yet no rules that say you can’t camp.

Creek view SR601532

Creek view

I returned to my locked in campsite and contemplated my next move for Monday. I thought about going down while people were around and seeing if the gate was open. But then there might be a conversation about me being back there, which might lead to me being booted out of there. I had looked at the forecast for the interior of BC, it was going to be unusually cold at night for the next few days – I did not want to leave the island quite yet. I had plenty of supplies – I could just stretch it out to after the Easter long weekend, then leave the island. So, I decided to stay away from the gate until I was ready to leave. I could hear people working down there once the work week began, so I was confident the gate was going to be open during the week. It was not a large forest,  I had plenty of time to explore every road, and catch up on my blogging in the meanwhile.

Signed forest SR601533

Thirty three year old forest, half way to harvest

Tree container SR601539

Cedar Tree container

So this  is a managed forest, with some research aspects judging by the signage I see around. Rather than cutting down trees and letting nature take its course, they plant new trees, prune and thin them out. There are even  little tree ‘greenhouses’ for some of the cedars. I assume this gives them a boost early in life with the extra heat trapped inside. It is interesting to see how a forest planted in 1989 looks. That was when I was still in University. Those are some pretty big trees – a sign of my age now.

Bench view PXL_20220411_185538259

Bench view

The road into the forest branches early in. I took the left branch that went up to my camp. The right branch went down, then climbs the side of the hill, eventually coming to a branch with a bench overlooking this view. It’s the best view you get along the road, so the bench is perfectly placed. Looking back, it almost looks like wilderness going back to the mountains. The reality is that the area is almost all private land, with acreages and small businesses operating among the trees. There is also a good expanse of ocean between me and the mountains here. At least the mountains are what they seem – white, cold and desolate.

70 rings PXL_20220411_203952879

It occurred to me looking at the tree stumps I could figure out the rough dates the area had been logged. I counted roughly 70 rings, equal to a 70 year old tree. Looking at the new growth around me, I’d say we are talking another eight years since it has been logged, let’s say 80 years in total allowing for a bit of establishment time for the trees. That puts this area as having been logged during or just after WWII.

Original and mid century logging PXL_20220411_220446174

10 year old stump left, 80 year old stump right.

You can see in this example that there is a recently logged tree, and one from the original old growth logging. You’ll note that the old growth isn’t particularly big – in fact there were bigger trees, but nothing monstrous. If you look at the history of logging here, that first tree cut just after WWII would have been at the beginning of modern logging, where logging trucks and chainsaws were replacing railroads, steam donkeys, and hand saws. There would have been a lot more manpower to cut the first generation compared to the second generation of trees here. Compound that with the fact that there just isn’t the volume of second growth available for logging and you can see why this industry has shrunk down to a fraction of its former employment levels. It is not that logging is ever going to go away here – it is just that the boom times are done and now logging will remain as smaller employer with a cyclical cycle following the lumber prices for the most part.

Orange Jelly Fungus PXL_20220411_220352560

Orange Jelly Fungus

One weird and wonderful thing I saw in the forest was this strange orange thing. It turns out to be an Orange Jelly Fungus. At the time I saw it, I wasn’t even sure it was natural. The bright yellow color looks almost like plastic from the distance I could see it at, stuck in the middle of some thorny bush.

My view for the day SR601545

Snow day view

I had been staying on the island a bit longer to avoid the cold and potential snow of the mainland. I did not expect the snow to find me again! It evidently was an unusual weather pattern that normally only sets up in the winter time. Snow fell even in Victoria, although not the quantities that I got further north and inland. But at least I knew the snow was not going to last, only a few more days and the weather was going to warm up.

Snowy road SR601551 Indeed, the weather did clear to gorgeous blue skies. I wandered around a bit as the snow started to melt, taking a few pictures. The following day the snow mostly melted and I took a little walk into the back end of the forest. I had checked the forecasts and indeed the weather was warming up during the coming long weekend. My plan to stay here through that would be perfect, I would leave when the camping opened up and the weather was warmer on the mainland.

But my plans were not to be. I come back to my rig to find a note on the windscreen. “It is a nice spot but you can’t stay here.” Sigh. It is mid-afternoon, so I quickly hike down to the wood lot and have a word with the workers. They were just contractors, but they confirm I can’t stay in the forest, as I had feared. So I was packing up and leaving late in the day. You’ll have to join me in my next entry to find out how I dealt with that!

About ralph

Just another blog to share some thoughts with the world.
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