Regrouping in a familiar spot before leaving the Island

Unusually late snow SR601548

Snow in Headquarters Woods

I had just been booted out of my great camping spot in the Headquarters forest. I needed a quick solution as to where I’d spend the night. Worst case, I could pay to stay in an RV park! But I had previously been in the forest near Merville. It was not ideal – too many people coming in, but I figured I could hack it for a few more days until I was ready to leave the island. I had been stretching my supplies to stay in my forest spot until after Easter, but now since I was moving, I would be going right by the Courtenay Country Market again, might as well top up my supplies and not have to stretch things at all! I headed back into the forest near Merville. Having spent enough time in there previously to see where people go, I now had an advantage in picking a spot that would have more solitude. When you come into an area, the easiest access site that looks good is probably not what you want, at least if you don’t want company. It is always better to go for the #2, or even further out spot to get your solitude. Last time here, my ‘pile of bones‘ site was what I would consider the #2 spot in terms of easy access. There was only one spot of brushy road to get past just before the camp, and the roads were good.

Brushy road SR601556

More brush and trees coming down these roads

This time, I headed further in, although that is a matter of perspective. The road I was following was a loop, that eventually came out of the forest further east on the same road I entered into the forest. I was far enough around the loop that it was closer to go out the second road. But that road out is not quite as good – there are some intimidating puddles to start with, and much more brush past the entrance. A partially fallen tree was low enough I wasn’t sure I’d get under it with the RV, although any car or low van would not have a problem. I was hoping the locals all coming down the road would all turn at the first road, and then head to the first good spot, at least that was more likely than them heading to the second turn, in which case my spot would be the first good one they would hit.

Lot less junk SR601557

Mellville version 2: a lot less junk

My selected spot certainly looked less used than my previous spot in here. There was a fire ring and some junk, but nowhere near the amount that was in the previous camp. There was also an unexpected advantage. This site is also in a recently logged out area and is close enough to the main road that I can see the powerlines on it. I would say that up until the last year or so, the vegetation had not grown in enough to screen my RV from the road. A walk I took along the road revealed one spot where you could just see my rig, if you knew what you were looking for. So the locals may avoid this spot to some extent because it is too close to civilization for having a loud party. Even I was being a bit more quiet than usual. I’m sure my loud squeaky door could be heard all the way back to the road if you were just walking along there.

Brushy damage SR601558

Rear awning cover ripped off too now. No motors here so not bothering to cover it.

Of course the trees and brush took their tax on my rig, taking off part of the back cover of my awning this time. These things seem to be magnets for trees.  I’m sure I lost that bit somewhere in the 500 metres of trees and brush I scraped against, but I could not find it for the life of me. I’m guessing that part got flung into the trees when it was ripped off – the vegetation is dense and the part could be not far away but still out of site behind a bush. I’m hoping this spot pays off in some solitude, my rig is already getting scratches on the decals on top of the awning damage.

Bit of ocean view SR601562

Bit of ocean view from my spot

So I still planned to leave after the Easter long weekend. But that meant I was going to be staying in a forest that gets some partiers on a regular weekend. Would the long weekend be worse? I had no issues the first night, but that was Thursday. Friday and Saturday I considered more likely.

Indeed, Friday I had a couple of kids come into my camp driving a quad and a motorcycle, while I was cooking dinner. I’d have gone and talked to them, but I was busy. They sat there for a few minutes, oblivious or trying to be intimidating, I don’t know. My windows were foggy and I could barely discern that they were likely of a younger age. Had they stuck around long enough for me to finish my dinner prep I’d have gone out for a chat while dinner was cooling, but they roared off, leaving dirt strips down the road. In my later walks  I noted they had gone down most of the roads – explorers on the long weekend.

New spot previous place SR601559

At a dead end this time

The night time drivers down the back road were a bit more unsettling. It was a bit difficult to tell, as I’m not far off the gravel road that goes to a few houses. So there is legit traffic noise from that. But I did hear some vehicle that I’m sure was traveling down the backroad loop I had gone down to get to this siding. Fortunately, no one came in to visit in the dark this time. I’m pretty sure I’d have awoken, I was sleeping lightly most of the time.

Heading out for a walk, I hit the #1 easy spot to come in and party. There was evidence of last night’s party in new cans and junk. I grabbed a couple of cans with the intention of returning for the rest later. In a good development, someone beat me to the cans before I could claim the rest. The area was occupied again on Saturday night – I found new cans on Sunday again, returning from my one longer hike to an area I had not been to yet. But no visitors in my camp at night this time!

Rocky beach walk SR601574

North towards Williams Beach

My one longer hike to a new area took me north past the McLoughlin Gardens I had been to previously, heading north along the beach. I was hoping to make it north to the actual Williams Beach, not the community of same name I had walked through previously. It was a long hike for the afternoon, I was going to hit the beach, then make a loop walking back along the road that roughly parallels the shoreline. If I thought it was too long, I could shorten the loop by turning in at the beach access for the community.

Shore bird SR601572 The day was glorious with blue skies and hardly a breeze. There were birds along the shore, but usually too far away to get any picture at all. This shore bird was a little closer, but still a long ways from my Sony, even cranked out to 200mm plus crop. The beach stays rocky most of the way north. Residential alternates with trees. A few people and dogs were there to greet me too. All were friendly.

Alders Beach Resort PXL_20220416_214643004

Alders Beach Resort

As you approach the beach, the rocks change to sand. There is a nice resort you pass, The Alders Beach Resort, a group of cabins, with views of the beach and manicured lawns. It is not a cheap place to stay, but the location is good. The Williams beach access is a dead end road. Several people were parked there, with said people out on the beach enjoying the nice Easter long weekend. As I was out a ways from my camp, I could not stay long to enjoy the beach view – but I rested at a bench courtesy of the resort for a bit while I looked up their site and pricing. My walk back along the road was less inspiring. It was your typical walk along a forest road accessing expensive lots – nicely paved but narrow and not much to see beyond gates and glimpses of houses in the woods. Beach worn boulder SR601577

Massive Cumulonimbus cloud SR601564

My brain thinking about poaching and dumping

My late afternoon  return to camp was marred by one ‘almost witness’ of a deer carcass dumping. I see some older dude in a white pickup, with the nice chrome trim in the bed you’d see added to a work truck. He drives by, down the gravel road that leads to my entrance into the woods. I watch him drive down, but I am not quite far enough down the road yet to see if he turned off down my access road. But I walk further, and I do see him exiting that road, not five minutes afterwards. I watch him go down to the end of the main road, while I arrive at my access road and start walking down it. Buddy ends up coming back up the gravel road; I was not quite far enough down the road to not be seen yet, but I step off to the side, hoping he won’t see me standing there. While he slowed down going by, he didn’t stop and kept on going. I thought this a bit peculiar – that was a pretty quick visit to the forest. Continuing down the path not a minute later I have my likely answer. There is the remains of a  fresh deer carcass thrown off the side of the road, with barely a fly on it yet. Yup, buddy was likely dumping his poached carcass off in the woods, just missing me in the process. I debated reporting the incident, but I know it’s a low value report. I was not close enough to ID the perp, and I couldn’t even tell you the make of the truck. Had I at least gotten a picture, or seen the act in progress, I’d have filed a report for sure. But you know as much as me about the possible sighting now. You can see why  I was a bit apprehensive about being in these woods though – bad shit goes down here sometimes.

Path to nowhere SR601580

Path to nowhere

Easter Sunday, I went for one last walk in the woods before I planned to leave the island. There are two loops you can do in this forest, one that I have driven on to get to my camp, and one slightly more overgrown loop that looks to be mostly walkers and few drivers. There is a path leading off down the edge of the crown land I decided to explore, it was the only bit of path I had not been on. I checked my crown land map as I started down the trail, making sure I was staying on crown land. The path takes you down to the very south end of the crown land forest, along a block that is private south and west of you. Then the trail just ends.

Bridge to nowhere SR601581

Bridge to nowhere

But there is a bridge crossing the gully beside the trail (this was a road once) leading to not much of anything, and on private land. Probably an access the private land owner built to be able to get onto the crown land easier for a little walk. I wasn’t going to push it and wander around on the private land finding his trail, so back I went up the dead end trail.

 

Have a chair SR601582

Have a chair, please

I complete the loop, passing by the chair supervising the corner of Holmes Rd. and Furlong St. according to the googles map. It’s really just a junction of two logging roads in the bush. Furlong St. doesn’t even connect to Armstrong Rd like the map shows – the reality is a trail connecting them with some really big rocks that ensure only a motorcycle or quad will fit through. Googles is not perfect. Why yes, I did take the chair out of the bush next to the road and leave it there, for my photo and hopefully to shame someone into taking it out and throwing it in the trash. It is definitely too broken to sit in.

So my adventure on the island was at an end. I was catching the 10:40am ferry the next day to head into the mainland. Then again, perhaps not. A storm blew in overnight with strong winds cancelling the first couple of sailings on the Monday. With it being Easter Monday, the traffic was a bit heavier than normal, so of course the next sailing being the 10:40 was already full before I even got up at 7am. Yeah, I’d had a light sleep again with a shotgun going off at 4am in the pouring rain. The storm had me expecting possible issues, and I was not wrong. I ended up spending the day in the RV as it was raining solid all day. Only a brief break just before dinner gave me a chance to stretch my legs and evaluate the roads out of the forest. With all the wind and rain, a tree falling was possible, but nothing found this time. It’s a pretty clean managed forest, I didn’t consider it likely. I set the alarm again for 7am, this time to leave the island like I planned a day previously.

Shell outside PXL_20220416_211544947 So what are my thoughts on Vancouver Island for the winter? Well, I can’t really say much about the south end as I never ventured south of Nanaimo. The middle part I can speak a bit about the east side near the ocean – too crowded. Not much for boondocking in solitude. You can do it, just don’t expect there to be tons of places with no people around. However, there is everything you need for services in this part of the world. If you want to stay at campgrounds, there are lots to choose from here.

Shell inside PXL_20220416_211504116 For me, the North Vancouver Island is where it’s at. People are more laid back and it is not hard to just drive down logging roads, find a backroad dead end and camp. Paid camping exists, but there are fewer options. Services are sparse, and often there is only one of it. RV propane in Port Hardy is a good example. If they are down, you are driving two hours to Sayward to fill up. But there is just enough civilization that all the basics are covered. The weather is nearly as nice as the south island, just stay close the ocean. Evidently the month of snow I experienced is a harsh winter up there, but it was doable even boondocking. I stayed in a campground for most of that – power and as much heat as I wanted were appreciated. If I were to spend another winter on the island, it would be the north end for boondocking, or the middle-south for paid campground, by the month as it’s cheaper. See you next time on the mainland!

About ralph

Just another blog to share some thoughts with the world.
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