Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
I guided four clients on a three-day trip along the Bedwell Lakes Trail in Strathcona Park. Our objectives were to backpack into the Bedwell Lakes core area on day one, hike up to Cream Lake on day two, and head back to the trailhead on day three. Highlights included great weather, good route conditions, epic views, and a team eager to learn wilderness navigation and backpacking skills. Memorable water bodies included the sparkling jewels of Baby Bedwell Lake, Bedwell Lake, Little Jim Lake, and Cream Lake. Famous summit views of Mount Myra, Mount Tom Taylor, Big Interior Mountain, Mount Septimus, and Nine Peaks were appreciated. We even caught a glimpse of Della Falls down the Upper Drinkwater Valley, from the ridge top to Cream Lake. Timing our approach as the Canada Day crowds were heading home was rewarded by a choice selection of five-star tent pads. We had the entire campground to ourselves on night two.
The forecast was for clear skies, no precipitation, warm temperatures, and light NW winds. All three days were crystal clear in the mornings with some convective clouds building in the afternoons. Temperatures ranged from a nighttime low of 12.2ºC at 940 m beside Baby Bedwell Lake, to a daytime high of 31.4ºC at 1300 m in the blazing sun above Little Jim Lake. There was no precipitation and winds were calm to light for the duration of the trip.
Our backpacking route followed the popular Bedwell Lakes Trail from the Jim Mitchell Lake Road trailhead up to Baby Bedwell Lake. The mining road was in rough shape after the long weekend, but doable in a two-wheel drive with attention to maneuvering rutted sections. The dirt road is 7.5 km and 300 m gain from the Westmin Road turnoff. It’s approximately 5 km and 500 m gain from the trailhead to the first camp, and another 1.5 km and 50 m gain to the second camp. Conditions were bone dry and dusty. The trail received recent maintenance as evidenced by the drainage ditches being cleaned out. Beyond Bedwell Lake, the trail switchbacks up the mountainside to Little Jim Lake and enters a subalpine bowl. The route connects to Cream Lake at the base of Mount Septimus. The snow started at 1250 m. Travel was good on a supportive and consolidated snow pack.
The only bear sign was one pile of scat on Jim Mitchell Lake Road, and a “Bear in Area” warning sign at Baby Bedwell Lake. We spotted no bears or other large mammals. Birds included hermit thrushes, varied thrushes, robins, Pacific wrens, whisky jacks, and hummingbirds. There was a ptarmigan living up on the ridge top to Cream Lake. We noticed many piles of sign, but did not see the ptarmigan. Wildflowers included white dwarf dogwood, vanilla leaf, queens cup, salmonberries, thimbleberries, pink and white heathers, saxifrage, marsh marigold, and moss campion. Bugs were pesky for an hour or so in the mornings and evenings. Bug dope and a head net were handy. Frogs serenaded us through the night.
Exposure to the direct sun in the snow above Little Jim Lake was intense. We wore full sun protection, including brimmed hats, sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen. A couple of us also added sun hoodies and buffs over our faces. Drainages were melting out leaving behind holes that needed to be avoided. Trekking poles were helpful to test the snow. Solid wilderness navigation and route finding skills were beneficial above Little Jim Lake to stay on route.