Strathcona Provincial Park - Landslide Lake - Iceberg Lake
Catherine’s Awesome Adventures – Chapter 1
I have been cleaning up and organizing my old photographs and decided to write a series of blog postings on the adventures I’ve experienced in our region because there are so many adventures that will never be duplicated but deserve some attention so that others may experience the wonder that is our back yard. Here’s the first one.
Iceberg Lake – Strathcona Provincial Park – Elk River Trail – Landslide Lake
This is a picture picture of myself and my bud Jorgina standing on the shores of Iceberg Lake at the cirque to Mount Colonel Foster in Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island, at the headwaters of the Elk River. We are in shorts, as it is a beautiful September day, but as you can see from the photo we are surrounded by glacial floating ice. It reminded me of a story I wrote at the time that depicted our trip that day.
It brings a smile to my face when I reminisce, as the story suggests that I would be back to that spot in the future, and that turns out to be the understatement of the decade. Since that time I have been back to Iceberg Lake a dozen times and I even managed to climb Mt. Colonel Foster a couple of times. The Foster is the mammoth Vancouver Island mountain at 7005 ft. that fashions a bowl that is the cirque named Iceberg Lake. One day I must have looked up from the lake and said, “I wonder what the view looks like from up there?” Typical.
Our original plan for the day was Landslide Lake which is one of the main destinations on the Elk River trail, in Strathcona Provincial Park.
An hour further up the trail brings you to Iceberg Lake. We were having such a strong day we decided to go further and explore.(I always seem to be doing that, the explore part.) It was one of those days when our troubles and worries melted away with the distance between us and our real lives; replaced with visions of dozens of cascading waterfalls and creeks, blooming alpine wildflowers in every imaginable colour, the smell of fresh oxygen induced air and the penetrating feeling of the ancient and formidable strength that is the energy of an old growth forest.
Iceberg Lake, has been a well kept secret even amongst the locals, but I notice this year the word is getting out (did I do that?) Fast. The access growth may be because it takes a reasonably fit person to make the 22 kilometer return – 600 meter elevation gain trip in one day, but it is definitely worth the effort. A day of relaxation, with steady breathing, sunshine, exercise, clear heads and a bewilderment that such an enjoyable journey should invoke such grounded piece of mind. All this, right in our back yard. We are so lucky we live here.
Hidden amongst the myriad of amazing routes and trails in Strathcona Park, the Elk River Trail is the most direct access to Mt. Colonel Foster, which ranks amongst the highest peaks on Vancouver Island. This rugged earth-shaken terrain, in the heart of the jewel we call Strathcona Park carries a rite of passage I have taken periodically over the years.
In my mind, I visualize a small cirque not more than 60 meters across, jam packed full of icebergs. The bergs range in size from lumps the size of pizzas to massive semi-trailer truck monoliths. Where else in the world would you experience this wonder directly on the line of the 49th parallel? Less than 3,000 feet above sea level, it truly is a uniquely typical Vancouver Island phenomenon. There are so many treasures here on the island for the intrepid explorer.
The lake’s name was unofficially tagged by hikers and climbers. The trail to Landslide Lake is well maintained with primitive, but useful washroom facilities at strategic locations along the way, as well as designated camping sites and bear caches for your safety and protection. Yes there are bears and yes you just may see them on the trail.
The short trail between Landslide Lake and Iceberg Lake was a real ‘bush bash’, but has improved over the years, thanks to the numerous volunteers that have put the time in to slash their way through the west coast rain forest, a forest that constantly reminds us how rugged and unyielding our coastal wilderness can be.
The evidence of a dramatic earthquake in 1946, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale can be observed throughout most of the length of the trail. The north peak of the Colonel shook and crumbled and with that, thousands of tons of rock came thundering down the south ridge, polishing and exposing ancient marbled granite walls. Old growth timber and high alpine shrubs were annihilated in its path and plummeted into the lake below.
Landslide Lake – 25 ish meters in diameter, filled with crystal clear, baby-blue water, constitutes the basin for this north ridge of the Colonel Foster. When the quake struck, the top third of one peak on the Colonel broke off, sliding down the mountainside and polishing everything in its path, the lake filled with rock and debris, the shores overflowed and launched an enormous fresh water tidal wave bursting with debris cascading down the valley. Everything in its path was devastated. That was over 70 years ago and since then, time and nature have worked their magic to rejuvenate the land with new growth, however the evidence of this catastrophic event is still clear if you know what to look for, a reminder that nothing is invincible in the face of mother nature, not even the mountains.
As diverse as it is untamed, the Elk River Valley (named for its resident herds of Roosevelt Elk), features numerous waterfalls, massive stands of amazing old growth timber, blue-green crystal clear streams and rivers galore, wildlife in numbers, fresh seasonal berries, beaver dams, and ever-changing wildflowers – all nestled in the arms of a number of 7,000-foot mountain peaks.
An hour’s drive from our home in Campbell River, in the heart of Strathcona Provincial Park, rests the Elk River Trail, the path to Mt. Colonel Foster – with Iceberg Lake at its bosom and Landslide Lake at its feet.
I’ll be back, soon.