19-Jan-2002 -- On the previous Saturday we had become aware of the Degree Confluence Project through an article in The Vancouver Sun newspaper. Featured in the story was one of Dave Patton’s two unsuccessful attempts to reach 49N 124W. Realizing the confluence point was not too distant from our new home in Nanaimo we thought we would head up into the bush the next day to see if we could get any closer than he had.
So off we set on January 13th, without maps or GPS, just Dave’s detailed information, adventurous hearts, and lots of daylight hours. Less than 30 minutes south of Nanaimo via Highway 1 we turned right onto Grouhel Road which quickly became the Ladysmith Main logging road. Just 8.5 km up the logging road our expedition came to a stop, barred by a steel gate. Knowing we had more than 6 km to walk from there just to get to the high voltage transmission lines near the confluence point, coupled with the fact that we had no GPS, we decided to call it a day. We did a little four-wheeling in our truck on various branch lines off the main logging road to satisfy ourselves that there was no way around the gate and then headed back to Nanaimo.
That week we decided to get serious with our next attempt, keeping in mind that there are three other confluences on Vancouver Island, none attempted, and all probably a lot more difficult to reach than the one west of Ladysmith that we had failed so miserably at attaining. So we purchased a GPS and went to the local Ministry of Forests’ office to obtain the ‘South Island Forest District Recreation Map’. We also phoned the logging company that was operating in the area to find out about the gate. While we did not get a definitive answer the gist of what we were told was:
- Most of the land in British Columbia is ‘Crown Land’ meaning it is owned by the public
- Logging companies acquire rights to log the trees off this land
- The logging companies build and maintain the logging roads to get access to the trees
- The public can use the logging roads
- To protect their equipment from thieves and vandals and to prevent their downed trees from being chopped up for firewood the logging companies sometimes gate off their roads
- Even if a road is gated and locked, organized groups can sometimes get the key from the logging company to get access (i.e. for firewood or to hunt)
- Finding out whether a specific road is gated and if it is going to be locked is difficult
Anyway, on January 19th we decided to try again, armed with a GPS, a camera, maps and the knowledge that we would be walking in from the locked gate. Well, lo and behold, when we arrived at our previous stopping point the gate was not locked. So with smiles on our faces we drove on up the road to the transmission line crossing point described by Dave Patton in his reports. Now, we should mention, that snow had fallen since the previous week and there was about 10 cm on the ground. As we looked across the ravine of Haslam Creek towards the confluence point and down into its depths we knew that there was no way that we would be able to hike directly to our target. So we climbed back into the truck and drove slowly through the increasingly deep snow along the logging road to the point where it crosses the creek via a bridge marked Burma Road. Here the snow was so deep, rutted and slushy that driving on would have been foolhardy so we parked and started walking.
Well, the long and short is that we had a wonderful two hour walk out and back through the gently falling snow but got nowhere near the confluence point. We had hoped that the road we were on would follow along the north side of Haslam Creek right back to the confluence point. But it was not to be. The closest we got in our walk was at a point still 1.9 km away near a mileage marker ’20 KM’ on a tree. At that point, the road turned left and kept going west. As the distance to our target grew larger and larger on the GPS and the road showed no sign of turning back in the direction we wanted to go we grew more frustrated. Finally, at a point 2.9 km west of the confluence point we stopped hiking. In one picture Noel is sitting in the snow at the end of our trek with the valley behind her showing the characteristic ‘clear-cuts’ of logging activity. Apparently this spot is just shy of the location where Dave Patton turned back during his 27-Apr-2001 visit. The Forestry Service map does indicate that this road should cross the creek at the bottom of the valley, turn east and pass under the transmission lines about 2 km north-west of the confluence point. As Dave’s pictures show the forest under the transmission lines has been cleared away so it should be possible to hike from there to the confluence point relatively easily. But as Dave and we have found out there is nothing easy about accessing this confluence!
Back at the truck we wandered down through the forest to Haslam Creek. The other picture is of Bob leaning against a large cut tree trunk. The old growth forest here was obviously logged many decades ago and the second growth trees that make up the forest now, and are being logged, have grown back to 30-50 cm in diameter.
Here are a couple of tips:
- Don’t count on the logging gates being opened. If you go in winter, have cross-country skis or a snowmobile to get you beyond the gates or snow too deep to drive through. If you go when there is no snow, mountain bikes might be good back-ups to a vehicle.
- Go prepared for wet and cold. Shortly after we made our attempt two men died of exposure in the forest just west of Nanaimo while out on a day hike.
We are not going to try this again this winter (no skis or snowmobile). When the snow is gone for good we will probably try to drive in on the logging main that apparently heads west out of the little town of Cassidy (between Nanaimo and Ladysmith). This appears to be the other end of the road that we were hiking on. However, we have been told that it is always gated off, so that is our challenge to mull over until spring arrives.
Coordinator's note: The land in the area of the confluence is not Crown land, but is private land that is part of Timberwest's Nanaimo Lakes operation.