August 2007

August 2007
August 2007
August 2007
August 2007


by Charlie Cornfield

Lots of people know where Strathcona Park is, but how many of you actually go camping there? Designated in 1911, Strathcona is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. It was named for Donald Alexander Smith, First Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, who was quite a fellow. He was instrumental in construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and on 7 November 1885 drove the last spike that completed the trans-Canada railway line.

Although it is an overused expression, Strathcona Park is the “jewel” in our outdoor crown. At over 250,000 hectares (almost 23,000 square kilometres), this huge area attracts thousands of users annually and provides countless recreation opportunities.

If I had to describe this park with one word it would be “rugged.” If you ever have a chance to fly over it, you will probably be amazed at all of the mountains and deep valleys. However, if you stick to those valley bottoms it’s also a great place to camp and boat for all age groups.

One of my favourites is Buttle Lake Campground, which the locals know as Buttle Narrows. A 45-minute (48 km) drive west of Campbell River on Gold River Highway 28, it is located at the narrows that join Upper Campbell Lake and Buttle Lake. About 30 minutes out you come to Upper Campbell Lake, where the road winds and twists beside the steep lakeshore. Carry on past the cabins and Strathcona Park Lodge until you come to Elk Portal, the Parks Branch rest stop and information area. You can’t miss the life-size bull elk carving and the information shelters where you can learn about the park and its wildlife, and enjoy a good photo opportunity.

Carry on down the highway a few hundred metres to the intersection of Highway 28 and the Boliden/Westmin mining road, and check out the sign on the right that lets you know if the campgrounds are full. Turn right and cross the bridge over the narrows, go past the group site and carry on to the campground sign, then turn left into the Buttle Lake campground.

The Park is busy during the summer months, so reservations are a good idea. If you have reservations, stop at the registration board and see what your site number is. It also has a site map showing first-come-first-served sites as well as the reserved sites. There is a good mix of double and single sites, which are large and well maintained. Those at the south end are big enough to accommodate several families each.
A few years ago BC Parks added the Driftwood Bay Group Campground, which offers exclusive group camping opportunities for up to 25 parties. It boasts a covered log picnic shelter, disabled access facilities, and a swimming area, all of them adjacent to the lake. Use of the group site is by reservation only.
There are no showers or sani-station/dump facilities at this park. Water well hand pumps are located in the campgrounds and only pit toilets are available.

After you get set up in your site, take a walk and go exploring. On the east side of the park is a big sandy beach with playground equipment for the kids. A couple of developed trails -- Three Pond Loop and Darkis Lake -- are short, easy trails, but each takes you to a totally different area.

Buttle Lake, the main feature of this park, was named for Commander John Buttle who explored this area in the 1860s. It is a very large, long lake of 3,700 ha with 93 km of shoreline. It can get windy and rough on the lake, so boaters take note. BC Hydro’s Strathcona Dam at the outlet of Upper Campbell Lake controls the water level in Buttle Lake. Depending on the size, type of your boat and the water level, you have two choices for launching a trailered boat: one in the campground the other about 1 km down the Boliden/Westmin road, just past the Park Headquarters.

With a large boat you can run down the lake to Myra Falls and back, or go through the narrows to explore Upper Campbell Lake. Those with smaller boats may find it interesting to explore in the bays and coves that surround the park, where there is good fishing for cutthroats, rainbows and Dolly Varden. The lake and its feeder streams have an interesting history that dates back to when rainbow and cutthroat trout were stocked periodically from 1932 through 1939.

When is a park not a park? When it is developed in conjunction with private land. One of the neat features of this area is Darkis Lake. It is located on private land owned by TimberWest Forest Ltd., but by agreement it has a developed trail from the park to the lake. There is a short, 10-minute walking trail up and over a small hill leading to this small lake. It has been stocked since 1965, and from 1992 stocked with catchable-size trout.

We recently carried in my daughter’s inflatable boat to do some fishing and have a quiet swim. The lake level was much lower than I have seen in the past, but still great. Everyone who uses this area should remember that it is private land, and treat it with the same respect you would the park. A big thanks to TimberWest and their employees for this amenity.

On a less positive note, I couldn’t believe that I saw people using a campfire during a high hazard time, especially when there are signs at the trailhead and the lake saying “No campfires.” Way to go.... If we don’t treat this place properly we will lose the opportunity to use it. There were also beer cans and other litter left there. If you pack it in, then pack it out -- Don’t expect someone else to carry out your garbage.

Buttle Campground is a great place to spend a short vacation because it has camping and access to lakes for swimming, fishing and boating. It’s nice for all age groups and with the group site, fully accessible to everyone. In addition, it makes a great base camp from which to hike the many trails in this part of Strathcona Park.

For more information visit


Huxley’s Run: 


By Dr. Adipose Huxley

In most communities there is a rare type of individual who is best described as a character. Edward Michael “Whitey” McCabe was every inch a character. I recall when Campbell River lost him. At his request there was no service, so I assumed that his passing might go somewhat unnoticed. Thankfully, as it evolved, it didn’t.
“Did you hear that Whitey McCabe died?” people would ask. I would nod knowingly and allow that I did, since I considered him a friend. But then so did everyone else, and almost every one of them had a story to tell.

When I first met Whitey I was sitting in my office. All of a sudden an awful commotion broke out at the front desk. A loud, croaky voice was punctuating verbs and nouns with assorted bits of the English language that never make it to the pages of a dictionary. It was demanding to “Talk to the boss if this damned Looney Tunes operation even has one!”

Seconds later a somewhat white-faced receptionist appeared in my office door. “There’s someone here to see you,” she announced hurriedly, then scurried off to safer territory.

Not sure what to expect, I walked out of my office, rounded the corner and saw standing there this little guy with a vast thatch of white hair. He looked meaner than a tail-hooked Chinook.

“Hello there,” I said, holding out my hand. “Can I help you with something?”

“Jeezuz holy liftin’!” he said. “You’re the boss of this place?”

“Uh, yes I am. Is there a problem?”

“Who wet nurses you while your mommy’s not here?”

“Is there something I can help you with?” I asked, my hackles suddenly up.

“Hell’s bells, you’re barely off the teat. Is there anyone else around here who is at least out of kindergarten?”
There was a look about Whitey when he was in these moods. His mouth was set in a line that was either half growl or half smile, and his eyes had a mischievous gleam in them. I didn’t know him then, but I did know that half the staff was listening and it was time to put up or shut up.

“Listen, you little old fart, I’m here to see if I can help you. Now we can continue with this conversation in a dignified manner and proper language, or you can go back out that door -- with or without my help.”
I suppose it was not the right thing to say and the office went dead silent.

Whitey’s eyebrows knitted and he took a step toward me like he might just take a swing. Then he stepped back, looked up at me with a singularly menacing glare, pulled out his handkerchief and blew his nose, loudly and long. When he was done, he looked up at me again, and this time there was a smile on his face. “Well at least you got some balls,” he said. “Come on in,” he said, brushing past me, “I want to talk to you about this article you printed in your rag.”

At that I followed Whitey. Into my office. An hour or so later we emerged as friends. After that, Whitey made regular stops by the office to give me “a little education.” They were always interesting conversations. Sometimes he would reveal a few secrets about fishing, at others he would tell how he liked this piece or that piece I wrote, and occasionally he called me a damned fool.

To see Whitey driving his old green boat or his old green bike you would think that, well, maybe Whitey was a bit on the other side of normal. If he was, he was on the good side, for he truly seemed to know everything about everything, especially fishing.

One day I heard his croaky voice out at the front counter, so I walked out to see what the old rogue was up to this time. I was astonished to see him dressed in a suit. It was of an era long past and a bit shiny in spots, but I had to admit that he looked, well, rather dapper.

We chatted for a while and then he said he had to go.

“Take it easy, Whitey,” I said.

He held my hand longer than normal, looked me in the eye and smiled. He didn’t say a word. Just held that gaze for a while, turned, walked out the door and simply raised his hand in a quick farewell.

As usual, Whitey knew.

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