TCAT

The Island Page 4 - Continued

 

 

From Atluck the track takes you up the Tashish Valley, one very remote and empty corner of Vancouver Island...

 

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Tashish

 

You'll cross Melanie Creek Bridge which has a falls under it and a very interesting rock basin upstream... Past there you'll climb a choppy hill up, just before the summit of this hill is a sharp bend in the road, right at this sharp bend is a bushy 40 meter path towards the river taking you to the top of very cool teacup falls... Very much worth the stop...

 

Continue on the track and follow the signs that direct you towards the hook up road, it is easy to turn off onto Cross lakes so beware of that...Once you get to Tashish main the track forks to the left and sees very little use, this is bear country judging by the road mines... You'll end up going over a low pass that marks the Island divide and sometimes this pass can be snowed in until May... On track you'll see the Vanishing River Rec site sign, an area where the river drops into a cavern and disappears.... There is a boardwalk and stairs built down to the site, but in the winter the cavern can't keep up with the river flow so the canyon fills up to 30' deep or more and floats the infrastructure off its footings... This POI is more interesting to visit when river levels are higher...

On track you'll come to the intersection of Keogh and Alice lake main, about 1 km up the Alice way after crossing a small bridge you'll notice the Merry Widow Trail going up to the left... This is one of the great adventure tracks on the North Island, it is very steep and choppy in spots and the upper half is a true B Class trail suitable for experienced riders only... The roads climbs past an old mine site to 3600' in a very short time past alpine meadows and ends at some craggy peaks... There is a hiking trail about 1km down from the end of the road that takes you up into the craggy peaks, count on at 4 hrs return if you do this strenuous hike...

Merry Widow Track link: ??

After Merry Widow Trail road the track continues along Benson Lake, just before the lake a side spur goes to the right and crosses a bridge, if you continue on this spur you'll get to a gate... Right before the gate blocks the road you'll see an overgrown spur that cuts back to the left, follow it and it will take you to a nice camping area at the end of Benson Lake... But the warning is that this track down to the lake is not maintained and can be quite rough and overgrown...

Continuing on the track past Benson Lake you'll come to an intersection where the track turns left up a hill, if you go straight through the intersection for a short distance you'll end up at a nice campsite on Kathleen Lake...

 

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Kathleen Lake

 

The track going up the hill has a white gravel surface, this comes from a mine in the valley above and once you reach the intersection at the top of the hill you need to watch out for the dump trucks with pup trailers for the next 9 kms hauling the stuff out 7 days a week... The road is narrow and winding so take it slow, especially on the corners in case you meet one of these trucks.... You'll pass Devils Bath { a collapsed cave system} on the way to the Alice lake rd junction... Follow tracks to the right at this junction and your clear of the mine trucks as they go left... A little ways down the road you'll see the sign for eternal fountain going to the right {a karst formation} and a ways past that to the left a nice campsite on Alice lake... During week days watch for both hwy and fat trucks on these roads

Next 3 photos: Eternal Fountain

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Below: Alice Lake Campsite

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As you move north from Alice Lake you will notice a climate change and a change in the flora and fauna... The North end of the Island harbors a much cooler and wetter climate from here on than points south and that extra moisture adds up to a more lush and greener landscape...

The track will continue and you cross the HWY down towards Rupert Inlet, right before you get to the inlet Varney main goes off to the left, if you follow this for a short distance (1km} you'll see a track to the right with an open gate... This track takes you down to Camp Henderson, a nice rest stop on a grassy estuary at the head of the inlet...

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Henderson

 

Back on track you cross the Waukwaus creek bridge and then a little ways further you come up to a second bridge, just before this bridge there is a camping area to the left...

Below 2 photos: Camping Area

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Shortly after this bridge you'll junction right onto a narrow road so for the next 5.5 the fat truck hazard is high during weekdays until the left on the next junction gets you free of the road... The track continues on into some hilly terrain where the road can sometime be choppy, from the high points you'll get nice views of the Queen Charlotte strait coastline..

 

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Nice scenic views

 

The track comes out on a paved road that takes you to a left turn on HWY #19, after 2 KM of Pavement you'll reach the Holberg road intersection where the track turns to the left... Continue on straight to go into Port Hardy for fuel and resupply...

Port Hardy has a population of around 3500 people and is the largest center on the North Island... Not to long back the place was a bit of a boomtown with near double its current population with a bustling economy... They had a large copper mine, fish plants, logging and tourism bringing in a lot of revenue... After the mine closed and the commercial fishing dropped off a lot of people were forced to leave the area to seek work... Port Hardy has 2 native reserves and a few years back a grizzly was shot on the Tsulquate reserve, this was one of the first encounters with a grizzly on Vancouver Island and not long after another was shot near Sayward.... Since then there has been more grizzly sightings and encounters on the Island so I guess they are here to stay...

Holberg area and beyond:

The Holberg road is a wide well maintained {usually} gravel road that services a couple small communties near the very tip of the Island... The terrain and trees start to look much different than points south, a lot more swampy and muskeg laced... The campsites are few and far between so I sometimes practice bush camping up an old side spur, the biggest caution is bears, there are lots of them in this country so keep a clean camp... Also always keep the truck hazard in mind as you transit this area, especially during weekdays

Next 3 photos: Holberg Rd

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The track turns onto the Holberg road and is paved for the first several KMs and then turns to gravel, it's a windy track that carries you over and around short hills, look for a shoe tree along the way, especially if you have an old set to donate... The first large lake you come up to is Kains Lake which has no shoreline access, the second is Nahwitti and it has a couple POIs... Just before you get to Nahwitti Lake look for a sign showing Nahwitti Forest trail on the right and pull into a small parking area ... A short hike will take you through some old growth spruce stands cloaked in moss, a quick stop but worth it

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Above and below: Old Growth Spruce Trail

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Back on track 3/4s of the way down the lake look for the Nahwitti Lake campsite to the right, this campsite is set in a patch of old growth trees where it can be cool and damp feeling but is otherwise a nice spot on the lake... Once again keep a clean camp as bears frequent the area....

The track continues windy and hilly and then drops you down into the Goodspeed River valley near the head of Holberg inlet and into the settlement of Holberg

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Above and below: Holberg, there is a small motel is town

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Holberg is a small community supported almost totally by logging these days... It was originally started in the early 1900s by Danish settlers as part of the original Cape Scott settlement plan... The original plan was to farm the area and move the produce to markets down south but that failed in part when a government promised road to the Cape was never built... The Cape was abandoned but some of the settlers stayed on in Holberg and logging became the area mainstay.. The the head of Holberg inlet became the site of the worlds largest floating logging camp, with some of the mooring piles still visible today... In the 60s during cold war times an Armed Forces base {CFB San Joseph} and radar site were established just up the road from Holberg and this immediately doubled the area population to around 600... In 1990 the base was shut down and dismantled and little sign of it remains today... Holbergs present population likely sits between 100-150 today... Holberg has a small store/ gas station {87 only} and a pub {which usually has very good food} and not much else...

Following the track out of Holberg you will ride parallel to the Good Speed River, about 1 km out of town before you cross the river look for short track going off to the left... This track will take you to an area suitable for pitching a tent along the Goodspeed River... A note of caution : During salmon spawning times the bears are abundant in this area as they come to fish along this stretch of river... I often see their fish carcasses piled on the grassy spot where I like to pitch my tent, kind of like a soft dinner plate...

Continuing on the track you will come to Elephant Crossing where the track continues straight through... To the right 20-30 KM will take you to San Joseph Bay/Cape scott Trailhead, Raft Cove Park and Palmerston Rec Areas... There is free camping near the beach at Palmerston, a hike in trail to one of the finest Island beaches at Raft Cove and a hiking trail to San Joseph bay ... There are 2 campsites near the San Joseph trailhead, one is a pay site while the other is in a dampish grove of trees, be bear aware at both of these sites... Avoid the Swan Lake Rec area as it has not been maintained in quite some time except by the bears in the berry patches

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Palmerston

 

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Above and below: Raft Cove

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Below: San Joseph Bay

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Continuing on the track from Elephant crossing will take you towards Winter Harbor where the road narrows and the trucks get big so be alert.... You will come to a Fork where the track goes both ways, first take the left towards Winter Harbor, just as you come into Winter Harbor you will see a nice campsite on the left, this site may or may not charge a camping fee...

Winter Harbor sits near Quatsino Sound and started out in the early days as a safe anchorage for the sailing ships and Schooners to get out of the pacific storms... Later on it blossomed as a logging and commercial fishing centre...

...Winter Harbor has a small population of less than ten over the winter but then swells by about 10 times that in the summer as people come in for the areas fishing... Before the road was put in Winter Harbours Main street was a boardwalk along the waterfront, over the years they have maintained this boardwalk and it can still be used if you care to walk it... You will see some wharfs along the harbour, near the last Wharf is a store and I believe you can purchase fuel there from the boat fueling station... The town is very quiet now but not many years back it was a much busier place as it was a base for commercial fish processing camps as well as the WD Moore logging camp just down the road... Since then the fishing plants have disappeared and the logging camp has downsized... Before leaving town a very interesting stop is the walking trail to view the large spruce trees... Near the store you will see the sign for the Max Botel trail near a logged off lot... Follow this trail for a few minutes and it will take you to several Giant Sitka Spruce

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Above and below: Winter Harbour

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Below: Giant Spruce

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Going back to where the track split at the Winter Harbor cutoff, we come to the last part of the Journey, the last 12 KM of road to the end... Follow this track out and look for the signs directing you to Grant Bay and after about 8-9 KM you will cross a bridge, sometimes you will catch glimpses of bear fishing in the creek upstream of the bridge when the salmon are present... Continue on the track and it will wind its way down to a narrow dead end road , when you turn the engine off you will usually hear the surf pounding in on the beach, from here it is about a 5-10 minute walk and you are at Grant Bay looking out on the open Pacific and the western end of the TCAT... This sand beach often gets a good surf coming in from the Pacific storms and is sometimes used by the hardcore cold water surfing crowd...The only thing left to do is enjoy the solitude and take a swim, you've reached the end of the Island track

Below 4 photos: Grant Bay

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Returning back to Port Hardy you will have the choice to hop on B.C. Ferries at Bear cove terminal to head to Prince Rupert or Bella Coola, take HWY #19 south or take gravel return option down towards the south Island...

 

The End of the TCAT

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