Our first non-sunny day: a good day to do some exploring and driving. Our first go at repacking the car and it all went remarkably well. The tent went away quickly and easily and everything fitted back in the car! Of course we couldn’t resist stretching our legs a little. We did the Wild Ginger loop, close to the campground. The trail wound its way along Ralph River and its confluence with Shepherd Creek, up the hillside through second-growth forest and back down to the car. We had to watch our step as we encountered hundreds of tiny toads darting all over the place.
From Wild Ginger we went up to Karst Creek. From its name we expected to walk through limestone features like the Yorkshire Dales. However, our excitement waned as we came to the little disappearing/reappearing stream which was, of course, completely overgrown. It was impossible to see where the stream went at all. We carried on along the trail thinking we’d see nothing else and came to a waterfall which more than made up for the little Houdini stream. The falls themselves were tiny, maybe only about 20 feet high, little more than a stream coming over a small cliff. But the stream was in a little grotto-like gorge at this point, and downstream was totally dry (although judging by the large rocks in the stream bed it was clearly not always so). So here was a much better example of a disappearing stream; the walls of the gorge were clearly made of limestone with numerous water-sculpted features. We peered into the black hole that the stream disappeared into. Very neat. We wandered back down to the car, the trail following the dry stream bed. Towards the bottom there was a nice bridge to cross the non-existent stream. And it was a good job there was no stream because a large Douglas fir had fallen onto the bridge, breaking its back and knocking it from its mount.
Our next stop was to take a look at Lupin Falls, a beautiful trickling waterfall dropping about 100 feet. Very pretty. Then on to the Buttle Lake campground for lunch by the lake. Just as we were finishing we felt our first raindrops, so we returned to the car and drove to the Strathcona Lodge for an early-afternoon coffee. By this time it was raining pretty steadily but it had eased off when we returned to the car. Well, maybe that’s all the rain we’ll get. Maybe…
We drove back down to Campbell River to replenish our beer stocks and try to get some more gas for our stove. So much for the gas: we ended up buying a new stove because they only had one type of canister in stock. Still, we had wanted a more compact camp stove anyway so it wasn’t all bad. A quick supermarket stop later and we were off to Miracle Beach, a few miles down the coast from Campbell River. By now the rain shower we had earlier had become an incessant deluge and we had to use headlights at 3 in the afternoon. It’s summer, remember?
Well the new experiences just kept coming. We got to our camp site and sat in the car for a few minutes not sure what to do next. It was still pouring. We sensed a brief lull and dived out of the car and set up the tent in record time (flicking away the zillions of slugs in the process). Great — but we were now wet and pretty cold, and in need of a hot drink. Plus it was dinner time. And so we learned our next valuable lesson of the holiday: always take an umbrella camping. We managed to set up the stove under one of our umbrellas and easily made a hot drink and cooked dinner with our new stove. We had no choice but to eat in the car, and although it warmed us up for a while, we were soon cold again.
But our campground-booking strategy was about to pay off. Miracle Beach was the only campground we booked that had hot showers and we had put it in the middle of the holiday to make sure we could clean up after a few days grubbing about in Strathcona. Well, those showers were the most blissful experience ever. Teamed with a steaming hot chocolate afterwards we were a lot more comfortable and ready to head back to the tent for some sleep. It continued to pour all night. But the steady sound of the rain on the flysheet had us asleep in no time.