Trip – Camper Creek watershed

Just back from a couple of days exploring the area NW of Port Renfrew. My wife and I made a trip there back in May but bad weather limited how much exploration we did. This time it looked like our summer had finally arrived so we headed out there to see what was what. Turned out the gate on Grierson main was locked so we could not make it up to the nice view point we camped at back in May, so we headed west on Camper main and found a spot just on the southern edge of Walbran Provincial Park. Yup, another campsite on a logged off area – we joked about writing a book “Slash Camping on Southern Vancouver Island”.

But the view was magnificent, looking over the logged area of Camper Creek watershed, to the south and west the virgin forest of Pacific Rim National Park (West Coast Trail), and Juan de Fuca Strait and Washington to the far south. This panorama doesn’t show the park boundaries, but just to orient you, Port Renfrew Β is pretty well behind that dip on the left.

I’m not going to go on and on trying to defend our habit of camping on logging spurs, we’re just different, ok?

A bit of haze was coming in over the straits as the sun set.

Next morning, thick marine cloud had arrived.

We packed up and headed down the slope and further west, exploring spurs and dead ends. All the way to the Pacific Rim National Park boundary. On the way we found another logged view point. You almost can see our first night spot back up on the ridge to the left, middle of pic, narrow vertical grey logged area.

About 950 metres further west is the National Park boundary, it is logged right up to it.

I don’t know why I take pictures of giant stumps without some object in frame to give an idea of size, but I do. This cedar stump really is bigger than you think.

Had a look at Sandstone creek.

And then back up to to the previously scouted campsite.

It really wasn’t that bad. See the cloud still on the deck in the background?

The low cloud made the sunset quite spectacular.

The cloud started to form around us after the sun went down.

And in the morning, we got the cloud full on. Damp and chilly.

On our way back home, we stopped at a spot on the Gordon River, a few km upstream of the marina.

All in all a pretty good trip. No one got hurt, no van problems, no run ins with bears (plenty of bear poop around), and plenty of food and drink. What more can you ask for?

Addendum: some more pics from trip.

We often came across signs of cedar shake block cutting, folk salvaging something from left over wood. On this trip it was all Red Cedar, on our previous trip in the area we saw Yellow Cedar shake block cutting too.

Apart from locked gates (mostly to restrict access to active logging areas – protecting machinery), many roads are “decommissioned”. Can take the form of large ditches and gravel berms across road, or taking out bridges. The latter shown in this pic, and a tree across the road to stop folk before they go over the edge.

My quick and dirty levelling ramps worked fine.

One of our two dogs looking noble. We don’t usually have any problems with them and the local wildlife but they have chased off a bear on another trip.

And here he is, dog tired.

As I mentioned before, lots of bear poop around. I think the bears are feeding on Salmon Berries.

Another shot of the marine cloud and West Coast Trail boundary. Where I took the pic the temperature was in the mid to upper 20’s C. Next day when we were in the cloud it was around 14 C. We were sympathetic for the hikers on the trail, they probably had no idea it was so nice and warm 150 metres higher.

Not the biggest slugs in the world, but pretty big.

Some of the sandstone outcrops.




  1. #1 by David on July 9, 2012 - 7:33 pm

    Beautiful photos! Love the rock hole in Sandstone creek.

    • #2 by albell on July 9, 2012 - 7:43 pm

      Glad you did David, was a bit of a climb down to the creek to get the pics πŸ™‚

      Funny having sandstone veins showing up in what is mostly igneous rock around those parts.



  2. #3 by Angus on July 9, 2012 - 7:51 pm

    Who wouldn’t stop at the Gordon river?

    • #4 by albell on July 9, 2012 - 7:57 pm

      i should have called out the Gordon clan war cry – “A Gordon, a Gordon”


  3. #5 by joel Salter on July 9, 2012 - 9:14 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to capture the place on camera. Good to see your rig out on the road. Did you find you needed 4 wheel or more to the point, do you see 2 wheel Westies out there?

    • #6 by albell on July 9, 2012 - 11:19 pm


      It’s fun taking the pics. I’ve driven the exact same kind of roads in my old ’82 westy, 4wd not needed. The added traction is nice to have, but on those roads the biggest advantage with the syncro is the low gear. You can go up steep inclines slower and take the bumps easier. Oh, on this trip we saw no one else there, let alone 2wd westies.



  4. #7 by Barry Bohner on July 9, 2012 - 11:06 pm

    All that logging makes me sad and gives the forest an other-worldly stillness.

    • #8 by albell on July 9, 2012 - 11:15 pm

      Yup, I agree. But it was all that logging that pretty well allowed Vancouver Island’s people to make a living for a long time. That particular are is mostly replanted, give it a couple of hundred years an it will look better πŸ™‚


  5. #9 by Robert on July 10, 2012 - 6:49 am

    NIce photos and seems like a fine trip. Thank you for sharing, Alistair.

    Your awning pictured seems like a nice design. Do you like your awning in practical use for ease of set-up/takedown, stability in wind, weight/size, cost etc. I want to make a good choice for my Syncro tiptop. I have a Fiamma for my 2WD Weekender which is good, but always looking for the better mouse trap in functionality and design.

    Grateful for your insights.


    • #10 by albell on July 10, 2012 - 8:13 am

      Hi Robert,

      thanks for the comment. About the awning, I’ve had the Shady Boy for over 4 years and it has worked well. But on this last trip I actually was wondering whether a nice Fiamma would be better for me. The Shady Boy needs guy lines whenever there is a breeze, and downdraft poles on occasion (my home made poles shown in pics, made for a tarp arrangement I used before the Shady Boy). While the Shady Boy is light and simple, it does not give you the same full coverage of a Fiamma, and does not deploy or retract as quickly. One niggling problem is the coverage alongside the van. The awning does not overlap the gutter so when it rains some water can get between the van and the awning at the “wing” sections (fore and aft of the metal box). This is a pain when sliding door open, inside of door can get wet.

      So all in all, Shady Boy good (small, light, simple, relatively inexpensive), but not as good as the Fiamma.



  6. #11 by Courtney on July 10, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    Alistair, where are you getting your maps of the area? Are they old logging road recreational maps like Mac-Blo used to hand out, or are they the Backroads series? I have a ton of roads here mid-island in Nanaimo, but am loathe to get myself lost. πŸ™‚

    • #12 by albell on July 10, 2012 - 2:22 pm

      Hi Courtney,

      We’re just using the backroad map series (van isle volume), some old topos, and a lot of exploring. Getting up high in good weather helps, you can see which roads are still clear and which are just alder groves. I have old photocopies of Mac Blo logging roads on Van. Isle, but the didn’t log this particular area so they weren’t much use. Roads are being de-activated and not maintained so backroad maps sometimes are less than useful. I have a very basic handheld GPS that we punch in locations. Thats good for cataloguing on Google Earth at home.

      What I really need to get is an iPad (or Google Nexus 7 – looks like a good deal) and download Google earth data to use on the road. I think that would ideal. Come to think of it, I should have downloaded G. Earth data on laptop and taken that with me.



  7. #13 by Robert on July 11, 2012 - 7:34 am

    Hi Alistair,
    Thank you so very much for your insights on your Shady Boy unit and thoughts on the Fiamma.
    Have you ever used the ARB awnings?
    Much appreciated on all regards.

    • #14 by albell on July 11, 2012 - 9:07 am


      only seen pics of ARB, not seen in real life. One more thing about the Shady Boy vs Fiamma (might be a minor thing) but when it comes to folding up Shady Boy and the awning is wet, it can get dirty when it rubs on dirty van during fold up process (what an awkward sentence!)

      The Fiamma is the better choice overall. I really can’t see a downside especially as you have one already. On a trip with 2 friends a year ago (, the silver van had a Fiamma, the maroon van an old Apollos, and my van (before pop top installed) had the Shady Boy. We had an awning race, Fiamma won hands down, Apollo and Shady Boy was a tie.



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