Trip – overnighter, or looking for snow in all the wrong places

Edit: I forgot to post up some sort of map to give you an idea of where I was.

Google map ref to general area.

Rough placement of stops.

map overview

This past Saturday afternoon I decided to head off for an overnighter. I wanted to park in the snow, on some viewpoint, and relax. I headed to the area north of China Beach Park, just NW of Jordan River where I had a nice night there a couple of winters ago. The approach is logged much more than it was back then.


I hit snow, deep hard rutted tracks, past some parked cars (day trippers: X-country skiing and snowshoeing) and on until the ruts came to an end. Met a snowshoe wearing hiker who told me that trees were down further up, road was impassable. Ok, back down the road but turning left (east) before the hwy. Road wound along the side of the hill, came to this spur going up. It doesn’t look like it and the camera always seems to flatten things, but it is as steep a spur as you get, probably 25% slope.


No real view at top, so back down.


Kept on going, turned out I was heading up the west side of the Jordan river canyon.


On up to the dam and reservoir (view from the other side of this canyon in this trip).


Was getting darker, I thought if I couldn’t get a sunset, then I would find a spot for a sunrise. Went up a spur… ladder?


Turned around so sliding door facing east, got out to look around, and… dammit, voices from above me. Some guys yelling down from spur above that the gate would be locked tonight. The gate way back where I “turning left (east) before the hwy”. Was truly dark now, got down onto the hwy and headed towards Port Renfrew. I don’t know why, but both my headlights and aux. lights seemed feeble on the logging roads. I’ve used 100/80 W bulbs in my H4 headlights in the past, I might switch back to them. My H1 bulbs in the aux. lights are only 55W, maybe I’ll up the wattage in those too. Don’t worry, all of them are relayed 🙂

Came to Loss Creek, ah, hell with it, I’ll go on up a kilometre or two. Turned out the road had been bulldozed (I won’t say it was engineered) further than I got before. Found a fairly flat spot, popped the top and snacked, drank, read, and slept.


Grey reality of morning – I was looking for a sunset view and I ended up here.


It really does look like the road (which years ago, used run up to the aforementioned reservoir) was just bulldozed. No ditching or culverts. I wonder if it is being put in to service a mining claim rather than for logging. As bad as some logging roads are, they are much better made than this road.


See the pop top?


Was a good thing I stopped where I did, road got a bit sketchy 50 metres on.


Before turning around and heading out I had to move a small fallen tree – hey Peter in Austria, it’s not a Stubai axe, but rather an Iltis Ox-Head.




I now remembered I had the GoPro with me. How to make the wrong diagonal across a ditch. BTW, vids can be viewed in HD.

Loss Creek never seems to get the sun in the wintertime.


Hoarfrost galore.


Exciting video!

Couple of things: first, the front spring install seems to be working out fine. I think I can say the added height has helped in the ditches, and certainly the van handles no worse than before. Second, you really appreciate the short length of the Vanagon when you have to turn around on these roads. Even though it sometimes feels like you are doing 16 point turns, I can’t imagine attempting some of the turn arounds in a larger vehicle.

Back in the sun and on the hwy heading to Port Renfrew. New road work is finished, eliminating a nasty single lane and corkscrew climb section. A view point was put in. Looking south to the USA.


Then on into and through Port Renfrew.

I decided to go up to the Gordon River watershed and make my way to Cowichan Lake that way. I drove past the turn off to Grierson main, then thought why not have a look. Back and up the Grierson, the way we went during the summer trips to Camper Creek etc. One thing, tracked machinery have left hard grooves in the frozen ground, much like rumble strips. You might notice the vibrations in the video.


Gordon river down there, I think that’s Edinburgh mt. with the snow.


Combo grapple and highline.


Pulley on the excavator must have something to do with a choker/highline arrangement.


Teeny tiny Vanagon.


I drove around them.

And about a kilometer or so further on, end of the ploughed road. Actually, ended at a “Y”, the van is facing the road that goes on to Camper and Sandstone creeks, picture taken from road that goes north and access to this area we visited in May. The unploughed snow was only about 1.5 ft deep, but it had a heavy crust and soft under – very hard to drive through.

You’ll be pleased to hear that the GoPro cam battery had run down and that I forgot a spare or even a charging system. No more tedious videos!


So back on down the road. I stopped to look at the grader and the truck.


Is this a Pacific P500 series truck?


V-12 diesel?


Really tough trucks. Has a lowboy attached for the machinery.


Back onto Gordon M/L and heading east. Took a couple of side roads, some with bridges.




Smooth section of the M/L.


Turned north at the old Gordon Camp site and parked for lunch.


Then on to Cowichan Lake. Took a little diversion to find this on an un-marked spur.


Plaque is out of shot to the right, this is on the south side of Cowichan Lake.


Then it was east to Duncan and back south on Island Hwy to Victoria. Despite not finding any fun snow it was a fun trip, and after all, that is why I have this van.

  1. #1 by famillysyncro on January 22, 2013 - 6:34 pm

    That was a nice road trip. Good quality video too.
    We kinda laught at the first one, but I don’t think I am better at taking a ditch …..

    I understand what you mean with your light. You know about my quad H4 front light and 100/80W bulb and 100W in auxiliary fogs and spots, I’ll never go back to anything smaller. Lights HI on this kind of road, fog are still on so I can see everywhere with 800W (thanks to the 2nd alternator…).

    Seems you had a good time and night, too bad for the missed sunset.


    • #2 by albell on January 22, 2013 - 6:55 pm

      I normally take the ditches a little better, honestly 🙂

      For some reason the lights just did not do it for me this trip. I’ll go back to 100/80 on the headlights anyway. I still want to do same grill mod as you did and pop in my Iltis 6.5″ H4 lamps.

      Need more info on how you wired up the 2nd alternator, is it on your blog?



      • #3 by famillysyncro on January 22, 2013 - 7:37 pm

        Yes, it is on my blog but I don’t remember if there is a lot of detail.
        Alternators are plugged together (power wires), no issues, there is only 1 way to do it.
        I have the factory G60 alternator (no problem with it) and an upgraded WBX alternator (140A) but this one was a little tricky from the beginning on the WBX. I had to run the motor above 2000rpm to have it “coming on” in the past.
        After the conversion, I plugged the G60 alternator (only) blue wire on the van wiring, same problem, I was still in need to rev the motor. Plugged both blue alternator wires together on the van wiring, same problem, started to be annoyed.
        So, I added a little switch on the dash that “gives” a 12V on the van blue wire. I switch it on-off and I am fine after that. I just bought a momentary switch instead of the permanent one.
        If I forget to do it, alternators will kick in as soon as I start driving (between 2000 rpm and 2500rpm).
        Let me know if you want/need more info.

      • #4 by albell on January 22, 2013 - 8:32 pm

        Thanks Jerome, I’ll have a look.

        Funny how some alternator installs need a blip of throttle to get field windings (right?) excited. Both vanagons I’ve owned were the same way, 1200 – 1500 rpm blip. What’s up with that?




      • #5 by famillysyncro on January 22, 2013 - 9:06 pm

        When I had the problem with the upgraded alternator for the WBX, I phoned the company and they told me it was normal to have delay (fuel economy related so no load on a cold motor apparently) but they didn’t believe me when I told them about the higher rpm needed.
        Since I didn’t have the problem with the G60 alternator on the Corrado but problem on the G60 inside the van with the same alternator, I am not sure it is alternator related.
        The warning light is suppose to “give” the 12V to the alternator but the current might not be enough going throu the light to excit it, not sure. Might be with the lengh of the wire going to the back, added resistance.

        After the conversion, I was tired to try to understand VW so instead, I was finding solution instead….

      • #6 by albell on January 22, 2013 - 9:14 pm

        I share your suspicion that it is the added length of the (blue) wire. One could assume that the number of wire connections would be the same (rear vs front engine) just the wire length different. But then, is the wire undersized (I didn’t think it carried much current)? or is it some connection back there that is prone to corrosion?



      • #7 by famillysyncro on January 22, 2013 - 9:24 pm

        No corrosion problem or cracked jacket on this wire (at least on the visible part I worked on for the conversion). If you look at it, this wire is about 4 times longer on the van….

      • #8 by albell on January 22, 2013 - 9:32 pm

        Might even be worth the time to do an experiment – run another wire loose through van and meet up at dash.


  2. #9 by Joel on January 22, 2013 - 6:49 pm

    Thanks for the tour, your van is looking good, and so quiet? The go pro does not pick up much back ground sound. What year is your rig and are you running a 2.1 wbxr? I have a headlight question for you. But best asked one to one.

    • #10 by albell on January 22, 2013 - 6:59 pm


      thanks for the compliments. I had the GoPro in the sealed, waterproof housing, not the ventilated housing. I have bad experience with the latter – don’t ask, but you can guess if I tell you: lots of housings to choose from, rushed, snorkelling…

      This GoPro was flooded in salt water, I revived it, amazing eh?

      ’86 syncro, tired old stock wbx. Ask away about headlights



  3. #11 by Joel on January 22, 2013 - 6:56 pm

    What the hell, do you have a switch to turn off your day running lights including the head lights? I’m in the US and own a Canadian van. It is upgraded to the H4 lights with nice bright ‘fog’ lights all on relays. Concern is the ignition switch going out due to heavy load of lights constantly on. I noticed the rear running lights are going through bulbs as well.


    • #12 by albell on January 22, 2013 - 7:02 pm


      no DRLs on my Canadian ’86. Too early I guess. I do run the lights during the day though, and I have them relayed. I probably go through a bulb every 2 years. I think I have the schematic somewhere on my blog..



    • #13 by famillysyncro on January 22, 2013 - 7:19 pm

      Same for my 86 Canadian in Canada ,no running lights and I don’t see to many vans here with lights on during the day.

  4. #14 by Jonathan Stone on January 22, 2013 - 7:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing this – it’s inspiring me to get back out on the road soon. Of course, I don’t have a Syncro, so I have to be more careful with winter logging road exploration. I like the video, your van sure is quiet!

    • #15 by albell on January 22, 2013 - 7:07 pm


      There were only a few spots where I needed 4wd, one at the start (no pics) when I met the snowshoe hiker. That was cool, getting up that road, his words were “well that looked easy”.

      The GoPro was in a waterproof housing so noise was reduced a lot. I wish my van was that quiet. In reality there was a lot of rattling and creaking (loose stuff in back) going over all the bumps.



  5. #16 by peterpilz on January 22, 2013 - 8:55 pm

    hi !

    thank you for sharing your trip with us.
    shame on peter from austria!
    “he” uses a GRÄNSFORS BRUKS hand forged axe from sweden and always has a small french hand saw (nr.: 12) from OPINEL, made in a small town located in the french alps, on board.

    servus, peter

    • #17 by albell on January 22, 2013 - 8:59 pm

      Oops, I just figured it would be Stubai all the way 🙂

      We can get those Swedish axes over here:,41131

      I’ve seen Opinel knives, but never an Opinel saw. I’m going to look that up.

      edit: jeez, Amazon comes through



      • #18 by famillysyncro on January 25, 2013 - 5:07 am

        Looks good. I knew about it but not sure of the quality nowdays… was really good back then.

      • #19 by albell on January 25, 2013 - 9:00 am


        what are you talking about?



      • #20 by famillysyncro on January 25, 2013 - 9:07 am

        Talking about Opinel quality, not really happy with it. It suppose to be the same as before but I am not sure, at least not from those I saw last trip in france.

      • #21 by albell on January 25, 2013 - 9:21 am

        oh, ok, got it.



  6. #22 by Bill Wktz on January 22, 2013 - 11:31 pm

    Thanks for the pictures and posts on your trip in yoir van . I have enjoyed them all and your web site as well. Keep on truckin.
    Bill Witz

    • #23 by albell on January 23, 2013 - 7:21 am

      Thanks Bill, I will.



  7. #24 by peterpilz on January 24, 2013 - 8:48 am

    Marchal, Cibie, Hella, Bosch etc. are surely great, but expensive. i attached two H3 Twin Power on my car. that´s 220 watts in sum. i bought them from if that´s not enough power, they´ve got more potent and expensive ones like Xenon and LED´s.

    servus, peter

  8. #25 by Joel on January 24, 2013 - 10:05 pm

    Thanks for the reply guys. I understood that the DRL was a Canadian requirement so thought I would ask. I’ve replaced the ignition switch once since buying the van in Dec. and apparently not long after the South African light kit had been installed. I like the switch idea and will look for the wire to switch.
    Keep on Truckin!

    • #26 by famillysyncro on January 25, 2013 - 5:02 am

      I just checked and it seems it is mandatory for all vehicles made and sold in Canada after 1990 so this is why we don’t have on ours.
      It seems your van is a late model.
      I know our US 1990 Miata (made in Japan) have it but I am not sure if it was added at the border or not….


      • #27 by albell on January 25, 2013 - 9:00 am

        Yes, friend Simon (hightop shown on blog) has ’91 syncro. He has DRLs and he has a Terry Kay headlight relay set up.


    • #28 by albell on January 25, 2013 - 8:58 am


      what kind of relay set up do you have on your headlights?


  9. #29 by famillysyncro on January 25, 2013 - 9:10 am

    Like the map you added, that gives us a better idea. We are planning to come to Vancouver Island one day as we have a friend that bought a place in Port Alberny…

    • #30 by albell on January 25, 2013 - 9:21 am

      you will give me a head’s up when you come to the island, right?


      got some pics of a trip through Port Alberni in this post (took the long way there):


      • #31 by famillysyncro on January 25, 2013 - 5:16 pm

        We’ll do of course.
        Thanks for the link, I saw it a while ago but didn’t click when my friend told me about his place.
        We look at Google maps and satelite, seems to be a nice place.
        Anyway, the island seems to be a really good place.


      • #32 by albell on January 25, 2013 - 6:18 pm

        Vancouver Island is a nice place, ocean and mountains (not real big mountains though, but terrain is lumpy). Only drawbacks are that it is an island, and it does rain here.

        Yes, please do get in touch if you are out this way.



      • #33 by famillysyncro on January 27, 2013 - 6:54 am

        Should be pretty nice for “vacation”.
        Mountain are smaller but since you start to climb them almost from sea level shouldn’t be too bad. The only difference would be to go up the whole time without a view. In Alberta, you start climbing at about 1500m so after less than 1 h you start to get some really nice view. But again, it depends of what you like.

        Weather wise, I don’t like humidity, summer or winter. I spent 3 years in Quebec and seriously, between a 5C, no sun and humidity or a -10 sunny and dry, I’ll put another layer, put my face in the sun and smile. Same for the summer, the humidity is killing me this is why I like it so much here, dry all the time.
        Ok, it is not fun to work in the garage (not heated) during the winter so I need to pick the right day to do it.

        Anyway, we need some time away from Calgary so it should be the year to do it, working hard on the van for it.


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