Trip – Klanawa river again

Update: fixed access problem with the alder road video.

Last Friday we took off for a 4 day exploration of the Klanawa watershed here on Vancouver Island. Was a repeat of a trip we made last year, same people, same dogs, same van. One difference was we did not stop at Nitinat Falls, we drove on and camped west of Blue Lake, about 2.5 km from the ocean.


Long exposure makes the fire look larger than it really was.


And the next morning, weather was good. We were hoping the weather was going to be good – after a month of dry warm weather the rain had started a week before. Pretty heavy rain at times and we hoped that the forecast of a fair weekend was accurate. The recent rain had filled the rivers, we noticed that as we drove in. Our plan for this day, Saturday, was to head down to the Klanawa river and we were a little concerned that the river might be to high to wade across.

Got down through the alder choked trail around noon. There is bear poop everywhere, the bears are gorging on red huckleberries and salal berries.


Down at the river and it is higher than on last year’s trip.


My son had convinced me that we should bring along a little inflatable dinghy. That was a good idea.


You might think it would be foolhardy to mess around in these little rapids with no PFDs or helmets. Maybe you’d be right. But the guys had fun.

(I stupidly left the GoPro back in the van, movie shot with the little Canon Powershot with a dirty lens)

We managed to wade across the river to get to an area that is old growth, untouched, river bottom forest. The trees in this spot are Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Red Cedar, and a few Bigleaf Maples. More info here. Impressive place, the pics do not come anywhere close to how it looks in reality.







Then back to the van and up the alder choked road which was a bit less choked after the van’s trip down it. For some reason I had a heck of a time processing this vid shot with the GoPro. Must have been slightly corrupted or something. The vid is sped up, but try selecting the 720p option to reduce the blockiness.

This kind of road is one of the reasons I don’t worry too much about the condition of the van’s paint.

All four of us agreed that we wanted this evening’s campsite to have a view, and we got one.


We’re looking down the edge of the island, Washington State way in the distance.



For a little perspective, here is the picture of previous night’s spot and arrow points to approximate location of viewpoint campsite. Why didn’t we try for the higher ground? Access was more difficult and would have taken more time. We really wanted to set up camp before the sun disappeared so we could enjoy the spot.


We wanted to explore more around Blue Lake, we had this idea we could get closer to it. So that is what we did the next day.  No luck getting closer than about 300 metres to the lake. We did run into a bear when we were walking an old road – the dogs took off after it. When we caught up to them they were barking at the bear from the edge of the road. The bear was against a tree. Got the dogs under control and tried to get a video of the bear. Not very exciting vid, par for the course for this type of thing.

We camped that night at the little gem of a lake that we camped at last year. I’m not saying the name.




Next day was our last day. We stopped for lunch and afternoon exploring at a spot further upstream on the Klanawa. It is the nature of these short freestone west coast rivers – they go from a stream to a full grown river in a short distance. And you can judge by the gravel bars just how much the water level changes.



We did some exploring, sans camera, doh! Big Sitka spruce, Western Hemlock and moss covered Bigleaf Maple. At one point, the boys went off upstream with the dogs and ran into a large male elk. Much excitement ensued, but thankfully no creature was hurt.

The westy table mod was used throughout this trip. We came up with a name for it- “Swelegent”


It was one of the best trips ever.

  1. #1 by edbee on September 7, 2013 - 12:28 pm

    nice trip… and write up/photos… what syncro westys are made for. thanks

    • #2 by albell on September 7, 2013 - 1:06 pm

      Yup Ed, just what they are made for. Even with the stock wbx motor. You know, even loaded up as we were, the motor was up to the job. I’m thinking that when I put in a new engine I’m not going to go for hp, but for torque and dependability.

      Cheers Alistair

  2. #3 by famillysyncro on September 7, 2013 - 2:23 pm

    Nice trip and report Alistair.

    You got some really nice night pictures of the van, I guess you should put some on the Samba, there is a post about it.

    I like this area, such a big difference with our dry land and small trees here in Ab. I might not like the humidity needed for it……

    Do you think white water kayak should be under the Christmas tree?
    That would keep you busy to make a support for them and your rocket laucher would get some company….


    • #4 by albell on September 7, 2013 - 2:37 pm

      Thanks Jerome,

      It was a great trip and yes the countryside is much different than your area. July and August was quite dry, but the week before we left we had some heavy rain so the rivers were higher than you would expect. When it is dry and warm this area is close to paradise, but when it is pouring cold rain and sleet then…

      I still have a big scar on my forehead from my last time white water kayaking here on the island. Rolled and helmet tore off, smacked head on rock.

      I much prefer river canoeing. If you google “Harris creek” and kayaking you will find pictures of crazy folk going down fast and narrow rivers in winter. Not for me 🙂

      We have 2 fun boat type kayaks if I really feel the need to get another scar on my head.

      Your bike rack is very well done. The welds from tube to plate aren’t bad, it is hrd to keep them tight and consistent with that tight radius. I couldn’t do any better.



      • #5 by famillysyncro on September 13, 2013 - 2:42 pm

        Thanks Alistair.
        I am more thinking of the way I welded, I wasn’t able to “flow it” like I should have or may be because this was the real time for alu welding. When I used the Tig for SS, I was able to get a nice weld right away, no issue even for a first time. With thinner aluminum materiel, it would have been a disaster……

        One need to be careful when kayaking. I did once in Quebec (spent 3 years there) but on a “leisure” kayak, I think you could call that a “sit-on”. It was really fun and I think it was about the same kind of creek/river as your sons’ video.


      • #6 by albell on September 13, 2013 - 6:27 pm


        You know his already, but I’ll say it anyway. I think the number one thing to do when TIG welding aluminum is to make sure the parts re shiny clean. A stainless steel “toothbrush” is good to scrub away to get clean surface. The aluminum oxide, which seems to get thick on old stock, melts at a higher temp than the un-oxidized aluminum. So the puddle doesn’t flow. Sometimes, with thicker stock, you can blast through the oxide with more power. By the way, the settings I use most of the time are:

        Argon (sometimes Mison) at about 20 cubic feet/min

        Max current 340 amps

        AC balance about 60/40

        Pulse setting ( a nice feature) 1.2/second——— correction, 0.6 pulses/second

        Having the high amp setting means I have quite a bit of headroom if I need more heat.

        As well as scrubbing with SS toothbrush, you can clean with alcohol or acetone.

        Hope this helps a little


  3. #7 by Lucy on September 7, 2013 - 7:37 pm

    Hi Alistair,

    I really enjoyed your photos and commentary on your trip, as always. My husband was a big fan of yours and loved reading about your trips, and really appreciated how much work you put into your van, and the fact that you shared the things that you learned in such an educational and enjoyable fashion. He passed away six weeks ago, and I do think that he wrote to thank you just before he died, but just in case he didn’t get a chance, I thought I’d thank you for him.

    He loved our 86 turbo diesel syncro, and you always gave him ideas for future projects to dream about!

    • #8 by albell on September 8, 2013 - 8:00 am

      Thank you Lucy for the comment. I am sad to hear about the passing of your husband. I will look over the comment to see if I can find anything from him.

      take care


      ps PM sent

  4. #9 by Lucy on September 8, 2013 - 1:12 pm

    Thanks. He always believed it was important to take the time to tell people when you appreciate something that they have done. Sometimes you can affect a person’s life in a profound way, and not even be aware of it. It’s a good lesson to learn, I think.


  5. #10 by Jarrett Kupcinski on September 9, 2013 - 1:54 pm

    Good stuff. The picture at is particularly nice.

    • #11 by albell on September 9, 2013 - 1:59 pm

      Thanks Jarrett, but you can really see the limitations of the little Canon camera.



  6. #12 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 1:54 pm

    Great pics Alistair, Next fall back to V.I. Will try and do a little exploring south of Port Albernie this time. Paul.

    • #13 by albell on September 13, 2013 - 6:18 pm


      Let me know when you come, we can meet and or I’ll give you some destination tips.


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