On rainy days I avoid steep hikes and narrow trails. Today I decided to do some cardio and I headed towards Britannia Creek. This is one of the few logging roads where you require a key to gain access. This is the access point to Utopia Lake, Park Lane Lake, Mountain Lake and Condor Lake.
To get there, follow Highway 99 north. Just before going downhill to reach Britannia Beach, you will see the sign for the Forest Service Road. After less than 1 km, the road splits, with the left (north branch) continuing as the Britannia FSR, and the south branch going up Furry Creek.
On my way up, I had some views of Howe Sound. Howe Sound is named after British Admiral Earl Howe, he is famous for his victory on the naval battle "Glorious First of June" fought in the Atlantic Ocean in 1794 resulting in the defeat of the navy of Revolutionary France. This was the first major naval battle of the French Revolutionary Wars.
Back to my hike, with the occasional rain as my sole companion I started to wonder about the history of this place. This road gives access to the old town of Mount Sheer, part of the now abandoned Britannia Mine Complex.
This part of the road needs to be crossed with great care, there is a very high rock fall hazard risk and you shouldn't stop. In my case, I crossed like a scared deer.
The hazard to vehicles from rock fall on a highway is dominated by the likelihood of rock impact on a moving vehicle or of a moving vehicle on a stationary rock.
At km 3 I saw a lonely chair that may be difficult to spot when going in a vehicle. This is a memorial bench to Gary, a faller who died in August 2000. Unfortunately logging is one of the jobs with the highest number of fatalities in the province..
From there, I had some views of the pull mill at Woodfibre, across the Sound. Woodfibre has no road access. From the early 1900s until 1973 there was a tight community surrounding the mill where most employees lived. By 1975 all employees had relocated, most to Squamish, and the town was dismantled. Over the next 30 years the mill slowly expanded into the former townsite, but it closed in early 2006.
The pulp mill at Woodfibre
At kilometer five, the Britannia Creek FSR connects with the older mining railway bed. I saw a huge concrete mine shaft (3) filled with water and lots of debris. I saw more remnants of the old mine operation across the road (4) and uphill (1 and 2).
After a while I crossed Marmot Creek. This place is close to the orebodies in Mineral Ridge, where the mining activity ceased in 1974 because of the exhaustion of economic ore.
After crossing the bridge, you will reach a junction, to reach the lakes named at the begginning you need to go left. In my case I didn't want to see fog around such beautiful lakes and instead I keep going right towards the slopes of Mineral Peak.
Go left to reach Utopia, Condor, Mountain or Park Lane Lakes
I encountered a rusted out old vehicle, from probably the 1950s, sitting in the bush at the side of the road.
I stopped for a while to look to what I believe is a Blue Grouse. These heavily built birds have legs feathered to the toes. Most species are year-round residents, and do not migrate.
These birds feed mainly on vegetables, but will also feed on insects, especially when feeding young.
Chicks on the road
My curiosity didn't stop with the grouse. For a while I was watching a Banana Slug. Banana slugs are often bright yellow (vaguely resembling a banana) although they may also be green, brown, or white. The Pacific banana slug is the second-largest species of land slug in the world, growing up to 25 cm (9.8 inches) long (the largest slug is Limax cinereoniger of Europe, which can reach 30 cm (12 inches) in length). It is native to the forest floors along the Northern Pacific Coast of North America.
Banana Slug, Ariolimax columbianus
Waterfalls were a common sight along the road, the water in Britannia Creek is extremely clear and transparent suggesting a pristine environment, yet the clear water is actually an indication that no living creatures can survive in it. The water cannot be consumed by humans either.
IEven though mining has stopped, runoff and rainwater that flow through the mine’s abandoned tunnels combine with oxygen and the high sulphide content of the waste rock to create a condition called acid rock drainage (ARD). ARD is caused by a chemical reaction, which results in highly acidic runoff that contains large concentrations of dissolved metals such as copper, cadmium, iron, and zinc. The polluted water is deposited directly into Howe Sound by means of Jane Creek and Britannia Creek and as much as 450 kilograms of copper entered Howe Sound daily.
There is some cleaning on the area but it depends of government funds.
The sight of the first spots of snow marked the end of my journey. Time to come back and be grateful of another day spend in beautiful BC
1. 49:35'54.0" - 123:12'54.0" Elev 164m
2. 49:35'58.0" - 123:12'36.0" Elev 200m
3. 49:37'11.0" - 123:11'16.0" Elev 453m
4. 49:37'34.0" - 123:09'23.0" Elev 547m
5. 49:37'18.0" - 123:07'21.0" Elev 824m
6. 49:37'13.0" - 123:07'06.0" Elev 805m
Roundtrip length: 23.5 km (14.7 miles)
Allow 6 hours
Elevation gain: 800 m (2624 ft)
Driving distance from Vancouver: 53 km (33 miles)