One backpacking trip wasn’t enough for Brandon and I when we went to Strathcona Provincial Park and we ended the visit with a second trip to Bedwell Lake. Like Landslide Lake, it seems that Bedwell Lake is another popular hike. The trail to Bedwell Lake is located in the center of the park, at the far south end of Buttle Lake, so it’s a longer drive to get to. Once you get to the toe of the lake, there’s a side road that goes up into the mountains towards the trailhead. There are warnings that you need 4WD to get to the trailhead, but it really depends on the time of year and when the road was last graded. It’s a gravel road, but it was in pretty good condition when we visited and 4WD definitely wasn’t required, but I’d want to have a bit of clearance (i.e., an SUV over a little car).
Get your permit online in advance or bring cash for the self-pay permit box. I don’t usually avail of self-pay, but we didn’t pre-plan this trip and there was no service in the park, so we used cash to get our passes. The trail is pretty flat for the first kilometre, but it’s a steady uphill after that. The trail isn’t very technical, but it gets steeper as you go and there are several metal stair and chain sections closer to the top. It’s roughly 4.5km to Baby Bedwell Lake, which is just before Bedwell Lake and where the first campsite is located. From there, it’s another 2km to the back of Bedwell Lake, which is where the main campsite is. The section between Baby Bedwell and the main lake is the most challenging because you go over the headland between the lakes and it’s mostly stairs and ladders.
From the main campsite, you can climb up over the saddle and continue to Cream Lake, which is about 5km further. It’s supposedly very scenic up on the ridge, but it started to get foggy the closer we got to Bedwell Lake. There wasn’t any rain in the forecast, but the weather can do weird things in the mountains and on the day we visited, the clouds got caught up around the mountain peaks. The visibility deteriorated the higher we got and we were pretty cold climbing up to the lake.
We got there around 12:30pm and stopped for lunch, but at the same time I turned on my inreach and got a flood of messages from Seth at home. It turns out someone had stolen the catalytic converter from our car and Seth was having a really hard time making a claim since the car is in my name. So I spent the better part of an hour messaging with him to help get things sorted and then we had to decide what to do about the rest of the hike.
It was really cold sitting by lake in the fog, so we knew we had to keep hiking to stay warm and kill some time, but neither of us were feeling up to lugging our backpacks uphill to Cream Lake. I was feeling anxious about Seth and I didn’t really see the point of hiking uphill in the fog for no view. So we decided to set up camp at Bedwell and go for a day hike up to Little Jim Lake, which is the halfway point between Bedwell and Cream Lakes. In retrospect, I kind of regret not going the whole way to Cream Lake. The fog was like soup up there, so we definitely wouldn’t have seen anything, but it did start to clear a bit the next day, so we may have gotten lucky on the return trip. But it’s hard to say either way and I think we made the best decision we could based on how we felt at the time. I had a great trip to Strathcona with Brandon, but I had hiked 130km on the SCT just a week previous and this was the last thing we were doing in Strathcona, so I admit I was a little fatigued and ready to go home by this point.
In any case, we made the best of it and hiked up over the ridge to Little Jim Lake. It was still an entertaining experience walking around in the fog. It was so thick we could barely see in front of us and it made for a bit of a spooky experience around the lake. Sound travels really well over the water, so we could hear other hikers on their return trip, but it seemed to be forever before they would actually materialize out of the fog, even though we’d been listening to the din of their voices across the water for many minutes before. We had a snack by the lake and then turned around in time to go back to Bedwell Lake for supper.
At this point it hadn’t yet rained, but it was getting a bit misty at the lake when we returned, so we quickly starting on our evening chores and ate supper before it truly rained. We made friends with 2 dads, one of whom was bemoaning the fact that his son-in-law had misplaced part of his tent without telling him and now he’d been left without a fly for the weekend. So the two were whining that they would have to share a 1 person tent overnight, which we found a lot funnier than they did. So PSA, always check your gear after loaning it out! (or as I’ve learned from girl guides, any time you’re going on a trip)
Eventually it started to properly rain, so we went to bed early and I spent the evening reading in the tent while Brandon stared at the ceiling. The poor guy had broken his phone earlier in the trip, mistakenly thinking it was waterproof, and he had absolutely nothing to do, so eventually I took pity on him and gave him my phone to play some games until we finally retired for the night.
It drizzled most of the night, but fortunately it had stopped by the time we got up in the morning. It was still very cold and foggy, but we were optimistic that the clouds were starting to break up, so we made a hot breakfast to warm up before packing all our gear. The clouds never fully cleared, but they lifted the longer we hung around and we finally got a glimpse of the lake and terrain as we started our return trip. The climb over the headland felt a lot less intimidating without the fog and we ended up stopping at the top for about half an hour to explore and photograph some of the smaller viewpoints.
Likewise, it was a much faster journey back to the car than on the way in since it’s a steady downhill. Overall it wasn’t my favourite hike, but I’m glad we at least got a glimpse of the area on the way down. It’s always disappointing to hike somewhere and not get a view, especially when it’s somewhere remote and it’s unlikely you’ll get the opportunity to come back soon. But mentally I just wasn’t really prepared for this hike. I was ready to go home. We’d planned to stay one night in Courtney before catching the ferry, but we ended up driving straight out of the park and all the way to the ferry after finishing this hike. So not every hike is a home run, but it was still a special experience and I’m definitely keen to go back in the future and hike all the way to Cream Lake. I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of Strathcona Provincial Park after this trip!