Friday, March 11, 2011

Lake Cowichan Mystery

In 1983 I traveled with a friend on an extended vacation trip to Vancouver Island. Many times I'd heard folks rave about Buchart Gardens and being an avid gardener and landscaper I longed to see the gardens.

I decided to go the last few weeks of October when all the vacation crowds had thinned. I knew it was a risk going that time of year when the threat of freezing rains and snow loomed, but I wanted to enjoy the beauty without the crowds. Luckily the choice of October was a good one, we met nary a visitor as we toured the gardens.

Back then I used to fish quite a bit in the cold mountain lakes and streams of the high Sierra. Of course I took my fishing rod and tackle box along in hopes of finding a fishing opportunity.

After visiting Buchart Gardens and Victoria, we decided to drive up the eastern coast of the island to search for a camping spot and possibly do some fishing.

Folks at the motel we stayed in directed us to Cowichan Lake, thinking the campground might still be open, saying it was a wonderful place to camp and great for fishing.

We arrived at the campground about dusk and looked around to find the best camping spot. We set up camp quickly before complete darkness enveloped us there. The next day we took a gander at our surroundings.

The lake was glassy without a ripple in the water. The mountains around the lake made a perfect reflection on the water. It was almost hard to tell which was up or down because the reflections were so clear. The forest floor was rich with mushrooms. Puffy white clouds floated by like a dream. There wasn't another person in the campground except my friend and I. We felt like we were the only people on earth. We knew we'd stay there for the remainder of the time we had left for the trip.

We lucked out weather wise because, although the nights were chilly and days were cool, I don't think it rained but perhaps one day while we were there. We'd brought food supplies with us and supplemented our food with the wonderful pink fleshed trout we caught each day from the shore. As the time for us to leave grew near we were running out of food but we wanted to stay there as long as we could.

One of the last days all we had were some eggs and a few slices of bread. I decided to make some hard boiled egg sandwiches and take them with us for lunch. We left our plastic wrapped (before zip lock bags) sandwiches on the picnic table while we fished. That day we caught two pan sized trout. After fishing all morning and cleaning our fish, we were famished and decided to go eat our sandwiches.

When we returned to the picnic table the bags were open, the bread remained inside, but the egg was completely gone, every last bit. We couldn't figure out why someone would eat the egg and leave the bread inside the plastic sandwich bags. We wondered if someone was playing a trick on us. We looked everywhere and didn't see a soul around; there were no other campers at the campground. We thought about a bear, but surmised a bear would have eaten it all.

We went back to camp and had the two small trout for lunch and dinner combined since we were almost out of food. The next day we only had two hard boiled eggs and four slices of bread left. We decided to lay a trap to catch whoever had stolen our food. We kept the sandwiches with us, but put a decoy of a false sandwich in a couple of plastic sandwich bags on the picnic table. All morning long we kept an eye on the picnic table, but no one came around.

Finally we decided to leave to go back to camp about lunch time and as we approached the picnic table I saw a short legged brown furry creature with a long tail come running out of some bushes a distance away. We stopped in our tracks and waited. Sure enough the creature ran over to the picnic table. The creature looked around and jumped up on the table and went straight for the bags. It opened the bag and looked inside searching with it's mouth, then on to the other bag.

As we got closer the creature saw us and ran back to the bushes as quick as it had arrived. At that point I recognized the creature as a weasel, and I decided it was the weasel which had eaten the egg from our sandwiches. The Lake Cowichan mystery was solved on our last day there.

Remembering Cowichan Lake today I think I could have spent the rest of my life there. It was truly awe inspiring, peaceful and powerful at the same time.

Photos (digital photos of 35 mm prints, all rights reserved):
first - is a photo I took of a logging tugboat on the lake (I have a framed 8x10 print of this one); the man driving the tugboat stopped to say hi and to see if we had fishing licenses. I remember being impressed an individual Canadian citizen was making sure natural resources were respected by tourists.
two - is a photo of me on the ferry from Washington state to Vancouver Island.
three - is a photo of me under a Japanese maple tree in Buchart Gardens.
four - is a photo of the Parlimentary buildings in Victoria I took.
five - is a photo I took on the way to Cowichan Lake probably near Cowichan Bay (I have a framed 9x11 photo of this one). I love this photo especially because of the lone person walking on the dock
six - is a photo of me in an efficiency motel with the owners cat who visited us in our room. The proprietors were very hospitable and were the ones who suggested we head over to Cowichan Lake.
seven - is a photo I took looking down on Cowichan Lake.
eight -is a photo I took getting closer to Cowichan Lake.
nine - is a photo of me alongside my 1979 Mazda RX-7 which I drove from San Francisco up to Vancouver Island crossing on the ferry, trying to decide which campsite to pick.
ten -is a photo I took that evening we first arrived at the shore of the lake.
eleven - is a photo of the tent campsite.
twelve - is a photo of of a mushroom I took in the forest.
thirteen - is a photo I took on the way back to Victoria.

Up next flying color inspiration and then mail art, so please stay tuned. Comments are always welcome.


  1. Hey, little hippie chick! :) I really enjoyed reading about your trip. I could just imagine waking up to all that beauty. I've never been to that area, but it's on my list. It looks beautiful. And sounds fun. It's nice to get glimpses into the earlier aspects of someone's life. It helps to round out a picture of a friend. So, I thank you.

  2. Hey...cute story! Love the pics of you. Teresa is right...hippie chick

  3. Hi Teresa, thanks, yeah I was a hippie chick, well semi anyway, flower power and all, I desperately want to go back there again, I'm going to find a way, you would love Vancouver Island, well worth a trip for sure, the Pacific Northwest is like no other place.

    Hi Turquoisemoon, thanks, funny the things that stick with a person from a trip from so long ago. I remember that little weasel like it was yesterday, sly little devil that he was, he must have eaten well at that campground Ha.

  4. Hi Dennis, thanks, I am thankful for all the travel I have done inthe past and for so many wonderful travel memories

  5. you have had some great adventures in your life! thanks again for sharing.

  6. Hi Michele, thanks, yes I truly have had some great times, that's why I'm always wanting, searching, looking for more in all aspects of my life I guess.

  7. I'm jealous of all you travels. It looks like a beautiful place and an awesome trip!

  8. Hi Paula, thanks, there's a the romatanized travel. I didn't have any children I had to make a more stable atmosphere for, but all in all, I've had a rich life and am thankful for it, I think rediscovering the past now helps make me realize not to look too far ahead but to take one day at a time. A lesson I need to learn now.

  9. Thanks for the memories Linda. My husband and I were lucky enough to visit the Buchart Gardens in 2001 - just beautiful. It was my first overseas trip to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary. Another highlight was the day we hired a nice red sports car and visited Robin Hopper in his studio. I bought one of his bowls and carefully carried it home in our hand luggage.

  10. Hi Anna, thanks, what a trip that must have been for you, red sports car and all I love it, I wasn't a potter then, but if I had been I would have gone to see Robin, I understand they have quite a garden at their studio.


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