Level: Moderate

Distance: 15 km

Time: 6 hr Elevation: 475 m

Season: Year Round

Topographical Map: 92 G/6 & 92 G/11

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Access: Take the bus to Horseshoe Bay and catch the ferry to Langdale on the Sunshine Coast. Crossing time is 40 minutes. As you step off the loading ramp of the Langdale ferry you'll find the foot passenger ferry to New Brighton immediately on your right. Since this ferry services both Gambier Island and Keats Island make sure you get on the correct sailing.

Gambierians are a straightforward lot and the naming conventions on the sparsely populated island certainly substantiate that. From the Gambier Island General Store take the left fork and begin climbing the dusty road. Within a few minutes pass by an old farm called plainly, "The Farm" where presumably farmers do - what else? - farming. The next two kilometres continue upwards through a new subdivision that is gradually being sold off and developed. The road levels out just before reaching an intersection where a hand-painted sign, partly obscured by a stand of young alders, indicates with typical economy of expression that "Lake" lies along the left fork. Simply put, from The Ferry follow The Road past The Store and The Farm to The Lake. There may be little need for adjectives when you only have one of everything.

A tired hiker warms up in a pool of sunshine on the route to Gambier Lake.

The oiled road soon gives way to a rougher forest access road that plunges down through a cool, dark forest of mature second growth that is most welcome on a hot day. Moss and mushrooms flourish everywhere in the deep forest gloom, scenery befitting an Emily Carr epiphany. At the next intersection stay left as well and note the dark green marker high on a tree. This is the colour of the day and following these infrequent signs will lead you safely to your destination. Suddenly the forest opens up as your pass across the top of an old clear-cut. Note Mount Elphinstone in the distance and the single giant Douglas fir that dominates the view here.


The Kindest Cut: Venerable Sir Douglas towers above everything enroute to Gambier Lake, including, it seems, the sun. The lord of the forest received a gash, then a repreive from the bite of the cross-cut saw 

 As the sign succinctly says Sir Douglas was given an undercut, what loggers use to aim a tree when they fall it, in 1894. For some reason however this tree then received a reprieve and the wedge-shaped cut-out was stuffed back into the gash. Over the ensuing century the wound healed though a pitchy scar can be clearly discerned even today. Likely the tree was left behind as a seed tree, one of the earliest "silvacultural" techniques practised in the province.

From the logging clear-cut the road drops down past another left fork to the bridge across Mannion Creek. The next road to the right is marked with all sorts of orange and blue ribbons and spray paint and can be safely ignored. Just beyond it another well-marked though unnamed right turn leads on to Mount Liddell and Gambier Lake. If running out of steam go straight for one kilometre instead, descending steeply to reach the saltwater at Andys Bay.

The route to Gambier Lake follows a deteriorating logging road to one further intersection. The left fork extends on to Mount Liddell but hang a right instead and rise to the headwaters of Mannion Creek before dropping down to The Lake itself.

If more interested in scenic vistas than forest understory follow the left fork instead and climb past tiny Muskeg Lake working northwards around the base of Mount Liddell before doubling back up to the summit. The ascent to 993 metres is more than compensated for by the view overlooking the mountains of both the Sechelt Peninsula and the Sea to Sky corridor to the east.

The End

Oregon Grape

Oregon Grape

Looking much like tiny concord grapes on a holly bush, the intensely sour fruit of the Oregon grape is loaded with Vitamin C. Munch them directly from the bush for a surefire pucker or render them into sugar-loaded jelly for a more palatable treat. Traditionally Oregon grape berries were mashed with other, sweeter berries to enhance their flavour. The inner bark of both stems and roots was a source of brilliant yellow dye during pre-European times. The source of the colour, an alkaloid called berberine, is known to possess antibiotic properties that are still used to combat both internal and external infections. An extract concocted from the roots is used by modern-day herbalists to correct a wide range of liver, kidney and urinary tract problems.

Illustration by Manami Kimura