Hiking Bainbridge Sawmill to McLean Sawmill, The Long Way
I have made up a "Topo/Image Map", with the GPS track route traced onto a topo map.
Click - 'Black star' to veiw photo taken from that approx. location.
The day I heard they had lifted the Mid Island backcountry restrictions, the dogs and I were hiking down Port Alberni's "Log Train Trail"[LTT]. The path we were taking that day had us starting from the Old Bainbridge Sawmill up to the top of Mt Hal over to Mt Irwin and finishing off by coming down and out the McLean Sawmill. This trip of 29kms is almost a complete loop which could be done by hiking an extra 3kms.
It was a cool morning and the clouds were hanging low in the valley, making the hike up the LTT a good warm up. I headed up the obvious logging road that connected the LTT on the right, roughly 250m past Hal creek. The road looked to me as if it was mostly used by horses. The first time I hiked up Mt Hal I had walked to the bitter end of the road system and then was faced with a steep ascent up the slash into the old growth, which also was quite steep. This got me on the backbone of the main ridge leading to Hal's summit. No major problems problem getting up, but would like to find an easier way down. As luck has it once on the ridge I ran into a well worn trail heading up and down that I was totally unaware of. This trail, I later found out on my descent, came out onto the road at around 500m. I had my GPS turned on and the route from the previous trip programmed into it. It turned out to be quite obvious when I arrived at the turn, you could see where the traffic had turned right by the flatten ground. Another give away is you'll see a cable running down the middle of the road heading towards the timber.
The trail starts off by heading towards Hal Creek before it starts gaining elevation. I passed by a rough looking teepee that someone made some years back, which now was looking like Mother Nature had taken it over. At Hal Creek I filled my camel sack, as this was the last place to get water until the lakes near Mt Hal. While there I noticed a small worn trail heading towards the logging roads on the Mt Irwin side "Hmmm". Leaving the creek the trail now switches back and forth up the main ridge at a moderate pitch. At 1200m the trail turns east and heads towards the alpine meadows. My path was to head straight up the main ridge towards the small tarn just below Hal's summit. As I was coming up to the small tarn I could hear a murder of crows making a bunch of racket just ahead of me, plus I heard the odd cry of an eagle. Soon after that I came across a nice tail feather from an eagle. "Cool". It got me thinking, but not even 2 minutes further on I came across a very large eagle wing feather. "Double Cool". Now it made sense to me, the eagle must have taken a swipe at one of the crows, but then got bombarded by all of the crow's buddies who must have plucked the feathers from the eagle. I wish I could have seen the dog fight. Getting close to the summit I noticed a dozen or so crows on the peak. Weird… were they wanting their prize feathers back, or were they friends of Alfred Hitchcock?
I found no trail off Hal except for the odd piece of flagging here and there. The main ridge gently drops down then turns south heads up two small bumps before steeply dropping down to the pass . Instead I dropped down to 1300m and cut across the meadows towards the lakes which I could see in the distance. There I again picked up the trail for a short distance while hiking around the lakes below the bumps, but lost it when I headed down the draw I had programmed into the GPS. Without a trail to follow some bush whacking to reach the 1200m was needed. Down at the pass there's a nice hidden lake that looks like a great place for camping. Not far ahead another small lake, this one had marsh growing around all its edges. Then I had to look for a way up the steep section which lay ahead. There was a 50m cliff on the right so I chose to head left and pick my way up the bushy rock bluffs. There again I ran across flagging and followed it up onto a rocky ridge which gave me good views of the route I had just come from, plus the way to Mt Irwin looked straight forward.
My route over to Mt Irwin was not the greatest. It ended up dropping me down a little too far putting me down at two lakes. This made me have to hike up an extra 160m to the summit. Mt Irwin's peak is completely covered by small trees and brush and no one has built a cairn showing the true summit. I ended up hiking in circles trying to figure where I was highest point was. I gave up after a while and later found someone had built a cairn lower down on a rock bluff. The hike off Irwin to the logging road ended up being a lot closer than I had thought, so it took no time to reach the slash at 1200m.
Walking the logging road the feet started to heat up, so I took the time to soak them in the first stream crossing. From here on me and the dogs cruised down to 250m where I took a right turn off the main road onto an ATV trail which took me down to the LTT and then out to my destination McLean Sawmill. The route took just under 10hrs from start to finish. Next time I hike it I'll try doing the whole loop starting at either sawmill which makes the journey just under 32kms.