Mount Roderick Dhu, Greenwood

On this Thanksgiving weekend in 2012, Daphne was leading a group of Nature Vancouver people on a long weekend car camping trip in Manning Park and bagging Mount Frosty. I instead spent the weekend with the in-laws in Greenwood. While Daphne et al had a much more exciting time hiking, I had a warm bed for the weekend, and probably a much better Thanksgiving dinner (though we didn’t have smores). The Boundary region isn’t much known for hiking, and there’s hardly any alpine, but there are lots of interesting backroads to explore, with old mine shafts and pits and things like abandoned buildings and machinery scattered in the area.

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Mount Roderick Dhu rises above Jewel Lake, which is accessed from a good road running off the Boundary Creek Road which leaves Highway 3 just east (actually north) of Greenwood. There is a small semi-rustic resort at the south end of the lake, a decent provincial park campground at the other and a number of cabins in between. The source of the name is unclear; googling indicates that Roderick Dhu is the name of a character in Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, one or two minor Scottish historical figures, and a couple of ships. Take your pick.

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There is a trail known as the Roderick Dhu Trail, but all it does is parallel the road about halfway along the lake. This route is mostly on an old ATV track, which connects further up with the system of logging roads coming up from the Boundary Creek main. You could make a good loop via mountain bike if you’re into that sort of thing. The beginning is at an unmarked hydro cut alongside the main road. When I first tried to find the route a year or two beforehand, I noticed an old road going up next to the cut but decided just to flail my way up the cut. Hydro cuts that are not regularly cleared make for good undergrowth to support wildlife but not very nice hiking. At the top of the cut there was a road coming up to meet it, and a sneaking suspicion that it was the same road I’d spurned down below was confirmed when I hiked back down it.

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Skidding equipment maybe?

In the first half an hour I gained 200 metres elevation to the top of the cut. From there it’s a bit of a confusion of roads and power lines going off in different directions. One road leads past a nice open grassy viewpoint above the lake, but then it seems to just dead-end at the edge of the woods. Following the road going around the back side from the lake worked better.

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After about an hour, you reach a ridge with an old clearcut and views to the west. I think this is Mount Baldy in the distance.

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It’s the usual lodgepole pine – Douglas-fir forest, with patches of cottonwood, aspen and western larch, and subalpine fir higher up. Most of the larches were just turning colour, nothing like the show they would have had in Manning. When I hiked up the first part of this route in June I found excellent late spring flowers at the viewpoint, but in October not much was still hanging on apart from a few harebells, knapweed and thistles. There were lots of things with interesting seed pods but I didn’t have any plant books with me or much time to spend looking them up.

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A couple more ridges further off to explore another time when I have a full day.

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It climbs more gradually until it opens up into a larger clearcut on the northwest side and becomes a more open logging road. Then a spur cuts off right and switchbacks up to the summit.
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At the summit is a forestry lookout tower and a cabin, as well as a couple of communications towers and some auxiliary buildings, presumably containing generators and things like that, and even a functional outhouse. The cabin looked like an appealing place but was in poor condition. The cabin and lookout tower were sold at auction by the government in October 2014, though as of Boxing Day when I drove up to the lake I could still see the tower up on the summit. An October auction wouldn’t have given the buyer much time to remove the buildings before winter, but I suppose that the terms of the purchase contract would reflect that. There was also an option to apply for land tenure on the site. You could fix up the cabin and use it for hunting or winter sports, but what can you do with an old lookout tower?

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But I really liked this stone bench – the Throne of Stone, which sounds like something from out of a Scott novel.

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Jewel Lake in the foreground and the Phoenix ski hill further back. Grand Forks is out of view to the left. I couldn’t see the town from there, but my cellphone (which gets service in Grand Forks but not in Greenwood) did pick up a signal on the summit.

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Two hours 15 minutes to the top, about 700 metres elevation gain. One hour 15 down. This road was incredibly dusty; even with wearing trail runners and hiking socks, I still had to scrub my feet clean when I got back.

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