Nitinat Lake

Nitinat Lake, Vancouver Island (8/12 – 8/26/10)

Nitinat Lake is an amazing, bizarre place. On the same day I saw a nut on a motorized paraglider…

a beautiful girl throwing fire…

and great live music courtesy of the Goat Boys!

Oh yeah, there’s also great windsurfing…

and kiteboarding at this place!

The southern end of the lake spills out into the Pacific Ocean. The wind comes in off the ocean and the summer heat inland to the north pulls the wind across the lake (it’s a similar Hood River effect.) As a result the lake gets a ton of wind that is also incredibly consistent. It was the steadiest wind I ever windsurfed in. And also the reason all the wind nuts make the extremely harrowing drive over the unpaved, rock-strewn (with many sharp and big enough to easily pop tires) logging roads to get to the lake.

I left from Victoria and passed through Duncan. After the town of Youbou the paved road ends and the fun begins – for about 35 miles! The road twists and turns like crazy, has a few intersections and side “roads” and way too many blind turns. And some of the blind turns are very close to one-lane bridges.

GPS is useless. So are maps. I bought two: the regular fold-out $4.95 one at the Safeway in Duncan and the fancy, spiral wire-bound Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook for $24.95 in Victoria. They were a complete waste of money. When you look at the logging roads on both maps they look like spider’s legs snaking around, twisting and intersecting every which way possible.

And speaking of logging you have to share the road with massive logging trucks that kick up a sandstorm of dust so thick behind them you have to pull over as much as you can to let them pass, stop completely and wait about 30 seconds for the dust to clear to be able to see if another one is coming. I read that online before I came and didn’t believe it until I saw the dust storm!

Your only guide on the road are a few signs. Most are small and covered in dust. Some are nailed to trees. Others are green, partially covered by tall plants and blend in with the foliage.

Two signs (that were crucial and pointed the way at intersections in the woods in the middle of nowhere) were pieces of cardboard sitting on the side of the road that showed which way to go. One had an arrow pointing to the left and simply said “Wind.”

But once you make it, it is totally worth it. There was no moon my first few nights. The night sky was so clear and filled with stars on my second night I saw three shooting stars and a satellite. And the wind is great. I only got skunked (no wind) for two days out of the 14 days I spent there. Three of my sailing days were 4.2 to 5.0 while the rest were 6.2 days.

Not a bad place to relax at on those rare occasions when there’s no wind.

There is no cell service at the lake or the nearby Indian village (the closest towns are Port Alberni and Duncan, both about one and a half hours away over the logging roads.) And the only amenities at the campground are a few, scattered outhouses. You have to bring water containers and fill them up at the general store at the village.

My campsite. The lake is just past the trees in the background.

Even toys get their own tents at this place!

One local told me the storms in the winter are so bad dozens of trees get knocked down and wash ashore. So in the spring the locals come out with chainsaws and get rid of some of the mess. But there are still plenty of old trees lying around that made the beach look like a movie set from The Planet of the Apes.

The lake was fairly cold and after two or three days of using my thickest wetsuit I switched to my drysuit. And yes, this is a jellyfish. They’re huge and fill the lake but I never heard anybody complain about getting stung by one.

My first weekend there was Windfest 2010. Professional kiteboarders from around the world competed and the Big Air competition was sick, these guys and chicks were getting huge air and pulling off great tricks!

The Big Air Competition.

During Windfest a local Indian sang prayer songs and told stories about the lake.

I tricked out the Sweet Machine II / Mobile Living Unit and bought this bear mask from a local artist who lives in the Indian village next to the lake. It’s a symbol of strength and power. And nobody is going to mess with me on the road!

The artist who made the bear mask also made this totem pole.

The full moon through tree branches.

Clouds over the lake one morning.

Here’s a cool view from the nature trail at the lake.

I was on the beach with my camera when I heard a loud boom! This guy accidentally slammed his kite onto the water and busted a panel.

He got it flying again and made it to the beach.

On some mornings there’s serious fog over the lake.

The locals build a sauna on the beach every year.

This guy was also throwing fire.

Some more shots of the guy on the motorized paraglider.

Shrooms and more from the nature trail.

Getting innovative with the fallen trees!

Leaving (no, say it ain’t so!) The Sweet Machine II / Mobile Living Unit on the ferry. I took it from Nanaimo (the Duke Point terminal) on the east side of the island to Tsawwassen, just south of Vancouver. Then I drove about three hours to Lynnwood, WA, which is about 30 miles north of Seattle, and spent the night there in a hotel.

3 thoughts on “Nitinat Lake

  1. Hi Lyle,

    I was camped just upwind of you at Nitinat for a week or so before you left. I was in the “A-frame” Chalet trailer – Chez Roge’r.

    I just found time in the rainy November weather to have a look. Great shots of Nitinat that really brightened my day. Haven’t looked at the rest of your site, but will do so over time. Hope to see you again some future summer, and thanks for the pix and commentary.


  2. Lyle–great shots! You captured in one visit what it has taken perhaps 25 years for some of us to see. Don’t tell too many of your friends though as it’s already too crowded. Thanks for the cheer on this rainy wet day in North Vancouver. Hope to meet you one day.

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