I headed out to Gold Lake, it is in the mountains of Victoria Island about 50 miles North, Northwest of Courtenay, just Northwest of upper Campbell Lake. Gold Lake is a beautiful spot and is plenty big for an easy takeoff and climbing up over the tree line but I chose not to land. I did a good deal of circling the area to look at what my departure would be like and I did not really like the conditions even though I’m sure it would have been fine. The lake is located in a East – West canyon and the outflow is to the West, that is normally the direction that I would use for my takeoff but even though it was the outflow there was a lot of higher terrain in that area and not much room to circle for altitude. I would have been making a straight out climb to the West where I would be in a narrow canyon for the first 1/4 mile without room for a 180 degree turn. That would give me less options to work with possible downdrafts that might be developing as things warm up in the next few hours. To the East it had a wonderfully flat wide spot that would be easy to circle in for a climb out in that direction, but again I was feeling very cautious about not knowing what the winds would be doing when the land warmed up a little more and started things moving. The predominant wind direction would put the winds coming through the canyon and giving me a tailwind (from the West) on takeoff in that direction but I expected that the inland mountains would be warming and sucking the cooler air from the lowland in the east up the valley in a Westerly direction, that would give me a nice headwind on takeoff but it would put me circling in turbulence to climb over the higher train to the East. I figured that it would be a fabulous lake if I came prepared to land in the morning, spend the day fishing and leave the next morning but I was not prepared to comfortably do that. I was just feeling very cautious in unfamiliar territory with a plane that I would feel very comfortable flying with 1/2 the room on wheels but I’m not yet confident with on floats. Here is a video of flying around the lake.
I then headed over to explore upper Campbell Lake. I flew around it enjoying the scenery and the beautiful shoreline and dramatic setting. I was looking for a place to land and maybe do some fishing but I was not seeing perfect conditions, most places had large rocks and stumps where small streams and rivers were coming into it and the wind was already starting to pick up. Here is a video with a number of short clips of flying around the lake.
It was about time for some fuel at that point and I decided it would be interesting to check out Campbell River Airport. Campbell River Airport has a Radio Service there that works like a cross between a control tower and a Unicom frequency. Small airports with not much traffic tend to have a Unicom frequency where the pilots are on their own to monitor that frequency and listen for what other planes are doing around the airport and to broadcast there current location and intentions for anyone else using the airport. In Canada they often at medium sized airports have a flight service representative monitor the Unicom frequency and keep track of the reportings that are given by the different aircraft, then when someone is coming or going the flight service person lets them know what planes are in the area and what is happening so that things are clearly understood by everyone. Also the flight service representative is watching radar for the area and assigning squawk codes to the planes as they come and go so that he or she can more clearly identify and report on what is happening. The interesting thing is that the flight service person has no authority to direct traffic, they only give advisories and information, it is up to the pilots to decide what they will do with the information and how they will avoid any other aircraft.
As I flew over the airport to get a look at where everything is, I could not see any fuel pumps so I asked on the radio and the flight service station person told me to go to land-sea on taxiway Delta. As I taxied past taxiway Bravo and Charlie I could not see anything in the direction I was going that resembled fuel pumps. I asked again on the radio and they told me I would be going through a gate and that if I click my microphone three times on the frequency for land-sea it would open. Sure enough I found taxiway Delta and it was kind of a road going off the airport with a big gate at the end. As I got close to the gate I clicked the mic and sure enough the gate opened, I taxied across the street and into their beautiful facility. Here is a video.
It was actually the owner of the place, Bill, that came out to help me at the fuel pump. They do not yet have a system for self-service so he needs to take your credit card information and write up a ticket manually. I had a great time chatting with him. I then went over and had lunch at the cafe in the terminal and had another chat and tour with him before I left. Not long after I got back to Courtenay, Bill called my cell phone and asked if I was missing a fuel cap, sure enough I had left my fuel cap on top of the wing when I was fueling and talking to him and it was found on the runway. When Bill saw it he noticed some yellow paint and knew exactly what plane it went to. I actually carry a spare fuel cap as part of my rather extensive spare parts and tools kit. I can’t remember the last time I forgot to get a cap back on but I carry the extra because I would not want to be stuck somewhere without one. I then flew back up and retrieved my fuel cap.
I had been staying in motels the last few nights but when I checked pricing that night the prices had skyrocketed and I really liked the idea of just sleeping out anyway so I camped by the plane and really enjoyed it.