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Part of my work with the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association is to check on sections of the trail.
I’ve been working my way through the Tuck Lake section. Take a look at the VI Spine Trail map to see the route. The Tuck Lake section is west of Cowichan Lake and south of Port Alberni. One of the lakes the trail passes by is Tuck Lake, hence the name. It also passes by Francis and Darlington which are beautiful.
This trip report is from a recent trip to hike the section from Nitinat River west to Tuck Lake and report back on it’s condition.
This section is about 11km out and back. I hiked from the road just west of Nitinat River to the stream just east of Nadira Main. The maze of logging roads in the area can get you just about anywhere along the trail.
A few trees down on the trail.
Nothing better than fields of ferns. I never get tired looking at these views.
Any marked portion of the Spine Trail has these orange markers along the route.
One of the obstacles to creating a trail the entire length of Vancouver Island: logging. We’re running through working forest and have to reroute trail sometimes.
Some trail junctions have green and white Spine Trail signs near them. This one is just before the right hand turn off this deactivated logging road.
If you hit this stream bed you’ve gone too far. The trail on the other sign was strongly calling to be explored. I will be back.
I spy the Spine Trail sign.
Can you see it?
This was the end of my hike for the day. The trail continues on the up the other bank of this ravine to the Nadira Main logging road and west to Francis Lake from there. Another day. In the mean time this was a beautiful place to stop for lunch.
Tuck Lake from on the ridge after climbing back out of the valley.
Day 2 of my Cape Scott hiking trip in 2015.
**Hiking to Guise Bay
The morning started out completely fogged in. We couldn’t see much. Oh well. Let’s go to the lighthouse anyways. It might clear up when we get there.
The weather was warm and dry. I wasn’t complaining. A wet day dampens the spirits.
The forest is so lush.
We followed the path in from the beach along the old log roads.
We were much lighter today, only carrying the food and water that we needed to do the 12km return trip from Nels Bight to the lighthouse. Sore, tired legs from the 20 km the day before made for slow going but we didn’t have to deal with full packs.
The ground wasn’t flat. Duh. Hiking trails aren’t sidewalks but I assumed with the lack of elevation around Cape Scott that it would be easy hiking. Even though where wasn’t much elevation gain, the old boardwalk was full of holes, missing chunks here and there. Some of it was just dirt, wormed with roots, between a patchwork of old boards.
Aside from the old road boards in the dirt, this could be anywhere on Vancouver Island, packed with green ferns and salal. I caught my mind wandering thinking I had seen it before. Obviously not. This was my first trip to Cape Scott.
The trail heads into the woods from Nels Bight to the east half of Experiment Bight.Guise Bay
From the east half of Experiment Bight we left the sand to the woods for a kilometer to pop out on Guise Bay. Guise was my favourite scenes of the trip. I could have stayed there the entire time, just relaxed and taken in the view.
The sand was a more golden colour than Nels and the water more blue. It looked tropical when the sun hit it right. There were 3 groups camped there but far fewer than Nels. Guise is another 3 km farther along the trail from Nels. It’s a full 20km in from the parking lot. I was happy to stop at Nels when we did. Taking all your gear 3km further to camp at Guise is just more work. It might be worth it if like it better and planned to spend a few days there.
After Guise Bay, the trail heads back into the woods and gains the elevation up to the lighthouse. There is just over 2km of trail from Guise up to the lighthouse. 30 minutes if you’re hiking about 4km/hour. With breaks we were moving about 3km/hour.
Relics of old logging in the area, springboard holes in one of the trees made an art project for someone coming through. The seashells around the stones to add depth to the eyes. I admired such attention to detail. Obviously I’m not an artist.
Most of the trail from Guise to the lighthouse was some type of old road. Some was just logs placed across the road and others were planks parallel to the trail.
The odd thing in this scene was the old hydro (telegraph line?) pole.
Cape Scott Lighthouse
We trudged up the dirt road to the Cape Scott lighthouse. There was a small that lead down to the water on the right as we were coming up the road. We later learned that this lead down to the fuel tanks previous location. Thanks to a fuel spill years ago, regulations changed and they had to have their fuel further away from the water.
Obviously I needed to have a picture of my friend Bryn taking a photo on every trip. I don’t think there’s a photo on this blog where you can actually see his face. We’ll just call him the cameraman.
We couldn’t see a thing through the clouds and the fog. I’ll be back one day to enjoy that view for sure. We can’t even see the water that surrounds the point we’re on. We can just see up to the lighthouse and that’s about it. The lighthouse keepers have brought a little puppy named Hurricane. His black and white fluffiness was vibrating with excitement with visitors. They didn’t let him out to play thought, sometimes he runs away.
Satisfied (or not?) we won’t see any water from the lighthouse, we turned to head back to base. One of the buildings had treated rainwater for drinking from a tap. We filled up our water and wandered back down the dirt road. Back into the lush green forest, onto board walks and old roads.
Some of the boardwalks are recent and made for hikers to manage the mud.
Other boards are remnants of old roads.
Back to Guise Bay
The sand dunes between Guise Bay and Experiment Bight was the most interesting place I saw on the trip. Vancouver Island doesn’t have much for big sand dunes. I’ve only seen them in New Zealand and on the coast of Oregon. Such an interesting view to pop out of thick coastal forest and see giant sand dunes from bay to bay across the cape. The top of the dunes don’t see much sea water, leaving them covered in tall grass. I thought I might see a little dinosaur running through the grass beside me.
Part of the dunes get washed away in the winter with storms as they come pounding down on Experiment Bight from the north. Guise Bay is much more sheltered and protected. The thick grass stops at the edges where the waves have eroded a path through. Small patches have sprouted in the sand at the bottom. I’m sure they wash away every season during the storms.
Experiment Bight has a much more desolate feel to it than Guise Bay. It’s just on the other side of the sand dune but it could have been on the moon. Not nearly as inviting. It would be quite the place for storm watching if you were (un)fortunate enough to be here when the wind and seas picked up. You might need the white hard hat sitting on the orange buoy below.
Each little trail section had it’s own own personality. Some looked like they were from their own planet. Others, like this one full of ferns, salal and salmon berries, could be from anywhere on Vancouver Island. Hiking just a few kilometers along the trail, you’d see all sorts of scenery.Nels Bight
A little over 12km there and back and we were home on Nels Bight. The weather brightened up for us after we got close to camp. Nice of the weather to break just as we get back to camp.
With the nice weather coming in, I spent the evening wandering the beach near camp. With all the tales of crazy things washing up on the beaches, I expected to find more garbage and treasures there. There was a small amount but not nearly what I’d thought. Nels is a busier beach with the ranger cabin on it so it must be regularly cleaned by rangers and beachcombers. Would the less frequented beaches have the more interesting garbage still lingering?
Looking back towards Experiment Bight from Nels.
Getting a little suntan in.
What else do you do with flotsam and jetsam sitting around? I’m not sure if he’s scary or inviting. We got many comments from passers-by.
Sun setting on our second day in the park. My legs and feet were toast from hiking but all I can do is smile looking out over the point to the sunset. There’s nothing better than relaxing with friends on a beautiful beach kilometers from any city in the warm evening.
GPS can be a blessing when you’re out adventuring but they have an achilles heel that can get you into serious trouble.
GPS use batteries.
Electricity makes our modern life amazing but it can be a serious liability in the backcountry. Batteries don’t last forever. If you are using your GPS a lot and have all the features enabled, it may only last a few hours. That’s just about the amount of time it takes to get deep into the woods and have your gps batteries die.
If you are using a GPS, always have a backup like a map and compass or be able to get home without any of that. GPS are nice to have though and there are ways to increase that battery life so they last your whole hike.Do a battery range test
One thing you can do to see what kind of battery life you are working with is a range test. When you are enabling and disabling certain features it can be hard to know what’s good and bad for battery life. By doing a range test you’ll be able to see how much something affects your battery life. You can also use it to test how long different batteries list.
To do a range test, enable everything you can on your gps and use it as much as possible. Keep it on and in use until it dies. Take down the time you started and the time the batteries died. This is the heavy use test, it should be the short end of your battery life. Most of the time it will last longer than this.
To get the greatest battery life, disable every feature you can (maybe by looking below to see what to disable) and then leave your GPS on until the batteries die. Don’t do anything with it. It will die eventually. This is the top end of your battery life.
Now you have your bottom end and your top end of your battery life. Now you can test usage with each of the tips below and see how it affects your battery life and find where it falls on the range from short battery life to long battery life.
Now here’s 10 ways to increase your GPS battery life. I’ve grouped them together to things related to your batteries, disabling features, the map, and the screen itself. I added photos from the screens on my Garmin Montana 600 to see what the menu’s look like.
Battery related tips
These tips relate to the batteries themselves.Lithium Ion batteries with the highest mAh
Lithium batteries tend to last the longest, especially in cold weather. Also check the mAh measurement on your battery. The higher the mAh the longer the battery will last. 2500 mAh is pretty good. 3000 mAh can last as long as 56 hours on the Garmin Montana.Use new batteries
Old batteries can have all sorts of problems or just not work well with your new GPS. Make sure you are using new batteries.
Make sure the battery type is set to the right setting
If the GPS allows you to use either Lithium Ion or NiMH batteries, then it might have a setting that tells the GPS what kind of battery it’s using. If it’s on the wrong battery type, your battery life won’t be what it should be. Make sure it’s set to the type of battery you are using.Disabling features
Whenever you have a feature enabled on your GPS, it uses up battery life. If you are looking to extend that battery life, maybe you can disable a few things.
Here’s what you can disable on some devices
- electronic compass
- track record
Old GPS only know which direction you are going when you are moving. If the latest point on your GPS was north of the point before that, then your GPS assumes you’re pointing north. If you’re not moving then it doesn’t know which direction you are going.
The electronic compass in most new GPS knows exactly which way you are pointing at all times. This is handy when you come to a fork in the trail and you need to know which direction to go. It also uses more battery. If you don’t need this feature you can disable it.Turn off the track record
The track record is the breadcrumb of where you went with the GPS. You can put this on your computer after or send it to friends. You can extend battery by disabling it.Disable GLONASS
GLONASS is an alternative to GPS run by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces. You can use it to get a faster location fix and battery accuracy in mountainous terrain because it’s using more satellites. It will drain your batteries faster.Disable WAAS
WAAS stands for Wide Area Augmentation System. It’s a series of ground stations and satellites that help increase the accuracy of your GPS. It can help you get a more accurate location but it uses more battery. Disable if you want to save a bit.Disable ANT+ Sensor
A few of the Garmin GPS have an ANT+ sensor on them. This lets them communicate with other devices like pedometers or heart rate monitors or other GPS.Map screen related
The map is one of the most important screens on a GPS. What point is a GPS if we can’t see the map? Updating the map takes battery power. Less updates = more power saved.Use the compass or the trip computer to navigate, not the map
If you can stay off the map screen as much as possible, you’ll save battery power. Drawing the map takes power to do and if you are always on the map screen then it’s always pulling power. If you can use the trip computer or compass to navigate then the GPS won’t be redrawing the map all the time. I often just use the GPS to take a track log and double check navigation decisions so it’s in my pack most of the time. While it’s in your bag or pocket, it’s displaying the main menu and not chewing batteries redrawing over and over.Set map orientation to “North Up” instead of “Track Up”
Setting your map to North Up will always draw the map with North at the top of the screen. It never has to spin to orient itself to the direction you are pointing. This will save battery life but makes navigation a little more difficult. You have to point the GPS north yourself or make the adjustments in your head.Set map speed to normal
Some GPS will let you set how often you want the map to redraw. The “Fast” option will update the map more often so it’s more accurate but every time the screen redraws the map it’s using power. The “Normal” option will redraw slower but use less power.Screen related
The screen is one of the biggest power draws on GPS these days. Big, bright screens are easy to see but also draw a lot of power. We definitely need the screen to see what’s going on but we can adjust some options to make it use less power.Turn down the backlight
The backlight is a power hog. Turn it down as low as you can use it.Decrease the timeout time
After you’ve turned down the backlight, adjust the timeout time as low as you can set it. Just like your smart phone, the screen will turn off eventually. This is the timeout time. Set this as low as you can tolerate to save battery life.Exit Camera app when not taking photos
Some new GPS have cameras on them. The photo app might continue running after you’ve finished using it. But it’s still draining power. Fully quit the app when you aren’t using it.Set touch sensitivity to normal
Setting touch sensitivity on the screen might make it easier to use with your gloves and hands, but it’s going to draw more power. Keep the sensitivity setting on Normal to use the least amount of battery.Enable Battery save mode
Battery save mode on some GPS will turn the display completely off when it times out. It also might disable WAAS so if you need that you won’t be able to enable this mode. This will gets save a bit more battery power.To Summarize
Here’s the quick list of how to save battery life on your GPS.
- Use Lithium batteries
- Use new batteries
- Set the right battery type
- Disable electronic compass
- Disable track record
- Disable GLONASS
- Disable WAAS
- Use compass instead of the map
- Set map orientation North up
- Set map speed normal
- Turn down the backlight
- Turn down the backlight timeout
- Exit the camera app
- Set Touch sensitive to normal
- Enable Battery save mode
What do you think of these tips? Do they work with your GPS? Do you have any other go to tips for increasing your battery life?