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Artist Point Snow Camping

Well it’s that time of year again! Time for my annual snow camping trip with Carolyn and Brandon! It’s a new hobby for us, so we’ve been trying to get out at least once a year to work on our snow camp skills. Carolyn broke her ankle back in July last year and it’s been a really long time healing, so this was our first time out together since last Spring. We have a few snow camps on our bucket list, but we wanted a shorter one for her first snowshoe since breaking her ankle, so we decided to try Artist Point in Washington. It has a fair bit of elevation gain, but it’s not very long – only 6km round trip.


Our first discovery though was that camping across the border sucks. I made a few trips down to Washington this year with Lien for day hikes, but when you’re trying to pack for an overnight trip, it’s a big hassle. We had to leave snacks like jerky, dried mango, cheese, and trail mix behind, and modify our normal camp dinner. Brandon makes a mouth watering backcountry thai curry chicken that we eat on almost every adventure, but we couldn’t bring the chicken or veggies across, so we opted for my dehydrated vegetarian chili and macaroni instead. The chili is fine, it’s just not quite as rewarding as thai curry chicken (okay A LOT less rewarding).

So crossing the border was definitely a pain, but I have to admit, we’ll probably keep on doing it because there are some really great hikes in the Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The actual border crossing was quick because we crossed in Abby at the Sumas Crossing and drove to Mount Baker from there. I snowshoed to Artist Point last year, which was what inspired me to try snow camping there this year. In the summer you can drive most of the way up to Artist Point, but the road and parking lots aren’t plowed in the winter. There’s a ton of open space at the top for the parking lots, which is why I thought it would be a great place to snow camp!


We started hiking up sometime around noon. The last time I’d hiked up there it was a bluebird day and there was a million other people on the trail, but it was a bit overcast when we went, so there was definitely less people around, which was nice. The area had also received a massive dump of snow the night before (60 cms!), so the entire area was covered with a fresh blanket of shimmering powder. It was definitely a snowshoe day (as opposed to spikes). We had nice views hiking up, though the occasional clouds moved through, sometimes obscuring our view of the mountains, but not our visibility.

That changed a bit when we reached the top. You come up a pretty steep slope before getting to a large flatish base area where the parking lot(s) are located in the summer. The area attracts a lot of backcountry skiers and from there some hike up to Artist Point (another ~15-20mins), while others continue on to table mountain or down into the bowl going back towards the (base) parking lot. We didn’t want to camp right on Artist Point because it’s pretty exposed, but planned to find a somewhat sheltered spot around the parking area. Once we crested the last slope though, the fog moved in and it became harder to see where we were going. Plus in the winter it’s really hard to tell what is actually the parking lot. We wanted somewhere sheltered, but also with a good view. We ended up picking a spot looking out towards Table Mountain and Mount Baker that had a few banks sheltering it on either side.


Fortunately the fog moved out again and our visibility improved a lot while we were setting up camp. We always dig out tent hole too small, so Carolyn outlined a truly massive site for us to shovel out this time. It was clearly too big, but for some reason none of us argued with her and just got to work shoveling! It took quite a while because there had been so much snow the night before and we had to dig down about a metre before we could finally start stomping it down and compacting the snow. Eventually we got enough space for the tent and realized we’d kind of over-shoveled a bit if we still wanted a snow wall to provide some shelter for the tent, so we built up a snow counter on the last side and made a pretty slapdash kitchen that actually ended up being pretty good.

The later it got, the fewer people around, but one giant group showed up in the middle of the afternoon – it must have had 40 people! We think it was an avalanche safety course because there seemed to be one guide and they started digging some shelters themselves. It was obvious from their packs they weren’t staying overnight, so we kept joking they should come dig out our hole for us since they weren’t going to use theirs anyways!


The temperature was around -5 degrees, which in my opinion is perfect for snow camping because you don’t want the snow to be wet at all. It continued to snow on and off as we were setting up our shelter, but the wind kept down and we didn’t have any problems. I love snow camping, but it is definitely a lot more work. It was pretty late in the afternoon by the time we finished the shelter and we decided we wanted to start melting snow for water right away since it takes forever and it gets dark early. It did take a long time, but fortunately the snow was all very clean and it tasted a lot better to drink than the snow on some of our previous trips. We started dinner before dark, but it was definitely dark by the time we finished and started cleaning up.

We puttered around camp for a bit with our headlamps, cleaning up and sharing Carolyn’s flask. Eventually we climbed into the tent because we always look forward to getting into our sleeping bags on a cold winter night. By the time we were all geared up and ready for bed, Carolyn asked me to check the time and I turned on my phone to see 7:30pm staring back at me! I couldn’t believe it! We all knew the sun sets early, but we had a good laugh at ourselves all set up and ready for bed that early! At Elfin Lakes I’d set up and done some star photography, which kept us up a bit later, but the clouds were moving around a lot and it wasn’t really a great night for star photos, though we did catch a great view of Orion at one point.


We read for a little bit, but it’s cold with your hands and arms out of your sleeping back, so it was probably still only 8:30pm when we turned off the lights and went to bed. Carolyn was thrilled about it because she loves to go to bed early without anyone making fun of her for it! As usual, it was a fair bit of work to keep warm overnight, but we all managed it and it was 7:30am before we finally got up.

It was a big change from the previous night when we crawled out of the tent. It was a gorgeous bluebird day with the sun shining down on us! We wanted to make first tracks up to Artist Point, so we grabbed some snacks and postponed breakfast to hike up to the point. It was definitely a good way to warm up! We were all sweating by the time we reached the top and we stayed up there for a while taking photos and goofing around in the snow. The landscape looked much the same as the last time I’d snowshoed up there, which was also a bluebird day, but the big difference was that we were the only people on the mountain.


The point gives a great view of Mount Shuksan, but the Baker side stole my attention on this trip because there were a ton of clouds sitting in the valley around it and it felt really cool to be up above the clouds. While we were up there we noticed the fog was starting to creep up the valley on both sides and we decided to trek back to the campsite for breakfast. By the time we got back the fog had totally moved in and within 30 minutes you couldn’t see any of the view any more! I felt bad for all the day hikers and skiers coming up later, but lucky that we got to enjoy the nice weather before the clouds moved it. It wasn’t snowing, but visibility was pretty bad and I can see how it would be easy to get lost in those conditions. So it was a good reminder of how fast things can change in the backcountry.

Otherwise it was a pretty uneventful climb down. Snowshoes definitely aren’t as fun going downhill, so we had a few stumbles on the way down, but no more injured ankles! I think we can definitely call this trip another success!

Categories: Life in British Columbia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ski Resort Series: Mount Washington

Now that I’m finally up to date on my posts about our trip to New Zealand, it’s time to return to my ski resort mini-series from last winter! Every year me and my friends go on a ski trip to Interior BC, usually around 4-5 hours driving distance from Vancouver. We like to stay in chalets right on the mountain and we finally ran out of new ski resorts in the Interior and decided to take the ferry to Mount Washington instead.


We drove out after lunch on Thursday and had a chalet booked right at the foot of the slopes. It was an uneventful ferry ride, but the drive up the mountain more than made up for it. About 10 minutes before we reached the chalet, my car came across another car pulled over on the side of the road. It turned out to be one of our other companions – poor Meg who had hit one pothole and ended up with two burst tires on the right side (we’re talking rims on the ground). The benefit of going with so many people is that is wasn’t too hard to call for help and we ferried everyone and their gear up to the chalet while Meg waited for the tow truck to bring her car down to Courtney.¬†Fortunately there was no real harm done except for Meg’s bank account and we finished off the evening with mulled wine, chocolate fondue, and a soak in our hot tubs (yes, we had 2!).


We were expecting the snow at Mount Washington to be on the wet side, but we ended up getting pretty awesome conditions. It was just around zero degrees on Friday, so it was wet, but the mountain dropped snow on us the whole day, making for poor visibility, but some pretty sweet powdery conditions. Only about half of us went skiing on the first day – I’d debated only skiing one day this year and instead checking out some of the snowshoe trails, but I couldn’t resist and ended up skiing both days. It wasn’t really snowing in the morning, but we had trouble seeing through the low clouds on the slope; they did eventually clear and we skied some gorgeous sunny(ish) runs before lunch.

After lunch it was a totally different story with the snowy coming down thick. We were stoked about what the conditions were going to be like the next day, but it accumulates so fast that we has some really great runs on Friday too, though the visibility did get worse as the day went on.


As usual, we have a pretty well-tested meal plan for the weekend and I made traditional Newfoundland Jiggs Dinner and a turkey, followed by one of Emily’s famous cakes. Some of the group did go snowshoeing in the afternoon and boasted about how awesome the trails were over at the Nordic Center. Overall it was a low key evening, but I think everyone enjoyed relaxing and watching the snow pile up outside in anticipation of the next day.

Saturday was the kind of skiing conditions you dream about…. almost. It was a gorgeous sunny day with 10-15 cms of fresh powder on the slopes! We all got up early to catch some of the first lifts up the mountain. The only problem was that only half of the lifts were actually open. Apparently it had gotten pretty windy overnight and was still windy at the top of the mountain, so the peak chair was closed. We did a warm up run without too much fanfare, but then we were forced to wait 30+ minutes in the lift line for every run after that. It was super disappointing to spend the beautiful weather waiting in line and the group started getting a little antsy.


We decided to head over to another lift to try our chances and fortunately by the time we got over there, the remaining lifts had opened. It was still a longer wait than Friday (which had really been no wait), but much better than earlier. We spent a lot of time on the far side of the mountain on the sunset lift and really enjoyed the conditions. The group split up a bit after that and I did a few runs from the top of the mountain before heading over to the bunny hill to help Lien, who was learning to ski. We decided to ski through lunch with the intention of ending the day early. But then we couldn’t bear to leave the awesome conditions and ended up skiing until close and having a late lunch.


I wouldn’t say Mount Washington was one of my favourite mountains, but it was definitely a comfortable one. It’s a great mountain for beginners and with the exception of the Outback at the back of the mountain (all double blacks), I was willing to ski pretty much any of the runs. It’s a nice mountain if you like nice wide runs. There were some nice gladed areas to try too, but I feel there was a bit less to explore over some of the other mountains we’ve skied.

We finished our last night with Brandon’s delicious hot pot and played games into the night. As usual, our accommodations were pretty awesome. This year we had a few less people, so they felt particularly spacious as we had two units (the upstairs and downstairs unit in the same chalet). It had a really nice log cabin feel, I just wish we could have figured out how to get the fireplace working! So overall it was a great trip with some really unexpectedly great conditions, despite the long lift waits on day 2.

Mount Washington

Categories: Life in British Columbia | 3 Comments

Saying Goodbye

The last stop on our 5 week tour of New Zealand was a little trip to the north of Auckland. Sadly we never made it up to the Bay of Islands, which was the one thing I had to drop from the itinerary. It’s hard to believe that even with 5 weeks, it still wasn’t enough time. I would have loved to have 1 more week, but had I gone for 6 weeks I probably still would have said the same thing.

Instead of going the whole way north, we just did a few of the attractions near Auckland. We’d planned to go on a glass bottom boat ride at Goat Island Marine Reserve, but the weather decided to ruin one more thing for us and it was cancelled just as we were pulling out of our hotel in Auckland. It wasn’t raining, so we think it was due to wind? We’re not really sure. But we made the best of it and decided to drive out to Muriwai Gannet Colony instead.


Seth did his bachelors honours thesis on the gannets in Newfoundland, so this stop was mostly for him, but I ended up really enjoying it as well. The gannets have settled their colony right on the cliffside, which is a bit weird for seabirds as they usually stick to islands to avoid predators. It definitely smells like a bird colony, but it was surprisingly fun to watch all the birds interacting together and we ended up spending the better part of an hour just watching them flying around and fight among themselves.

Then we continued north to Tawharanui Provincial Park for our last hike of the trip. Turns out it’s pretty popular among the locals and there were a ton of families boogie boarding in the waves at the beach. We ate our lunch watching the water, but then headed a little more inland to go tramping through the fields. Tawharanui is interesting as far as parks go because it’s the first park where the government tried to have a blend of eco-sanctuary, farming, and recreation. So the park is gated with a predator fence going around the whole thing and is a popular place to release birds that they’re trying to re-introduce. But there’s also a ton of farmland and people can enter the park for recreational activities like going to the beach and hiking.


We drove past so many fields and rolling hills as we made our way around New Zealand and I always felt like the hills were calling to me. They just looked really fun to hike up with all the wide open grassy space – but I never got the chance because they’re almost all farmland and fenced off along the road. Since Tawharanui is a mix, I finally got my farmland hike! The hike starts off through field after field. It’s supposed to be a great place for birding, but we didn’t see a lot of birds out in the open space, so we just enjoyed the views. On the way back we took a different track through the woods in hopes of seeing more birds and it definitely paid off. Supposedly there are takahe wandering free in the park, sadly we didn’t see any of those, but we did see several North Island Saddleback! We’d seen the South Island Saddleback on Stewart Island and Seth really wanted to see one on the North Island, but they’re not very widespread. When we didn’t see one at Zealandia, he assumed he wouldn’t get to see one at all, but lucky for us, they had been released at Tawharanui as well and we were lucky enough to spot them.


It started to drizzle towards the end of the hike and we returned to the beach to find it completely empty. There was something really gorgeous about the lighting and the way the beach looked. The tide was out, but the sand was still wet from the rain, which gave beautiful reflections of the landscape. We took the opportunity to take some personal time at the beach to reflect about the trip and though I was looking forward to going home, it made me sad to leave. There’s a lot to love about New Zealand and I really felt that it was a place that fit our own personal values. Seth loved all the biodiversity and there’s a real appreciation of nature and wildlife. I just couldn’t get over all the gorgeous landscapes. I’m a sucker for beaches and mountains and I felt the country also had a real appreciation for it’s natural landscapes.

We spent one last night at a little cabin in Leigh. I’d really wanted to camp at Tawharanui for the last night, but it was full up. In the end it was for the best though because it really poured overnight and I can’t think of anything worse then trying to pack up wet gear and then having to fly back to Canada with it.


Our flight didn’t leave until 2pm, so we re-arranged and re-packed all our gear, leaving what remained of our food in the donations box in the hostel kitchen. We stopped at a car wash to give our rental a good cleaning and then dropped it off and made our way to the airport. Unfortunately the flight was delayed, but it was direct flight, so at least we didn’t have to worry about missing any connections. It was one of the weirder flights I’ve been on – it left at 3pm in the afternoon and we arrived in Vancouver at 7am in the morning… the same day! Gotta love crossing the dateline!

It was a Wednesday and I had to go back to work the next day, so we were glad to have the whole day to relax, but it ended up not being that relaxing because we arrived back to Vancouver right in time for a snowstorm! It’s no more than a 45 minute drive to our house from the airport, but it ended up taking us almost 3 hours to get home… in a cab! Vancouver doesn’t deal well with the snow and everything was stalled on the highways, but eventually we made it.

I tracked all our stats while we were on the road and at the end of the day, we drove 4600km, hiked 150km, kayaked 26km, and biked 25km! I’m probably a little biased because I spent so much time there and it was my honeymoon, but I would definitely say New Zealand was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken! Hope to go back again some day!

Categories: Exploring New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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