SCT Part VI: Elk Lake to Golden Stanley

Click here to start reading Part I.

I continued my trend of waking up early at Elk Lake and was again on the trail by 8am. Mostly I was ready to leave Elk Lake Hut behind me. My next stop was Walt Hut Hill, which most people say is their second favourite hut, so I was ready to get going – plus I had a feeling it would have cell service and I was looking forward to talking to my family.

It’s only 14km between Elk Lake and Walt Hill, so it would be my shortest day on the trail. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about finishing so early in the day, but I figured my body could probably use a bit of a break and that Walt Hill was a good place for it.

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I left Elk Lake and noticed that the trail had been freshly weed-whacked. This made it easier to go through the brush, but it was also a bit of a hazard slipping over the dead grass covered in the morning dew. There were two routes down from Elk Lake – in the hut guest book, someone had recommended the “outside route” so I opted for that one. There was one view right at the beginning, but other than that it’s all in the woods, so I’m not sure what makes one route better than another, but I ran into a bunch of the PRPAWS volunteers on the outside route, so I was thrilled to have selected that one!

PRPAWS stands for Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society. It’s a volunteer society that is responsible for maintaining the trail. The Sunshine Coast Trail is hands down the most well signed and maintained trail I’ve ever been on it, and it’s entirely thanks to these fine individuals! I ran into 2 guys with weed whackers that were heading up the trail to continue clearing the brush. I had a nice chat with them and they told me they volunteer with trail maintenance every Tuesday and Thursday! Well done!

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They informed me I was very lucky because a bit further down the trail, Eagle Walz himself was out doing trail maintenance! Eagle Walz founded the trail back in 1992, authored the trail guidebook everyone uses, and has dedicated 30 years of his life to the trail! He was out weed whacking too and it was lovely to have the opportunity to chat with him. He was still out taking notes about the trail and asked to see my copy of the guidebook to check some things for himself. I asked him about starting the trail and he told me that at the time (1992), Powell River had 5 major trails and he incorporated 4 of them into what is now the SCT. He said there were a lot of considerations in planning the trail, one of the most important of which was water – not just because of it’s obvious importance for survival, but because streams often get some protection from logging companies and those set-backs can extend to the adjacent trail.

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I met a local day hiker later in the day that told me there were a lot of huts throughout the sunshine coast because the community groups often receive funding from logging companies when they cut down community forests (seems a very small reward to me). The SCT storyboard at the end of the trail also indicated that construction first started on the huts in 2009 when PRPAWS received a large grant and constructed more than half the huts in just 5 years! I asked Eagle what his favourite section of the trail is and he told me “whatever section I’m currently working on”, so it was great to run into him on his favourite part!

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I left the conversation feeling rejuvenated again and continued on towards Coyote Lake, which was my halfway point for the day. I was planning to swim there, but Coyote Lake was NOT an appealing swim location, so I ended up just filling up my water instead. It was definitely the worst place I collected water from, but it was the only reliable source for the day and there was no water at Walt Hill, so I didn’t have much choice. I was forced to carry another 10lbs of water weight up to Walt Hill, but fortunately it was no where near as challenging as Tin Hat Hut, so it didn’t bother me too much.

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Since I only had to hike 14km, I arrived at Walt Hill around 1pm. I was a bit worried about having so much downtime, but Walt Hill has such amazing views, that I didn’t find it as difficult to kill an afternoon there and liked having a proper break. The hut at Walt Hill is totally enclosed (my favourite as they feel the safest), and there was a camp chair out on the porch. I set up the chair overlooking the bluffs and had a great afternoon catching up with my family while enjoying the view. Besides the PRPAWS volunteers, the above-mentioned day hiker showed up, who I had a great conversation with about the backcountry, but otherwise, I was alone at the hut again.

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I ate my supper on the porch and enjoyed watching the sun set. Walt Hill was the most comfy for me because there were a bunch of large foam pads up in the loft and I opted to use these instead of my thermarest, which was extra comfy. I had another big day ahead of me, so I opted to go to bed early and get up to watch the sunrise over the bluffs.

The next day I was back on the trail before it was even properly bright and had one of my most ambitious mornings since Inland Lake. It’s a long hike down through the forest towards Lang Bay, but I made really good time. There’s no real attractions until you get to Lois Lake, so I decided to push through to the lake before taking a real break. I ended up hiking 17km to the Lois Lake Rec Site before noon, which was a new record for me.

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I was planning to take a nice long break at the lake, but it was very windy and I quickly got cold, so I had my lunch and then decided to push 2kms further to the Lois Point Rec Site. Lois Lake is interesting, it’s a reservoir, but they never properly cleared all the trees when they impounded the reservoir, so there are still large stumps everywhere when the water level is low, which it was on this occasion.

Unfortunately continuing on to Lois Point wasn’t a good idea. I only had 4km to go to Golden Stanley hut, so I wanted to kill some time at the lake so I wouldn’t have too much time alone at the hut. But the Lois Point Rec Site was extremely dicey and I didn’t feel comfortable stopping there. The Lois Lake site is pretty standard car camping, but Lois Point definitely attracts a different crowd. There were a lot of decrepit campervans and trucks, empty beer cans everywhere, as well as some tent shanty’s set up on the beach. I could see a few men on the beach where I’d been planning to hang out, but I was getting a bad vibe, so I snuck off along the trail and bushwhacked back to the lake about a kilometer further because I still had to filter water for the night. It was a lovely place with sandy beaches, but still very windy, so I got my water and moved on. I would have liked to enjoy the lake more, but I wouldn’t recommend Lois Point as a single female hiker – it was the only place on the trail where I felt unsafe (isn’t it unfair that men are scarier than bears?).

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So instead I continued the last few remaining kms to Golden Stanley Hut, which is right at the base of Mount Troubridge. I did end up getting there too early (3pm) and this definitely felt like one of the longest evenings. Golden Stanley is nice enough, but it’s in the woods with nothing to look at, so I allowed myself to listen to my audiobook for a while. I remember when Carolyn did the trail that she hiked all the way from Walt Hill to the Troubridge Hut (34km) in one day and I thought she was insane, but I understand now why she did it. Having arrived at Golden Hut so early, I was also tempted to keep going to Troubridge and strongly debated it, but it’s all uphill and I had less daylight hours than Carolyn since it was September, and wasn’t sure I could get there before dark.

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So I stayed alone at the hut instead. This was probably the low point for me as a solo hiker. I only had 2 nights left on the trail, but the solitude was starting to get to me. I didn’t have a conversation with a single person that day. In fact, the only people I saw all day were the men on the beach and a single mountain biker that blew past me. I did actually quite enjoy the solo hiking aspect in that I really liked setting my own schedule. I like the ability to get up when I want, stop when I want, and hike as fast as I want. I got comfortable with being alone on the trail and I did actually find it enjoyable.

What I didn’t like was solo camping. I didn’t like being alone at the end of a long day of hiking. I wanted companionship – someone to talk to and share the experience with. At 180km, the Sunshine Coast Trail was by far the longest trail I’ve ever done, but I found the psychological aspect of solo hiking much more challenging than the physical aspect. My body could handle the hiking and distance, but emotionally I missed having someone to share it with. There was no cell service at the Golden Stanley Hut, so I couldn’t even connect with my family. I ended up enjoying the following 2 days a lot more, but I do admit that at Golden Stanley, I was feeling ready to be done with the trail. I even seriously considered getting off the trail at Lang Bay, but I had limited options for getting home since I had to take transit and I knew I would regret not finishing, so I pushed through (of which I am glad).

Fortunately things did pick up for me after Golden Stanley and I have one more blog post planned to cover the last few days of the trip! Stay tuned for Part VII!

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SCT Part V: Confederation Lake to Elk Lake Hut

Click here to start reading Part I.

I was really lucky to have great weather while on the Sunshine Coast Trail. It was hot when me and Emily visited, but clear and sunny. Likewise, when I returned in September, it was cooler, but still nice and sunny. There was one day of rain in the forecast that coordinated with my day hiking from Confederation Lake to Tin Hat Hut. Tin Hat is the highlight of the SCT, so I was a little disappointed initially, but the forecast was looking good for the following day, so I figured that even if I didn’t get the view on the way up, I would still likely get to enjoy it.

It started raining overnight while I was at Confederation Lake, so I was glad to be in the hut. I got up early again to start hiking and was on the trail by 8am, despite the rain. Fortunately I was in the forest, so while it rained my whole hike down from the lake, I never got wet through any of my layers. The annoying thing about Confederation Lake is that after you leave the hut, you immediately undo the 600m of elevation gain from the previous day as the trail continues back down to Fiddlehead Hut on Powell Lake.

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It got dryer as I hiked down and by the time I reached the bottom, it had stopped raining altogether! It’s about 500m off trail to hike down to the hut at Fiddlehead Landing, but of course I made the detour to see the hut. There was a small crowd at Fiddlehead (4 people). The friend from the previous night was there, along with a couple from Vancouver, and a mountain biker. The 3 hikers were also hiking up to Tin Hat for the night, so I had a quick conversation with them before they departed and then chatted with the mountain biker while having a snack and some lunch.

Fiddlehead Hut is really nice and I think it’s more popular than Confederation Lake because of its close proximity to Tin Hat, but I think the Confederation Lake Hut is better overall. The Fiddlehead Hut still has an enclosed sleeping loft, but it’s totally open on the bottom and because of it’s location in the trees, it’s cooler and darker.

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After Fiddlehead, I had 8km to the top of Tin Hat Mountain, but it was almost 1200m in elevation gain, so I had my work cut out for me! As far as climbing goes, I would say Tin Hat is definitely the hardest climb on the whole trail. There are several other climbs, but the climb to Tin Hat feels the steepest and longest (technically Troubridge is longer, but it’s not as steep). I’m actually really thankful for the weather that day because even though the rain had stopped, it was still overcast. It was muggy climbing up the mountain, but not as hot as it would have been with the sun out. Blue sky did poke through a few times and I got one really nice view down into the valley, but the higher I went, the foggier it got.

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The challenging thing about Tin Hat Mountain is that there is no water source at the top. Most of the streams were still running in August, but when I returned in September, almost every creek listed in the guidebook was dry. When the campsite has water it isn’t a problem, but when your campsite doesn’t have water, it makes for large water carries. There’s a stream about 5km before the top, which is the last place to fill up, but even that stream was almost dry. As a precaution, I got most of my water from Powell Lake and then filled up my last bottle at the stream. I carried 5L of water up, which weighs a whopping 11lbs! 5L was definitely overkill, I think I would have been okay with 4L, but I don’t like having to conserve water and be thirsty, so I lugged it all up there for comfort. I wasn’t sure where my next water source would be the next day and I wanted enough water to get me down the mountain to Lewis Lake.

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When I got to the top of the mountain, it was totally fogged in, but the hut is fully enclosed and it was so cozy in there I didn’t even care! Plus, it was the middle of the labour day weekend and I was thrilled to have other people around. The solo hiker was there, along with the couple from Vancouver, as well as a couple from Prague and their cute dog, so 6 of us in total. These 5 other hikers totally gave me life! I was still getting used to solo hiking at this point and it was so much fun to hang out with other people who have similar interests at the end of a long day. Everyone was really nice and talkative and I thought we had a lovely evening sharing about our lives. It really energized me. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my last night camping with other people and it helped to motivate me over the next few days. Tin Hat Mountain is a really special place and I’m so glad I got to share it with such fine folks!

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It was cold at the top with all the clouds, but they did start to clear out and around sunset we got a few glimpses of the view surrounding the hut. Even the limited view was incredible and I was excited for the following morning when it was forecasted to be clear. We decided to go to bed early and then we all got up to catch the sunrise at 6:30am (another benefit of September hiking – later sunrise).

It was totally clear when we woke and we enjoyed our breakfast out on the rocks while the sun came up. After breakfast I packed all my gear, but I opted to hike up to the top of Tin Hat Mountain before continuing on. The hut isn’t located right at the peak, but it’s only another 10-15 minutes to go up to the radio tower at the top. I’m so glad I did this because the view at the top is really out of this world! A definite highlight of the trip for me. The upper Sunshine Coast has so many lakes and mountains, it really makes for the most scenic view and I loved looking out over the backcountry with a 360 degree view. I had a little solo photoshoot at the top before saying goodbye to everyone and continuing on.

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I didn’t see the solo hiker anymore after this as she only had 3 days left in which to finish the entire second half of the trail, and the other couples were heading back to Vancouver. Tin Hat is located at km89, so it’s pretty much exactly at the halfway point. I had 5 days to go before I planned to finish the trail and I hoped I would meet more hikers before then!

I had two options for that night. I could go a short distance (9km) and tent at Lewis Lake, which Carolyn told me was one of her favourites, or I could go a long distance (23km) and camp at the Elk Lake Hut. I would have loved to linger at Tin Hat, but I knew that by nightfall, I’d prefer to be at the hut, so I departed for Elk Lake, which was definitely the right decision distance-wise.

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It was a bit of slog down to Lewis Lake with all the downhill, but the campsite was really lovely! I got there just in time for lunch and took a lake bath and washed some of my clothes before continuing on. I had 14km to go from there, which I wasn’t looking forward to, but it ended up being much easier hiking than anticipated. It was quite flat and I ended up powering through 7km in 90 minutes! That was probably a pace record for me, but it came at a cost and I noticed I had 2 small blisters when I stopped for a snack, so I forced myself to slow down to protect my feet.

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I saw a couple exploring Lewis Lake and 1 solo male hiker going in the opposite direction, otherwise, I didn’t see anyone else all day. The topography was interesting between Tin Hat and Mount Troubridge because you’re pretty much hiking through or along clear cuts the entire way. You can’t see what’s been logged when you drive the sunshine coast along the main highway, but there’s a lot of it going on in the backcountry. I think that’s one reason I didn’t encounter much wildlife, because of the heavy machinery. Though I did have to go through a few detours where the logging had forced the trail elsewhere.

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It’s a pretty gentle uphill for most of the day, the only real challenging part is the last 1-2km, where there’s a steep climb up to the lake. I pushed through, arriving around 4pm, but was immediately disappointed to be the only one at the hut. I expected it, but it was still disappointing. Elk Lake is a small lake with a big log wharf extending out into it. It’s a partially enclosed hut with an open front along the trail and windows looking down on the lake. Unfortunately there was no service at the hut, so it was probably my most anxious night on the trail, also not unexpected seeing how it would be my first night alone.

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I played some music while I cooked dinner and did my nighttime chores. The worst part about camping solo is the monotony before bedtime. I hadn’t brought a book with me, so there was really nothing to do. I had an audiobook, but I was trying to conserve battery, so every minute listening to my audiobook or music was a treat. I killed time until sunset and then opted to go to bed early. I was nervous about bears, but felt reasonably safe in the sleeping loft and was honestly more nervous about mice. I’d heard they could be pretty bad in the huts, but shoutout to everyone keeping the huts clean this season because I didn’t see a single mouse in any of the huts I stayed in! So fortunately, I ended up sleeping better than anticipated my first night alone on the trail and it did get easier after that. Continue reading Part VI.

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SCT Part IV: Powell River to Confederation Lake

Click here to start reading Part I.

When I got off the trail on August 6th, I felt like the disappointment of not finishing was going to swallow me whole. I’ve had to be pretty fluid with a lot of my trip planning through Covid (like everyone else); when my trip to Assiniboine was cancelled in 2020, I did the North Coast Trail; when Seth got a new job in 2021, we postponed our kayak trip to Desolation Sound; and when Jasper caught fire in 2022, Brandon and I relocated to Strathcona Park. But the SCT had been on my bucket list for several years and I had trained for it and prepared all my gear for this year and I really wanted to finish it.

So I did. Carolyn had been forced to do the entire thing solo when me and Emily got off the trail, so I’d like to think she gave me some confidence to return and finish the rest of the trail solo too. I already had time off in early September, so I finished work a little early on the Friday before the Labour Day long weekend and flew back to Powell River for another attempt. Seeing as I got off the trail at the Shingle Mill Pub, the float plane was the perfect way to return. The shuttle company dropped off some of the supplies I couldn’t fly with (bear spray and fuel) and I arrived at the pub around 5pm and was back on the trail within minutes of arriving!

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After leaving the pub, you cross the bridge towards Powell River and then you can immediately jump back on the trail. Emily and I had been planning to camp at Tony Point the night we got off trail, which is 5km from the pub (seen from the float plane in the photo above), so I just picked up my old itinerary and started walking. It’s about an hour to Mowat Bay, which is a popular recreation site on Powell Lake where I stopped for a quick snack, and then another hour to Tony Point, also located on the lake. I did modify my itinerary when I decided to go solo to stay mostly at huts, but given my late start time, I knew I would have to camp the first night.

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Tony Point is a lovely little site next to the water. It has a picnic table, a monument, flat space for ~2 tents, and not much else. I assumed I would be alone, but fortunately, there was another solo female hiker there as well! I was prepared to sleep alone, but was also thrilled to have someone to help ease into solo camping. We ended up crossing paths for several days and it was nice to trade stories.

I went for a quick swim when I arrived and then had supper before setting up my tent. I was feeling pretty confident, but the forest definitely changes when you’re alone at night. On this evening, it was windy, which created a lot of ominous sounds in the woods and the trees kept dropping leaves on my tent, so I was glad for a companion. I kept thinking a bear was walking into the site, so eventually I got up to have a look around. It was clear there was nothing there and that helped ease my mind and eventually I was able to fall asleep. I ended up sleeping in the huts every night after that, so it was a little annoying to carry my tent for another 130km for no reason, but still a good safety precaution.

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It was nice and sunny the following morning, so I set off before 8am. The other hiker was hoping to go all the way to Fiddlehead Hut, but I was only aiming for Confederation Lake Hut. It’s still a lofty 19km of hiking, but I really wanted to go the long route around Inland Lake, so I ended up clocking 24km. I was a little on edge hiking the first morning because I was very weary of bears. The trail continues around Powell Lake before going through the Haywire Bay Car Camping park. Shortly after Haywire Bay, I scared something large in the woods – I never saw it, only heard it running away from me – it was either a bear or a deer, so I was very diligent with my bear calls after that. I saw lots of evidence of bears (poop), but I never actually saw a bear, so I got a lot more comfortable walking around alone in the woods after a few days.

The trail continues around Lost Lake, which is pretty overgrown, before you come to Inland Lake, which I was really looking forward to. Inland Lake is a provincial park with some frontcountry sites, huts, and a huge loop around the lake. If you do the whole loop, it’s 12km, but on the SCT, you can either do the south end (4km) or the north end (8km). I was looking forward to this section because it follows the shoreline around the entire lake and as a result, it’s completely flat. I was determined to do the longer route because there’s a hut on the west side of the lake that can only be accessed on this route.

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I really wanted to visit every hut and take a selfie at each one, so I decided the extra kms were worth it. But I ended up really messing it up. I was having a great time walking around the lake – the kilometers were going by quickly and it was a gorgeous sunny day. I hadn’t yet seen any people, but I was enjoying walking along the lakeside. Such was my enjoyment, that I ended up walking right past the hut without realizing it!! I passed a small log building and picnic shelter that I thought was lovely, but I didn’t stop because according to my GPS (Gaia), the hut was still 2kms away. The paper map shows “Pier Hut” in this location, so I assumed that’s what it was and continued on towards “West Hut” as it’s called on the SCT website. As it turns out, Gaia is wrong about the hut location and West Hut and Pier Hut are in fact the same thing! I didn’t realize my error until 2kms later, so I ended up completely missing it.

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There are 2 huts on Inland Lake: “West/Pier Hut” and “Anthony Island Hut”. My guess is that these two huts were built and designed by BC Parks since they’re in the provincial park and are completely different than all the other huts on the trail. These huts were 1 story and could sleep ~3 people, whereas the rest are all 2 stories with a sleeping loft, so I’m not surprised I didn’t recognize it. I don’t have a photo with Pier Hut, but I don’t regret going the long way around the lake because it was a very beautiful trail that passed quickly. Plus I later learned that the south trail has a detour along most of it, so I was glad I got to spend so much time on the lake, as the south route mostly bypasses it with the detour.

I took a short break at the end of the lake to go for a swim and then continued to Anthony Island Hut for lunch. I finally saw a few people around the lake, but it was pretty empty. I passed a group of day hikers, a family bike riding, and a couple on their paddleboards. Otherwise I didn’t see anyone else on the trail all day! When I stopped for lunch before 1pm, I had already hiked 17km, so it was a big start for me and I was feeling good!

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I was able to maintain this pace since it was mostly flat, but after lunch it was all uphill to Confederation Lake. The trail does 600m of elevation gain in 5km through the forest, so I listened to my audiobook while I trekked up through the woods. It’s a pretty boring and steep trail up to the lake – I’d briefly flirted with the idea of going all the way to Fiddlehead to catch my companion from the night before, but 24km of hiking was definitely enough for me. The most annoying part of Confederation Lake is that when you finally get there, there’s still another 2km through the woods around the lake before you finally get to the hut. But I loved the hut!

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I haven’t heard a lot about Confederation Lake Hut, but it’s really nice! It’s located right on the lake and is fully enclosed, with enough room for a handful of tents. I arrived around 4pm and was the only person there. I took a bath in the lake and then settled in for a snack. I was expecting to be alone at the hut, but it felt nice and safe, so I was okay with it. So I was thrilled when I came back from filtering water and found a family of 4 had arrived for the night! It was an older couple with their grown daughter and her friend/partner. They were super nice and I enjoyed hanging out and chatting with them for the rest of the night after having been alone all day. I’m an extrovert, so I definitely relish the opportunity to chat with people after a day on my own. The theme of my trip was early nights and early mornings though, so I said goodnight as soon as the sun went down.

Continue reading Part V.

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