Posts Tagged With: Backcountry

Semaphore Lakes Backpacking Trip

I already wrote about my one night backpacking trip to Tenquille Lake, but I also did one night at Semaphore Lakes in the same trip. I decided to split up the trip into 2 blogs though because the two trails are not actually related and writing about them together would make for one really long post. We visited Tenquille Lake and Semaphore Lakes on the Canada Day long weekend in 2016. In hindsight, we easily could have spent 2 days exploring around Tenquille Lake, but instead we hiked out from Tenquille on the second day and did Semaphore for the second night.

The reason we picked Semaphore Lakes for the second night is that it’s super close to the Tenquille Lake trailhead. Instead of having to drive on the 4WD Branch 12 road though, it’s located just off the Hurley Forest Service Road, shortly past where the Branch 12 side road is (see my Tenquille Lake blog for more detailed directions). So you can get to this trailhead with 2WD.

Semaphore Lakes is a much shorter trail, it’s about 5km round trip to the lakes and back, but don’t be deceived because there is still 300 metres in elevation gain in the short 2.5km, so it does make for a pretty steep hike up to the top. With our packs, it probably took us about an hour and a half to reach. We had a bit of a late start hiking in to Semaphore because we had a personal issue come up that required us to drive back to Pemberton between the two trails. Then when we finally got back to the Semaphore Lakes trailhead in the late afternoon (and had all our packs on ready to go), Brandon realized he left his REALLY NICE Nikon DSLR camera on the side of the road at the Tenquille Lake trailhead when we were packing up the car. So we had to drive back up and down the 4WD access road, but fortunately his camera was still sitting there patiently waiting for us!

So I think it was after 5pm by the time we finally started hiking in to Semaphore and it started to rain on us in the last half hour. In my early backpacking days I had a bit of a “rain” phobia because I was terrified of my clothes and sleeping bag getting wet and being stuck freezing cold in the mountains. Actually, this is totally a valid fear and one I go to great lengths to protect myself from. I actually carried an umbrella with me on the entire 50km Juan de Fuca trail because I was afraid of the rain getting my clothes wet on the first day of our 4 day hike. I’ve since chilled out because I’ve acquired some better gear to protect me against these scenarios, but I remember when it started raining on the way to Semaphore I pretty much ran the last 20 mins to the lakes because I was terrified that our tent would get wet because Seth had failed to purchase himself a backpack cover. He thought a garbage bag on top of his pack would work fine – spoiler alert: it didn’t.

Anyways, in retrospect, the rain was a bit of a joke. It was really just sun showers and not a proper downpour, but when we got to the lakes we pretty much threw the tent up as fast as possible and chucked all our gear inside. Me and Seth were still using my parents ancient tent at this point, which is a tee-pee style tent and not very spacious, and I have this really funny memory of the two of us just sitting in the tent staring at each other waiting for the rain to stop because there wasn’t enough room to do anything else.

Brandon travels in style ALL the time, so he and Carolyn were next door happily setting up their mansion while we just stared at each other in angst – me because I was annoyed about the rain and Seth because he never really wanted any part of the trip to begin with. Eventually Carolyn and Brandon got their house all set up and invited us over for dinner, as if we had anything better to do LOL, and we climbed into their nice space and cooked supper poking out through the vestibule. This is like textbook ‘what-not-to-do’ because you don’t want your tent to smell like your dinner and attract bears. I want to say, “but we were rookies and didn’t know any better”, but we did know better, so I really have no excuse. I’ve since purchased a lightweight tarp for future trips, so problem solved next time.

Anyways, the rain did let loose after that. Fortunately we were all set up by that point, so none of our gear got wet, but it did result in a pretty early night. We failed to bring cards, so I ended up reading a bedtime story to everyone instead. I basically yelled at Carolyn and Brandon for 30 mins between the tents so that they could hear me over the sound of the rain, and those kweens just fell asleep on me in like the first 5 minutes, rude.

So our evening at Semaphore left a little to be desired after our awesome night and campfire at Tenquille, but I have no regrets because the rain moved on overnight and the clouds cleared out in the morning. So I woke to the sun shining on me and the most beautiful view of the lake through my tent door. I was afraid of the clouds rolling back in again, so I got up pretty early and me, Carolyn, and Brandon went for a little exploratory morning walk around the area. You could absolutely spend 2 nights at Semaphore Lakes as well because there’s so many other mountains nearby to explore during the day. Since it was only the first weekend in July and we were at a pretty high elevation, there was still a lot of snow around, so we just explored the immediate area, but it had some truly lovely views of the lakes and surrounding mountains.

One of the benefits to Semaphore Lakes was that it has a lot less people. Don’t get me wrong, there were still other campers, but there was a lot less than Tenquille and they were a lot more spread out, so it didn’t feel crowded at all. It also had significantly less mosquitoes than Tenquille Lake, so that was a blessed relief. The clouds did roll in again pretty quickly though, so we didn’t stay too long and packed up our gear after a quick breakfast.

Overall, it was a great foray into backcountry camping and though we had some challenges, they were not enough to deter me from wanting to try it again and I ended up doing 2 other backcountry trips that summer! I would definitely love to go back to both of these trails as a more experienced hiker and check out some of the other surrounding trails in the area.

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5 Ways to Visit Lindeman Lake

Lindeman Lake is a short hike in Chilliwack Provincial Park, which has somehow ended up being one of the hikes I’ve done most often. It’s only a 3.5km trail round trip, but has 350 metres of elevation gain in under 2 km, making it a challenging hike, but not a long one. I’ve visited it twice as day hikes and twice as overnight hikes, where I explored several other trails in the area. I really think there’s something fun for everyone in this park, so without further ado, here are some of the different ways to visit Lindeman Lake and the surrounding trails!

Day hike to Lindeman Lake

Lindeman Lake is a great hike for beginners because like I said, it’s challenging, but it’s short. It’s a great early season hike because it’s at a low elevation, so the snow melts pretty fast, and you’ll get a great work-out on the hike to the top. It can get pretty busy (like most hikes), so I’d suggest getting to the parking lot early. The first time I visited, I was actually car camping in the provincial park, so this was a perfect easy day hike for us. One tip, the campsite area where the trail ends gets very little sun and while it provides a nice view, there are better lake views. If the water level is low enough, you can cross the logs at the river outlet to scramble over the rocks on the other side of the lake. But my recommendation would be to follow the trail at the lake edge back into the trees for another kilometre until you arrive at the far end of the lake. There’s a rock slide at the far end with lots of big rocks to eat your lunch on while admiring the view. In my opinion, this is the best view of the lake and it’s a great place to go swimming (which I’ve done twice… in May. It was really cold!)

Day Hike or Camp to Greendrop Lake

There is a great trail network in the Lindeman Lake area, so if you want to make it a longer day trip or turn it into a camping weekend, that is totally doable. If you continue past Lindeman Lake towards the back of the lake, the trail continues up a rock slide and through the trees until you reach Greendrop Lake. In total, Greendrop Lake is about a 11.5km round trip from the parking lot, or an 8km round trip from the Lindeman Lake campsite. There is wilderness camping at both Lindeman Lake and Greendrop Lake and both campsites have a pit toilet and a bear cache. Greendrop Lake can definitely be done in a single day, or if you’re looking to take your time and enjoy Lindeman Lake (like I was), it’s also great as an overnight trip. We camped two nights at Lindeman Lake and day hiked to Greendrop Lake on our second day.

Both campsites are first come, first serve. I’ve only ever camped there on the May long weekend and it’s always been busy, but we’ve always managed to get a spot. I expect it’s probably a little busier later in the summer though. I love the Lindeman Lake campsite because it’s such a short hike, so we brought up a ton of extra fun gear like hammocks and frisbees and those fancy inflatable couch things. Greendrop Lake is less busy than Lindeman, but I personally didn’t like that campsite. There’s not really a great view of Greendrop Lake and because it’s higher elevation than Lindeman Lake, it was a lot colder. Granted, I visited in May, which is really early, but there was still snow on the ground walking up to Greendrop at this time and the trail was a little more challenging to follow. Overall, I’d recommend camping at Lindeman or visiting as a day hike.

Day Hike or Camp to Flora Peak

The second time I camped at Lindeman Lake, we wanted to try a different trail, so we camped at Lindeman Lake and then day-hiked to Flora Peak. Logistically it doesn’t make the most sense because in order to go from the Lake up to Flora Peak, you actually have to backtrack back to the parking lot and take the right branching trail at the start of the trailhead. But we really wanted to camp at the lake, so we did it anyways, so ideally this probably works better as a day hike. Like I said, the trail goes in the opposite direction of the Lindeman Lake trail and is substantially more challenging than the Lindeman and Greendrop trails because of the significant elevation gain.

The Flora Peak trail is about 12km round trip from the parking lot, but has an elevation gain of ~1300 metres, which is significant! You will pretty much be climbing the entire time. There’s not much to see for the first half of the trail up until you reach a small viewpoint poking out through the trees. Continue for a little while after that and the trail will eventually spit you out on the ridge looking down over Chilliwack Lake. This was by far the highlight of the trail for me. The rest of the trail remains pretty open and you eventually start ascending Flora Peak in a loop before coming back to the ridge. Sadly for us, our trip ended on the ridge. Because it was May, there was still a fair bit of snow at the higher elevations. We used microspikes to get up to the ridge, but we decided not to ascend the peak because there were a lot of snow bridges and it would have been easy to fall through the melting snow. But it was worth it just getting to the ridge and we ate lunch with an amazing view of the lake.

Like I said, I did it as an overnight, but I do think it probably works better as a day hike. You can also snowshoe up to Flora Peak in the middle of winter. I would recommend spikes and snowshoes for this, but I haven’t tried it yet because the trail is unmarked in winter and there is avalanche risk, so I’m waiting until I complete the avalanche safety course. A great trail for summer though, just be prepared for a big climb!

Snowshoe to Lindeman Lake

So here’s the thing about snowshoeing to Lindeman Lake. Only do it if there’s been a lot of snow at lower elevations. It’s not very high and it doesn’t get a lot of snow, but it does get ice. If Vancouver has snow, I’d say its safe to grab your snowshoes and head up to the lake. In my case, there wasn’t much snow, but microspikes were definitely required. Me and my friends learned a big lesson on this trail. We showed up with snowshoes, but the trail didn’t have enough snow for it, so I was the only person with spikes, but we decided to go up anyways. We had a great time on the trail and made hot chocolate and had a picnic lunch at the top. But it’s definitely dangerous without spikes. My friend ended up falling about halfway down and broke her wrist. Fortunately she is a champ and we did have a first aid kit (ALWAYS take a first aid kit and your 10 essentials when going into the wilderness), so we were able to patch her up and help her down the mountain. We still had a lot of fun and have good memories of the trail, but definitely be prepared with the proper equipment.

As I mentioned in the trail above, you can also snowshoe up to Flora Peak in the winter, but again, be prepared. It’s unmarked, so bring a GPS and make sure you have avalanche appropriate training and gear and have checked the forecast.

Complete the Flora Lake Loop

This is the only one on the list I haven’t actually done, but if you’d like to knock out all the trails in one visit, this is the way to go. I’ve talked about two trails leaving from the parking lot, one which goes straight up to Lindeman and Greendrop Lakes and the second which branches off and goes up to Flora Peak. But the trails actually do form a 20km loop between all 3 points of interest, plus Flora Lake. 20km is doable in a day (I have a feeling it would make a great trail run), but it does have over 1000 metres in elevation gain, so I’d probably personally prefer to do it as an overnight trip. There are campsites at all 3 lakes, Greendrop is located at ~7km and Flora Lake at ~11km, so either would be an option if you were doing it as an overnight! Again, just keep in mind the season. I would wait until July to go if you want to make sure most of the snow is gone from the trail.

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Keyhole Hot Springs Snow Camping Trip

I went on two snow camping trips this year. My first trip was to Elfin Lakes in February in temperatures of -20 below, the second trip was to Keyhole hot springs, in much more manageable temperatures! I’ve been trying to visit Keyhole hot springs since 2016 and had two failed trips before finally making it there this year. In summer 2016, me, Brandon, and Carolyn planned to visit over the Canada Day long weekend, but were dismayed to hear that the trail was being closed due to an aggressive grizzly bear (more on this later). Then me and Brandon tried to visit again in winter of 2017, but only made it halfway there because a semi-truck had jack-knifed across the forestry road and was blocking traffic in both directions.

So this was our third attempt, and I’m pleased to say we were finally successful! We wanted to go on a second snow camping trip before the end of the season and Carolyn’s been working on visiting all the hot springs in the area, so we decided to visit and stay overnight to try and avoid some of the crowds. Like I said, our first trip was to Elfin Lakes and the temperature dropped to -20 degrees celsius overnight, so we were thrilled to see that the forecast for Keyhole was calling for 7 degrees during the day and -6 degrees overnight. I ditched my double sleeping bag system for this trip and packed in my bag liner and new backcountry blanket instead.

Keyhole hot springs has become insanely popular in the last ~5 years. It used to only be accessible with 4WD, but the road was upgraded in 2014 because of a new hydro construction project in the area and the hot spring blew up on social media, making it a really popular destination for backcountry lovers and drunk partiers alike. I have really mixed feelings about the hot spring because I do believe everyone should have the right to appreciate natural wonders like this, but it’s also been severely disrespected by some of its visitors and it’s very upsetting to many of the locals.

It’s only a 2km hike to the hot spring and due to the excessive number of visitors, and the fact that it’s not a park (so it’s not managed by any rangers), a lot of garbage started collecting around the area, which of course, started attracting bears to the area. Keyhole is located on a forestry road out past Pemberton, so there are grizzly bears in the area and they started becoming aggressive towards visitors, so the province closed the trail in 2016 between April and November to stop the bears from becoming habituated to food and people. Since then, the trail is only open in the winter, hence why we decided to visit in March.

We drove out on Saturday morning, with the intention of staying for one night. We knew it would be really busy on a Saturday, so we were happy to stay overnight in hopes of avoiding some of the crowds later in the evening. We were right about how busy it would be during the day, but we wrongly assumed we’d be the only one’s camping. Since the road has been upgraded and is kept plowed for the construction project, 4WD is no longer required to get to the trailhead, although winter tires are definitely a must. We arrived around 1pm and I counted over 20 vehicles in the parking lot at that time.

We chatted with some of the day hikers on their way out and a lot of them expressed an admiration for the beauty of the trail, but told us they didn’t end up going in the hot spring at all because there were just too many people around. I would echo the sentiment about the trail. Granted, we had gorgeous blue sky and sunny weather when we visited, but the trail itself is worth visiting and ended up being the highlight of the trip for me. In winter, the trail ends up being about 3km because you can’t make it all the way to the trailhead and you do have to walk an extra km along the road, but the rest of the trail follows the river, which looks gorgeous in the winter with huge pillows of snow on every rock.

It’s easy to find the parking lot, you just follow the Lillooet Forest Service Road for about 40km until you reach a parking lot. The road becomes a “private road” at the end of the parking lot, so you’ll know you’ve found the right place. There is a branch in the road at the parking lot and a separate road continues up the hill. The road is plowed, so it’s possible you could drive up it, but the snow was very soft by this time of year, so everyone was parking at the bottom and walking up the road. The only tricky part is it’s not clear when you have to exit the road into the woods. You walk for a couple hundred metres and you’ll eventually see another side road, if you follow it into the trees, you’ll find the path heading directly down to the river.

The trail was easy to follow when we visited because there were so many people ahead of us and it hadn’t snowed in a while. But if you were the first one to visit after a fresh snowfall, it might be a challenge because the trail is not marked. Be careful visiting in March because the sun was softening up the snow and it would be easy to punch through the trail in some locations. Given the hot weather we’re getting this week, the trail will start deteriorating pretty fast as the snow melts, and remember, it closes for the season on April 1. But we really enjoyed the hike along the river and there were some really gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains.

We were wrong about being the only snow campers. There were at least 4 other groups camping that we saw and I think another large group arrived after us. I’m not sure if they were really prepared for the sub-zero temperatures though because they were all packed up and gone by the time we finally crawled out of our tent in the morning. We found a nice little private place to camp and it didn’t feel that crowded at the campsite. Overall though, the hot spring was a bit of a letdown for us. I think it would be a lot nicer on a weekday with smaller crowds and I personally wouldn’t return on a weekend again. There were just too many people and there was one group that hogged the pools for at least 3 hours and were still there after we’d come and gone.

The set-up of the pools is really something. The hot water flows down from a stream above the Lillooet River and trickles into a man made, but natural-looking rock pool. From there the water cascades into two other pools. Unfortunately the first pool is too hot to get in and the second pool is bearable, but still quite hot. The third pool is a perfect temperature and as such, the most popular of the 3. This is where the one group were hanging out. We went down to the pools around 4pm, but it was still busy, so we came back again a little later. We were able to get into the second pool and hung out in there for a little while as the sun set. But the one group insisted on blocking up the bottom pool and stayed into the night drinking, so we did get to visit, but overall it was a little frustrating. We debated getting up early to visit again, but decided to let it be in favour of a lie in, which I definitely don’t regret!

So overall, it was nice, but I would personally recommend going on a weekday if at all possible. Also, don’t be the group that gets drunk in the bottom pool all night. I was impressed that I actually didn’t see any garbage around the hot springs, so hopefully people are learning. But if you decide to visit Keyhole, as either a day hiker or an overnighter, make sure you practice leave no trace camping! Don’t leave anything behind – take everything out with you, including your toilet paper! There’s no facilities at all, so make sure you dig a hole if you’re going #2. The hot springs really are a natural wonder and they are beautiful, so lets do our best to take care of them!

So that’s my rant on the hot springs. I didn’t want to glamourize it because social media does enough of that already. I do think everyone has a right to the hot springs, we just need to protect them. I know keyhole isn’t the only place suffering from overuse, Garibaldi Lake, Joffre Lakes, and other popular destinations also suffer from a huge amount of overuse, with people leaving a ton of garbage behind and destroying the natural landscape in search of firewood. The overuse just seems a little more pronounced at Keyhole because of its small size.

But we still had a great time camping! It was crazy warm during the day when we were hiking in because the sun was shining on us the whole time, but it still got quite cold overnight. On a warmer day, like the day we visited, I think it would be easy to underestimate how cold it can get overnight. I debated how much gear I should actually bring. In addition to my winter jacket and snow pants, I brought my -15 sleeping bag, my sleeping bag liner, a camp blanket, a winter pad, and a lightweight down jacket to sleep in. I thought the blanket and extra jacket might be overkill, but I ended up using both, so I don’t regret it. I probably would have been fine with less gear, but I was so cozy overnight, it was worth it!

We had some more lessons learned when it comes to water though. The last two places we’ve stayed have both had pretty clean snow to melt for water, but because it was later in the season, there wasn’t as much fresh snow and most of it had pine needles in it because the campsite was located in the woods and the needles fall from the canopy. I had to walk a distance to find good snow to melt for water and even then, it still had some dirt in it. We’ve discovered that melted snow tastes extremely gross, so if you’re only going for one night, it might be worth taking a bit of extra water with you for drinking to see you through the trip. But if that’s not possible, which often its not because you don’t want to carry the extra weight and even if you did, the water could easily freeze overnight anyways, so we decided next time we will probably take Brandon’s gravity filter with us. That way we can melt the snow and then put it through the filter to remove any dirt and hopefully improve the taste a little.

Overall, it was still a fun trip, but it is a long drive (~4 hours) and because of the crowds it doesn’t stick out in my mind as much as the other snow camping trips we’ve done. But we tried something new and now we can finally cross it off the bucket list after all our other failed attempts!

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