Posts Tagged With: Backpacking

Skyline II Backpacking Trip

Continuing on with my mini-series about Manning Park, I’m super thrilled to finally write about the Skyline II Trail! After my amazing hike to 3 Brothers, I was inspired to go back to Manning. My goal was to hike the full Heather Trail, but I needed someone to do it with me. This was back in 2017, so I didn’t have as many hiking and backpacking friends as I have now, so that pretty much left Carolyn and Brandon because Seth isn’t really a fan of backpacking. I think Carolyn must have been on vacation at the time, but Brandon happily agreed to go with me. I wanted to hike from Blackwell Road all the way down to Cayuse Flats, staying overnight at Kicking Horse Campsite and Nicomen Lake. But since this requires two vehicles, we decided to try out the Skyline Trail instead.

The Skyline Trail is located on the other side of the park (basically, the other side of the highway) and continues for 25km to Skagit Valley Provincial Park. Since hiking to Skagit Valley would also require two vehicles, we decided to do a there-and-back-again hike from Strawberry Flats in Manning Park. The Skyline Trail is also well known for its wildflowers, but it doesn’t receive quite as many visitors as the Heather Trail, presumably because of the elevation gain. We wanted to beat the crowds to the campsite, so we decided to take Friday off and head out early.

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It was late July and a beautiful blue sky day. We started hiking around noon and our goal was to stay at Mowich Camp, which is located right at the halfway point along the trail: 12.5km. The start of the Skyline II Trail is a bit of a slog. You leave from Strawberry Flats, which is a little way past Lightning Lakes. You can also hike the Skyline I Trail, which leaves directly from Lightning Lakes, but is longer and takes a different route up. On the Skyline II Trail, it’s about 5km to the junction with the Skyline I Trail. There’s not a whole lot to see on the way up – it’s pretty much all uphill in the trees, but they start to thin out near the top and you can catch a glimpse of Snow Camp and Goat Mountain. While it’s not the most interesting section of the trail, I’ve always liked it because it’s not too steep, so it takes about 90 minutes to hike up.

Once you reach the junction though, you are greeted by one of the most beautiful views in the park! From the junction the view completely opens up and you can climb down to this rock viewpoint that looks out over the park, all the way to the distinctive peak of Hozameen Mountain in Washington. The viewpoint isn’t for the faint of heart as there’s a pretty big drop-off, but we loved hanging out there while we ate our lunches.

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After that, it’s back into the trees for one last challenging section. You have to climb back down and up Deception Pass. You head right back into the trees and follow the switchbacks down along the pass before starting to climb back out – I think it’s about another 1-2km, but then you’re home free for the rest of the hike! That’s not to say it’s easy, but it is damn beautiful! Skyline II Trail is what firmly cemented Manning Park as my favourite provincial park and to date, I still consider Skyline II Trail to be my favourite hike in all of BC. Now I still have yet to hike in the Rockies, but until I make it out there, Skyline Trail is definitely holding on to the top spot.

Once you climb out of the pass you quickly realize where the trail takes its name from. The rest of the hike is along the ridgeline looking down over meadows full of wildflowers to the Lightning Lakes Chain Trail, and out towards Hozameen Ridge and Hozameen Mountain. We had picked a dream day to hike the trail. There was absolutely no one on it since it was Friday, it was sunny, and the wildflowers were in peak bloom! I can’t recall exactly how long it took us to get to Mowich Camp, but it wasn’t the fastest. I have a feeling it was somewhere around 6 hours, which is a bit on the slow side for us, but we were constantly stopping to take pictures of the wildflowers and had a long lunch break at the viewpoint. Brandon is pretty silly and I was have a fun time hiking with him – he indulged me by taking lots of Sound of Music inspired photos of me dancing in the wildflowers.

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The big thing to be aware of if you’re camping on the Skyline Trail is the water supply. In hindsight, we were pretty lucky because we weren’t super prepared for it. There’s only one campsite on the entire trail and the water source is pretty small. It’s just one tiny stream that runs through the campsite. We weren’t sure if it was even going to be running, so we kept out eyes open for other water sources along the way. There are a few other streams running by, but it would have been a long walk from the campsite. Fortunately the stream in the campsite hadn’t yet dried up. Our plan had been to bring Brandon’s water filter since it was only a small source, but he forgot it, so we had to make do with the emergency water tabs in my first aid kit. Obviously we could have just boiled the water, which we also did to leave overnight, but the last thing you want after hiking all day is to drink hot water (or worse, no water if the stream was dried up). So plan accordingly if you’re going out there. In future, I would bring extra water with me just in case.

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Despite the rest of the trail being breathtakingly gorgeous, Mowich Camp isn’t much to write home about. It’s hidden in the trees, so there’s no viewpoint from the camp. But it still goes down in my memory as one of the more memorable campsites. For the first, and only time, on all of my hikes, we were the only people at the campsite. Manning Park is too far to drive after work and then hike into the camp, so we ended up being the only ones there! It was a weird experience. I’ve camped several times with only a limited number of other people (Juan de Fuca Trail and Ring Lake come to mind), but never as the only people. We took over the whole campsite and picked the best spot to pitch our tent. Brandon set up his hammock across two trees and we set up his bluetooth speaker while we cooked to scare away any animals that might be attracted by the smell. Brandon made chili for supper and had even brought dessert up with him! Overall it was a relaxing evening, except when Brandon left to go get ready for bed and I was left alone in the tent with only the sounds of the forest to keep me company. It’s kind of creepy being the only people around and I was definitely more aware of the potential for animals to wonder into the campsite. We were very careful about keeping all of our smellies away from the tent.

But we weren’t disturbed at all and woke up in the morning to continue our journey. Our plan for day two was to hike along Hozameen Ridge to Monument 74 at the Canada-USA border for a view of Hozameen Mountain. We continued along the Skyline Trail for a little while until we reached the junction for Hozameen. The Skyline II Trail continues down from there all the way to Skagit Valley. I’ve never done that section of the trail, but I have heard there’s more elevation gain to reach the bottom, so it’s not as scenic as the Manning side of the hike. But our destination lay along the ridge. We took the junction onto the Hozameen Ridge Trail, which continues all the way to border, and I suspect onwards past Hozameen Mountain and Ross Lake. I was never able to find a proper map for it, so I’m not really sure. My GPS says the trail ends shortly before the border, but it definitely continues to the monument and beyond.

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Hiking along the ridge is pretty easy. It’s mostly flat and you meander back and forth through the trees, catching views on both sides. As you approach the end of the ridge, you start climbing. This is definitely a more challenging section, but as you crest the end of the ridge, you’re rewarded with an unimpeded view straight to Hozameen Mountain. If you’ve ever been to Manning on a clear day, it’s likely you noticed Hozameen Mountain. It’s the biggest mountain in the area, with very distinctive jagged peaks. We decided it was the perfect lunch spot and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to soak in the view while we ate our wraps. While we were eating, we came across our first visitors of the day, three trail runners that were training for Manning’s ultra marathon in August, the Fat Dog 120. They had started running that morning and caught up with us at the half-point of their run (and our 3 day trip). They downed a few gels, snapped some photos of Hozameen, and then took off again while we stared flabbergasted that they’d run the same distance it took us 2 days to traverse in just one morning. I bet we had more fun though.

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Our lunch viewpoint is where it looks like the trail ends on my GPS, from there it’s a steep downhill towards Hozameen. We could see the border monument and trail continuing at the bottom, but I was reluctant to go down there because I didn’t want to have to climb back up again. There was no way Brandon was leaving the last stretch of trail unfinished though and he dragged me down over the side to finish what we started. It is difficult to follow the trail down over the edge and it is pretty steep, so be careful if you’re following this route, but I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment when we reached the monument. It was my first time hiking to a border monument (I’ve since done Monument 78 as well) and we had a lot of fun snapping pictures and dancing around the monument.

I was surprised to learn upon reaching the monument that the entire border is actually clear cut through the park. As we hiked along the ridge, we noticed there was a corridor of clear cut trees, but never considered it was the border. I just assumed there was a transmission line down there. But once you arrive at the monument, it becomes pretty clear that it’s the border. I researched it after the trip and confirmed that it is true. There’s no signage at the monument, but I later learned when I hiked to the PCT monument that the border is also monitored by cameras. There’s a sign at the PCT monument asking you not to moon the border as you are on video! Wish I known this when I was flipping Trump the bird at the monument by Hozameen!

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We continued along the trail a little bit further to get another view of Hozameen Mountain before finally deciding to turn back. The trail definitely continues on, but it’s hard to judge the distance because mountains as large as Hozameen can be very misleading when guessing distance. All in all we hiked about 15km there and back to the campsite. We didn’t see anyone on the trail on our way back, but upon arriving it was obvious that other people had been busy hiking in all day. Our little solitary campsite was now filed with campers who had driven up in the morning to hike in for one night. It made me glad that we had taken Friday off and had the opportunity to hike the trail on our own, but we made some new friends with some of our fellow campers and swapped stories while teaching them to play exploding kittens.

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We’d had two beautiful blue sky days, but the weather was forecasted to change on Sunday. When I hike with Carolyn, we’re always the first people up and on the trail, but when I hike with Brandon, we’re usually the last. Carolyn is a major morning person, while Brandon likes to take his time. I tend more towards being a morning person, but I can swing either way and enjoy sleeping in and taking it easy when I hike with Brandon. So despite being the first people to the campsite, we were among the last to leave. The clouds had finally moved in, but fortunately the rain was staying away. We made better time on the hike out, but we still stopped a lot to take more pictures. Even though I prefer round trip hikes, I find there-and-back-again hikes still look different from both directions and I have a tendency to take all my pictures twice – especially when it’s different weather conditions and all the photos look different anyways.

We stopped again at the big viewpoint for lunch and then pounded the last 5km back down to Strawberry Flats. I can’t remember if it ever did rain on us, which itself suggests that likely it didn’t, or at most was just a bit of drizzle. So even though it was 3 years ago that I hiked the trail, it still stands out in my memory as one of my most memorable backpacking trips and my all time favourite trail!

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Lindeman Lake Backpacking Trip

It’s been a while since my last post. Obviously the world has changed substantially since March 18th. It has been challenging to be confined to my home for the last 2 months, but I still have my job and my health, so taking a break from the outdoors is really a very small price to pay right now. We had to cancel several Girl Guide camps that we were planning for May, as well as I was planning to go on a May Long weekend backpacking trip with some friends. I currently have a trip booked to Mount Assiniboine for the first week of July that I’m not really convinced will go ahead, but I guess I can still hope.

In the meantime, I have literally dozens of backpacking trips and day hikes that I have never taken the time to write about, so I decided to kick things back off with a recount of my first time backpacking up to Lindeman Lake. I’ve posted about Lindeman Lake on my blog before because it’s a hike I’ve done many times. I think it’s a great introductory hike for beginner day hikers, as well as backpackers. Plus the snow melts pretty early in the season, so it’s one of the few hikes you can do from May onwards. The first time I backpacked up to Lindeman Lake was over the May Long weekend in 2017 and it ended up becoming an annual backpacking trip for me and my friends. The first year we went, it was just me, Carolyn, and Megan, her (at-the-time) new roommate and soon-to-be one of my good friends.

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We picked it for all the reasons outlined above – it’s free of snow in May and at 3km, it’s a good start-of-season warm up hike. We decided to hike up on Saturday morning and stay 2 nights, day hiking up to Greendrop Lake on the second day. Lindeman Lake is located in Chilliwack Provincial Park, about 2 hours out of Vancouver at the end of Chilliwack Lake Road. There’s no cell service out there at all, so be prepared. You do need a backcountry pass if you plan to camp overnight in the park, but it’s only $5 per person for night, so it makes for a cheap trip. There’s no reservation system, so you don’t need to book in advance, but be prepared for a decent number of people at the lake for this reason. We camped there again on the long weekend in 2018 and both times we were able to find somewhere to pitch our tents (actually camped in the same spot both years), but the tent pads fill up fast, so be prepared for variable ground if you don’t head up early. There’s a number of good spots right at the edge of the lake, and more spots back along the river when you first walk up. I say “spots” and not “sites” because aside from the 4-5 tent pads, it’s really an open camping area, so it might not be the best location for this season as you have to be prepared for close neighbours.

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Lindeman Lake attracts a lot of visitors because the entire round trip trail is only about 3.5km – but beware, with almost 400m in elevation gain, it is still pretty steep for almost the entire trail. With our backpacks it took us about an hour or more to reach the lake, without backpacks I’ve done it in 35 mins, but we were moving fast. The 3 of us shared a tent, so we pitched it sometime around noon and settled in to make lunch and have a lazy afternoon. The campsite is very forested, so it doesn’t get much sunlight, and only in the morning, so it can get really cold in the trees in May. We scrambled across the river along the logs to the other side so that we could chill on the rocks in the sun and read for a bit. I’m not sure how easy it is to normally cross the river – I suspect it depends on the previous winter and the water levels. Fortunately it was easy when we visited, but I’m sure that’s not always the case. We had gorgeous weather, so it was pretty warm lying out on the rocks.

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It still gets pretty cold in the mountains in May, so we brought lots of warm gear for sitting out and for sleeping. Since it was a short hike, we hauled up lots of luxury items, including a frisbee, my hula hoop, and my hammock. Please be aware that there are no campfires allowed in the park. This rule gets ignored a lot at the campsite and it really bothers me. Since it was May, there was no fire ban in place yet and a lot of people take that as free reign to have campfires, but my suspicion is that the real reason campfires are banned is because there’s just not enough firewood in the area for people to make them. You have to go out in the woods to collect your own firewood and it is very damaging to the natural landscape and I’m sure lots of habitat. You can see where people have been chopping down trees over the years and I support the ban here to protect the environment. So please don’t have campfires if you’re going up there! In terms of other facilities at the lake, there are a few tent pads and a bear cache (take your garbage home with you please! So many people leave trash in the bear cache), but the washroom facility is bare bones. It’s just a pit toilet up on the hillside (no walls, no toilet paper).

But on to more fun stuff. On the second day we decided to pack a lunch and day hike up to Greendrop Lake. At the time, we did not have microspikes and we managed okay, but I’d recommend them as there was still some snow near the top and I think the ice and snow levels could easily vary based on the year. It’s about 8km round trip to hike up to Greendrop from Lindeman. My favourite part of the hike is the first section right when you leave the campsite. You continue on along the edge of the lake across the many boulder fields. When you reach the end of the lake, there’s a beautiful view looking back at the lake and tons of big rocks to relax on. In retrospect, this is the place to hang out and read. If you’re only going as far as Lindeman Lake, don’t miss out on this view, make sure to hike up to the end of the lake, it’s not that much further.

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I don’t have that much else to say about the hike to Greendrop Lake though. There’s a lot more uphill and few more boulder fields to pass over. It’s not too difficult a hike, although it was somewhat confusing near the top because there was still snow there and it was difficult to find the trail. But overall it’s not one of the more scenic hikes I’ve done and there’s not much of a view of Greendrop Lake. I know some people love camping up at Greendrop, but we didn’t really see the appeal. In May it is substantially colder than Lindeman Lake and we were freezing trying to make our lunch. We couldn’t find anywhere that was getting sunlight, so we ate as fast as we could and then started to make our way back to Lindeman again. Later in the year you can do a 20km loop from Lindeman to Greendrop to Flora Lake and then back down again, but I wouldn’t attempt this until July because there will still be lots of snow at higher elevations.

On our way back we decided to take a long stop at the end of the lake to sunbathe on the rocks. It was really warm lying out and Carolyn and I decided to do a polar bear dip in the lake. The water is absolutely freezing in May (and likely all year round since it’s all snow melt), and your body starts to go numb as soon as you jump in, but the shock to the system is soothing on your aching muscles and we loved the quick dip in the water.

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So overall it was a pretty relaxing long weekend hike. We ended up making it an annual trip and we’ve always tried to keep it as a more relaxing start-of-season hike. We spent lots of time lounging in the hammock and playing frisbee and I taught Carolyn a trick or two on my hula hoop. We were camped on a bit of slope, so we’d wake up every morning with the 3 of us having shifted down to the bottom of the tent overnight, but we had a good laugh about it. Me and Carolyn are morning people, so we loved going to bed as soon as the sun went down and then getting up early to make breakfast. Meg is definitely a night owl, so she’d chill outside watching the stars and let us fix her breakfast in the morning (never ask Meg to be responsible for breakfast lol). We didn’t love Greendrop – but I have lots of fond memories at Lindeman Lake and this hike was the start of a bigger tradition that has become one of my yearly highlights. I’ll be sad to miss it this year, but hopefully we’ll be back at it later in the season!

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Wedgemount Lake Backpacking Trip

It’s been 3 years since I hiked Wedgemount Lake, but this trail still haunts me!

Wedgemount Lake is a 14km round trip hike with a whopping 1200 metres in elevation gain. All I can say is, don’t underestimate it. Wedgemount has recently been added to Garibaldi Park’s database of reservable sites, so you now have to book to go up there, which wasn’t the case when I visited. I suspect this may have actually increased the traffic up there though because people that aren’t able to get a spot at Garibaldi Lake or Elfin Lakes, see it on the map and decide to go there instead. I don’t actually know if this is true or not, but I did meet a group of 5 guys at the trailhead to Elfin once who were changing their plans to go to Wedgemount when they realized Elfin was full, but just a guess!

Wedgemount is incredibly scenic once you get to the top, but boy is it a long slog to get there. I went in late August with Brandon the first summer I started camping and I believe we started hiking sometime after noon. There’s very little to see but forest until you reach the halfway point across a short boulder field. After that, it’s back into the woods again until just before the end when you have to climb a steep boulder field to get up to the top. Don’t get me wrong, the whole trail is steep, but the boulder field is definitely tough with overnight packs as you’re basically climbing up over the rocks.

When you get to the top of the landslide, you’re in a valley of sorts, with Wedgemount lake at the bottom, surrounded by another set of peaks and the Wedgemount glacier. You hike down into the valley, which is completely wide open with very little shelter. Over the years, people have moved the rocks around to create little rock-walled campsites to protect from the wind that funnels in through the valley across the lake. There is a small hut up there as well, but I think most people opt to camp as there’s tons of space up there and lots of sites to choose from.

It was certainly windy when we went up there. Even though it was August, it’s one of the coldest camping trips I can remember. I was fine once I got in my sleeping bag and went to bed, but until then, it’s freezing sitting out on the ridge with nothing to shelter you from the wind. We set up our tent as fast as we could and tried to find the most sheltered place to quickly make and eat out supper. Then we hit the sack pretty early because it was just so cold outside.

It’s a beautiful location though. Wedgemount Lake itself is quite large, but the soils must be a lot siltier than other lakes in the park because it has a much paler blue hue to the water. The wind died down overnight and we got up early to do a little exploring around the lake. Like I said, it’s a wide open space surrounded by other mountain peaks, so there’s tons to explore up there. Our exploration was pretty limited, which kind of makes me what to go back, but that landslide still haunts me and I don’t want to have to haul my backpack up over it every again.

We did explore to the glacier though. If you walk around to the head of the lake, you can see the Wedgemount glacier. I’m sure it looks different every year depending on how the ice changes and melts, but the year we visited had left another lake at the base of the glacier with lots of bergy bits (real technical term – I’m a Newfoundlander, I would know) floating around. The glacier is huge and looks misleading in pictures, but Brandon got a few great photos of me standing at the base of the glacier that really put the size in perspective.

The lake is nice, but the glacier was definitely the highlight for me. The only other glacier I’ve hiked to is the glacier at the top of Brandywine Mountain, so it was a landscape quite unlike where I usually hike (the Brandywine Glacier was very different as the ice melt was flowing down the mountain instead of pooling).  I can’t decide whether Wedgemount makes for a better day hike or overnight though. A day hike seems like it might be rushed, but having just a day pack sounds a lot nicer, so it might be a judgement call based on your fitness level.

The clouds were looking pretty threatening though, so we didn’t stick around too long at Wedgemount. We packed up our things just before the rain hit and hiked back over the landslide and down again. Wedgemount is just as tough going down as it is going up. It’s a steep hike over the landslide and then the trail feels like it goes on forever after that, with nothing to look at and no respite for your knackered knees. It was a relief when we finally hit the parking lot.

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