Posts Tagged With: BC

Hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail – Part III

I haven’t been blogging here lately because I recently started a book blog and I’ve been doing a lot of blogging at The Paperback Princess instead. But I’m going travelling soon, so I logged back in to this blog to write a post and realized I wrote an entire post about my last day on the Juan de Fuca trail that I never posted. So if you’ve been waiting in anticipation for this for the last year, here’s some closure! I’ll follow up shortly with some information about the next trip I’m taking!

See my first 2 posts about the Juan de Fuca trail here: Part 1, Part 2


Day 3 had me feeling pretty nervous. The Juan de Fuca trail map marks this section as the “most strenuous” section of the trail. Most people do the trail the opposite direction as us to get the hard part out of the way first, but we wanted to get the longer distances done first, which is why we did the trail backwards.

About 20 minutes before we planned to get up we were woken by the pitter patter of rain drops on our tent. I have a good backpack and a good rain cover, but I still have irrational fears about hiking in the rain and having my sleeping bag get wet (even though the rain has never once seeped into my bag). I admit to a moment of weakness when I heard the rain on our tent. We had no way of knowing how long the rain would last and the idea of hiking through the “most strenuous” part of the trail in the rain was not appealing. I am now embarrassed to admit that I did float the idea of turning around and hiking back to Sombrio Beach to bail instead of finishing the 21km left of our journey.

We took our time getting ready in the morning – we boiled water for our oatmeal through the tent flap and tried to pack up everything inside the tent to keep our things from getting wet. While we packed we debated. Admittedly, the first two days of the trip had had some extremely challenging times and I struggled with the idea of two more days of wet and exhaustion. But I struggled more with the idea of giving up. I knew that if I gave up on the trail I would never come back and do it again.

Fortunately, the weather came back on our side and the rain started to clear out just when we got out of the tent to take it down. By the time we got the tent packed away, it had dissipated entirely and we decided to continue on our journey. I am so glad of that decision because it really was upwards from that point forward for the rest of the trip and we had a great time on the last 2 days of the trail!

It was definitely a wet start after the rain and we struggled to hoist ourselves up onto the rock at the end of the beach to get back on the trail. I believe we had to take our backpacks off 3 times in the first km to manoeuver around and over trees and boulders, but things shaped up after that.

It was still pretty muddy along the trail, but nothing we weren’t used to. The trail markers pretty much disappeared along this section, so we had no idea how far we’d gone, but we felt like we’d been making good time. We heard from other hikers that we would see a trail marker after 6km, which was our halfway point, so we made it our lunch goal again.

Day 3 was the first day where we finally actually made it to our lunch goal, which was huge cause for celebration! There was still some challenging, muddy sections along the way, but there were a lot of people passing us in the opposite direction and we were reassured by how remarkably clean they all were. We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but we were optimistic that the mud must clear up based on the state of everyone we passed.

Fortunately, it did about 5 km in, and though there were a lot of up and downs along this section, it was easily our best day on the trail to date! The hilly nature of this section is what gives it a “strenuous” rating, but me and Emily will take the hills over the mud any day! After the 5 km mark the mud all but disappeared, the sun came out, and we had a pretty great day ambling along the trail and silently mocking all the people we passed who were still trying to stay clean and avoid the mud. We knew they were in for a treat.

In retrospect, I’m even more glad we did the trail backwards because the last 15-ish km had pretty much no mud. I can’t imagine starting on the easy trail without mud and then having to deal with the trail getting progressively worse as we went (as well as the distance). So we were very assured in our decision to do the trail backwards and really enjoyed the last two days.

That’s not to say there weren’t still some challenging sections. There was a particularly awful river crossing where we had to haul ourselves up using a rope, but overall our spirits were much higher! We reached Bear Beach in record time for us, hitting the first campsite at about 4pm. Bear Beach is 2km long and has 3 campsites spread out along it. The first one didn’t look that great and we figured the furthest one would be filled with hikers who had been coming from the opposite direction, so we decided to head for the middle campsite.

There were only 3 other people at the campsite, so again, we had tons of space to ourselves and found a nice place to set up our tent. Since we’d arrived at camp 2.5 hours earlier than the other 2 days, we had more time to relax and we played a few games of cards. It was a little windier on Bear Beach, but we had a great view of the ocean and the clouds had cleared off entirely during the day, so we stayed up watching the tide slowly moves its way up the beach all evening.

Day 4, our final day on the trail, was easily the nicest. The sun came up early and there were blue skies all day. I’d been worried about Day 3 because Emily, who’s done more extended hiking than me, warned that from her experience Day 3 was the hardest on your body. Day 4 ended up being the toughest for me though. Fortunately, it was the easiest day on the trail by far (no mud and limited ups and downs), but without obstacles to distract me, my aching back was the only thing I could focus on. My body was definitely tired of carrying a pack and while it didn’t really slow down our pace, it was pretty uncomfortable.

The views along the trail were amazing though. We hiked mostly along the bluffs and with the clear skies, the ocean was the most fantastic shade of dark blue. We had 10km left to go on the final day, but we didn’t have a lunch packed, so we decided to push forward through 8km to Mystic Beach for our lunch stop. We snacked on the way there and planned to eat our way through all our remaining food for lunch when we reached Mystic Beach (for me this mostly consisted of the last of my jerky and trail mix and a mars bar).

We stopped for a few short breaks, but we made great time, arriving at Mystic Beach around 2pm. Mystic Beach was definitely one of the more beautiful beaches along the trail, mostly because it’s the only sandy beach. It was a bit jarring when we popped out on the beach though because it was like an immediate entry back into civilization.

Mystic Beach is only 2km from the trailhead, so it’s a popular destination for locals and tourists and was reasonably crowded with day-trippers. I was sad to leave the remoteness of the trail. When you’re on the trail, it’s just you and the trail and it’s easy to forget about the outside world. The trail feels like this living, breathing thing – it’s always changing, but you can’t change it. You can only adapt to it and push through. Sometimes it will reward you and sometimes it won’t. The trail really tested us throughout our trek, but I also feel like I learned from it and grew with it. It was my first through-trek, so it’s kind of hard to describe, but it felt so much more special to me, like I could now claim a piece of this trail for myself.

I know I don’t actually hold any claim to the trail, but I really felt like I could appreciate it more. Mystic Beach is beautiful and I understand why people flock to it – it’s a gorgeous place to spend the day and take pictures for your Instagram to make everyone else jealous. But it’s only a piece of the trail, arguably the most beautiful piece, but for me it made me appreciate all those other parts of the trail and the more subtle beauty. The rainy, rocky outcropping and tide-pools where we started our journey, the wet bridge crossing the river and falls at Payzant, when you first break through the forest onto the beach at Sombrio, rejoicing along the logging road, ambling up and down over the hills and through the sparse trees, the mink we saw running across the rocks on Bear Beach.

The trail really was more than the sum of its parts. Seth read my first blog and told me my account really didn’t make him want to do the trail. Yes, it was definitely a challenge, but I definitely don’t regret it. Through hiking is quite different from setting up a base camp and day-hiking, mostly it’s harder, but there’s the reward of really feeling like you’ve gone somewhere and accomplished something, physically and emotionally.

Arriving at Mystic Beach also felt very liberating. There were a ton of teenagers doing the whole dog and pony show in their little bikinis, running around the beach, posing under the waterfall, and playing in the water with their inflatables. So it was kind of freeing to walk onto the beach smelling and looking like actual death and just not giving a shit about any of it. You don’t care what you look like in the woods and when you’re on the trail your only concerns are your immediate needs. You eat when you’re hungry, you sleep when you’re tired – it’s simplistic. In that moment we wanted to lie on the beach and gorge ourselves on jerky and mars bars, so that’s what we did. We dumped our bags and kicked off our boots and didn’t care a bit what anyone else thought of us.

We lounged on the beach for quite a while – our reward at the end of the trail – before backing up our bags again for the final 2 km. We had a quite a laugh on the way out because the trail is, of course, pristine for the last 2 km. It’s all brand new fancy boardwalks, stairs, and bridges over the tiniest trickle of water or mud. So we were a little peeved all our trail fees were likely going into maintaining a 2 km section of trail for day-hikers who pay nothing, but hey, I’m glad it’s there for everyone to enjoy and I’m more often in the position of the day-hikers than the trekker.

I definitely was challenged by the experience, but I also learned from it. I’m a little addicted to backpacking now and I’m sure this will only lead to more and more adventures!

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Categories: Life in British Columbia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Favourite Hikes in Southwestern BC

I feel like I haven’t been in BC long enough to be advising anyone on hiking, but it’s become a favourite pastime of mine and since I moved here I’ve done 42 hikes (I counted!), so I’m going to share some of my favourites. (all photos taken my me!)

 

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#10 Garibaldi Lake – I’m starting with Garibaldi Lake because it is easily one of the most popular day hikes and it was my first major hike (15+ km). I was totally blown away by the view at Garibaldi Lake, which both deepened my love of the outdoors and inspired me to take up backcountry camping this summer. The downside to this hike is that the trail to the lake is a bit of a slog. It starts with 6km of switchbacks, but the view at the end is phenomenal! (18km, 800m gain, 7 hours)

 

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#9 Joffre Lakes – Another super popular hike – the best part about Joffre Lakes for me is that, unlike Garibaldi Lake, the entire hike is incredibly gorgeous! The scenery is so amazing throughout the entire hike, it’s almost overwhelming. What’s definitely overwhelming though is the crowds. Everyone knows this a relatively easy hike for the payoff and it’s been heavily marketed to tourists. I think it’s great to see so many people out enjoying the beautiful landscapes, but it does take away from the backcountry feel. I’d recommend doing on a weekday if possible. (11km, 350m gain, 5 hours)

 

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#8 Hollyburn Mountain – I’ve only gone snowshoeing on Hollyburn Mountain, but it was so much fun! It’s a pretty steep walk up to the top, but it’s not a long distance. The steep ascent is worth it though because then you can participate in the fun tradition of sliding back down the whole thing on your bum, So make sure to bring a garbage bag with you! The view from the top looking out into the watershed is beautiful! (10km, 400m gain, 4 hours)

 

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#7 Wedgemount Lake – Located just past Whistler, this is tough, steep hike. I did this as an overnighter and was totally pooped by the time we made it to the lake. There’s a breathtaking view of the valley as you make your way up to Wedgemount and a beautiful view of the lake from the top. It’s a scramble up to the top though, so expect to spend the better part of an hour climbing up loose rock. The highlight of Wedgemount for me though is the glacier, which is another 20-30 minute walk from the lake. (14km, 1200m gain, 7 hours)

 

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#6 Elfin Lakes – The second most popular hike after Garibaldi Lake, which I just completed this past weekend. It’s a long trail at 22km, but it’s one of the easier hikes on the list. The trail is extremely well maintained and fairly easy along the entire length. It was pretty foggy on the day I visited, so I didn’t get the best view of the surrounding mountains, but there’s a beautiful walk along the ridge on the way there and a hut you can stay in overnight, which is super popular during the winter. (22km, 600m gain, 6 hours)

 

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#5 Tenquille Lake – This is a tough one to get to without 4WD, which significantly shortens the hike along the service road, but has a beautiful view during the last few kilometers of the hike. This was my first foray into backcountry hiking and we camped overnight at the lake, which I would highly recommend! The views around the lake are incredible and I’d love to go back and explore more around the area. I was too early for most of the alpine flowers, but still got to see a few in the meadow! (14km, 6 hours)

 

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#4 Semaphore Lakes – A short drive from Tenquille Lake, but the trailhead is much more easily accessible. It’s a short hike (which is nice if you’re trying backcountry for the first time), but it’s pretty steep, so don’t be deceived by the 3km length. The view at the top is amazing though and this is one place where it’s easy to escape the crowds (maybe I shouldn’t be boasting about it?). There’s several lakes to explore and you’ll be surrounded by beautiful snow-capped peaks and glaciers! (5km, 300m gain, 3 hours)

 

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#3 Three Brothers Mountain– This hike is located in Manning Park and is part of the Heather Trail. We hiked the first 10 kilometres of the trail to climb up Three Brothers Mountain. What I loved about this hike is that it’s scenic the entire way, made even more amazing during late July/early August, when the meadows are covered in thousands of wildflowers. You do most of the elevation gain on the way up to the trailhead, so it’s not a difficult hike, just long. My favourite part was hiking along the ridge of Three Brothers Mountain with a 360 degree view all around! (21km, 500m gain, 6 hours)

 

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#2 Brandywine Meadows/Mountain – Another hike that is made much easier with a 4WD, this was one of my favourites due to the incredibly low volume of people. I think we saw about 5 people the entire day, which is in stark contrast to most of the trails. The hike to the meadows is very short if you take 4WD the whole way up, so we decided to extend our hike up Brandywine Mountain where I stood on my first glacier! The view of the valley from the top is breathtaking. (12km, 1200m gain, 5 hours)

 

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#1 Panorama Ridge – Definitely tops my list as one of the all-around best hikes. If you’re super intense, you can do Panorama as a 30km round-trip day hike, but we opted instead to camp at Garibaldi Lake overnight. Like I said, the hike to Garibaldi Lake is kind of boring until you reach the lake, but Panorama Ridge is scenic the whole way. You spend the first half of the hike looking out at the ridge, then you have an excellent view of Black Tusk until you reach the top where you are rewarded with the most amazing view of Garibaldi Lake and the surrounding mountains. (15km, 600m gain, 6 hours)

Categories: Life in British Columbia | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Rest of my BC Summer

I shared an earlier post about the first half of my summer in BC, so here’s one for the second half of what has truly been an awesome summer!

Seth and I did a lot of camping in July in August. In hindsight, we probably would have preferred to do a little less camping and a little more hiking, but we still had a good time. Unfortunately, we got rained out on our first two camping trips. It only rained about 2-3 times during the entire month of July and it just happened to coincide with our camping trips! We were able to salvage some of our camping trip to Cultus Lake with an early morning hike of Teapot Hill. It’s named for an old teapot that was found at the top of the hill and if you hike there now, people have hidden dozens of teapots all along the trail, which makes for a fun scavenger hunt on the way up.

View from Teapot Hill

We had better luck in August and spent a weekend camping at Alice Lake Provincial Park near Squamish. We bought a rubber dinghy earlier this year and we finally got to take it out for a spin at Alice Lake. Alice Lake was much smaller compared to the other lakes we’ve camped at, but it was one of my favourites because it’s too small for motorized boats, so there’s no boat traffic at all. Our main motivation for staying at Alice Lake though was to cut off some of the drive to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, which is a hike that has been recommended to me by pretty much every avid hiker I talked to throughout the summer.

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Joffre Lakes is located outside Pemberton, which is a three hour drive from Vancouver, and features three alpine lakes nestled under Matier Glacier. It’s an 11km roundtrip hike up into the mountains, which seemed like a walk in the park compared to our 20km hike to Garibaldi Lake. We both loved Garibaldi Lake, which ends at a beautiful glacial lake, but has a long 7km trek up continuous switchbacks to get to the view. I loved Joffre Lakes because the entire hike is incredibly scenic, not just at the end.

The hike starts at the first lake and then hikes through a boulder field up to the middle lake. The middle lake provides a great view of the Matier Glacier and there’s a beautiful waterfall flowing down from the upper lake. When you reach the upper lake, you can look straight across to the glacier. If you continue around the lake, you can actually camp on a huge rock located right under the glacier and you get a great view of the rest of the mountain range. It was a great hike, but it’s definitely worth it to get there early in the day, because everybody else loves this hike too. Parking was insane off the side of the highway and the crowds of people on the trail were at times a little overwhelming. Otherwise, I would highly recommend this hike!

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Some of other highlights of my summer included a Vancouver Canadians baseball game, the annual Celebration of Light, and of course, more hiking. The Vancouver Canadians are the Toronto Blue Jays affiliate team for the Northwest Minor League. We found a great groupon and both attended a game for just $14! They play in Nat Bailey Stadium, which is just a bunch of bleachers behind home base, but it felt very old school and we had a blast.

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The Celebration of Light is an annual fireworks competition that takes place over English Bay in late July. Every year two other countries compete with Canada to put off the best fireworks show. We decided to go watch Brazil’s fireworks display, which consisted of a 30 minute show choreographed to music. There were all kinds of activities beforehand and we had fun watching some Brazilian samba dancing, Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), and the SkyHawks, an awesome Canadian parachute stunt team. The fireworks display was amazing and next year we’ll have to try and catch Canada’s contribution.

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I did a few shorter hikes during the summer as well. I joined Karen and Grant on the North Shore for a day hike up to Dog Mountain, which had a great view of the city. And I made a trip out to Squamish and hiked along Brohm Lake, which also had a great view of the some of the snow capped and glacier covered mountains.

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We ended off the summer with a trip to Vancouver Island for the first time since we’ve moved to Vancouver (and embarrassingly, my first time ever). The main purpose of the trip was to visit Victoria, but we camped outside the city in Goldstream Provincial Park to save money on a hotel. We didn’t spend too much time at the campsite, except to sleep, but we did do a nice roundtrip hike of the park. Goldstream River is named for the gold that was panned from the river during the gold rush and over the weekend we learned more than I thought there was to know about the gold rush.

The Goldstream hike takes you past an old goldmine cave that you can crawl into and up to an old railway trestle that crosses a huge gorge. It’s abandoned now, so you can walk along to the middle of trestle, which offers a pretty terrifying view down to the river at the bottom. We stopped at a few waterfalls along the way, the most notable of which is the very tall Niagara Falls. It’s a thin stream of water that flows down from the mountains, but it’s so named because the waterfall is actually taller than Niagara Falls! We finished the hike with a walk along the river which is very popular in the fall when thousands of salmon crowd the river to spawn.

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Victoria was a very nice city. It reminded me a little bit of St. John’s because everything in Victoria is much older than in Vancouver and many of the buildings were built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. We spent the morning at the Royal BC Museum, which had a great exhibit on about the gold rush, as well as their permanent exhibits about BC’s European and First Nations history, as well as BC’s natural history. My knowledge about BC’s history is a little lacking, so I definitely learned a lot.

We continued our education in the afternoon with a walking tour of Victoria. Our tour guide was excellent and we learned all about Victoria’s story – the many people that have passed through the city and the history of many of the buildings around the inner harbour. We always knew that New Westminster was the former capital of BC and that Victoria was the former capital of Vancouver Island, but our favourite story was when we learned how Victoria stole the title of BC’s capital from New Westminster.

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On the day of the vote for the capital, the Victoria delegation took the man who was going to give an impassioned speech in favour of New Westminster out for breakfast. They knew he had a weakness for gin, so they graciously supplied him with gin throughout breakfast until he was so drunk that when we got up to give his speech, he ended up stumbling through the first page 3 times before being taken away for drunkenness. Without his strong plea for New Westminster, Victoria was able to steal the vote and secure itself as the BC capital! Seth loved the story because it seems like the kind of half-brained plot you’d see fail in a movie, not actually succeed in real life.

Victoria has so many attractions that we had a hard time fitting them all in. We spent an evening at beautiful Butchart Gardens and a morning at the Butterfly Gardens. We drove to the top of Mount Douglas for a great view of the gulf islands and did a little hike up Bear Mountain for a nice view of Vancouver Island. We finished the trip with a stop at Sea Ciderhouse to sample some local made cider and go on a tour of the ciderhouse. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed a flight of cider outside on the deck before catching the ferry back to Vancouver. Even the ferry was a thrill and we saw an orca mama and baby duo swimming in front of the ferry on the way back!

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After a long, hot, and dry summer, fall is finally catching up with us. It was still quite warm in September, but there’s definitely a chill in the air and we finally got some rain to fill up our reservoirs. Apparently it’s a super el-nino year, so we’re expecting another mild winter. I’d love to have snow to go skiing, but if we don’t get any, we’ll probably just continue our tour of BC’s wilderness by hiking!

Much love,
Maria

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