Lindeman Lake Backpacking Trip II

I love that the weather is starting to change again, but since it’ll still be a little while before the mountains are free of snow, I decided to re-visit some of my past adventures. I first backpacked up to Lindeman Lake for the May Long weekend in 2017 and it ended up becoming a tradition that my friends and I would do an easy start-of-season camping trip over the long weekend.

We decided to return to Lindeman Lake again in 2018, this time with a larger group. Lindeman Lake is located at the end of Chilliwack Lake Road in Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. It’s a great early season hike because it’s short and not too high in elevation, so the snow melts quicker.

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We met at the trailhead on Saturday morning and hiked in to the lake as a group of 7. It’s a short hike, just 3.5km round trip, but it’s a steep one. The hike up takes ~1 hour with a day pack and ~1.5 hours with a backpack. It does get busy at the lake, even in May, and the tent pads disappear pretty quickly, but it’s not too difficult to find somewhere to pitch your tent and we ended up setting up in the exact same location as the previous year.

Our Lindeman Lake trip is all about taking it easy. Because it’s such a short hike we lugged up all kinds of leisure gear, including my hammock and Tiiu’s inflatable couch! It was Tiiu’s first time backpacking and somehow she still managed to have the smallest pack, even though it contained both the couch and a full bottle of wine! It was also Steve’s first time backpacking – his pack was about twice the size of Tiiu’s, but we were all jealous because he’d pretty much brought an entire pantry with him! He’s since become known as our trip bartender thanks to the assortment of drink mixes he always brings.

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On the first day, we hiked up to the end of the lake, which in my opinion has the best view, and then spent the rest of the afternoon playing frisbee and lounging around. I love hanging out at Lindeman and I always have a great time swinging in my hammock, watching the stars, and swapping stories with my friends. But one of the things that drives me crazy is how many people opt to have campfires at the lake despite the blatant ‘no fire’ signs. Fire restrictions aren’t always about fire bans or the risk of forest fires. Lindeman Lake receives a lot of traffic and so many people scouring the woods for debris is very destructive to the natural habitat. So please respect the fire restrictions and find some other way to enjoy your evening!

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Our plan for Sunday was to hike up towards Flora Peak. We’d done Greendrop Lake the year before and we wanted to try something new. We knew there’d be snow up there, but just wanted to see how far we could get. Before we left, I had a good laugh at Steve who had hiked in an actual can of frozen orange juice concentrate so that he could have juice for breakfast.

Lindeman Lake is the first stop on a 20km loop around the park that continues on to Greendrop Lake, Flora Lake, Flora Peak, and then back down again. We didn’t want to do the whole circuit, so we hiked back down the way we’d come until we reached the branch for Flora Peak. It’s an even steeper trail up to Flora, but it was snow free for the first couple of hours. We made a slow pace up to a wooded viewpoint where we stopped for some snacks. Steve and Meg decided to turn back from there, but the rest of us continued on.

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Eventually we hit snow and Tiiu decided to head back as well. Only myself, Brandon, and Carolyn continued on because we had all brought microspikes with us. It’s too bad we didn’t take Tiiu across the first snow crossing though because after that we popped out on the ridgeline and found the most amazing view looking down to Chilliwack Lake! We continued on along the ridge and eventually stopped for lunch on a rock overlooking the valley just before the trail branched off again for the peak.

The snow up to the peak was looking sketchy, so we decided not to continue beyond the ridge. Spring can be one of the most dangerous times for hiking because the snow is melting and it’s easy to fall through snow bridges or down into snow wells. We put our safety first and I definitely think it was the right choice. Plus, unspoken between me and Carolyn was the understanding that we both wanted to get back to campsite with enough daylight to go for a swim. We’d gone swimming the previous year and though it was no where near as warm this year, it felt like a milestone we just had to do.

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We hiked back down to the bottom of the trail and then, for probably the first and only time ever, left Brandon in the dust as we hiked back up to the campsite. Since it was so chilly, we wanted to work up a good sweat so that the lake would be more appealing. We blew through the campsite to the astonished faces of our friends when we told them we were continuing up to the end of the lake to go for a swim. They’d been hanging out in the shade for several hours already and were all freezing. So when we asked them if they wanted to join us, they all looked at us in disbelief, wrapped up in their puffy jackets and toques.

“So no swim then?” Carolyn confirmed while I grabbed my swimsuit. Then we took off again towards the end of the lake, leaving Steve with his mouth hanging open and Brandon somewhere back on the trail (he was fine!) We could have swam at the campsite, which is located at the head of the lake, but it’s only about 20 minutes to the back and in my opinion, the boulder field is the best place to go because it gets the most sunlight and it’s easier to fully submerge yourself by jumping off the rocks. We all but ran there to stay warm, stripped on the rocks, and then leaped in the lake for all of 5 seconds, before scrambling back to the shore to pull ourselves out. There was no one to take pictures of us this year, but the memory will always be etched into mind!

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We were joined by some rowdier neighbours on the second night and despite how annoying they were, we had a good laugh eavesdropping on them. They’d brought an inordinate amount of gear with them and seemed to be having a competition for who had brought the heaviest pack. One guy claimed his pack weighed 80 pounds, but I’m not sure how you could accomplish such a feat without putting actual rocks in your pack. They had a lot of booze though, so I could be mistaken…

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After Carolyn and I got back to the campsite we enjoyed another leisurely night. Brandon spotted an otter swimming around in the lake near the log debris that we had a fun time watching while Carolyn, Steve, and Meg played a very serious game of crib. Steve and I were spared a wet end to the night when my hammock collapsed with both of us in it. I’d set it up over the water, but fortunately, the hammock gave us about a split second warning before it collapsed and we were able to tumble forward out of it onto the shore rather than back into the lake.

It was an uneventful hike out and we spent it mostly brainstorming where we should go for the next May Long weekend. Lindeman was good to us, but we’d now done all the trails and decided it was time to move on. We had to skip our 2020 trip last year, but stay tuned to hear about our trip to Cheakamus Lake in 2019! But I’ll end this post with a few more photos of our Lindeman Lake shenanigans!

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Zoa Peak Snow Camping

It hasn’t been the best year for winter activities. Between the pandemic restrictions and the avalanche ratings, it’s been hard to get out and enjoy the snow. We went snow camping at Lightning Lakes in late January and we’ve been trying to fit in a second trip ever since. The avalanche ratings have been pretty consistently at ‘Considerable’ and ‘High’ throughout the last month and we ended up cancelling our trip twice. But we finally got decent conditions this past weekend and decided to go for it as one last snow activity to close out the season.

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Zoa is popular among backcountry skiers because it’s a relatively easy hike up an old forestry road and thanks to the low incline, most of the hike is in simple terrain. Interestingly, the first time Carolyn and I ever snow camped was at the base of the Zoa Peak trail. We’d intended to go to Manning, but a wrong turn on the highway landed us in the Coquihalla Rec Area and we decided to snowshoe 1km in to the Zoa Peak/Falls Lake trailhead and camp on the summer parking lot (which isn’t plowed in the winter). So we felt like we’d come full circle by returning to this area and hiking up to Zoa.

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It was a busy day on the trail with both skiers and snowshoers, but we were the only ones staying overnight and the crowds quickly thinned out when we reached the top. However, it was a very challenging hike up the mountain. Because it was mid-March, it wasn’t really ideal snow conditions for any kind of activity. We debated for ages whether we should wear snowshoes or spikes and ended up with me and Brandon hiking in spikes and Carolyn and Steve in snowshoes. There was really no right answer, but in retrospect, I think snowshoes were overall the better choice.

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The first kilometre along the access road was very well packed and I had no problem in spikes, but once we started climbing up the old forestry road, snowshoes were preferable. It was really sunny, so the snow became a bit slushy and while we weren’t punching through the snow with spikes, it was a bit like walking on sand and made for a very draining hike up. Most of the elevation gain is done on the forestry road and with the sun beating down on us and reflecting off the snow, it ate up a lot of our energy. We all wore sunscreen on our faces, but I ended up getting burned on the underside of my chin from the reflection off the snow!

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After about 2.5km, you need to exit the road and hike into the woods. The summer trail exits the road earlier, but in the winter it’s better to continue further up since the grade is lower there. There is some pink flagging tape to mark the turn-off, but it’s easy to miss so I recommend being on the lookout and using a GPS. From there you hike up through the woods until you reach the ridge. It’s still steep, but the trail is more packed through the trees, so my spikes worked better here. It can be a bit confusing because the skiers take all kinds of different paths down through the trees, but as long as you keep going up, you really can’t go wrong and will eventually reach the ridge.

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Snowshoeing along the ridge up to the sub-peak is gorgeous! I did part of Zoa in the fall once, but it’s much more scenic in the winter because the snow lifts you up higher among the trees, resulting in a better view and not confining you to a single area. In the summer, the brush makes it impossible to travel along the entire ridge and the trees limit a lot of the view, so I much preferred the winter views.

In total, it’s about 5km from the highway to Zoa Peak. We decided from the beginning that we would cut off a kilometre and only hike as far as the sub-peak. This is because after the sub-peak the trail gets steeper and the avalanche terrain changes from ‘simple’ to ‘challenging’. The avalanche risk on the day we went was ‘moderate’ in the treeline and ‘considerable’ in the alpine. Zoa seems to be kind of on the cusp between treeline and alpine, so we decided to play it safe and camp at the sub-peak.

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By the time we reached the ridgeline, we were all exhausted, so we decided to camp just below the sub-peak. It was calling for a bit of wind overnight and we wanted to be sheltered, plus the views are gorgeous all along the ridge. So we found a good looking spot and got right to work on setting up camp. Unfortunately, stopping triggered a few issues for me and after a few minutes of shoveling I found myself getting really lightheaded. I think I was dehydrated, so I took a break and tried to re-hydrate with some electrolytes. We all suffered some mild dehydration throughout the hike, so it was a good reminder to drink lots of water prior to a hike as well. Fortunately we had lots of electrolytes and were all able to recover.

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So Brandon did a lot of the shoveling for our set up and eventually I got to work on a snow kitchen. The snow was really sticky so it was good for setting up a kitchen and we didn’t have to pack it down too much. There were 4 of us, so Brandon and I shared one tent and Carolyn and Steve shared another. We had a great view of what I think was Thar, Nak, and the back of Yak Peak and enjoyed hanging out watching the mountains. One of the benefits of going so late in the season was that we had a bit more daylight in which to enjoy the view.

Brandon made us miso soup to help with rehydrating and then we all got to work on melting snow for dinner. I shared Brandon’s classic thai curry chicken, which is my absolute favourite backcountry meal! My parents had sent me some chocolate from Newfoundland Chocolate Company, which we enjoyed as a treat for dessert.

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Usually when we go snow camping, we go to bed super early because it gets so cold and dark, but it was a warmer evening and the clouds had completely cleared out, leaving a beautiful view of the stars! So we stayed up much later than we usually do and I took star photos while Steve messed around with his radio to get us some tunes. Two night hikers passed us right after it got dark, but otherwise we were the only ones around and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. It ended up being 9:45pm by the time I finally crawled into the tent for bed, which is by far the latest I’ve ever stayed up snow camping!

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I didn’t get the best night’s sleep as the wind picked up overnight and shook us around a bit. Nothing to be concerned about, but it did make it a little harder to sleep. I made an egg and bacon hash for breakfast and then Brandon and I hiked the last few metres up to the sub-peak to check out the view. Otherwise we just took down camp and packed up again to head home. It was a lot easier on the second day because the sun stayed behind the clouds, meaning the slush had become more solid and was easier to hike out in spikes. We didn’t see as much traffic and powered down the trail in just an hour and a half (versus the 3 hours it took us to hike up).

So overall it was definitely one of the more challenging hikes, but the weather and views from the top were amazing and we ended up having a great time!

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Elfin Lakes Girl Guide Trip

Since I just wrote about the bike trip I took with Girl Guides, I figured I’d continue the trend by writing about a backpacking trip I did in September 2019 to Elfin Lakes. I wrote this post almost right after the trip, but I never got around to posting it, so with the changing of the seasons (foreshadowing), I thought it was finally time! This was my most recent trip to Elfin Lakes, but I’ve been 3 other times, all of which were very different experiences. Read about my Fall day hike, summer tenting trip, and winter snow camping experience for my stories about the trail.

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I’ve been wanting to take my Pathfinder group into the wilderness, but you need previous experience on backcountry trips with girls before you can lead your own, so I jumped at the opportunity to join the North Vancouver Trex group on this trip. It was only my second trip into the backcountry with Girl Guides, but for some reason I always seem to encounter the craziest weather on guide trips, and this one was no exception!

We were a group of 12 and we planned to hike up to Elfin Lakes on Friday, tent for 2 nights – day hiking to Opal Cone on Saturday – and then hiking back down on Sunday. Needless to say, things did not go quite as planned. We do our best to be prepared as girl guides. The forecast was calling for rain on Friday and temps down to -8 degrees celsius overnight, so we packed lots of rain gear and warm clothes for sleeping. However, the temperature ended up dropping a lot faster than we expected and the rain started to turn to snow just before we reached Red Heather Hut, which is almost the halfway point up to the lakes.

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The girls were thrilled about the snow, which was falling gently, and I have to admit, hiking in the snow is a lot nicer than hiking in the rain. We had hot noodle soup for lunch before continuing on to the lakes. It was still September at this point and it was obvious it was the first snowfall of the year. However, the snow started to accumulate pretty quickly and it started snowing heavier as we continued on from the hut. Fortunately, there was no wind, but visibility wasn’t great and we couldn’t see any of the views on the way up. I admit, the further we hiked, the more apprehensive I got.

I wasn’t really nervous about camping in the snow, because I have done that before and we had brought really warm gear, but we didn’t have snow boots or snow pants and it was increasingly obvious we weren’t going to be able to hike to Opal Cone the following day. Even though it was calling for sun and blue skies on Saturday and Sunday, there was too much snow to hike further without proper footwear. But we just focused on getting to the hut and the girls did really well managing the conditions. Fortunately no one got cold or wet feet on the way up!

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We hit the hut around 4pm and everyone was thrilled to go inside. I think the girls were thinking we were going to abandon the tenting idea and just sleep in the hut, but as we had only booked tent pads and there were 12 of us, that wasn’t really an option (although obviously in an emergency we would have camped out on the floor if we had to.) We made them hot drinks to warm up and everyone hung their wet gear by the fire. I have to say, the girls had a great attitude when we told them we were still planning to camp. The snow did start to slack off and was almost stopped when we went back outside an hour later to scope out the tent pads. Fortunately the clouds had started to lift and you could just start to see the surrounding mountains (which are incredibly striking from the tent pads at Elfin Lakes), so the girls started to get excited again about tenting.

We shoveled off the tent pads and set up 4 tents. This proved to be a bit more of a challenge than we anticipated because it was pretty darn windy when we were setting them up. We had to weigh them down with rocks and then shove all our gear inside them to hold them down. Then we had the added difficultly that we couldn’t peg them because of the tent pad, but we eventually managed to get them set up and soon after that the wind died down and I didn’t give it much more thought.

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By the time we finished it had really cleared off and we had fun getting some photos of the mountains and the tents. Time really got away from us with the weather though and it was 8pm before we finally had supper in the hut. We had pesto pasta and re-hydrated coleslaw for dinner, with 2 bite brownies and reese peanut butter cups for dessert. After that we pretty much hit the sack because we were all exhausted. Unfortunately we decided we couldn’t stay for a second night because it just wouldn’t be safe to hike to Opal Cone and the girls didn’t have the appropriate gear to play in the snow, so it made the most sense to just hike back out on Saturday. The girls took the news pretty well and were very understanding.

I stayed up to get some star photos and then nestled into my sleeping bag for the night. It was pretty calm when we went to bed, so I thought that was the end of it, but oh was I ever wrong. Around 3 or 4am a wind storm blew in that totally put our tents to the test. I grew up in Newfoundland, which is super windy, but I never really did much tenting there, and not in recent years, so sadly I’ve kind of gotten used to tenting without wind. As a result, I never guy line my tent and only ever peg it really to protect from the rain. So it never really occurred to me to guy line the tents. It had occurred to the other leader though, but she had forgotten her rope, so she never brought it up (not realizing I always bring extra rope with me).

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Anyways, I’m sure you see where this is going, but the wind was really strong. I’ve never tented in wind like that and it was totally billowing the tent in and out. It woke everyone up and the girls started freaking out a bit, but everyone’s tents looked fine, so we told them to go back to sleep. Then I was woken up again at 5:30am by one of the other Guiders when her tent collapsed on her and two girls. When we looked at the other two tents the girls were in, it really looked like they were going to collapse soon too. So we had to put the first tent back up and then I got my rope and we guylined them all to the tent pads. Somehow my tent was the only one that didn’t look close to collapsing, but we were in a slightly different area than the rest of the tents, so the wind may have been blowing slightly differently.

It was still super windy in the tent, but the guylines did the trick to prevent any more collapses and we were able to go back to sleep until 8am. The wind never really let up though and it battered us all morning when we tried to take the tents down as well. but it was a beautiful sunny day and the blue sky and fresh snow made for a really beautiful view. We had sunrise spuds for breakfast and then packed everything up again to head down.

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I was worried it was going to be super slippery on the way down and was concerned about not having spikes (my friend once broke her arm in similar conditions), but the snow was still fresh enough that it hadn’t been compacted into ice yet, so it wasn’t too bad. We had a little photo shoot on the ridge looking down on the lake and then hiked back to the Red Heather hut for lunch again.

We had one more spot of adventure on the way down. One of the girls rolled her ankle about a kilometre from the end, but fortunately it seemed to be only sprained and she was able to slowly walk the last little bit out. We divvied up some of her gear and strapped the rest of the pack to my front to carry it out and we all made it down to the parking lot in one piece!

With the exception of the first photo, all pictures were taken on Day 2!

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