Cheakamus Lake Backpacking Trip

After two May Long weekend trips to Lindeman Lake, we decided to try Cheakamus Lake in 2019. Our group continued to grow and this time we had 11 people join us for the adventure!

The one challenge with going to Cheakamus Lake is that it’s in Garibaldi Park, which means you have to reserve the campsites in advance. There are two sites to choose from, the bigger Cheakamus Lake Campsite at the head of the lake, or the smaller Singing Creek Campsite in the middle of the lake. Both campgrounds are really nice. The sites at Cheakamus Lake are more isolated and are spread out along the lakefront, so if you’re only booking one site, I’d recommend here as it’s a lot more private. At Singing Creek, there’s a lovely beach on which to hang out, but the sites are all clustered together in the woods, so it was prefect for as a large group! Several groups day hiked into the beach throughout the weekend, but otherwise we were the only ones who camped there overnight.

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We met at the trailhead on Saturday morning and started hiking together, though with so many of us, we quickly became scattered along the trail. It’s 4km to the first site and then another 4km to the second site. It’s mostly flat along the trail, so it’s a great hike for early in the season, and for beginners. Since it was an easier trail, I finally convinced Seth to join us for the weekend and Megan third wheeled with us in the tent.

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We took a short break at the first site, but otherwise had a steady pace to the end of the trail. I think it took us about 2.5 hours to make the trek. We set up tents among the trees and spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach. The weather forecast had been a bit mixed and the first day was supposed to be the best, so we decided to make a go for our annual May swim in the lake! Me and Carolyn were the first to make a quick dive in and out of the water and about half of the group joined us. Steve made a half hearted run up to his knees and then turned immediately turned back without regret, whereas Seth’s approach was to prolong the agony with a slow wade in. Me and Emily went for a second swim the following day, but no one was quite so dedicated to swimming as Lien. He must have been in and out of the frigid water at least 3-4 times throughout the weekend!

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Cheakamus Lake was a cool place, but the downside is that once you get to Singing Creek, there’s not really anywhere else to explore. We had a whole day to kill on Sunday, so most of us slept in, although some more than others (looking at you Meg). Carolyn and Tiiu took us by surprise by deciding to get up and go trail running up towards Helm Creek after breakfast. Carolyn came over to give me her trip plan in case they didn’t return (to which Steve was a little offended, but eventually agreed he’d rather not assume any responsibility in Carolyn’s rescue if things went awry).

But I had to laugh at Carolyn when she told me they were going to go up towards Helm Creek and Black Tusk. Before leaving she asked me whether I thought there would be snow on the trail, to which I needed only to point across the lake to where you could clearly see the snow atop the mountain to answer the question. She looked a little abashed and just agreed they’d turn around when they hit the snow.

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I was a little disappointed not to have been invited on this outing (I mean, why would I, I’m not a trail runner), so I decided to rally the troops for a little bushwacking. It did look as if the trail continued further up the lake into the woods, so we decided to follow it. The trail deteriorated pretty fast and while it was in no way a reliable or groomed trail, it was still there, so we continued on up the lake through the trees. It did involve a bit of wayfinding, but we just made sure to stick close to the shoreline and track our progress on my GPS.

From our beach, you can see another bigger beach at the end of the lake, and I was determined to get there. The closer we got to the end of the lake, the trail turned into more of an animal path before finally disappearing altogether. We continued on for a bit, but eventually had to conclude that there was a marsh standing between us at the beach at the foot of the lake. We did make it all the way to the end of the lake, but there was simply no way (that we could find) across the bog, so we decided to turn back.

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Meg slept through this little adventure and Brandon made the trek all the way back to his car in search of warmer bedding (apparently it’d been a cold night). We returned sometime after lunch and Carolyn and Tiiu reappeared mid afternoon. We went for another swim and then played a few games of crib (of course Steve had brought a travel size board in his bag of wonders).

We’d been expecting rain, but it continued to hold off. We set up a few tarps in the woods just in case, which was an even more effective way to keep the rain away because after that it never materialized at all! We enjoyed a smorgasbord of dinners over the two days. I teamed up with Brandon and he made us thai chicken curry the first night, followed by my potato chili and apple crumble the second night. Emily had spaghetti, which involved an entire can of tomato sauce (so heavy!) and Carolyn, Tiiu, Meg, and Steve teamed up to make a pretty fancy looking charcuterie board.

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Our May Long weekend trip is always centered on sharing and comradery, so I loved just hanging out on the beach and taking it easy with my friends, something that seems even more special after a year of Covid isolation. I spent a lot of time chilling in the hammock and felt especially lucky to be accompanied by both Seth and Emily on this trip. We were treated to a particularly lovely sunset over the lake on the first evening and then hit the sack early after that.

On Monday we packed up and headed back out the trail. It rained on me, Seth, and Lien for no more than 10 minutes, and it seemed to have been pretty localized as no one else reported seeing rain at all. so overall it was another successful trip and I’d definitely recommend it as a great backpacking trip for beginners!

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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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Snowshoeing Shadow Lake and 3 Falls Trail

Now that I’ve written about all the snowshoe trails I’ve done on the North Shore, it’s time to move on to Manning Park! There’s a lot to explore in Manning Park in the winter and it almost always have great snow. Unlike the North Shore, Manning Park reliably stays below zero for most of the winter, so you don’t get the same freeze-thaw cycles as the North Shore. I think I’ve snowshoed there 4 or 5 times and only once did I not get fresh powder.

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I’ve only done the beginner trails in Manning, but there are lots of more advanced trails for backcountry skiing and a nordic trail that extends right through the park. To date, Shadow Lake is my favourite winter trail in the park. The trail leaves from the strawberry flats parking lot, meandering through the forest to the lake and ending at the bottom of the downhill ski resort. Strawberry flats is a large parking lot with the nordic trail running parallel, so make sure to enter the trail at the outhouse. From there, you just have to cross the nordic trail once and then you should see the trail continuing into the woods (don’t follow the nordic trail). The first part of the trail winds through the trees and is the most beautiful winter wonderland! I’m sure it would have a different feel without fresh snow, but both times I’ve done this trail it has been snowing, making the snow covered boughs of the surrounding trees extremely scenic.

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Most of the trail is in the forest, but there are a few small meadows along the way where you can jump off the trail if you want to frolic in the snow or cut fresh tracks. It’s only about 4.5km from the parking lot to the base of the ski hill and back, so it’s a short trail, probably around 2 hours in length. The trail crossing the nordic trail once more, just before the ski hill, but you should see the trail continue into the woods on the other side. I prefer to stop and have hot chocolate at the lake, so we usually spend closer to 3 hours on the trail. Shadow Lake is located shortly before the end of the trail and depending on the time of year you may be able to walk out onto the lake and get beautiful photos of the surrounding mountains. The first time I did the trail was in January or February, so we were able to access the lake, but the second time I did it in December and the river running into the lake hadn’t quite frozen over yet, so we couldn’t cross the marsh to get over to the lake. Either way, there’s still a nice view even if you can’t get on to the lake.

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From the ski hill, it is possible to extend the trail if you’re looking for something a little longer. If you cross the bottom of the slope, you’ll see a narrow trail going back into the woods along 3 Falls Trail. In the summer there are 3 waterfalls that you can view from the trail, in the winter you can still see the first frozen waterfall, but depending on the conditions you may not be able to see the other two. It’s not a difficult trail, but it does run along a very steep slope on the North side of the trail, so you do have to be careful and prepared along this trail as it does run through avalanche terrain. The first stop along the trail is the Shadow Falls viewpoint, which was in my opinion the best viewpoint, so you could just go as far as the first lookout. When we went we couldn’t even get to the third viewpoint because the snow conditions were too sketchy and we turned around instead. If in doubt, just stick to the Shadow Lake Trail. If you do extend to include 3 falls, you’ll double the trail length to 10km round trip.

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The important thing to note about the Shadow Lake trail is that it is one of the trails in the Park that is managed by the resort. Most of the trails are free to snowshoe on, but there are a collection of trails that are flagged by the resort. From a safety perspective this is great because the trail is well marked and easy to follow, but it does cost $10 to use. In the past you could get the trail pass right at the lodge for $10 (where you can also rent snowshoes), but with covid you can now purchase the pass online and redeem in the lodge when you arrive in the park. In my opinion the $10 is well worth it and I always have a great time on this trail!

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Finally, keep in mind there is no cell service in Manning Park, so make sure to leave a trip plan and check the avalanche bulletin before you go. There is service at the lodge, so I usually park there before and after the trail just to update my emergency contact via text about my progress.

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