Posts Tagged With: outdoor

Hiking Cheam Peak

One of my favourite local hikes to date is Cheam Peak – which is interesting because the first time I hiked it was in 2018 and in much less than ideal conditions. Cheam Peak is a well known hike in the Fraser Valley, whose sharp peak dominates the skyline as you drive out Highway 1 past Chilliwack. Though you can easily see the mountain from the Highway, you have to enter the trail from the South on Chilliwack Lake Road. I wasn’t expecting it to be a busy hike because you need 4WD to access to the trail head, and it was a pretty smoky day when we hiked it in 2018, so I was shocked when we arrived at the trailhead to find the parking lot packed with trucks and SUVs. As far as 4WD hikes go – I can also assume this is one of the more popular since the mountain peak is so iconic.

5 of us piled into Brandon’s 4Runner to get to the trailhead – a drive that was a lot more fun for Brandon than the rest of us. The higher we drove along the road, the worse the visibility got. 2018 was one of the worst summers for forest fires and the city was filled with smoke for weeks on end, making it hard to do much of anything outdoors without coughing up a lung. The smoke hadn’t peaked yet, but it was also an overcast day and we were high enough to be up in the clouds – so the smoke and fog together made for some really terrible visibility.

The conditions didn’t impact my enjoyment of Mount Cheam though and even with the poor visibility, between the alpine meadows and cute little Spoon Lake, I was in hiking heaven. The meadows start pretty much at the trailhead and are gorgeous and green, with this tiny little swimming hole that looks like it’s been punched out of the landscape. Plus there’s lots of wildflowers if you go at the right time of year. From the meadow, I think you can see up most of the mountain, but unfortunately for us, the meadow was the only part of the trail not shrouded in fog. As we started to ascend, we immediately entered the clouds and lost all sight of anything around us. I’ve hiked a few times in the fog, but this was definitely the worst. The closer we got to the top, the worse it got. It’s not the longest trail, only 9km round trip, but you tackle a lot of elevation gain in that hike, approximately 650m. So it’s pretty steep for most of the hike, with lots of switchbacks and at times I literally couldn’t see my friends if they were more than 6 feet away.

We weaved our way up the mountain until we reached the ridgeline along the top. It was super creepy in the conditions because the fog was getting caught up on the other side of the ridge (towards the highway), so we could see down the ridge a little bit, but the highway side was just a bank of milky white fog. It’s made weirder by the fact that when you reach the top, you get over the mountain sound barrier, so all of sudden you can hear all the traffic from down on the highway. From the peak, Mount Cheam looks down on the highway, but since we were hiking it from the back, we were totally surrounded by the backcountry. Since you can’t see any of the traffic on the way up, you feel like you’re in the middle of the wilderness, it makes for a really weird experience.

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We hung out at the bottom of the ridgeline for a bit and had our lunch. We figured there was no use racing to the top when we couldn’t see anything anyways, so we took our time. The fog did eventually start to thin, so we continued on to the very top, but we never did get a view down into the Fraser Valley. We hung out for a long time taking funny pictures of the fog and messing around, but we eventually gave up on our hope of catching the view and started to head back down again. Despite all the fog and not being able to see the view, I still had a great time on the hike, which I attribute to my companions, who had just as much fun taking photos in the fog as we would have with an amazing view!

The fog continued to thin as we made our way back down again. We could see more of the mountain around us and eventually the fog got high enough that we could see all the way down to the meadow. This was my favourite part of the hike and it made for a nice, scenic walk back. Me and Lien are a bit obsessed with swimming, so we had big plans to take a dip in the little hobbit pond, formally known as Spoon Lake, at the bottom. We didn’t waste any time and both dove right into the water as soon as we got there. It’s a small waterbody and it was the middle of the summer, so it was actually really warm and we had a great time swimming around. From Spoon Lake, it’s just a short walk back out of the meadow and about a kilometre along a gravel road back to the parking lot. So even though the weather conditions weren’t the best, we still had a great time on the hike and will have to keep in on our bucket lists to return on a clearer day!

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Fast forward to 2020. 2 years after our first hike to Mount Cheam, we decided to return and see if we could actually catch the view. It was Sunday morning back in mid July and it was one of the hottest days of the summer. Me and Emily spent all Saturday trying to get into any of the lakes in the lower mainland and were rejected from Buntzen and Sasamat, so we figured cute little Spoon Lake would make for a great end of hike swim the next day.

Even though I never saw the view the first time, I’d loved everything about Mount Cheam, particularly swimming in Spoon Lake, which looks like its been carved out of the hillside. So I was excited to return, this time with Emily, Seth, and Sadie in tow. We drove separately and then all piled into Brandon’s 4×4 for the 9km ride up to the trailhead. I remembered there being some pretty bad waterbars along the forestry road the first time, but I also remembered us driving up it pretty fast. I don’t know if I mis-remembered or if the road has gotten worse, but it seemed in much poorer condition then the last time. It ended up taking us over an hour just to go the 9km! I wasn’t sure how well Sadie would do on the drive. As a puppy she had really bad car sickness, but has mostly grown out of it. Fortunately she seemed to love the 4×4 road! She was running back and forth across me, Seth, and Lien in the back seat to look out the windows as we drove up.

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It was a slow year for the snowpack melting, so there was still quite a bit of snow on the trail when we visited in mid-July. Fortunately we had microspikes, but since the snow was so sporadic, it’s a pain constantly taking them on and off, so we mostly went without. Sunglasses are a must with so much snow though – Emily sunburned her eyes crossing the snow fields. Walking into the meadow from the parking lot we could see there was a fair amount of snow left and we were concerned the lake might still be frozen. You can’t see it until you’re pretty much on top of it, so we were anxious as we approached, praying we’d be able to swim in it. Unfortunately, the lake was a real mess. The whole area coming down to the lake looked more or less in shambles. Since our last visit, it looked like there’d been an avalanche in the area. There’s several trees knocked down and a ton of debris coming down into the lake. It looked like there was a bunch of debris from the slide that had been knocked into the lake and was now covered with snow and dirt. We were convinced it would never be swimable again, but I’ve since seen photos of the lake on Instagram later in the summer, and it looks totally fine now, so most of it must have been snow, or the debris suck to the bottom. So we were quite sad at the time, but thrilled to see it more or less seems to have recovered.

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The hike ended up being more challenging than I remembered. Like I said above, it’s a short hike, but has a lot of elevation gain. I’m not sure if I was having a bad day or if I’m just out of shape from the pandemic, but it was a challenging hike, even after completing the NCT. I’m inclined to blame it on the heat though because it was well over 30 degrees. From the lake it’s a steady climb for the rest of the hike, the main difference being that this time we got to enjoy the views! A lot of the hike is going back and forth across exposed boulder fields, some of which were still under snow, so caution is definitely advised. On our way down we saw a few people trying to take shortcuts up the boulder field, don’t do this, it’s deceivingly hard, it’s dangerous (loose rock and steeper) and it damages the landscape.

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It was a slog, but we reached the top to gorgeous blue sky views of the surrounding area. Looking north you can see Highway 1 all the way out to Harrison Lake, and south is a cacophony of snowy peaked mountains all the way to the States. We sat at the very peak to enjoy our lunch before heading back down again. This was Sadie’s first major hike, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but she LOVED it. She’s definitely an outdoor dog and has a ton of energy. She thrives on steep difficult trails, so she was right in her element on Cheam. Also, she’s obsessed with the snow and loves playing it. I’m not sure if it’s just because it was so hot, but she couldn’t get enough of running around throughout the snow fields. She was totally pooped by the end of the hike though. She was all wet and muddy from running around and we didn’t want her sitting in our laps, so we made her sit on the floor in the back seat and she immediately lay down and fell asleep for most of the car ride back (a feat for Sadie who rarely settles down).

So despite the setbacks with the lake, it was still a great day! It’s a challenge to get to, but well worth the visit, my only recommendation is to leave early to avoid the crowds and go prepared for any condition because you will be a long way from help! Happy hiking everyone!

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Categories: Exploring New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Brothers Mountain Day Hike

I haven’t written about many of my day hikes on this blog. I’ve gone on tons of them over the years, but I tend to write more about my backpacking trips since sometimes it seems like there’s not a whole lot to say about day hikes. But I’m excited to write about 3 Brothers Mountain and have decided to make it the first post in a mini-series about E.C. Manning Provincial Park. My first time visiting Manning Park was in 2016. Since then I’ve hiked and camped all over the park and it has become my favourite Provincial Park in BC to date. The first time I travelled there was with Emily when she was visiting from Newfoundland after finishing her Engineering degree. She stayed with me for about a month and we decided to spend one weekend car camping in the park. It was just the two of us and though it was the middle of July, it was a pretty cold weekend. I’ve had both hot and cold trips to Manning Park since then, but Emily seems to always be there for the cold ones, so I’m starting to think she might just be bad luck.

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Anyways, after a cold night in the tent, we decided to hit the trail to try and burn some calories and warm up. It wasn’t very warm when we woke up, but as we started driving up Blackwell Road to get to the trailhead, the car thermometer kept dropping. By the time we reached the top, it was only 6 degrees. We hadn’t anticipated it would be so cold, so we grabbed all the sweaters and coats we had in the car and set off. It was a rough start when I realized I’d brought a camera with a empty SD slot, so I was forced to use my cell phone for photos. Probably not a big deal for most people, but I love my little mirrorless camera, so I was pretty bummed about it. You’ll have to excuse my photos for not quite being up to standard.

If you’ve never been up Blackwell Road, it’s worth going up there just for the view. You don’t even need to be a hiker. There’s an amazing viewpoint about halfway up and then another great view of the surrounding wilderness from the parking lot. If you have enough time for a short hike, follow the paintbrush trail, which does a short little loop near the parking lot and is covered with wildflowers (hence the name) around late July/early August. We had set our sights a little higher though and were aiming for 3 Brothers Mountain, a 21km out and back trip. The actual name of the trail is the Heather Trail and it continues on past 3 Brothers to Kicking Horse Camp and Nicomen Lake. I have also hiked that trail, but it’s a story for another time.

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The Heather Trail and 3 Brothers Mountain are really top notch though. Because you’ve driven all the way up Blackwell Road, most of the elevation gain is done by car. That means the trail is already starting in the alpine, which makes the entire trip incredibly scenic. There is still almost 500m of elevation gain on the trail, but a lot of that is at the very end when you summit the First Brother Mountain, so spread over the rest of the 10km, the elevation gain is not bad at all. You start out on the ridge from the parking lot and descend about 5km to Buckhorn Camp. It’s a very quick 5km and we did it in about an hour. It’s a good place to stop for a pee break and a snack because there are several picnic tables and camping pads. I’ve never seen anyone camping there, but I could see it being a great campsite if you wanted to drive out after work on a Friday and get an early start on the Heather Trail in the morning.

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After Buckhorn Camp, the trail starts to climb again and that’s when things get truly scenic. The remainder of the trail is through alpine meadows and since we were visiting in mid July, the wildflowers were starting to come out. They weren’t quite at their full glory, but definitely picturesque. The only downside of course is that the Heather Trail is known for it’s wildflowers, so it attracts a lot of people at that time of year. Overall there’s a lot of trail to spread out over, but we were still regularly passing large groups of people that seemed to be doing Meetups at the trailhead. We were making a pretty brisk pace to try and stay warm, so we ended up passing a lot of people. But the trail is really beautiful as you look out over the green meadows and wildflowers out towards the North Cascades, so you can kill a lot of time taking photos!

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About 9km in you reach a junction – you can either continue on along the Heather Trail for another 11km to Nicomen Lake and beyond, or you can take the branch that leads up First Brother Mountain to the viewpoint and our final destination. The name 3 Brothers Mountain is somewhat confusing. I couldn’t find a whole lot of information about it, but from the Park website I learned that the alpine meadows used to be used for sheep grazing until 1931, when they created the 3 Brothers Mountain reserve, which included the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brother mountain peaks. It later became part of Manning Park in 1941. There’s the trail branch to go up the First Brother and the Heather Trail passes by the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Brothers along the way. But don’t ask me what the deal is with the Fourth Brother and why he was excluded from the trail and park name because I really have no idea why.

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We were just aiming for the First Brother on our trip though. It was a pretty overcast day, so while we’d been able to enjoy the views on the way up, some of the higher mountains were still shrouded in fog – this included the First Brother. We branched off the trail and started climbing into the clouds, lamenting that it was both getting colder as we climbed and the view worse. We made it all the way to the signpost at the top of the mountain, but we couldn’t see anything from there and it was very cold and windy. We sheltered behind some rocks to eat our lunch, but while we were eating, the wind finally moved the fog out and the view started to clear for us! From the top you have an incredible 360 degree view in all directions. The climb up is not for the faint of heart – it is pretty steep, with lots of rocks to climb over as you make your way along the ridgeline with a drop on either side of you. It made for an incredible walk back down though! Everything we couldn’t see on the way up came into view on the way down and it took us a while to get back as we were constantly stopping for photos.

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Even though this is a 21km hike, which I would normally expect to take a minimum of 7 hours, but more likely 8 or 9, somehow me and Emily did the whole thing in just 6 hours, including lunch break. This is a bad pace by which to measure other hikes because that is a super intense pace for us, but it does serve to highlight that the topography is definitely easier on this hike than others I’ve done (and that is was COLD). Please don’t use this as a reference for how long this hike takes though because another group of friends that I often hike with did the same hike in 10 hours. We ended up running into one of my friends on the way out. He’d spent the night at Kicking Horse and was heading back to the parking lot, so we did the last 6-7km together. He’d been planning to stay a second night, but he said it was just too cold up there to stay any longer. So we made good time on the way out and before we knew it we were back at our campsite again, building a campfire to warm ourselves up properly!

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So my first visit to Manning Park was a little rough around the edges, but it was the start of a long and beautiful love story! That first visit inspired me to hike the Skyline II Trail a year later and the entire Heather Trail the year after that. We continue to car camp in the park annually and it’s become one of my favourite places to snowshoe in the winter. It’s a beautiful park, but it attracts less visitors than Garibaldi (I don’t actually know if this is true, but it definitely feels like it), so even though I love both parks, Manning makes for a more enjoyable experience. Plus the night sky in Manning is to die for! Tune back soon (hopefully), for more stories from my many adventures in Manning Park.

Categories: Exploring New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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!

Categories: Life in British Columbia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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