Kayaking Belcarra to Ferrar Cove

Now that it’s finally starting to feel like Spring, me and Seth were stoked to get our kayaks out again! We bought them last year and did a lot of kayaking in the spring, but less than we would have liked in the summer. The backpacking season is so short, so it’s hard to fit in both backpacking and kayaking, so we decided to make Spring our prime kayaking season (since the alpine is still under snow until the end of June).

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We went out once in early April to do our Level 1 Paddling Course (the second course after Sea Kayaking Basics), which was a great opportunity to refresh our rescue skills and work on our paddling strokes. We got wetsuits for Christmas this past year, so I’m feeling more confident about early season kayaking. It made me nervous before because I knew it would potentially be pretty dangerous if either of us accidentally went for a swim. But we tested wet exits in the kayaks in early April and the wetsuits helped a lot!

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The training course wasn’t in our own kayaks though, so we were keen to get back to Belcarra, which is one of our favourite places to paddle near where we live in Coquitlam (Rocky Point and Barnet Marine are closer, but Belcarra is our preferred). I like to look at maps a lot and I noticed that there’s a tea house located in Belvedere (neighbourhood in Belcarra) and thought it might be fun to check out. It’s called 8 Corners Organic Tea Room and you can access it by road through Sasamat Lake, but since the road goes through the park, this can be tricky since Metro Vancouver often closes the gate once the parking lot is full during the busy season. So I scoped out the water access, which is available through Farrer Cove, and decided to make an attempt by boat.

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We started by getting to Belcarra for 8am. In April you don’t have to go quite this early to get parking (there was lots available), but in the summer, I usually aim for no later than 9am if I want to be assured parking. In this case, we went for 8am anyways because the water is a lot flatter in the morning, which makes for great paddling. In the summer you can rent kayaks from Takaya Paddling Centre in Belcarra, but it’s not open year round, so an alternative in shoulder season is that you can instead rent kayaks from Deep Cove and paddle across Indian Arm. It’s about the same distance from either location (Deep Cove or Belcarra), but it’s a bit of an easier paddle from Belcarra since you don’t have to cross the Arm.

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On this particular day, it was super calm on the water and we had a really enjoyable paddle out to Jug Island. I’ve written about Jug Island before, which makes a great paddling trip if you’re new to kayaking. It’s an easy paddle and not as long. I’d budget about 3 hours for Jug Island, whereas we needed a full 6 hours for Ferrar Cove. But Jug Island makes for a good break and we pulled into the beach for a snack and to use the outhouse. There were some hikers on the beach, but it was still pretty early and the tide was really high, so there wasn’t too many people.

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From there we continued across Bedwell Bay to Ferrar Cove/Belvedere, which is where the tea room is located. The open water crossing is shorter than Deep Cove, but you want to make sure you check the weather and wind forecast before attempting either crossing. It was a low 6km/h the day we went and we won’t go out in winds higher than 20km/h, which requires a lot more effort. The wind usually comes up in the afternoon in Indian Arm, so earlier paddling will be easier. It was probably only 3-4km/h winds on the way to the tea room, and maybe more like 8km/h winds on the way back. So it was a very easy crossing, which is always nice.

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In my advance research, I’d identified a small beach at the end of the cove where we could land, but upon arriving, it didn’t look like the beach connected through to the road. There was however a very large dock that was completely empty. We couldn’t see any signs indicating that it was a private dock, so we tied up our kayaks there and walked up the hill to the tea room, which has a beautiful view looking out over Ferrar Cove. I’m still not 100% sure what the deal is with the dock and whether it’s a proper public dock, but we asked the tea room and they said that it’s the correct place to land when you’re visiting the tea room. While there is a road, they are technically a water access property, so they can’t guarantee that customers will always be able to access the tea room via the road if the park gate is closed, but you should always be able to access the tea room via the dock! So definitely check it out!

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The tea room is only open from 11-5 on Fridays and Saturdays. We got there shortly after 11, so we were the only customers when we arrived and had a great chat with some of the staff! The staff are lovely and they let us sample all of the cold brew teas they were just brewing (cold brew is my favourite) and told us a bit about some of the history of the teas, which they get from an organic tea farm on Jeju Island in Korea. You can make bookings for a proper 90 minute afternoon tea, but since we weren’t sure about our timing, we decided to order a la carte instead. So we each had an open-faced sandwich and a dessert with our cold brew. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, but we opted to sit outside to enjoy the view. It’s a really gorgeous location and we felt so content to relax on the patio. It gave our paddling trip a bit more structure to have such a nice destination and I guarantee we’ll be back again!

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Around 1pm we returned to the dock to start the return trip. If you’re visiting by kayak, it is a little bit tricky to dock. It’s definitely tailored to sailboats and yachts, so it’s a bit high to board from a kayak. We were able to use the railings to get in and out of the boats and there is a ladder on the other side if you’re really struggling. The harder part though would be getting the kayaks up onto the dock as it is a bit of a drop. We opted to just leave them in the water and instead locked them to the rail. You could also tie them up using your tow line, just make sure you secure them well.

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The wind did pick up in the afternoon, but it was considerably less than some of the other times I’ve paddled Indian Arm and we didn’t find it challenging. We paddled back to Jug Island for a quick pee break before heading back to Belcarra again. It was 9am when we started paddling and shortly after 2pm when we returned. So if you give yourself a full 6 hours of paddling time that should be more than sufficient, though if you do the full afternoon tea, you might want a bit more time.

All in all, it was one of the most fun days I’ve had on the water since we got our kayaks. At 10km round trip, it was the perfect length paddle for a day trip. We absolutely loved the tea room and would definitely recommend whether you’re paddling from Belcarra or Deep Cove. Can’t wait to go back again!

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Snowshoeing Joffre Lakes

This post is a bit dated and has been a long time coming, but it was a fun trip and with Family Day coming up, it seemed like an appropriate time to write about it, so here we go! I’ve day hiked Joffre Lakes twice in the summer and I snowshoed it once in the winter of 2017 with Emily and Brandon during the Family Day Long weekend.

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I’m not sure if Joffre Lakes is considered avalanche terrain or not as it’s not mapped on Avalanche Canada, but at the time I had read that it was pretty safe up to the second lake, so that’s where we decided to go. I’d read there was more risk going up to the third lake, so we decided against going that far and I would advise avalanche equipment and training if you go beyond second lake. Now that I’m a little wiser, I’d probably prefer to have avalanche safety equipment for the whole trail, but as I can’t remember the details of the terrain, make sure to do some additional research before visiting.

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Fortunately we didn’t run into any problems in 2017 and were smart enough to check the avalanche bulletin before we visited. Emily wasn’t living in Vancouver at the time, but she came to visit me to go skiing and after a few days at Whistler, Brandon joined us for a little long weekend adventure around the Pemberton/Lillooet area. Our first stop was Joffre Lakes.

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I don’t remember getting a particularly early start in the morning, but we had no trouble finding parking at the trailhead and the trail was relatively empty – some of the perks of visiting in the low season. We had a few false starts on the trail because Emily was trying to figure out what to wear and we ended up making a some adjustments. If you’re new to snowshoeing, which we were at the time, it can be a bit tricky because you want to stay warm without overheating. I like to pack my snow pants for when I stop to eat lunch, but I don’t like hiking in them. This means that you need to have a good pair of water resistant pants instead and wear high boots or gaiters to keep your legs from getting wet from the kickback of the snow on your snowshoes. These days I hike with long underwear, water resistant pants, and high boots.

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One of the things I love about Joffre Lakes is that the first lake is only minutes from the parking lot, so you’re immediately rewarded with a gorgeous view! There’s less to see on the trail after that in the winter and I mostly remember being in the trees – although on the way down you get a beautiful view looking out over the surrounding mountains when you pass through the boulder field. There were quite a few people ski touring, so you just have to watch out for them as a snowshoer since they move so much faster (downhill anyways). While Joffre isn’t a particularly long or challenging hike in the summer, it is a bit steep in the winter, so I remember being pretty tired by the time we hit the second lake.

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We had good weather when we visited, it was a bit overcast, but not so much that you couldn’t see the view. So we set up on the lake when we arrived to have our lunch. Unfortunately, it was a bitterly cold day, which was not improved by being out on the open lake. We got really cold, really fast. Even with snow pants, we had to bundle up immediately and Emily recalls it as being the coldest she’s ever been. I’m not sure if we were doing something wrong because I can’t ever recall being as cold in the snow as we were eating lunch at Joffre. It was particularly bad for Emily – I think she may not have had a sit-upon and been sitting right in the snow in her snow pants, so she did not want to stick around.

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So unfortunately, we didn’t have long to enjoy the view before we were packing up again to keep moving. It was a good lesson in preparedness though. I don’t think we were overly underprepared, but it was a good reminder how inhospitable the wilderness can be. There’s no way we would have survived a night out there if something had gone wrong. So always bring lots of extra layers in the winter, as well as I’ve started hiking with a small stove and pot so that I’m able to make hot drinks to help stay warm. Items like a bivvy sack or an inreach can also save your life if you get stuck somewhere.

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We warmed up again once we started moving and it was a quick hike back down to the bottom. We ended up spending the night in Lillooet (which has the most beautiful view of Seton Lake) and returned to Pemberton the following day. We’d been hoping to visit Keyhole hot springs, but a semi truck jack knifed on the road on the way to the springs, cutting off traffic in both directions, so we opted to cut our losses and did a bit of snowshoeing in the Pemberton area and Nairn Falls instead. Fortunately we weren’t stuck on the other side of the semi truck, in which case, make sure you have survival gear in your car as well because you never know how long you could be there!

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Snowshoeing Brockton Point

Vancouver got a lot of snow through the Christmas holidays in 2021 and when I returned from my trip to Newfoundland I was excited to get up in the mountains and enjoy it! So the first weekend back in January we woke up super early to be at Mount Seymour when the gate opened at 7am. We’re not quite on the ball enough to get there right on time, but we were able to get parking and hit the hill around sunrise.

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Our desired destination was Pump Peak, which is located past the top of the ski lift, about mid-way to Mount Seymour. I hiked up the ski lift towards Pump Peak once in the summer on my way to Elsay Lake and I snowshoed to Brockton Point the previous winter during my avalanche training course. But it was pouring rain and foggy on that occasion, so I didn’t remember too much about the trek. It’s about 7km out and back to Pump Peak and we were planning to have breakfast at the top.

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It’s a big of a slog to snowshoe up to Brockton Point, which is at the top of the ski lift. The snowshoe trail runs parallel to the ski run, but never connects. It’s a wide trail and it’s a pretty stead uphill trek, but boy is it beautiful! The weather blessed us on our visit and it was a gorgeous blue sky day with several inches of fresh powder from the day before. Once you get up to Brockton Point, there are beautiful views in all directions and you can see both out to the backcountry and down to Vancouver.

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If you’re looking for an easier day, I recommend just stopping at Brockton Point, which is about 4-4.5km round trip from the parking lot and has awesome views. We continued on towards Pump Peak, which is easily visible from Brockton Point. The trail descends from Brockton to do a bit of a round about of Pump Peak to climb up from the the back. We started down towards it, but as we snowshoed, we checked the time and realized we might not have quite as much time as we needed. We weren’t really that slow, but we weren’t super fast either. We only had a day pass for the morning and Carolyn’s puppy Jasper was home alone, so we wanted to be back down to the car for noon.

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We could have pushed on to Pump Peak, but we would have had to turn around immediately upon getting there, so we decided to stop at another random viewpoint along the trail instead. We’d all brought our stoves to make breakfast and the views were gorgeous all along the ridge, so we didn’t mind missing out on the peak. Me and Seth made oatmeal, Carolyn and Steve made breakfast sandwiches, and Brandon outshined us all with mountaintop dim sum! It was a warm enough day with the sun shining down on us and we liked having a long relaxing break in the snow instead of rushing back.

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A few words of advice if you’re visiting Seymour – there is now a year round permit system to access the mountain. People have a lot of mixed feelings about this and I think the system has definite pros and cons, but it seems like it’s here to stay, so make sure to get your pass before visiting the mountain. Seymour Resort staff are checking for permits at the base of the mountain, so you won’t get past the gate without a permit and you won’t get past the snowshoe parking lot without a ski pass. So be prepared for a bit of a walk up from the parking lot. I recommend going early because even with the new system, parking is still a bit of a gong show.

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A lot of people visit Seymour to hike Dog Mountain, which is an easier trail, but there are a lot of people recreating out to Pump Peak as well. The pass system has thinned out the trails, which is nice, but be prepared to encounter lots of snowshoers, skiers, and dogs. A lot of the trail is multi-use, but there are a few places where it branches and skiers will often take slightly different routes, so my advice as a snowshoer is to follow the trail markers.

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In addition, you are entering avalanche terrain if you choose to go all the way to Pump Peak. The trail along the ski resort is in simple terrain, so you’re probably mostly okay without avalanche equipment, but eventually you will reach a sign with the avalanche danger rating. I can’t remember exactly where it is, you do get to the ridge before you hit it, but I think it may be a little bit before Brockton Point. After this point, you are leaving simple terrain and entering challenging terrain, so make sure you are familiar with avalanche hazards and take the proper equipment with you. See my post on avalanche safety for more details.

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But if you’re prepared, Brockton Point/Pump Peak make for a great snowshoe adventure! I still haven’t made it to Pump Peak, which is why I titled this point Brockton Point instead, but whenever I don’t finish a trail, I just say it was because I had to leave something to come back for! So one day I’ll be back to finish this trail for real!

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