Posts Tagged With: Sunset

Hiking Elk and Thurston Mountains

Since it’s Fall, I thought it would be a good time to go back and write about some of my favourite Fall hikes over the years! I grew up on the East Coast, where Fall is easily the nicest season and all of the leaves turn beautiful, vibrant colours. The West Coast is really not the same. Yes, the golden larch trees are beautiful and there are trails where you can find some nice changing foliage, but trust me, as lovely as it is, it’s a different scale than other parts of the country. I spent my first few years here being disappointed by every Fall hike I tried; I’ve since learned to get over it and appreciate what BC does have to offer. You can still find beautiful colours all through the Fall, even if not in the same abundance.

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One of my favourite Fall hikes is Elk/Thurston Mountain in Chilliwack. It’s a popular one for Fall, so aim for an earlier departure, but it’s easy to get to and doesn’t require driving down Chilliwack Lake Road or any off-roading. It’s a 9km round trip hike up to Elk Mountain, but in that distance you climb over 800 metres in elevation gain, so it’s definitely a work out. It’s a steady climb the entire hike, but the first section is definitely the easier part. The trail winds through the woods and it’s a great time to keep your eyes open for changing leaves. There’s one viewpoint looking out through the trees about half way up to the top and after that the trail gets steeper and a little more challenging. It continues switchbacking through the woods until you pop out on a steep ridge. It’s pretty narrow, so take your time, but when you get up to the ridge you are rewarded with an amazing view of Mount Baker! It’s a great place to catch your breath and have a little snack before finishing the last section.

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From there, it’s about another half hour to the top. The trail gets a little confusing and you can either climb up a pretty sketchy rock section, or you can follow the trail up through the woods (I usually take the woods). Shortly after, the wooded trail will reunite with the rock trail and you keep climbing up to the top. Once you hit the top, there’s a few campsites in the woods and lots of room to spread out. I find people tend to congregate at the first grassy section when you crest the mountain, but if you continue on a bit, there are lots more grassy slopes to relax on, all with amazing views of the Fraser Valley.

On my first visit to Elk Mountain in 2018, I went with Lien, Brandon, and Kerrina. We spent a lot of time hanging out at the top and taking fun pictures of ourselves with the beautiful view. I loved the view from the ridgeline and we could see the trail continuing on along the ridge to Mount Thurston. I really wanted to continue on along the trail, but we hadn’t really left early enough or come prepared for a longer hike, so we decided not to push on farther. So the next year, I was keen to go back and push all the way to Thurston. That time I went with Lien and Seth and we made good time pushing up to Elk. We decided to have lunch at Elk before continuing on and I had one of my most random lunches ever in the backcountry. Lien’s family are crab fishermen and he’d just gotten back from a trip out to Tofino, bringing with him about 20lbs of crab for me and Seth! We’d cooked it all up the previous evening and I had made crab cakes, but there was still a lot of crab left over, so we just took crab legs with us to eat for lunch! It was Fall, so they stayed pretty cold in my pack, but it made a huge mess sucking the meat out of the legs and we had a good laugh.

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Hiking all the way to Thurston was an interesting experience. I liked the first part of the trail – you hike the ridge for a little while and then head back into the woods. Eventually you pop out again to crest another small peak, before continuing on to Thurston Peak. To be honest, I found Thurston Peak a little confusing. It’s a forested peak and when you reach the top, you can’t really tell you finished the hike except that there’s a trail branch heading into two narrow wooded trails. So we ended up backtracking a bit until we found a view and then took another break for some more crab legs. As far as summits go, it was a little anticlimactic and I think I’d just recommended ending your journey at the previous peak. There’s a nice view from there and I don’t think we saw anything else particularly notable after that.

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It was a really nice hike back though. We took our time coming down and saw some great wildlife on the way back, most notable of which was a little owl! Seth’s a biologist, so he was thrilled and we hung out watching it for a bit. Elk Mountain gets pretty busy in the Fall, but we barely saw anyone on the Thurston Trail, so it is a good way to escape the crowds. All in all, Thurston is 16km long with about 1050 metres in elevation gain – not too bad an extension considering over 800 of those metres are on the Elk Mountain Trail.

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When we got back to Elk Mountain the sun wasn’t quite setting yet, but it was getting pretty low in the sky and casting a gorgeous orange glow over everything. We decided to hang out for a bit and enjoy it, heading back down to the first viewpoint when you pop out of the woods. We stayed until the sun sunk below the mountains before taking off again, but I wish we’d stayed a little later because it ended up being a really gorgeous night, with the setting sun filling the sky with pinks and oranges.

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We’d brought headlamps with us in the event we had to hike out in the dark, but it was a good lesson for me in double checking your preparedness. I had brought 2 headlamps for me and Seth, but mine was running super low and even though I thought I’d packed extra batteries, it turns out I hadn’t. Seth’s was a new headlamp and we thought it seemed fine when we checked it, it was nice and bright, but apparently it has a weird quirk where it only has one level of brightness, but when the batteries are low it will shut off after 10 seconds. So even though I’d checked it, it died soon after Seth started using it. So between the 3 of us, Lien was really the only one with a proper working headlamp. So he went in the front and we followed with our phone flashlights. Fortunately we still had that option, but it certainly would have been safer with a headlamp. So it was a good reminder for me that even when you think you’re being prepared, you still need to double check.

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But I love this hike and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for fall leaves, a nice view of Mount Baker, and gorgeous views of the Fraser Valley. It’s also a great location for sunset, just be prepared!

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

Kayaking Sechelt Inlet

In the last year, along side all our other hobbies, Seth and I decided to start kayaking. We went on our first trip last year over the Canada Day weekend to Sechelt Inlet, and we’re planning a trip to Pender Island for the upcoming Labour Day weekend. I actually wrote this post last year after our trip to Sechelt, but for some reason I never actually got around to posting it (I admit, it takes me a really long time to upload photos and that’s what usually holds up my posts, not the writing). So here’s the post I wrote last year about that trip – hoping to follow it up with a post about our upcoming trip!

I don’t mind carrying a big backpack, but Seth hates it. He likes day hiking and camping, but as soon as you strap a pack on him he loses all interest. So we decided to try a kayaking trip so that we could get into the wilderness without Seth having to lug all his gear with him. I’ve heard Indian Arm is a great place for kayak trips, and it’s right next to Vancouver, but we decided to go a little farther away and started with a 2 night trip in Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast.

Before I tell you about the trip though, I have to recommend taking the beginner kayaking course from Paddle Canada before you attempt any kayak adventures. Seth and I have both been kayaking before, but I’m so glad we took the introductory course because we were going deep into the wilderness and I’m really glad we learned some basic paddling skills and how to save ourselves in an emergency. We did a 2 day course with West Beach Paddle in White Rock and I would highly recommend them. We’re thinking of going back next year to do the next level because they were so fabulous. We learned a ton of skills and how to rescue each other in the event that we tipped our kayaks. Safety first everyone!

Our first take-away from the course was that we wanted single kayaks. Doubles are so much cheaper, but they also involve a lot of coordination. Me and Seth are really different people and I have a bit of a control complex, so I’m glad we each had our own boat. I think it made for a much more enjoyable trip.

We took the ferry over to the Sunshine Coast early on Saturday morning and drove straight to Sechelt to get our kayak rentals. I was a little concerned about getting all our gear in the kayak, but those things are surprisingly large and we even had extra space in the compartments. It did take a little bit of coordination and jigsaw skills to make everything fit though, I’d recommend many small bags, instead of few big ones. The hardest thing to fit in was our 20L water jug because we brought all our water with us (although we didn’t even use half of the water we brought).

It was overcast and a little rainy when we started, but fortunately the wind was at our backs so we didn’t have too hard a go. Sechelt Inlet is really interesting because it’s only connected to the ocean through one small channel, so you’d think it would be pretty calm in there, but they can actually get some pretty strong headwinds up the channel. There’s also a ton of campsites in the inlet, but we didn’t want to push ourselves too far on our first trip, so we chose Nine Mile Beach as our camping destination since it was only about a 2 hour paddle.

We had a pretty leisurely trip out and stopped at Oyster Beach for our lunch. Nine Mile Beach is the biggest campsite I believe, which is why we picked it, but everyone else seemed to have the same idea and it was quite busy, so I’d maybe even recommend going for one of the smaller ones. I assumed they’d be full since they were so small, but they were actually empty. Halfway Beach is across the inlet from Nine Mile Beach and it is about the same size, but there were definitely less people staying there because it can be a lot of work crossing the inlet depending on the weather.

No fear though, we managed to get a great site at Nine Mile Beach! Most of the campsites are back in the woods, but we went down to the far end of the beach where there were less crowds and managed to find a small site at the very end just big enough for our tent and gear, with a great view of the beach. So we hauled our kayaks up above the high water line and set up camp.

The sun never really managed to come out on Saturday, but it did stop raining before we got to the beach and we spent the rest of the day chilling. I read about half a book and Seth (the biologist) had a great time exploring the low tide and flipping over rocks. I expected to see wildlife while we were out there, but I was surprised by just how much wildlife we saw! It was like a nature zoo! While we were eating dinner the birds gave us a great show. There were two seagulls that were hanging around digging up shellfish (cockles according to Seth) and they kept digging them out of the sand and then flying up high to drop them on the rocks to get to the meat inside. Plus, two black oyster catchers also showed up looking for mussels for supper, which thrilled Seth because they are the birds he is studying for his Masters and he doesn’t get that many opportunities to see them in the wild.

The highlight though didn’t come until nighttime. We heard some rumours you could see bio-luminescence in the water in Sechelt Inlet and our neighbour gave us a tip that you have to actually move to water to see it (we never would have figured this out ourselves). So we got up at 2am and fortunately the wind had totally died off and the water was very still, so we moved our paddles through the water and sure enough it totally lit up with glowing organisms! It was very cool! I was tempted to go swimming in it, but it was just too cold.

The weather cleared up a lot for us on Day 2 and the sun came out! There was still quite a bit of wind when we took off in the morning, but again, it was at our backs. Sechelt inlet has 2 side channels, Salmon Inlet and Narrows Inlet. Our main goal of the trip was to cross Salmon Inlet and visit Kunechin Islets and Kunechin Point. On a map it doesn’t look that intense, but it actually is a fair paddle to cross any of the inlets. It wasn’t bad on the way over with the wind at our backs, but I was a little nervous about coming back.

We wanted to visit Kunechin Islets because they are a protected seabird sanctuary and Seth wanted to see some seabirds. There weren’t actually that many birds around, but we definitely weren’t disappointed. We saw several eagles in and around the islet, as well as a half dozen oyster catchers (and lots of seagulls). We’re probably a bit partial to oyster catchers since Seth’s been studying them for years, but they really are precious! They sound like squeak toys and we enjoyed watching them.

The highlight for me though was the seal colony! Seth counted about 65 seals sunbathing on the rock when we approached. We tried to stay far enough away from the seals to not bother them, but most of them abandoned the rock into the water as soon as they saw us approaching (do feel a bit bad about this, but we really didn’t get that close). They were funny though because they all just watched us from the water with their little heads poking up. It was hilarious, but also a little foreboding because of the sheer number of them!

We had lunch on Kunechin point, which in my opinion had the best view and campsite. It’s located a little bit up on a hill and looks up both Salmon Inlet and Sechelt Inlet. It was empty when we were there, but there’s only 2 campsites there and some kayakers who were departing when we arrived informed us it had been totally full the previous night. I kind of wish we’d stayed there, but there’s very little beach at this campsite, so Seth preferred Nine Mile Beach.

Luckily for us, the wind dropped down entirely after lunch and we decided to paddle across Sechelt Inlet and visit Halfway Beach. The map of Sechelt Inlet is definitely deceiving and the crossing is a lot farther than it looks, but with the wind dropped down, it wasn’t a hard paddle. I really liked Halfway Beach – it has a lot of campsites and it’s brighter than the wooded campsites at Nine Mile Beach (and less busy), but again, Seth still thought that Nine Mile Beach was the best for wildlife. We collected some windfall branches in the forest to take back with us for a campfire (pre-fireban!) because Nine Mile Beach has pretty much been picked dry.

By the time we kayaked back across the inlet one more time it was about 3:30pm and we decided to take it easy for the rest of the evening. I had a really quick dip in the ocean, but I mostly just relaxed and did some reading while Seth did some more beachcombing. We were surprised just before dinner though by a mountain storm.

I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more experience with mountain storms this year. They kind of swing in out of nowhere and they don’t really last very long, but they can dump some pretty intense rain on you. We tried to wait it out in the tent, but we were pretty hungry, so we set up a tarp shelter and cooked our dinner while watching the rain clouds move up and down the inlet. We were concerned we weren’t going to get to have our campfire afterall, but the rain finally stopped after about 2 hours and Seth got a lovely campfire going for us while I watched one of the most intense sunsets over the mountains. It was so red it honestly kind of looked like the trees were on fire!

We finished the trip on Monday with a pretty leisurely paddle back to rental company. We got lucky again in that the water was dead calm when we started our kayak back. The wind did start to pick up a little in some sections on the way though and it was a great lesson in how much harder a little headwind can make a paddle. Overall though, nothing too strenuous.

So our first kayak trip was a huge success and I think it’s something we’ll definitely start doing a least once a year. Personally I’m still more of a fan of backpacking, but I really enjoyed getting on the water and trying something new! We definitely saw a lot more wildlife in the kayak and the bio-luminescence was one of the highlights for me!

 

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

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