THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2012
The Now Completed Section of the Sea to Sky Trail in Whistler
The Sea to Sky Trail is the 180K hiking, biking, walking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and running trail that stretches from Squamish to D'Arcy. Overall the trail is still under construction, however, the beautiful route through Whistler is finally in place and for the most part, complete. This extraordinary trail meanders its way through many of Whistler's seemingly endless, beautiful sights.
The Whistler section of the Sea to Sky Trail is 33 kilometres long between Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and WedgeWoods Estates just north of Green Lake (north of Whistler Village). The Whistler section of the trail is paved near the Village, and further out, dirt or crushed rock. Some sections are narrow, dirt and challenging as they wind through deep forest in an absurdly winding, though very fun, roller coaster like route through the trees.
North of Whistler Village the trail can be challenging with several hills as it rises above and beyond Parkhurst. This marvellous and newly built section is a wide, crushed rock path that is relaxing and smooth despite continuous hills to reach the summit of the trail. High above Green Lake, the high point of the Whistler part of the Sea to Sky Trail has some fantastic views of mountains all around.
South of Whistler Village, the paved Whistler Valley Trail that the Sea to Sky Trail shares, ends at Cheakamus Crossing and becomes a narrow dirt trail with some wider sections of crushed rock. This beautiful section follows the Cheakamus River making four dramatically beautiful river crossings.
The Cal-Cheak area is one of these beautiful crossings. The Calcheak Suspension Bridge spans the wide and always rushing and chaotic Cheakamus River.
You can't help wonder how Whistler seems to have these great bridges on various trails. They are very long and well constructed and certainly expensive. There is another one further up the Cheakamus River towards Cheakamus Lake.
Evidently, if you are thinking the cute suspension bridge at Calcheak is nice you are in for a shock. Further down the trail you come to the enormous, chasm spanning, Whistler Bungee Bridge. This amazing bridge crosses way above the Cheakamus River far below. The bridge is ridiculously long and absurdly high. Expect to spend some time in this area, not just for the amazing bridge, but also the cliffs just past the bridge, that have some impressive views as well.
Across the Bungee Bridge the Sea to Sky Trail passes near and past some nice viewpoints of distant mountains and valleys. The trail eventually leads directly through Brandywine Provincial Park and very close to the wonderful viewpoint across to the falls. Brandywine Falls is a great place to park your car and start out on the trail.
Calcheak is also a good place to park and there is plenty of room near the, hard-to-miss Sea to Sky Trail signs. Nearer to Whistler Village there are dozens of good places to park. All of the parks in Whistler on the trail have convenient and free parking. Right in Whistler Village you will find parking near Lost Lake Park in Lot 4 and get on the trail just metres from your car.
North of Whistler there is convenient and free parking at Nicklaus North Golf Course, just a five minute walk from the Green Lake part of the Sea to Sky Trail that rises from the Lost Lake Trail. Further north still, the turnoff for Wedgemount Lake, just north of Green Lake has lots of parking near the Sea to Sky Trailhead there.
TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2012
St Mark's Summit - Still Some Snow in Late July
St Mark's Summit on the Howe Sound Crest Trail beginning at Cypress Mountain Resort. Beautiful and amazing views of Howe Sound. Some patches of snow on the trail and lots of snow at St Mark's Summit, except for the rocky outcrops. The hike is well marked though consistently steep as you gain 460 metres in just 5.5k. Once reaching St Mark's Summit there are several amazing peaks to explore and just when you think you have seen every viewpoint, you find another. There are even a couple amazing viewpoint clearings to put up your tent as many do here.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 18, 2012
Sproatt Mountain Bushwhacking Trail in Whistler
Sproatt mountain is the almost never hiked mountain that lays across the valley from Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. There are no real trails to the summit, but instead about four (poor) options. You can hike from the North Air Mine, near the Whistler Olympic Park, or bushwhacking from the Rainbow Lake trail, or long distance alpine hiking from beyond Rainbow Lake or bushwhacking from the Flank Trail near Rainbow Park. This is the route we took, bushwhacking from the beautiful Flank Trail. Starting at Beaver Pass (a bike trail), then on to the beautiful and steep downhill bike trail, Cheap Thrills then connecting onto the Flank Trail which then crosses Sproatt Creek. The bushwhack route follows Sproatt Creek to the alpine and the summit of Sproatt.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2012
Lone Cone Mountain - Paradise Hiking in Tofino
In an effort to avoid the crowds in Tofino we took a water taxi to Meares Island and hiked the Grouse Grind of Tofino, Lone Cone Mountain. 730m in 3.3k. Ducking and dodging fallen trees everywhere. Not many views along the trail, but at the top, incredible. We thought we couldn't top the tent view yesterday, but we did. Amazing. Tofino is just amazing. Day 5: $0
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012
Hiking in Tofino - Radar Beach
The streets of Tofino were packed as summer finally hit in late June. We managed to find a quiet beach far off the radar. Radar Beach, far below Radar Hill in Tofino. The hike down to the quiet beaches (there are 3) is amazing (at least in my view). It looks and feels like the West Coast Trail. Deep jungle, mud, lots of mud, steep at times and lots of massive, dead trees to climb over, walk across, or duck under. There are even three ropes to assist in steep sections. It's this difficult and dirty trail that keeps the tourists away. We didn't mind. Finding a beach in Tofino this beautiful and this deserted is something special. Never saw anyone for the almost two days we were there.. crazy. Day 4: $0
MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012
Hiking in Tofino - Virgin Falls
We arrived in Tofino on a mission to dispel the reputation that Tofino is expensive. Hotels run seldom less than $160 and campsites are always full.. and crowded. Our third night was at the famous, though tough to get to, Virgin Falls. Not hard to find, but far.. 30k of sketchy, bumpy, paint scratching logging road to reach the extraordinary Virgin Falls. Our first night out in the woods in Tofino and we hit paradise. Aside from the water being brutally cold to swim, the place was perfect.. and there must not have been another soul for 20k in any direction. We had paradise to ourselves. Day 3: $0
MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2012
Keyhole Hot Springs (aka Pebble Creek) - Breathtaking
The amazing Keyhole Hot Springs (sometimes called Pebble Creek Hot Springs) are only 3 hours from Vancouver. Located west of Pemberton in a very geologically active part of BC. An area along the crashingly beautiful Lillooet River about 100 metres long contains several hot spring tubs. Ranging from the luxurious, cemented into the side of a cliff, hanging at the edge of the river. To the less luxurious, but also amazing sand pools where the hot water bubbles from underneath you as you relax. You can dig these as large or as small as you wish and have to cool them down with river water from time to time as the temperatures rise.
Meager Creek Hot Springs are just a few kilometres before Keyhole Hot Springs, and still there and usable, however the giant bridge was destroyed in 2010 when the massive mudslide swept it away in moments. The $900,000 scrounged together over years of squabbling and negotiating to build it crashed through the valley below. This extraordinary bad timing and luck will almost certainly ensure that a new bridge will never be built. Not just because of the massive cost, but also the massive activity under the ground here. You can still get to Meager, but you have to walk there, parking and hiking from where the bridge used to be. The river here spreads through the valley considerable, so even when the water is high it may only be two feet deep, so very manageable. For a hot springs enthusiast, this is a small barrier, though if you do you are risking a very possible and sudden death.
Catastrophic mudslides can and do strike often here. Roughly one a decade. Meager Creek Hot Springs are in the wake of these slides, however, Keyhole Hot Springs is not. It is shielded from the path of these mud slides by a massive wall of rock laid down by the massive eruption of Plinth Peak in 410BCE. Plinth Peak is visible as you lay in the Keyhole Hot Springs and this wall of rock lays across the river valley from you, towering high above. Bring binoculars if you go and look at it closely and you will spot dark spots. These are trees and parts of trees eroding out of the rock face, frozen in time on that day 24 centuries ago.
What an amazing, incredible, spectacular place... and there is a beautiful, huge campsite too. There are two more hot springs in the opposite direction of Pemberton (the town you pass through to get to Keyhole and Meager Hot Springs). These are Skookumchuck Hot Springs (2 hours from Whistler), and Sloquet Hot Springs (3 hours from Whistler). Skookumchuck Hot Springs is a collection of hot tubs of the kind you would see at someones house that collect hot spring water. It is a shabby looking hot springs, but somehow has a beautiful charm to it. Well worth a visit, at least if on the way to the beautiful Sloquet Hot Springs.
SATURDAY, APRIL 7, 2012
Upper Shannon Falls - Summer Hiking Begins
The tremendously popular Shannon Falls in Squamish has a trail that leads to Upper Shannon Falls that goes unnoticed. Way up above, 3.5k and 450 metres above you come to the amazing views near the Upper Shannon Falls. The falls are not very impressive but the views from the plateau above them is amazing. Similar to the Chief but quiet and serene. We only saw two people on the trail, but the trail to the Chief was absurdly busy. Sunny and warm, feels like the first day of summer 2012!
SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2012
Snowshoeing Hollyburn Mountain in West Vancouver
Hollyburn Mountain (aka Hollyburn Peak), in Cypress Provincial Park, is an amazing place to snowshoe or hike south of Whistler in North Vancouver (1.5 hours drive). The 1.5 hour drive from Whistler is beautiful and certainly the drive up to Cypress Provincial Park is beautiful with great views of Vancouver. From the always beautiful crossing of the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge, to the incredible views of Vancouver from the approach drive to Cypress Mountain and the Hollyburn Mountain trailhead. You would almost expect that there would be various fees for parking, trail use, etc. But the Hollyburn Mountain snowshoeing and hiking trail is completely free, and also quite convenient. You will likely be able to park withing a few metres of the trailhead and if you don't happen to own snowshoes, you can rent them at the trailhead for a very reasonable price. As if it couldn't get better, it does... the trail is so well marked that it can easily be done after dark, as many do. What a perfect escape from the city. A perfect mountain escape to a towering mountain paradise far above the big city below. The city lights are amazing. From the lights of the Lions Gate Bridge, to the beautifully bright tankers, to the wondrously glowing Vancouver towers. This hike has it all. Great views, easy hike, convenient times to use, and of course free. Hiking or snowshoeing Hollyburn Mountain is yet another spectacular piece of the whole amazing Vancouver experience. Hollyburn Mountain is easily done in a half day trip from Vancouver as it is quite close and quite a short hike/snowshoe, at only 7k roundtrip. Go early for the amazing sunrise, or late in the day for
the unbelievable sunset. The Hollyburn Mountain trail is very well marked with light reflecting, neon orange, 6 foot tall marker poles, only a few metres apart most of the way. Though the trail is a fairly constant uphill it is a relatively short trail. Most make it to the summit of Hollyburn in an hour from the trailhead. Coming down is quite a bit faster and you will see people using crazy carpets on the trail in the winter. In the summer with no snow, your downward pace will be quite fast as compared to uphill. If you plan to hike or snowshoe Hollyburn Mountain after dark, make sure you have a light and a backup light. The trail marker poles only reflect light, so you could easily lose the trail without lights after dark.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2012
Elfin Lakes/Diamond Head Hiking and Snowshoeing in Squamish
The Elfin Lakes/Diamond Head trail in Squamish is an amazing place to hike or snowshoe and only an hours drive north of Vancouver. The winter hiking/snowshoeing/skiing trail is easy to follow, not too steep, and after the first 5k the views are phenomenal. And astonishingly, amazingly, there are two luxurious huts. One after 5k is called the Red Heather Hut and is a day use only, warming hut. Which means it is a cute little house in a snowy paradise with large windows, a fantastic wood stove and stacks of ready cut wood to fill it with. This may not seem luxurious, but in the cold mountains of Garibaldi Park in Squamish, a little house with a wood stove is paradise.
From the Red Heather Hut to the Elfin Lakes Hut is a further 6k, and constantly beautiful. The views are incredible because the trail runs along a sharp ridge so you often have views both left and right. In the early morning or evening light this makes for quite an amazing contrast in light and colours reflecting off the mountains all around.
The Elfin Lakes Hut is quite a thing as well. Buried in a few metres of snow, you have to descend snowy stairs as if walking into a snow cave. Once inside two remarkable things hit you. First the warmth, the thing is heated... shocking. Second the size. This half buried hut looks small from the outside, but once inside you marvel at the hugeness of it all. Sinks, large tables, windows everywhere... and a set of stairs going up to another floor above. The upstairs is wall to wall bunk beds. Unbelievable cozy and tidy. The whole interior has a wonderful ski lodge feel. After I went back downstairs with the bouncing walk of a kid in a new tree fort, still amazed at this hut in the mountains, I noticed two modern timer dials on one wall. Turning one a bit sheepishly and brightness filled the place. There are lights. Unbelievable. The Elfin Lakes Hut has power. Unbelievable.
MONDAY, JANUARY 23, 2012
The Brothers of the Grouse Grind
The Grouse Grind, the astonishingly popular endurance trail in Vancouver has two increasingly known and popular siblings. The Chief in Squamish and Wedgemount Lake in Whistler. The Chief is wonderfully beautiful and much quieter than the Grouse Grind, though shorter but steeper. It's much better known as a year-round hiking trail. Wedgemount Lake is much tougher but incredibly beautiful. Unfortunately, Wedge is the highest mountain in the entire Garibaldi Range and therefore buried in snow, too much to hike for most of the year.
Grouse Grind: 853m in 2.9k
Stawamus Grind: 630m in 1.8k
Wedgemount Grind: 1220 in 7k
The Stawamus Grind
The Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over Squamish. Though hardly believable from looking at, the summit is an easy two hour hike. In fact there are three peaks, South (First), Centre (Second), and North (Third). Each accessible from the single trailhead.
The Wedgemount Grind
The increasingly popular trail run to Wedgemount Lake is as magnificent as it is brutal. It's brutal in elevation gain, 1220 metres in only 7km. But a wonderful challenge due to the ruggedness and steepness of the trail. You will be focussed on the trail so much as to become mesmerized into a runners trance.
At a good pace, often not running, but hiking fast, many make it to the top in around one hour and twenty minutes. It's Whistlers Grouse Grind with the added bonus of a spectacular lake to jump into at the top. If you can run the Wedgemount trail, you should have no problem jumping into a 3 degree lake.
The Wedgemount Lake trail is very rugged and you may encounter fallen trees early and well into the season. The 14k round-trip can be extended to 18k by continuing to the Wedgemount Glacier. This section will be rocky to run on as the trail runs through the scree slope running to the lake, but this part is relatively flat and touching the edge of the Wedgemount Glacier is fantastic.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2012
Joffre Lakes Snowshoeing - 3 Hours North of Vancouver
Joffre Lakes is an amazing place in the winter. Only a three hour drive north of Vancouver though it feels worlds away. As it's much higher and colder than Vancouver there are considerable amounts of snow. And being located way up the Duffy Lake Road there are few people to break the silence. It's a great place to snowshoe. Not too difficult or dangerous. As long as you can follow the trail which is usually marked by ski tracks they should lead you right to the third lake and the immense and immensely beautiful lake filled valley of Joffre Lakes. The trail is much slower on snowshoes than on foot in the summer so expect to take 3 hours to reach the third lake and 1.5 hours to return to the parking lot. Bring a map and or gps along as it's easy to wander off the trail on the way back.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2012
2012 Trail Running Events and Competitions Calendar