FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2013
Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Park
Panorama Ridge is one of the most amazing hiking trails in Garibaldi Park. Garibaldi Lake is unnaturally beautiful with its weirdly surreal turquoise colour. The blistering sunny weather hasn't kicked in at 630am. An early start as we want to swim at Garibaldi Lake on the way there and on the way back during the 30 kilometre roundtrip hike. A very cold breeze blows through the Rubble Creek parking lot. Lots of cars in the parking lot at the trailhead to Garibaldi Lake/Panorama Ridge but not a person in sight. It does look as though a curtained camper van might have occupants still sleeping though.
A big sign at the trailhead warns of construction crews working, but surely we have beat them to the trail this morning. About 3 kilometres into the trail there is a funny little backhoe tractor that barely fits in the trail. They are tidying the trail and it looks great. Wide and smooth. Just past the 6 kilometre mark we take the right hand fork in the trail and head to Garibaldi Lake.
As we pass the little Garibaldi Lake we spot lots of jumping fish disturbing the otherwise glassy water. At Garibaldi Lake we take a quick detour to see the beach and campsite. Only two people can be seen but surely a few tents hidden in the trees. There are 50, well hidden campsites in the trees near the lake shore at the Garibaldi Lake campsite and it is so well designed they all remain secluded.
Back on the trail to Panorama Ridge and the sun is getting higher and warmer now. 1030am and still no one on the trails. An hour later and well past the Black Tusk junction we start catching glimpses of Panorama Ridge... still well packed with snow and Black Tusk lake is partly frozen... though it looks glassy and as though it will melt away in a matter of minutes.
The snowline starts early and patches appear just above Black Tusk Lake. If you don't have sunglasses at this part you'd be in some serious, blinding pain. It's such a strange feeling, hiking on snow and sweating in the hot sun. Just glimpses of Garibaldi Lake as we sweat up the steep, final ascent to the ridge. Finally at the top and Garibaldi Lake is ridiculously blue. The mountains across the lake are dark green and topped with snow which, I'm sure make the unnatural looking blue of the lake look even more vivid.
Panorama Ridge continues for quite a ways as you slowly ascend with the lake to your right. We keep following it, all the while hearing the loud whistles of several unseen marmots lurking somewhere. Finally at the end of Panorama Ridge with the sun beaming down. High up in the mountains of Garibaldi Park and it must be 21 degrees. As we look around, we both notice, not a person in sight. A common thing in Garibaldi Park it seems. Extraordinary!
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.
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.
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.
The gravel and dirt trail winds through a beautiful and deep forest, occasionally following switchback as the trail ascends further into the mountains. After 20 minutes the trail and forest above and around it noticeably changes to a more wild and natural looking forest. The trail skirts the edge of some steep, though very safe cliffs and your first amazing view of Howe Sound.
The intense blue of the ocean far below contrasting with the distant, dark green, tree covered mountains, which then contrast back to the light blue of the sky is breathtaking. So close to Vancouver, yet very little of humanity is visible. No building, no houses, cars or highways in this enormously sweeping view of the British Columbia's coast. Just the occasional, and very distant sailboats silently catching the famous Howe Sound wind shown by the telltale white wash trailing behind.
After 40 minutes on the trail the mostly gravel trail has long since given way to the more natural looking dirt trail. Plenty of tree roots zig zag across the trail and plenty of moderately steep switchbacks mark this section of the trail. At one hour into the trail a faint trail leaves the main trail to the left and following for about 20 seconds takes you to a fabulous cliff with more amazing views of Howe Sound and the first really beautiful area to stop and sit down. However, St Mark's Summit is only 15 minutes further along the trail.
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.
Lone Cone is the wonderful cone shaped mountain that dominates the skyline in Tofino. It is just 6k from Tofino on the north-western end of Meares Island. Lone Cone is an incredible hike to do while in Tofino. There are several attributes that make it fantastic. First, its location. Very close to Tofino. Just a short and very scenic boat taxi takes you to the trailhead. Second, is it is such an abruptly steep hike that you go from the ocean to absurdly sweeping views in just over an hour. Due to the location of Lone Cone requiring a water taxi to access, ensures that it remains serene and quiet most days.
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
Radar beach is one of the innumerable places that makes this part of the world so amazing. It is difficult to get to due to it having an unmarked trailhead, steep and muddy trail, and considerable climbing and crawling above and below fallen trees. Where the other popular beach trails in the area have elaborate and expensive boardwalks and stairs, Radar Beach does not. And hopefully never will. This difficult trail ensures Radar Beach as a secluded paradise in the midst of the sometimes less than secluded, nearby beaches.
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
At 53 metres, Virgin Falls is quite an impressive sight. You walk through the short, two minute forest trail to reach it and it fills your view. It is located in a beautiful oasis it has created. A large, ice cold and crystal clear pool with pebble rocks and waterfall battered logs that flows out in a large, meandering stream through the trees. The whole area is surrounded by huge trees and you feel a strange sense of comfort, like you are in protected place. And when you roll out your sleeping bag in the spectacular setting, you will never want to leave.
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.