Day Trip Report: Mount Fromme

With April now underway, it’s officially hiking season! To mark the occasion, we decided to hike Mount Fromme. The hike takes 4-5 hours round trip – we took about 2.5 hours to reach the top and then just over 2 hours to get back down again.

Rope to get up ditch

Depending on when you do the trail, there may just be snow at the very top or there might be a significant amount of snow on the trail. Last year – an effectively zero-snow year – we did this hike in February and there was only patches of snow at the very top. This year there was a significant amount of snow starting around 900m elevation and for an hour of hiking. The snow was for the most part packed in, but myself and Kyle probably post-holed half a dozen times. I’d say snowshoes aren’t required, but microspikes might be nice to minimize slipping when coming back down right now. Earlier on in the season snowshoes would be a must.

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Other than the snow, the trail is a pretty standard Vancouver area trail with pretty steady climbing for the majority of the trail. At the beginning of the trail, it would be possible to accidentally get onto one of the mountain biking trails or Baden-Powell, but once you are past the Old Grouse Mountain Highway, the trail is straightforward to follow. We did notice that the trail has more trail markers on the way down than going up, so if you ever find yourself lost, try turning around the see if there’s a trail marker behind you.

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On a clear day the view from the top is of the surrounding mountains – views of the city are blocked by the trees. When we were at the top there were around 5 eagles/hawks circling around and there were a couple hanging out in a nearby tree. On a cloudy day, you won’t probably won’t be able to see much.

imageIt’s a fairly quiet trail – definitely less popular than the nearby Grouse Grind/BCMC and the easier Baden-Powell, both times we’ve done the trail we’ve only encountered 1 other group going to the top. On Saturday there were a pair of trail runners heading up in shorts.

I’d highly recommend this trail – it’s a bit steeper than the usual trails around, but not unreasonably so and it’s not as busy as most other trails in the area.Panorama of Top of Mount Fromme

Trip Report: Juan de Fuca Trail

We were looking for something to do over the Easter long weekend and with about two days notice we decided to do the Juan de Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island. The JdF is a 47km trail that follows the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, generally less popular than its nearby sibling, the West Coast Trail. It follows the coast line, so you nearly always have the ocean in sight and the trail crosses a number of beaches. Generally it’s recommended to do over four to five days, but we completed it in two and a half.

Logistics

Getting to/from the trail

If you go during the main hiking season (May – September), there is a hiker bus that will bring you to and pick you up from either trailhead. If you are going in the off-season or you’d rather get there another way there are a few options:

  1. Two cars – Drop one car off at each trailhead. There are parking lots at both trailhead that allow for parking – be aware that they are commonly targeted by thieves and avoid leaving anything in your cars if possible.
  2. One car – Drop your car off at one trailhead and then call a taxi or hitch a ride to get back to it.
  3. Take a taxi or hitchhike – Taking a taxi will run you over $100 each direction and that’s what we did. I’ve never personally hitched in this area, but imagine it would be fairly easy as there’s a decent amount of traffic on the road.

The walks from the highway to the trailhead are very easy from both ends – at China Beach it’s a few minutes and at Botanical Beach it’s about 45 minutes. It’s also a super short drive on paved roads, so you may get someone willing to drive you right to the trailhead.

Permits

You’ll need a backcountry camping permit which will be $10/person/night – you can purchase permits online in advance or bring cash to pay at the trailhead. Regardless of how you pay, you have to carry your permit with you.

Food Storage

There are food caches at all the designated campsites. Depending on how busy the campsites are/how early you get there, they may fill up. I’d recommend at very least bringing rope and being prepared to hang your food if needed.

Maps

BC Parks has an overview map of the trail available and the trail is very easy to follow so extra maps aren’t necessary per se, but I’d still recommend bringing some along with a compass.

The BC Parks map has difficulty of the trail marked – I’d consider this to be fairly accurate and the sections marked most difficult were indeed very difficult.

Itinerary

If you are doing the whole trail, I’d recommend traveling northbound – you’ll get the most difficult part of the trail done at beginning and your last day will be a relaxing hike on mostly boardwalks.

Generally it’s done as a 4 or 5 day hike, we did it in 2.5. The schedule really depends on how much you want to hang at the beaches/hike at a leisurely pace/how much you just want to hike. 2.5 days leaves very little time for lolling about at camp, especially early in the season when light is more limited. There are also a number of sections where your speed will be severely limited by the difficulty of the terrain (mud, rocks to balance on, slippery boardwalks, etc) for a significant portion on of the trail we were doing 2km/hour.

Trip Report

Day 1 – China Beach Trailhead to Chin Beach (21km)

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We started off at the Jordan River Campground (4km away from the trailhead) at around 7am and reached the trailhead by 8am. After a quick washroom break at the outhouse and checking over the information board, we were off. For the first couple hours, we were on our own on the trail, but after that a couple groups caught up with us and we began leapfrogging them on the trail for the rest of the day.

The first few kilometers of the trail were nice and well maintained and graded, but after that the trail switched to constant ups/downs, relatively muddy conditions and downed trees blocking the trail.

imageWe reached Chin Beach around 5:30pm to find the majority of the campsites already claimed by the groups we had been leapfrogging throughout the day, so we ended up with a spot quite close by the creek which we hoped wouldn’t be too cold during the night.

Immediately after dinner, we tucked ourselves into bed before it had even fully gotten dark. Most of the other groups were still up, but the sound of the ocean waves drowned them out quite well.

Day 2 – Chin Beach to Payzant Creek (19km)

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We had a lazy start on our second day as we’d found the first day extremely tiring, not really getting up until 8am. Despite our late start, we seemed to be the first ones in the area up. After a quick breakfast (pop tarts for Natasha and larabars for Kyle), coffee and topping up our water bladders, we were off.

The morning trail was mostly the same as the day before – muddy, constant ups/downs and trees down on the trail. It was much quieter on the trail than our first day though – it seemed like most of the groups we’d encountered on the first day were just overnighting and not doing the whole trail – we encountered a few groups going the opposite direction as us, but no constant leapfrogging like day one.

We reached Sombrio Beach just in time for lunch. It was quite windy and busy at the beach, so we ducked behind the first unoccupied log we saw to find a bit of shelter to eat lunch.

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The trail from West Sombrio to West West Sombrio was closed due to slides so we followed to beach around the bluff – there was lots of rock hopping which is exhausting with a pack on. We didn’t quite time this section right, so we had to wade for a 50ft or so section around the bluff. The water was <6 inches, but still deep enough to definitely get your shoes wet. Kyle took his boots off and did it barefoot and Natasha just waded through with her shoes on.

After West West Sombrio it was back into the forest and the trail got progressively more and more muddy as the day went on. We were averaging 2km/hour for the majority of the afternoon. We finally reached camp – Payzant Creek – just before it got dark and started to rain around 6:30pm. We quickly set up our tent in the site that looked least likely to turn into a mini-lake overnight and put on our rain gear and headlamps to eat dinner.

Despite it’s name, Payzant Creek is a dry campsite – there is a bridge that crosses the creek and as far as we could tell there’s no way to access the creek to get water. There is plenty of water along the trail, but you do have to either get water before you reach camp or plan to get some from one of the next creeks in the trail the next day.

We tried to eat as quickly as possible before packing up and tucking ourselves in for the night as it was starting to rain quite hard.

Day 3 – Payzant Creek to Botanical Beach (7km)

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We woke up early on the third day before the sun was even up and started heading down the trail around 7am. Large portions of the trail were turned into creeks the rain the night before, but the mud wasn’t actually too bad. The last few kilometers of the trail alternated between logs and boardwalks, which although slippery were a nice change of pace.

We reached the trailhead before 11am and then headed towards Port Renfrew which took around 45 minutes. The road drops you off right at the Port Renfrew Pub/Hotel which is a great spot to quench some of your hiker hunger before making your way home.

Final Thoughts

imageThis is a nice trail and has some beautiful sections and we’ll likely do it again at some point. I generally wouldn’t recommend doing it this early in the season though – it was extremely muddy and there were a lot of trees/branches on the trail – even blocking the entire trail at times. It was also quite busy, so I don’t think the mud/trees are worth coming early to try to avoid crowds. It was also a hassle to get to/from the trail without a car as the bus wasn’t running yet.

I’d recommend coming out midweek later on in the summer to try to avoid crowds and get much more ideal trail conditions. It definitely is a nice little section of trail though and I would recommend doing it.

Day Trip Report: BCMC & Goat Mountain

This past month has been quite busy for both Kyle & I at work, so unfortunately we haven’t had any opportunities or energy to go hiking on the weekends. This past Sunday we finally managed to get out for a hike though.

We took the BCMC up to Grouse Mountain and then followed the Alpine Trail to Goat Mountain.

We took the bus to Grouse Mountain – this is one of the more straightforward hikes to access via transit in North Vancouver. The simplest way to reach Grouse from downtown Vancouver is to take the Seabus and then the 136 to Grouse. Alternatively, you can take one of the buses that goes to either Phibbs Exchange or across the Lion’s Gate and then catch the 132 to Grouse.

The BCMC is a slightly less challenging and much less busy alternative to the Grouse Grind. Personally, I find the Grouse Grind to be overrated and not enjoyable – I like hiking to be outside and enjoy the outdoors, I don’t find I can do that when I’m climbing a mountain with dozens of other people trying to pass me and/or getting in my way. The BCMC starts at the same location as the Grind, but take the right trail towards the Baden-Powell rather than left. Shortly after there is another marked trail junction (ignore all the other “trails” made by people going off-trail), left will take you up Grouse on the BCMC, right will take you towards Lynn Canyon on the Baden-Powell.

We left our hiking poles at home and shortly after starting on the trail, I was wishing we hadn’t. The trail isn’t extremely difficult, but it definitely is steep and as I’m on the short side, having poles would have made it much easier. Overall it is a great trail though – good workout, but doesn’t feel never-ending like some trails do. It took us close to 1.5 hours to reach the chalet.

It was quite foggy near the end of the BCMC

It was quite foggy near the end of the BCMC

Once we reached the chalet, it was extremely foggy – the hardest part of the hike was finding our way to the Goat Mountain trailhead. We wound up taking a few accidental loops of the grizzly bear enclosure, but once you find the trail it is straightforward. There is a board with maps of the surrounding trails and a registration/permit box. I’d highly recommend filling out a permit since the trail is very steep in sections and a fall/slip could be treacherous.

Thankfully once we started ascending on the trail, the fog/clouds dissipated and the trail was clear again. We took the Alpine route, but the Alpine & Ridge routes run roughly parallel and intersect occasionally, so you could take either trail (or both!) up until the junction to Hanes Valley/Crown Mountain. The trail is fairly well-marked with orange tape & markers.

First glimpse of Goat Mountain

 

Again hiking poles would have been nice along here as it is quite steep in sections. Overall this is not a difficult trail, but there are some short scrambling sections that push this into a more advanced category.

There are some short scrambling sections along the trail.

There are some short scrambling sections along the trail

Near the peak of Goat Mountain, there are some chains that mark the beginning of the end and then it’s only another five minutes or so of hiking/scrambling to the top. Again although I wouldn’t consider this difficult, scrambling and really anytime that you use your hands when hiking push this into a more advanced category.

Once we reached the peak, there were two other groups, but they left within a few minutes and we had the entire mountain to ourselves. The peak was slightly above the clouds causing the extreme fog at Grouse so we didn’t get much of a view, but the clouds themselves were pretty and the sun was very nice. We spent a few minutes sitting in the sun and eating snacks before heading back down.

Goat Mountain

View at the top of Goat Mountain

There was a surprising amount of trash at the peak – we collected four bottles on our way back. It took us less than 3 hours to complete the Goat Mountain hike including a few breaks for snacks. If you do fill out a permit – remember to drop off the slip in the box when you return.

Once we got back to the chalet, we grabbed some hot chocolate and cookies and took the gondola back down. If you want to take the gondola down, it costs $10, or alternatively you could hike back down the BCMC. From the time we started the BCMC to when we got back to the bottom of Grouse was less than 6 hours – I’d estimate we were actually hiking for around 4.5 hours and the rest of the time was spent on breaks/at the chalet/getting lost around the grizzly bear enclosure/taking the gondola down.

I would definitely recommend this hike and we are planning on returning to do the Crown Mountain & Hanes Valley hike later this summer.

Getting to / from the SCT

It’s always a challenge trying to get to the trailhead, especially when the hike is a through hike and does not loop back to the same spot.

When first looking at the SCT we were a little concerned that getting to the trailhead would be difficult.  We weren’t sure what kind of transit is available in the Sunshine Coast..  It turns out getting there can be pretty simple.

There are three major options: driving, taking the bus or flying.

We don’t own a car, so driving would involve us renting something (car rental, Modo, etc), driving to the trail head then hiking to the end of the trail. Then finding some transportation back to the trailhead.  That isn’t very cost effective since we’d have to rent the car for the entire trip, but it would just sit at the trailhead the entire time.

We also looked at flying to Powell River, but it was also fairly expensive and still required some travel from Powell River to the trailhead as well.  This seems to be a bit of a recurring theme. Getting to/ from the trailhead is always the biggest challenge when you are travelling without your own car.

The other option was to take a charter bus.  The charter bus goes between Vancouver (stopping at the airport as well as several other stops in the city) and Powell River.  The bus makes several stops along the way, including Saltery Bay.  This bus will also take you from the Sunshine Coast back to Vancouver.  A one way trip between Vancouver and Powell River can cost only $79 per person.  This is the option we decided to go with.

Itinerary – Getting There

Day 1:

Take the charter bus from Vancouver to Powell River.  At the time of writing, the schedule indicates that the bus picks up in Vancouver at around 2:30pm (exact time depends on the stop). The charter bus accepts cash as you get on it, and requires you to flag it down as it drives by. Although the schedule indicates the intersection that the bus can pick you up at, there are no dedicated stops (no signs) so you need to keep your eye out for a white bus (similar in model to the Translink community busses) and be sure to get its attention. I called the company that operates the charter bus and I was told that if I call the day before they could notify the driver that there will be someone waiting, but we would still need to be sure to flag the bus down.  After actually taking the bus to Powell River we found out by the bus driver that the best bet is to take the bus at a terminal station (ie: the airport) because you have a better chance of flagging down the bus as well as getting a seat.

The bus then takes you to the ferry (a good chance to pick up any forgotten snacks!) and eventually drops you off in the city centre of Powell River.

Powell River has a bunch of restaurants in around the city centre, so this is a good opportunity to grab a bite before heading on.   Keep in mind the arrival time, as some of these restaurants may not be open very late.  The current bus schedule indicates arrival at around 8:00pm.

After possibly grabbing a bite to eat, you can then call a taxi to drive you to Lund.  This trip should cost approximately $65.  I called ahead and was advised that you don’t need to call the taxi company ahead of time unless you are going from Lund to Powell River (or I suppose, if you expect the taxi company to be exceptionally busy that day).

Alternatively, if your timing works out you can take public transit from Powell River to Lund on the Number 14 – Lund Connector route.  Unfortunately, as good as this route is, it doesn’t run as late as we arrived in Powell River so this bus wasn’t an option for us unless we stayed the night in Powell River and started the hike late the next day.  We prefer an early start, so we made our way to Lund that evening.

At Lund there are some options to stay the night depending on your preferences. There are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts in the area.  If you prefer to just set up a tent and camp (as we usually do; this is often very convenient when arriving late and starting early the next day) then there is also a very convenient camping site that is open during the summer.  This camp site is walking distance to the water taxi.  Since our trip was during the off-season and this camping site was not open yet we decided to stay in the Historic Lund Hotel.  This is also walking distance to the water taxi.

Day 2:

After catching a night’s rest, wake up early (or late if you prefer) and walk down to the water to catch a water taxi to Sarah Point.  You need to call in advance to book the taxi.

The water taxi will take you directly to Sarah Point for you to start your hike.

 

Itinerary – Getting Back

This is similar, but in reverse.

Day 1

The charter bus also picks you up at Salter Bay.  You can finish the hike at Saltery Bay and camp at the camp site at Salter Bay.  The next day you can flag down the Charter Bus or even walk to the Ferry, walk on, and join the Charter Bus on the Ferry. During our trip there was an announcement on the Ferry and the Bus Driver made tickets available on the Ferry.

Take the bus all the way back to Vancouver.

Alternatively, you can bus back to Powell River instead if you have a car left there or if you are planning on flying back.

Conclusions

I was very pleased with how easy it was to get to the trail head.  I suggest adding a bit more travel time than we did so you can enjoy the community a bit more before the hike. The surrounding area is beautiful and the people were very helpful and welcoming.

Hubba Hubba NX – Upgrade Achieved!

We bought our original Hubba Hubba like two months before it was recalled in Canada.  We used it on a few trips and eventually realized there was a recall.  Although we weren’t worried about the tent catching fire (we tend not to cook in our tent…), the NX ended up being released shortly after we learned of the recall. We realized that this was our opportunity to upgrade.

We dug around quite a bit to make sure the NX is worth it.  After all, if we returned our Hubba Hubba we couldn’t get it back. So we couldn’t risk returning our amazing tent if the NX had any flaws.  Thankfully the reviews of the NX had been very promising.  Looking at the design changes we realized that overall the tent was improved.  Some of our complaints about the design have been addressed (proximity of mesh to zipper, rainfly ventilation, improved grommet design) and we didn’t see any changes that made the tent less livable in any way.  The NX also has the added bonus of being lighter, a little easier to set up (while maintaining the same pole configuration), and it’s also a little easier to see in the dark.

Since MEC is awesome, we called and they told us we could bring the tent in and we’d get a credit for the return so we could get the NX at minimal cost.  I checked the availability of the NX over the phone and it had plenty of inventory in store and online.

The NX sold out more or less immediately at MEC.  There was a bunch when I called, then we came in a day or two later to exchange our old tent and by that time MEC was backordered.

So we just held onto our Hubba Hubba until about a month ago, waiting for more inventory.  And now we’ve got one.  We’ve already set it up in our (tiny) living room and it definitely looks promising.  We’ll give it a go on the Sunshine Coast Trail and let you know how it goes.

Sunshine Coast Trail Maps

One of the biggest challenges in planning our Sunshine Coast Trail hike has been finding suitable maps. Ideally I would like a set of maps that covers the entire trail at 1:25,000-50,000 scale, topography, terrain and most importantly – includes the trail on the map.

The US is better than Canada in this way – the USGS maps are great, including topo information and trails. Canada unfortunately doesn’t seem to have any maps that offer this level of detail. NR Canada and GeoBC both offer excellent maps that include topo data and road information, but they do not include hiking trails.

The Sunshine Coast Trail website only includes a large overall map of the trail and then refers you to purchase a book for more detailed maps. The maps in the book are unfortunately not ideal – the maps are all different scales and not in colour which limits their usefulness. (Overall the book is not useful, I’ll address that in another post.)

Ideally a good alternative in my mind would be to use CalTopo to generate a map with either the NR Canada or GeoBC map and GPS tracks of the trail over top. Unfortunately no one appears to have recorded GPS tracks of the trail and posted them online.

Solution

OpenStreetMap has the majority of the trail on their maps and the cycle map layer includes topo data. Google Maps also has some of the trail on their maps, so I will use that to supplement portions that are missing on OpenStreetMap.

So the plan is to use CalTopo to generate a map with OpenStreetMap and Google Maps and GPS waypoints taken from the book over top. Adding the GPS waypoints is rather tedious though so it is still a work in progress. When it is complete I will post the final maps here – hopefully they will be useful to someone else as well.

Why the SCT?

When you think about it, the decision to hike the trails you do can be a personal question with no right answer.  It’s easy to judge a trail or a person hiking it based on some criteria that maybe doesn’t matter to someone other than you.

It’s a bit of a meta experience, but while hiking I sometimes like to think about what I actually am getting out of hiking. What do I like? Why did I choose this trail? Where do I want to go next? In ten years, what kind of trips will we be taking?

For now, we have some pretty mixed requirements for hiking trips. In general, I would rank seclusion and views near the top of the list.  Just having the ability to walk and hang out, whether we are talking or just spending some quiet time together.  For me, that’s my main requirement.  After that it really depends.

For day hikes we prefer hikes that can be accessed by public transit; and often we will choose ones that are challenging enough to make sure we are in shape enough by the time we get to do a larger planned multiday hike.

But for multiday hikes it really depends on circumstances.  This summer we are planning on hiking the JMT. We both have three weeks off of work and are planning like crazy for that trip. But this spring we are hiking the SCT, which is described as “easy to moderate” and “family friendly”. This doesn’t fit our usual type of hike. But that’s OK.

So why are we hiking the SCT?  Well…  it’ll be really pretty. It will be interesting to do, and I would really like to catch that trail before it gets as popular as the WCT.  It also fits really nicely into the vacation slot we have available.  I have earned some time in lieu at work and have some vacation carried over, and so we have about a week and a half (including weekends) to do something. And the SCT can be done with only a little planning. We can’t forget that it is close to home, easy to get to and any accommodations and services we hire will be supporting a nearby community (where some of our friends and colleagues grew up!).  The huts are interesting, and it’s something we can hike in early April. And, well, in about 10 years maybe we want to do this with a hypothetical kid of ours, so I guess we can check it out now and see if it makes the list later.

So even though the SCT is something quite a bit different than we are used to, I am really looking forward to checking it out.  We will be sure to post notes about planning the trip (including any new resources we put together), as well as reviews and notes about the trail itself.