Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 2 – Mount Troubridge to Lois Lake

We both slept pretty well, but we were quite hot throughout the night. I guess nine people in a tiny cabin is a great way to generate heat.

We were the first ones up, so we gathered our belongings got our bags packed up on the porch – it was actually pretty pleasant outside compared to how warm it was inside. We stopped by the creek to filter some water and then we were off.

Today was all downhill and much more pleasant than yesterday. It was also quite a bit cooler as we started in the morning rather than midday and it was quite foggy and overcast for the first couple hours. The snow continued on the trail until Elephant Lake, and it was still quite manageable without spikes. Around the lake was a bit swampy and sections of the trail were completely flooded with near-freezing water.

Right before we got to Lois Lake, there was a lovely shelter we grabbed lunch at. It seemed quite new (the logbook said it was built in 2015) and it had a nice composting toilet. Around Lois Lake was pretty straightforward with the usual ups and downs that are expected when going along a shoreline. There were a couple campgrounds – one large horse camp that was completely empty and a recreation site campground that looked pretty full.

At the end of the lake, there is a dam; we were disappointed when we realized we wouldn’t be able to walk across it, but you can still get close enough to look over the edge.

After the dam, the trail popped down to follow an old railroad grade and Kyle described it as being like in an Indiana Jones movie and tropical feeling. We crossed the river that was downstream of the dam – there was a small camp on the other side, but we kept going another couple minutes until we reached our exit road.

It was a couple km from where we came out to the highway, but it was easy walking compared to other road walks we’ve down. We tried to hitch with the handful of cars that passed us, but no one stopped, thankfully the walk wasn’t too long. Once we reached the highway it was a quick hitch back to our car – the fifth vehicle (a guy in a pickup truck of course) stopped for us and gave us a ride all the way back. I was able to get service for a little bit, and there was no sailing wait from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay so we decided to chance it and try and make it home tonight rather than camping and heading home in morning.

By the numbers:

  • 2 snakes
  • 12 toads (4 large)
  • Over 45 slugs
  • 1 woodpecker
  • 1 ptarmigan-like bird that was almost stepped on
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Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 1 – Saltery Bay to Mount Troubridge

The day started out extremely early as we wanted to be at the ferry terminal at 5am to ensure we caught the first ferry to the Sunshine Coast. We managed to get there right on time and we hoped to catch a short nap while waiting, but that didn’t quite work out. A large family group decided to hang out by our car, talking loudly and even leaning against our car. Once we got on the ferry it was smooth sailing though; we were one of the first cars on/off which meant we were easily able to make our next ferry to Saltery Bay. The trailhead was super easy to find – the first road on the right after the ferry and then a minute drive to a covered map board.

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Starting out at the trailhead in Saltery Bay

We started on the trail around 12pm. Once we got on the trail, it started slowly gaining elevation. The bugs started bothering us pretty much immediately, but some bug spray got them to go away. This first section of the trail was quite nice and had a number of viewpoints of the bay on the way up.

We reached the first shelter at Rainy Day Lake a bit before 3pm. There were a number of people swimming in the lake and we grabbed lunch at the picnic table outside of the shelter.

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Rainy Day Lake Shelter (and failing at using the self-timer)

We got back en route a bit after 3pm and the trail immediately got rougher. It was still in good condition, but the grade was steeper, the vegetation encroached more and the bugs started attacking again. We put on some more bug spray, but this time it barely abated the bugs’ attacks.

At this point, I was really struggling with the grade of the trail and was really wishing I’d brought my mp3 player so I could listen to a podcast and get out of my own head. Thankfully we didn’t hit snow until we were right near the summit of Mount Troubridge. There was a good metre or two at the top, but it was easily managed without spikes.

At the top, there was an emergency shelter and we were a bit confused as we thought there would be an actual cabin. We consulted the guidebook and confirmed there was supposed to be a cabin, but the written descriptions were once again less than helpful in determining where we should go. Thankfully the book also included GPS coordinates which I was able to plug into our navigation app to sort out where to go.

Getting down to the cabin was quick and thankfully downhill for the first time today. When we got to the cabin, there was already a father and his two kids making dinner. We chatted for a bit and made our dinner; they drove up close to the summit and had a shorter day than us, but they had found the trail just as rough and demoralizing as we had. For dinner, I tried out a simplified version of Skurka’s Peanut Noodles. It went pretty well, but I realized I should either use less water or drain the water before adding the peanut butter next time. It just wound up being mildly peanut-flavoured water with noodles.

After we’d finished dinner, a group of four arrived – they initially said they would set up a tent, but couldn’t find anywhere to set up in the snow, so we made room inside for them.

It was an extremely long day for us, so we tucked away into bed a bit after 9pm while everyone else stayed up and chatted.

 

Trip Report: Sunshine Coast Trail

Very overdue (publishing some old drafts we forgot about) – here is our trip report from the Sunshine Coast Trail.

Summary

So, unfortunately, we didn’t end up finishing the trail as Kyle got injured on Day 5 and we had to hike out. We did get over halfway through the trail though.

The trail was very pretty and there were some amazing views on it. The trail ended up being significantly more technical & difficult than we had anticipated – the trail itself is very well-marked and easy to follow, with relatively moderate elevation change over the trail.

Day-by-day Reports

Day 1

Mileage: 16.0 km (0.0 – 16.0)

We started out in Lund after staying the night at the Lund Historical Hotel. We had booked the water taxi to take us to the trailhead. The water taxi was $120 and took around 20 minutes from Lund to the trailhead.

The trailhead that the water taxi drops you off on a rock ledge and then there’s a ~5′ scramble to the actual trail.

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The trail follows along the coast/shoreline for the majority of this section and pops out onto various beaches and bluffs. The trail itself is covered in moss & leaves. We also found that there were a lot of trees down on the trail – this might be since it was early in the season before hey normally do trail maintenance, but definitely something to keep in mind if you are planning on doing the trail early in the year. If there had not been downed trees, the trail would have been quite straightforward and on the easy side of things – the downed trees required a lot of climbing over or going off trail to go around them which made it more challenging.

The elevation gain is very reasonable, the vast majority of it wasn’t steep enough to justify switchbacks and the trail went straight up the hills.

We ended our first day at the first shelter of the trail – the Manzanita Hut.

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It started raining & hailing quite heavily only a few minutes after we reached the hut. We were considering continuing on and setting up camp further along the trail. But the rain/hail and the fact that we didn’t want to push too hard on our first day made it easy for us to decide to stay at the hut.

The hut was quite nice – there was a cooking area on the main floor and then a sleeping loft upstairs. The sleeping loft had windows at either end that could be opened for ventilation. There was also an outhouse a short distance away, picnic tables and a fire ring. One thing to note about this shelter is there are definitely mice/rodents present. There were mouse droppings in the sleeping loft and both myself and Kyle woke up the next morning with tight throats.

Day 2

Mileage: 27.1 km (to Shangri-La dock at 43.1 km)

We started shortly after 8am. The trail is mostly through forested sections, easy to follow and a surprising number of benches along the way. There are lots of options for camping along the way if you would like a shorter day.

Day 3

Mileage: (to Inland Lake Huts)

This was a hard day. It started out well with the sun shining and a relatively easy hike into Powell River. We got into town a bit before noon, so we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that was right along the trail.

After lunch though was a different story. The directions through town to the next trailhead were not at all clear, so we wasted a bit of time wandering around. Once we found where we were supposed to go, it involved climbing a gravel logging road in the hot sun, then once near the top, going right back down a very overgrown trail. It was not pleasant at all.

We were hoping to make it to Confederation Lake today, but the gravel road walk and the condition of the trail meant that we had to stop at the Inland Lakes instead.

Inland Lakes is actually pretty neat – the trail around the lake is all leveled gravel so that wheelchair users can navigate it and the two shelters were initially intended for groups with disabilities to be able to use. However, they weren’t well used and are now open to the general public as well. We camped in our tent rather than staying in the shelters.

Day 4

Mileage: (to Tin Hat Mountain)

This was one of the most challenging days of hiking I’ve experienced. There were lots of downed trees along the trail and the trail up to Tin Hat Mountain is incredibly steep. It was gorgeous up there though and well worth the effort.

We also passed by the Confederation Lake hut along the way – I’d highly recommend staying here rather than Inland Lake as it is much prettier and a nicer shelter.

Day 5

This was the day Kyle got injured. There was a lot of downed trees along the trail and he tweaked his knee while climbing over one. We kept going for a while and tried to slow our pace, but it quickly became apparent we wouldn’t be able to continue. So we backtracked to an access road we had passed and started walking down it towards the highway. Unfortunately, we got to the road a bit late and missed any loggers that would be leaving for the day. We found a flattish spot along the side of the road and set up our tent. Luckily for us,  a couple on an ATV came down the road about 15 minutes after we had everything set up.

They were super awesome and returned with their truck and gave us a ride all the way into Powell River. We grabbed a hotel room for the night and caught the bus back to Vancouver the following morning.

Recommendations/Conclusions

One week is definitely an achievable timeline if you are physically fit and enjoy hiking all-day. If you are the type that enjoys spending more time in camp, I would recommend extending the trip and doing a resupply in Powell River.

Depending on if you have severe allergies or not – you might not want to stay in the huts. Several of the huts had obvious rodent issues (lots of droppings) and both Kyle and I noticed we were stuffy/had tight throats in the morning after staying in one of the huts.

Check the trail reports and Facebook page before leaving – there was a detour around Tin Hat Mountain that we did not learn about until we reached it. We went around it after speaking to some loggers who said they were not blasting in the area anymore.

Bring a set of maps with logging roads marked on it so you can easily find bailout points or detours.

Consider going later on in the season to avoid significant amounts of downed trees across the trail.

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.

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.