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.

First 10k Run Report

This past weekend, I ran my first 10k. In school I never enjoyed running and would certainly never identify myself as a runner, so I found myself a bit surprised initially when I even considered doing this a few months back.

My workplace was offering to pay the fees for the Vancouver Sun Run and a few of my co-workers were participating, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ It would be a great way to force myself to train for our upcoming JMT hike this summer and you never know, it could be fun.

Training

My “training” for the sun was very loose at best – I tried to run 5k three times each week prior to leaving on the Sunshine Coast Trail. I was planning on trying to get in a 10k test run after returning from the SCT, but I wound about up taking the whole week off and not really doing any physical activity in the week leading up to the run.

The Run

My goal for the run was to run the entire course and complete it in 60 minutes. My goal of 60 minutes was a bit optimistic considering the majority of my training runs took around 30 minutes and were less than 5k, but I figured if I pushed myself it might be attainable.

It was a nice sunny day for the run so I wore a running skirt instead of tights and a short sleeve t-shirt. While waiting for the run to start I was in the shade and a bit chilly, but once the run started I was so glad I had chosen a skirt instead of tights – I would have been way too hot.

The course itself was relatively flat – going through downtown, crossing a bridge at the 5k point and then crossing another bridge back towards downtown for the last 1k. I think the max elevation was 40m? So basically the toughest hills were going to the tops of bridges.

Really though the majority of the run went pretty smoothly and I felt good throughout it. The first 2k were a bit annoying due to the shear number of people – there was a bit of dodging and trying to find a good path through the slower folks – after that it was still busy, but not so much so that finding a path was difficult.

I tried to sprint the final 1k and my final time was 1:03:27.0 which I was supremely happy with. Kyle was waiting for me after the finish line with a snickers and more water and then we walked home (he didn’t run as he had injured his knee the previous week doing the SCT).

Things to Change

There’s a few things I’d do differently if I did this again:

  • Wear sunscreen or a hat/visor – the majority of the course was directly in the sun and I got a bit pink/flushed on my cheeks and nose
  • Carry my phone in an armband or zippered pocket – I had never run with my phone in the pockets of this particular running skirt and it wasn’t particularly secure – it ended up falling out around 4k and I carried it the rest of the way
  • Get a hand strap or waist belt for my water bottle (or don’t carry it at all) – having one of those water bottles with a hand strap or a waist belt would have been nice so I didn’t need to actively hold on to it – I could have also gotten away without carrying water at all, there are plenty of water stations along the course, but it is nice being able to drink whenever I want and not just at the water stations

Final Thoughts on Running

I still definitely don’t identify myself as a runner, but I have found that I do enjoy it somewhat. It’s especially nice being able to run by the beach/water in our neighbourhood and just take in our beautiful city.

I also really recognize and appreciate its usefulness in training for a thru-hike. Running is a much more efficient way to train to hike long distances than actually hiking them which is great if you have limited time available to train.

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.

Finding my Bike: Wants & Needs

When I first started commuting on my bike, I rode a cheap hardtail mountain bike from a big box store. I switched out the knobby tires for smooth road tires and added fenders and a bike rack. It wasn’t the lightest or prettiest thing, but it got the job done.

After riding for a few years and finishing school, it seemed like it might be time to upgrade to a bike that was actually designed for the style of riding I do. So this past summer I purchased a new bike and in the process I got to get ride several different bikes.

Requirements

I use my bike mostly for commuting to/from work (~8km/30 min each way) and occasionally for grocery shopping and casual rides on the weekend. So I was looking for a bike with the following:

  • Upright-ish posture
  • IGH – more gears would be better but I could get by with only 3
  • Fenders
  • Rack
  • < 35 lbs so I can easily get it on the bus if needed
  • Step-through/mixte style frame
  • $500 – 1000

And the following weren’t necessary but would be definite pluses:

  • Disc and/or drum brakes
  • Double kickstand
  • Dynamo lighting
  • Pretty looking

Options

So after doing some research online I was considering the following bikes (roughly in order from least to most expensive):

[t] = test rode | [b] = bought

A few of these I wasn’t able to find locally to test ride and others I just didn’t get to test ride them before I bought my bike.

Stay tuned for my next post with my impressions of the Linus Dutchi.

In Defense of Trekking Poles

I’ll admit it. We’ve started to use trekking poles.

While many people will be in support of this decision, some are likely to ask “why?”.  The old me certainly wouldn’t understand this decision.  Maybe I’m getting old, but I have to admit that I appreciate using them.

Original Perceptions

I used to think that using trekking poles while hiking was cheating on the trail.  I perceived using them as a sign of weakness and lack of fitness or technical ability to handle challenging terrain.  I also considered them a way for people to accelerate their pace – going much faster than I could imagine as an enjoyable pace.  For how we hike, pace is important since it throttles how much of the scenery we can take in (one of the main reasons we go on hikes in the first place!). Going too quickly means you can miss a lot. Too slow means you stay in one place too long. I’ve never really understood hitting the trail at a very fast pace.  This perception of hiking poles, and what kind of person you are if you use them, was so strong that when we did our first section of the PCT I remember thinking to myself “gee… trekking poles” when we saw someone pass by. I remember the two of us chuckling about it on the trail and lightly shaking our heads.  However, throughout that hike my opinion started to change.  I’ve found that trekking poles aren’t just useful to keep you from killing your knees; they have other benefits I never considered as well.

Trekking Poles Save Your Knees

The most obvious reason for using trekking poles is that they help distribute the load and as a result they can “save your knees”.  They help both when ascending and descending, although when things are a little flat that is where it can get a little awkward.

Going uphill: you can use the poles to both stabilize yourself and to help pull yourself up.

Going downhill: the poles can be used to control the rate you are going down and the overall impact you make with the ground on each step.  I can’t understate how useful the poles are going downhill.  While I can definitely descend a technical trail without poles, it’s just much more comfortable to use the poles. Especially by the end of a day of hammering downhill when my legs start to get a little tired and I am more likely to misstep.  Climbing down large rocks or drops is nice – I can put the poles down firmly and lower myself using my upper body strength instead of having to slide down or make a leap.  Like I said before, each individual time you do this it doesn’t seem like much, but at the end of the day it makes a huge difference.

 

Trekking Poles Keep You From Tumbling

Trekking poles are also good at adding stability.  This is also an obvious one, but some of the specific cases may not be so obvious.

Boardwalks: I never considered this before, but I’ve found the poles to be useful to help stabilize myself on wet boardwalks.  Stepping onto a wet boardwalk and going for a slide is a terrible feeling.  Boardwalks can be dangerous (slippery, unstable) but this danger is totally kept under the radar. They just seem to be stable and clean compared to the soft ground but the only times I’ve ever had a hiking companion get injured on a trail is on a boardwalk. I’ve had plenty of close calls myself.

Loose Rocks:  Loose rocks or stones can be exhausting; it takes a lot of effort to just avoid a rolled ankle. A nice feature of trekking poles is that you can “test” out larger stones before stepping on them to make sure they truly are stable.

Slippery Terrain:  Much like the boardwalks and loose rocks, the trekking poles in general help save yourself from falling.

Other Uses

Parting the Sea: I tend to find sloughing through thick, tall grass or plants to be exhausting, especially when they are wet.  While I have never used a trekking pole to help push the brushes away from me as I hike through them, I have used sticks.  This also keeps tall, wet grasses from soaking your clothes.

River Crossing:  This is where I think I will find a lot of use.  Crossing larger streams or rivers can be challenging without a stick of some sort (I simply refuse to do it without some additional support).  The trekking pole just guarantees you have a stick available that is the right height and strength to get it done.  I haven’t crossed any larger streams with my trekking poles yet, but I have found some use crossing smaller creeks on day hikes.

Other Uses: Of course there are plenty of other uses for the trekking poles. We’ve looked at getting an ultralight tent, and use our trekking poles as tent poles.  We love our Hubba Hubba, so we probably won’t do this right away, but the idea is tempting.

Not Just Dead Weight

While I’m sure nothing I’ve said here comes as a surprise to anyone, I still think I need to say that: yes, I am sold on the trekking poles. We will be using them on our multiday trips from now on. They aren’t just single use items that are dead weight all of the other times. And if you get a light enough set on sale (we got the Black Diamond UltraDistance Z-Poles on sale at MEC) then there really is very little weight penalty for something that helps negate the impact of carrying a pack all day.

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.