Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Manning Park - Skyline 2 Trail

The Skyline 2 Trail in Manning Park splits off from the Skyline 1 trail and goes 25.5 km to Skagit Valley Recreation Area.  I recently hiked approximately half of the trail, spending a night at Mowich Wilderness Campsite.  It is a fairly challenging trail with lots of ascents and descents, though none of these are incredibly long.  Even though it was late August when I went, the wildflowers were still in full bloom, adding to the experience.

A viewpoint near where the Skyline Trail splits into two trails

From where the trail splits there is a long descent followed by an ascent up Snow Camp Mountain.  The trail does not actually go to the summit of the mountain, but there is side trail that does.

Thunder Lake below Snow Camp

Snow Camp Mountain

The ridge to the top of the mountain
Looking down the mountain

The side trip up the mountain was fairly easy.  It isn't the highest mountain in the park at just 1980 meters, but it still offers some nice panoramic views.

Lone Goat Mountain from Snow Camp Mountain

The trail continues along the ridge until just past Lone Goat Mountain where it starts to descend to the campsite.  When I did this hike there was no one else staying in the camp, so it was pretty quiet and peaceful.  There was also a pretty rustic little shelter at the camp.

Flowers next to the food cache

The creek at the campsite was not exactly cascading down the mountain, but it was pretty much the only water source nearby.  I was a little apprehensive at the idea of drinking from it, but I did and fortunately did not get sick.

The "creek"

About 1 km from the camp there is a side trail going up Hozomeen Ridge, so after setting up I hiked part of the way up it.  I would have liked to have done the whole trail, but I didn't have enough time.

Hozomeen Ridge

Ross Lake from the ridge
Hozomeen Mountain

The next day was a lot harder than I was expecting.  Somehow, trails always seem steeper on the ascent than on the descent to me, so it caught me off guard just how tough the climb from the campsite to the ridge was.  I was pretty tired, so I took more breaks than the day before.  I didn't want to take too many breaks though, since it looked like it might start raining (luckily it didn't rain).

I hope to return to this trail sometime and hike the rest of it.  I really enjoyed my time on the trail, but I know it would take more than two days to get the full experience.

You can read more about the hike here.

Mount Outram Trail

The Mount Outram Trail goes up Mount Outram which is just outside of Manning Park.  It is higher than any mountain in the park, with an elevation of 2461 m.  It gains 1781 m of elevation over the course of 9 km, and is easily the most difficult day hike I have ever done.  I did it this year partly because I knew it would be really scenic, and partly to test my physical ability since I'm planning on doing the West Coast Trail soon.  Right now I consider myself to be in pretty decent shape (I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life), and I still found this hike to be ridiculously difficult.  I'm glad I did it as the views were amazing, but it required a tremendous amount of effort.

The trail starts at the West Gate parking lot, which marks the western entrance to Manning Park.  The trail briefly follows the Engineer's Road which is in the park, but at the Ghospass/Outram junction it leaves the park.  The trail is not maintained by BC Parks, and while it is still very well marked and maintained, there are more deadfalls then you would find on a trail in the park.

The western entrance to Manning Park
Early on the trail climbs up through the woods which is fairly grueling, though it isn't necessarily any harder than some of the hikes in Manning Park (it's comparable to the Frosty Mountain hike).  Through this portion of the hike I was pretty satisfied with how my body was holding up.  I wasn't in significant pain anywhere, I was able to hike for reasonably long stretches without needing a break, and I was not drinking very much water.  However, the trail eventually crossed a stream and began to leave the woods.  It climbed into a bit of a meadow where I was no longer protected from the sun, and where the air seemed a little thinner.  I started running out of breath pretty fast, and ended up taking a break every few steps.  On the plus side there were finally some views of the mountains.

I knew I needed to take a bit of a break to recharge for the push up the summit, so I stopped in the meadows, by a nice little pond.

Wildflowers in the meadow
The climb ahead looked very strenuous, and I knew based on what I had read about the trail the the summit would not be visible for most of the trail.  Feeling slightly refreshed from my break I began up the mountain, but found myself exhausted fairly quickly.

The climb from the meadow

Towards what appeared to be the top the trail veered off to the side, and I saw what I would be fighting with for the rest of the hike.

The trail went onto the scree slope, and pretty much stopped being a trail.  From this point the route was marked with red paint on the rocks, though at times it was very hard to find these markers.  The "trail" went up pretty steep at times, and these rocks were extremely hot.  Every time I thought I was at the top, I saw another long climb on these rocks ahead of me.  It seemed like it would never end.  Eventually I reached the top of the mountain in considerable pain.

The summit of Mount Outram

The views from the top did justify the pain it took to get there, though it took me a few minutes before I had the energy to appreciate them.

I was pretty satisfied, until I looked down and realized I still had to descend the talus.  I can safely say that going down was much, much more difficult than going up.  The footing was incredibly difficult at times, and the rocks felt even hotter.

Going down this wasn't fun

From the meadow back to the parking lot wasn't really difficult, but I was pretty sore for the last little bit.  The hike is only 9 km each way, but it feels like a lot more.  I'm glad I did it, but it did take me quite a while before I stopped feeling the affects of it.  I can safely say that it made my feet hurt.

You can read more about the hike here.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Manning Park - Heather Trail

The Heather Trail is a trail through the alpine meadows of Manning Park.  It is one of the most popular trails in the park, offering a chance to see the amazing alpine wildflowers, as well as the jagged Cascade Mountains.  I've done day hikes on this trail (going up First Brother Mountain is a really great day hike), and I've also done an overnight trip to Nicomen Lake.  If all you have time for is a day hike, it is very scenic, but I would highly recommend taking the time to go to Nicomen Lake.

The road that goes up to the alpine meadows has a nice viewing area where you can see some of the main features of the park.

Lightning Lake and the Skyline Ridge from the Cascade Lookout

Frosty Mountain
The first 4 km of the Heather Trail are very easy as the trail descends to Buckhorn Campsite.  The grade is reasonably gradual, and the trail is pretty wide at times.  This is a really high traffic area, as it offers some nice views of the alpine flora.

From Buckhorn Campsite, one of the harder parts of the trail begins, as the trail climbs up Bonnevier Ridge.  I take lots of pictures of flowers on the way up, since it's an excuse to take a break.

I'm always incredibly relieved when I reach the top of the ridge.  The views are very nice, and it is a while before there is any more strenuous hiking.

On Bonnevier Ridge

At this point, you start getting some great views of First Brother Mountain.  As it gets closer and closer the climb might seem more and more daunting, but it is worth exerting the effort required to get to the top.

As the trail approaches the base of First Brother Mountain, there are some interesting seasonal ponds scattered around if you pay attention.  On one of the more recent hikes I did on this trail, I found a very bizarre looking pond with some semi-melted snow floating in it (and this was in August).

It doesn't take to long to get to the junction where the side trail that goes up the mountain splits off.  It is reasonably short at just 1 km, and is probably the most scenic area in the Heather Trail area.  There are lots of places where you can leave your pack, and if you are backpacking, I would recommend not carrying your pack up the mountain.

The climb up the mountain

Once the trail is on the ridge of the mountain, it follows the ridge to the high point.  This part would be very scary if you had a fear of heights, but you do get a payoff of spectacular views in the end.

The summit of First Brother Mountain isn't as buggy as some of the other mountains in the park (it might be the wind), and the area is large enough to accommodate the high numbers of people that hike the trail.

Back at the base of the mountain the Heather Trail continues to Kicking Horse campsite.  When I went backpacking on this trail, I spent two nights at that campsite.  Since my pack was incredibly heavy (around 40 lbs), I emptied most of it and used it like a day pack, hiking to Nicomen Lake and back (I didn't appreciate putting the full pack on the next day).  The hike from Kicking Horse to Nicomen Lake isn't particularly strenuous, though the descent to the lake is a little exhausting.  I don't have many quality pictures of this section of the hike since all I had was a disposable camera, but I can say that it has some very picturesque scenery.

The only real downside I've found to the Heather Trail is that it gets incredibly busy, but it is still one of my favourite hikes.

You can read more about the hike here.

Nicomen Lake

Manning Park - Skyline 1 Trail

The Skyline Trail is one of the more popular trails in Manning Park.  It goes from the Spruce Bay parking lot to the Strawberry Flats parking lot, and is about 20 km long.  It follows a ridge above the chain of lakes (Lightning, Flash, Strike, and Thunder), offering some spectacular views of the park.

I've done this hike three times, once starting at Strawberry Flats, and twice starting at Spruce Bay.  From Strawberry Flats the climb is more gradual, but some of the harder parts of the trail are at the end.  Personally, I prefer to start at Spruce Bay.  The ascent is very, very strenuous, but then the rest of the trail is very pleasant.

From Spruce Bay the trail follows Lightning Lake before reaching a junction.  One path will continue down the lake, and the other climbs up the Skyline Ridge.  The switchbacks are very strenuous, but they are in the shade (some of the climbs later on are not).  After a little while the trail comes out of the woods to an open area, offering a teaser of some of the views to come.

From here one of the hardest climbs starts.  The trail goes through a large burned area from a fire that happened many years ago.  I've gotten lucky many times here and found lots of wild strawberries.

Flash Lake from the burned area
There are a couple of other really nasty climbs, but the views they offer make the pain worth it.  I have found that there are some really bad flies on some of the higher parts of the ridge, but fortunately the wind is often strong enough to drive them away.

Gibson Pass Ski Hill

After the worst climbs are over, the trail goes through a nice little meadow.  In the peak season it is very scenic, though the bees can be a bit of a nuisance.

After the meadow the trail reaches the Skyline 1/Skyline 2 junction.  The Skyline 2 trail continues to Mowich Wilderness Campsite, and is better suited as an overnight trip.  This is a really nice place to eat lunch, offering some great views.

The trail descends to Strawberry Flats from the junction.  While there aren't the same amazing views there were before, I do always enjoy the wildflowers in the meadows in this area.

The Skyline Trail isn't necessarily a highly strenuous trail, but parts of it are quite physically taxing.  It is one of the nicest trails I've done though, and I always enjoy returning to it.

You can read more about the hike here.

The Skyline Ridge