Take a Long Walk . . . It’s Good for the Soul

The first long weekend of a brand new summer is always full of so many possibilities.  Camping, biking, patio parties or beach bbq’s . . . the weather is (should be!) warm and sunny and it’s time to shed those winter hibernation habits and get outside.

My daughter and I both love hiking; from my way of thinking there are few things that can’t be fixed by taking a long walk in the mountains.  So we have made a habit of taking longer and shorter hikes together for . . . well, I guess her whole life.  I wonder where she picked up the habit. We’ve completed multi-day backpacking hikes on the Juan de Fuca trail on the West Coast of Vancouver Island,  scrambled up the Stawamus Chief (fixed ladders and chains included), slogged the 18km up to spectacular Garibaldi Lake and back (and afterwards soothed our aching bones in the outdoor hot tub at the Fairmont Hotel in Whistler) and two years ago made a bucket list trip to Nepal and trekked in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas.

By choice or luck, I’m never quite sure which, we live in a city blessed with endless hiking possibilities. A short drive and fifteen minutes of walking and you are, if not in the backcountry, at least well into the mountains.   It’s called Super, Natural, British Columbia for some very good reasons.

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The North Shore Mountains are part of the Coast Mountain rainforest, making it a spectacular location for hiking.  Deciding to hike the first section of the Baden Powell trail, 12kms across the North Shore Mountains from Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon, seemed like an ideal adventure on a long weekend.

The Baden Powell trail is  41.7 km long and crosses the North Shore Mountains from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. Named after Lord Baden Powell,  it was built in 1971 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of British Columbia becoming a Canadian province. The project was started by the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of B.C. and much of the work of building it was done by the Scouts, Guides and their leaders.

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I’ve hiked most of the trail in sections by myself, but never a one-way end-to-end route, because you need two cars  – one at each end.  You can take public transit back, but as friendly as bus driver’s are, they are not cool with taking your wet, muddy pooch on the bus and my terrier was often my hiking buddy.

Sunday morning we headed over the Lions Gate bridge and up to Lynn Canyon, our eventual end point, to leave one car.  Fifteen minutes later we were circling with all the other day trippers trying to get parking in Deep Cove.  The Cove, as it’s locally known, is a gorgeous day trip from downtown Vancouver but has, sadly, become a victim of it’s own success.  On summer weekends it’s a magnet for, literally, hordes of camera toting tourists and parking is non-existent.  The local municipality is trying to take back some control of the situation and we noticed new regulations prohibiting tour buses in the tiny village without a permit.  I think it’s a great idea and will limit some of the “dump and run” bus tours.

The starting point for the Baden Powell trail is an inauspicious trailhead between two houses on Panorama Drive in the Cove. It used to be hard to find, you had to know what you were looking for, now two HUGE signs with arrows point to the trailhead and it’s a human traffic jam for the first 45 minutes to Quarry Rock.

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It’s a shame that what was once a lovely morning hike to a spectacular viewpoint is now about as appealing as Costco.   As my daughter said, there is none of the quite, contemplative nature of walking in the forest, it’s an anxiety provoking drudge.  We knew what we were getting into, Quarry Rock has developed an unfortunate reputation in the last few years and is mostly avoided by locals now, but we really wanted to complete the entire trail so we put our heads down and hiked through the first 45 minute section as quickly as possible.   Despite the foot traffic, the view is still gorgeous.

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Immediately past Quarry Rock, we walked onto real hiking trail in quiet forest and all the people magically disappeared.  Heaven.  Finding the tiny, overgrown trailhead after the completely overused, eroded Quarry Rock trail was a bit of a trick, but we found the BP marker and finally headed out into the quiet loveliness of the North Shore Mountains.

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We like to use the AllTrails app for pre-trip planning, as well as some of my dog-eared hiking books, so we expected a bit of a climb up from the Cove and then a level-ish trek across the front flank of Mt Seymour.  Well . . . it was more up than level, we climbed  pretty much steadily for most of the first two hours.  The trail is well signed and well maintained, these little markers became our familiar guide as we headed west.

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About 45 minutes from Quarry Rock we came to the Mt Seymour road and crossed over into Seymour  Provincial Park.  The trail sits about halfway up the the mountain, making it an ideal year-round hike. It rarely gets permanent winter snow pack, although it is often wet and muddy.  Our day started out cool and overcast, but the sun gradually came through.  The trail was damp, but not muddy, making for all in pretty much perfect hiking conditions.   As we traversed Seymour we started crossing the numerous downhill biking trails on the mountain.  We ran into a few groups of bikers and hikers, mostly in 1’s and 2’s, everyone quietly enjoying a day in the mountains.  Downhill riders are a pretty funny bunch . . . I guess someone had a memorable day when they named this biking trail.

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Here’s my pitch for safety in the mountains.  Although most of this trail is less than 30 minutes from someone’s backyard, well maintained and well signed, it’s still mountain hiking.  Unprepared people get lost, injured and sometimes die in these mountains.  They are deceptive because they are so close.  It’s easy to get lost, the weather can change quickly and unpredictably and distances can be longer and more difficult than anticipated.  So always practice some basic safety rules:

  • Tell someone reliable where you are going and when you expect to be back.  Then go to that place!  If you make a last minute change, let your contact know.
  • Take adequate food and water, some warm clothing and a rain jacket.
  • A basic first aid kit, waterproof matches, a candle and a light source are always a good idea.
  • A whistle is a great multi-purpose tool – signal for help when lost, scare off bears and cougars or let good looking bike riders know you are nearby – many uses!
  • One of those shiny emergency blankets is very small and very light, but also really warm.  We’ve never had to use anything but the occasional band-aid, but you never need this stuff until you REALLY need it, and then it might just save your life.
  • Cell phones – we take them but don’t rely on them.  This trail had cell service from start to finish, but lots of trails don’t.  Half an hour out and you can be well out of cell service. Don’t rely on being able to call for help.
  • The North Shore has an incredibly skilled (because they are so incredibly busy) volunteer Search and Rescue team.  Be responsible, they would love to be out of business!

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We made it across Seymour, almost missed the downhill turn for Hyannis Drive and then hoofed it straight down to the Seymour River.  The trail disappeared once or twice, we had to pull out the AllTrails to relocate ourselves and it was rocky, steep and slippery in a few places.  A bit tougher going, but nothing unmanageable.  When we reached Hyannis the sign marker indicated 3.5km to Lynn Canyon.  Yay, we had covered most of the distance and thought we would knock off this last stretch in short order.

Fooled again.  I didn’t take enough water (2 bottles would have been ideal) and the one Lara Bar we each had in the Cove was starting to feel like a long time ago.  And we had no idea the last few K’s would be well . . .  straight up and down the entire way.   Note to self, for a 12k hike take better snacks.

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So we went down and down, across the Seymour River, then up and up and up and then down and down and down again until we finally reached Lynn Canyon.  Those last few sets of stairs were killers and all we could think about was lunch.  We had to make a slight detour as the famous Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is closed for the summer for repairs . . . repair away I say, that thing better be safe!

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lynn canyon

I wish this great pic was mine . . . but all cred goes with thanks to another travel blogger, brownbeartravels.com.

We literally scarfed down all the snacks and kombucha we had left in the car . . . I know, good move right.   All in, it was a fabulous day of hiking, the trail was a bit more challenging than either of us expected, but we loved the variety and it was a great way to explore all the interconnecting trails that weave up, down and around Mt Seymour and Lynn Canyon.  Next section – Lynn Canyon to Grouse Mountain – and things get a bit more seriously backcountry.   And why all this hiking you wonder?   Well . . . life goal for September 2019 . . . hiking at least the first section of the Camino de Santiago, the four plus week pilgrimage route across Northern Spain. I better get some foot mileage in.

I was feeling more than a bit weary when we got home, but since I already had tickets to see the incredible slide guitar player, Martin Harley, I manned up, got cleaned up and put on a pretty dress.   A couple of beers made me forget my aching feet and his Mississippi blues were simply astonishing.   My absolute favourite song was an old Lead Belly classic from 1933.  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a more beautiful version of Goodnight Irene. Can’t stop listening, it’s on endless rotation!!

 

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