A Walk in the Snow

People mock me. Some are completely unreasonable, but one good one is the way I will obsess over something for a day, a week, or a few years and then more or less abandon it. The tenor sax, cross country skiing, mountain biking, gardening, wood working, swimming, running. The list goes on.

My latest obsession is hiking. Around Squamish, there are so many cool places to hike that I have been getting out a lot, and I really love it. Luckily for me, I’m a Scouter in the 4th Squamish Scouts, and a big part of scouting is hiking. So last weekend, 9 of us got out for the weekend.

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The astute will notice there are 4 people in the picture. The Scouters: Claire, Errin and I aren’t in the picture, nor is the 5th scout and his father Mike that came on Saturday.

Our destination was Cheakamus Lake. We arrive at the trailhead early Friday night. The thing is: you can’t just pull up to the campsite. It’s a 4km hike in with all your food, clothing, and shelter on your back for the weekend. We brought some MSR stoves and white gas, some gravity-based water filters (with backup water purification tablets just in case), tents, sleeping bags and the all-important sleeping pad so that we could actually move the next morning. As an aside, 2 years prior, I did not have anything resembling a decent sleeping pad and nearly froze to death.

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Part of doing these outdoor events with the scouts is learning by doing. This is, of course, terrifying for all adults near the scout in question. In particular, white gas stove lighting is especially exciting as you watch the gas drool down the side of the leg of the stove as they struggle to get the match to light. Foomp… No hair lost. All good. This is followed shortly after by the scout carefully balancing a pot of boiling water on the stove which has at least a 2 inch diameter. What could go wrong? Luckily, everything went fine. The only issues we had were the wind blowing out the stove a few times, and Mike pouring boiling water into Dillon’s shoe instead of the freezer bag he was holding.

After a beautiful night (honest – the moon was out – it was gorgeous), we got up and had freezer bag cooking oatmeal breakfast. The feedback was everything from inedible to fabulous. The key is figuring out how much water to put in (and of course, actually liking oatmeal. Luckily I do, so no issues 😉 ).

We put together a daypack of water, snacks, dehydrated lunch, and  water filters. The water filters were so we could refill at our destination. We were heading to Helm Creek Campsite, a mere 8.5km hike with a 696m elevation gain (roughly). We figured there might be a bit of snow. Um. yeah.

The first part of the trail was quite pretty, with a hike down to Cheakamus River, where we crossed a metal bridge.

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After crossing the bridge, we immediately had to climb a set of switchbacks taking us up about 300m. One thing I brought with me that really helped keep everyone motivated was my phone with TopoMaps+ on it. A very cool app that helped us track where we were on the trail, including our elevation. By this point, we were about 1/3 of the way there distance-wise, but we had almost gone up half the elevation.

A little farther, we saw a truly massive yellow cedar (Cypress) tree. I knew it was a cedar, but wasn’t sure which. Our local expert on the hike, Mike Lonsdale, helped me out. Here’s how big the tree was:

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We went a bit farther and got excited when we found a patch of snow. Little did we know, we would be seeing more of this. Keep in mind, it’s mid-May. Here’s what it was like about an hour farther along the trail:

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The nice thing was the snow was hard enough to walk on (with only the occasional lost foot), so it didn’t slow us down too much. By the time we reached the campsite (completely covered in snow), we were pretty tired. We fired up the stoves, and I went down and filtered some water from the creek beside us. The view was pretty cool:

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and just another minute up the trail, we could see Black Tusk, from an angle I had never seen it before:

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It was a really amazing hike. The longest I had ever done (clocking in at 17km for the day and 25km for the weekend) and definitely the most rewarding.

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