Time to get going with the hiking part of my summer adventure. Decided to do an overnighter to Elk Mountain in Chilliwack. The plan was to take my overnight gear up to a suitable campsite between Elk Mountain and Thurston Mountain on wednesday June 25th 2014 and then spend the next day hiking to Mercer. Despite his still injured calf, Shawn came too.
A few background things about this hike: It’s 130km drive from Vancouver (the trailhead is off Elk View Road in Chilliwack), the average grade to Elk Mountain is 16.9% (very steep), to Thurston Mountain it’s: 13.6% (still steep!!) to Mercer it’s 10% (still steep!). The elevation gain is 1070m,(you start at 630m and end up at 1700m).
It was my very first time doing an overnighter here. I had my Eclipse Marmot tent, Marmot Plasma sleeping bag, two sleeping mats, a stove, pad thai to cook up for dinner, bananas, peanuts, 5 litres of water (2 for the way up, 1 for cooking with and 2 for the next day), Kompressor Speed Marmot hydration pack (I love this thing, I used it every day of my bicycle ride too!). Started the hike up just before 1pm and it took me until after 5pm to get to a camping spot just before Thurston Mountain (total of around 5kms). I was incredibly slow and it was a challenge lugging all that weight up the steep terrain. Shawn had gone ahead and the plan was he’d shoot for Mercer Mountain and then meet me at the campsite, except his calf ended up bothering him and he got blisters, so he just stopped at the camp site.
I figured that since I’d done this long and challenging bike ride up many a hill across BC that I had to be somewhat fit, right? wrong! Cycling is low impact. Hiking requires the use of different muscles and I certainly felt it.
On the way up I saw a Hairy Woodpecker:
Here are some photos of the trail to Thurston (I was in forest up until just before Elk Mountain and then it was mostly a ridge walk until Thurston (with a few times where the trail ducks into forest):
Once up Elk Mountain, there were frogs (I think Western Toad) hopping along the trail
Saw 6 Turkey Vultures as soon as I got out into the open:
Some of the flowers and fungi on the trail:
On the way to the campsite just before Thurston Mountain, I ran into about 15 people going down from Elk Mountain (for people without packs, it’s about a 1-1.5 hour jaunt up to Elk Mountain). Saw a young girl taking her time going down a steep section, I saw myself in her (I am skiddish going down on slippery slopes too!) and told her she was doing awesome, which she was! I had only been at it for 4 hours, but carrying that pack really took a toll on me. I was beat when I got to the campsite. Shawn was catching some sun. I pitched the tent. What an amazing spot!
Shawn had some left over coconut curry and I boiled some water for my pad thai with my stove (I got to use a cool spork donated to the Lower Mainland Green Team from LifewithoutPlastic.com. The pad thai was delicious and I sure appreciated having a hot meal to enjoy. Didn’t really enjoy being relentlessly attacked by mosquitoes though! 😦
Here are some night photos (taken by Shawn). We got a fire going too, which was so nice.
Woke up the next morning, made quinoa pancakes, packed up the tent and overnight pack and stashed it in some bushes. Put my hydration pack on and threw some snacks into it as well. The weather was not quite as nice as the day before, more cloudy.
The hike to Mercer began at 7.30am and it was a long one. We got slightly lost getting to Thurston and then got slightly off track going to Mercer. There is still snow (no need for microspikes or snowshoes as it is hard packed) so the trail wasn’t obvious and there wasn’t properly placed flagging tape to follow. Some photos along the way:
Our GPS tracks
We’d started at 7.30am and we were back at the trailhead at the car at just after 5pm. We were beat, it had been a long day for sure, but an amazing one at that! Loved every minute of it. Did miscalculate the water and ran out towards the end there (such a novice thing to do!! I’m rusty) and I was most definitely sore and waddling around like a duck afterwards. The original intent had been for me to do this overnighter hike solo, wanted to challenge myself to do a hike totally alone and camp alone for the first time also, but I’m very glad Shawn came to share the amazing views and for us to work as a team to route find to Mercer. The smells, the tracks of animals (i.e. deer), the wildflowers everywhere, the mountains every which way you look. It’s a good start, as I’ve got my first 26 kms under my belt towards the 300kms I plan to have by the end of August! Now to pick the next one.. 🙂