HBC Heritage Trail – Take Two

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July 2016 with Azarm, Betty H, Daphne, Ron, Murat.

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We hiked this trail from the Sowaqua Creek trailhead in 2014. This time we decided to do it the easier way, from Jacobson Lake, which means a longer drive but on a better road, and a shorter and less steep hike. We met and loaded up the cars at my place, then with a stop to pick up Betty in Surrey we rendezvoused at the Britton Creek rest area, on the Coquihalla Highway a bit north from where the tollbooths used to be (but why do they still appear on Google Maps, eight years after being removed?). It took about an hour to drive 46 km to the trailhead, on the excellent wide and well-graded Tulameen Forest Service Road.

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Everyone managed to bring most of their gear, though one person somehow managed to leave his camp stove at home, in a bag containing old bike parts. But he brought fuel to share (and, getting home and finding the stove, also found another full canister). We all managed to remember to pack maps, food, binoculars and cameras. Oh, and lots of extra socks.

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The weather forecast promised mostly dry though it was spitting a bit on the drive in. As soon as we got out of the cars at the trailhead on Friday one smart-aleck remarked “hey Bill what’s this stuff coming down from the sky?”. But Friday and Saturday remained mostly dry though cloudy, a great relief to all of us (and probably more of a relief to some than others). It took us about an hour and a half to hike the three kilometres to the campsite at Conglomerate Flats which would be our address for two nights. It doesn’t have the views that Deer Camp has, but is comfortable and has a good view of meadows and avalanche slopes, where for Friday and Saturday we got to watch as many as three deer, two huge marmots and two bears. One was a cinnamon black bear who we named Cinnamon Bun, who spent all his/her time browsing the vegetation and paid us no attention at all (as opposed to the deer, who continually watched us closely from a distance). The other was an ordinary black bear who seemed to just hang around for an hour or so and was not seen again.

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After we set up camp, we headed up the muddy trail to Grant’s Pond. On our previous trip we’d seen lots of tadpoles and frogs, and on this hike there were even more, some of them hatching from the egg masses as we watched.

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We also observed the rare subalpine moon jelly (awaiting postive ID from someone who actually has some idea what they are – they had a small black worm or larva inside them).

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Bog laurel was all around

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And we also found some little pink elephants (Pedicularis groenlandica)

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On Saturday we headed west on the trail toward Palmer’s Pond and Deer Camp. The weather was dry but pretty cloudy, and with fog rolling in and out we decided to hold off on looking for the route up Mount Davis while we waited to see if it would clear. We found the elusive Palmer’s Pond (right by the trail but mostly lost in clouds on our previous trip).

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And gradually the clouds lifted to give us good views of Mount Tulameen to the north.

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Murat at Deer Camp, at the spot where Bev and Bill camped before, with a view of the north side of Mount Outram. We had elevenses there and enjoyed the sun and the views.

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We worked our way back toward Palmer’s Pond, and four of the six of us decided to try and work out the route up Mount Davis. A younger couple who were camping at the pond were just coming down from the peak, and told us that the first part that we were on was the hardest and that it would take half an hour to get to the top. Some time later one of our group made some not quite complimentary comments about “macho 23 year old hikers”. There were trails here and there, but much of it was light bushwhacking, looking for flagging tape, up and down a few ridges and draws, and occasionally working our way through a few snow slopes. We had lunch on the next to last ridge before we made it to the not quite summit. The true summit was still about another 600 metres away, with my GPS telling me it was about 40 metres more elevation to gain. It wasn’t telling me that we would have needed to descend a fair bit and then back up again. We decided we’d gone far enough, and the two cairns there seem to suggest that we weren’t the only ones who felt that way.

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Mount Davis on the right, and distant left is the north side of Snass Mountain; on the far side of it is the Skagit Bluffs area and the Hope-Princeton highway.

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We made our way back down, somehow not seeming as rough coming down as it did going up, and headed back to camp. While we were up on the mountain, Daphne had spent some time exploring the avalanche slopes and was ready to go exploring a bit further, so four of us repacked some of our things and headed back over to Grant’s Pond for another look around. We wandered up a snow-filled draw up from the pond (and the smaller pond I called Grant’s Other Pond) to a bit of a talus slope with a view down to another wetland further down there somewhere, watched a couple more fat marmots, and a varied thrush unusually hopping around on the rocks by the shore.

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View to Coquihalla Mountain and Jim Kelly Peak in the distance, and the Tulameen Plateau to the right

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On Saturday morning a couple of people said they thought they heard some traffic or maybe helicopter noise during the night. But any highway noise would have been far away beyond a range of mountains. One person always says she either snores or has been accused of snoring – while I’ve never noticed it, there may be a connection there. The birds stayed up late singing and started up again early in the morning (some at 4am), notably the olive-sided flycatcher whose “quick three beer” call kept making me thirsty.

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Friday night was rather windy and cold, but Saturday night was a bit calmer and warmer. There were stars when I woke up at 1am. But when I woke up again at 5am on Sunday, I heard the patter of raindrops on my tent and thought “drat”. Most of us managed to get up and moving around by 7, and we ate breakfast and packed up in a more or less steady drizzle which continued through the hike out, which was surprisingly significantly muddier than the hike in. We’d hoped to explore a bit more in one or two places on the road out but decided to keep going to the rest area, where we changed to attire more appropriate to returning to civilisation (or at least clean shirts and socks).

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We headed back into Hope for lunch and ice cream. We’ve tried a few times to go to Sharon’s Deli, which has signs promising ice cream, but never found it open later in the afternoons, so we went to the default DQ. Driving up Wallace Street afterward, of course, we saw that Sharon’s was open. Well maybe next time we’re there at 1pm we’ll go there.

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The only things that got left behind were a knife that fell between the slats of the vacant tent platform we were using as a table, and a granola bar which someone left in the food locker. I took it home and managed to wash it, having left it in a pocket. I guess it’s still useable as emergency food, which is how I usually see granola bars anyway.

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And nobody had to dry their socks over an open fire this time.

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