Snowshoeing Lightning Lake
April 2016 with Bettina, XinXin and Daphne.
I’ve been coming to Manning Park for 25 years but my only winter experience there has been stopping at the lodge on trips to and from the Boundary and Okanagan. I’d thought for a few years about doing a winter trip but it took this long to get it going. This was technically still not a winter trip, of course, but I finally got to do a snowshoe trip there.
One car makes it easy to plan and we all met Bettina at the Safeway at Broadway and Commercial. One person got a bit mixed up and went to the wrong Safeway but no big delay. With one reasonably experienced snowshoer, one who’d done it maybe ten times, one who’d done it a number of times but not for many years, and one newbie, we decided to play it fairly safe and stick to the Lightning Lake trails.
Being April, conditions were getting marginal pretty quickly. First we tried starting at the day use area to work our way toward the Lone Duck group campground. With a fair bit of bare ground in the trees, we thought we’d just start off carrying our snowshoes. That didn’t last long, and after about 100 metres of deadfall and ice on the trail, and me reminding the others that this trail is a lot longer than you think it is, we decided to try something else.
The north side of the lake across from the campgrounds would probably be worse, and would be a longer haul with no easy escape (save hiking on the lake, which was looking riskier at this point in the season). So we got back in the car and drove to the Lone Duck site, reckoning that if nothing else the trails around the campgrounds wouldn’t give much trouble. On the way we saw one person with cross-country skis at the Twenty Minute Lake trail who didn’t look like she was having much fun. She turned up at Lone Duck to have a look around while we were suiting up again, but I don’t know if she ever did manage to find a place to ski.
The parking lot at Lone Duck is cleared of snow and the upper campground is used for winter camping. I’ve camped there many times before but never built a snow cave to camp in. Finding the path down to the actual trail essentially involved a short bushwhack with some deadfall, but once on the trail it was mostly straightforward.
Snowshoers get to use the trail alongside the lake below the Lightning Lake campground, while the roads through the campground are reserved and trackset for cross-country skiers so they can go round and round and round and round. But the trail gets views along the lake. Oh, there is some deadfall which we all got over, under or around in our usual graceful and dignified manner.
Hey, it’s actually quite comfortable here
The snow was all pretty icy though it got a bit softer in the open areas as the sun did its job. Much of it could have been done just in boots and I think Bettina mostly did that, but microspikes or yaktrax would have been useful. We were glad to have the snowshoes if only for the crampons.
Once we got past the campground and out into the open by the Spruce Bay picnic area, the trail conditions got better. We had a lunch stop by the Rainbow Bridge then proceeded further along the south shore of the lake. There was still some deadfall but not as much as there was alongside the campground, and we made it to the end of Lightning Lake and about a third of the way along Flash Lake before we decided that was enough for one day.
There was a bit of open water at Spruce Bay, more at the bridge and even more at the head of Flash Lake, where we even spotted a couple of Barrow’s Goldeneye. A surprise along Lightning Lake was a small patch of western white pine, which I’m sure I’ve walked past several times but never noticed before.