Monday, July 27, 2009

Howe Crest... trust the voices.

On Saturday, Lina and I had a grand plan to run/hike the Howe Crest Trail from Cypress Mountain ski hill to Porteau Cove. Dave (thanks Dave!) was on hand to help us out dropping our car is a dubious pull-out on Highway 99. The highway is being rebuilt for the Olympics, so I hoped they didn't build it over my car while we were away. We waved goodbye to Dave in the Cypress parking lot and set off.

That blue line is us

The first part of the trail is well maintained and marked, so obviously we got lost. We walked straight off the trail at a switchback and followed some kind of animal track into the forest. As we started bushwhacking back towards where the trail should be, the voices in my head said "Turn back Andrew, turn back". So, we carried on. After clambering up loose slopes and forcing our way through the BC jungle for half an hour we knew we were close to the trail, but couldn't see it. Our chances of seeing those little orange markers were pretty slim... so we turned back. Sliding back down and finding our way to where we left the trail. Not the best use of our time, but kind of fun... maybe. Well, even if it wasn't fun I learned I should listen to those voices in my head. Apparently they have some good advice.

Howe Sound

We climbed up and out of the forest and got what we came for... the views. Howe Sound on one side and the Coast Mountains on the other. Despite the smoke-haze from the forest fires in the Okanagan, it was spectacular. We managed a few sections of running, but the trail was pretty steep and technical in most places which kept our speed down.

Lina and beetroot salad

Not easy running terrain

Where's Andrew?

It was hot out in the full sun, and up on the ridge there was no water to be found... but we brought plenty, so weren't too concerned. The odd snow patch was a good spot to cool down. I liked getting to throw a snowball in the hot sun in July! As we approached the Lions the terrain got steeper, and we were moving pretty slowly. Lina's post-Sweden leg not enjoying the steep downhill so much. But, we were moving along pretty well and had plenty of daylight, so we carried on North.

Nature's stairmaster

A Lion

When we reached David Peak we stopped, looked, and decided the trail couldn't possibly go right up that. It did. Still, we scrambled our way up and got yet another beautiful view... but the forces of nature were rumbling somewhere behind us. The trail became hard to follow on the steep climb into the saddle we had to reach before we would get to any water and the descent to Porteau Cove. We were moving too slowly. It was getting into the evening, and the rumbling noises in the sky I had been ignoring for a while became very familiar. A storm was on the way. It was time to stop and make a plan. We had reached a point where we could divert out to Lions Bay, all downhill, as long as we could find the trail...

A trail, BC-style

Like a sign from the gods... there appeared a... err, sign. It said "Lion's Bay, this way". This time we listened to the voices and opted against a night sleeping in the bushes and started the descent. This wasn't exactly an easy option and was a couple of hours of partial bushwhacking down the valley to the highway. The rain started in earnest as we made our way out, which was refreshing after a day in the sun and we got that fantastic wet forest smell.

The light was failing, the rain was falling, and the lightening crashing as we walked along Highway 99 with our thumbs out. We hardly got 50 meters before we were picked up and given a ride to our car with some great folks on their way up to Squamish. Thank you!

As we got in the car and started the drive back to Vancouver we were treated to some of the most bizarre weather I have ever seen. There was an intense yellow light everywhere from the sunset, a huge rainbow right across the sky, and lightening strikes every minute or so. Spectacular stuff. We got a couple of photos, but didn't manage to catch the rainbow or the lightening. We stopped off in Stanley Park to look at the sky and the strangeness seemed to have got to a minivan full of guys who were dancing around the parking lot, cheering every time the lightening struck. Nature's own fireworks.