We’d been eyeing up this trail for a while, so a fine weekend in October gave us the perfect excuse to call it out and head out with Alena and Katherine, fellow hikers from Wanderung. We parked up at the Post Creek trailhead and set off, initially as if we were heading for Lindeman and Greendrop Lakes, but then veering off to the right after a short distance. The trail started out as an old logging road, very much overgrown now, and narrowed to a single track once it began to climb. And climb it did! We knew it was going to be steep as all the elevation gain is achieved in the first 5.5 km or so. Sure it was steep, but somehow we just kept plodding away at a nice steady pace.
After an hour or so we reached a view point with our first glimpse of Chilliwack Lake below us, flanked on either sides by numerous craggy peaks. A quick water break and on again, still zig-zagging upwards, sometimes across clear slide paths with views across the valley. Before long the trail levelled out, the trees thinned and we entered the subalpine. Here the trail was out in the open on the south-facing slope, with nothing but small trees and berry bushes and superb views of the lake. Continuing on, we slowed as we entered photo-mania mode :-) The berry bushes had turned every possible shade between deep red and sunny yellow, a sight set off beautifully by the green of the subalpine firs. Here and there the trail was icy, which was fine as it froze the mud. The jagged peak and talus slopes of Flora Peak behind us made for a picturesque backdrop.
Then we encountered something that stopped us in our tracks. Blueberries. Lots and lots of plump, juicy and oh-so sweet blueberries! We spent much of the next 15-20 minutes just picking our way through the bushes and feeding on as many as we could find. And they were probably the sweetest and tastiest blueberries I’ve ever eaten. And, with the overnight frost, they were ready chilled, as if straight from the fridge :-)
Reluctantly we left some for the bears and re-entered the trees. Here we encountered snow which stayed with us until we were part way down to Flora Lake. At one point the trail emerged into a small meadow area with no obvious trail markers. Our only plausible route (the map was no help) was to follow some footprints which headed up a small creek bed, which was of course in full flow. Fortunately we soon spotted a piece of orange ribbon tied to a tree which convinced us we were heading in the right direction. We crested the pass and caught our first views of the mountains around and beyond Flora Lake. What we couldn’t see, thanks to the snow, was any evidence of where the trail went! Again we relied on following a line of footprints and a sense of what looked right to guide ourselves down the slope. We were relieved to spot the occasional trail marker here and there, exposed above the snow and soon we were on a well-defined trail, albeit one covered in icy snow patches, requiring a lot of care on our steep descent.
It was on this descent that we saw dozens and dozens of mushrooms and fungi, in the sheltered east-facing forest. Although we didn’t stop to count, I think there must have been at least half-a-dozen different species. Probably more, but after a while they start to look the same :-) What was refreshing about the fungus spotting and oohing and aahing is that it wasn’t just me doing it: everyone was noticing all the little things about the trail. That doesn’t happen very often, and it added to the enjoyment of the day for me.
Down and down we went, and just as we were getting hungry we reached Flora Lake. The lake was very pretty, and a flat calm with mirror-like reflections. Perfect timing for a relaxing lunch. We sat (or stood) on a small gravel bank where a creek entered the lake, the gurgling of which was the only sound to be heard. A dipper flew by and perched on a nearby log, looking intently into the water for signs of food.
As we began to cool down after lunch, we moved on again, following the shore in places but mostly in the trees above the lake. Towards the end of the lake we encountered the first of what was to be many boulder fields. This one was OK: it was clear of moss, out in the open and dry, and with very few wobbly rocks. That was to be the easiest of them all. Beyond the lake we entered the brushy forest, which I had read about making the trail very hard to follow. Fortunately the trail had been cleared earlier that summer so we had no problems. I cannot imagine how hard that trail would have been without that effort, and I cannot thank those trail-clearers enough for the hard work they put in.
Then another boulder field, which the trail descended across, this one much more slippery (being in the shadow of the peaks above) and containing numerous unstable rocks. We crossed that one safely, entered a dark patch of forest, then out again onto another boulder field. I lost count, but somewhere along the way I was at the back of the group, having stopped to take photos when I trod on a loose rock and before I knew it I was on my side in a small rocky ditch. Ouch! I had fallen hard on my left leg and hip, and hit my head on a rock. Fortunately it was the side of my head that bumped into a flat part of a rather pointy rock. I lay still for a moment to make sure I hadn’t done any serious damage to me or the camera (!) and then extricated myself and carried on along the trail. The others were out of earshot so they had no idea I’d fallen. But I seemed to be OK and made my moves to catch up.
On through more dark, dank forest and over more boulder fields. Beautiful, yet very rugged and unforgiving country. Every time I spend time in the mountains I return with a new respect for them. This trip especially brought that home to me. The trail then entered the forest for the last time, as we walked through some of the mossiest, greenest and darkest forest I have ever been in. Eventually the trail turned a corner and we began our descent towards the Greendrop Lake trail. And what a descent! Probably steeper than our initial ascent, it was hard on the knees. Many switchbacks later we crossed one last small boulder field and found ourselves in a large but dry flood channel.
Clambering up out the other side we paused for a drink and snack break. It had been almost 6 hours since we left the car, and in that time we had met no other people. I spotted a nice-looking fungus to take a photo of when suddenly Katherine squealed and pointed at a garter snake which I had almost trodden on. We spent the next few minutes attempting to get good photos, before leaving the poor creature alone. I got my fungus picture and we carried on, soon joining the Greendrop Lake trail.
In our hike we had grown accustomed to the solitude around us, so it came as a bit of a shock when we encountered another group of about a dozen (noisy) hikers. We passed them, over more boulder fields and through some more beautiful forest and then hit another group, whom we then proceede
d to leap-frog all the way to Lindeman Lake. Despite the other noisy hikers, we had reached Lindeman Lake just in time to catch the sunshine on the `gargoyles’ and the slopes below, which were glowing in autumn colours. Amazing breathtaking scenery. We had been captivated by the towering gargoyles above the lake the first time we hiked there, over two years ago. It was great to be back and see them lit up by the sun.
We paused for more and more photographs as we gradually made our way around the lake. I had one more attempt at smashing the camera when I slipped on yet another boulder field (I had forgotten just how many there were!), but luckily I regained my balance in time and decided to put the camera away in its case to avoid tempting fate one more time. A last longing look at the lake and then we began our final descent to the car. Within 20 minutes we were there, almost exactly 8 hours after setting off.
It must be said that the trail wasn’t as tough as we expected (it was still a tough hike though!) based on the book description and time estimate. We finished the hike in 8 hours, rather than 10 suggesting that it’s not a 20 km hike. Plus the distances on the signs didn’t add up to 20 km, coming in nearer 17 km. But it was a great hike for the chance to experience some solitude and truly wild country. Highly recommended.
Distance: 17-18 km
Elevation gain: 1150 m
Photos on Flickr