The first day of Spring… no better time to go out in the snow! That’s true if a recent storm dumped a load of fresh powder on the mountains. Which is what happened. We felt like getting out somewhere a little different so I suggested Burke Mountain in Port Coquitlam. I’d read reports on Club Tread of people heading up there in winter so I thought it would be worth a try. We parked up by the (very active) gun club, tied our snowshoes to our packs and headed off up the old road. We were passed by a group of people in 4x4s making a lot of noise, which had us wondering if we were doing the right thing at all, but they disappeared and all was quiet. For a bit.
We ignored the first turn off after looking at the map, and took the second old road uphill. After a short distance we hit the first slushy patches of snow and then we ran into the folks with their 4x4s. As we walked past, we said Hello and then one of the guys looks over and recognized Maria from work! He was up here with his friends and his snowmobile – aha, so that was why there were a half-dozen vehicles parked up here. Unfortunately they didn’t offer us any beer so we carried on.
We soon hit deeper snow but continued to trudge through it carrying our snowshoes. After one slip and slide too many we opted to put them on. Soon after we heard the sound of the of the snowmobile and stepped to one side as they skidooed past. Onwards and upwards we went, steadily gaining elevation. We passed a road which went downhill to the left (probably the earlier road meeting up with the one we were on) and through an open gate before doubling back on ourselves at our first hair-pin bend. Although the route had no views, it was pleasant and actually quiet trudging. On and on, round the next corner and up some more.
We’d been going about 2 hours by this point and decided that it was lunch time. We stopped at a wide part of the road and for a few minutes the sun broke through and we had some wonderful warm sunshine to munch our sandwiches in. Refueled, we carried on. The sun was shining, the snow was blinding white on the trees but there were still plenty of dark ominous clouds above us. The trail became less like a road, so we felt like we were on a real trail. The trees were laden with fresh snow and under our feet it was soft powder. Not too deep, just enough to make it feel like we were floating.
The snowmobilers passed us heading downhill and they stopped to chat again for a few minutes. We carried on uphill, with no indications of the promised views. Eventually the trail curved round to the left and we found ourselves at the edge of a dropoff into a (frozen and snow-covered) lake. And almost a view. Behind us the trees were sparse, evidence of the old ski hill. We plodded on some more gaining a little spurt of elevation and turning round, we saw our first real views. Just about. We were more or less at the cloud level which was quite nice as it framed our view. We could see the Fraser River winding its way through New Westminster and we could make out Burnaby and Vancouver. And it was great to get a new view of the Lower Mainland.
We could see that there was a clear ridge extending away to the north, so we set out to follow it hoping that we might make it to Dennett Lake and then Burke summit itself. However, we reached a snowy knoll (not a grassy one!) and decided that was far enough for the day. We sat and had some tea in the shadow of a nice old mountain hemlock. It had taken us about 3 hours to get to that point. Once we were cold enough, we set off down again. We yomped the return journey and were back at the car in under 2 hours.
The mark of a good hike is its repeatability. Would I do this one again? Hmmm, not sure. It would be great to find our way up to Burke summit, but it would have to be a clear day next time and I’d need a bit more energy. Still, not a bad way to spend the first day of Spring.
Distance: about 13 km
Elevation gain: about 700 m
Photos on Flickr