Of Elks and Dogs, 7 Feb 2009

A fine sunny day in February and we wanted some big views. Andrew hadn’t been up Elk Mtn in the winter and we wanted to return after we’d had a great day out last February, so we took a break from the North Shore and headed out east to Chilliwack. We parked up, slung our snowshoes on our backs and took off up the trail. No snow anywhere to be found at this point, unlike last year.

It was sunny and peaceful and although we could see where the new logging had been taking place, it was far enough off the trail to not be an eyesore. However, within half an hour or so we came to where trees had been felled to make way for a new road and the reality of the logging struck home. Fallen trees lay all around, some with a light dusting of snow. We picked our way across and found the trail again on the other side.

Elk Mountain snowshoe, 7 Feb 2009

Uphill we went, and though there was no snow, there was plenty of ice to make things slippery. Just before we got to the first lookout (after all the deceptive hints at possible views), it became too slippery to continue and Maria put on here snowshoes. Or dirt shoes as Andrew called them. A few minutes later we cleared the trees for our first fantastic views of the Fraser Valley. We were amazed to see how little snow there was compared with last year. The section where I’d had to stop and wait for a while was barely covered and the rocks at the overlook were clearly exposed.

We stopped here as usual to soak in the scenery before continuing upwards to the main ridge. As we emerged from the next patch of forest, we followed tracks over icy snow to where the gradient eased and we were greeted by views of many mountains: Baker, McGuire, Tomyhoi, Slesse, the Border Peaks…. We continued along the ridge, pausing briefly to admire the view of Cheam and Lady Peak through a gap in the trees and found a mostly snow-free patch to sit and have lunch in full view of Mt Baker.

Elk Mountain snowshoe, 7 Feb 2009

The sun was warm and views fabulous as usual. A few high clouds rolled in, often taking on interesting shapes, such as the one that looked like a trilobite. We retraced our steps and spotted a paraglider taking off. We stopped to watch him circle, rising on thermals and dropping again into the valley. At times he was barely a hundred feet above us. A second paraglider took off as we reached the launching point, providing more entertainment for us.

We made good time back to the car and headed to the airport in Chilliwack for pie. On the way we spotted a tree full of bald eagles – we counted 15, plus one brave starling :-) Then it was just a matter of driving home… except that as we crossed the Port Mann bridge we noticed it was still clear, and an almost full moon was rising… I floated the idea of a moonlight snowshoe to Dog Mountain, and no one disagreed so before we knew it we found ourselves in the Mt Seymour parking lot.

As we stepped out of the car, the chill hit us and we wondered aloud to each other how we could possibly have thought this to be a good idea! We wrapped up and set off, not needing headlamps as a result of the moonlight. First stop was First Lake, bathed in bright moonlight. We stopped to take photos, and noticed a complete halo around the moon with attendant moondogs.

Dog Mountain snowshoe, 7 Feb 2009

We continued on to Dog Mountain where we bumped into a group of people sitting very comfortably sharing a chocolate fondue. It was definitely a good night for that! We took in the lights of Vancouver for a while before heading back and finally bringing our day to an end. Except that Andrew suggested searching for the Suicide Bluffs trail… We found the trailhead, and made our way through the trees occasionally finding markers on the trees. But we soon lost them and we couldn’t work out which way to go. We explored the area a little and admired the night sky but wisely opted to retrace our steps and head back to the car.

A long tiring but excellent day :-)

Distance: 9 + 5 km
Elevation gain: 800 + 50 m

Photos on Flickr

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