We first hiked up to Deeks Lake at the end of July 2006 on a miserable cold, wet day. There had been a storm the night before and the ground, rocks, bushes and trees were very wet and slick. All in all I don’t think anyone really enjoyed the hike and my opinion of Deeks Lake was that it was quite forgettable.
How things change when the sun comes out! This time I went up with Andrew and Gabriela, who had borrowed a light pickup for the weekend. Instead of parking on Highway 99 and ascending via Deeks Creek, we took the new(ish) Porteau Road exit and made our way up the gravel road to the north end of the Howe Sound Crest Trail. The extra clearance offered by the truck allowed us to get about 2.5 km up the road (though having only 2-wheel drive, it struggled on the loose surface on a particularly steep section). This saved us about an hour of trudging along a gravel road in each direction and contributed to my completely reversed view of this hike.
OK so by now, you can probably guess that I enjoyed the hike this time :-) Knocking off the dirt road and having a warm, sunny day made all the difference. We parked the truck and set off up the road. We hiked no more than half a km before reaching the first trail sign, and continued south along the Howe Sound Crest Trail. We passed the two entry points from the Deeks Bluff trail, one of which was amusingly labelled `Bad trail’ or even `Very bad trail’. That’s just piqued my interest and one of these days I will have to find out how bad is bad.
The road narrowed as it became overgrown and we passed colonies of pink bleeding heart and a couple of patches of odiferous skunk cabbage. Soon the trail began heading steeply uphill, more or less directly as you would expect from an old road. By now the trail was more like a real trail and very pleasant to hike. We passed out of the new growth into some lovely typical Sea-to-Sky granite-and-pine forest, pausing for breath at a viewpoint overlooking the Deeks Creek valley and towards Bowen Island in Howe Sound.
Pushing on upwards we re-entered the new growth. Here it was dark and dingy, despite the sunshine. No wonder our spirits weren’t high the first time we were here! Most of the trees were skinny, closely-packed Douglas firs, with little or no ground cover between them. Anyone who wonders what effect logging has on a forest should see this. Yes, trees can grow back quite quickly but the forest takes much much longer. And a forest is much more than just trees, a point which was amply demonstrated as we wandered into an unlogged patch, surrounded by gorgeous mature cedar and hemlock. Suddenly it was light and airy with small trees, bushes and shrubs all around. Not a cut stump to be seen, and most importantly lots and lots of fungi.
The trail continued on straight, entering yet another logged area before reaching our first view of Deeks Creek. And what a view it was! The creek was in full melt flow, crashing down over a series of mini (and not-so-mini!) waterfalls. The air was cool, almost cold, and after a few minutes of photography and admiration we made our way back to the trail. I couldn’t remember seeing this the last time I was here, though a check of the older photos shows that it was there, only less impressive.
We ascended further and the trail became steeper. We were still following an old logging road on this stretch as we crossed an impressive debris chute lined with boulders. But soon we regained the old growth forest which took us to the lake. This was the most beautiful forest of the day, full of huge mature hemlocks and silver firs. Silver firs don’t grow as large as cedars, Douglas firs and hemlocks so it was a nice surprise to find some that were a couple of feet in diameter. Up, up and more up, and we reached Phi Alpha falls, another gorgeous waterfall on Deeks Creek. Again, the water flow was much greater than when we last saw it.
One last push and we hit our first snow patches just before the lake. Suddenly the trail levelled off and we were there. We squeezed onto a rock at the lakeside (I slipped and dunked my foot into the freezing cold water, and I was suddenly wishing I had put on gaiters after all!) and took in the view. Just fantastic. On our last visit we could barely see across the lake due to the low cloud. Now we could see the full setting of the lake and it was magnificent, with Mt Windsor on the left (north) and an unnamed peak to the right. The lake was still mostly frozen and snow-covered, only just beginning to melt out at the edges.
We followed the trail a bit further south until we reached the log jam, where we made ourselves comfortable and had a leisurely lunch in the warm sunshine. We had seen another car parked at the trailhead, but there was no sign of anyone else. We had the place to ourselves. It was so peaceful up there, nothing but the sound of the creek as it exited the lake and the occasional jumping fish (the peace was disturbed briefly by a float plane flying directly overhead: that must have been a spectacular flight!).
After lunch, we sat around taking photos for a bit before Andrew decided to go in for a swim. Despite the abundance of ice and snow, in he went, going over to the ice and hauling out onto the snow. He later admitted that it was the coldest lake he’d ever swum in. I took off my boots and bravely dunked my feet…. at which point I could no longer feel them and had to pull them out again. The water was painfully cold. I don’t know how Andrew managed to go in for a swim. Meanwhile, a cool wind had picked up and Gabriela was wrapped up in her fleece and jacket!
Eventually we dragged ourselves away from the lake and began our descent. We savoured all the old-growth forest again on the way down, stopping briefly to photograph a red beetle and some tiny mushrooms, but otherwise hiked as fast as gravity and our legs would allow. It had taken us just over two hours to get to the lake; we got back to the truck in an hour and twenty minutes! And that is how Deeks Lake suddenly became one of the most enjoyable hikes I’ve ever done. A fabulous day out. Next time we will go higher towards Brunswick and Hanover lakes. Can’t wait!
Distance: 7 km?
Elevation gain: 650 m?
Photos on Flickr