This was a rare solo hike for me. Normally Maria and I hike together and if we’re not together then we’re usually hiking with someone else. I can count the number of solo hikes I’ve done on one hand (though only just after today). But this weekend Maria is in Seattle with the rest of Tiddley Cove and I’m left to work things out for myself :-)
So there I was, setting off from the car at 6.15 am this morning. Yes, I was at the trailhead for that time: I’d got up around 4 after a restless night. The day looked fine so I just got up and decided to go for a hike. I brewed some coffee and toasted a bagel, filled up the car with petrol and headed north on wonderfully quiet roads.
We’d been to Brohm Lake once before on a dull uninspiring day in December about four years ago. On that trip we just went around the lake, which was okay I suppose but it didn’t really leave us thinking that we’d want to come back here. As I was wondering where to go I was thinking I needed something below the snow line, and not too tough (being alone). I leafed through the `109 Walks’ book and settled on this one.
It’s not possible to make the left turn into the parking for the trailhead in the book so I continued on to the lake parking, where there’s a left-turn lane for safety. I set off past a few blooming Saskatoon berry bushes. First stop was a rocky outcrop at the lakeside. The water was perfectly still and the trees opposite were reflected perfectly below. Moving on, I crossed the bridge and turned right to follow the lake shore through the remaining old-growth forest. Some nice Douglas Firs in here, and a few cedars too.
I reached my next junction and turned up the hill on a steep winding trail. I was soon out of breath and found myself feeling like I was hiking for the first time! I couldn’t believe how out of shape I felt. Surely I wasn’t that bad? Yikes. It was a bit of a wake-up call and it made me determined to pick up the activity again.
The uphill didn’t last too long but I was glad to meet the next trail and follow it along the flat next to a pond for a while. Then it was time for some more uphill to an observation tower. A few sets of wooden steps helped get over the smooth rock in places and soon I was on a rocky pine-covered bluff with fantastic clear views of the Tantalus Range of mountains. Or at least, the misty Tantalus mountains, as they still had some thin cloud drifting around covering up their peaks.
I went over to the tower, but it’s now surrounded by trees and doesn’t have the view it once did so I returned to the rocks, dropped my pack and sat down to take in my surroundings. It was less than an hour since I left the car, and here I was with my feet dangling over the edge of a rock with a beautiful view at my feet, my sense of smell unable to get enough of the scent of the warming pines. It was silent. I was happy.
Across the valley, Alpha Mountain played peek-a-boo with the clouds. A waterfall caught my eye, and I zoomed in for a closer look: it’s hard to judge its height from such a distance, but it must have been at least 50 m and probably more like 100 m in height. Just some random waterfall in the Coast Mountains, like the one we’d seen on the ferry back to Earls Cove last week.
I always say this but it really was with the greatest reluctance that I moved on. I could have gone back to the car happy at this point, but I wanted the exercise too. I descended to the trail again, and followed it as it descended gently for a kilometre or so through mixed pine and maple forest. I was enveloped in green. A few forest flowers greeted me: bleeding heart most common, some large-leaved avens, and yellow violets.
As the trail levelled off, I came to another junction, complete with marker post and little topo map. It seems unlikely that it’s possible to get lost on these trails. From here I picked up the Cheakamus Loop trail which rose again. Within a short distance I saw a rocky outcrop to my right, and followed a short trail to a precipitous overlook above the Cheakamus River. Whoa – what a view (again!). Straight down (literally) was the railway line which joined the river as it curved underneath the cliffs I was stood on. Another incredible spot. I was tempted to stay for longer but I opted to move on to the next viewpoint higher up.
The trail switchbacked up the slope through the least interesting forest on the trail (skinny second growth) to the next overlook. Alpha Mountain had shaken off its blanket of cloud and I could see a massive cornice trailing from its peaked summit. The viewpoint wasn’t as good as the previous one, as it was surrounded by sizeable trees with only a few views between them. But it had other merits: some flowers of a type we’d never seen before until last week up the Sunshine Coast near Powell River (and have been unable to identify yet), more Saskatoon berry, as well as blooming dogwood and bitter cherry.
Back on the trail, I followed the loop (through more pleasant forest, especially now the sun had come out) round to its junction with the main trail again. I checked the map and picked the shortest route back to the car, climbing for a short time and then following the slope round until I could see the lake below me. I was struck by how loud the road traffic was too as a number of cars whizzed by. Until now I’d been in such a peaceful environment it was a bit of a shock to return to this level of noise.
I came to the bridge again, crossed the lake and was back at the car for 9.15, exactly three hours after I’ve left. A very leisurely three hours it was too.
So what did I do next? It was only 9.15 after all… I turned left out of the car park and headed up towards the Garibaldi Lake parking. The road was snow-free and the car park was completely empty. I couldn’t believe it: was there really nobody hiking to Garibaldi Lake today? I parked up and walked down to a roaring Rubble Creek to enjoy the sight of the blue-tinged water cascading over the rocks. I startled a dipper away, but it soon returned I perched on a nearby rock, now apparently oblivious to my presence.
Sated, I moved on again, heading further north to Brandywine Falls which I’d not been to since 2005. Now that parking is free I thought it would be well worth taking a look. I parked up and headed over the river to follow the trail down to the falls overlook. A pika squeaked in the rockslide to my left. I ventured closer but saw nothing first or last. But it did mean I spied some fresh leaves growing in pairs near my feet. A quick inspection and I realized they were Queen’s Cup flowers, or they would be in a couple of weeks. Can’t wait until they’re blooming, as I love those flowers.
I crossed the railway line and soon reached the overlook. I must admit I was taken aback by the grandeur of the falls: they were much more impressive than I remember, and on looking at the pictures again I can only say that photographs hugely diminish the falls, probably because there is no sense of scale. The falls drop 70 m or more over a basalt lip into a circular plunge pool. The river then continues on in a straight line through the gorge cut by the falls until it empties into Daisy Lake.
I walked on further to reach the end of the trail, a cliff overlooking the lake in the distance. Time to return to the car, grab a coffee and some lunch in Squamish and get home to catch the second half of the Champions League final.
What a beautiful morning’s exploration. If only every day could be like that. I guess I wasn’t satisified, as I wasn’t done yet, but that’s for another entry :-)
Distance: 8 km
Elevation gain: 250 m