Another solo hike for Andy, and I picked one of my favourite rainy-day hikes – the Brothers Creek loop. I parked up on Millstream Road and headed up into the forest. Right at the beginning of the trail there was a great view of Vancouver (or at least it would be on a clear day!) where a house is being rebuilt. I turned left and followed the Baden-Powell trail westwards under the power lines. Despite the weather forecast, the rain was light to non-existent, but it was humid. I gave up on the idea of wearing a rain jacket and figured I’d dry off soon enough even if it poured.
The bright opening under the power lines was the most colourful stretch of the trail where the spring flowers were beginning to bloom. Bunchberry was just coming out, salmonberry was at its peak, there were lots of yellow stream violets and false Lily-of-the-Valley was in leaf but not flowering yet. The deer ferns were still tightly furled for the most part. I remembered hiking this stretch of trail at the end of the hike the last time we were up here and it felt like it went on forever. Today it went by much more quickly and it didn’t seem too long before I heard the roar of Brothers Creek.
I followed the narrow trail down to the bridge and spent a few minutes watching the water cascade down out of the trees and under the bridge. The falls were in good flow and I was really glad to have chosen this hike today. I tried a few photos though it was difficult to keep the camera steady enough on the bridge. Across the bridge, the trail led very steeply back up the slope and I soon came to an intersection. The Baden-Powell Trail went straight on: I turned right to follow the west bank of Brothers Creek. Up through the misty rain forest I climbed: it was raining at this point, and I made sure the camera and my pack were shielded by their rain covers. I was still fine without a jacket.
I quietly worked my way up the slope, admiring the creek from the bridge where the Crossover Trail joined. The forest was quiet, apart from the odd varied thrush with its solemn whistle. The Crossover Trail departed again to the left and within a few metres I came to the first of the (many) fallen trees I encountered. A big hemlock had fallen across the trail but it was simple enough to clamber over the various branches to regain the trail on the other side. A short while later, an even bigger hemlock was down and this time getting through was not so easy. I had to climb up onto the trunk, walk down it a short way before stepping off onto a convenient rock.
From there I was greeted with a tangle of branches and no sign of where the trail went. I picked my way through it all and found the trail again, which was now occasionally obscured by snow. A short distance later and it was a repeat performance. My pace slowed to a crawl and I began to wonder about getting as far as Lost Lake or Blue Gentian Lake. I came to the part of the trail with the nice twin cascades and was immediately struck by how much lighter it was here compared with a few minutes earlier. I looked up into the bright overcast sky at a huge hole in the tree canopy, then looked around me at the devastation.
What a mess! At least a dozen trees had been blown down and were lying in all directions. Fortunately most were horizontal, so I was at least able to pick my way over a few of them to get a view of the waterfalls. I didn’t dare try to get down to creek level as I usually do, it looked too risky considering I was hiking alone. All I could do was stand and stare, trying to compare the scene before me with that in my memory. As if unable to believe my eyes, I shook my head and had to remind myself that this was a natural and necessary part of the forest life-cycle. Not sure I was convinced….
I think I felt a little shaken by the extent of the damage, and how many trees had fallen in this one area. As I set off on the trail again I immediately encountered more fallen trees and slowly worked my way through the tangle of branches. A few minutes more and I came to the upper bridge – except I first had to climb over more branches and through old rotten snow to reach it. Looking upstream from the bridge I could see another dozen or so trees lying horizontally, having fallen into the creek.
My pace had slowed significantly and a quick time-check told me I had no option but to follow the fire road back to the car. I can only imagine how much longer it would have taken to reach either lake. I always enjoy this next section as the road passes between numerous large cedars. It was reassuring to see that they were still standing, despite all the downed trees. Here on the road, a cleanup crew had been making its way up the slope and had cleared most of the fallen trees.
Further down, as I left the old growth behind, the forest darkened and the mist thickened to the point where it was quite eery. I don’t usually spook on hikes, but a few noises here and there off the trail had me talking out loud – I didn’t really want to surprise a bear in these conditions. My fears were groundless: the only animal noises I could identify were the varied thrushes, and – to my joy – an owl hooting in the tree tops near the turnoff to the Candelabra Fir. The bright green huckleberry bushes lighted my way onwards, and I stepped out along the dingy road back to the car. As ever, as I got closer to “civilization” I encountered more and more dog poop along parts of the trail (some bagged, some not), some right in the middle. That always dampens my spirits more than the rain itself, but instead I looked back at what I had seen today, and reminded myself that it had been a great few hours in the forest.
Distance: 6 km
Elevation gain: 300 m
Photos on Flickr