Everyone has a favourite hike. For some, that hike may be a well-travelled location, such as the Cape Scott Trail, or a route past Lake Helen Mackenzie. For others, favourite routes are more private, with information held close by those in-the-know; secret spots where not many people venture. Assuredly, Horseshoe Mountain belongs in the second category, as one of Vancouver Island’s best-kept secrets.
Horseshoe Mountain has views to rival many of the better-known routes. With easy Class 2 hiking through old-growth forest, and a final approach along a broad, high-elevation alpine ridge to the 1742-metre summit, it’s surprising that Horseshoe Mountain isn’t more well-known. The reason is simple, and the title of this post alludes to it: accessing the trailhead is a pain in the rump!
Horizontal Distance 5.8 km
Starting Elevation 1230 m
Maximum Elevation 1742 m
Total Elevation Gain 642 m
Total Time: 3h 45m
A wonderful excursion on Mount Tzouhalem today. Although the forecast was for rain, the 13 of us lucked out and even enjoyed a little sun. A profusion of flowers – including shooting stars, sea blush, and camas. We spent a leisurely 10 minutes admiring the flowers in the reserve, and then wandered along the ridge to the cross, enjoying wonderful views along the way. Although the parking lot was full, we didn’t see many other people along the way. We had lunch near the summit, before heading down, taking a more inland route back to the car. A most enjoyable nearly three hour jaunt.
The flower reserve.
Looking towards Duncan with Quamichan Lake down below.
A profusion of camas!
Some downhill sections on the way to the cross and then the summit.
Twelve of us met at Aylard Farm where we had two taxi-vans meet us and transport us to the trailhead at Pike Road. We started hiking under clear skies, but only 3 of us deemed it warm enough for shorts.
The short hike along Pike Road
After 20 minutes we came to Iron Mine Bay, and some of us donned more clothing to contend with the cool ocean breeze.
Meandering along the coastline trail
The brisk breeze kept the temperatures perfect for hiking, and we marvelled at the views of the Juan de Fuca Strait. I had only done this hike once previously, and had forgotten how rolling it is; you really have to be careful of your step going up and down the rocks! And the ocean is a long ways down from some of the precipitous cliffs!
Steep cliffs along the shore
Ah! It doesn’t get much better than this!
And the vistas never quit.
What beautiful scenery! (And I’m not talking about the hiker!)
We admired the view of the Olympic Peninsula Mountains across the strait.
And, after we passed cabin point, more flowers were blooming.
Shooting stars emerging early on the sun-soaked slopes.
Camus awaking early
As we neared Aylard Farm, we encountered more and more walkers, most without any packs, out for a short stroll. At the other end of the trail most of the people we saw were runners, but now they were walkers, many with dogs. Good to see many people out enjoying nature, and getting their kids out at an early age.
The only thing I’m wondering is why did it take me 15 years to return to this gem of a trail!?
Over the past two months, I have been working to build a pulk sled. I’m motivated by my dream of backpack-free winter camping (as I could haul my gear behind me on my snowshoe and backcountry ski tours), and by the weight of my son (as he just won’t stop growing). My first pulk sled had a high degree of success, but it also had some flaws. I learned a lot constructing Pulk Sled v.1.0.
I went through at least four revisions on this first sled. My goal was to create a pulk that is easy to pull, easy to transport, easy to use in the field, protects the cargo, and maneuvers and tracks well. Addressing the revisions, I altered the harness (how the stays connect to the harness); changed how the load in the sled is distributed; added stabilizers so the sled tracks better; and more. I found a great amount of success. In ideal conditions, Pulk v.1.0 works great. However, I hope to use the sled in conditions that are less than ideal.
Making the most of a long weekend means different things to different people. For Family Day Weekend 2016, I jammed in a daytrip for each of the three days, including an overnight camp at a familiar trailhead in Seward. Don’t fret, though; I spent at least one of those days with my family! On the first day, we did a beginner snowshoe trip to Lake Helen Mackenzie. On Day Two, I led an intermediate snowshoe trip to Mount Allen Brooks. For the final adventure, we cranked up the intensity at Stowe Peak, in the Prince of Wales Range.
Our trip to Mount Allen Brooks started at the early hour of 6:00 am, as we headed up to Raven Lodge. The morning brought poor conditions: dark clouds cast a dim light on the landscape, a light rain was falling, and a stiff breeze passed through us all as we stood outfitting ourselves, signing waivers , and waiting for everyone to arrive.
I started the day with minor trepidation. This was my third attempt of Mount Allan Brooks; the two failed attempts were in less favourable conditions, but on this day I was less than fresh, as my hips were bruised from hauling my son around in the pulk sled the day before. It’s not often that I start a hike fatigued from an effort the day before — unless a tent is involved. However, I had a good feeling; the day before, I had noted that there was a cut track all the way to and across Lake Helen Mackenzie. Beyond that…. we would have to discover!
Stonewalled, again! I’m getting tired of writing reports that end with a failed attempt on some peak or other. So far this winter we have been turned back on more than 4 different peaks! Mount Myra is the latest peak to turn us back and be added to the list.
We expected good weather and we weren’t disappointed. Excellent visibility, cool temperatures, and light snow wouldn’t be the undoing of our attempt. An incredible accumulation of recent snow would accomplish that.
Another beautiful day in the low alpine. On Saturday, January 30th, I led a small group of Island Mountain Ramblers, along with a special guest, on a trip through Paradise Meadows to Lake Helen Mackenzie and back. We had fine weather: a little sunshine, some light snow, and a clear view along our route.
In late 2015, I built a pulk sled to use on my ski and snowshoe adventures. Its purpose is to carry gear and my little guy, Hemingway. Since building the sled I’ve made a number of modifications, attempting to improve performance. Hemi was in tow today as we made our way from Raven Lodge.
We left shortly after 10:00 am; we were in no hurry for this simple snowshoe to the lake and back. On our way to the lake, we followed the summer route from the lodge. Though the route is commonly traveled, the conditions vary. On this day, the route had icy patches with a few areas sloping off the booted track downhill. Unfortunately, the sled performed poorly in these short sections as I have yet to install stabilizing fins, or a skeg.