Published: July 1st 2012January 29th 2012
Dusting of snow in the mountains near Chilliwack Lake.
Happy 145th Birthday Canada!
The mountains of British Columbia got a bumper crop of snow this year. Global warming? Well perhaps, the Old Timers chime it's the most they've ever seen, ever.
Um, hello...Ice Age? Anyways, it got me thinking about my own love/hate relationship with snow.
Some may not be aware, but one of the pre-requisites for being a Canadian is we must mandatorily embrace snow. All my life, I've done my best to meet this requirement - I'm a pretty good skier, I like flavoured snow cones, I can skate circles on a frozen pond, inner tube a hill like it's nobody's business, and I can snowshoe.
But somehow as you get older, snow becomes a liability.
Canadians my age tackle winter with an impetulant seriosity. A necessary evil. No way around it, no way to get out of it. When drawing back the curtains to peer out onto a fresh white blanket over thirty centimetres thick, a sound of profound despair comes from somewhere deep within knowing you will have to venture out, eventually.
Ask any Canadian and they will happily reminisce their childhood full of face washes, snow forts, and unabashedly sticking
Like a Painting
Snow creeks are my favourite
their tongues to a metal pole. But then you have to grow up. No human should ever be purposely subjected to the back crunching agony of shovelling masses of this horrible stuff, or driving white-knuckled during a blinding snowstorm, or bruising your tailbone after innocently striding upon a sneaky patch of black ice. But we have to, we are Canadian...and it's mandatory.
Based on that realization I have become one of those Canadians having lost the fine art of enjoying snow, I decided this was the year I would make a last ditch effort to appreciate it once again.
This winter I went skiing...but instead of swooshing down a powdery slope in my bunny outfit, I spent the whole time at the top of a hill wondering where I could pee. So, I tried ice skating instead...staying upright on two little blades of steel, I felt the wind at my hair and remembered my salchows and shoot the duck, I was jubilant. Then I fell. Hard. My tailbone now permanently rearranged.
Deterred not, I travelled out to a friend's lakeside house on the coldest day of the year to give ice fishing a go. After trudging in
Nice! Who took the photo?
The only photo I will allow. I look like Raggety Anne in everything else.
waist deep snow to the centre of the lake to manually drill a hole, we did a whole lot of standing around.....and waiting. I can honestly say I lost interest after about twenty minutes. An hour in, the wind kicked up and the shelter blew over, I believed my only saving grace at this point was the large thermos of hot chocolate we had brought along. When I discovered it had been forgotten, I blew a gasket and uncerimoniously stomped off.
Then a friend of mine (I will call Barley Corn) asked if I had been snowshoeing lately. After I stopped laughing, he suggested a nostalgic snowshoe to reminisce our glory days. Back in our twenties, Barley and I quit our jobs and packed up our belongings, cursed out society & capitalism and disappeared deep into the bush. We built a log cabin and lived off the grid for over a year...parting only to avoid an unenviable double-homicide. The cabin still stands, and we are the only ones who know where it is.
Barley, sensing my hesitation suggested EC Manning Park which he knows is one of my favourites for summer hiking. Manning has hectares of beautiful trails
On Top of Ol'Frosty
Breathtaking views along the ridge as far as the eye can see
that snake through diverse landscapes, one minute you are in a heavy rainforest and the next, give way to alpine meadows decorated with carpets of wildflowers, crystal clear rivers with turquoise lakes and towering snow-capped peaks. I particularly love the wild rhododendrons and fields of strawberries so sweet, you plonk yourself down like a grizzly for a feast. I highly doubted it would be as impressive with the landscape canvas being of barren white. But I agreed to it.
The conditions were perfect. A gigantic dump of fluffy white had graced the hills a night prior, the temperatures were mild - cold enough to see your breath but not take it away, with only a wisp of breeze. The chances of me resembling Raggedy Anne at days end were slim to none. I was feeling optimistic.
Accompanying us, Barley's one-eyed mutt Guinness, a ridiculously smart dog I'm pretty sure could make a triple-decker sandwich if left to his own devices. His sole purpose today was to bark off random bears and go for Lassie-like help should we find ourselves in a crevasse. He doesn't care...he's just so pleased he's been invited along he slobber washes the side windows
Follow the Yellow Brick Road...wait...
Don't follow anything yellow, nor eat anything yellow. Simple rules.
of my car as he rides shotgun.
We arrive near Lightening Lake day-use parking (GPS coordinates for trailhead N49.06282 W120.82590 10U 658814 5436716) so incredibly early that the sky is still deep blue and there is a crisp crunch to the snow. I wrongly assume we would start on the easier trail, Barley wasn't having any of it. He picks the most difficult one. Because we were both mountaineers in a previous life, we have prepared rations and emergency supplies. We've been trapped before. Barley scrawls an explanation note to stick under the sun visor for that 'just in case' scenario as we don our packs and adjust our snowshoes with adulation, Guinness leading the way...like he knows where he is going.
The first 6 km take us by switchback through what is usually lush summertime undergrowth but now covered in a heavy bedspread of white, and after about 45 minutes the first striking views start to unfold before us, Silvertip Mountain behind the ski hill and Mount Hozameen off to the southwest. There isn't a cloud in the sky. Another good hour of trekking (about 7 km) brings us to the Frosty Creek wilderness campsite
at the 1850 m elevation. Even though I am adequately layered, I am already soaked through with sweat, my cheeks burn rosy red and I wipe at snot sickles so they don't freeze in place. My hiking companions appear to be unaffected by this vertical climb, I even suspect Barley might start skipping if it wasn't so uncool. We stop to don our snowshoes for the deeper snow, I struggle a bit and end up doing a face plant into a snow bank. I garner what I believe is a snicker from both the dog and Barley. Graceful I am not.
The Frosty Creek shelter is available to hikers in case of freak storm or need of rest. The weather has already changed, and I worry our view at the top will be affected. Barley teases me that I'm just trying to get out of the most difficult part ahead. We both fill up our canteens in the small creek that runs through the campsite. We head off for another 30 minutes of steep trail which leads to the freaky larch grove. As the forest opens slightly during this ascent to the scree slope, sensory overload overwhelms us. Guinness
is way ahead but keeps a watchful eye on me, the straggler. I pretend I'm taking pictures. Alpine larch are truly beautiful, especially in fall against the magnificent backdrop of Frosty Mountain's westerly peak.
Stopping only to listen to the sounds of your own heartbeat, out here the wilderness it is deafening silent. If you have never experienced this kind of quiet before, you need to leave the city pronto. At approximately 15 km both peaks of Frosty Mountain loom ahead. This is the halfway mark for our hike today...and I am pleased I am still doing okay. The Larch forest suddenly ends, and a much more austere habitat begins with a scree slope that runs about 1.5 km of steep switchbacks that brings you to the ridge on the summit.
The piece de resistance! In every direction there are snowy mountains.
As planned, we have our long rest and picnic lunch. Too bad dogs can't appreciate views...because this one is a gooder. Guinness is able to tear himself away from monitoring our sandwich intake to chase an ornery chipmunk-like critter whom appears highly offended we are in his territory. I am quietly contemplating the view but
Making your own trail
after a while you just gotta bust out your own trail making skills
Barley Corn starts having a bit of a nostalgic flashback. He reveals his future plans of snowshoeing up to our old cabin to see if it is still standing, he asks me if I want to join him. I wince. I know that harrowing trail way too well...and groan at the very idea. At age 20 I was in love, and more importantly fit. But I am curious too. I haven't been to the cabin in over 20 years. Could it still be there? Barley is convinced it is. I tentatively agree to go the next weekend, as long as I can still walk.
I know what Manning Park looks like in mid-summer, but I feel absolute jubilation when I set eyes on the spectacular winter scenes unfolding before me. We try to remember the names of all the mountains, 3 out of the 8. (googled -- they are Three Brothers, Snass, Outram, Silvertip, Finlayson & Wright, Spickard to the west, Winthrop to the east and then Chuwantum).
You feel like you are the only person on the planet when you sit up here.
Both dog and man have to coax me into get started again, I'm
finding that due to my oedema incident in Peru a few years back I am still suffering, and that familiar taste of salt is at the back of my throat. It is difficult to retain some of my feminine charm while I hack up a luggie or two. Barley rolls his eyes. At least my burning leg muscles are holding strong, I also take reassurance that at least it is all downhill from here. We make snowy tracks towards Windy Joe Mountain.
After about half an hour along the rocky slope the forest begins to thicken. We take another break to haggle over the various carbohydrates that will help us get back to the car. At 19 km, the junction of the Pacific Crest Trail appears and we head west along the Similkameen trail at to about the 24.3 km point. Following the route to the Gibson Pass Road then we continue along a trail that loosely parallels the road. Never was I happier to spot the Lightning Lake day-use signage.
Parking lot...I love you.
Our triumphant day was celebrated by a tailgate party with cheeses with crackers and a lovely Okanagan red doled out in paper
Larch forest against the mountains
I always think they look dead but that's their true winter colour
cups. We watch the glowing sun dip behind the towering peaks spanning a day-glow pink across the horizon as it makes its way to the Pacific. What an exhilarating day!
Snow is no longer a four letter word
in my vocabulary. Pleasantly optimistic, I am a true Canadian once again.
I wake up the following morning cursing out pretty much anyone or anything related to snow. I can't move. My spine has become goofy spaghetti apparently incapable of holding my body upright...and my thighs at the groin area are on fire. I'm curled up into a ball moaning. Why do I do this to myself?!
I dial the phone with the only muscle in my body that doesn't hurt - my tongue - to call in sick at work. They laugh at me. I can't move. My driveway needs shovelling.
Snow I hate you.
There are more photos below