Category Archives: Hiking

Snowshoeing with a Baby

New Years Day 2017 Snowshoe

We celebrated New Year’s Day by taking Astrid on her first snowshoeing trip. She’s only 6 months old and she handled it like a champ. We chose to go up to Mount Seymour and do the First Lake loop (half way to Dog Mountain), because it’s a pretty easy trail. And we weren’t the only ones. There were dozens of other families with babies and small children hiking along the trail with us.

New Years Day 2017 Snowshoe

We were a bit worried about squeezing the snowshoe into Astrid’s nap schedule. She only stays awake for 1.5-2 hours between naps right now. Luckily, she fell asleep on the car ride up and again in the ErgoBaby on the return part of our hike.

Breast Feeding in the Snow

We probably should have fed Astrid at the lodge before we started our snowshoe, but we forgot. So Emily had to find a nice sheltered spot in the trees and breastfeed her in the sub-zero temperatures. A real Canadian moment.

Pulling Trees

Greater Vancouver Hike – Elfin Lakes

Elfin Lakes CampingDate: August 7-8, 2015

Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Elfin Lakes is one of BC’s best backcountry camping destinations. It’s easy to access, has more amenities than you would normally find in the backcountry, and has great views of the Coast Mountains. It’s not surprising that the trail is popular with day hikers, overnight backpackers, and mountain bikers.

At the Trailhead

To beat the crowds, we left Vancouver early on Friday morning. The hike starts from the Diamond Head parking lot, located up a gravel road in Squamish beyond Quest University. There are numerous reports of break-ins in the parking lot, so don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle.

The parking lot is at a lofty 960 meters above sea level, a welcome boost for anyone carrying a heavy backpack. Most of the hike to Elfin Lakes is along an old logging road, with plenty of room for 2 or 3 people to walk abreast. The first section isn’t gruelling, but it is a continuous uphill climb without much to look at. There is only one viewpoint – a brief break in the trees with a view over Squamish and Howe Sound. After 4.3 km and 440 meters of elevation gain, you arrive at the Red Heather shelter. This is a good spot to have a meal and use the outhouse.

Wide Trail

After Red Heather you quickly get above the treeline with more spectacular views of the mountains around. Elfin Lakes is another 6 km of ups and downs from Red Heather, with a net elevation gain of only 75 meters. Keep an eye out for pikas in the rocky areas – they are little rodents with a distinctive squeak.

Pika

Elfin Lakes is probably BC’s most comprehensive backcountry camping area. There’s a full-time ranger station, outhouses that usually have toilet paper, bear-proof food caches, a lovely cooking shelter with an amazing view, two lakes (one for swimming and one for drinking water), 35 tent pads, and a hut with 34 beds if you don’t want to bring a tent. The cost of camping at Elfin Lakes is $10 per person per night, or $15 if you want to sleep in the shelter.

Ranger Station Filtering Water Bear Caches Cooking Shelter with a View

From Elfin Lakes, there are two day hike options – the Gargoyles and Opal Cone. We had planned on spending Saturday hiking up to the Gargoyles, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was grey and drizzly with heavy rain forecasted, so we decided to pack it up and head home early.

I was also worried about my toe. I had stubbed it before we left Vancouver, but didn’t think much of it. However, by the time we arrived at our campsite, it was throbbing and purple. I “iced” it in the lake and taped it to prevent any further damage. I’m not sure if it is sprained or just heavily bruised.

Injured Toe Icing My Toe in the Lake Taped Toes

Check out the BC Parks website for more info about the campsite, and read the great trail reports on Vancouver Trails and Trail Peak.

Times: (with a large backpack on)
Parking Lot to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Red Heather to Elfin Lakes: 2 hours
(GPS data on Strava)

Elfin Lakes to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Red Heather to Parking Lot: 1 hour
(GPS data on Strava)
Elfin Lakes Map

Pictures: Elfin Lakes 2015
Hiking Panorama

Tall Toilet

Hiking and Mountain Biking

At Elfin Lakes

Elfin Lakes

Relaxing in the Sun

Camping Spot Panorama

Greater Vancouver Hike – Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk

Garibaldi Lake
Date: August 12-14, 2006, August 8-10 2008, and July 10-12, 2009

Location: Garibaldi Pronvincial Park, near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Black Tusk was my first real backcountry experience, and you never forget your first. Glacial Lakes, towering peaks, alpine meadows – this hike has it all. I’ve seen a lot of BC since that weekend in 2006, but Black Tusk is still my favourite overnight hike in BC. I’ve been up there 3 times, and I’m itching to return again.

The Barrier
It’s a 7.5 km hike from the trail head to the campgrounds – taking anywhere from 2 1/2 – 4 hours depending how fast you can move with heavy pack on. It’s a steady uphill the whole way, rising 915 meters, including a section of switchbacks along The Barrier – an imposing lava damn holding back the water in Garibaldi Lake.

Campsite
There are two camping options – Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake. Garibaldi Lake is the nicer option, but it fills up quickly, especially on a long weekend. The campsites are pretty good by backcountry standards – with gravel or wood tent pads, outhouses, bear caches, and cooking shelters.

Little Creek
Late July to early August is the best time to visit, as the alpine flowers are in full bloom and the area is mostly snow-free. You can even take a dip in Garibaldi Lake if you’re brave (no matter how warm it might be outside, a glacial lake is never very warm).

The Ascent to Black Tusk
From the campgrounds, there are two day hike possibilities – Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. Black Tusk is a unique experience. If you’re afraid of heights, like I am, it’s a uniquely terrifying but exhilarating experience. The trail leads up a large scree slope and then traverses a ridge with a steep drop off before reaching the base of an intimidating lava column.

At the Summit
You can rock climb/scramble the top of the tusk but it’s not for the feint of heart. It is steep and the rock is loose. I’ve only ever made it to the top once, on my first trip up when I wore a bike helmet to protect my head. Every other time I’ve chickened out. But if you do make it to the top, the 360 degree views of Garibaldi Provincial Park and Whistler-Blackcomb in the distance are breathtaking.
View of Whistler Mountain

Transportation: It’s a 90 minute drive from Vancouver to the trailhead near Squamish, BC. Directions.

Pictures: Garibaldi Lake 2006, Garibaldi Lake 2008, Garibaldi Lake 2009

Ridge Walking

On the way to the Tusk

Black Tusk Snow Angels

Dr Seuss Flowers

Lake-side Reflections

Backpacking India: Chandrashila Trek

Chandrashila Trek
After our failed Singalila trek a few weeks ago, we were a bit nervous to try another one. As we’ve discovered, there’s a lot that can go wrong on a multi-day trek when you’re not feeling 100%. Further complicating things, this time we were traveling with our friend Dan, who only had two days to acclimatize to Indian food and the time change before we launched into our 4-day Chandrashila Trek into the Himalayas of Uttarakhand. Luckily, we all made it through with only minor discomfort and the trek was amazing.

Chandrashila Trek
We hiked through blossoming Rhododendron forests, swam in a lake (well, Dan and the Norwegians swam), had epic views of the high Himalayan peaks, watched a mongoose playing in a tree, visited a Hindu temple, and capped it off with a snowy climb to the top of Chandrashila at over 3500 m.

Chandrashila Trek
Our trek was organized by Red Chilli Adventure, and they did an excellent job. The guides were knowledgeable and fun, the food was plentiful and tasty, and the tents and sleeping bags kept us warm during the frigid nights. We were lucky to have a good group of fellow trekkers, including a pair of Norwegians, two other Canadians, and three French girls. Trekking seems to be a great way to meet the most interesting people from around the world.

Birthplace of the Ganges
Even though it was a 4 day trip, we only had two long hiking days. The first and last days were mostly driving. The roads were some of the best we’ve been on in India, and the views were excellent – Lots of lush valleys and a viewpoint over the start of the Ganges River. If it wasn’t for the motion sickness,the drive would have been completely enjoyable.

Chandrashila Trek
The first day featured only a short 2 km hike to our campsite next to Deorital Lake, which only took 1 hour.

Mongoose
The second day we covered 14 km through beautiful forests with a few great viewpoints. Midday we stumbled upon a mongoose. They can be viscious animals, but this one was just playing in the flowers.

Chandrashila Trek
The third day was the most intense, as we spent 5 hours walking up to a temple, climbing to the mountain peak, and sliding back down. The route was heavily travelled until the temple, after which we had to break trail up to the peak. The views from the peak were spectacular. It was hard work walking in the snow and breathing the thin air, but sliding down was fun and fast.
Chandrashila Trek
Chandrashila Trek

Chandrashila Trek

We got really lucky with weather. We had pouring rain and whiteout conditions, but most of our hiking was in sunny, dry conditions. Our hike on the third day started with drizzle and clouds, but cleared as we neared the peak.

Chandrashila Trek

We were really happy we did the trek. When we were planning our 2 weeks with Dan, we weren’t sure that a trek was a good idea – too much time in one place and too much that could go wrong. But in ended up being a real highlight for all three of us.
Chandrashila Trek

More photos on Flickr: Chandrashila Trek

Backpacking India: Singalila Trek

Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney

The Singalila Range forms a ridge of hikeable mountains along the India-Nepal border that offer awesome views of the Himalayan mountains including Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world (8598 m). We set out to do a 5-day trek from Maneybhanjang (near Darjeeling) to Phalut, but unfortunately didn’t make it all the way. 

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1
India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

The first day I was really slow going up the 11 km with over 800 metres elevation gain. That night I was so chilled and achy I couldn’t sleep until the wee hours of the morning. All night all I could think about was the 21 kms we had to cover the next day and the ascent up to 3636 metres above sea level. I was feeling better the next morning but knew I didn’t have enough energy to complete the day. We were lucky to have views of Kanchenjunga that morning before heading back down to Maneybhanjang. We were both disappointed about not making it to Sandakphu and Phalut, the two peaks with amazing views, but knew it was the right decision.
Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney
Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney
We weren’t in the national park yet so we could do the descent without a guide, at least a human one. We had three different dogs join us for different parts of the day. They were just village dogs that seemed to want a little company and a journey. They responded better to petting than treats.
Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney
This one was our favourite, we named him Charzing.

Singalila Trek day 2 - return to Maney

Tour companies will arrange all-inclusive Singalila Trek expeditions for around 3000 rupees per person, but we’re cheap and resourceful so we planned our trek on our own. We wanted to create a comprehensive guide to the trek for others to follow, but since we never made it past Tumling (near Tonglu peak), our knowledge is incomplete. But here is what we figured out. 

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

There are two standard treks out of Maneybhanjang. A 3 day-trek to Sandakphu and down to Rimbik or the 5 day trek that goes to Phalut. Phalut has 360-degree views from the peak (3600 m) so that was the trek we chose.
India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1
We took a shared jeep from Darjeeling to Maneybhanjang in the morning. Apparently it’s not a very popular route. There were three other foreign tourists going to do the same trek and no one else. After waiting for 30 minutes we paid for the remaing five seats so we could get trekking at a reasonable time. We ended up trekking with our new friends to help share the costs.

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

Most of the hike is in the Singalila National Park, which requires visitors to be accompanied by a guide. If you’re not using a private tour operator, you can get guides through the Society for Highlander Guides and Porters Welfare (link), whose mission is to preserve the park and create employment opportunities for youth. The cost is 1200 rupees per day, including food and lodging for the guide, no matter how big your group is. 

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

There are government and private lodges along the way, as well as snack, water, and lunch huts. We only stayed in one, which was lovely. We had our own room with three beds, lots of blankets, and a washroom (cold water and squat toilet) for 800 rupees. We spent most of our time in the main house with the other guests by the fire. 

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

Lunch was either chowmein or noodle soup for 50 rupees and egg could be added for 20. Tea and water were a little more expensive than usual, 15-20 and 30 respectively. The one dinner we had was amazing (although I didn’t eat much) – dal, rice, veg curry, potatoes, fried bitter gourd, egg curry, raw veggies, and apricot dessert – for 150 rupees each. Breakfast was porridge, Tibetan bread, honey, jam, and a boiled egg for 100 rupees.

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

We didn’t hire a porter and carried our own gear. We probably brought too much stuff. I would recommend packing lite – only bringing a few days of clothing, warm hat and gloves, and a headlamp. We rented down sleeping bags in Darjeeling for 80 rupees a day from Trek Mate. We didn’t need them in Tumling as there were plenty of blankets. We also foolishly brought snacks from Darjeeling that we could have bought at any of the tea stall that dotted the trail.

India - Singalila Ridge Trek Day 1

Backpacking India: Udaipur & Krishna Ranch

India - Udaipur
Udaipur is the most beautiful city we’ve visited in India. Between the clean waterfront, majestic palaces, and epic sunsets, we were content to just sit and relax for much of our visit.

India - Udaipur
The lakes are cleaner than most we’ve seen and doesn’t smell like poop – a rare occurrence in a country where most sewage flows through open drains to the nearest body of water. There is even a machine that cleans the water in the lake. The waterfront is dominated by the main palace, havelis, temples, two floating palaces, and now dozens of guest houses jammed in between. Most of our time in Udaipur was spent taking in the beauty. We hiked to the top of one of the hills to get a view from above, went on a boat tour around the lake, and paid to get a look inside the main palace.

India - Udaipur India - Udaipur India - Udaipur India - Udaipur

We also took a vegan cooking class at one of the healthier restaurants we’ve come across in India – Millets of Mewar. Besides being vegetarian, they do most things vegan and many gluten free (using millet). We learned to make millet chapatis, kidney bean dal, dum aloo, veg biryani, and veg kabobs. Now we have South and North Indian recipes we’re looking forward to replicating at home.
Vegan cooking class at Millets of Mewar in Udaipur

To recuperate from all that relaxing, we fled the city to Krishna Ranch, a tranquil oasis nestled next to the hills of a wildlife reserve. Most people go for the horseback riding, but we just wanted to spend more time in nature.

India - Krishna Ranch - Sun Salutation
When we asked the owner about good hikes, he suggested climbing to the top of the hill in the wildlife reserve for a view of the Monsoon Palace. It sounded like a lovely hike. We should have realized we were in for an adventure when the hike started by scaling a 7 foot wall with barbwire on top and sneaking into the wildlife reserve.

Indian Poop Vaulting
We brought walking sticks with us to keep balance and scare away leopards. They were very handy (no leopards spotted), but a machete might have been more useful. We picked our way through the spiky thorn bushes following what was likely a goat trail.

India - Krishna Ranch
The views from the top were spectacular, as promised. We ate an excellent tiffin lunch at the top, packed by our hosts, sheltered under one of the few shade trees. Getting down was a bit trickier, as we had a hard time finding paths and the route seemed steeper than it had on the way up. But 5 hours after we left, we finally made it back, filled with the happy exhaustion that physical labour brings.

India - Krishna Ranch
Emily enjoyed a nice mid-afternoon nap, but I spent my rest time chewing through my book. I probably should have had a nap. It might have kept away the fever I got that night and the diarrhea that has been with me since.

Luckily the next day was rainy, so I didn’t feel bad spending most of it either curled up in bed or on the toilet. It’s the first rain we’ve seen in a long time.

Camping in EC Manning Park

Camping with Modo
A few weekends ago, we booked a Modo car, loaded up our camping gear, and drove out to Manning Provincial Park for the weekend.

Shadow Falls Derek Falls Wildflower Walk Naturalist Guided Tour
We did a few light hikes – Three Falls, Lightning Lake, and the Wildflower Walk.

Campfire Cooking
We relaxed by the fire and cooked good vegan food.
Vegan Camping Breakfast Stirring the Yams Making Chili Roasted Corn

We stayed at Coldspring Campground. Pro tip: the campsites at the far end (#30-44) are farther from the highway and more secluded. It was a nice campground and conveniently located within the park – close the Lightning Lake day use area and Manning Resort, where there is a general store and a good source of fresh water (the wells in the campground had a boil water advisory).
Tent Sleep-in Modo Tarp Holder Lightning Lakes Relaxing Sneaky Chipmunk

More pictures.
EC Manning Park