I headed up to Illal Meadows near the Coquihalla Summit for a quick overnighter yesterday. The Coq area has featured in a few memorable TRs on CT and the Illal Meadows trail is a new addition to 103 hikes, so I wanted to check it out.
This isn't much of a TR, more of a road and trail conditions report.
The driving directions in 103 Hikes are spot on. About 18.5km after turning onto Tulameen FSR from the highway we crossed Illal Creek and headed up the deactivated spur road. We were driving a Nissan X-Terra and found the spur road to the trailhead to be fairly manageable - although we did have a bit of trailer-hitch scraping on some of the deeper water bars.
103 hikes says that the first two kms of the road are 2WD high clearance but unless you are experienced with off-road driving, I don't know if I would bother. It is also worth mentioning that if you like your paint job, don't drive the spur road. There were several VERY brushy sections, especially near the bottom and our truck now has the tell-tale brush carwash stripes on it to prove it. We think it might come off with a good wash and wax, but we'll see.
103 Hikes says that the first 2km are 2WD and the last 1km is 4WD to the wash out trailhead. While this is true, it is worth noting that the only place to park is about a 1km or so from the washout and there is no easy place to turn around. There is space for one, or maybe two cars at the washout parking area, but that's it. There is lots of parking at the start of the spur road and we did see a pickup with horse trailer attached parked there.
As far as the hiking trail goes, once again the directions in 103 hikes were spot on. The only place that the trail was at all hard to follow was the part after you leave the old road for the final time and head up into the bush (after crossing a fork of Illal Creek). There was a bit of bashing around in the bush in that area to find the trail, but we found it fairly quickly.
Once you get on the trail proper, there are quite a few brushy sections, but the footbed is still fairly obvious. We also saw a bit of recent bear scat on the lower portions of the trail, along with a lot of horse sh*t, so beware of that too.
We didn't get into the meadows until around 7pm due to our late start, so we camped near the end of the trail right where the meadows start to flatten out. Right around the corner from our camp the trail just ended - 103 Hikes says it evaporates, and they are right.
There was a very cold wind coming down from the peaks so we were happy to have some sheltering trees to camp by. We had a fairly hard time trying to sting up our food in a bear hang. We weren't too worried about bears since all indications seemed to point to them hanging out at much lower elevations. However, we are always pretty careful. We wondered if anyone else has invested in a bear canister for these types of situations?
The next morning we didn't have tons of time to spare, but we did have a bit of time to explore the meadows and talus slopes below Jim Kelly Peak. We had our GPS with us, but it appears that the topo maps we had loaded don't have very many of the features in the area named. The NTS 1:50000 maps don't seem to have much named in the area either. What gives?
We rambled up to a flattish bench near the Coquihalla - Jim Kelly Peak col. Here are a bunch of pics that I took:
This was my first trip with my new camera - an Olympus Stylus 1030SW. It's freeze-proof, waterproof to 33m, crush-proof up to 220lbs, and shock proof for a fall of up to 6 feet. Thankfully, I didn't end up testing any of those properties on this trip. However, I did use a few of its scene specific modes. Overall, I'm pretty impressed with this camera so far.
After our ramble in the meadows we came back to camp for lunch, packed up and headed down. The spot we chose to camp was nice and sheltered from the breeze, but unfortunately this meant that the bugs were horrendous. I think next time I go back (since I definitely need to go back) I'll camp further up.
In the 24 hours or so that we were up there, we saw one other group who were also camped near the trail. We also saw one set of horse-shoe prints going up the same day as us, then going down the same day we went down. Never did see the horse though. There were six vehicles parked in the area, but we didn't see many people at all. This is a beautiful area with lots of great terrain and solitude. I'll be interested to see if it gets more popular now that it is in 103 Hikes. I think the long road access from Vancouver and the minor bit of route-finding involved in the hike might deter some. I will definitely be back to do some extensive exploring when I have more time though.
Oh, also, here is a link to a brief panoramic video I took:
Mostly I just wanted to try out the video feature on my new camera, but also, the video gives a good sense of the type of terrain up there.