After months of planning, studying all kinds of maps and getting psyched, Darren and I set out to do the Fool's Gold Route on Sunday (Aug.2)
We took the long way up, through Lillooet and the Duffy Lake Road, because of the rock slide at Porteau Cove. We hit Squamish, travelled almost to the end of the Mamquam Forest Service Road, and finally got dropped off at the trailhead and started our trip at 6:15 p.m.
This broken log bridge marks the end of logging road and start of the uphill towards Hopeful Meadows.
We carved out a campsite on the ridge above the meadows and got to sleep shortly after 10 p.m.
The next day we were on the trail by 9:15 a.m, and reached the meadows
atop Mamquam Pass within an hour. The sun was shining and the meadow was gorgeous, filled with little creeklets meandering through it.
Views of Meslillooet to the southwest.
We felt good, confident that we could make up for our late start the previous day and complete the route (which ends at Widgeon Slough near Port Coquitlam) in seven days. We thought we might have time for a side trip up to Widgeon Lake, or to blaze a new trail to Munro Lake to allow hikers to avoid the Secret Evil Compound at the end of the trail.
We continued sidehilling down Mamquam Pass, occasionally losing the flagged trail. A lot of the flags were obscurred by branches that had grown in since the last trail clearing 14 years ago. We reached Scary Crossing at 2:30, later than we'd hoped. Then we saw it was destroyed: what used to be three logs across the river was now one, and a broken log at that.
We hiked back upstream and eventually found Wet Foot Crossing.
After crawling over the log and fighting through thick bush on the opposite side of the creek, we took an exhausted lunch break at 3:30, before heading east and downstream on the trail adjacent to Boise Ck. Previous trip reports from the area mentioned flagging was almost non-existant here, and suggested staying high above the creek, keeping the cliff walls to our right as we followed the creek downstream.
But after bushwacking for a while, we did find flagging, only to lose it again. As the day wore on, we realized the flagged route stayed within about 50 metres of the river. But the overgrown shin-tangle shrubs and devil's club made it hard to stay on track, and coveted flagging was hard to come by. The saws came out to cut branches where needed.
We called it a day at 7:15 p.m., setting up another ad hoc camp well short of our destination - we'd hoped to make it to Cedar Spirit Grove by the end of the day. We were tired and a little frustrated, but still optimistic.
We didn't get going on Monday morning until about 10 a.m. We reached Cabin Crossing and were relieved to see a low water level at the creek that made crossing it no problem. We continued on through more bushwacking. This riparian area in the middle of a slide was especially nasty.
We made it to Cedar Spirit Grove by about 3 p.m., well behind schedule. These old-growth cedars, the General and the General's wife, are both 1100 years old, and flank the sign at the grove.
We also found gchicalo's book here (a Timothy Findlay novel), which he left behind to save some weight when he did the trail a few years ago.
Darren and I were well behind pace at this point, and pretty tired from bushwacking through the thick understory with heavy packs on. After mulling over our slim chance of finishing the trail within the week, we the difficult decision to turn around. It was a pretty hard call for us to make after all the planning that went into the trip. To make the trip worth while, we decided to do some trail work on the way back: retying old flagging, cutting overgrown branches with our pruning saws, and adding our own blue-and-white striped flagging where needed.
We headed to the Goldilocks campsite established by the '92 WCWC trail building crew, cleared it out, and went to get some water from the creek and have a swim.
We made a fire, and relaxed for the night.
After waking up late, we made a leisurely stop at Cabin Crossing the next day, picked up some fool's gold, and had a relaxing break. There's a nice natural pool formed here by river boulders.
We bushwacked back, but not before seeing a black bear at close range. It couldn't have cared less about us - it was looking for vegetation to munch on.
Problems with my left knee forced us to take an early dinner break (and some ibuprofen for me) about halfway between the grove and Wet Foot Crossing. We crossed back over Boise Ck. at Wet Foot Crossing and made another new camp site on the north side of the creek, in the vicinity of Scary Crossing. We cut pine boughs to level out the tent spot.
We lost the trail again the next morning on the way up Mamquam Pass. Tired of bushwacking, we sought out fallen logs to walk on instead.
We stopped again at Mamquam Pass to cool our feet in a creeklet, have lunch, and enjoy the scenery.
We finally made it back to the logging road at about 6:00 p.m. A call made by satellite phone the night before meant we had a ride coming to get us, which we met about halfway down the Mamquam FSR.
At the time, I was pretty down about the whole experience of getting our asses kicked by the Fool's Gold Route. In hindsight, we saw some pretty cool areas, and did complete the Boise Ck. trail.
But questions remain. Was Slumach materializing as slide alder and devil's club to keep us from reaching his lost gold? Did it feel like a gulag in there because we started the trip on the day Alexander Solzhenitsyn died? Should we have taken the hint when the cliff at Porteau Cove slid across the highway?
I don't know, but I can say I'll be back to the area soon. I'm hoping to organize a work hike in September to get back in there and finish reconnecting the trail fragments, at least as far as Cedar Spirit Grove. With less overgrown bush, the trail could be doable in a week.
Thanks to Aqua Terra for being available to pick us up by canoe, Moses for the map, gchicalo for trail information, and Darren for making the whole trip happen. It's a great area and it's a shame the trail's fallen into neglect. If anybody wants to join the trip (a two-nighter?) to do some trail work, please send me a message.