Where: The Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT), Powell River BC
The dotted line is the section we completed (34km), relative to the entire trail (160km).
Who: Myself, Svetlana, and my 2 boys, Nathan (11) and Daniel (14), Kuma (3; 21 in dog years).
We headed out early from my brother's place in Vancouver to catch the 6:35 ferry out of Horseshoe Bay to Langdale. When we arrived some 40 minutes later we had a quick stop at McDonald's and then it was another hour of twisting and turning on the winding road to Earl's Cove. We made that ferry as well, and we arrived in Saltery Bay at around 11:30.
We then drove the 20 min or so to Powell River, grabbed a few muffins at Tim Horton's, hit the bank machine, and then headed to the Inland Lake park north of Powell River to rendezvous with Club Tread's very own Susie Darke (SusieD). She had agreed to shuttle me back from dropping my car off at the far trail head at Dixon Road, by Lois Lake (thanks! again!). I dropped everyone off at the park parking lot, then headed back to meet Susie and we both drove the 25 minutes there, 25 min back.
By the time we got back and I got everyone on the trail it was 2:30!
A very late start, so we kept our pace fairly brisk. After about 20 minutes of following the trail that goes around Inland Lake we arrived at the SCT trail head for Confederation lake.
Here we started a steady and at points very steep incline until you level off at the saddle between 2 peaks that are part of the Mount Mahony range and cradles Confederation Lake.
It gets boggy here as you descend along the southern flank of the lake. The shadows were definitely lengthening, and we could hear something calling not too far from on the shoreline on our left that freaked Svetlana out. I thought it was a moose at the time, but after listening to some moose sounds on the internet I doubt that was it.. Moose sound like a bear growling? Huh.. In any case it was a low, rythymic mewling. Hard to describe. So anyways we kept our heads down, picked up the pace and didn't do much looking around for whatever it was.
We arrived at Confederation Hut (the 9.5 km mark abouts) by about 6pm, and if we were smart we would have over-nighted here. The cabin looked to be in good shape, and there was good water in the lake, a pit toilet, etc..
But Susie said the Fiddlehead Landing Hut was much newer and nicer, so after filtering some water we pushed on. Not too far away I saw a sign that said "Vomit Vista 2km" (or some such distance) and I thought 'PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let it be named such by those heading TOWARDS us!". My crew was already not happy with me..
Luckily this turned out to be the case. After a fairly mild incline that was like a super highway after slogging up Mt Mahony we started the long descent along a ridge down to the 'landing' that would get us to the Fiddlehead Hut.
We cleared the forest and came perpendicular to an old logging road. At this point I made the mistake of consulting the guidebook ('The Sunshine Coast Trail by R.E. Walz) and my GPS, when what I should have done is just headed towards the flagging tape directly across the road. But the GPS was pointing me to the left and up the logging road to get to the Hut, and the trail description was a bit confusing with talk of spurs and cutblocks and 'narrow seam of trees bisecting', etc, etc.. Added to this was Susie's warning that some yahoo was removing markers around this point (she was in fact refering to the spur further on heading down to the Hut) because they are mad about the hut usage.. So I'm thinking, 'is the flagging tape trying to lead me in the wrong direction? Am I supposed to follow road spur to the left, maybe??'. I hummed and hawed for about 15 min wasting valuable daylight until we decided to just follow the flagged path, which turned out to be the right choice (duh!!). We fairly quickly arrived at the junction between Fiddlehead and Tin Hat Mountain and took the left spur to Fiddlehead. Here again we ran into trouble, as by now it was quite dark with the tree cover and it being around 9pm already the diamond trail markers were sparse and/or not visible. We saw one path that had a bunch of logs across it, and again I was thinking 'Is this that yahoo obscuring the trail, or the PRPAWS guys letting us know not to go this way?'. I broke out the headlamp, and headed the wrong way down what turned out to be someone else's property.. Relief and amazement at such a nice 'hut' turned into despair as we discovered that we had to backtrack and retrace our steps in the dark.. We called out to the cabin to see if anyone was there and could direct us to the right path, but no go. Svetlana was losing it at this point, fearful that we would be spending the night on the trail, so I just threw up my hands and headed back to the other person's cabin and down to the lake to see if I could make out the Fiddlehead Landing Hut from the shore line. If that failed, I was resolved to set up camp on the guy's porch and deal with the possible consequences (embarrassing and/or heated confrontation with the owners, ignominious retreat). But luckily it didn't come to that, as I saw the Hut not far off to the left, and quickly realized that the trail with the logs across it that we had earlier dismissed was indeed the one we needed. We scurried over the obstruction and pushed on the last 100 meters or so to the Hut. 19km up and down a mountain, good grief! Svetlana was relieved, but still tired and at her limit. We stripped out of our clothes, quickly got our sleeping pads and bags out, then went down to Powell Lake and washed off all the grime in the pitch black.. The water was still super warm and refreshing. Nathan was already asleep, and I just broke out some jerky and protein bars for those still awake rather than deal with the stove, and we turned out the headlamps by midnight. Looooong 18 hour day! Should have stuck around at Confed Hut.. When will I learn to scout out hikes myself first, THEN bring the fam? All the planning and going over maps does not compare to boots on the ground.. Hopefully I'm not making a mistake taking them on the Rockwall hike in another 2 weeks..
Things looked a little brighter in the morning, though Svetlana didn't sleep very well due to the hut being a bit stuffy.. There is a screen window facing the lake, but without the door opposite the window open there was no breeze getting in, and the door open meant bugs and who knows what other critters getting in. That, and the stress of barely finding the hut before dark meant it was a while before she fell asleep. But the rest of us were pretty well recovered by the time we got up at 9:30. We had a fairly leisurely breakfast and were finally able to have a look around the place, so that we did.
neighbor to our right, whose path we had mistakenly wandered down and whose porch I was considering spending the night on..
By 12:30 though we were packed and ready to go, finally (another late start, but we needed it!).
It was looking to be a scorcher..
So we were glad to have the tree cover again as we sidled up to the mountainside. The mosquitoes weren't bad, unless we stopped, but the horseflies were buzzing all around us no matter how fast we went.. Very annoying. And is there anything more maddening than trying to filter water (holding up a 2L Platypus Gravity Works filter bag, in this case) with a horsefly biting you between the shoulder blades?
I wish someone had told us there were rain barrels at the Tin Hat hut (more on that later), as it would have saved me getting bitten all to heck and back by mosquitoes and horseflies and then schlepping up 6 liters of water up another 250' of elevation! But I digress.. Svetlana and Daniel were also stung several times by wasps on the way up. Nathan and I made it through scot-free but they paid the price, following after us. The trail was very well marked and cleared of dead-fall and that was very appreciated. The PRPAWS (Powell River Parks And Wilderness Society) have sure put a lot of work into these trails and huts! We made it to the Haslam Vista viewpoint finally, and we were pretty spent by this point..
So, contemplating ANOTHER 19km trek to Elk Lake tomorrow and noticing we had cell reception, I made the call that we would be cutting the trip short. The PLAN had been to hike another 19km or so to Elk Lake Hut, then 14km or so to Walt Hill Hut, and then hike out on the 5th day another 12km or so to Lois Lake and then Dixon Road, where my car was parked, 65-67km abouts, all told, from Inland Lake to Dixon Rd.. But I phoned for a pick up by boat at Fiddlehead Landing for Monday afternoon, the day after next, so we could have a rest day at the Tin Hat Hut and then backtrack to Fiddlehead instead.. The number for the boat guy (Justin) was in the trail guide book. My jaw opened a bit at the $240 price tag, but I wanted the family happy and ready to take on the Rockwall in 2 weeks, so bit the bullet..
We thought we must be near the top, but it seemed never ending.. After reaching a clearing and following a 4x4 track for a ways there was another steep bit of bushwhacking to be done.
Finally we reached the top.. 10km and 6.5 hours of hiking today, 33km all told so far!
We noticed people at the hut, the first we'd met at this point. It was 3 women hiking the entire trail from Sarah Point to the North to Saltery Bay to the South! They'd came the same direction we did, and were taking a rest day before heading on to Elk Lake and beyond.
We dropped our packs and just vegged for a bit.
I got dinner started (it was 7pm abouts), and at this point noticed the rain barrels beside the cabin. This was a relief, as without them unless we really rationed ourselves I would have had to hike the 2km and 250' of elevation down to the last creek to re-up on water, which would not be fun.. So even with the dead horseflies and live mosquito larvae floating in them they were a welcome sight! Svetlana and the boys got our sleeping quarters organised in the hut in the meantime.