Explore BC: St. Mark's Summit // Howe Sound Crest Trail
While school has been out for several weeks, erratic weather and unfortunate health issues (I'm not impressed that I managed to catch a spring cold) have gotten in the way of our carefully-laid plans to explore more of our province. It seemed like all of the spectacularly warm, sunny days occurred only on the days when my friends and I were busy with work or other commitments.
At long last, our schedules aligned fortuitously with a non-rainy day and we were finally able to embark on our first hike of this spring/summer break (I can hardly believe that my last hike to Black Tusk was in early March). For my first hike with these two particular ladies, who I have dubbed my "Fit Fam" group, we decided to choose an "intermediate" level hike to start us off easy: St. Mark's Summit. This lovely North Shore hike, which runs along the 30-km-long Howe Sound Crest Trail, begins at the bottom of the Cypress Mountain downhill ski run.
Note: Please forgive the grainy quality of these iPhone photos-- I didn't bring my DSLR camera on this trip as there was a threat of rain and I didn't want to take any chances.
When we first arrived at the parking lot, we were a tad shocked by the cold mountain air and by generally creepy atmosphere of the area. Luckily, I was quite well insulated from the cold with thermal gear and a toque; however, my poor companions both realized that they had underestimated the colder mountain climate and were shivering whenever we made a stop. Lesson of the day: unless it's a very sunny and warm day, it's always best to wear more layers than you think you'll need-- it's better to be overly-warm and shedding layers than cold without any respite.
In terms of the creepiness, the usually busy Cypress Mountain was a veritable ghost-town; empty ski lift chairs lay on the ground, the lodge was empty except for a few quickly-glimpsed faces through the darkened windows, and there were only a sprinkling of vehicles in the parking lots. When I entered the nearest washrooms by myself, my friend Tia voiced her concern that I was in danger of being attacked by a washroom-lurking serial killer. Continuing in that vein, she noted that the area was the perfect setting for a horror movie and exclaimed that an employee, who was driving a cart towards us, was coming by to murder us. Granted, the employee looked mighty creepy as he or she was wearing a helmet that concealed his or her entire face.
Once we got start on the hike, however, we soon forgot our amusing anxieties and began to concentrate on the misty beauty of our surroundings. When hiking in the mountains on an overcast and misty day, the scenery takes on an ethereal quality that is most spectacular to behold. While I had no real complaints about the difficulty of the trail, the muddy areas were most irritating to navigate; my friends and I had several instances in which a foot got stuck in the mud-- not fun.
As it was a weekday morning, we were for the most part on our own; we only occasionally saw other small groups of hikers (mostly young females like us). I must admit that we were more than a little disturbed by a cacophony of strange animal sounds emanating from the forest-- there was one particularly persistent animal call that we put down as a bird's mating call. However, Tia's mother would later insist that they were bear mating calls! All I can say is that I'm happy that we encountered only small creatures in the woods.
After about two hours of hiking, chit-chatting, and dodging muddy puddles, we finally made our way to the peak of St. Mark's Summit. While the view was gorgeous, we were also happy to finally eat all of the yummy snacks that we had packed for ourselves. We even made 'friends' with a raven, who we nicknamed "Foodie," that was constantly eyeing our food. However, when we fed him a broccoli that had fallen on the ground, he didn't seem exceptionally happy.
It's easy to forget that snow exists when you live in warm Raincouver; however, it was most certainly existent when we hiked up to the higher elevations of the Howe Sound Crest Trail. Special thanks to the lovely Eva for modeling in the snow for this photo!
While the B.C. scenery was as spectacular as ever, my favourite part of this hike was spending quality time with these two wonderful girls. We talked about everything from pop culture to food to social issues; our chattiness surely kept us safe from any prowling critters and made the 4-and-a-bit-hour-long hike pass by in a flash. As well, since these two ladies are my regular companions to the gym and spin class, we are more than ready to next try hikes that have been designated as "difficult." In fact, we have made more exciting plans to try a particularly difficult hike in Coquitlam next week-- wish us luck!