Hiking from Paradise Meadows to Wood Mountain

Early this summer I hiked from Paradise meadows (Mt Washington) to Wood mountain (Old Forbidden ski area), this was a trip inspired last year when doing another hiking trip I saw a sign indicating a trail over to Mt Becher which previously I had only been to in the winter. The hike starts off walking though Paradise meadows out towards Kwai lake.

_D8C7318_webEasy walking along the boardwalks through Paradise Meadows

Stopping for lunch always somehow sends out a silent signal to let all the grey jays (whiskey jacks) in the area to flock to you. This time there where a number of juvenile birds that  seemed not only hound us for food but also the parents.

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Once you are nearly at Kwai lake the trail gets a bit more adventurous, this is where you turn off of the established trails in the core area of Strathcona park and start to head towards our camp for the night at McKenzie lake. While the trail was clearly not traveled all that much it was still easy to follow despite the small snow patches. Even though the trail was clearly not maintained anymore it was still easy walking through a mixture of sub-alpine forests, meadows and past a number of streams, tarns and lakes.

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Before arriving at the McKenzie lake campground there was a real treat as we had to walk through a swampy meadow that had a number of wildflowers out in bloom which added a lovely splash of colour since the weather was rather dull.

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The campsite we stayed at is located on McKenzie lake but Douglas lake is only a short walk away and looked to have spots for a few tents. We had a bit of a cool wind coming off of the lake and seemed like Douglas lake would have been more sheltered from the wind but since we had already setup at McKenzie lake we stayed there.

Both of the lakes where bigger than I expected and similarly beautiful to other alpine lakes I had visited in the region.

_D8C7552_webLooking out over McKenzie lake from camp.

_D8C7537_crop_webLooking down McKenzie lake to the further point from camp.

Although the weather had not been ideal on the first day there had only been some minor rain but starting early on day 2 that seemed to change. A rain storm soon settled in for most of the day as we hiked back to the car we had left at the Wood Mountain parking lot. Before leaving camp I spend a little big exploring and taking in some of the sights and scenes around the lake.

_D8C7582_webLooking out from camp while waiting for the rain to hopefully let up

_D8C7521_webA nice cluster of Veratrum viride near Douglas lake.

Hiking out of McKenzie lake was one of the highlights of the trip as we enjoyed a brief (but welcome!) period of sunshine while we hiked through more of the meadow we had to hike into the camp site the previous afternoon. It did require some careful navigation and a leap or two to navigate some of the swampier areas.

_D8C7606_webKyle demonstrating his excellent sherpa skills while helping carry bags across one of the trickier crossings.

The remainder of the hike was done in rather poor weather conditions which resulted in a real lack of photos although the scenery certainly did not disappoint. After leaving the meadows outside of camp we quickly got into old growth forest that continued until we reached the old ski area. Hiking down the Mt. Becher trail was certainly interesting since I had previously only done it in the winter.

This was a wonderful one night hike that I would not hesitate to do again, I think the biggest downside to this is the requirement to juggle cars as you need to leave one at each trail head but in reality the drive between them is not that long. The first day was a little long (~16km) but the hiking was easy and mostly flat, the 2nd day was shorter in distance but did involve more up and downs until you reach the main Mt. Becher trail at which point is is pretty much all downhill until you reach the parking lot.

Here is a map to give an idea of the route and distances involved, the total distance covered was just over 27km (~16km on day 1 and ~11.5km on day 2)

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Additional information:

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Carmanah Valley

Carmanah Valley has always felt like a bit of a magical place to me, where else can you walk among giant trees that have been standing for several hundred or even a millennium. Just trying to think back to what was going on in the world when those trees had started growing is a fascinating experience. The sad truth when it comes to this is that these trees and habitat are extremely rare. There is less than 2% of this type of old growth habitat still left in BC, and the rough and bumpy road required to access this park winds through the swathes of clear cuts that demonstrate the immense scale of the forest industry.

While there is not much of this habitat left we are lucky to have what we do have as it is truly specular. Spending time amount these living giants is not something that can easily be described and is best experienced for oneself if at all possible. Other than access being a little tricky due to the fact you are required to travel on rough logging roads for about 2.5 hours (one way) to gain access to the park. Once reached the park offers easy walking and lovely camping if desired with some of the most spectacular views I have experienced on Vancouver Island.

_D8C6644_webThe Heaven Tree

While there is a trail much of it is no longer maintained and some of the boardwalks and wooden structures are starting to show the side effects of being located in a rainforest.

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One of the more famous attractions of the park is the “three sisters”, a trio of huge sitka spruces arranged in a triangle with a platform that allows for visitors to gain a unique perspective of these huge trees.

_D8C6592_webLooking up between the “three sisters”

If you are planning a visit there are some great camping opportunities if you are will to hike down to the gravel bar that is near the three sisters. What more can you ask for, camping among ancient giants next to a lovely river.

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Carmanah is a unique jewel and will leave a lasting impression on visitors, if you are able to make the trip out that way you will not be disappointed. The only downside is that after seeing these giant trees “normal” trees just don’t have the same impact they once did.

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Winter Camping

When you tell someone you are going to go winter camping you tend to get a bit of a strange look in return. Winter camping while sounding daunting can make for a some stunning scenes if you are prepared for the conditions. A few weeks ago I headed up Mt. Becher in Strathcona Provincial park by first hiking past the old Wood Mountain Ski resort which is always a bit of a strange experience. This is a trip I have done before but this year mother nature really wanted to supply the real winter experience. The first 2 days consisted of heavy snow but we did get a very brief break in the weather which teased the views you can get.

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On the day we left we where rewarded with some better weather that allowed for some spectacular views of the Comox valley and the snow covered trees from the previous few days of snow.

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Sleeping accommodations can vary, while the most obvious solution would be a tent with snow you can use it to make a shelter, in this case a snow cave which are surprisingly warm.

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The view from my tent was hard to complain about…

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And the descent back home through a winter wonderland.  _D8C4607_web

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Fog

This winter was a little strange, it was much drier than usual and strangely warm. What this did mean is it seemed like there was a number of days when everything was covered in a thick blanket of fog. This made for some unique opportunities to put a new spin on some locations I have visited in the past to get some new photos.

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Favourites From 2013

2013 has been a good year for photo opportunities, I got to do a number of hikes all over Vancouver Island, spend 3 weeks in Iceland and even a sailing trip up the Princess Louisa Inlet. All these amazing opportunities generated a number of photos that I enjoy. The following is a selection of a few of my favourites from the past year in no particular order. I am hoping that I will have more opportunities in the upcoming year as I did this year. Thanks to everyone out there who helped make these possible.

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