They say it’s about the journey, not the destination. Very philosophical and all, but it’s still a bugger when you set out on a hike and don’t get to where you’re aiming.
Sunday was a lovely day here in BC. Despite losing an hour’s sleep to daylight saving, breakfast was had, the dog was fed, watered and walked, and we were all ready for the offsky pretty well on schedule.
We’ve been reasonably good at getting a hike in most weekends, and this time it was up to Mrs E. to pick the route. We have several books of local hikes and scrambles, and she picked one pretty much at random from Dawn Hanna’s “Best Hikes and Walks of Southwestern British Columbia”.
Today’s adventure was to be in the environs of Grouse Mountain, a favourite haunt where many pleasant hours have been previously spent. Mosquito Creek Cascades promised to be a reasonably leisurely hike – 8km in total with most of the ascent in the last 1km before the turnaround.
Things didn’t start very well with me missing the turning for Burnaby along the highway, and therefore forcing us to go right through the middle of Vancouver. Davie Street offered its usual collection of interest, and we were at the Lion’s Gate bridge before too long. Here I got a little worried because it seemed the entire North Shore was under a low lying blanket of cloud. Thankfully this turned out to be a narrow band over the water itself, and we were soon through to the North side and glorious views of the mountains.
The car-park at Grouse was quite empty, but it didn’t stop some bloke in a Tesla taking my parking spot, despite me clearly indicating my intent. Times must be hard with the lack of snow, because there was actually some chap checking parking tickets on the assembled vehicles. I’d never seen them doing that before.
The recent good weather has made the various routes up the Grouse (including the still officially closed Grind) appealing once more, and some previous community spirited individual had thoughtfully inserted a stick into the self-locking gate so it couldn’t. Self lock, I mean. The gate’s a complete joke, of course. It’s nominally there to prevent people attempting the Grind when it’s dangerous to do so, like after dark, or when there’s snow on the rocky trail. The cynic in me would also point out that it would encourage more people to pay to ride the SkyRide and ski/board at the top. The total lack of snow there though makes the continued closure of the Grind laughable. More to the point, there are many more trails starting here than just the boring though popular Grouse Grind.
Anyway, we started our adventure as per the book, by heading East along the BP trail. This vaguely contours the lower reaches of Grouse with a gentle ascent as it heads further East. As we continued, we passed over two tributaries of MacKay Creek, the second of which looked almost man-made. In a way, I guess it was, since the clear cuts of the past had removed much of the soil stability, so when the heavy rains of 1996 came, the soil was swept away right down to the bedrock, leaving an ugly scar allegedly visible from Vancouver.
A little later we met a few people coming from the opposite direction, and one pair of ladies had a huge panting Bernese Mountain Dog. Despite the women taking a lower trail, the dog approached us on the higher rail, huffing and puffing. The owner apologised for this mountain (of a) dog crowding our path, and the dog quite definitely and distinctly gave me an ice-hockey style shoulder check as it passed!
Pretty soon we came to a gravel path and needed to check the GPS as there were paths converging from all sides. We followed the BP trail down a bit of an old path, past a very West Coast house with an orange steel roof, and down to the creek. There is a substantial bridge over now, but apparently its predecessor was swept away in the 1996 floods. There’s a couple of large green water towers and we headed up the actual climb towards the cascades. We opted for the Cascade Trail, which is slightly to the East of The Old Grouse Mountain Highway. This was a pleasant steady climb, and is joined from the left by the “highway”. Only a couple of hundred metres further, the well marked and wide trail suddenly disappeared. Literally. The hillside looked like it had suffered some major slides. The path to here was following an old iron pipeline, and here it was suspended in the air, as the supporting ground had been washed away.
An alternate path had been marked by some intrepid predecessor with pink surveyor’s tape, and we gamely angled down towards Mosquito Creek itself. After about 100m though, it was pure bushwacking. We still had more than half a kilometre to go, but no clear route to follow. We opted to stop and eat by the creek and call it a day. It was a peaceful little spot, and we soaked in the silence. Right up to the point when we heard a family and dog crashing through the brush on the west bank of the creek. The trail there is supposedly closed now, but I guess it was less closed than the supposedly open trail we’d chosen!
After a pleasant break, we tried to retrace our steps to the maintained path, and noticed that in this direction someone had carved markers into the various fallen logs to try and permanently mark the path. Back up on the main path, we opted to take The Old Grouse Mountain Highway back down to the water towers.
This was definitely the steeper route of the two, and there were a couple of huge trees fallen across the path to make life even more interesting. Industrial archaeologists would be interested in the old water pipe exposed in places on the trail. It was used up until storm damage in the 1980s damaged the intake.
After we’d crossed back over the bridge we opted to take the powerline trail back to the Grouse car-park which is a very pleasant easy amble back.