The Sunshine Coast Trail

We blasted off from work on Friday afternoon straight for a ferry to Gibsons, the landing point for the Sunshine Coast from the lower mainland. Ferries weren’t as busy as we imagined and we got the boat we hoped for. A quick stop for a bite was all we needed on the way to Earls Cove, the Northern point on the lower coast, where we would catch the perfectly timed “sunset cruise” ferry to Saltery Bay. We found our FSR and drove out to Lois Lake in the dark, arriving at an old logging camp and setting up for the night. It was mostly cloudy so not much night sky to be seen, but the glow of the aurora was visible on the horizon over the lake.

 

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Gliding into the sunset between Earls Cove and Saltery Bay.
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A little bit of unexpected Aurora glow from Lois Lake after finally arriving some time after dark.

 

In the morning we drove out and up towards Lewis Lake further into the network of FSR’s and lakes in the mountains behind Powell River. We repacked and set off Northbound on the Sunshine Coast trail heading from Lewis Lake to Tin Hat Mountain. The lower trail was all beautifully green, lush rainforest, typical of British Columbia. Ferns, creeks and waterfalls, moss, and many generations of fallen trees. We didn’t see a single person all the way, only a couple of dirtbikers on a road near the trail not far from where we started. After that, all the silence and tranquility you could ask for.

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Fallen logs across creeks form natural bridges
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Lush forests to pass through
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A fair amount of up involved.

 

After about 4 hrs and a drawn out alpine breakout that was mentally taxing, we arrived at the cabin near the summit. View explored viewpoints and then took care of dinner while chatting with the small number of other visitors up there who had come up from Fiddlehead landing on the other side of the mountain. There was NOT a rain barrel at the hut as had been reported online, so we had to ration water pretty savagely, including only making one meal and sharing it to save some drinking water for the descent the next day. Dehydration and tired legs wasn’t a fun combination, had to stretch as much as I could to minimise ache and tension.

 

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But after all the up, you arrive here.
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Lukla and I exploring the 360 views from the summit

 

Golden hour approached so I headed back up to the summit, a 5 minute jaunt up the hill from the hut. I watched the sun march across the landscape in patches as it poked through scattered clouds. A high layer of fluffy blotches had appeared from the North. Sunset might be a gem I thought to myself. I played around with various images and joked with Lukla who had followed me back up there. Tara appeared and joined me in time for an awe-inspiring sunset. It was the best one I had witnessed from a prime location for some time. I often find the best sunsets catch me when I am not in a position to shoot, or when I am actually out there awaiting the magic, the sunset ends up being a dud.

 

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Looking back over the hut from the summit as sunset approached
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… and then luckily we were handed these spell-binding moments of natural euphoria

 

Everyone headed to bed shortly after dark, but I stayed up waiting to see if the clouds which brought such magic  to the sunset would clear off and reveal the Milky Way above us. A couple of hikers had arrived right at dusk, apparently under-prepared for their trip, with one of them in a particularly surly mood even with complete strangers. Hanging around in the lower hut wasn’t much fun with little miss grumpy guts, so I went outside and did some more stretching while watching and waiting. The silence was invigorating. Eventually the clouds cleared enough to show what is always there. A large amount of light pollution is present from even the smallish towns below on the coast, but I still just reveled in the cool wind, while silently contemplating what’s “out there”.

 

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Despite the light pollution from several coastal towns, and with clouds eventually parted, the Milky Way appears.

 

Breakfast at sunrise was a treat, with many of the 30 lakes you can see from the summit covered in a layer of fog. After packing and taking in the last of the views, we saddled up and prepared for the descent. I was not feeling great, having had nowhere near the water intake I otherwise would have, and now carrying only about a quarter of the water I would have liked to have for the return trip. Lukla went nuts about 15 minutes down the trail, hackles raised and particularly disturbed by something. We didn’t see whatever it was, maybe she could just smell it from the previous evening. We made it down pretty well in the end. But quite hungry and pretty thirsty. A change of clothes, big drink and some pre-packed snacks were a welcome treat.

 

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Breakfast at sunrise, fog over many of the lakes
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More foggy lakes
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Watch your step

 

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Down in the forest the sun was still pushing its way through the canopy
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Waterfalls everywhere.

 

Though I would love to do a longer stretch of this trail or ideally do it end-to-end one day, time is always the factor. This overnight hike with stunning forest trails, knock-out alpine views and a great hut to shelter in was a highlight of our summer hiking trips. No doubt this place will continue to get busier and busier thanks to Instagram and people like me who won’t shut up about it, so get up there while you can and enjoy it in solitude, you won’t regret it!

 

We stopped at a small campsite on the lower coast on the way back and enjoyed dinner and a campfire under the stars before retiring for some much needed sleep.

 

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The Milky Way never fails to inspire me.

 

 

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