Mountain Lake Hut Thanksgiving, Again

The Vitals

Date: October 7-8, 2017

Location: Furry Creek/Brittania Beach, BC

Partners: Brittany and Andre

Distance: ~24 km biked, ~16 km hiked

Time: Two easy days

Photos: Brittany and Greg

GPS Tracks: see below

The Trip

Similar to last year, there isn’t much going on around Thanksgiving and the weather can be pretty iffy. Andre has lived in BC for less than a year and I was talking to him about this great hut that sees very little traffic, but also how that may change given that it is featured in Marc Bourdon’s new “Squamish Hiking” guidebook. Even if it puts the idea in more people’s heads, the locked gate at the highway still means a long trip if you don’t have a suitable bike.

Logging is active in the area again at this time (Black Mountain Logging). A security guard of sorts was parked down at the yellow gate directly on the highway and the gate was open but he told us we couldn’t drive in. We weren’t planning on it anyway, so we hopped on our bikes and started up the steepest section of road. This meant we soon hopped off our bikes, and then back on, and repeat until the grade gets a bit easier a few kilometers in.

About 3 km or so up the road we were stopped by the logging. A helicopter would disappear over the ridge to the north and less than two minutes later it was back dropping a load of trees directly on the road. A ground crew was busy stacking the wood with some big machinery and it was a dangerous place for us to be. While the crew started to talk about whether they could let us through, the helicopter radioed to say it was going to be down for 20 minutes. With that being the case, the crew didn’t see a problem with us carrying our bikes over the logs to the far side of the work site and continuing on once we reassured them we were travelling far from their logging area.

Our goal with the Sky Pilot group in the background.

Even though I had put our tracks from last year on my gps, and that we had been there before, I still took us on a scenic detour visible in the GPS tracks. The creeks were running a bit lower this year so we managed to cross the more major creek (Cyrtina Creek, I think) that marks the end of driving territory. In fact, there was one vehicle parked here and some evidence of very recent trailwork suggests it was a Good Samaritan with a key to the gate. I’m not sure how they passed the logging but maybe they clear the road of fallen trees by the end of the day.

The ensuing hike through the wet bushes and light rain ensured we were sopping wet by the time we entered the subalpine at Windy Lake. We didn’t stop for long on the hike since the drizzle was changing to light snow and we were quite cold. Once at the hut, Andre and I had difficulty operating our hands but I think Brittany was in a bit better shape.

Making some tea by candlelight in the dark afternoon.

We changed clothes and set up our bed stuff before spending a little time looking over the log book. Since our entry the prior Thanksgiving, I counted only 23 new people mentioned in the book. We also saw an entry by a woman who said that they were on a memorial trip for her late brother in which she mentions that he and their father used to come to the hut with some frequency. By flipping back through the pages we found numerous entries by the father and one written by the brother himself. It was a moment that gave us pause.

The weather breaks a bit allowing us to cook outside.

By the time we were ready for dinner the weather had cleared up appreciably so we went outside to cook. Brittany had packed instant mashed potatoes and stuffing in addition to a main course (jambalaya) and a dessert (apple crumble) and nothing went to waste. Afterward we played a few games of cribbage and listened to music.

Much brighter in the morning.

The morning was much brighter and the nearby ponds had actually frozen a bit thicker than expected. I had to hit the ice pretty hard with a bottle to fill up our containers for breakfast and the hike out. Since it was cloudless and windless, we hung up our wet stuff from the previous day in the sun while we cooked breakfast and chatted in front of the hut. Eventually we swept out the hut, packed up the benches, closed the shutters, and bravely put on our wet boots.

Ice forming on some of the smaller ponds.

The hike out was much nicer with a short lunch stop above Windy Lake before continuing down. The car at the end of the driveable road was gone but the logging was still active. This time the helicopter wasn’t going down anytime soon so we had to run with our backpacks on and carrying our bikes as we jumped over the dropped payload in the prop wash from the helicopter. A fast coast downhill and we were at the yellow gate at the highway and ready to head home.