Golden Ears Backcountry by City Bus

By Benjamin Massey · May 13th, 2019 · No comments

I spend a night or so a year in the backcountry of Golden Ears Provincial Park. British Columbia’s Lower Mainland knows all about Golden Ears; the vehicle-accessible campgrounds sell out most nice weekends, day use areas resound with visitors, and the official trails are well-trafficked almost for the length of the 150,000-acre park. It is a huge place that draws a huge number of people.

As well it should. This park inspires awe. Forest, subalpine lakes, haunting valleys, beautiful creeks, and mountain views. The only thing missing is solitude, which admittedly is important. Yet the backcountry campsites are gems which, while hardly hidden, are less well-known than they should be. A feature of these trips is people who ask “can you really camp back here?” Yes, and most affordably; there are a number of BC Parks-approved sites and the permit runs $5 per night.

With a car the backcountry sites at Viewpoint Beach are accessible even to parties of Cub Scouts, and Alder Flats is not so far that you can’t get bring a two-four of beer. Without a car, Golden Ears Park becomes a proper trek. In 2019 ParkBus will drive you to the Gold Creek parking lot, the jumping-off point for the backcountry, for $49 return1. Better than a cab, but not cheap, and the ParkBus only operates on Saturdays meaning that if you want to camp you’ll need to make your own way in or out.

(more…)

Are You Not Entertained on Coliseum Mountain?

By Benjamin Massey · August 21st, 2018 · No comments

It feels like Vancouver has two types of hikers. There are those who put on Crocs and wander around a lake on a path that might as well be paved, go up a flight of stairs, pat their fat old dog, and say “that was a good hike.” Then there are the people who voyage into places shown on the map only as “Bad Idea,” dropping sentences like “after a brisk fourteen miles through waist-deep poison ivy I ascended the cliff to Mount Hopeless and ate an entire box of After Eights.” The first group writes tour guides and fills up buses, the second group writes trip reports and fills up message boards. Damn the lot of ’em.

What about the rest of us, the normies? The people who don’t mind being a little sore the next morning but react to the word “bushwhack” like that fat old dog reacts to “vet”? There are plenty of us, as you will swiftly verify by going outside and checking. But our stories are lost, not impressive enough for the survivormen and too try-hard to show to the weekend stroller.

Today I choose to defy convention. On a sunny Sunday in July I took my first shot at Coliseum Mountain, in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park on Vancouver’s North Shore. Lynn Headwaters is one of my favourite places in the world. It has trails for every experience level: ones you can wheelchair down, ones with a bit of a climb and some trees, ones which tax all but the very fit, and routes boasting mountain traverses and alpine challenges that the park would not dare to advertise, for fear of great reeking heaps of dead tourists. If you like tourists, head a little south into Lynn Canyon and get booty-shorts tight with people taking iPad selfies on a suspension bridge that’s more biomass than structure. If you like solitude, Lynn Headwaters will provide it even on weekend afternoons. There are good connections to other trails and even the bus. It is a little patch of joy.

Coliseum Mountain is, with the justly-famous Hanes Valley trail and the justly-ignored Lynn Lake trek, one of the three hikes the park considers very difficult. Though unofficial trails provide a greater challenge, you have to seek them out; Coliseum is certainly tough enough to be getting on with. At least for a tubby guy in 27-degree weather carrying a heavy day pack full of crackers. It is a long way horizontally, and a long way vertically: more of either than I had ever hiked in a day before. But is it worth it?

Oh heavens yes.

(more…)