written by Roland Burton
photos by Paloma Gros and Cassandra Elphinstone
This wasn’t my trip. It was Paloma’s trip. When she proposed the trip, it sounded like I could get away from home for a whole week, as this was not a weekend trip. Paloma needed a car to make it work, so I could provide that. I put myself down as coming and left it up to Paloma to find enough people to make it work. I figured if it was just Paloma and me, the trip wouldn’t go because the ferries are expensive, and because we’d probably have bad group dynamics. But then Cassandra signed up and we had enough people. Though it was planned as a five day trip, Cassandra had a meeting in Vancouver at noon, so we finally started driving about half way through Monday.
The Plan was to take ferries to the Sunshine Coast Trail and hike some of the trail. The trail is over 150 km long and has about 20 free huts on it, so clearly we were only doing a sampler. The part of the trail we chose to do is the part where we could hike some trail and arrive back at the same car, called the Saltery Bay Loop. The highest point on the trail is Mt Troubridge, and we figured being VOC and all, that we’d better climb the 1300m up Mt Troubridge. So it got included in the loop.
Monday and the ferries: We arrived at the ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay around 1:30pm. The nice lady in the ticket booth extracted $80 from us and told us that we might not fit on this ferry. But that’s actually what you want to hear when getting on a ferry because it means that the ferry is about to leave real soon and you will probably be on it. After the ferry did its thing and took us to Langdale which is also called Gibsons, we got to drive for another 80 km through several villages trying not to get lost, and eventually we got to Earl’s Cove where we entertained ourselves haywiring the sole onto Paloma’s hiking boot. This wasn’t greatly successful but eventually the ferry took us to Saltery Bay. We were excited about getting to something on our itinerary, but less excited to walk around 6 km in the pouring rain to get to the Fairview Bay Hut. We tried to get closer to the hut with the Jeep instead. The maps don’t show the driving possibilities because the people who built the trails think that you should hike it all and not drive bits. We drove along logging roads and then hiked for a bit before arriving at the hut at a convenient time to prepare dinner and think about getting dry. The hut is at sea level so it is not heated. They had a fire ring outside and we could have stood around in the rain trying to make a fire if we had wanted to. Just as we were getting ready for bed a couple of German people arrived, really quite wet. They had been on the same ferry as us and had walked from the ferry terminal, which is what we were supposed to do. We gave ourselves points for driving closer to the hut.
Tuesday and Troubridge: We scampered up the trail to where we had left the jeep which took us half an hour, then spent almost an hour power-faffing and trying to decide what we’d need to bring up Mt Troubridge. It wasn’t raining; we even got some sunshine. The nice thing about car-camping is you can haul along all sorts of extra food, dry clothes and so on. I tried to convince the others that car-camping was great, but they were having none of it. The trail was well-marked and the trail-bed was OK to follow even without the trail markers, until we came to the snow. The trail, though well marked, doesn’t necessarily follow the shortest path to where you want to go, though it does get there eventually. Just because you are going downhill and south when you know your destination is uphill to the north, does not mean that you are lost or on the wrong trail or anything like that. By the time we got to the snow, Cassandra was breaking all the trail because she’s tough, while Paloma and I straggled behind. We got to one point where the snow was deep and there was a pile of windfall to get past and we had a little conversation with the GPS because we weren’t sure we were tough enough, but it claimed we were making progress so we continued.
Eventually we arrived at the emergency shelter, which isn’t the cabin at all but we had it all to ourselves. It is insulated but not heated, and it is on top of Troubridge, so it was good enough. There seemed to be a couple of metres of snow so getting into the shelter was kind of special. For some reason known only to the builders of the shelter, the door opens outwards so if it snows there is a very real possibility of getting trapped in the shelter. Cassandra decided to leap into the hole in front of the shelter to get the shovel from the hut but grabbed the sheet metal roof as she went down. This resulted in cuts on four of her fingers and a certain amount of blood letting. Anyway, we had a nice sunset and a nice night and the next morning we had a full-on blizzard.
Wednesday and Rainy Day Hut: No decisions were required until we got to lower elevation where it was raining hard instead of snowing. There was a shortcut to the Rainy Day Hut and we briefly considered dropping our packs there and then hiking down to the Jeep for more food but the idea of driving around in the Jeep with the heater on seemed like a better alternative. By then we were all pretty convinced that car camping was a good thing, what with the heater and all. We talked about hot springs and how nice and warm they are, but by then we didn’t really have enough time to get back to the mainland and do the drive to hot springs. I tried to start a motel mutiny but we realized that the motel would get us warm and even warm showers, but it wouldn’t deal with our huge pile of steaming wet clothes. So we decided that maybe if we read the map right, we could drive nearly to the Rainy Day Hut, bring Cassandra’s tent, and put it up in the Hut. This was a good move because the downstairs part of the Hut had no walls, sort of an extreme case of having no heater. By the time we had explored several wrong roads and found the correct road, after successfully dodging two loaded logging trucks, we were about half dry. We cooked up our macaroni and cheese and went to bed. We slept in.
Thursday Skookumchuk Rapids and more ferries: First thing, Paloma and Cassandra wandered down to Rainy Day Lake muttering about going swimming, but they quickly decided that the lake was COLD, and they’d settle for washing the dishes. When I got down to the lake, Paloma had accidentally launched Cassandra’s cooking pot and it was drifting out towards the middle of the lake. So Cassandra went swimming after all, though Paloma and I figured that she would die in the cold water. She said it made her feel clean.
We packed up and we were the last car on the ferry to Earl’s Cove, where the nice lady in the ticket booth extracted $80 from us. We were apparently somewhat relieved to be going home and Paloma and I did a short impromptu chicken dance on the ferry. Next stop was Skookumchuk, which has nothing to do with hot springs. A lot of tidal water goes through a narrows there and if you walk about 4 km, you get to see it. It was worth the walk. Then on the drive to Langdale I saw some of the most intense rain I have ever seen, but we were in the Jeep, so, whatever. The ferry eventually did its thing, we converted Cassandra into a foot passenger because she still had to ride another ferry to Nanaimo. Paloma and I completed the drive to Vancouver without falling asleep.
Summary: The Sunshine Coast is obviously a name invented by some real estate agent trying to sell property. I’m sure it’s sunny up there sometimes. There’s lots of trails and they mostly go all over the place and intertwine among abandoned logging roads, which I’d sooner drive, thankew. As for our trip, we had lots of laughs and giggles and enjoyed ourselves and each other.