Did you know Golden Larches are one of the only tree species to thrive above 2,000 meters? How about that the larches are one a few deciduous conifer trees? Or that that many Golden Larches are over 2,000 years old?
On October 3, a group of VOCers headed out to EC Manning Park to see the Golden Larches at Mount Frosty, along with an estimated 1500-2000 other people… Myself, along with four other VOCers, camped overnight. The trip was organized and led by Beth Roskilly, a UBC Forestry Ph.D. student researching larches.
I shared the morning drive with Kaylie Robinson and Ethan Heimler… and I can’t forget Buddy. Buddy didn’t have a mask but we let it slide. Buddy is Kaylie’s dog and is a golden lab/retriever mix. Despite my best efforts to get my car to arrive at the Mt Frosty trailhead ahead of the day-hikers, we arrived more than 30 minutes late… Let’s just say we spent too much time in Hope.
To my (somewhat) surprise, it was packed. We easily passed over 200 cars on our walk to the trailhead. The weather was super lovely – t-shirt weather and no mosquitos (the forbidden bird)!
The Mt. Frosty trail is well maintained, but reasonably narrow, which was a slight concern with COVID. I estimated we would hike at a passing rate of 600%. After passing 62 and getting passed by 8 (mostly trail runners), I stopped keeping track of the numbers. Just before we went through Frosty Campground, a man on his way down counted 992, 993, 994 and 42 out loud – we were the 992nd, 993rd, 994th people and 42nd dog that he had passed. Buddy got lots of compliments as he is super cute.
I bumped into my coworker Sampoorna multiple times on the trails. We leap-frogged each other the whole way up. I told my coworkers I was going to see the larches this weekend, but I didn’t think she would stalk me! Anyway, it was actually quite nice to see her in “live form” as I’d only seen her in video calls for the past 8 months.
We soon arrived at Frosty Camp and talked with VOC day hikers Devon Tremain, Alejandra Rodas, and Yuhao Tang. After struggling to fill up our water bottles in the skimpy Frosty Creek, we soon entered the larch meadows. Everywhere, there were people taking photos of the yellow trees. We also took our fair share.
We soon met up with VOC campers Miranda MacGillivary and Spencer Shields at the upper, unofficial campsite. Here, there were fire rings, a handful of groups setting up camp, and a much faster-flowing stream. Oh and a lovely view (but not as nice as where we ended up camping). Miranda and Spencer said that the ridge and summit of Mt. Frosty was not worth it as there was a big lineup for the summit. Ethan, Kaylie, and I were fine with that. With all the people, we just wanted to find a quieter place to camp. Other VOC campers Adelaide (Addie) Truman and James Trentos were out exploring an area near the summit and we weren’t expecting them back till dinner. I helped convince Miranda and Spencer to move their tents up from the packed Frosty Camp to the lovely meadows. I volunteered to help grab Addie and James’ gear so they could camp with us up in the larches.
Beth Roskilly, the trip organizer and wrangler of the day-trippers, met us at the upper camp. She shared some knowledge about the Golden Larches with us. She is very smart and her research is super cool!
Back at Frosty Camp, I met most of the day-trippers, many of whom I had only interacted with via Zoom call or email. In the few days leading up to the trip, I had helped Beth out with car logistics. It was many folk’s first VOC trip. After some faff-chatting, I said goodbye to the day-trippers and wished them smooth sailing down the busy trail. They seemed to have had a great day, but I don’t think anyone expected the trail to be this busy. Oh well! Many of them summitted Mt. Frosty earlier in the day.
I ended up doing unnecessary elevation training because Adi and James were right behind me on my way down! Oh well! I distracted them while they packed up camp and then carried nothing up. I helped by providing free entertainment - aka unsolicited talking. I learned of Miranda and Spencer’s epic sea kayaking trips (as guides and for fun) as well as Adi and James’ cross-Canada road trip.
At the top of the larches meadow, just southeast of the upper camp, we spread out and set up our respective bubbled tents for the evening. I really liked where I camped. Sorry, Ethan for obstructing your view. To be fair, you had almost 2 hours to pick your spot while I went down and up to Frosty Camp.
We enjoyed dinner on a cliff facing east. That night, I finally got on the Annie’s mac n cheese dinner train. On previous trips, I had tried something a bit more interested, but Annies just hits the spot so well and is so easy! Zero waste pro-trip: add 2 cups (500ml) water and noodles at the start. The pasta will absorb the water and you will end up with no or very little pasta water to drain!
Just after sunset, we saw the harvest moon rising up over the eastern mountain ridges. The moon was huge and orange, probably from the not-super-ideal air quality. I think the slight haze added to the beautiful colours of the sky.
I cozied up in my new (used, but new to me) sleeping bag. I was quite warm, especially with my hot Nalgene (thanks Cassandra Elphinstone for the pro-tip)! I originally had my fly off my tent, but when the haze obstructed the view of the stars and the wind started to howl, I wanted the comfort of having a physical barrier between me and the outside. I threw my fly on. At night, I got woken up a few times. What I thought was snow was really the sound of larch needles hitting my tent fly! Part of me wished it did snow a bit overnight – I think the larches would’ve been lovely with a dusting of snow!
At 7 am, my alarm went off and I quickly peeked under my tent fly. Holy buckets, it was gorgeous! I quickly tapped on Ethan and Kaylie/Buddy’s tent and convinced them to check out the sky. The colours were impeccable. I begged Ethan to take a few shots of me in my tent and new bag.
I put a stick in my mouth and played around with Buddy as he had a lot of energy in the morning. The group enjoyed breakfast together with another gorgeous view of the larches meadow.
Ethan, Kaylie, and I were planning on hiking up the ridge in the morning, but we decided against it when we realized we had faffed quite a bit taking down camp and had to get back to the city at a reasonable time.
We had a pretty smooth descent… except for the fact that there was an equal number of people going up for day-trips as the day before. We passed by VOCer John Wragg and his friends out for a day hike. We skipped filling up water at Frosty Creek. Buddy got more compliments. Kaylie saw another golden lab with a backpack and she really wanted to get Buddy one so he could carry his own shit (literally).
I had the pleasure of sitting in the backseat with Buddy the whole 2.5-hour ride home. Buddy is like a real-life stuffed animal. Buddy is great.
Overall, this was probably my most enjoyable hiking trip to-date as it was super lovely the whole time and I got to spend quality time with quality people and super soft doggo. It might be a while till my “bedroom window” will be beaten. Most of my VOC trips so far have been with people I was already friends with. It was really nice to meet new people and expand my VOC “bubble”. While it was frustrating having to pass so many day-hikers on the trail, I’m glad so many people got to experience the beautiful larches.
Thanks again, Beth, for organizing such an awesome trip and getting so many first-time VOCers out in the mountains!
Till next time,
- Melissa Bernstein
Enjoy some more photos from the day-trippers: