Oh the west coast weather... It will never bore you.
Saturday March 21st promised to be exciting, there were so many variables up in the air! What would the weather give us? Would we find snow and need snowshoes? Would the participants enjoy the hike through the groves of trees along the top of the San Juan Ridge? Oh my. The plan was to lead our group of 13 along the San Juan Ridge, hiking a portion of the Kludahk Trail; a section that I hiked for the first time in February 2015.
Total Distance: 11 km
Starting Elevation: 900 metres
Maximum Elevation: 1120 metres
Total Elevation Gain 650 metres
Total Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
After two quick rendezvous, one in Nanaimo and one in Ladysmith, 12 hikers were on their way to the final rendezvous, the Cold Shoulder Cafe in Jordan River. At the cafe we were joined by the 13th hiker, we also changed into our hiking gear, boots and rain gear, etc. As we were about to leave a minor crisis presented itself! An door lock was bumped, locking keys inside the vehicle. After some quick decisions making, we decided to rearrange the vehicles to accommodate all the hikers in four vehicles.
Beautiful Grove of Trees on the Kludahk Trail
We drove up the North Main FSR and parked at the side of the logging road. Rain was falling, though at times it was probably heavy snow, each of us dressed in our fabulous west coast attire and we hit the trail by 9:20. As was to be suspected, the first section of our route was very soggy. We stepped off the road and onto the trail. The organic composition of the ground did magnificent job of holding all the falling water, our feet were sucked into the mud and water as we tread along the well booted path.
We quickly trundled along the route, the weather was such that we didn't tarry at any place long. There were very few opportunities to enjoy the surrounding landscape, thanks to the fog lay like a blanket in all directions.
one of the many ponds on the San Juan Ridge
We made it to Madow Hut (km 4) at 10:45 am. Through the window, I could see the interior illuminated by the cabin's gas lamp. I gave out a little call of greeting and a small boy cautiously came to the door and cracked it open just enough to peer out. From his protected vantage he gave us a greeting and explained that he was there with his family. It makes me look forward to a time when Hemingway is old enough to come on this kind of trip, maybe we will stay in the hut one day. We didn't stop long, I didn't want to disturb their breakfast. Further the weather was still less than amazing.
A group of Island Mountain Ramblers in front of Meadow Hut
Normally when hiking, we take several breaks throughout the day. Today, though I asked the group if they wanted breaks, everyone was content to trudge on, eager to stay warm. It was rather chilly, even I wore my rain jacket and my single Michael-Jackson-Style North Face glove on, having left one back in the car--for safe keeping I suppose. I pointed out the various viewpoints as we walked but we toodled along the easy to follow trail, stopping not.
Because of our unrelenting cantor, we made it to Tower Hut in less than 2 hours, about 4.5 km from the vehicles. We arrived as another group was packing to leave, they allowed us to enter the cabin. A fire was already warming the cabin. The pleasant dry warmth of a wood fire filled the room while 16 people snuggled in. We enjoyed our meals by the cold light of the overcast day and took the opportunity to brew hot drinks on the gas stove.
As we were leaving, two new hikers arrived, Kludahk members. On my way out the door I deposited $10 in the donation box. It was a real treat to fire up the gas stove and sit in a dry environment to enjoy lunch on a day like this.
foggy, boggy overcast route, San Juan Ridge
The trip back was easy, though we were in no hurry. As we left Tower Hut , the first bits of blue sky peaked through the clouds. However, we wouldn't see the first instances of good weather until we were back at the car safe and sound by 4 pm.
We changed and loaded into our cars and headed back to the Cold Shoulder Café to deal with the locked vehicle and sort out some serious trouble with some hot chocolates, homemade treats and cappuccinos. Oh, and there is a happy ending to the locked keys, BCAA was activated! As we sat and enjoyed our hot drinks, the sun blazed through and graced us with great weather ... before it started to rain through the sunshine.
In summary, our weather of the day was... snow, slush, hail, rain, MORE rain, Lots of rain all at once and then not so much rain before the sun kicked in...and then sun and rain.