I was ready to do an overnight backpack up this steep trail but I still had some lingering doubts since my last hike was a week ago although I've tried to keep up my exercise at home but I was wondering if the leg exercise was enough to condition myself. It's also been two weeks since I hiked to the plateau of tarns and there was lots of snow at that time. I hoped that most of it melted.
I had an early start (6:30 am) and took my time. The morning wasn't exactly warm but it wasn't long before I started to over-heat. I took a short break at the first lookout then continued up to the pond. I didn't bother filtering water since I planned to reach the plateau where the tarns are located. At the steep talus slope of loose rocks I saw deer prints leading up. They more or less followed the switchbacks of the trail. This is one of the worst places of the trail either going up or down. Once at the top, it takes about 20 minutes to reach the plateau of tarns. A lot of snow had already melted but there are still large patches covering the route up to the ridge. I only managed to catch glimpses of the trail in places amongst all the snow but it was enough to keep me on track. With the huge snow-patches which lay about, my worn-out boots were leaking a bit.
It was good to see the snow-covered mountains again. I decided to pitch my tent lower down near where the trail passes; there is only one flat spot where I had camped before and this spot gives good views of the mountain ridge and Buttle Lake below. There is a cold pool of water, down a little ways, fed by a large snow-patch.
I ate lunch then hung my food bag in the same area as previous trips. One thin dead and bleached tree trunk which looks like a branch was bent over too low to be of any use. I had used that on numerous occasions but I think the snow must have taken its toll on it so there remained only one other bent tree. It will only be a matter of time before this one goes. I tied one end of the rope to a rock and it took about 5 tries before I got the rope over the branch. I didn't want to throw it too hard as there was a chance that the momentum would cause the rope to wrap around the branch a few times and that would make it impossible to retrieve. The rock wasn't the heaviest therefore it didn't fall low enough and appeared to be stuck at a certain height. I managed to grab it after a couple of jumps. Lucky the snow provided some height.
Hanging my food bag is such as great chore. Easier to hang my food over a cliff but there wasn't any close by which has a sheer drop. Note the strong wind drowns out my voice.
Since I had some perishable food for dinner, I temporarily stored the bag against the snow and wasn't worried since the food was in an odor proof inner bag. I should have dug a hole and buried my food but the snow is compact and hard to dig down.
There was a lot of cloud hanging around the mountains along Buttle Lake while the sky was clear over the ocean in the distance. I wasn't sure if it was going to rain later so I spent the time setting up my tent by first laying down the plastic ground sheet to protect the floor from sharp rocks. One advantage of a free standing tent is that it does not rely on pegs to erect it however the pegs do secure the tent and prevent it from being blown away in strong wind. The ground was quite hard so I only managed to get in two pegs. Guy lines which stretch the tent to make it roomier and open up the vents had to be secured by heavy rocks instead of pegs. This proved to be invaluable when the wind picked up as the tent was held quite securely in place.
Setting up my tent in about 4 minutes. It actually takes me a lot sooner but nothing goes smooth when I'm filming myself.
Relaxing after setting up my tent
180 degree fish-eye shot
I had my vacuumed packed dinner already to eat so I didn't have to bother cooking. When I went to get my food bag from a different direction something unusual caught my eye down in the valley near the base of the mountains. I couldn't believe that I was looking a two fresh logging cuts. The logging company must have built a road from the coast all in the way in and logged the mountainside right near the border of Strathcona Park. How disgusting. Now it makes it more difficult to take photos in that direction with such ugly logging scars. They must be getting desperate and running out of places to log.
Ugly logging scars. They are more visible from another direction and an eye sore.
The hot sun spent most of the time hidden behind the clouds and the wind was chilly. I spent most of the time finding shelter from the wind and tried to relax but there seems to be ants everywhere. Whenever I move a short distance from where I originally rested, I see them crawling towards me. I even got bitten a couple of times.
When I was kneeling down and resting, all of a sudden I heard the sound of a bird zip by me and brush my shoulder at the same time. Was that a bird attack? First time that something like this had ever happened.
This alpine tarn is mostly frozen over.
When evening came I headed into the tent at 8 pm. One advantage of being up high is that it remains light for a longer period. In the valley below, I see Ralph River campground is caught in the shadow of the tall mountains and it looks dark compared to where I am.
The wind was gusty at times but the tent was pretty cozy; at least the circulation of air was good. This was one of the few times where I wasn't that interested in waiting for a photographic opportunity for sunset. I felt quite tired and the wind was cold so I wore 3 layers of upper layers plus a down vest and long johns inside my sleeping bag. Somewhere around 9:45 pm, I peaked outside and saw the red sky so I grabbed my camera and tripod. It was hard to get a good shot because the wind was blowing the trees and the clouds weren't in the right position.
The light started fading around 10:15 pm so up until that time, it was possible to read. Trying to get to sleep was a bit difficult since the wind came in strong gusts and rattled the tent fly. The wind would eventually die out sometime in the early morning. Somewhere around 3 am, I saw an almost half-moon rising up behind the mountain ridge. It was quite neat to see and nice to have the moon light up the landscape somewhat.
I was mostly awake around 4:30 am and only got out when I saw some clouds turning pink from sunrise. I scampered about trying to find a good vantage point to photograph. It was tiring enough hiking up then down and back up to a high point to photograph in different directions. The clouds were nice to photograph but the color didn't last long. There is a small window of opportunity for sunrise shots before it's all over.
Looking out towards the ocean at the east coast at 5 am with a nice sunrise happening
I filtered water in the morning light and took my time packing up. The morning light was a little slow to rise over the mountains at 6 am but it produced some nice lighting on the mountains across the way.
The hike down to the plateau of small tarns with huge piles of snow made it difficult to follow the established trail but it is easy to navigate in the general direction of where the tarns are located. I wandered about taking reflections of the clouds. There was an interesting cloud formation reflecting on the calm surface of the water and it drifted slowly north but I took a photo at the right moment before it disappeared. With some dark clouds in the sky, I thought it was going to shower. It was warm enough without the sun and that was due in part to the lack of wind.
Down in the forest, I bumped into a solo hiker doing the Mt. Washington crossover. I warned him about the huge snow-patches and that a large portion of the trail would be under snow since he told me he wasn't familiar with the area.
I enjoy hiking the same trails because of familiarity with the area, differing experiences and photographic opportunities. No two outings to the same place are the same and even if the landscape remains the same, varying environmental conditions changes the appearance of the area. On this trip sunrise and sunset wasn't so special however the clouds sure played an interesting role in adding drama to the scene.