Hiking Guide: E.C. Manning Park
Long weekend adventures are best enjoyed without the crowds – unless you’re into having strangers pushing the boundaries of your personal space ,while waving selfie sticks dangerously close to your head (you laugh, but it’s happened). It’s all fun and games until someone’s iPhone gets tossed down a cliff out of pure rage.
As for me, I like to getaway and get back to nature sans crowds.
There is something so refreshing about being comfortably lost in the mountains. I take pleasure in waking up as the sun rises, and being in bed well before 9 PM - the copious amounts of fresh air and averaging 17km a day with a 50lb backpack will do that to a girl. I love listening to the sounds of the trees, seeing as far as the eye can see without any buildings in sight and eating as much trail mix as I can stomach. I am only mildly frightened to death when I hear what sounds like an animal committing a felony outside my tent at some ungodly hour… probably 11 PM if I’m honest.
Truth be told, if I didn’t escape for a getaway on a long weekend then come Tuesday I would be one of two things: a) I would have another 7 half-finished projects on my already long list of ‘things to do’ or b) Netflix would be calling me demanding I pay more money a month because I just broke the number of movies watched in a four day time span. It’s a coin toss, really.
Windy Joe Trail/Lookout
We started our three-day trek at the parking lot for Windy Joe. It was only thanks to the lady at the parks office that I started here, and not the extra 10kms away in a snow-filled lot. We moaned as we tossed our bags on, even Hunter (my dog) closed his eyes lids in a slightly evil fashion when I fastened his doggy pack on him, as if to say, ‘How am I going to chase squirrels all day with this food on my back, woman?’ Don’t ask, but my opinion of my dogs opinion of me is pretty bleak. The trail was easy for the first hour, until all of a sudden it wasn’t. We started climbing and it wasn’t until we got close to the cut off for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that I started to question what we had gotten ourselves into. Thankfully it was at this moment that a young couple heading down told us of the amazing views that lay ahead if we go up to the emergency cabin (a detour, but only a short one). “It’s only another fifteen minutes – but it’s worth it.” Well, if I was ever going to trust two lovely strangers, today may as well be the day…
Forty-five minutes later and I was about to toss my backpack to the side, and run down after those jerks to tell them how unkind it was to lie to people carrying a very larger, rather heavy backpack going straight up a mountainside. But it was Canada’s Day, and in the spirit of not running I decided against it. Another fifteen minutes later and I nearly crawled under the picnic table at the top and died.
The view wasn’t horrible, and it offered a nice place to rest before continuing the remaining 8km that day. Lesson learnt: never trust people hiking down with smaller packs than you.
Pacific Crest Trail – to the border and back
After lunch, we put our heads down and picked up the pace. We had to make it the junction for the PCT, and then some if we were going to camp at the designated campsite.
This section of the trail wasn’t my favourite, but we both agreed that while it may not have been enjoyable, the reward at the end was something truly unique.
Just past our campsite lay an important crossing to any of the poor souls who hike the PCT from Mexico to Canada. It’s the final border crossing, and the last 13 of the 4,265km hike. Having crossed the border several times, this was the first time on foot. The monument stood proud and the logbook was filled with inspiring comments of those who were about to finish “the best trail on Earth”. It was incredible to see the 40ft gap of trees spanning miles and miles up the rolling hill side- something we saw even more predominantly the next day on our hike up.
We spent the night perched by the river, and in true Canadian fashion we enjoyed a shot of Fireball before retiring to our tent.
Frosty Mountain Summit
The next day our climb continued.
We hiked back out the PCT to the junction, and up towards the Frosty Mountain Summit. It was significantly hotter out today, and water was in short supply – something I hadn’t worried about previously on other hikes, given how lucky we are in BC to always have a stream or dripping glacier within an arms reach. After the first few hours, our views became increasingly beautiful, and it made the trek a little easier to push through.
It was incredible to spot some of the natural beauty that lies within E.C. Manning, with plenty of wildflowers, and have it contrasted with some of the horrors that once swept the park as we crossed through an old forest fire grounds.
Reaching the top of Mt. Frosty was a sight for sore eyes – and for once I am happy to say I actually used them to take it all in. This could explain my lack of photos from the summit, but for once I am okay with that. Instead, my camera at this time became useful to someone I never expected to: my boyfriend. He swore he saw something run across the path where we were about to go, so it was now doubling as a pair of binoculars. Of which I immediately regretted giving to him because within seconds he was now convinced this blurry blob he had captured was in fact not a blob at all, but a cougar. I protested that it wasn’t and stated that he was being ridiculous, but as the time went on his nervousness was now causing me to second-guess myself. It could be a cougar; I mean, it looks white from where I am standing, but we were in the mountains after all. And if it was a cougar, what were we going to do? We can’t just turn around. We can’t camp where we are because there is no flat spot in sight (other than just past this cougar). We have Hunter, and there is no way a cougar is going to keep its distance with my dog appearing as a moving roast beef with legs.
So we waited.
We waited for this couple to start coming down at the same time as us – there’s power in numbers, right? We started chatting to them, and nonchalantly asked if they had seen anything unusual on their way up that would be reason for concern on the way down. “Not really,” he said “Other than someone telling us to watch out for the grumpy goat.” I nearly burst out in laughter and then shot Jonny an, ‘I-told-you-it-wasn’t-a-cougar’ smirk. Of course it was a goat, it was white and the size of a cow – all details that Jonny had blatantly ignored in his convinced-cougar-panic.
Next thing we know, this goat/cougar jumped up from its snooze, ran across a glacier and hopped ever so agilely onto a small rock ledge. I guess that answers the question of who was afraid of whom more.
We pitched our tent on the mountain side that night, and didn’t have any shots of Fireball – the river I used as my fridge the night before had claimed it as its own somewhere between burying it in the sand to stay put, and awaking the next morning.
We woke up at 6am to get an early start – I’ll be damned if being in the mountains all weekend is going to get me stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way home! We must have made it down in record time, because we even had time for a swim to cool down before our drive home.