Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thunder Mountain Lakes

Summer weekends always seem to fill up with road trips and family things and Saltspring Island and house projects and work stuff, so getting away for a long weekend to go backpacking never happens. But less than a week after getting back from Saltspring, I realized that it might actually work. The forecast was pretty good - cool and overcast on Friday (rare this summer) and then clear and not too hot on Saturday and Sunday. The only mystery was what direction the smoke from the Okanagan fires would drift.

I planned this hike two falls ago, but an early October snowstorm blanketed the Cascades and I headed for Vancouver Island (October 2013) instead. So this was my first overnight in the mountains since D and I hiked into Tuck and Robin Lakes (August 2011) four years ago.

From Nimbus Peak

Mt. Stuart
Thunder Mountain Lakes are on the east side of the Cascade crest, a short distance south of Trap Pass, and about a six mile hike in and up from Tunnel Creek on Route 2. Although it lies only a mile or so off of the Pacific CrestTrail, it gets little attention, partly because there isn't a formal trail and it's probably not a great destination for casual hikers - particularly if you had to find your route back out in poor conditions.

The cool weather Friday made the hike in much more pleasant than it might have been on a sunny afternoon. The side trail from Trap Pass was relatively easy to find, although route finding through the talus was tricky (again, might be a problem if trying to hike back out in fog or snow). I set up camp above the north end of the lake around 3 PM and had the whole basin to myself until two guys arrived at 7:30.

Friday night was cold and windy - or at least colder than I'd come prepared for - so I spent a less than comfortable night wishing I'd brought a warmer bag. But Saturday morning the sun came up with perfectly clear skies - not counting a brown smoke layer at lower elevations far off to both the east and west.

I spent the first part of Saturday climbing the peak immediately north of the lake (Nimbus Peak, I think), then finding a way up the peak on the south side of the lake (apparently Thunder Mountain itself is another bump south). I was back in the campsite trying to rig a sun shade by the time the smoke started wafting back in.  By sunset, it was apocalyptic, with a yellowish brown haze blocking all but the closest peaks. Four other people showed up by evening, but all camped down near the lake, leaving me some privacy. But it's amazing how well voices carry in a rocky landscape like this.

I got up early Sunday, packed, and was on the trail out by 7:30. The smoke was thick all the way out. I reached the trailhead by 11 and had lunch and texted M from the Sultan McDonalds.  I was back in Seattle a little after 1:00 - where the smoke was even worse than in the mountains.

Hiking out on Sunday morning

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Ganges, as the only significant town on Saltspring, is a natural hub. From our place at St. Mary Lake, we need to drive through Ganges to get to the south end of the island. It's only about a ten minute drive from the lake - rush hour or not. It's the only place to get groceries and pretty much the best place for good coffee and good WiFi (increasingly important, even when pretending to be off the grid). Of course, it's where we often go to eat, whether it's Alberta Beef at Auntie Pesto's or fish tacos at the food cart.

We get our dose of the Saturday Market at both ends of our week. When we arrive, we swing through briefly, knowing we'll have more time a week later before heading for the ferry.

This year, I enjoyed several early mornings at Cafe Talia, which was a little quieter and less trafficked than the usual options (Salt Spring Roasters and TJ Beans). I was joined on a couple days by Bacchus, who was pretty much the same color as the foam on my latte and liked the idea of climbing on my lap and sitting on my iPad.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Yeo Point

I try to find at least a few new places on Salt Spring to visit every year. This year I got to Yeo Point, at the north end of Ruckle Park. You can hike in from the main entrance to the park, but there is also a wonderful little trail from Meyer Road. Someone has invested a lot of time into creating a garden of strange creatures and rock sculptures along the way - tree trunks with eyes, animals built of rock and wood, dragons, and a miscellany of other features (many of which I suspect I walked right past without knowing).

Yeo Point is a small rocky headland from which you can see Ganges way up the harbor to the north and the Swartz Bay ferry traffic passing in the distance to the south.  There's a nice gravel beach just south - I'll post some more pictures of it on the other blog in a few days.

Yeo Point is one of those places I might not have known about except that I had seen paintings and photographs of it in town many times and finally figured out where it was.

Saltspring Island

Bite Me! Bakery

Salt Spring Island. Or Saltspring Island. Apparently either works. We spend a week every year and have gotten to know the roads and the public beaches fairly well. We've also checked out most of the bakeries. And the goat cheese place, and the galleries, and the restaurants.

Mount Tuam - Swartz Bay and Sidney in the distance

One afternoon, I drove down to Musgrave Landing, which is at the end of many miles of dirt road, but since I couldn't find the government dock, I guess I'll have to go back again next year and look harder. But while at the south end of the island I checked out the new development perched on the southern slope of Mount Tuam. The views were spectacular, although they would have been even better without the haze.

Salt Spring Island Bread Company

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cabin Six

We alternate with C&A, so we get Cabin 6, the log cabin, every other year. We prefer it, despite the low doorways (low for me, at least) and the daddy long legs (fewer than there used to be), since it stays cooler in the summer, is a little more secluded, and has a much more open kitchen area. And we like the window right over the head of the bed - as long as the raccoons don't climb in and Doobie doesn't climb out.

Green Acres

Back again, for the 18th year in a row. The routine is similar, the weather varies, the kids get older, the adults get older. This year was a relatively warm one - although it cooled off enough at night to make sleeping easy. I try to manage a few adventures each year but this year that was limited to a some brief explorations of the south end of the island. The kayak stayed at the lake - no salt water voyages.

D stayed in Seattle this year where the internet was better and breakfast wasn't served before noon. He sent us close up pictures of Russell Wilson and Taylor Swift from right below the stage at Century Link on Saturday night. He sent us pictures of the scoreboard in the 9th inning of the Mariner's no-hitter on Wednesday. And he reported that we missed a great thunderstorm on Friday. I didn't mind missing Taylor Swift and the no-hitter, but was bummed to miss the storm.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


I'd been wanting to visit the big Buddhist Temple on the south side of Richmond for many years, but never seemed to get to it. One year, M and I actually went to another nearby temple thinking it was this one - which was interesting, but not the same.  This one is run by the International Buddhist Society. I'm no Buddhist, but the concept is appealing. And the temple and the grounds were just really neat to wander through.

The temple is located along the Steveston Highway, where Richmond suburbia sort of gives way to the last few farms and berry fields left along the southern edge of the city.


We drove up Friday afternoon and this year we stayed in a townhouse in Richmond that M had found online. We had dinner with C&A at the Steveston Seafood House (very good) and then went out to Garry Point Park to watch the sunset over the Strait of Georgia.

The next morning, I was back early for coffee and a walk before heading to the Buddhist Temple on the Steveston Highway, which I'll get to in the next post.

Steveston is a nice mix of tourism and working fishing fleet at the mouth of the South Arm of the Fraser River. The old canneries are giving way to upscale riverfront condos and public spaces, but the fishing boats still head out every morning.

I posted from Garry Point a few years ago on the other blog:
Gravel Beach: August 2012