Mondays are usually quiet on the trails after the weekend rush, so I decide a trip up Black Mountain and then over to Eagle Bluff would be an excellent choice for the day. A mere 8 kilometres and under 600 metres in elevation gain. As the crow flies, it’s only about 45 kilometres from me to the trailhead at Cypress Provincial Park. However, it involves driving almost into Vancouver and out the other side. According to Google Maps it will take close to an hour if I leave at 5:45 and if I depart 15 minutes later the trip will likely take 45 minutes more as the morning rush hour develops. I opt for a quick coffee and a bowl of oatmeal before taking the early departure. Lucky for me. Ten minutes out I just get by a two vehicle accident as the police and fire crews show up ready to stop all traffic.
Seven o’clock at the parking where it’s lonely. Couple of cars likely from overnight campers and a few ski hill employees ready to begin work. First thing I do is wander over to both information kiosks to get any up-to-date bulletins on conditions, especially with a small forest fire near Horseshoe Bay. All clear except for a bear warning on Mount Strachan to the east and I’m heading west. I trust the bear will stay on its own side of the line. So on with the boots, heave on the backpack, get the poles ready and off I go.
Pretty scene at the start of the trail system which leads off to a number of hikes. Instead of wandering through the initial switchbacks, I choose to start my trip going straight up a 45 degree ski run. My legs already think my brain has a touch of altitude sickness. At around 150 meters, I switch over to the Baden Powell trail, but the switchbacks here are tighter and less wandering to and fro. As normal with hiking, most of the journey is spent watching your boots to avoid constantly tripping over rocks and roots. Best to stop and enjoy the view rather than accidentally kissing the trail. Thirty minutes later I’m at Cabin Lake where I pause for an instant before continuing to the top. Most of the strenuous uphill is now behind me. The rest of the hike is undulating.
Yes, the summit of Black Mountain. Not much to look at – some bare rock and trees. Usually some good views of the North Shore mountains but smoke from fires in BC and Washington state obscures just about everything. Besides, I’ve been here a few times and I can imagine the peaks hidden in the smog. Now the walk gets easier for the 2 kilometre hike to the Bluffs. Quite a bit of upgrade work being done on the trail. New boardwalks over the swampy areas.Two sections where the trail has been rerouted past boulders which tend to be slippery. Making the hike much safer for those who believe flip flops and high heels are the proper footwear for the mountains.
What makes this hike interesting are the half dozen little lakes along the way. You’re not hemmed in by the forest the entire journey. Finally, I reach Eagle Bluff where I park myself on a rock. Time to eat – a banana – and squeeze down a caffeine spiked, strawberry flavoured gel. Meanwhile, above me a noisy raven keeps up a constant racket as though I’ve invaded his territory. Or maybe he’s looking for food like the whiskey jacks who land nearby searching for handouts. Can barely smell the smoke so I guess the wind has pushed it all down, trapping it in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. All that fresh air just for me.
Twenty minutes and I’m ready to head back. As I get closer to Black Mountain again, I wonder why I haven’t met any other hikers. Starting as early as I did meant I’d have the outbound trip to myself but it’s normal to meet quite a few people later in the morning. I take the small detour past a couple of lakes until I’m back to begin the final knee knocking descent. Not really that bad as on many parts you can do a slow jog to make it easier on the thighs. Closing in on the bottom, I stay on the trail instead of the ski run and figure I have to run into at least one other hiker. Not to be. Once at the branch which starts this hike, I discover why I’ve been alone for the past 3 hours. My initial detour prevented me from reading and heeding the warning.
Oh, well! So I head back to the car. Sit and eat my protein energy bar. And now have the opportunity to talk for a while to a dozen or more hikers about conditions and where they might be headed today.