“When you’re a student or whatever, and you can’t afford a car, or a plane fare, or even a train fare, all you can do is hope that someone will stop and pick you up.” Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
In Madhumanti’s case, she rents a car and hopes she will find four others to share her ride and her love for nature. In this episode, we would explore her hike of the Frosty Mountain in Manning Park, British Columbia.
Our Girl in Hiker Boots had just recuperated from a fractured ankle at the time and had been forced to stay indoors for a while. But, the gorgeous colors of fall evoked her wanderlust. The Frosty Mountain in Manning Park is the highest mountain of the North Cascade range in British Columbia. Emergency services at the location are rare, and the visitor is expected to be self-sufficient.
Usually, Madhumanti starts her day long hiking trips at sunrise, but this being a little farther off and the days being shorter, she practically started the night before, at around 2 am!
Seasons of Glory
Madhumanti admits that this was one of the more strenuous and harder treks that she has ever undertaken.
The best time to visit the place is in summers, (July to September). In the later half of September, the fall colors set in and they are a treat to the eyes!
Peak flower season is the first two weeks of August. Before that, the “Spring” bloom and a variety of fungi are of interest here. From mid-September through early October, the golden fall colors of the larch and Vaccinium are spectacular, and the variety of fungi is extensive.
Madhumanti shares an interesting tip for fellow hikers who are scoping this trail:
“After you leave the Lightning Lake day-use area, cross the bridge over the dam on the east side of the lake. About 100 m south of the bridge, take the left fork of the trail and head up a small scree slope. The switchbacks during the first 6 km take you through a lush Engelmann spruce and sub-alpine fir forest with an undergrowth of wild rhododendrons, false box, tall mountain huckleberry and trailing rubus. Please follow the trails to prevent further erosion caused by cutting corners. After about 45 minutes, you will enjoy the first of many views down to Lightning and Flash Lakes. Look for Silvertip Mountain behind the ski hill and Mount Hozameen off to the southwest. The forest occasionally opens to gorgeous meadows of lupine, arnica and mountain valerian.”
Beauty at every turn
The hike takes a beauteous turn at about 30 mins off the Frosty Mountain peak at the Larch Grove. The forest opens slightly during this ascent to expose a scree slope, sprinkled with plants such as Lance-leafed Stonecrop. The views continue to be spectacular. Half a kilometer into the larch grove, the grade of the trail lessens. Undergrowth shrinks in size at this point; pussytoes, partridge foot, red heather, wood rush and other small, hardy plants thrive here. Alpine larch is truly beautiful, especially in fall against the magnificent backdrop of Frosty Mountain’s westerly peak.
At approximately 10 km, both peaks of Frosty Mountain loom ahead. The larch forest suddenly ends, and a much more austere habitat begins. The scree slope is dotted with multi-coloured crustose lichen. Cushion plants, such as moss campion and whitlow grass cling to the rock, keeping low and out of the dry wind. These plants take years to establish themselves; please take care not to step on them when scrambling up the rocks. Pika can be heard peeping out warnings to one another, and are sometimes seen scurrying from boulder to boulder. In August, look overhead for raptures such as the sharp-shinned hawk. 1.5 km of steep switchbacks lead to the ridge and the junction with the Windy Joe side of the trail. Those with overnight packs may prefer to leave most of their gear at the junction before ascending the last .6 km along the ridge to the summit.
The view in every direction is incredible. Madhumanti suggests allowing time for a long rest here. From the north, counter-clockwise, the mountains stand majestic: Three Brothers, Snass, Outram, Silvertip, Finlayson & Wright, Spickard to the west, Winthrop to the east and then Chuwantum. On a warm sunny day, ladybugs, mountain swallowtails, fritillarias, supphurs and other butterflies (and the deer fly with its large jaws) may join you at the top. Back at the crossroads, you should retrace your steps to Lightning Lake or start down towards Windy Joe Mountain
The scree slope on Windy Joe (eastern) side of the ridge is not as steep as the western slope. After about half an hour, the rock slope merges into a meadow resplendent with Western anemone, red and white paintbrush, wood betony and lupine. The flowers tend to bloom a little later here than on the western slope. From the meadow, the views continue to be breathtaking.
There is something special about forests
The forest gradually thickens after 14 km. At 19 km, the junction of the Pacific Crest Trail is reached. Those who want to spend another night in the forest should turn right and proceed about 200 m to the Pacific Crest wilderness campsite. No shelter is provided here, but there is an outhouse and a good water source. The gentle stream that flows through the camp is the first on this side of the mountain. Those continuing down will encounter another stream nearby.
You can head west along the Similkameen trail at about the 24.3 km point. Madhumanti followed this route to the Gibson Pass Road and then continued along the Little Muddy trail (which loosely parallels the road) to the Lightning Lake Day Use area parking lot.”
The return drive was extremely tiring. But for our girl in the hiker boots this trip boosted her self-reliance and confidence, to the moon. Many would label her impulsive or daredevil, but the call of nature’s abundance and beauty is something she cannot turn a deaf ear to.
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