I had been battling a very mild seasonal cold last week and my running was going well, hitting about 12 miles a day, but not really able to push myself. So I awoke this weekend feeling marginally better. Even with being on the mend, I still wanted to get out and enjoy the crisp sunny weather we’ve been having; knowing that it will come to a wet slushy halt very very soon (of which I am a very big fan, it just makes for tougher trails). Having exhausted the Deep Cove side of the Baden Powell trail and knowing the middle section would be potentially as crowded with slow hikers and mountain bikers I thought I’d at least try a new section of the trail. First hurdle was getting there. Before leaving I tried to find directions on how to get to the trail head. I literally found nothing in about 30 min of searching; nothing on hiking websites, blogs, or google maps. I decided I would at least get to Horseshoe Bay village and rely on the laid back country fold to direct me the rest of the way. Once I arrived in Horseshoe Bay I was awestruck at the beauty laid before me. Towering snow-capped mountains across the water sprinkled with PNW islands. Stunning doesn’t even begin to describe it. I walk into a little convenient store and ask the clerk how to get to Baden Powell trail. She had never heard of it. [I thought: Seriously?! There are 2 major hiking trails in Vancouver, Pacific Spirit Park near me @ UBC and Baden Powell.] She told me to go to Starbucks and ask someone there. Same story. No one had heard of it. I was beginning to question the Canadianness of this little village. The Starbucks people told me to go to the pub across the street but I diverted up to a little sandwich shop a little further. The lady behind the counter had a thick Eastern European accent which made figuring out whether or not she understood my questions difficult. “How do I get to the Baden Powell trail?” “Oh it’s just over there [points and goes back to making a sandwich].” (Ok. So out the door is a street and then a ferry terminal. And just as an aside pointing and saying the general direction of the location you’ve been asked about is NOT an appropriate response) “Well, I know it’s nearby. I drove in from Vancouver. How do I DRIVE there?” “Baden Powell is a trail, you cannot drive it.” *facepalm* “Right, I know. I came here to run some of it, how do I get to the trail head.” “Oh you can’t from here. You have to drive this way [points across the street] but you have to go this way [points down the street]. Park at rec center and run from there.” At this point, the difficulty of international communication was taking its toll so I thanked her for her help and made my way back to my car.
I drive, frustrated, down the way she explained. I end up at a bridge/overpass that only allows me to turn left (back to the ferries) or right (back to Vancouver). Argghh. I do a quick u-turn and explore a side road. A-ha. The rec center! But what of the trailhead? I keep driving and see a small gravel parking lot with some cars and people in hiking gear. Could this be? No. No it could not. I pull in, roll down my window and ask a guy if this is the Baden Powell trail head. He laughs at me. Laughs, I tell ya. Btw he had a noticeable Scottish accent. “No. Sorry, I was just thinking of how to get there. I don’t think you can drive there from here.” (What the heck?!) “My suggestion would be to park here. Then go down this road about 4km cross over a bridge over the highway, cross the other road and get on the other side of it and keep going. You should see a small gravel parking lot.” I thank him and tell him I’ll head to the rec center to park and make my way. I park and get ready to run. Water pack, gels, wearing my shorts and tank. Yeah it was cold but I get hot when I run. I knew this trail was pretty much all uphill for a long ways so I’d been working hard. I head off down the road, cross the bridge, and then the street. Running past wrong way signs hoping my Scottish source was correct. And finally, I see the parking lot and immediately understand why everyone told me I couldn’t drive there from where I was, which still leads me wholly mystified by the number of cars I saw.
I didn’t care. I was there. And my arms were cold. Time to get to work. Straight up. The trail went straight up. 🙂 It was just a gravel road covered in a lot of wet slippery leaves until it went under the highway and emerged to a choice of 3 trails. A gravel road to the far left, a trail to ahead and to the left, and another wide trail to the right. The post to my left had signs pointing to what seemed to be the trail ahead of me as the Baden Powell trail…so I started running again. (This was mistake #1 as I would later find out, the Baden Powell is actually the gravel road.) I started up and up and up. The trail was prime running. My legs and lungs were burning and I felt alive. I kept going even though some portions seemed a bit too overgrown, they were still obviously part of the trail. About 30 minutes of running uphill (sometimes wondering how the heck I’d find the trail on my way back down due to the amount of leaves covering the ground) I came to a flattened area. The only thing that resembled a trail dead ended at a little cliff. Since everything had a layer of brown and yellow, it made figuring out where to go extremely difficult. I decided to explore the area that seemed like a trail only to reach a field of ferns with no apparent trail in sight. Back down to the flattened spot. Hmmm. I tried another area but ended up climbing up areas that were very difficult to come back down when I noticed that this too, was not a trail. I decided to try to backtrack a bit and go up the rocks (covered in leaves, of course), but it also ended up being a dead end eventually. Hmm. At this point I just wanted to make my way back down to the parking lot and run that hill a few or 6 times. I wanted to RUN. So I turned back. And immediately realized I had no idea where the trail was. What I thought was the trail ended up with me getting a face-full of sticks. Ah. Up. I climbed up the wet, moss-covered fallen trees to what I thought was the trail. Score! Back to running.
Orange string. Yes, I’m on the trail. Oh wait, what? I don’t remember seeing any before. Definitely would have remembered that. I stood still, pondering my next move. Well, at least I’m on a marked trail that’s going in the correct direction and downhill. But over pretty intense terrain. I pushed on hoping it would at least lead me back near where I needed. Orange string with a beer can. That’s weird, I DEFINITELY would have remembered seeing that. So I turned around and went back to see if I’d missed something. Back to the same spot where I’d climbed up to get back on the trail. Hmmm. Well I’ve got no other trail options at this point might as well go down something that is at least marked. So I went back to the beer can hanging by orange string and kept going. Until I happened upon what looked like an old campsite (no tent) with tons of trash laying around. Something really didn’t seem right about that and I knew I wasn’t going the way I’d initially come so I went back. But this time to the flattened spot only I lost the trail trying to get there and ended up climbing over some big boulders and trees in hopes I was going the right direction. This is when I received a text from Dave (in Hawaii). I had my phone in my pack and had not even thought to check if I had service. I let him know that I was pretty dang lost but knew I could make it out, eventually. I made back to my now familiar area and retried all my previous attempts to find a trail up. Nothing. Ok. Great. I’m wasting time and starting to get cold from not running. This time on my way back down I found the ‘real trail’ I had been on on the way up. And by real trail I mean just a few bent over bushes where at least more than a few people had walked before. Then after about 40 steps, because of the leaves, I lost the trail again. DANGIT! Before I’d realized it anything closely resembling a trail had completely disappeared and backtracking was just getting me confused. We texted some more and I decided I’d just have to guess where to go and fight my way through the trees and brush. My legs were itchy/burny a couple days from all the thorny bushes I went through. I was climbing over stacks of trees, under logs, falling in crackling piles of twigs covered by leaves coming within inches of potentially body-piercing broken limbs still attached to the large fallen trees all around. If I wasn’t slipping on wet leaves, I was slipping on fallen trees I needed to traverse to get over some parts. I finally saw a wooden fence and what looked like a gravel road in the distance. Could it be?! Yes, yes it was. But to get there, I had to climb up a steep hill (think big ditch) of medium-sized loose wet rocks.
Back on this gravel road I picked the direction I thought was the way back and was correct. And where did I end up? At that lil post with the horrible directional locators on it. *facepalm #2* I turned around and ran up the gravel road for about 45 min to get some extra leg burn uphills in. At least next time I will know where to go but for now I am quite happy with my adventure!