A couple months ago I joined the Wanderung group, a Vancouver-based email callout system for hikers. When someone wants to head out on an adventure, they send an email callout to the mailing list. Wanderung also sends a weekly newsletter with lots of great details such as Leave No Trace tips, Avalanche awareness and recent trip reports.
There are usually a handful of callouts each weekend, with groups ranging from about 4 to 10 people. So far most of the callouts have headed to the North Shore mountains, an area I'm pretty comfortable snowshoeing by myself. This week however a callout came through for a hike into Manning Park, a provincial park about 2 hours east of Vancouver. I had already been thinking about heading that way on my own, and decided it made much more sense (and more safe!) to take a carload. I replied to the email right away and offered up my chauffeur services. I was headed to Manning Park, and more specifically to Windy Joe Lookout!
Hike Name: Windy Joe
Date: Saturday February 25
Location: Manning Park, BC
Approx. drive time: 2 hours
Distance: 10 mi. / 15 km
Elevation gain: 2000 ft / 600 m
Max. elevation: 6050 ft / 1850 m
Time on trail: 5.5 hours
We made it to trailhead just after 10. It took a few minutes to get ourselves organized into our winter weather gear. Meanwhile a pair of large ravens watched the proceedings no doubt hoping we'd drop a treat or two.
After two kilometres we reached a junction with an old forest service road. The Similkameen River trail continued to the left. We turned right, starting the slow climb upwards toward Windy Joe.
The trail had a pretty moderate grade, seeing as we were following an old forest service road. It never really got steep enough to bother putting up the heel lifts on our snowshoes.
The road took us through the forest, curving as it followed the flank of the mountain. We crossed a small stream flowing through a ravine and then started switchbacking properly up the mountain.
Around the 5 km mark I started catching glimpses of a triangular peak to the south-west. We finally got a better look at it near the PCT junction and declared it to be Frosty Mountain, the highest and most prominent peak in the park.
We continued our gradual climb along the road. I started to get a bit more excited as we passed the 7 km marker. The trailhead sign had indicated the lookout was at 7.3 km. Those markers had to be misplaced though, otherwise that was the longest 0.3 km I've ever hiked! I'm sure it didn't help that the wind had come up, the clouds had dropped and we were hungry for our lunches!
After enjoying a good 45 minute rest in the shelter it was time to turn around and wander our way back down the trail.
It was a pretty quick trip back with fewer stops for breaks and an easy downward grade to follow. It seemed like we were wandering along the Similkameen River again in no time, and made it back to the trailhead about 2 hours after leaving the lookout.
All in all it was an incredibly successful trip. The five of us were a very cohesive hiking group and certainly enjoyed each other's company and conversation. While the weather wasn't perfect, it was still good enough, treating us to some sunshine in the morning, an occasional view and even an enjoyable light snowfall on the hike down. The lookout tower itself is a great destination with interesting views of the park. I will certainly do this trail again!