St. Mark’s Summit

It was pretty nice day for a hike.  There was a nice breeze going and it wasn’t too hot, at least not at 9:30am.  Korri and I tackled St. Mark’s Summit which is on the Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT) in Cypress Provincial Park.  According to the vancouvertrails.com website, it’s a 5 hour roundtrip hike.  We completed the hike in 3 hours and 50 minutes, minus our break at the summit and a side trip to the Bowen sound lookout.  What a great hike!  The view at the summit was fantastic and I had good company.  It definitely was a challenging hike for me, more so because I had Korri to push me on at a faster pace but still it was a great feeling to be able to complete the hike at a time faster than the one listed.  The description on vancouvertrails.com was pretty good.  The only thing that we did different was at the beginning.  There was no mention of there being a Howe Sound Crest Trail West and East, so we headed West.  Eventually West and East join up and becomes one trail.  So it probably doesn’t really matter which direction you choose.  The trail was very well marked with bright orange squares nailed into the trees or bright orange tape tied to branches.  If you miss the trail, it’s because you’re looking down at your feet too much.  Remember to look up!  There is lots to see.  It’s not like the Grouse Grind where you’re surrounded by trees.  On the HSCT, you can peek out through the trees and get some great views of the sound.  I strongly encourage anyone doing this trail to bring bug spray.  Lots of it!  Korri and I had to re-spray several times!  I didn’t snack on any bugs this time, but we both came close to breathing them up our nose.  Bleh!  Seriously, Bug spray will be your best friend on this hike.  There were quite a few people on this trail.  But with a different pace, you really felt like you were alone on this trail.  It was great.  The switchbacks at the beginning of the trail were pretty brutal, especially with the sun beating down on you.  There was very little shade at this particular section of the hike and some of the angles were pretty steep.  But once you get passed the switchbacks, it was pretty good.  There will always be ups and downs but just remember to take your water breaks.  There was a lot more tree-rooty sections and a lot more rocky sections as well, but that’s just part of the challenge.  We passed a few patches of snow which provided a lovely cool breeze, which was so nice.  Even though there was shade from the trees, that extra bit of coolness was a quick relief before continuing on with the hike.  As you get closer to the summit, you start to encounter more muddy sections.  Fear not!  It’s a good sign.  You are probably about 20 minutes from the Summit.  Also as you get closer to the summit, you’ll start to encounter more people crossing your path!  Again, a good sign.  Once you get to the summit, you’ll see that it was totally worth it.  The views were amazing.  And because we got there so much quicker than we thought, Korri even suggest continuing onwards to the Lions.  That was a flat out NO.  Not so much that I couldn’t do it, but I hadn’t really psyched myself up to doing it.  That and I had babies back at home that were waiting for me to come home and play with them.  All the kids were home visiting Poh Poh.  So I really wanted to head back while there was still daylight for me to play with them.  So the Lions was a no.  But we spent about 30 minutes taking in the view and stopping for a snack.  There wasn’t a lot a people at the summit.  There was already a group at the summit when we got there.  Probably about a dozen Chinese people, all decked in their gear were snapping pictures and listening to their guide.  I think almost all of them had bear bells.  Most had trekking poles and a couple had nets over their hats to protect from the bugs.  Brilliant idea.

So after our break, we headed back down and now our competitive streak came into play.  The goal was now to get back to the start of the trail with a faster or at least the same time it took to get up.  It was so much easier to go down, until we hit the up sections again.  I forgot about the up sections.  Still it was good.  We talked about her trip to Uganda coming up in 10 days and my trip to New Zealand.  We talked about the fitness stuff I’ve been doing with my other friends like Nicole and how Nicole was joining in on the Kickboxing classes with me, at least on the Fridays and how at work there is a fitness challenge and the stuff that’s going on with that.  And because Nicole has some knee issues, I was just trying to figure out what kind of hikes would be good ones, so as not to cripple my friend, because in reality, I might have to leave Nicole on the trail to get help and the only thing I’d be willing to leave behind with her is a bear bell.  Kidding!  But really I don’t want to take Nicole out on a hike that will seriously do some damage.  So Nicole, I think the Chiefs are out!  But Quarry Rock is in.  But we can discuss further when I see her again at work.  I really liked this hike, despite the bugs.  I think I will do it again but this time, the goal will be to get to the Lions.  Next week’s hike is up in the air.  Sister W gets a kid free day.  I wonder if she will want to go on a hike with me?  And Sister C has another allergy test, so if Sister W doesn’t want to go on a hike with me, then I might have a hike-free weekend.  Not sure how I feel about that right now.  Maybe if I pick an easy hike, she’ll come with me.  Or there is always a 9am spinning class on saturday.  Or I could always squeeze in a hike on Wednesday after work.  Of course, there’s always the Grouse Grind.  Too many choices!  I’ll let you know next week!

If you’re interested in reading more about the Howe Sound Crest Trail, or looking for more details about each section on the trail, check out this link here:

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/cypress/hsct_text.pdf

It’s old, but it gives a great description of each section of the trail.

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