|Mt Murchison from my bedroom window|
This is a great luxury for which I count myself fortunate. However, it is hard to deny that - at least superficially - these are not the most exciting mountains. From late fall until early summer the high ridges are typically white with snow, but there are no glaciers. The summits are rounded not sharp. There are a few cliff faces, but none with any distinct architecture (unlike the Stawamus Chief, which I can see if I get out of bed, step out on the balcony and crane my head south). Even the mountains' names are not especially inspiring: Murchison, Lapworth, Coneybeare. Further north in the same Tantalus mountain range, the mountains get spikier with year-round ice and snow, and have been christened more dramatically: Alpha ... Omega ... Serratus.
Nevertheless over time I have come to appreciate subtleties of the view. Much of the visible rock is granite (or some variant on granite: granodiorite, a geologist pedant has often suggested to me) but a large swathe is actually volcanic in origin. With cloud swirling low enough in the valley, the basaltic Touch and Go towers become well-defined within the view, the largest being the ghostly Castle. Surprisingly this may be where the first climbs in Squamish took place in the 1950s, as they were then easily accessible from downtown over a footbridge (now long gone) unlike the Chief which then had no road under it.
Also prominent is Monmouth Creek, a system of almost continuous waterfalls and cascades descending the entire 900m hillside down to the Squamish River.
The lower part of the creek passes between the granite and volcanic rocks, creating - I now know - a deep and wildly-sculptural canyon. The creek itself has its source in Echo Lake, a kilometre wide feature hidden in the bowl below Murchison and Lapworth. A trail has been created up to the lake from the west bank of the river, staying as close to the falls as possible. I had heard that it was very worthwhile but the practicalities of crossing the river were off-putting.
In May this year Leo had some free time together, as Shoko had taken James to visit family friends in Arizona and his soccer season had ended. Leo had recently developed an interest in video editing and had obtained a second-hand drone to capture raw footage. Necessarily this implied some outdoor adventuring to access places to film, so for the first time in several years we had some commonality of interest. Around the same time I happened to mention to my neighbours, Shawn and Sharon, that I aspired to visit Echo Lake. Very generously they offered to lend their Canadian-style canoe and remarkably didn't retract the offer when I pointed out that I had never used one before. Helpfully I then stumbled over some GPS coordinates for the river crossing and first section of the hike and discovered that tide timing was suitable for the coming weekend. Leo bought into the idea, based on my over-optimistic estimate of the time required and promise of unique views from the lake. A plan was hatched. As final preparation, we watched some online videos on the paddling and steering of Canadian canoes - it looked easy enough.
And so, on a Saturday morning around 8am (about four hours too early in the teenage circadian rhythm), we cautiously clambered into the wobbly canoe and - to my relief - onsighted the river crossing.
|crossing the Squamish River|
|Looking up the line of the lower falls|
|Lower Falls "keyhole" feature|
|The trail gets a little crazy|
|Gorgeous hidden valley with old-growth cedars and firs|
|Echo Lake outflow|
... which we followed, reached our objective and came down. Normally I would add more detail about days like this, but Leo made a video. (Highlights are around 3:30 and 6:00 in my opinion.):
A few things I should add for anyone researching this hike:
- It is genuinely very worthwhile. In my experience the usual BC hike involves hours of tedium deep in the trees before anything interesting can be seen. This one throws surprises at you all the way.
- The river crossing deters people so you have a good chance of being alone all day.
- There are multiple trail options, of which the most challenging are close to the falls. On the way down we chose the more sedate trails more distant from the creek.
- Do locate the take-out point for the canoe back on the east side of the river before you start. We didn't (and ended up paddling unnecessarily far).