Snowshoe Adventure – February 1, 2013

You know how sometimes you just want to be out on your own with time to think?  Today was one of those days.  With the promise of sun, I grabbed my snowshoes and caught the Alpha Adventures shuttle to Dakota Ridge Winter Recreation Area.
Eagle Lookout Trail

Even though I arrived at Dakota Ridge with 15 other people in the shuttle and there were quite a few skiers near the parking lot and the warming hut, I had the trails to myself.  All the trails are now signed and have been well marked, so after of couple of times of hiking with other people I have no problem venturing out on my own.  I take care, one could easily get lost in the white snowy forest if you left the trails, to ensure I stay on the marked trails…letting the alone time be adventure in itself.  I hiked the almost 2km Eagle Lookout trail without seeing another soul.

just me and the forest

Dakota Ridge had a ton of snow in December. The base was up to almost 3 meters. When we were there on Boxing Day, all the trees looked like white Dr Seuss candy canes.  Today the trees were green as we’ve had warmer temperatures lately that have melted some of the snow.  The snowshoe trails are obvious with hard tracks to follow.  Fresh snow in this week’s forecast should cover that up with fresh powder.

Map along the trail

After a short snack break outside the warming hut, I headed out on the Balsam Loop. This is another green trail just over 2km long that starts and ends at the warming hut.  The first half of the trail meanders through the forest, but there is a point where you come over a hill and into a clearing where on a sunny day there are just amazing views. Today the sun was playing peekaboo most of the day. There were touches of blue sky and warm sun, but clouds kept hanging in. The view is still pretty awesome.  Check out my December post if you want to see the clear sky pictures.

Eastern side of Balsam Loop

It wasn’t until the very last leg of the trail that I passed 2 groups that I had ridden up with in the shuttle.  Almost 4km of snowshoeing completely alone with my thoughts…great exercise and productive brainstorming.  When I finished, I had a nice break in the sun at the warming hut.  I was able to visit with someone who was waiting for the rest of his party.  Dakota was well used today.  A dad/daughter learning how to cross country ski, a large group of co-workers on a team building day, a husband/wife team on their first snowshoe adventure, screams of joy from the tobogganing area, and just as we were leaving a boy scout troop on a winter camping adventure.  I am sure I won’t let another month go by before my next snowshoe.

Dakota Ridge – December 14, 2012

It may be another week until the official start of winter, but today we enjoyed our first day of fun in the snow.    Saturday, December 15 is the official season opening for Dakota Ridge Winter Recreation Area.  Our good friends at Alpha Adventures took us out for a sneak peak & guided snowshoe tour.
15km Nordic ski trails
All trails have been named this year
It was an AMAZING day!  You couldn’t ask for better weather conditions.  It is early in the season, but new snowfall was 50cm (that’s 20 inches) in the past 24 hours. The clouds broke overnight and the sun was shining this morning. Temps were just around the freezing level.  We were warm after a bit of hiking and the snow on the trees was just melting a bit in direct sunshine. A perfect bluebird day.
Knee deep in fresh powder!

Dakota Ridge has almost 4km of groomed snowshoe trails and another 3km of wilderness trails. With our expert guides, we were able to get off the beaten path (though in all that powder…not so beaten) and break fresh tracks through the forest. The forest is magical….so very quiet. Snow makes the most interesting shapes covering varied terrain, small trees, and moved by the wind. It was a bit like a Dr Seuss picture with rounded magical shapes.

Our expert guides Jamie & Lauren

Alpha Adventures offers guided trips and lessons for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing. They also operate a convenient shuttle from Wilson Creek up the mountain roads to Dakota Ridge. The access road is much improved this year thanks to a provincial grant.  The road is wider and has more pullouts, but it still requires chains or 4×4.  My little VW isn’t making that trip, so I am more than happy to ride in Alpha’s comfortable shuttle.  The parking lot has doubled in size, so there is more room for everyone making the trip.

We hiked quite a distance without seeing another sole…partly because this was the day before opening day, but these trails are never crowded.  Plenty of room to get away from it all and just enjoy exploring on your own.  Coming down over the Eastern trails, we found the most amazing view. We could see the North Shore Mountains, including Cypress and The Lions. There were low level clouds & fog blocking the view of the ocean, but we were so far above the thick clouds that they looked like a big fluffy ocean.

What a view! Mt Elphinstone in the background

It was the perfect spot to stop, take a few pictures and have a snack. Just an amazing 360 degree view.

After a full day of snowshoeing we stopped in the warming hut for lunch and hot chocolate. A much needed rest at the end of a great day. I can’t wait to get back up on Dakota Ridge…thinking a great way to spend Christmas Day.

Dakota Ridge Snowshoe Day – March 31, 2012

What a day! This is the last official weekend of the season at Dakota Ridge, so I made the most of it. Peace and quiet…no phones, no email, no human contact for a couple of hours.

Thanks to my friends at Alpha Adventures for worry free transportation & equipment. No need for my own 4×4 or chains…just let Trevor do the driving. It is even better at the end of the day…when you’ve had a full workout and just want to relax….just let Trevor do the driving. : )
Conditions were fabulous when we arrived: 45cm (1.5ft) new snow in the last 2 days and the sun was trying to peak through the clouds. I took off for the Eastern Trail where views of the North Shore Mountains can be seen. Unfortunately it was too cloudy. I could see the ocean, but no views of the neighboring mountains.

In previous trips, I had always been with small groups. I usually just followed the group without thinking about where we were going. Today I was on my own. It is incredible how quiet a snow covered forest is. But when you stop and really listen, there are birds and the sound of fresh snow falling from the trees. I was very happy with how well the trails are marked. Just as I passed a marker, I could always see the next trail marker in the distance. Even though I was walking in fresh powder and “breaking trail” through much of the hike, I never felt at risk of being lost.

Dakota Ridge has 8km of marked snowshoe trails. I hiked the Eastern Loop and then the far Northern Loop. 2 full hours of pure peacefulness. About halfway in, it started to snow. Very light flurries that seemed perfectly appropriate given all the fresh powder. Then it really started snowing. Anyone heading out tomorrow will have an excellent fresh snow experience.

At sea level, it was another of those grey days with long periods of drizzle. 1,200 meters up the mountain, it was a winter wonderland. Even though there were a number of people skiing, snowshoeing & tobogganing, I saw only 2 people on my entire 2 hour hike. 1 at the very beginning and 1 at the very end. The rest of the time I had the place to myself…alone with my thoughts and with nature. Back at the warming hut I caught up with friends who had been skiing, and we shared stories of the day. So sad to have another winter season end, but I will sleep well tonight and enjoy the memories until next season.
Alpha Adventures will continue guided treks as long as the snow lasts, but officially the season ends tomorrow. Get up there if you have the chance!

Winterfest 2012 – Dakota Ridge – March 10, 2012

Today was “fun in the snow” day … Winterfest 2012 on Dakota Ridge. Look at all the snow! The ridge is up to a 2 meter base with 15cm just last night. It snowed off and on throughout the day and you can bet there is more falling tonight.

It still seems a little strange to live in Canada and yet hardly ever see snow. We’ve only had 1 little snow all winter this year and that was only a dusting that didn’t last more than few hours. I swept the sidewalk…no shovels necessary. So when I get the chance, I make the short 1 hour trip from Arcturus Retreat up to Dakota Ridge.

Today there were plenty of extra events…equipment demos, training clinics, and races all in support of our local Jackrabbits program (cross country ski instruction for kids). These are the brave souls awaiting the starting gun for the 5km snowshoe race.

Meanwhile, I was trying skate skiing for the first time. Our group had a very good instructor, Tyrone, who made everything look effortless. I didn’t go very far, but every once in a while I felt I was actually doing it correctly. It takes a lot of concentration to break yourself of downhill ski habits. Skate skis are only 2″ wide and only as tall as I am. Much lighter and more mobile, but good balance is very important. Your whole body is moving, whereas with downhill it is more about shifting your weight and keeping center of gravity.

My real joy is found on snowshoes. Hiking, but with really big shoes. Posing among the trees is my awesome guide, Annie. Dakota Ridge has 8km of marked snowshoe trails, but the real fun comes in breaking fresh powder. Note in the picture, there is no trail out front…just the path that we’ve created. There is something special about being the first person to walk across completely perfect, untouched snow. It is like no one has ever been in that spot because each snowfall wipes the slate clean. If you don’t have a lot of experience, it is best to have a guide like Annie who knows the terrain and watches out for tree wells, creek crossings & other danger spots. Besides, you can just stare at the gorgeous scenery instead of worrying about getting lost in the forest.

Thanks for a great day to my friends at Alpha Adventures who organized the event. Can’t wait for more fun in the snow. Just 3 more weeks to enjoy for this season!

Dakota Ridge – March 23, 2011

I had the most incredible day….a perfect day of sunshine up on Dakota Ridge. Warm temperatures, lear skies, and a view that you just can’t beat. Oh, and did I mention 285cm of snow? That’s almost 10 feet!
I know I’ve posted about Dakota before, but this was what it is all about. Clear skies, sunny and warm. My friend Kelly and I set out on the western snowshoe trail first. The live view is better than the pics, but this is looking west across the Salish Sea to Vancouver island and its snow covered peaks in the distance.
We hiked for 2 hours and didn’t see a soul. Just incredible views and a completely peaceful forest. We headed back to the warming hut, but chose to enjoy the sun and have lunch out on the picnic table. It was a popular spot, suddenly there were people everywhere…even a bbq in the parking lot. So many families enjoying the last taste of winter during spring break.
Rested and fed, we headed off on the eastern trail. This is part of the 13km of groomed XC ski trails with the Salish Sea in the distance.
Along this trail, I soon found a familiar sight. I am lucky enough to look at the North Shore Mountains everyday from my Arcturus Retreat B&B deck. Here in the distance, is the same view…just from a vantage point 1,200 meters higher. 

Snow Day – Dakota Ridge, Feb 12, 2011

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in nearby Vancouver. I decided it was a day to find some snow. As you can see from my previous posts, we’ve had a very mild winter. Plenty of days to hike and enjoy the sun. I was ready for my snow and ski fix.

Boy did I find snow! At sea level, it was 8C, gray and raining all day. At 1,200 meters it was just below 0 and snowing like crazy! 13cm of fresh snow by this morning and it snowed all day long with huge wet snowflakes. Dakota Ridge Winter Recreation Area is our easily accessible snowpark at this end of the Sunshine Coast. Less than an hour from the house 13km of groomed cross country trails and 8km of marked snowshoe trails await.

Today my good friends at Alpha Adventures held their annual Demo Day where you can try out all the newest equipment for free. After a quick ride up to Dakota Ridge in their 4×4 van, I checked into some cross country skis and had a 30 minute introductory lesson. 30 minutes of cardio…let me tell you. It was fun…I was gliding (a little)…but its a workout. I then got to go and explore a trail for a bit to try out my new skills.

Time for a little lunch and drying off in the warming hut. Picnic tables, changing rooms and a cozy wood burning stove make this a great place for hanging out and a short rest. I always meet the most interesting people.

Now it was time to try out the snowshoes. I headed out into the forest with my 2 new friends, Annie & Jenny. I am so sorry not to have pictures, but it was REALLY snowing. I just didn’t want to get the camera wet. If you haven’t tried snowshoes, I highly recommend. It is just like going for a hike in the forest. Anyone who can walk can snowshoe.
It is so quiet when you get into the forest. So many stately huge trees and today they were all covered with a white blanket of snow. We were walking through areas with multiple feet of snow, but we usually only sank in about 3 inches. The trail is very well marked. I was in the lead and had no trouble following the trail…even though the fresh snow was filling in the footsteps of whoever had been through last. You cross over a few alpine streams, and you realize just how much snow is on the mountains. Annie was telling us about her favourite viewpoints. On a clear sunny day you can see the North Shore Mountains, Mount Baker in Washington, and Vancouver Island. I’ll definitely be back this season to try it out.
How to treat yourself after a great day of playing in the snow? On our return to Wilson Creek (access point to Dakota Ridge), I stopped in at Strait Coffee for a delicious cup of ginger carrot soup with homemade bread and a big cup of hot chocolate. Yum! When I got home, I jumped in the Arcturus Retreat B&B hot tub to relax those well excercised muscles.