A friend and I were trekking along a trail on Cypress Mountain yesterday and all of a sudden a blur of shiny black fur lept across the trail, about 25 feet away. “Is that a huge German Shepherd? Where are his owners?” I thought. Then I saw s cute, little, round beach ball of a baby black bear scurrying behind. My brain took a quick second to compute. Bears!!!
My friend and I looked at each other, then hung on to each other, then slowly backed up and finally turned and “calmly” walked away, with our hearts pounding almost out of our chests. We did not want to threaten Mama Bear in any way, shape or form.
Eventually mama and her baby went deep into the forest and we guardedly continued up the mountain. 15 minutes or so later we heard a splashing sound and peeked through the branches to see another big black bear hanging out in a stream. I didn’t stick around to get any photos but this was turning into a bear~y exciting, adrenaline rush of a hike.
I don’t have a lot of one on one experience with bears (we used to drive to the dump when I was growing up in Ontario to watch black bears go through the garbage and I saw a grizzly in Alberta but I was safely locked in my friend’s vehicle) but I remembered a hiker telling me about his close encounter with a grizzly in Alberta and how, after that solo experience, he would only go hiking in groups of six or more as bears won’t bother that many people grouped together. I don’t know if this is true but I believed him and when I spotted a family hiking on the trail just ahead of us. I called to them and we formed a bear-proof pack (there were 6 of us including my dog) and hiked safely together up to the view point and back.
There were no more bear sightings that day. Maybe our little group scared them off or maybe the bears had better things to do deeper in the forest. Either way, we had an awesome day in nature, made a few new hiking friends and walked off the mountain with a good story to tell.
They’re powerful, exciting and endlessly dramatic. The proverbial emotional rollercoaster with dizzying highs and crushing lows. Have I mentioned that I happen to have one with the Grouse Grind? It’s been going on for years and seems to only be getting stronger as time goes by.
On the one hand, I love the forest. The scent of the trees and bright green moss growing along the side of the trail create the sweetest, freshest air to breathe into your hard-working lungs as you huff and puff your way up the mountain. Nature’s aromatherapy. The intense beauty of the forest also never ceases to amaze me. Especially on a misty, foggy afternoon when the path looks exactly like the enchanted forest of my favourite childhood fairy tale. Who wouldn’t love an enchanted forest?
On the other hand, there’s the actual issue of the climb. I haven’t quite experienced anything like it on any other trail (thank goodness). It’s almost straight up the mountain at times and there is no reprieve. No flat stretch to catch your breathe and psych yourself up for the next punishing climb. Nope, none of that. Just full-on, straight up. Switchbacks are non-existent here. And every time I find myself back on the Grind, I question my sanity as I make my way along what seems like a never-ending vertical trail. “What is wrong with me?” my internal voice shrieks. “There are so many more beautiful, more sane hikes in BC. Why do I keep torturing myself with this one? This is it. I mean it this time. Never again!” I repeat a version of this over and over again as I crawl over rocks and roots on my journey through hell, unfortunately knowing on some level that, like a co-dependant lover, no matter what I say, I’ll probably be back for more.
I finally emerge from the woods, panting, glistening with sweat and smeared with a good bit of dirt. I plop to the ground, gulp the last of my water, catch my breathe, wipe my brow and, finally, take a look around.
And what I see is magnificent. A beautiful Atlantis sparkles below me. The sun is starting to set and it is stunning to see from the top of Grouse. I also have a sweet sense of accomplishment. I did it. I made it to the top! And, in a flash, all of the nasty, hateful thoughts of the past 1 hour and 20 minutes are gone, and all I’m left with is love.
And the cycle begins again.
There are so many reasons I love hiking on Cypress Mountain and here are the top three:
Last Sunday a few friends and I decided to hike Mount Strachan, a quick (two hour), moderate hike on Cypress. We grabbed our gear and snacks and hit the road, destination: mountains.
To make a long story short, we missed the turn to Mount Strachan, wandered around the woods a bit, climbed partway up another trail and then, because one of the group was struggling with a biking injury, turned around.
Walking back I couldn’t help but describe a hike without going to the peak as making love without having an orgasm. It’s still a really good experience but you can’t help but feel that you’ve missed out on something…
That said, we did end up finding a pretty lookout point to have lunch, feed some birds, take photos and remark on the unbelievable beauty of mother nature. And after our lunch break, we trotted down the mountain happy and rejuvenated.
Maybe you don’t have to reach the peak every single time after all.