Earlier in the week, Jess and I were looking for some easy baggage to get in (with Sierra on back) on a Saturday morning before my son's soccer game a 2pm in North Vancouver. Scanning our brand-new North Shore Trail Map (love it -- waterproof; tearproof; Sierra-proof), de Pencier Bluffs looked like a good choice. On top of that, the weather forecast was continuing to look awesome for at least the next 7 days so we were hoping to get some good views in a direction we don't usually get.
The week goes on ... the weather forecast degrades. Sigh. Oh well, at least will get a quick bag in. Who knows, we might even have time to bag Suicide Bluffs too!
Saturday morning. Forecast now shows drizzle. Not to be turned off by a little bit of water in the air, off we headed. We arrived at the Seymour parking lot to misty conditions with poor visibility but it was raining and was still relatively warm. Neither of us had been to de Pencier Bluffs before but it looked pretty straight forward -- a simple hike up to Mystery Lake and then take a right not far past that.
First hitch. Due to construction in the Seymour 2 detour options are provided to get up the mountain. Head left out of the parking lot to go up the trail and ski run towards Mount Seymour, Mt. Elsay, etc. or go right and then up a different ski run to Mystery Lake. The right option seemed like the most direct option so off we went.
Problem is, once directed off on the detour, the Parks decides to abandon you and give you no further direction to get you back were you want to be. After about 1 km we came out to a nice little lake (Goldie Lake, we later deduced) and a trail junction with directions to various places we'd had no intention of going. No mention of Mystery Lake. One of the trails mentioned was the Perimetter Trail which I recalled seeing on the map in the vicinity of the Bluffs so, if nothing else, we figured we could go that way.
A few minutes later another trail junction and another sign directing you to "Deep Cove Lookout via Permitter Trail". Did this mean this was the trail to Deep Cove Lookout or was it the direction to the trail to Deep Cove Lookout. If it was the latter, we figured we'd come to a T intersection and be able to go in the direction away from the Lookout. Shrug. Let's assume it's the latter. Off we went.
Not long later we come to another intersection -- Deep Cove Lookout right; Dead End Trail left. Also, way up on a tree, a much older "Permitter Trail" sign which seemed to imply that Dead End Trail was actually Permitter Trail in the direction we wanted to go. Dead End Trail it is then.
According to the map, Permitter Trail is what's classified as a "secondary" trail which, we later surmised, basically means "Nice knowing you. Who should we call when you don't come back?"
To be fair, Permitter Trail was not that badly marked. This a good thing because the trail seems to be so rarely used, is covered in significantly-sized fallen trees and is so overgrown that, without the markings, you often wouldn't be able to tell there was a trail at all. Perfect conditions for hiking with infant on back. Jess took the lead for most of it but failed miserably at her prime task (in my view) of brushing all of the water off of the bushes before Sierra and I got to them. Despite being physically dampened, our spirts were not. On we pushed with fingers crossed that we could actually come out somewhere.
Not sure how long it took (45 minutes - 1 hour?) but eventually we came to a "junction" in the middle of the forest with a sign pointing to de Mystery Lake and Pencier Bluffs in one direction and "Ski Lodge" in the other. (I put junction in quotes because we couldn't really see a trail in the Ski Lodge direction. I'm sure it was there.)
The trail got a bit steeper at this point. Not crazy steep but steep enough that we both hoped we wouldn't have to come back down it. Finally we climb one last steep pitch and come out to a considerably better travelled and maintained trail.
We can see some bluffs just off to the right so that seems like the direction to go. 5 minutes later we're on some bluffs that we can imagine must have some spectacular views. We are forced to imagine because we can't see diddly squat. Are these the de Pencier Bluffs? It bothers me that on the other side of the trail there's an outcrop that is probably about 20 m higher but no obvious way to get to it.
We head a bit further on the trail and starts to go downhhill. We start to think that we should have gone left when we came out to the good trail. We turn around and head back past where we'd come up. 5 minutes later. Crap! The trail to Mystery Lake from the chairlift. Wrong way.
Turn around. Back past the bluff we'd wondered about and downhill (not very far). No long later we see some big bluffs on our right. These must be de Pencier. Hike a bit further through a nice little meadow looking for trails off to the right. Don't see any. The trail starts to head uphill into the mist. Maybe the bluffs are further ahead yet. 10 minutes later. Double crap! Mystery Chair again! The previous bluffs on the right must have been de Pencier and we somehow missed the trail.
Jess: "Are we going to go back?"
Back we go. Downhill to the meadow the meadow (bluffs now on left). While in the meadow, Jess spies a piece of flagging tape up on the ridge to the bluff. Must be some way to get to it. 5 minutes further. Well that's a pretty obvious trail (from this direction)! 10 minutes later and we're on top of the bluff. Again, amazing views from the top (we imagine). 2:03 to the top.
We spend a few minutes taking snaps and looking around before heading down (the easy way). I joke. "I bet it will take less than 1 hour to get down." Back to Mystery Chair and down back to the parking lot. Descent time: 41 minutes.
No time for Suicide Bluffs today (we wouldn't be able to see anything anyway). It would have been boring going the proper way anyway. :-)