A Beyond Here Feature travel story.
Outside of the hustle and bustle of Vancouver, BC, the peaks of Golden Ears Mountain rise above the low lands of Maple Ridge.
The myriad networks of trails are shared by hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian riders. I fell in love with the hills, knolls and rugged peaks, the swampy bogs, rivers and lakes since moving out of Vancouver two years ago.
Certain areas, such as Mike Lake, still hold traces of the logging camps that once reigned over the forest during the 1920’s. From picnicking families to avid hikers, and all the adventure enthusiasts in between, I can think of no greater retreat from the city than this perfect slice of nature.
Life in the city was taking its toll on me. Not only was I going through a break up, but I was unhappy with my career, and my father’s health was in question. Stir in confinement from monetary responsibilities, and I was left with a cocktail that would leave me with more than just a hangover in the morning.
In need of new scenery, I started to venture away from city life, replacing pubs and crowded nightlife scenes with mountains and the quiet solitude of forests. One can find much needed introspection amongst the silence of trees. After a while, hiking the same trails every weekend, I found myself in a slump again, the haunts of the city calling me back.
Something needed to change.
Around this time my father sold his home in the city and moved out to Pitt Meadows to be closer to my sister and her new family. My nephew had just been born and visiting him gave me another reason to get out of the city. It happened one morning, while driving out to visit my family. I saw the twin peaks of Golden Ears, and knew that the change I had been searching for had been found.
Upon arriving at my sister’s house, I immediately asked about the mountain. Had they hiked there? What were the trails like? So on and so forth. Every answer to my question piqued my interest more and more, and by the end of my visit I left with a yearning for a new adventure.
During the following week, I could hardly focus on my work. Almost every thought circled around the park. I read hiking/trail forums and looked at various maps trying to figure out which trail to explore first. By the end of that work week I decided to start at the beginning of the park, and week by week I would explore deeper into this vast adventure-filled playground.
Mike Lake, Evans Peak, Lower Falls via East Canyon, Alouette Peak, North Beach, and Golden Ears via West Canyon. Trail after trail, each of them taking me further away from my troubles, breaking the chains of the city, never to feel their cold grip again.
I rise early on a Saturday morning and go through my pre-hike routine as I wait for the coffee to brew. Checking over the contents of my daypack, everything seems to be in order. Finishing the coffee, I throw a light jacket on and get the dog ready.
Breathing the crisp morning air of the forest, I finish lacing my boots, as a sense of adventure takes control. I let Milo, the husky, out of the car and as the gravel crunches below my feet, we’re off.
After a couple of kilometers down the trail, I notice a sign I’ve never seen before. I look over at Milo and can tell he’s up for it.
Right away the trail tests our character. There’s no easing into this one, the incline is razor sharp and I find myself searching for any hand or foothold within reach. Sweat breaks, breathing becomes laborious – I’m battling more than the elements alone.
Eventually, as the trail levels out I’m thankful for both physical and mental relief. “Milo!” I call out, and off in the distance bushes rustle with his reply. I balance unsteadily on a fallen conifer. Below, thick mud threatens any misstep. Safely over another hazard, Milo appears, tail wagging and we push onward up the mountain.
In a while, another steep stretch causes us to stop for a breather. Birds chirp and flutter above, adding to the sweet rhythmic flow of a creek to our left. Following this sound we are led into a clearing. Tall grass breaks the surface of a small lake, and without hesitation Milo dives in.
A look of happiness glimpsed in the waters reflection reminds me of how grateful I am to be so close, yet so far from home. After reading a few chapters of the book I brought along, I call Milo back from his play and we get ready to make the final ascent.
Not far along the trail we come across the first viewpoint. The sky is mirrored upon the calm surface of Alouette Lake, stretching out below us. I take a moment to enjoy the soothing view. There is a certain meter to the symphony of the forest and setting my heart to this rhythm provides the perfect pace to finish the journey.
Eventually the tree line breaks and the peak is revealed. At this altitude there is still a light layer of snow, and I laugh as Milo plows right through it frolicking like a child. I brush snow off the comfiest looking boulder and embraced in the suns warmth, Milo and I sit in quiet reverie.
I take one last look upon the valley below with a feeling of conquest. I know that this trail of trials, whether it be steep switchbacks, mental boulders or the endless network of roots flowing from the trees, is just the medicine needed to heal all wounds inflicted by the daily life of the city.
Written by: Ian Wood
About the Author:
An outdoor enthusiast and lover of music, Ian Wood is an introvert in an extroverts body. You can find him and his dog, Milo, constantly in search of adventure and a nice place to sit and read. Follow his Instagram account @woodstur for more photos of his adventures.
Copyright © Ian Wood 2019
One thought on “Golden Ears: the medicine needed”
That’s the stuff!
Great writing, pal! Looking forward to hitting the trails with you again sometime. The mountains are calling… well, you know the rest.