It was a short time for our holidays, so we decided to stay on the island and keep exploring our new backyard. All fully equipped now with my new mini-van DIY camper, we found a campground that was still opened in Comox to stay for 3 nights (we would treat ourselves to a nice Airbnb for our last day!).
The camper is getting better each time we drive out – this time I built an awning from individual items I found (awning poles, a small tarp and some heavy duty suction cups, along with some rope!) to protect me from the rain when I have to go out to the bathroom in the middle of the night (yep, that’s an issue when you have to sit right back onto your bed with your wet raingear!). It held very well the first night, but unfortunately, we had to take it down the second night as the valley was hit by another massive wind and rain storm… The small tree that I attached my rope onto actually was pulled out of the ground (roots and all!) because the wind was so strong… But other than that, the awning proved to be quite efficient and simple (5min to put up!) (and cheap!).
We lucked out with the weather – we were able to plan our daily activities properly with the forecast, and we had a beautiful sunny day when we drove up to Mount Washington to cross-country ski on Christmas day. As we don’t own our gear, we had to pay for the rental as well as the day pass to ski on the groomed trails from Raven Lodge (about 50$/person). Most of the trails were opened and we did almost 8km of trails that day, which is quite a lot considering this was my third-time cross-country skiing only (very different from snowshoeing!).
After our skiing time, we had our lunch and relaxed in Raven Lodge on the couches in front of the fire. It was just this great mix of outdoor time and relaxation before we drove back down to our campsite.
On our last day we decided to go snowshoeing. We didn’t want to pay for a snowshoe pass up at the Raven Lodge on Mount Washington, so I did some research and chatted with locals to figure out what would be the best backcountry trail we could hit without being in avalanche terrain. With all the information I had, we decided to head up the Forbidden Plateau Road all the way up to the parking lot of what was long ago a ski resort. The old chairlifts are still in place (although some towers have now fallen down) but there is no more maintenance (nor ski resort!), though the roads are cleared and the access is easy (with good winter tires at least!). The parking lot was quite busy, with lots of families bringing the kids to toboggan down the first bit of the slopes.
The visibility wasn’t great when we arrived, but after discussing with other locals in the parking lot, we knew that the trail was pretty well tapped all the way to the summit of the chairlift, and we knew the forecast was supposed to clear up within 1h or so. We headed up and took the safest (flattest) trails we could find leading up to the chairlift. About 40min after we started, we ended up between 2 layers of clouds and could see distant white peaks in the background.
Even after doing quite a bit of research online, I wasn’t able to find exactly the trail details in terms of the distance and elevation gain. From what I read, I would estimate that the trail goes up about 400m up to the chairlift, and it took us 1h45 to get to the summit (not necessarily a straight line, as, towards the top, we turned a bit towards the right, getting away from the chairlift so we would avoid very steep sections in deep fresh snow). The view at the top by the chairlift is great – you get a nice 360 of the area and can see Mount Washington, as well as distant peaks from the mainland.
We had our lunch and my traditional hot chocolate at the summit and took a nice 45min to head back down to the parking lot. We used the same trail as on the way up, in order to be conservative and make sure we found our way easily. The visibility heading back down was worst than on the way up, so we figured we’d keep the exploring for next time.
We had a great time exploring the alpine in the valley and we will definitely be back as soon as we can. I am already excited about summer opportunities out here… If you know good spots to explore next, let me know!