Saturday, October 03, 2020

Crooked Falls/Sigurd Trail – Upper Squamish Valley

We upped our adventure game yesterday and took a chance on an hour and a half drive to a new-to-us trail, and it was kind of magical. Unlike most of our hikes, the drive was also worth a mention. Past Squamish you turn left at Alice Lake Provincial Park onto Squamish Valley Road which is a main road and has several stunning views of dramatic mountain peaks and glaciers. If this wasn't First Nations territory I imagine it being overrun with awful monster homes instead of dotted with modest farms, some with horses and sheep grazing.

At Cheekye you cross the first of four narrow bridges and go left immediately at the fork (right is Paradise Valley Road) and continue on Squamish Valley Road. (We pulled over to check out Fergie's Café here on the way back, but couldn't get very close due to their social distancing rules.) This is a gorgeous paved winding road with a low speed limit and little traffic (perfect for cruising and enjoying a Hallmark moment — fall colours took it to another level). I'm guessing it may be slightly less pleasant on a busy summer weekend tho, as there are few passing opportunities and you may end up with cars on your bumper. 

At some point, the road degrades into a gravel fire service road (just rough enough to give an "are we supposed to be here?" vibe). Turn left off Squamish Valley Road onto a long, old, single-lane iron bridge with a wood beam surface that crosses the Squamish River (pictured above — slightly unnerving to us city folk) where you are greeted by the hard-to-miss grizzly sign (I can only imagine what the committee meeting around that pictogram was like). This is the Ashlu FSR and has some major potholes to beware of. Pass the very-non-touristy Riverside Recreation site (free camping, 9 pads, sand beach, no service) and cross another small bridge. Just before the fourth and final bridge, there is a small area to park (and a tree-covered non-official camping area if you need to do some business in the ferns). Or drive over the bridge and park along the road ahead. 

Shortly after the bridge, the rocky trail is clearly visible on the left next to a telephone pole (we didn't see a Sigurd trail sign but there supposedly is one so we either missed it or it's gone). It widens out to a very rocky logging "road" which I bet is very wet in the spring since there was water running down it. It soon turns into a forest path. Eventually, you see a "Sigurd Trail" sign. After 20 minutes there is a nice view of the river and later, one of Mount Garibaldi if the sky is clear. This first, easy section is really beautiful with giant boulders, and water dripping off moss-covered bluffs. Later there are steep switchbacks and technical areas to navigate and scramble. It's not too difficult but we definitely worked up a sweat. Markings are good if you pay attention, and the risk of falling is low. I'm not good with heights yet felt secure enough. I was more nervous about bears. I'm really not good with bears...

There is one junction clearly marked "Crooked Falls" to the left and "Sigurd Peak/Ossa Mountain" (a 2-hour further strenuous and dangerous hike — someone died here just this September) to the right. It took one hour to get here, and 17 minutes more to the falls. At the falls there is a path to the left that is hard to see (not the one down and straight ahead, or up and to the right). Go over a little crest and the path is then obvious and takes you down closer to the base of the falls for the best view. There was a hiker down there having his break so we didn't disturb him. We also decided to not get too close after reading about recent accidents in the area. There were two airlifts in September — a woman was rescued from the water and another woman took a tumble

We met few people on the way up as it was a Friday (a group of three at the trailhead, and a single hiker at the falls), but more on the way down. Just enough for comfort, while still having the place to ourselves. Lots of variety in the environment and dappled sunlight created an uplifting atmosphere. The orange tinge to the light was caused by California wildfire smoke haze. Our first 5/5 star rating. If we had met a grizzly it would be 0/5. Total time, 2:45 with lunch break.

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