How much activity and how little sleep can one fit into a single weekend? I feel like I have tested this theory on a few occasions in the past and our trip to Meager Creek Hot Springs was no different.
|The Harrison Hut|
Kyle and I flew into Vancouver Friday night on the late flight, which was delayed because of a light bulb that needed to be changed (how many pilots does it take...?). Pat, Rebecca and Peter picked us up in Rebecca's Subaru, which was already completely full. We spent a few minutes repacking so we could fit in our massive amount of luggage. We were arriving for a week and had all the gear for the hiking trip, a trad rack and other climbing paraphernalia, stuff for a wedding and Kyle's ski boots! Needless to say, it was a very cosy ride. Originally we had planned on staying in Vancouver on the Friday night but someone had the foresight to check and discovered that the Gran Fondo was starting early Saturday morning, closing the Sea-to-Sky for many hours. Late night drive to Whistler it had to be! An accident at Porteau Cove trapped us on the highway for three hours and we rolled into Creekside at 4:15 am. A few hours later, we were back on the road heading up to Pemberton. From Pemberton, it was a wet 2 hour drive up the valley, mostly on logging roads, to the Harrison Hut trailhead. We only got lost a little bit thanks to my poor directions and the car's odometer being in miles rather than kilometers.
Directions below from the VOC Harrison Hut Trail wiki page Harrison Hut Trail Info. We were able to find the trailhead with minimal difficulty, but things change frequently due to logging and new forestry roads. Do your research before you go!
|KM||Road||Direction or Monument|
|0.0||Lillooet South FSR||Sign "End of Public Road"|
|8.9||Lillooet South FSR||Go Right|
|18.9||Lillooet South FSR||Go Left|
|23.7||Lillooet South FSR||Go Left (2WDs park here)|
|26.0||Pika Spur (Perkins Main)||Go Right|
|28.0||Pika Spur (Perkins Main)||Go Right|
|29.0||Pika Spur (Perkins Main)||Go Left|
|29.1||Pika Spur (Perkins Main)||Go Left|
|29.6||Pika Spur (Perkins Main)||Trailhead|
|Harrison Hut Trail info from the VOC Harrison Hut Wiki Page|
The Meager Creek Hot Springs used to be a popular camping destination as it was vehicle access via the Lillooet River FSR and a bridge across the river. In 2010, the bridge was wiped out by a huge landslide off Meager Mountain and currently there do not seem to be any plans to build a new one. The hot springs are still there, but are much harder to approach. You can get to them by crossing the Lillooet River then walking in on the old access road 7 km, but some reports say that this involves crossing significant landslide debris Meager Creek Hot Springs Info. The new Harrison Hut Trail allows you to access the hot springs (9.5 km one way) and does not involve any river crossings. It was built by the VOC and completed in 2014 and has become notorious for epics. I had heard that the trail was a bit challenging, but was interested in checking out the hot springs as well as the VOC Harrison Hut.
Having left the coast for the rockies 5 summers ago, I had become accustomed to being well under suggested hiking times and can reliably hike 4-5 km per hour in most terrain with a full bag of mountaineering gear. The hike into the Harrison Hut reminded me that hiking is actually really hard! Our plan was to hike the first 6 km towards the hut, then make the 3.5 km detour to the hot springs for an afternoon soak. We figured it wouldn't take more than a couple hours to hike the 19.6 km (including the detour) to reach the hut, but boy were we wrong! The first 6 km of the trail undulates through the forest and cut blocks and it is VERY slow moving. We were averaging about 2 km/hr and we were not dawdling. It didn't help that we had left the car just after 1 pm. Hiking in the pouring rain isn't super fun at the best of times, but as we brushed past the dense foliage, we were getting soaked to the bone.
|One thing the trail does have going for it is amazing markings. You may not make it to the hut, but you won't lose the trail!|
|Slippery when wet|
|One of many log crossings|
|Trail markers seen every ~15 m helped us find the way|
|A bit more like a jungle than a trail|
|Getting up out of the wet cut block|
By the time we hit the turn off for the hot springs, we were getting concerned that we were going to be hiking in the dark. We skipped the springs and forged onwards and upwards on the remaining 6.5 km towards the hut. It got steeper and steeper. Trail signs at each creek crossing reminded us how much elevation we had left and how few kilometres we had to go. Surely we were almost there, right?
|Crossing Pika Creek|
|Lightening the packs with about 6 km to go|
|Chains helped on steeper terrain|
|Barr Creek Bridge had been smashed up. A work hike was heading up the following weekend to do some bridge work|
|Final ascent to the hut. It's got to be less than a kilometre now!?!|
|I spy a hut!|
Finally, we made it to the hut! It had taken almost 6 hours to hike 12.6 km. We stripped off our wet clothes and started a fire to warm the hut. Rebecca has taken most of the group gear and refused to share so was a little ways back with Patrick. By the time they arrived, it was almost dark and the hut was basically a sauna. After a few glasses of wine, we had all partially forgotten the misery of the hike in. We somehow managed to finish all the wine and beer we had carried in with us and stayed up way too late.
|Getting warm and cooking amazing stirfry|
Morning came too soon. The clouds had lifted slightly, allowing us a view of the surrounding area. There is plenty to see and explore around the Harrison Hut and it would make for an amazing destination on a longer trip. Alas, we had to get back to civilization and we still hadn't got to soak in the hot springs.
|Hut hog joined the trip|
|Views of Earth Peak (?) and the glaciers above|
|Crossing the Madhorse Creek beside the hut, an easy boulder hop|
The hike back down to the junction was a bit more manageable as the rain has stopped and we were losing elevation. At the logging road, we turned down the hill, following large arrows made from rocks for 3.5 km to access the hot springs. Once we arrived, the hot springs were deserted. All the picnic tables, change rooms and toilets are still there and functional. The big pools were also empty so we had to close the drain and allow the tub to fill before we could properly soak. There are signs asking people to drain the tubs after use to prevent algae from growing. We found some pools that had not been drained and they did not look very nice. Our big pool filled with amazingly clear hot water (probably ~102 Fahrenheit) and we were able to relax for a few hours with the occasional jump in the river to cool off. There are also signs saying that the area is closed and no camping is allowed. There are obvious areas that people have been camping and I think that it makes more sense to do that then to stay at the hut if you want to really enjoy the hot springs.
|Made it to the hot springs!|
|Pat and Rebecca lounging as we fill the pool|
|Cooling off in the river|
The hike out was much more enjoyable after a nice hot spring. Rebecca went ahead while we finished at the springs and saw 3 black bears! We got back to the car and hit the road. It was dark by the time we got back to Pemberton and we saw a large moose on our drive out. What a weekend!
|On of the many logs on the trail|