While we were hanging out at the Tin Hat Hut there was a lot of discussion about how many people were at the top of Tin Hat. We weren’t sure if everyone was moving on to Elk Lake and the kids were set on sleeping in the hut. They started planning like this was a race where we had to beat all the other hikers to the next hut.
It turns out that the hike from Tin Hat Hut (km 90) to Elk Lake Hut (km 110) is the longest 20 km you have ever hiked. I say that because we took the east route where you wind down the back of the mountain. We were told that this section was originally very hard so it was extended to make it easier. This meant that to keep the km signs making any sense they are simply arbitrary on this section. We estimated it was actually closer to 25 or 26 km.
As a result of the race mentality we were off early at 730 AM. We didn’t have enough water left to cook a breakfast so we snacked and left.
The hike starts on rock face on the back side of the mountain and this section you have to navigate fairly cautiously watching your footing as you often step down fairly large sections of rock.
We were hiking fairly fast and it took us 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to km 91 (1 km). Our typical average hiking speed was above 3.5 km/hr so this is when we realized the markers were merely an indicator of when you could expect to meet again with the other section of trail.
After a short section of hiking on the rocks we were back in the woods and the decent from Tin Hat was modest. We did not find it difficult.
There were a few clear cut sections on the way to Lewis Lake. We ran our water down pretty low on this section of the trail although we eventually got to a good flowing creek and were happy to draw 1 L each.
And a few more logging roads to cross. Some may think that this terrain is ugly but I didn’t think so. There were always these beautiful purple flowers and hiking through the logging led to a lot of interesting discussions about preserving and respecting our resources.
By 10 AM, after 2.5 hours of hiking we covered 5 km and reached km 95. I wouldn’t discourage someone from taking this longer route. It was quite nice you just have to be prepared for it to take longer.
As a point of reference for hiking speeds we got to Lewis Lake in 2.5 hours. The group we met at the top the previous evening took 5 hours. It’s important to know your approximate hiking speed when you are planning your days.
The great thing about the SCT is that you can really plan your own adventure. There are so many places to camp by tent that you are not restricted to the huts.
The people we met at Tin Hat did a much shorter hike and then spent the night at the Lewis Lake Campground.
Fortunately the feral hobbits didn’t get us as we stopped for a nice break by the great creek by the Lake.
We had a nice big snack of jerky, trail mix and peanut M&M’s. We decided that the peanut M&M’s and trail mix were a really good snack compared to Cliff Bars and Snickers Bars that we packed for the JDF trail. The trail mix was loaded with good stuff and packed easily.
At Lewis Lake we found another sign that said we had 14 km to Elk Lake, although we knew we had already hiked a good distance.
It was uncommon to see stuff like this on the trail. For the most part it’s just you and nature, along with the logging of course.
There were some relatively easy sections of trail. We had to hike along a logging road for a short section (maybe 700 m) and we did think briefly that we missed the trail head but then we saw the pink ribbon and we knew we were still on the right track.
There were a few brush piles in the logged areas.
At times on the trail you can tell that the volunteers have good relations with the logging company. There were a few sections where it looked like they intentionally left a stand of trees to preserve the trail. And other sections where the trail was new because of logging.
I can’t imagine the amount of work involved just in the planning to preserve the trail.
I can never get enough of these old trees with notches for the spring boards. To imagine being in the woods among those giant trees and to hear one fall. It must have been spectacular.
The hike from Lewis Lake to March Lake was fairly easy. There were some flat sections where we made really great time. Some would say that we didn’t slow down to enjoy the scenery but I loved every minute of our hikes.
I felt like we were getting stronger every day.
And here’s one of those sections that just skirts the logging. Despite being by a lot of clear cuts and over several logging roads we thought the hike was very nice.
We didn’t see any bears but we sure made friends with a lot of toads!
The section of old growth forest was spectacular.
When were were marching through these beautiful trees my daughter spotted some people ahead of us. She panicked that the other hikers took the shorter route and somehow got in front of us.
They literally started to run and we closed the distance fast. Fortunately, they didn’t think we were a bear and spray us. 😉
We said hi and learned they were all from Dublin on their annual old dudes trip. We quickly passed them and then we proceeded to run down the little pitch that was in front of them.
Hut, hut! We got to the hut at 1354 PM after being out since 730 AM so a little over 6 hours of hiking including our break. We hiked 3.07 km/hr if you use 20 km, although we knew it was much further.
The hut at Elk Lake was great. It was the standard open design on the bottom with the sleeping upstairs.
We didn’t spend much time unpacking. We literally just got into our underwear and jumped in the lake. The water temperature was perfect and the lake was beautiful.
This hut was build in collaboration between the PRPAWS and the ATV club.
The kids found a log to float on and that entertained them for hours. I made a point of cleaning my hiking clothes again. I survived with 2 dry fit shirts – 1 hiking/1 camp.
My son had a ‘puffy coat’ which is great because they pack up small and they are light weight.
We had the place to ourselves for hours until we heard voices around 430 PM. We figured it was the group from North Vancouver because the Irish guys said they were camping elsewhere at March Lake.
As it turned out it was the Irish guys and they packed some hard liquor. Bonus! We shared a nice drink after a long day. They all quickly jumped in the lake as well and we had a good time getting to know each other.
It turned out one of the guys had done 60 marathons in his life – wow!
We figured the North Vancouver group wasn’t coming and then 2 of them rolled in to camp at 730 PM. I guess their group were hiking at different speeds which made it challenging because the other 2 got in right at dusk.
There was some drama that made things interesting, like being on a reality show for a bit. That’s hiking though. A little adversity and a lack of food can really change your outlook on things.
After things were sorted out we all enjoyed the beautiful scenery and packed ourselves into the top of the hut. That night we had 9 people sleeping in the top and there was room for more people.
This was a great day. It was a really challenging hike and the kids did really well again. I reminded them again that they were very fast doing it in just over 6 hours when our companions took 10 and 11 hours respectively.