The Hollyburn Trail (1922 - 1927)
Articles by Pollough Pogue
Hollyburn Trail Map (1925)
April 28, 1922
We stood on the beach watching some intellectual crows providing for their wants with characteristic contrivance. They tore the abundant mussels from the shingle, carried the shellfish high into the air, dropped them on the rocks, breaking the shells. Acrobatically the birds descended almost as fast as the mollusks and devoured the unprotected mussels. It was an example of the unusual mental powers of the rascally crow; nature has endowed her inimical creatures with greater resource than she has been stored on the pleasing and friendly life of the earth.
Three gulls standing on a log gazed intently as if trying to grasp the technique of the crows expedient. Near the beach a considerable number of little black and white divers assembled together in amity, rode the small breakers as if in a childish spirit of fun; it was engaging to observe them; at short intervals all disappeared suddenly, like a squadron of miniature Dutch-built craft overtaken by a swift disaster. But within a few minutes they reappeared and again gathered together to resume their surf-riding.
We would have liked to copy there antics but the water was too cold for human nature. The ridge behind the beach was not so for bidding and rebounded a casual street reclaimed from the forest, the steep thoroughfare waiting for further improvement, waiting for its eventual the whole brown bungalows to be built of lumber perhaps yet in the green standing trees, and to be inhabited by men and women yet unaware of each other.
The street lost all urban characteristics soon, but you could not have discerned exactly where the thoroughfare parted with its identity as a fixed and measured line of civilization. It merged into a mountain trail as the orderly river became a wild stream. One minute we were trudging up the middle of the street and the next minute a pair of grouse, brown as last year’s leaves, rushed away with a loud spinning sound almost from under our feet. Two eager squirrels pursued each other across the path, for the spirit of spring was like a spice in the air, giving to all creatures a fresh zest of life.
The trail climbed to the top of the ridge. This word does not convey the immensity of the huge barrier that rises from the shore. This knows still late I'm melting or the top; when we attained the height where the snow canceled the trail returned back. We were merely in pursuit of pleasure, not alpinist experienced in snow.
A mile from the street and the trail grew rough with boulders like a stream bed and a trickle of water from the snow poured and spilled and sprayed among the rocks. But below the snow the woods were alive with new green, and here and there some berry bushes were adorned with bright blossoms. We heard a vernal fugue of frogs, they're fluttering voices interwoven into a fragile melody.
The woods resounded with small noises that seemed to gain resonance from the strong bright air. The sharp tattoo of a woodpecker rang like a tiny gong through the trees. Like a trill of vibrant silver was the call of a squirrel, a liquid tremolo.
On the Trail
June 21, 1922
In pursuit of outdoor pleasures hundreds people crossed to West Vancouver on Sunday, but we met only five on the top of the Hollyburn Ridge where no lazy man has ever been.
The top is a mile high and, though it is June below, the winter lingers up there; in the dim, solemn, mistletoe-hung forest the snow is not all melted yet.
The top is comparatively easy of access. It is reached by a number of trails. I know by experience that the Twenty-second street trail is the easiest. From Marine Drive you climb Twenty-second. A sketch of the street, outlined with broad touches of an axe, it soon shades off gradually into an old skidroad. The nearly sunken transverse logs are like a series of steps for ascending the side of the mountain.
The trail is extremely steep for the first mile or so, but for compensations you have the amount of oxygen in your lungs and the calm of the deep woods in your heart.
Then you hear a musical stream and the trail passes underneath a lumber flume. The path now accompanies the flume, a narrow trough of boards supported by light trestle work. The climbing is not so arduous. Soon if the day is clear you can see beneath your eyes the wide view an eagle or an airplane rider gets of flat and shining sea, land like a coloured map. Near the top there is a picturesque cluster of wooden buildings, a sawmill now shut down, some of the shake-covered roofs caved in by the weight of winter snow. From this eminence the lumber was floated down the mountain in the flume.
Just before coming to the yellow island of sawdust in which the mill stands you can get the wildest outlook, taking in an unbelievable scope. You could look over Vancouver Island and the State of Washington, if there is no haze to contract your view. Underneath your eyes are Stanley Park, the harbor, the city with it's cross-hatching of streets looking like a photograph taken from an airplane, and beyond, the green expanse of Lulu Island with the silver-breasted Frasier and it's arms joining the glittering sea.
Veils of haze like silver gauze made a dim ghost of Mount Baker when we were on the top. But the yachts of English Bay looked like white bullet-flies and a great ship from distant parts, heading for Vancouver, was the size of Cinderella's slipper.
On the other side of the mill yard the trail continues uphill through a woods of squaw-brown forests in old stories. None of the big and infirm trees have been cut down to let the sunshine in. The silence of prehistoric ages broods over the patriarchal trees, Standing in serious contemplation, their mouldering lower branches festooned with parasitic plants.
We expected paleolithic man to appear, dressed in a wolf skin, or an old woodland deity to come, garlanded with vines, down the fir-shadowed trail.
We did not get to the very top. We got to where patches of snow buried the trail and the got bigger. Two men came down the path and said that higher up the snow was too deep for travelling without snowshoes. People who meet on the trail never pass each other without speaking; the trail opens the heart and makes ready sympathies and good fellowship. We turned back.
EDITOR’s NOTE: “On the Trail” includes a description of the abandoned Nasmyth mill site. In the same year, Rudolph Jules Verne visited the mill site. (To read Verne's account of this visit, CLICK HERE. Two years later, Eilif Haxthow and other Scandinavians were hired by Verne to repair some of the mill buildings, including the mill cookhouse, in an effort establish the first commercial ski operation on the North Shore mountains. In the fall of 1926, the cookhouse was moved to First Lake, where it was renamed the Hollyburn Ski Camp.
January 31, 1924
Perched high on the trestle of straddling poles the timber flume, a wide trough of planks, descended the mountainside in long sweeping, beautiful curves.
The flume was nearly half full of water, smoothly speeding from the reservoir, created by a dam, at the top. (Editor’s note: First Lake dam.)
Along one side of the flume, planks laid on the cross-members of the trestle made a sidewalk, pitted and splintered by the boot-caulks of the flume-tenders. By this elevated path we mounted the ridgeside one afternoon in November.
Halfway up the ridge we met a shinglebolt coming down. It passed us like a yellow flash, almost before we were aware of it. It told us how swift the slick current in the flume really was. There must be a heavy head of water, we told ourselves, behind the dam and the sluice gates must be wide open.
A succession of shinglebolts now shot downward. We met a flume-tender, a tall brown-faced logger leaning on his peavy at a rather sharp curve in the flume. The bolts, he told us, sometimes jammed at the sharp turns.
“What would you do in that case? “
“Why, I'd break her.” He grinned. If he didn't act quick, with all that water in the flume and bolts continuing to come, hell he said, humorously, would start pop to pop.
It did not, I thought, demand a particularly high flight of imagination to view with the mind’s eye the stirring scene when, as the flume-tender expressed it, hell began to detonate. The immediate air would be full, I knew, of flying shinglebolts.
Yes, the logger agreed with me, the sluicegate was open too wide, and in view of the volume of water coming down, the only healthy way to break a jam in the flume would be to first close the gate.
But, during our ascent, nothing disastrous happened. We reached the spot near the top, where the cedar shingle timber was piled beside the flume, and the loggers were launching in the rushing water, shinglebolt after shinglebolt. We contemplated this operation for some time, then started downward, following the easy board walk along the flume, the way we had come. The yellow bolts, shooting like projectiles past us, seemed to be under the guidance of a special providence. Always there was an interval of safety between them, and apparently they had not jammed.
We descended leisurely. The big flume, starting downhill on its high stilts through the still green forest, was a favorable vantage ground from which to view the sylvan beauty of the mountainside. The sun shone blandly down. Nature seemed to be in a particular urbane mood. The men above now launched no more shingle timber in the flume, and the water, though sliding as swiftly as ever, had a silken appearance of innocuousness. The woods drowned in the deep peace of the autumn afternoon.
Then, abruptly, we came round a bend to where, in the picturesque language of the flume-tender, hell had popped. Suddenly we heard the clapping of axes. Two men among the trees below us were cutting and trimming poles. Through my mind flashed the guess that these poles were meant for a stretcher. I climbed down the trestle to the ground.
One of the flume-tenders was very quiet beneath the trestle legs, his head pillowed on a shinglebolt. Another piece of shingle material lay near him. The two other men, tearing strips of bark from the cedar to tie the poles together to make a stretcher, told us simply, without pausing in their job, at which we sprang to aid them, the short tale of what had happened. I guessed it right before they said a word. It was the old instance, repeated every day of the outdoor working worker willing taking a desperate chance in order that his work may be expedited. The perversity which we call ill luck has twitched a shinglebolt athwartwise in the flume. The current had wedged it in the trough. Instantly a jam had formed. The flume-tender, desperately working with his peavy, precariously straddling the sides of the flume, had been struck by piece of shingle-timber catapulted by the force of its impact with the rear of the jam. He had crashed to the ground his shoulder striking a log. Pretty badly hurt.
The stretcher, padded by all our coats, was soon ready. The flume-tender, with the assumed indifference to suffering which is characteristic of his kind, grinned as we lifted him. Half an hour of downward trail, and we came out on a logging road. One of us had gone ahead, at a run, to the nearest telephone, to some seven and ambulance. Waiting, the flume-tender smoked cigarettes.
The Winter Trail
January 5, 1925
The ragged creek spun the downhill, bidding noisy defiance to the frost. The cold had tried to cement it over but had been able to do no more than build cornices of blue green ice out from the rocks on either side of the unfettered stream. The edges of these shells of ice were ground thin as knife blades by the flying water. The creek bragged to me of its freedom as I filled our tea pail.
For lunch we devoured fat bacon and bread buttered with bacon grease scraped from the frying pan with a sheath-knife. This is a class of nourishment that would not beguile your languid appetite in town. But after a three hour hike uphill you find it appetizing, and there isn't enough of it to satisfy. The stewed tea would be noxious if you weren't 3,000 feet up in the snow and creaking cold.
The cold up there obtruded itself upon you. You could not to disregard it. One of us split an opportune dry Cypress log and built up the fire. The flames licked eagerly at the wood, humming. The fire presently made a rich spot of rosie orange colour against massed green-blue pine-boughs, white-trimmed with snow.
We warned are freezing fingers and toes at the blaze. My own feet, wrapped in three pairs of stockings and oil-tanned-shoepacks, were as cold as stones. The afternoon was somber in the thick timber, and the frost intenser, perhaps, than we expected. When the blood began to circulate again in my hands, I whimsically carved my name on a green tree, and underneath it what I once saw on a birch tree on the Ottawa River beneath a Quebec' river-driver's French cabin:
"A passe ici," and the date.
As we started on the back track the cold grew more sinister and the gloomy woods more forlorn. A not long deferred nirvana would be the fate of one who, alone in this frigid forest, became incapacitated by accident, so that he would not move or kindle a fire. Wild nature has no kindly feelings towards man.
The early December evening was descending as we came out into the open space of the old sawmill yard. The feeble sun swung low in a tawny sky above a silver-grey sea edged with pale blue mountains. Apprehensive of being overtaken by darkness on the trail, one of our party urged us to a quicker downhill pace by repeating, exactly in the long drawn whine of the northern dog driver, the characteristic "mushon, mushon, boy" used on snow-covered trails to remind team-dogs of the need for haste.
Hiking on Hollyburn Ridge
January 24, 1925
You’ve lost your pep; can’t sleep at night; lost your appetite; irritable all day long?
The woods are full of generous-hearted souls anxious to direct you to where you can buy the latest nerve tonic or aid to good digestion. But overmuch advice has addled your brain.
“How to reduce your weight!? How to keep your fleeting youth! How to get rid of that double chin!”
“Bah!” you say, “ I’m sick of reading about the ills of mankind and the latest ’cures.’ ”
Quite so – But you don’t really deserve much sympathy. The probability is that, like 97,000 of your neighbours in Vancouver, you have steadily kept your eyes to the paved roads and drab office buildings of the city: you have ignored the God-given opportunities for health and the real joys of living which lie all around you.
Have you realized, for instance, that those mountains across the Inlet, on which you bestowed no more than a casual glance everyday, can give you back that pep which you have lost more quickly and pleasurably than a score of bottles of physic?
Do you know that within five miles of Vancouver there are alpine playgrounds as beautiful as any which Switzerland can offer? Look around you, man! Make up your mind to give the car a rest in the garage next Sunday and get out in the hills for a day. Take the missus, too, and she’ll get as much benefit from it as you will.
Be persuaded - just for once - to try the talk of a hike up Grouse Mountain or Hollyburn Ridge!
Perhaps you have never before bestowed much attention on that long ridge of tree-clad hills on the North Shore, their steep sides all powdered with snow at this time of year. That camel-backed ridge northwest from English Bay is Hollyburn Ridge. The top of it is a great plateau more than 3,000 ft. above sea level, two miles wide and twice as long, with heather-covered meadows, highland park’s and scattered clumps of alpine trees which in summer time are reflected in the mirror surfaces of still mountain lakes.
From Dundarave, West Vancouver, well-worn paths mount, through green timber most of the way, to the top. To begin with they were horse trails and logging roads, and they are the easiest and least precipitous of all the mountain trails in Vancouver’s alpine playground. The most travelled of the Hollyburn trails are those which begin at the heads of 22nd and 27th streets, Dundarave. The beauty and interest of the mountain forests and the sublimity of the views that expands before the eyes of the climber minimize the exertion of the ascent. In variety and loveliness of scenery and in grandeur of use, Hollyburn Ridge surpasses any mountain within easy access of Vancouver. In the lake district on the high plateau in summer the climber is surrounded by the idyllic perfection of sylvan beauty.
ONE VAST SNOW PLATEAU
At this time of year the great plateau is a solitude of snow. Its charm is of a very different kind but equally beguiling to the nature-loving Hiker. This splendid open white waste, diversified by snow-wreathed alpine trees, has a loveliness beyond expression in words. There is much more sunshine on the plateau than at sea level below. The cold is not severe during the day, and the pure sharp air is a vigorous stimulant. As a winter playground Hollyburn plateau has every natural advantage. More perfect natural facilities for snow-shoeing and ski running could not be found. The natural terraces and steep sidehills of the Hollyburn peaks which rise from the plateau could be readily adapted to ski-jumping and a tobogganing. There are many level miles for snow-shoe tramping. Ice for skating is available on the larger lakes at the cost of removing the snow.
A number of hikers who know the thrills of snowshoe tramping and ski running, and love to kick they get from blood stirring exercise in strong mountain air, climb the Hollyburn trail every weekend with skis or snow-shoes and packsacks with blankets and food. They spend the night in a cabin on the plateau, or in one of the shacks at the old mill.
These enthusiasts are not very numerous yet. But in the not remote future Hollyburn Ridge plateau is destined to become a popular skiing and snow-shoeing ground. There is a definite plan on foot to build a characteristic mountain inn in the lake district on the plateau. Already a tract of land as a site for this has been leased from the municipality of West Vancouver. The building, and picturesque chalet of logs, may be constructed next summer. In the meantime the concessionaires have made to the first steps in fitting up one of the bunkhouses at the old Cypress Lumber Company’s sawmill on the main trail as a ski camp. They have built a ski jump near the mill, and as a means of encouraging the sport, are renting skis to hikers and giving instructions in their use. Many hikers have availed themselves of this, and during the weekend the ski jump and its vicinity are animated by the high comedy of the first attempt of ski students.
You won’t find a ski-running or jumping as easy as it looks. Like snowshoes and skates, skis have to be painfully learned, but nothing will furnish more amusement to the gallery and your first experiments with them. But the snow was soft.
Most of the ski runners of Vancouver have hiked up Hollyburn in the last few weeks, and founded an ideal place for their sport. Coffee and good camp food or provided at the ski camp. If this cold weather continues on the mountain, a sports day of races and jobs will be arranged, ski enthusiasts say.
The men who have undertaken these developments are from Sweden, and are practiced ski-runners and jumpers, and his their aim to encourage and popular i ski running on Hollyburn Ridge, which they selected as the most suitable place for Alpine winter sports readily accessible from Vancouver.
STOPPING-PLACE IS NEEDED
A comfortable stopping-place on the plateau would make it possible for ski-runners or snow-shoers to enjoy their sport amidst the beautiful winter scenery of Hollyburn Ridge without the necessity of having to pack blankets and food up the trails.
Let us follow a party of these hikers on their travels.
The other night (they called it night because it was still dark) three hikers started at 6:00 a.m. up the Hollyburn Ridge trail from Dundarave, West Vancouver. They carried new pairs of yellow-webbed snowshoes, which they had purchased in preference to skis from a sense of loyalty to Canadian institutions. They still cherished a rash confidence that they could walk on then successfully the first time they tried, because they had not yet tried. It had not occurred to them that like skis and raw broncos, snow-shoes have to be domesticated before they will behave properly. And in taming them you discover how vindictive inanimate things can be.
At the head of 22nd Street, where the trail begins, the three hikers met a fourth, who also carried snow-shoes but not new ones. He had an experienced look, for he had kicked them into submission on many hikes. But though subdued, there were still capable of mischief.
After lively greetings, the four plodded through the bluish light of the winter dawn up the slanting trail. The chill struck cold even upon their hopeful spirits, and they solaced themselves hiker-fashion, by partaking freely of chocolate bars.
Three hours later the hikers reached the cabin at the first lake on the top. From the old mill they had stumbled through the snow on the trail without using their snow-shoes. After further informal nourishment, in the form of seedless raisins, they fastened on their snowshoes. The sharp clear air of the high plateau was now flooded with sunshine. The thick covering of snow, spread in great billows over meadows and ice-sealed lakes, was lustrous with sunlight. The pure beauty of the snow, the fantastic look of the warped and twisted alpine trees with their heavy heavy snow-fleeces, the blue shadows and the immense silence made the snow-shoers feel that they were in a strange land that had no real relation to the commonplace world they had left below the mountain.
TIROS TUMBLE HEADLONG IN DRIFTS
There was no need to follow the trail now the whole extent of the plateau was open to them to wander where they felt inclined without fear of getting lost. They left deep furrows behind them to mark the back track, for the new snow-shoes were bucking and pitching and skidding and side-slipping. The students of the art of snow-shoeing were tumbled headlong and struggled helpless in the deep snow until helped to an upright position. Shouts of laughter animated the still desert of shimmering snow and white-trimmed trees. The victim of the moment laughed as loudly as the others. It was real sport.
Two of the hikers were of those committed from birth to wear petticoats and sometimes did, but not when they went hiking. They were the healthiest of the party and soon announced that their appetites needed attention. Packsacks were opened in a clump of cypress and hemlock on the shore of last lake. The sunshine fell warm on the creamy snow in this cozy place, from which a frightened rabbit fled with long hops when they appeared. The experienced member of the party now made a fire; he had brought in his back the supply of kindling wood, and with a real axe he split a dry cypress log into billets. He hung his tea-pail over and the fire and kept it filled with snow until he had water enough for ten. The young women spread out an abundant luncheon.
Darkness comes early in the woods in January, so it was necessary to start at half past two on the return trip to Vancouver. This necessity was the only regrettable thing about the trip.
To once behold the alpine loveliness of Hollyburn is to fall under its spell and if a hiker once climbs a great ridge he will climb again and again. In summertime when the huge plateau is overspread with purple and white heather, rhododendron, and many varieties of mountain wildflowers, and water lilies cover the still surfaces of the lakes, Hollyburn is the most popular with week-end hikers of all the mountains in the Vancouver district.
THREE HOURS HIKE TO SUMMIT
No mountain top in the vicinity of the city is so easy to reach. From Marine Drive, the main street that runs fore-and-aft through West Vancouver, three hours leisurely hiking will take you to the plateau. Experienced hikers make the trip without hurry in two hours and a half.
West Vancouver c. 1915
Haunted Trails of Hollyburn
May 3, 1925
The trails on Hollyburn Ridge, West Vancouver’s alpine paradise, are the oldest trails in the Vancouver mountains, and are haunted by the ghosts of the past. Legends of pioneer logging are suggested by the cross skids nicked in the middle, still fixed in the Hollyburn trails. There are old miner’s trails, and at least one romantic story of a lost mine. Half a century ago, before Vancouver was contemplated, Moodyville loggers cut a giant harvest off Hollyburn, and the stubble they left shows how titanic were these cedars and firs. These timber harvesters engineered and built the old skid roads which are now the Hollyburn trails. They had a booming ground in the cove at West Vancouver.
Some say that these ancient logging roads, now, in their second incarnation, pleasure trails for hikers and nature students, have spectral visitations from dead bull-punchers who once a year in the misty light of dawn drive ox-teams down the old cross skid trails.
SOME TRAILS ARE SIWASH TRACKS
The Hollyburn Ridge trails, shown in the sketch map on this page, or almost all former skidroads slashed and beavered through the mountain forests forty or fifty or even sixty years ago by logging operators as highways for logs reaped from the timbered slopes. A few of the paths are old hunting tracks worn originally by Siwash moccasins. These, of course, are the oldest.
The present trails used by hikers cross creeks on bridges built in the beginning by the pioneer loggers, and repaired by later outfits of timber operators who have cut logs on the mountain as recently as a few years ago. The Naismith company operated on a rather large scale for a time but gave up logging on Hollyburn several years ago. This company improved and repaired the trails. The Shields concern still logging, built one of the best known paths, the box-flume trail that runs east and west along the sidehills above West Vancouver.
Lately some “ haywire” operators have cut shingle timber and yellow cedar (Western cypress) on the ridge, but to the immense satisfaction of hikers and nature lovers a great deal of green timber remains uncut on Hollyburn. Unless consumed by fire, it will stand for a long time, owing to the cost of getting it down the mountain.
“Sue” Moody’s loggers, in red and white checkered wincey shirts and fullcloth or cottonade trousers tucked into long boots with scarlet tops, reaped the first forest crop off Hollyburn Ridge, then called Black Mountain or Cypress Mountain, and to get the tree giants to their booming-ground at Hollyburn, they built the old skidroads and travoy trails.
Long after the big mills at Moodyville had sawn the great firs and cedars that these bearded lumberjacks harvested, the Naismith outfit, lured by the rich timber still standing on the ridge, joined together some of the old roads and roughed out many miles of new bush paths, scooping out sidehills, bridging creeks and throwing down corduroy where it was needed., and created a fair forest highway from the end of Twenty-sixth street, Dundarave, to the far side of the ridge. The Naismith operation built a sawmill at the 2,500 foot level, and a lumber flume, from the mill down to what is now Sherman station on the P. G. E. Railway, near the Great Northern cannery. The Naismith company extended their trail through the Six Lake district on the flat top of the ridge, and at an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet, excavated ditches and built rock dams to form a reservoir to store up water so that they might operate their flume in the dry season. All their improvements are now used by hikers. The mill longer saws lumber, but is a picturesque ruin. The cabins and shacks along the trails are shelter camps for hikers. The bunkhouses at the mill have been turned into a ski camp. The heavy sawmill machinery dragged to to the little flat on which the mill was built, has been dragged down again by the donkey-engines.
The most popular route up Hollyburn, followed in summer by hundreds of hikers each weekend, begins at the head of Twenty-second street, for which one of the old skidroads leads to the box flume trail. The flume is followed to the Naismith trail, which intersects it at the 1,600-foot elevation above Twenty-sixth street, then the Naismith trail is followed to the mill. From Twenty-second street to the intersection the trail is almost as easy as a path in Stanley Park. It was built in the beginning for oxen and horses. It is neither steep nor rough. In summer it is a green tunnel of leaves. In winter it is sheeted and wrapped in the creamy beauty of the snow.
After the intersection the Naismith trail grows steeper as it mounts over rocky ledges, but it is never really difficult. Mountain climbers call it quite easy. It is much easier than the Grouse Mountain trails. Many thousands of feet of logs have been dragged over it by animals, and donkeys engines have climbed it pulling great sleds loaded with tons of machinery.
PLUNGES INTO SPLENDID FOREST
At the old mill it crosses the sawdust covered millyard and plunges into a splendid green forest. In the fragrant dusk of this characteristic coast range wouod the hiker climbs easy grades for three-quarters of an hour. Then the forest ravels out into a thin fringe of cypress and pine and hemlock and the trees show the alpine character in picturesquely warped and gnarled trunks and limbs. Dwarfed sinewy, they look like goblin trees. The trail passes a tumbling log-cabin, hunched up on the shore of an emerald Lake, in the satiny surface of which the dark trees around its rim are exactly painted. It crosses a series of mountain meadows and parks, looping around the curved shores of five other darkly shining lakes, fringed with somber alpine trees. In summer this plateau is rich in wild flowers, and blueberries.
At a rock dam on the farther side of the flat the trail ends, but by cruising westerly, over open alpine parks, and climbing high rock ledges covered with scattering timber, hikers attain Hollyburn peak, called by some Mount Vaughan, from whose granite summit there is a noble view over the field of mountains between Hollyburn ridge and Howe Sound, and across the deep canyons to the east and south. The Lion peaks appear close at hand from here. This is a real rugged mountain height.
To make the trip from West Vancouver to Hollyburn peak, and back in a day is a splendid hike. Start early in the morning or you’ll be late getting back. Looking from the rock knob on the top of Hollyburn, the next ridge, Mt. Strahan, invites you. Camp at the Naismith mill, and start from there, and you can make Strahan and back next day easily.
THE OLD BLACK MOUNTAIN TRAIL
If you look at the trail-map of Hollyburn, you will see that there is marked on it the trail that begins on the west bank of the Capilano at the end of the suspension bridge that swings high over the emerald river.
This is said by old-timers to be the oldest of the Hollyburn Ridge trails, Over half a century ago, when mineral prospectors cruised over the ridge, and hiked into the mountains between the ridge and Howe Sound, they called the ridge Black Mountain.
This is a prospector’s and hunter’s trail, and if you saw any phantoms of the past on this trail they would be ghosts of quartz-seekers or deer-slayers. The trail is not well-defined now, for except by spectral feet, it is seldom trodden, and wild nature has woven her forest mat of salal and vines and purple heather hide the track, and fern and salmonberry flourish where shoepacks wore out a path when Hastings street and Granville street were forest trails.
But the old footway may still be followed; nature’s damp luxuriance has hidden but not obliterated it. It leads up the long eastern slope of the ridge to the tableland on the top. Pushing among high bracken and shrubbery and mounting over fallen logs and wading through devil’s club and blueberry bushes and crossing the blackened swaths of old bushfires, the hiker reaches three lovely mountain lakes rimmed by green timber, and marshy meadows where blue gentians grow. Hikers call these lakes East, Middle and West. It is about half an hour’s tramp up from West Lake to the group of lakes called Six Lakes by hikers, between which the Naismith trail winds on its way to the other side of the ridge and Hollyburn peak, the region’s highest elevation.
SPLENDID VIEW FROM BOX-FLUME TRAIL
Hikers who don’t want to make the trip to the top of the ridge, owing to lack of time or to disinclination to exertion, are advised to hit the box-flume trail shown on the map, built by the constructors of the Shields water-carrying flume which runs, a four-mile-long box on stilts beside the trail, from Bob Shield’s logging operation just about Ambleside, west to Cypress Creek.
The flume and the trail follow a narrow shelf on the side of Hollyburn Ridge at elevations of from 1200 to 1,500 feet, a sufficient height to afford a wonderful view of English Bay, the Straits of Georgia, Howe Sound, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Point Grey, Lulu Island and the Fraser Valley to the west. In clear weather Mount Rainier may be seen from this trail. To the eastward you get a glorious view of Mount Baker and the snow-covered peaks it dominates. From this viewpoint, more than any other, you realize what a magnificent mountain old Baker is. Vancouver harbour and the city lie spread beneath you, as if you were looking at a vast photograph taken from an airplane. These views are much more extensive than the outlook from the Grouse plateau, or from any other elevation in the Vancouver district.
The box flume trail is very lovely in the summer-time, as it passes through green woods, luxuriant because of the southern exposure, and sheltered from the northerly winds.
The trail is almost level, and is reached from the head of Twenty-second street by following the old cross-skid road, which climbs the side of Hollyburn to the box-flume. This old skid-road is the easiest trail on Hollyburn, except the box-flume trail itself. The box-flume is no longer in use, and when you get about an hour’s hike west of where the flume trail is intersected by the Naismith trail that climbs the mountainside from the head of Twenty-sixth street, Dundarave, the trail gradually disappears, but if you wish to make the trip to Cypress creek gulch, you can easily walk in the flume. It is not dangerous. It will take you to a wild and romantic canyon.
Photo Group 1
June 2, 1925
Long before the rising sun shot its flashing arrows through the fir tops, a continuous string of hikers already, on the twenty-fourth of May, moved slowly up the steep main trail which passes not far from my camp at the 2,000 ft. level. For the next three hours there was seldom a very long hiatus in the continuing dispersed gasping file.
To me, an apparent casual logger in grimy trousers and mackinaw “stag” shirt, the hikers gave no attention. At any rate, many of them were absorbed in their assertions and the difficulties of the ascent. But, sitting on my easy log with, inevitably, a wheatstraw cigarette, the hikers were of considerable interest to me.
To many of the women and some of the men, the hiking garments they wore, the universal breeches, golf stockings and sweaters were a novelty, in which, as yet, they were conscious of their appearance, the feeling of a soldier when he wears his uniform in public. Few of the women realized that, in breeches and stockings, they looked more engaging than in their familiar spirits or frocks. They wore breaches because, for hiking, it is the mode.
Most of them were laboring for breath, because, although unaccustomed to physical effort, they were traveling too fast. They were climbing at the rate of 1,500 feet an hour, perhaps, or more, while the experienced hikers were ascending at the rate of from 800 to 1,000 feet an hour comfortably. Most of the inexperienced were carrying too much. I saw at least a dozen kinds of backpacks and back frames, the Deluth packsack, the favorite of loggers, the most practical of woodsmen, the Whelen pack, rucksacks of many kinds and several sorts of military knapsack. All were stuffed full and most of were riding too low for comfort. These tenderfoot hikers were prepared to spend the night in the bush, or to camp crudely in the trail cabins, sleeping cold because they had not enough blankets. I do not enjoy camping out unless I have a comfortable bed, but these hikers appear to think discomfort is an inescapable part of the game. It is not. As I observed them, I was sure that most of them were obsessed by a fixed idea of getting to the top of the mountain as soon as possible, for they did not appear to be feeling the vernal beauty of the woods, or appreciating the delicious and fragrant sylvan morning. Almost all of them were eating as they hiked, either raisins are candy, or oranges, or biscuits. The trails they follow are strewn with rappers and empty containers and orange peel. It seemed to me that many were not enjoying their hike, and would not find real pleasure in camping out for the night. In retrospect, going back over in thought afterward their experiences, they might enjoy them immensely, but the real thing they did not sincerely like.
Speculating on their motives, the sources of the impulses that made them laboriously climb the mountain, I decided they didn’t do it quite for the fun of the thing.
In the same spirit hundreds of people camp out in the woods, voluntarily suffering for some days or weeks the hardships and privations of the pioneers of settlement. Without the experience that would enable them to be comfortable in an offhand camp, they live in primitive discomfort, but with a regenerative sense of freedom from the artificial obligations of civilization, and of refreshment mystically derived, in spite of a comfortless life, from wild nature. Camping out is a healthy reaction from an involved civilization. The tonic administered by the wilderness, though often unpalatable, is wholesome.
These and experienced hikers will learn the craft of the trail, and they will not, after a few trips, walk too fast uphill, backback too much, sleep cold or allow the mosquitoes to bite them freely. They will graduate into wildcrafters and nature students, and then they will really enjoy hiking and camping.
Among the tenderfeet hikers were a few of the graduates of the school of woodcraft, easily recognized by their trail-worn raiment, easy stride, high-riding packs, leisure and assurance, and by the superior patronizing air with which they regarded the panting tenderfeet.
Vandals of the Trail
June 26, 1925
A good many years back the logging companies then operating on Hollyburn Ridge spent a lot of money constructing trails, flumes, cabins and other improvements. Since the companies quit operating because they could not sell their logs at quite as much as the logs cost them, the hikers have found the trails, cabins and flumes very well adapted to their ready use. They were excellent trails and cabins and flumes. The hikers hiked over the good trails, camped in the good cabins, and some of the hikers found the flumes very convenient for firewood. Seventy-five percent of the hikers would not commit the least injury to property; the other 25 percent were not all vandals, not all of them defaced cabins and shacks wantonly. Many were merely thoughtless, or acted as if they had not expected to make another trip over the same trails. Some by nature were slovenly and untidy. The result was the same. The 25 percent, the deliberate spoilers, who chopped up benches and tables and bunks, and the careless, who left the cabin interiors in a sluttish state and scattered empty cans and litter outside, have demolished or dirtied the shacks. A few, with a total lack of respect for property, have hacked wood off the flumes for fuel for campfires to such an extent, that lately, a small gang of men have worked for two weeks repairing one of them. This is a box-flume for water and is now needed, after years of disuse, to collect water from a number of creeks, and carry it to a storage pond of a shingle-timber operation to be used in fluming down bolts.
I met on the trail the straw-boss in charge of the repairs. He was slightly annoyed. A party of hikers had on Saturday smashed the flume, which had been fixed up a day or two before. I met him on Monday. He regarded me with suspicion and distrust. My clothes suggested to him I was a hiker. He expressed freely and with force, his views on hikers and hiking. He had with him a number of painted signs on boards, which he was nailing up on conspicuous trees along the flume trail. The boards said that persons who injured or tampered with the flume would be prosecuted. The warning was signed, “By Order.” The straw-boss violently nailed one of these signs on a large eminent tree as he commented on hikers. His gang, characteristically heavy-shouldered and inarticulate, leaned on their axes, frowning their complete approval of what the boss said.
“By Order” never seemed to me to be an intimidating signature; it is too impersonal. But the loggers mean business and will protect their flume if they can.
When the ski-camp was established at the old Naismith Mill, the bunkhouses and cookery and other shacks around the mill had been eviscerated and were slowly disintegrating, board by board, and shake by shake. Hikers were gradually perpetrating their felonious demolition. The excellent sportsmen who started the ski-camp repaired the shacks, cleaned them thoroughly, built new bunks and tables and seats out of the wreckage , rehabilitated the old stoves, and now there is sleeping accommodation for thirty or forty hikers at the mill, that is, clean bunk-room.
To ordinary students of human nature the impulses that induce what is loosely called vandalism are unaccountable. You would suppose that even very young and irresponsible hikers would wish to keep intact the mountain shelters and trail shacks, as convenient camping places, and to leave the interiors in an orderly state.
At the intersection of the Naismith lumber flume with the box-flume trail, one whole side has been recently torn out of a well-built board shack, quite wantonly.
August 26, 1925
In a variety of beautiful camping places on a ridge of mountains near Vancouver, I have spent the summer, sleeping sometimes in a tent, sometimes simply in blankets spread in the heather on the shores of alpine lakes about which hung an infinite and mysterious charm.
It is a law of life that for everything desirable one must pay a price, and the price I paid for a delightful summer was the heavy labor of backpacking supplies up from sea level to my high mountain camps.
I am a man not young or strong, and not in good health, and the trails up which I have to carry my loads were both steep and rocky.
Like Christian, I often faltered by the way, and like the hero in “Pilgrims Progress,” I learned patience and endurance spirit while struggling uphill under my heavy pack.
I was almost destitute of health, and to ascend the mountain trails without a load seemed too much for my strength. The first trips, on which I had to carry tent, blankets and all the indispensable iktahs of camping, and a supply of food, nearly broke my heart, pathologically as well as in the sense of the spirit.
I shall not forget the first trip, which was the hardest physical experience of my life.
To carry light loads and make many trips over the steep and rough trails would lengthen the job of packing my iktahs, including a standard typewriter and many books up the mountain. I decided to carry loads of the weight customarily packed by backpackers, from fifty to seventy pounds. The first load was made up of tent, blankets, some cooking rigging and food. As soon as I had started up the trail I realized that the load was too heavy for my debilitated frame.
Unsteadily I mounted the long sidehill with my burden. My infirm heart palpitated like a decrepit engine forced to operate at high-speed. As I moved upward, gasping violently, I momentarily expected to collapse from complete physical exhaustion. I could have lightened the pack or thrown it off, but when I contemplated this and obstinate resolution to carry the load to my campground arose in me.
Frequent brief rests kept me from dropping. I’ll go, I would tell myself, to that big Douglas and take a rest. But when the Douglas was reached I did not pause, but thought I could make her to the western white pine and halt there for a minute or two, and then I’d struggle on past the white pine to a log a furlong farther on, and sit down there.
*So I attained my high campground with the first load. Before I was established in camp I was forced to make a number of similar trips. I do not possess this skill in the use of (words) and phrases adequate to give a proper account of my suffering carrying those heavy packs up the trail. My body ached from sore muscles so that every motion was painful. But my appetite for food increased, and I slept much better in the mountain woods on a bed of fir boughs than on a mattress in a shack on the beach. On the trail (carrying) a pack I found my breathing (capacity) increasing, and my heart pathologically speaking, appeared to improve . . . weary and hopeless exasperation . . . , despair, bitter moods produced . . . .illness and ill fortune, ameliorated (by) the kindly and tranquilizing influence . . . of the mountain, were superseded (by a) healthier philosophy of patient . . . .promise with my trials and (troubles).
Backpacking, while making up m . . . .fer, slowly improved my (physical) health; the trail, though rigorous really alleviated my disease. As summer advanced I found that I (could) carry my loads, now made up of . . . . four thousand feet without overexertion. I learned the art of backpacking, the importance of having the pack ride high, the (proper use) of shoulder straps and tumplines, learned the proper trail pace, in (which) you must watch your feet and (make) no missteps.
* Please note that due to deterioration in the original document, it was difficult to discern some of the wording in the last two paragraphs.
The Hollyburn Trail
October 4, 1925
A Wonderland of Green Forest and Enchanting Alpine Beauty
“Hundred Times More Attractive Than Stanley Park”
A Paradise of Virgin Shadowy Woods and Flowery Meadows
The hiking trip of the Vancouver and New Westminster newspaper fraternity - comprising 170 members – to Hollyburn Ridge next Sunday, at the invitation of the West Vancouver Council, calls attention afresh to the beauty of this mountain playground at the doors of the city. The following article describes the available routes and the scenic possibilities of the trip.
Excelling in outdoor beauty of every variety any other mountain in the Vancouver Alpine District, Hollyburn Ridge is easier to climb, its great plateau gorgeously lovely now in rich autumn masquerade, is easier of access than any other mountain playground in the district.
This surpassing beautiful recreation region at an elevation of 4000 feet above the city, may be reached by easy stages. A half-hour trip in one of the West Vancouver ferries, a ten minute ride in a ferry bus, and a fifteen-minute walk takes you to where thethe mountain trails begin. There are two main trails from, West Vancouver. Both are charming sylvan avenues leading to mountain scenery, higher up, which is magnificent beyond power of description.
No fallen timber or other obstructions or places in which an incautious step may mean danger, are to be found on these trails. They are as safe and as easy , except for the slight effort necessary on the steeper side hills, as the trails in Stanley Park, and a hundred times more beautiful and interesting. A trip up Hollyburn trails makes Stanley Park seem commonplace.
Walking at two and a half miles per hour it takes you about an hour and a quarter to reach the ski camp at the old Naismith (1) sawmill, elevation 2500 feet, from the head of Twenty-sixth street, on the Twenty-sixth street trail (2). From the head of Twenty-second it will take you perhaps a quarter hour longer. The exertion of climbing that far gives you a healthy appetite for lunch, which is served at the ski camp, maintained by two popular Scandinavian sportsmen, known to hikers as Eilif (Haxthow) and Eric (Ahlberg). Both, by the way, are expert ski-runners and specialists on winter sports. Both are splendid woodsmen and familiar with the mountain country for which their camp is a base, and are available as efficient guides for parties who wish to explore the almost untouched field of mountains behind Hollyburn Ridge. During the winter the ski camp which these excellent sportsmen have established is a headquarters for snow sports of all kinds, but chiefly ski-running through the enchanting white forest, and ski jumping on the big slide at the old mill.
From the ski camp the trails penetrate the great green forests of Hollyburn, in which no logs have ever been cut, and which are untouched by fire. Through characteristic coast range woods, main trails lead the hiker through alpine meadows embellished by mountain lakes glowing like rich emeralds, to Hollyburn peak, the highest elevation on the mountain, or to Cypress Lake (3), which is not surpasses for solitary beauty by any mountain lake in the Coast Range.
The central point of interest in this gorgeous alpine wilderness is Hollyburn Peak, from which a great panorama of mountains may be viewed and photographed. The horizon to the east and west and north is rimmed with peaks, on some of which snow fields and glaciers are to be seen all the year round. From here the trail takes you down the northwestern slopes of Hollyburn, and many hikers attain the summit of Mt. Strahan (4), the next ridge of mountains, over 5000 feet, before turning back for the return trip of their day’s hike.
From the ski camp at the old mill to the peak of Hollyburn it is at the leisurely hiking pace of two and one half hours per hour about a two-hour’s trip. Almost every variety of alpine scenery is viewed on this hike. The trail passes through a somber forest for three-quarters of an hour after leaving the Naismith mill. This beautiful green timber makes you feel “all that mystery of motionless and teeming life that is in the forests, that spirit of the woods where one waits silent, glancing everywhere expectant of Pan, the God of wild life, to step out from one – but which one first? – of the trees.”
Then the trail leaves the shadowy woods and crosses flowery meadows in the sunlight, plunges again into the forest, and again emerges upon heathery meadows, winding between mirror-like lakes embraced by forest trees of rugged alpine appearance, mountain hemlock, amabilis fir and western white pine, hardened to a grim physique by the winter cold. There are a dozen lakes and ponds on this trail to the peak. There are no difficulties in this trail, and lovers of natural beauty find that the romantic and colorful interest is so absorbing that the exertion of hiking is unnoticed. There are no rough or dangerous places, and the trip has been made by people of advanced age.
The attractions by the Hollyburn Ridge are so numerous that it is impossible to refer to them all. The great ridge on which hunting and shooting have been forbidden by the Provincial game board, has every species of wild life found in the Coast Range. There are deer and bear, and all the larger and smaller animals that inhabit the Coast mountains. Blue grouse are numerous and show their handsome feathers to hikers on the trail, and bird life of every kind is seen and heard.
This wonderful region of outdoor pastime is a paradise for the botanist, the lover of bird and animal life, the seeker after mountain air and alpine, the amateur photographer, the camper, and hiker. It is a wonderland of green forest and alpine beauty. A few years ago, it was known to but a few, now it is becoming the most popular of mountain playgrounds. It’s rapidly-growing popularity is natural, for everyone who visits it for the first time goes back to the city and speaks in glowing terms of its beauty. Its great advantages over other mountains in the Vancouver outdoor district are its splendid trails, the accessibility of extensive plateau, and the very important thing that its slopes are gradual and demand little exertion more than a walking trip on level ground. Its main trails were well built –n easy switchbacks for the purposes of logging. It is not unlikely that in the not remote future these trails will be converted into motor roads.
As well as being the most easy of access, Hollyburn Ridge is far the most beautiful of all the Vancouver mountains. The enchanting loveliness of this wonderful beautyland must be seen to be fully appreciated.
Nymphs of the Trail
February 19th, 1926
On Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, the trail that passes my cabin is lively with hikers emerging from the woods and entering the mill clearing; they have climbed twenty-five hundred feet over a pretty rough trail and I give them grave consideration as they pass, for as Alexander Pope said, the proper study of mankind is man. In this instance, as I sit in the warm sunshine on doorstep, the subjects of my superficial searches are mostly women; there are about twice as many women hikers as men hikers.
The most obvious thing, plain to the most casual observer, is, that after their climb, the women are less fatigued than the men.
Somehow, as the hikers toil past my door up the steep grade, I can not help thinking of Lewis Carroll’s lines:
Four young oysters hurried up -
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more and more and more.
On a fine Sunday three hundred or more climb Hollyburn to the ski camp.
In this instance, the young oysters are chiefly females, as I said before, and modestly clad in breeches, golf stockings and sweaters. To be quite frank, only about 15 percent of the female human species look well in breeches or knickerbockers. The forms of the other 85 percent are rather too characteristically feminine to be emphasized by breeches. But breeches and stockings are much more suitable to a mountain trail than the unwieldy skirt. Wearing breeches must give a women a great sense of physical freedom.
But from what I know of human nature I have no doubt that the 85 percent, who in breeches do not quite suggest the ideally perfect form of woman, think they look quite smart.
Seated on my doorstep, with a fellow student of the human species to give me countenance, we agreed as to these things. We also agreed that the women hikers, seen from the doorstep, were better walkers than the men. This was incomprehensible to us, because a majority of them were wearing ordinary street shoes, many with high heels. The trail was rough and muddy, and in places, owing to melting snows higher up, a watercourse. In thin-soled shoes, the feet of these women hikers must have been very wet indeed. Yet they stepped more lightly and seemed to walk with less effort than the men, most of whom trudged heavily along through the mud.
It is of interest, also, to see how lightly these fair creatures clothe themselves for a mountain hike. Thin breeches, a mere sweater or masculine flannel shirt over the mysterious but undoubtedly delicate garments which the advertisements call lingerie (an enticing word) seem to meet the needs of these tender maids. But in their roles as mountain nymphs they should, according to the figure painters and the pastoral poets, wear much less.
The male hikers are not so robust. They wear thick undergarments, heavy sweaters, mackinaw coats, serge breeches and loggers’ boots.
I have an admiration for the women hikers. But let me hasten to say that I admire them best in perspective. As an artist. I do not like to get close to the object of my admiration, whether it is animate or inanimate. When lovely things are a certain distance away, they have the proper atmosphere; if you get too close to them, their edges become hard and they lose the atmosphere which gives them charm.
The Familiar Trail
February 27, 1927
The trail from Dundarave to my cabin on Mount Hollyburn is long and rough and steep and to an infirm old man such as I am, arduous and demanding laborious exertion, especially if the weather is bad. In distance my cabin is about two miles from where the suburban street shades into the mountain trail; in altitude my cabin is over 2000 feet above the end of the street. Two or three times a week for two years I have climbed those steep miles, usually with a pack that seems, before I reach my cabin, heavier than Christian’s. I have made the trip in every kind of weather, and I have made it ailing and well.
Often when I was not in health I had to struggle to get to the cabin. Often when it was pouring with rain, or when there was a blizzard of snow, I had a miserable trip. Once during a thunderstorm at night I had a wondrous experience on my way to my cabin; the air was magnetic, the mountain seemed magnetized and the discharges of electricity from the clouds flashed a blue and elfin light on the trail. I have climbed the mountain many times after dark, and sometimes without a light. Almost always, at night, the mountain trail hiker carries what is call a “bug”; it is an empty tin can with wire handle and a candle stuck through a hole in the under side.
Climbing a trail at night, if the weather is not disagreeable, is a sober pleasure. If you are drawing near to nature in the proper spirit of reverence, the darkness and the mystic silence will fit your mood.
I have found that climbing the trail at night quiets my mind into a great and remedial calm, almost a discontinuance of thought. My small worries and anxieties are lost. It is the stillness and serenity of the woods at night that does this.
Except the sound of your shoes scraping on the trail, and the sighing of the wind, and the occasional creak of a tree branch, there is silence. Perhaps you hear the small noise of hurrying water, if a creek is near. You may hear the sudden flurry of a grouse, awakened on her high limb by the sounds of your approach. They often roost near the trail.
Your “bug” only illuminates the strip of trail in front of your moving feet. Everything else is mysterious and indefinite.
My trip from Dundarave to my cabin usually takes two hours. I usually leave Dundarave at 4 o’clock afternoon and reach the cabin just before dark. At this time of year it is a journey from spring to winter. Up to the thousand-foot level spring prevails and spring gradually shades off into winter. At first there is a patch of snow here and there, first there is a patch of snow here and there, [sic] then the trail is covered with it, but it keeps getting deeper. At the two thousand-foot level it is three feet deep. At my cabin it is four. At the ski camp it is seven or eight feet deep.
The trail is a friendly place. Even on the street which leads to the trail you would not greet a stranger with a cheerful word. But as soon as the street vignettes into the trail, strangers speak to each other freely. On the trail you never pass another hiker without an amicable work or a brief conversation. It is easier to get acquainted on a mountain trail than anywhere else.
This is the reason. As soon as people are on a trail they throw aside the aloofness and arbitrary customs of an artificial civilization. They act as men and women in ages past, when a friendly word was a peace sign, and only enemies passed without a greeting.
On the trail there are no castes or classes.
Photo Group 2
To see more photo (& videos) of Hollyburn Mountain, go to "Lake Country on Hollyburn Mountain".