It's been a long time since we brought our family up to Tenquille Lake. At that time, there was just 1 kid, and she rode in the backpack. Despite being one of the easiest alpine cabins to get to on the coast we had trouble - there was enough snow to hide the trail, but not enough to cover the bush such that we could ski properly, along with a solid slush-rain. Between that trip and doing the Owl-Tenquille traverse twice (once solo as a ski trip, once as a Veenstra Traverse) I've still never successfully taken the East access trail to the Birkenhead FSR. This time we succeeded... but it was still a bit closer than we'd thought it would be.
The trouble was mostly the road - we found it gated a little over 5km from the trailhead, nominally to protect the grizzly bears. Vehicles are prohibited, but you can still walk up the road or (if the massive quantity of poop and tracks are any indication) ride a horse. I guess horses don't bother grizzly bears? More likely I suppose is that people, generally, can bother grizzly bears and lot of people own vehicles but few own horses or could be bothered to hike the road when they can drive somewhere else.
This left us with a decision to make - the closure more than doubled (almost tripled) the otherwise very short hike in, and we didn't exactly get an early start (having slept in after spending the night at Nairn Falls, itself a late arrival after a day paddleboarding in Whistler) . In our kid-free days 5km of logging road didn't really mean anything... but now... in the end we decided to hike it, rather than go somewhere else. The kids, up until maybe halfways up the road, were doing great... the exception being the quantity of flies and heat. Then a cool breeze with the taste of thunderstorm in the air blew in. We had a couple showers, and at first it was a blessing - just a hint of rain and cooler temperatures were a welcome respite. But then it started to pour in earnest and got quite cold. We got the kids into rain jackets, but their feet got soaked and their clothes started to get wet too. We didn't have secondary footwear for F. The rain kept coming and, halfway up the trail, morale started to falter.
After a need to poo, and brief halt to the rain, forced a stop to regroup things improved - we got all the kids dry, and shortly afterwards received an InReach from our friends who might be up at the cabin. They'd made it in (having completed a traverse around the Sockeye/Birkenhead headwaters) and would come down to help us out. I met Nick first as by the time I was periodically carrying N on my shoulders in addition to my pack - I'd take her a ways up the hill, then let her hike on her own until Line and F caught up. I sent Nick down to meet F and Line, where he started piggybacking F up and soon we were all together. Shortly afterwards we ran into Lena coming down, who arrived with a pack of other (slightly older, or at least tougher) kids. At first one might think that brining more kids into the situation could hardly improve things, but morale improved instantly on their arrival. F's sense of doom evaporated and all of a sudden I could no longer keep up to her (let alone hike faster) when carrying N. N still got the occasional boost from either Nick or myself, but for the most part the kids hiked the rest of the way just fine. Still being quite covid-conscious we didn't stay in the cabin as there was another party there we weren't familiar with, but we'd brought a tent anticipating this. We did have it up before dark, but finished eating by headlamp. The tenting area there is actually pretty swanky, with bear-proof lockers for your food, picnic tables, and one of those great (stink-free) composting outhouses.
The next day I hung out with the kids and supervised our drying stuff while Line hiked off to bag a couple summits South of the lake. We (almost) finished the book I've been reading them, saving just a single chapter for bedtime, and they very thoroughly arranged all the pine needles into a bustling village-scape with streets, shops, farms, and various residential areas. The weather improved substantially, but not enough for us to venture into the lake.
The next day was my turn, and I got up early to hike to the summit of Tenquille and Goat to the North of the lake in a heavy wet fog. I noted two unusual things. First, there's a gendarme just west of the summit of Tenquille that seems ready to fall off down the steep north face. A couple meters back from the edge a large gap, maybe 50cm wide, has opened up and has the colour of fresh rock scar. Also, on the ridge near the col between Tenquille and Goat, I heard the strangest sound. It started out almost imperceivably quiet, such that I thought I was imagining it in the wind. Although it got much louder I wasn't able to figure out what it was. It sounded like wolves howling but with a scraping metallic edge to it... almost like passing through heavy metal distortion. It was the kind of sound you might get on one of those cheesy "eerie sounds for halloween" cassette tapes. It lasted for about five minutes or so, continued through a period when the wind died completely, appeared to start coming from a second spot on the ridge, and then just faded into silence from both locations at the same time. Weird. Never heard anything like it, and I didn't hear it again.
After I got back to camp we packed up and the family hiked out. The hike out went way better than the hike in; there was plenty of imagination to inspire quick hiking (my favourite being when they were outrunning "dad's first bread, so heavy and hard it will just squish you as it rolls down the trail") and spirits were high except where we took a break to munch huckleberries and N disturbed a wasp nest. W even decided to come out of the backpack to hike the entire road herself. The kids all earned a celebratory ice cream and flavour-milk from the gas station on the drive home.
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River of Golden Dreams
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