Day 6 – Tin Hat Cabin to Elk Lake Hut, 22km, 8hrs
After conquering the trail to Tin Hat, I naively announced that the trail for today “is all downhill!” and despite the long distance to cover should be an “easier” day. My eyes must have been reading what my mind wanted to see, because I’m looking at the elevation map now with the downhill from Tin Hat and then the uphill to Elk Lake wondering how the heck I came about to that conclusion. I can only blame hunger and fatigue for wonky brain processing.
The exciting news is that soon we pass the 90km mark and are officially half way through our SCT adventure!
Appreciating the morning views before moving away from Tin Hat and onwards to Elk Lake
Whoever marked this part of the trail reeeeeaaally didn’t want us to get lost
Note: After you pass the 100km SCT marker, the red trail markers appear to lead you into a section that looks unkept, don’t go down there – just follow the logging road until you find the trail markers again soon after.
We spent 20 minutes bushwhacking around and popped up where the logging road would have easily taken us. This was the only little blip in our journey navigation wise.
The trail overall was mostly downhill and flat until the last 1.7km of uphill before Elk Lake. We were already getting close to hiking for 8hrs, and I was beginning to wonder where this damn hut was. The universe sends me a sign to not take myself so seriously and lighten up – my feet trip over my hiking poles and I topple sideways into the bush. I’m cursing and yelling in frustration by this point, starting to lose my sh!t when Felix belly full of laughter announces “We’re here.”
Of course I need to fall on my face juuuuust before the end.
The sweet sight of Elk Lake Hut overlooking the lake – after the bustle of Tin Hat Cabin I really enjoyed Elk Lake Hut and being back on the quiet side of the SCT
There is a nice jetty on Elk Lake for you to sit, relax and enjoy the sun. The lake was refreshingly cold still so it was a quick jump in and out, doesn’t take much to feel squeaky clean on the trail.
After a quick jump in the lake and changing into my camp clothes, my negative juju was washed away and replaced with appreciation that we’ve made it this far. Relaxing by myself on the jetty in the late afternoon sun, staring out to the lake and just enjoying the moment.
There were 2 other groups that arrived later in the afternoon, but since the weather was nice they camped outside the hut. Everyone was more spread out so it didn’t feel as crowded as Tin Hat.
Trying to distract ourselves from hunger until 7pm when we can start cooking dinner
Felix does a review of our supplies and excellent news – since we’re at the end of day 6 and today was a big day we can treat ourselves to a portion of emergency ramen in addition to our dinner. We go to bed with happy bellies.
Day 7 – Elk Lake Hut to Walt Hill Hut, 14.1km, 5.5hrs
Day 7 brings sunshine and unicorns. We’re all happy today because it’s supposed to be “rest day” with only 14km to Walt Hill Hut.
Enjoying the morning sun before we leave Elk Lake
Trying to get our clothes dry while we eat breakfast
The hike was still uphill and not as easy as we were hoping. But the consolation prize was that the sun was shining, and since the distance was shorter we were the first to arrive at Walt Hill Hut in the early afternoon and got to really enjoy the rest of the day.
L: Crossing some patches of snow still left on the way up to Walt Hill
R: Getting a taste of the views to come
Found a small bench and a decent viewpoint to have lunch for the day
On a section of the trail, you can see Walt Hill Hut perched atop its mountain and below it a wooden tent pad on a bluff. Seeing the platform I knew that’s where we’d want to set up camp for tonight. The tent pad was barely big enough to fit our two person tent, but we managed to get our tent up and secured.
A little scramble up to our prime real estate spot for the evening
Soaking in the unreal views from the bluff
Relaxing in the tent, protected from bugs but still getting the view in sight and listening to my favourite acoustic tunes
Everyone enjoying the sunshine and downtime around Walt Hill Hut
Getting to Walt Hill Hut early and enjoying the location was definitely the highlight of my SCT trip. I found the views and experience here more enjoyable than at Tin Hat. Both Tin Hat and Walt Hill huts are accessible in the winter on snowshoes! There may need to be a winter trip back here in the near future.
Other than the amazing location and comfortable hut to eat and sleep in, another exciting trip highlight was that someone left a bag of potatoes in the cooking area of the hut. Our eyes zeroed in on this precious bag of carbs, and even though they had all sprouted we happily peeled them, fried them up in olive oil, generously sprinkled salt and pepper, and divided it between the newfound members of the Potatoes Society. It was the most heavenly potatoes I’ve eaten in my life.
One of my favourite photos from our trip, sunset at Walt Hill
At night, the moon was red – I left my camera shutter open for 15s to take this photo
Goodnight from Walt Hill
Day 8 – Walt Hill Hut to Golden Stanley Hut, 21.6km, 6.25hrs
Morning arrived and we got out of our tent to see grey skies moving in to greet us and a drizzle of rain. By now we’re zippy experts at packing our gear and tent, so we pack up pronto and scurry to the hut to make breakfast at a more relaxed pace without worrying about rain.
After breakfast we peep out the door to see mist and trees swaying in the wind, and rain really starting to fall. Today is going to be a wet and cold one.
I barely took photos on the trail on this day because of the wind and rain, so here is a screenshot of a video I took on the morning we left Walt Hill
The trail to Golden Stanley wasn’t difficult, it was just wet and soggy. We actually moved the fastest today covering 21.6km in 6.25hrs including a snack and lunch break.
IMPORTANT: At 135km at Stillwater Main there are two options: continue following the SCT which takes you down to the riverbank where you’ll need to cross Eagle River, or follow the logging road and go around. Sometimes the gates of the dam above are opened causing flooding down this river and making a crossing impossible. There are sirens at the dam that notify when it’s open but this may not be heard down at the ford.
Be aware and careful if choosing to cross the river – more information is available in the guidebook.
Choosing to cross the river during low flow – hiking poles were really useful here to help keep our balance and navigate the slippery rocks
It was such sweet relief to see Golden Stanley Hut at the end of this section, welcoming us to take refuge from the rain and get warm and dry. There’s a beautiful creek for water nearby down a steep spur trail. For nicest creek, freshest tasting mountain water and best outhouse on the SCT I nominate Golden Stanley Hut!
L: Collecting water and enjoying an outdoor ‘shower’ at Stanley Creek – it’s private and secluded, you go down a very short but steep spur trail from the hut to get here
R: The outhouse at Golden Stanley, bonus points for the moon and star cutout on the wooden door, and lucky horseshoe hanging above
The very welcoming view of Golden Stanley hut
Another thing that made me super happy on the trail was the number of women backpacking it. When we spent the night at Golden Stanley, there were 3 groups including ours and 1 badass solo through hiker from Montreal, all women and good ‘ol Felix. The lucky guy got to bask in our estrogen. Seeing more women get out there, be confident in their abilities and enjoy the outdoors makes me happy. Let’s get more diverse women out there hitting the trails!
In general, going outside to enjoy nature is hella good for us (all backed by lots of science) but when we gain an appreciation for nature we all become a little more aware of our impact and try to do more to protect our wild spaces. If we can get more people in general to enjoy the trails (while still mitigating any potential effects of overcrowding), then more people will start to care.
Gathering for dinner time – PRPAWS also built all the lovely wooden tables and benches in the huts for hikers to enjoy
Day 9 – Golden Stanley to Rainy Day Lake, 24km, 8hrs
It’s day 9! Excited to be close to the end but first we have the last big climb of the journey – Mt. Troubridge, the highest point on the trail at 1305m. It’s not very high, we’ve hiked higher, but by this point of the trip we’re all suffering from some sort of ailment – Felix with his wrecked blistered heels, and I developed mystery rashes on my neck and elbowpits since day 4 that have been conquering more surface area and keeping me up at night.
We’re all tired and so ready to be done; the initial plan was to hike up to Mt. Troubridge cabin which was 12.5km, spend the night and finish the last 20km on the final day. But the thought of hiking 20km on the last day felt more exhausting. So we agreed to go up to Mt. Troubridge, see how we feel and decide from there.
L: Heading up to Mt. Troubridge, looks like this section of the trail can also be used for mountain biking
R: Signage pointing to Elephant Lake, and the only bear we saw on the trail on our trip
Finding Prince Charming on the trail – there are many frogs/toads on the trail that will serenade you to sleep as you rest your weary body in the huts
Fun Fact: This looks like a Western Toad we spotted with it’s distinctive line running down the middle of its back
You can actually bypass Mt. Troubridge Hut and just go straight to the summit and onwards if you want to save time and calories. But the hut it a nice sight to behold and a great spot to rest and catch a breath if you’re not staying for the night.
Mount Troubridge Hut, a beautifully made log cabin that was brought in by helicopter in pieces and assembled
Taking a breather inside Mount Troubridge Hut
A fun side story, the first half of day 9 was tough for me. After the first 2hrs of hiking, and seeing the uphill coming up, I sat down for some snacks and a breather and started crying a little. Root cause? I was just so damn hungry. Screw mental toughness, all I wanted was to eat my weight in carbs. After allowing myself some time on the pity pot, and knowing nobody is going to carry my sorry ass out of this forest, onwards we went. Then I experienced the dreaded “bonk” where my body just went into sloth pace, my eyes felt heavy and sleepy, and I shuffled along with much reduced brain processing capacity. Felix recalls me staring at a small creek, like a zombie, wondering if I was just going to tip over and face plant. From my perspective, I was trying to figure out where to place my feet crossing this creek, and I struggled with deciding what to do. Seeing my sad struggle to cross this tiny creek, Felix calls for a lunch break.
I take off my pack, and lie down with my eyes closed. Funny enough, I’m no longer hungry – all I want to do is just go to sleep. But a little voice in my head tells me to eat, that I have deliciously salty triscuit crackers waiting. And that we’re not even halfway up to Mount Troubridge so a flake out is not an option. I force myself up, take out my lunch baggie, and start with the crackers. The salty goodness works its magic like lightning, my taste buds are having a party and I feel my brain and body come back to life.
It took us about 4.5hrs for the 9km hike to get to Mount Troubridge Hut from Golden Stanley Hut. We probably took a little longer because of my physical meltdown. But since it was still early in the day, and I was feeling alive again post-lunch, we were keen to just get most of our remaining mileage over and done with. So off we go towards the summit of Mount Troubridge, then on downhill to Rainy Day Lake.
A group relaxes at the A frame emergency shelter at the summit of Mount Troubridge – if you find the hut is full, you can try spend the night at this shelter that sleeps 4
Here we are nearing the summit of Mount Troubridge – highest point on the SCT at 1305m!
After summiting Mount Troubridge it was a loooooong downhill to Rainy Day Lake. It took us about 3.5hrs to hike 10km and our knees were getting a really good smashing in some steep downhill sections. We were very grateful to have our hiking poles with us that helped take some of the pressure off our knees.
Almost there to Rainy Day Lake Hut!
We made it!! The last stop on our SCT journey and grateful for the nice weather on our hike today
Last night on the trail, one other hiker joined us in the evening heading up to Mount Troubridge from Saltery Bay for his 3 day journey
While basking in the warmth and glow of the late afternoon sun, Felix and I polish off the last of the Fatso Peanut Butter before heading in to make dinner and congratulate ourselves for surviving this trip and still being BFFs.
Appreciating the view of Rainy Day Lake from the hut
Day 10 – the last hurrah, rainy day lake to saltery bay, 10.8km, 2hrs
It’s the last day on the trail and we are so pumped to be done and eat a BIG MEAL. I’m dreaming of potatoes, a mountain of fried potatoes. The weather gods bless us on our final day with sun and good vibes. Unfortunately the sufferfest isn’t quite over yet, and we were deceived yet again into thinking we could just roll on out but were greeted with some final uphills in the first hour before finally easing off and letting us escape back to civilization.
We survived!! Posing in front of the SCT Kiosk at Saltery Bay, smiling with relief that we’re done
We hitch a ride back to Powell River from Saltery Bay with two friendly Jehovah Witnesses that luckily didn’t try to convert us too forcefully and also gave us a fantastic recommendation to have lunch at Magpie’s Diner where my dream of eating potatoes came true.
So there we have it, our first ‘big’ through hike backpacking trip that brought us over 180km by foot on the Sunshine Coast Trail, and completing one of the 50 best hikes in the world as lauded by Explore Magazine was such an incredible and humbling experience.
If you’re looking for an adventure, for epic views, for a multi-day trip that takes you through beautiful sections of old growth forest, to escape the crowds and hike in serenity, then definitely think of the SCT. Even if you don’t have time to hike the entire trail, there are many sections accessible by car you could do as day hikes that are worth the visit. Take a look at the SCT Website for more information.
This is Part 3 of the Sunshine Coast Trail Blog Series, covering Day 6 – 10, the last 90km of the trail.
Part 1 has all the fun information on how to get there, what to bring, etc.
Part 2 covers Day 0 – 5 of our 10 day trip, the first 90km of the trail.
Disclaimer: Everything written here is based on my experience and is my opinion. While I’ve provided all the information to try and be helpful, it doesn’t replace you doing your own research and making smart decisions based on your overall levels of experience and fitness. Stay safe and have fun out there!
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