Heading towards Merritt I realized I wasn't going to have the same blue sky from last week. I decided to do plan B, a short snowshoe outing close to Needle Peak. By coincidence, I met a small party from the Chilliwack Outdoor Club. His leader was kind enough to ask me if I want it to join them, as many of you know, I prefer to hike alone but things happen for a reason and I accepted his generous offer.

Lower Needle Lake (well, the lake is unnamed but the name doesnt' hurt any map, just in case Needle Creek is behind Needle Peak) is accessed up the Coquihalla Highway exit 217. You should park behind the work sheds, maintenance crews don't care as long as you're not in their way. This is the same place for the most popular Needle Peak Trail.


Park behind the work sheds

Affiliated with the City of Chilliwack, the Chilliwack Outdoor Club offers a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, cycling, downhill and cross-country skiing, canoeing, and rock climbing. Intensity varies from easy family walks to strenuous overnight mountaineering expeditions in and around the upper Fraser Valley area.


On our way up to the lake

This is an area you shouldn't take very lightly, close to this place, in March 9, 1997 an avalanche in the Coquihalla summmit area triggered by a party of three young snowboarders killed one of the guys, in 1986 two workers snowshoeing during their day off ignored the "whumpf" sounds and fresh natural avalanches indicating the avalanche danger, one of them died when the avalanche push him 5 meters and buried him face down under only 40 centimetres of snow. This is one of the many reasons why outdoors clubs make you sign liability forms

The short hike to the lake involves going in zig-zag over the creek, in my case I wouldn't try to do it after March. (Coquihalla) in the Halq'emeylem language of the Stó:lō, is a place name meaning "stingy container". It refers specifically to a fishing rock near the mouth of what is now known as the Coquihalla River. This rock is a good platform for spearing salmon. According to Sto;lo oral history, the skw'exweq (water babies, underwater people) who inhabit a pool close by the rock, would swim out and pull the salmon off the spears, allowing only certain fisherman to catch the salmon.


Needle Peak, visible once you reach the lake

The Halq'emeylem language is near extinction largely due to the extensive transportation of First Nations children to residential schools. In 2000, it was estimated that the number of fluent Halkomelem speakers was less than one dozen. Language programs at the Stó:lō Nation, Seabird Island First Nation, and Cowichan First Nation have been developed to save the language. A program aimed at adults at Musqueam is a collaboration between the band and the University of British Columbia First Nations Language Program.


Needle Peak

Back to the hike, from my point of view the best hikes around Coquihalla are located around Needle Peak. Bears would use the area mostly in spring for early grasses and forbs and again when berries are ripe which is early summer and fall. Moose and deer would use the area as summer pasture.

1. 49:35.674-121:07.403 Elev 1211m - Trailhead and Parking Lot
2. 49:34.923-121:07.625 Elev 1350m - Km 2.1 - Lake

Roundtrip length: 14 km (8.75 miles)
Time: 2.0 hours
Elevation gain : 139 meters (456 ft)


Driving distance from Vancouver: 197.1 kilometers / 122.5 miles (2.5 hours)

 

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