Trails & Ales: A Day of Adventure with Fjällräven, Postmark Brewing & Alpine Club of Canada
The sunshine beams down as I crack open a well-deserved Postmark’s West Coast Pale Ale. I’m sitting at Dog Mountain Lookout, staring over Vancouver and across the Georgia Straight towards the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. Trekking thru the snow, taking in the view and being surrounded by awesome, adventurous people is a perfect way to start the Victoria Day long weekend.
A few weeks ago, I found out about Trails & Ales, hosted by Fjällräven, Postmark Brewing and the Alpine Club of Canada; I reserved my ticket immediately. A mere $50.00 gets you a guided hike to Dog Mountain, including transportation there and back, a Fjällräven Survival kit, plus post-hike beers and food at Postmark Brewery! Everyone who attended with me agreed it offered terrific value for your recreation dollar.
On Saturday morning, we met at the Kitsilano Fjällräven store. First order of business: opening our Survival Kits! Each blue Kanken backpack held a Primus Food Vacuum Bottle or lantern, a healthy KIND snack bar, chocolate and a discount code for Fjällräven gear! I was blown away by the value of the Survival Kit. I’ve been using my Kanken backpack hard for years, and it’s taken the abuse like a champ. As we fuelled up on trail mix and apples, the Alpine Club of Canada volunteers gave us advice on what to pack for a hike. Thanks Mike and Anna!
You should also check out the North Shore Rescue 10 Essentials . Even if you are going on an “easy” hike, it’s important to pack the essentials and tell someone where you are going. Anyone can get injured or lost, even on a short day hike. I think many Vancouverites and tourists are misled by the accessibility of our beautiful North Shore mountains. Perhaps subconsciously, people think that any place you can get to in half an hour and from which you can still see the city can’t be real wilderness. The frequency with which people have to be helicoptered off Cypress, Seymour, or Grouse proves this simply isn’t true.
Before we headed off, Ksenia from Postmark gave a brief talk about the brewery, their brews and the spread we would be enjoying after our hike: it was a teaser for our palates and taste buds. Next, Vanessa from Fjällräven gave us a bit of background about this outdoor outfitter: they’ve been around since 1960, so they’ve got making good stuff dialed. I have a Fjällräven sweater that, like my Kanken pack, has served me faithfully for years. It wasn’t cheap, but since it still shows no signs of wear, I’ve never regretted the investment.
As we filed onto the bus, our natural excited chatter broke down barriers and started the bonding process with our fellow day-trippers. It made the already quick trip through Vancouver and up Mount Seymour really fly by. At the trailhead, we listened to a brief safety talk before hitting the trail.
Dog Mountain is an easy hike, a 4.4 km round trip with minimal elevation gains and an amazing view at the midpoint. Normally by the May long weekend, all the snow is melted or at least confined to small patches in the shade. This year was an exception, as the coastal mountains received lots of the white stuff, including a major dusting the week we took this hike. The snow added both excitement and challenge to our outing.
Because the snow was packed down, we were able to manage with hiking boots; a few of us even completed the loop in running shoes. We had some wet feet in the group, but the warm weather kept those from being a major issue. If hard-packed snow is on the trail, consider picking up an inexpensive pair of ice cleats, crampons, snowshoes or at least wearing waterproof hiking boots on. If snow really isn’t your thing, wait for it to melt; the trail is lovely at any time of year.
With the sunlight dappling the path between the trees, we began the trek. Parts of the path were slippery, but the Alpine Club volunteers were there to help. They saw us safely through the few narrow sections, and alerted us to traps formed by melting snow and uneven ground. My natural instinct when it gets slippery is to slide, as I do when playing hockey, but in fact the best way to handle icy terrain is to take small hard steps, digging your heels into the snow. Also, take advantage of the footprints made by those who have gone before you!
At roughly the quarter point, we stopped for a break and photo ops at snow-covered First Lake before continuing. After one final small climb, the view we’d been waiting for emerged! It’s a breathtaking vista, with North Vancouver at your feet, Lions Gate Bridge, Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver in the middle distance, and the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island on the horizon. (It’s all weather dependent of course; your actual view may vary.)
As I admired the view, we cracked open some of Postmark’s West Coast Pale Ales. The soft, malty finish lived up to Ksenia’s earlier promise, and promised more great things to come back in Vancouver.
All too soon, it was time to return to the bus. On the way back, I did slip on the snowy trail, but caused no major damage: just some snow on my camera and a slightly damp bottom. Before we knew it, we were in the parking lot, piled into the bus and heading back to Vancouver. We were all hungry, a bit tired and ready for the next stop – Postmark Brewing!
Even in Vancouver’s crowded craft beer scene, Postmark Brewing in East Van stands out. On top of growler fills and a store, they offer a tasting lounge which shares a food menu with Belgard Kitchen. As we settled in between the vats, platters of food emerged. The treats included Margherita Pizzette, Grilled Postmark Sausage Board (including IPA chorizo and stout beef sausage, Two Rivers cured meat, bread, artisan cheese served with a mushroom and bacon pâté and tomato plus olive tapenade) and green chickpeas and avocado hummus.
You can’t have post-hike food without beer, so I savoured their crisp, light Blonde. Although I didn’t have it this time, one of my favourite summer beers is their Raspberry, made with local berry purée. It’s a perfect low-alcohol refresher for the hot days of summer and outside activities.
Slightly tired after a day out in the sun and exercise, I left with a smile on my face. It was a perfect outing, one not even my wet feet could dampen. I’d never have completed that snowy trail solo, but today I had hiked in, learned more safety tips, enjoyed a summit beer, scored a generous survival kit, met new adventurous people and topped it all off with brews and food. We didn’t have to worry about transportation, which allowed us to indulge afterward and we were all kept safe.
During our day out, I talked with a few of the Alpine Club of Canada volunteers. To my pleasant surprise, I learned it’s not just for experienced, hardcore climbers. The ACC organizes activities ranging from easy day hikes at Lighthouse Park and Dog Mountain to more strenuous and challenging hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, snowshoeing and backcountry ski adventures. Besides trips, there are inexpensive workshops, courses, gear rentals and preferred pricing at their various backcountry huts. Set in incredible natural landscapes, the huts alone are worth joining for; I’ll be signing up soon.
Hiking solo or with friends is fun, but I enjoyed the easy flow of this “package tour,” where I didn’t have to worry about transportation, navigation or logistics.There are sure to be more Trails & Ales in my future.