In 2016 I had a brilliant idea, why on earth do I need to work Monday? Why can’t I go skiing with my daughter every Monday in the winter? So, as soon has her Sunday ski lessons ended in January, I didn’t work a Monday until after Spring Break.
Fast forward to 2019 and I’m feeling itchy almost every week. The itch comes from the fact that while my life is awesome by so many measures, I still wish I was spending more time in the mountains every year. The weeks I get a good run in from somewhere up high, or haul disagreeable kids up a mountain a few times in the week have a flavour that lasts throughout the week. A feeling that makes me feel satisfied deep down inside as I wind the day down late and tired.
A flavour that I love, even when I’m finishing the chores that a family inevitably brings at 9pm knowing I have to be up at 5am for work the next day.
The combination of this feeling and knowing I used to not work Monday’s came together a few weeks back into me realizing that there wasn’t a reason I couldn’t take every Monday off now and go do fun stuff in the mountains for myself. Why do I always have to jam in a mountain day on a weekend in between carting kids to birthday parties and wrangling the training schedule for two ultra-marathon runners?
The Inaugural Monday Funday
This brings me to the initial Monday off to be spent in the mountains, which looked great on paper, but started off-plan. The original idea was that I would have access to our single car every Monday to head off and do some adventure. Unfortunately due to a calendaring issue, one of my kid’s had a doctor’s appointment in the next town on the initial Monday, July 15. That meant my plan to climb Needle, Flatiron, and Yak in a day had to get scrapped and I needed to look at something closer to home.
The next plan was finally fully ascending Mt McFarlane up the Chilliwack River Valley. This is a stout 21km hike that takes most fit people 7 hours. Add to that 90 minutes of cycling on each end, I was going to be in for a long day. Unfortunately after dropping our oldest child off at camp on Sunday it was after 10pm as I was looking at bed. Combine this with a very late night on Saturday and a child induced early morning on Sunday, and I was in no mood for a 5am wake up to leave at 6am.
Now the third plan…Gloria Lookout, Thurston and maybe Mercer via the Chilliwack Community Forest. I was one of the first people up to do this in 2016 and even made a video of it which gained enough popularity with the local hiking groups that I occasionally get asked if I’m the guy that did the video of it around town.
I’ve done this route in sections before. I’ve run from the Elk/Thurston range linked above into the top of Gloria and back. I’ve run Elk/Thurston to Mercer a few times. I’ve been up Gloria as well, but I’ve never linked the route up this way. So with the day I have it seemed like the best option to get in plenty of elevation and get away from the crowds.
Getting up at around 0645 to start fueling for the day and charge my Ambit I finalized packing my gear and headed out of the house at 0800 for the starting 15km ride to the lower parking lot of the Chilliwack Community Forest. Here I would lock my bike, shoes and helmet to a sign and then head up for the main event of the day.
Even to get on the trail to Gloria Lookout I had about 4km to hike and about 300m of vertical gain to do. While that’s a decent amount of vertical, it’s nothing compared to the main event of getting up to Gloria lookout. From the lower parking lot of the Community Forest to the top of the ridge you’re looking at around 1200m of vertical gain in about 9km. There are 4km here that have just under 200m of elevation on them, or well over 200m of elevation.
This 9km is made up of some hard switchbacks and steep ridges. While I’ve been up to Gloria Lookout lots of times, I’m always impressed as I look back down at the trail I’ve covered to realize how steep it really is as I’m ascending through the lush forest.
Once you gain the ridge, take a short 500m jaunt down to the lookout. From here you can see Chilliwack, Harrison, Mt Cheam and Lady Peak. You can’t quite see it all from the same spot, but a few steps in either direction brings the many views into focus.
From there I turned around and headed back up to the Gloria trail and through to the Thurston connector. Again, there is a decent amount of elevation to drop and gain along this ridge as you end up at the high point of the day on the summit of Thurston.
There isn’t really a view from the top of Thurston, but if you’re here make sure you head down the Gloria connector to the bench about 15 minutes along the trail for an excellent view of the valley between the two ridges.
With the high point of the day reached I turned around and reversed the rough trail between Gloria and Thurston. On the way back I was treated to views of Mt Mercer, Baby Monday, Stewart, and Knight through the trees. You’ll even catch a few glimpses of Cheam and Lady through the trees.
Once I reached the Gloria trail to head back down to the start of the day I took a quick sit and enjoyed the view from the top of the ridge. If you’re on the way up, there is a bench just to the left of the ridge entrance. It’s just out of sight so unless you take the 10 steps around the bush on the left you won’t see it.
Then it was a quad-punishing 9km back to my bike in the lower parking lot of the Community Forest followed by a 14km headwind ride back to my house for the day.
All told I spent about 9 hours moving. I gained around 2500m of vertical distance, with the majority of it being on the hike portion. I traveled about 60km which was almost 50/50 split between the ride and foot portions of the adventure.
While my initial plans didn’t work out, it was the exact type of day I wanted to have with my Monday’s off. Even better, I’m tired the day after, but I don’t look at the stairs in my house as something to be avoided.
Stay tuned for the adventure next week.
You can find the Gloria Thurston Connector route below.