Home > Photojournal > 2004 > Fall/Winter > 11 September

Harbor Mountain-Gavan Hill Trail

When I woke up in the morning, it was mostly sunny outside and I thought it might be a good day to go for a hike. I decided to hike from Harbor Mountain down Gavan Hill. By the time everyone was ready to pile in the car for the drive up Harbor Mountain, clouds had moved in a little bit, but it still was mostly sunny over town. As we drove out the road, the clouds got darker and darker. By the time we were 4 miles up Harbor Mountain Road we were in a downpour with some hail mixed in. I started up the trail around 11am.

There was light rain as I hiked up to the top of the bowl. I started seeing many birds in the trees (mostly scattering from my tromping feet) as I started along the ridge back towards the main peaks. Visibility was fairly low, so I did not get a very good look at most of the birds, although I did recognize robins and varied thrushes. I also saw many birds of a species I could not identify.

Despite the inclement weather, there were a fair number of people on the trail. I assume some of them started out when it was sunny, but there were a few who came up the trail after me. The first of the other trail users I passed were three hunters who did not appear to have had any luck. I ended up seeing a few more hunters, but none of them were packing out a deer.

I took a short detour up the Harbor Mountain Ridge spur of the trail to investigate a patch of bright yellow I had seen along the upper slopes of the peaks. I discovered that this was deer cabbage. I tried to get a decent picture of it, but they did not turn out. I was a little surprised to find flowers still in bloom this late in the year. I am not sure whether the White Mountain Heather I saw was confused by the unusually warm and dry summer, or if they they normally bloom this late in the year.

There were quite a few trailing raspberries and a variety of blueberry species still present along the trail. I found these to be a refreshing snack as I walked along. Once I made it around to the southern slope of Harbor Mountain, there seemed to be large quantities of berries that were exceptionally sweet. I was kind of wishing I had brought a berry picker and/or a bag to put them in, but I contented myself with just eating them as I went.

The rain really picked up as I walked along the trail where it goes across the talus slopes. It was here that I passed a number of people on their way toward Harbor Mountain Trailhead. They had started up Gavan Hill in sunny weather and now were moving quickly towards their destination in the cold damp weather. I sat out part of the rain underneath a large boulder that had one side overhanging enough to block most of the direct rain.

I made it to the shelter just as the rain became even heavier. I spent a few minutes reading through the cabin log to see the messages left since the last time I had been there. By the time I had finished this, the rain had let up somewhat and I pushed onward.

As I pushed onward up the rise between the shelter and Gavan Hill, I saw many more birds in the dwarfed trees along the trail. There were flocks of the bird I had not be able to identify as well as many varied thrushes and some hermit or swainson's thrushes. At one point I saw a bird of prey, possibly a merlin. I was watching a pair of birds, one a little larger than the other. The larger one landed on a rock a short distance uphill from where the smaller one was perched. As I was trying to distinguish features through the misty cloud that was settled over the area, the larger bird quickly swooped down towards the smaller one. The smaller bird just as quickly darted off only to have the larger one alter its direction in midflight to continue after it. At this point they disappeared from my sight, so I do not know if the smaller bird got away or not.

I wanted to get faily close to the birds so I could take some decent pictures. However, the birds seemed to be pretty wary and I frequently would see them scattering before me as I walked down the trail. Shortly after the large metal staircase on Gavan Ridge, I started to walk slow with greater care in an effort to avoid scaring the birds off. Then there was a deer. I did not notice it right away, but something caught my eye. If I had been walking in my more typical manner, I imagine I might have seen a flash of its tail or maybe just heard it, but as it was, it stood there and watched me. Fatigue was setting into my leg muscles and I had a difficult time keeping them from shaking as I tried to stand still between slow steps towards the deer. I was able to get to within 30 feet or so of the deer. It never did seem to get spooked, but after a couple of minutes it lost interest and wandered off.

The rest of the hike was not too eventful. I was tired and ready to get home, so I made pretty decent time hiking down Gavan Hill. When I reached the flat section at the bottom, the skies opened up with the hardest rain I saw all day. Just as the shower was tapering off, the sun came out, and I was able to see a rainbow over the muskeg.

Total time of the hike was in the neighborhood of 7 hours.