Wanting to take advantage of reasonable weather and the fact that Connor and Rowan’s grandma was here to watch them, Jonathan and I decided to hike the Harbor Mountain to Gavan Hill trail. We got a ride up Harbor Mountain Road and started up the trail head around 12:45.
The snow had mostly melted off the bowl, but along the ridge at the top of the bowl we had to walk along some patches of snow. This patchy snow continued on until the trail forked. The patches were kind of annoying, because I was never sure if I would punch through, and if I did punch through, how deep I might go. This situation was made worse by not having gaiters to keep the snow out of my shoes. Once we started along the south slopes of Harbor Mountain, the snow was basically gone from the trail for some distance. Along this snow free stretch of trail we saw many flowers blooming or near to blooming. (We had also noticed a few earlier, but not too many.)
When we got back a bit further to the talus fields, there were a few more large patches of snow that we had to cross. The snow distribution this year seems to be different than last year. My first hike on this trail last year was 3 May and although the third gate was still closed, I do not remember there being quite so much snow along this section of the trail. Despite this there was definitely more snow last year on that hike between the Shelter to Gavan Ridge than there was this year.
As we neared the saddle between Harbor Mountain and the knoll where the Shelter is, we could see someone coming up the trail from the other direction. We passed this hiker as we headed up the other side of the shelter. He was to be the only other hiker we saw. In the saddle I noticed a plant blooming that was new to me. It was a shrub that had small purplish wooly looking flowers.
We arrived at the shelter at 3:50pm and took a few minutes to look at the log book. It seemed that not many people had signed the book since the last time we made the hike on 8 November. We left the shelter right around 4pm and made our way up the next rise. There was still quite a bit of snow left, but fortunately it had consolidated enough that we did not find ourselves doing any postholing.
Throughout the day we had been hiking along the edge of a cloudbank hanging over the mountains. The ocean side it was clear, but over the mountains it was cloudy with scattered rainfall. We occasionally felt a few drops of rain, but for the most part it just cool overcast. As we started along Gavan Ridge, we came out of the clouds into bright sunlight. This was not so bad except for the blinding nature of the snow. Unfortunately, neither of us had sunglasses, so we did our best to hurry through the painfully bright patches of snow.
Once we came down the steel stairs, we were more or less out of the snow. There were still a couple of final patches as we went up the next little rise on the ridge, but from there on it was snow free. We reached the point where Gavan Hill trail reaches the ridge line at a little before 5pm. We stopped to take a short food and water break before we started down right at 5pm. By this time I was hoping to make it back by 6pm, so we picked up the pace a bit.
There are two places along Gavan Trail that I have long considered way points between the start to the ridge line. There is a sizeable stump at the top of a set of stairs that I considered one-third of the way, and the viewpoint before the ridge I considered two-thirds of the way. My brother asked me whether this was by distance or elevation, and I told him I was not sure. I do not remember if I consciously estimated these way points at some time in the past or just adopted them because they were easy to notice. In any case, we decided to time ourselves on the way down. It took 16 minutes to the viewpoint where we rested a couple of minutes. It took another 15 or 16 minutes to get down to the stump, and then 16 or 17 minutes from the stump to the trailhead. I am not sure if it would work out so well on the way up. We were at the trailhead by 5:50pm.