On a gorgeous, blue-sky winter day, we headed to Buller Mountain Day Use area along the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail. While the day use area is closed in the winter, it is still possible to park along the road by the entrance, and to use the picnic tables and firepits down by Buller Pond. The pit toilets, I’m sad to say, are locked up. We took a little red sled loaded with firewood down to the picnic area, and left it there until lunch time. The original plan was to snowshoe around and on Buller Pond, but we discovered that the pond wasn’t fully frozen, despite recent cold temperatures. We beat a quick retreat back to shore after slush started to fill our snowshoe tracks.
Nearby (on the south end of the picnic area) is a trail that heads down towards the shore of Smuts Creek. It’s not frequently used, so we got plenty of soft powder to play in on the way down, and we could explore for a short distance along the creek, looking at ice formations and the dried remains of plants and shrubs. This kept us busy until thoughts of a warm campfire and lunch drew us back to the firepits. We had to do a little snow clearing around the picnic table and the firepit, but it was definitely worth the effort.
Lunch always tastes better in the mountains, no matter what you’re eating, but there’s something special about roasting smokies and hotdogs over an open fire on a cold winter day. Topping that off with marshmallows for dessert just gave us that extra bit of energy for the second part of our snowshoe day.
The second trail from the day use area heads down and north to the shore of Spray Lake. This trail is better packed down, as it is used by both snowshoers and skiers. We were mostly in the trees, though we got the odd glimpse of Smuts Creek flowing down on our left side.
When you get to Spray Lake, the view opens up dramatically. We headed out a little onto the lake, to a small rock island, and from there we had a 360 degree view of the lake, the forest, and the surrounding mountains. Breathtaking. I tried taking a short video, though I don’t think it really does the view justice. You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDzsIU18zxc
The skiers, we found out, were there for an activity that was completely new to me – snowkiting or kiteskiing. Skiers and snowboarders harness themselves to a “kite”, similar to a smaller parachute, and use wind power to get themselves pulled across the terrain, in this case, Spray Lake. It was lots of fun to watch them.
The island also had some stranded ice on it, several inches thick, left after the lake levels fell (Spray Lake has a dam on it). The patterns in the ice were fascinating, and we all tried to get pictures showing the shades of blue and green flowing through the floes. I couldn’t decide if the ice looked psychedelic, or if it was more like looking into the depths of an ice cavern in miniature. I tried to capture that in colored pencil, but I don’t think I quite got the clarity of the ice. This is the first time I’m trying out a blender pencil, and I really enjoyed the effect.
All in all, this is an excellent spot to take people new to snowshoeing, as both trails are fairly short, and you can have a warm break in the middle of your day.