A dreaded winter day turns brighter above the clouds in Mount Seymour Provincial Park.
I’m no fan of most Vancouver winter days. Like the Day of Ceaseless Rain. The Day of Unshakeable Darkness. The Day Your Shoes Grow Their Own Mould Colonies.
But the day that greets me out the window this February morning is perhaps my least favourite. Today is a Foggy Day.
It descends at least once a year and usually sticks around for a while, sending those of us already famished for Vitamin D into despair. We assume brave faces, declaring things like, “That’s life in a rainforest!” through chattering, gritted teeth.
The forecast predicts it’ll burn off later—suggesting that beyond the fog is a Sunny Day. But that’s what they said yesterday, and the day before that. I’ve lived here long enough to know better. Fortunately, I also know where to go to escape the gloom. In 15 minutes I’m in my car, headed for Dog Mountain.
The fog is still thick when I reach the Mount Seymour access road, just over the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge and a few kilometres east. But by the time I’ve reached the parking lot, some 13 kilometres up, it has dissipated, and bluebird skies soar overhead. What’s more, I realize as I climb out of the car, in attempting to escape my most despised winter day, I’ve hit upon every Vancouverite’s favourite.
A temperature inversion happens when cold air close to the earth’s surface is capped by a layer of warmer air. So while the city is wrapped in bone-chilling fog, the local mountains bask in warmth and sunshine.
Dog Mountain Trail is an easy backcountry jaunt, with just enough rolling ups and downs to make you feel like you earned the view from the top, about 40 minutes in. I strap on my snowshoes and set out, passing Mt Seymour ski resort’s chalet and chairlift that are still quiet at 8 a.m.
It’s hard to imagine that I’m treading on five metres of snow—that the tree trunks around me originate far below my feet. I wind my way around them, now and then hopping off the packed trail to prance through the deep, powdery stuff. The forest is silent except for the throaty caws of ravens and soft thuds of snow falling off tree boughs.
Within 20 minutes I’m peeling off my toque and jacket as the sun climbs higher. A couple headed back toward the parking lot stops to wax rapturous over the view that awaits me. They confirm my hope: “It’s an Inversion Day,” they exclaim, eyes shining like vegetarians who’ve just tasted bacon. I break into a jog, hungry for the sight.
I scamper up one last hill and onto the lookout, triumphant. But instead of the usual sweeping city vista, today I stare down on a blanket of fog. The tips of two skyscrapers poking out of the grey are the only traces of the city underneath.
All around me, hikers loll in the sun, having stripped down to T-shirts and sunglasses. The magical words are on everyone’s lips. “Inversion Day,” they murmur amongst themselves. “We are so lucky.”
The Dog Mountain Trail is located in Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver, a half-hour drive from downtown Vancouver. Take the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge north, then head east on Mount Seymour Parkway for 4.5 km. Turn north at Mount Seymour Road and follow it up to the ski hill parking lot. Note that snow tires or chains might be required in winter.