Story and photos by Hannah Singleton
In the southwestern corner of British Columbia, lost in the Coast Range, lays a blocky, granite summit: Brandywine Mountain. It’s one among hundreds, seemingly indistinct in a swirling sea of jagged peaks as far as the eye can see. Despite its remote nature, this peak is accessible by a moderate hiking trail that ascends through dense forest, crosses meadows and traverses rocky ridgelines.
On a dry summer day, our car bumped along the forest service dirt road that led to the Brandywine Meadows trail. From the lower trailhead, the trail leads directly uphill. Whoever built it didn’t believe in switchbacks; we grasped for tree roots and rocks as we used our hands to hoist ourselves up along the steepest sections. We crawled higher; gaining 1,000 feet in under a mile, and eventually emerged from the misty forest into a meadow. We hopped along on wooden planks built by a trail crew to protect the marshy environment.
The trees and shrubs got progressively shorter, a sign of adaptation to the windy, harsh alpine terrain. As we crested one hill, we stared straight at an otherworldly meadow set in a basin and surrounded by towering granite peaks. Brandywine Mountain rose from the earth, perfectly framed by the surrounding peaks and U-shaped valley. A stream flowed through the lush green landscape, giving life to colorful wildflowers popping up along the banks. Hundreds of magenta sweet peas and red paintbrush danced in the breeze.
The trail followed this stream for a couple of miles before culminating at a large boulder. From here, we crossed the creek and headed uphill on a climber’s trail. The narrow path zigzagged up a steep slope of alpine heather. We were careful to follow the cairns (rock markers) to ensure that we weren’t trampling fragile alpine plants.
After a couple of miles and a few thousand feet of elevation gain, we stood atop the ridgeline looking out towards Brandywine Mountain. An hour of fun scrambling brought us to the summit. We had arrived. Standing atop the peak was a joyous moment filled with awe and reverence for our surroundings. But our trip had never been about the destination.
The journey through the meadows and up the ridgeline allowed us to become part of the landscape, to learn from the plants and rocks and small animals we encountered, and to open our senses to enjoy more than just sweeping vistas. We gazed down at the glacier below us, cracks forming where the ice field rolled over a rise in the earth, and we saw power and vulnerability simultaneously.
Hannah Singleton was born and raised on the East Coast but moved out west after college and never looked back. After years of living in the Rocky Mountain West, Hannah moved to Bellingham.