Up until this point, the word Appleton has meant nothing more to me than as the brand name of a certain Jamaican rum. A very YUMMY brand of rum indeed. Little did I realize that it is also the name of a very yummy two kilometer (or so) trail just north of Powell River, along BC’s infamous Sunshine Coast. The trail is vastly rich in rewards and challenging enough to justify mixing the night’s tea with an ounce (or two) of the finer liqueur.
Finding the trail head wasn’t easy. Driving up to it almost cost me my Hyundai. Overstatement? Yes. But it could easily had happened if I had been going fast enough. Glad I wasn’t.
The road was great until the first of two washouts jumped out at me like sniper ninjas, my poor Santa Fe catching its first taste of air, at least since we’ve owned it anyways. It shouldn’t be too difficult to remember those hazards on the way back.
And then there’s the signage. Or rather, the lackthereof. Oh wait, there is one sign, it’s just doesn’t offer any clarity or definitive direction. It’s standing well away from the trail head and doesn’t point anywhere. I know. Where do you sign up for this hike, right?
But hey, it’s all an adventure and the best is still to come.
Yes, I’m kind of weird about waterfalls. There are worse things to be weird about. I don’t know, they just move me. They make me happy. And this trail is chalked full of them.
The Appleton Canyon trail head is marked by aging pink ribbons waving mysteriously over a narrow trail in the gravel pit parking lot just before the less-than-helpful trail sign that sits on the main road. All things good are worth hunting for. I recommend adopting this mentality if finding the trail doesn’t come easily for you either.
The trail begins as a gradual climb beside the torrent Appleton Creek. The creek remains unseen for the first ten to twelve minutes of the hike, but you can definitely hear it. I found it difficult to resist sliding down the embankment in anticipation of what I have heard about this trail. But I knew easier views would soon come my way. As the climb continues on, the rainforest becomes more beautiful, if that is at all possible. A dense green carpet of moss blankets the ground while the giant ceders tower above, acting as nature’s umbrella from the sun, or in my case the spring rain.
Fifteen minutes into the trail comes the first accessible waterfall. A narrow trail to the left guides hikers down to the creek for a view of the top of the waterfall. If you are hiking with kids, watch them closely as a fall into the creek from this vantage point would likely warrant unfavourable circumstances. The image here is of the headwaters leading up to the fifteen foot falls.
Back on the main trail the silence of the forest on the right is harmoniously in sync with the rushing creek on the left. Carry onward and upward another eight or so minutes until you descend down towards the creek. I chose this opportunity for a glug of water and a photo. No waterfall here, but beautiful nonetheless.
The awaiting waterfalls are now screaming. Their sound is unmistakeable. A brief uphill climb along the main trail introduces the next waterfall trail on the left. Unlike most of the other later falls along this trail, this one appears to be nameless. My three year old daughter has since named it Gold Falls. The yellow/golden hues of the tannin-rich water is what I am guessing was the inspiration behind the name.
The trail then begins a solid climb upward for a good several minutes until you reach one the bigger falls along the trail. Again, hold on to your kids tightly here as you soak in the amazing views from high atop the canyon walls. The falls seem to get more impressive as this hike goes on.
As the trail continues, each waterfall vantage point is separated by incredible forest tranquility. Unlike getting to the falls, it’s pretty difficult to get lost once on this trail. The only lead away trails are the ones that guide you to each set of waterfalls for viewing pleasure. But, much like any trail system in rugged BC back country, take caution, you never know when an encounter with a waking black bear or cougar could possibly occur. Be alert and prepared.
Sylph Falls, Bandit Falls and Gorge Falls round out the waterfalls awaiting discovery along this remarkable trail. The headwaters to Bandit Falls are literally straight out of a fairytale. One could almost expect to see Hansel and Gretel frolicking amidst the vibrant greens and earthy browns surrounding the rest bench provided by PRPAWS, a local trail group that deserves national recognition for their contribution to the area’s trails and treasures.
The end of the trail is marked by a recreation campsite eagerly awaiting its next spring inhabitants. Maybe it will be you?
For more information on the Appleton Creek trail, or any of Powell River’s extraordinary trail systems, visit www.discoverpowellriver.com or call the Visitors Centre at (604) 485-4701. Happy trekking.