Love it or hate it, the Grouse Grind is officially open for another season.
The 3 km trail known as “Nature’s Stairmaster” is not only open, it’s new and improved. The Greater Vancouver Regional District with their annual budget of $200,000 for repairs have done a wonderful job making the hike just slightly less of a grind.
As a regular grinder myself, the improvements are welcomed and much appreciated. Most of the work done involves the addition of beautifully constructed staircases and retaining walls at spots that were in dire need of them. Just beyond the halfway mark, the trail used to involve a hand-over-foot scramble up an actual rock face, now there are wide stairs with hand-hewn logs for handrails. In places the stairs are delicately cut around the rock itself so as not to appear too intrusive on the natural scenery. Some of these staircases really are works of art.
Some folks will avoid the Grind outright and hike the far less-travelled BCMC trail, which is just to the East of it. They complain of the over-popularity, the high number of tourists and the fact that it “isn’t real hiking”, just an annoying slog up the mountain. However, these are reasons that people like myself actually enjoy the Grind. When I come up behind a family of tourists in jeans and Ugg boots (seriously saw that this weekend) dragging a two-year old along with them, it gives me a shot of adrenaline to get the hell past them. I use other hikers on the trail like rungs on a ladder. Not to say that I’m doing the hike in record time (sub 24 minutes), I’m about exactly double that on my good days. But, I do get a joy in passing folks.
However, hiking the Grind doesn’t necessarily have to be about passing people and setting a personal best. It can be, literally just a walk in the park (albeit, a park with a 1,000 metre elevation gain). This past weekend, I took two ten-year olds up and they had a terrific time. The key was the fact that we included many stops and a snack at the halfway point. The ice cream treats up in the chalet were a fine topper. With all this, we still did it in just over an hour and a half and the kids had a real sense of accomplishment.
The Grind truly is a North Shore experience everyone should do at least once. Whether you like the trail or not, it’s worth it if only to admire the craftsmanship of the GVRD builders. The cold beer at the Grouse Mountain Chalet doesn’t hurt either.