Now, based on my successful ascent of Tabletop, I knew exactly where the trailhead was (this was a problem on my initial attempt, when I couldn't find it). So it was a short 5 minute march and we were at the signed start of the Tabletop semi-official trail.
What happened then was a combination of bad luck and stupidity. Firstly, right at the start of the route, there was a large fir tree which had fallen across the path. It had fallen in such a way that it obscured the true route, and, even worse, led you to believe that the open path of an older but disused herd path was the correct way to go. The next problem was that in my cockiness I had not bothered to download the track of our successful Tabletop climb into my GPS. I was sure I would know the way, and we'd have no problem. So I blissfully led our little group up the OLD herdpath.
At first, things seemed ok - we were actually following an older herdpath. But then, as the route led higher up, it disappeared into the horrible entanglements of Tabletop Mountain. To make matters worse, there were a couple of old pink ribbons here and there, which tantalized us with thoughts of having found the main herdpath. The going was very slow, through nearly-impenetrable thickets covered in fresh snow (which meant you were doused with snow as you wormed your way through!).
I initially resisted the idea of going back and decided to try a back-and-forth approach to try and intersect the main herdpath at a roughly 90-degree angle. I knew the herdpath would be obvious once we hit it. I remember reaching one spot and looking at a particularly nasty tangle of small pines and I lost my will to continue. I told Jenn and Pu that if we were going to have any hope of making the summit, we should retrace our steps back to the last known correct position (which was the sign that said 'trail to tabletop'), and then try to find the correct way, looking closely for where we made our mistake. So far we'd wasted an hour bushwacking around in these cursed woods.
It took us about 10 minutes to retrace our steps back to the sign (amazing how fast things go when you have a defined path to follow!). We discovered that that fallen tree that I had mentioned earlier had contributed to our mistake - it was blocking the correct route (which even had a little white trail marker). Giving myself one last mental kick-in-the-pants for not bringing the succesful ascent's tracklog, we hopped over the fallen tree and made our way up the correct herdpath. It was indeed the correct path, because it was well-maintained and open.
As we ascended, I could see on my GPS tracklog that we had come very very close to intersecting the real herdpath while bushwacking around in the bush. In fact, at one point, I had come to within 15 metres (50 feet) of the herdpath. If I'd only kept going in that direction for a couple more minutes, we would have managed to find the path. Still, it was the right choice to descend back down and locate, for sure, the correct way.
Because of all that tiring bushwacking earlier on, the final steep ascent up Tabletop was quite a slog, but overall it did not take too long. The modest amount of snow made snowshoeing up the trail quite difficult; again, a lot of snow would have been much preferred to this 10 inches or so that we had today. Our delay had also meant that the bad weather had rolled in, and when we reached to the top, the surrounding peaks were obscured. Oh well, my bad!
The map below is a fully-interactive google-based map, with the location of our Tabletop hike highlighted and the actual GPS tracklog shown in red (including our bit of bushwacking adventure!). If you double-click on the map, you will get a full-size popup that includes the GPS track in 10x higher detail, clickable icons for each picture taken on the hike, and the ability to view all of this on a highway, satellite, or USGS topographic map.
All-in-one GPS Trackmap, Annotated Topo Map, and Picture Location Viewer - Tabletop Hike - Click map to view
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation profile over distance
Elevation profile over time