MONDAY, JULY 8, 2013
Black Tusk on a Beautiful, Sunny July Day
Black Tusk is always a phenomenal hike and on a sunny July day, especially so. Starting at Rubble creek about 25 minutes south of Whistler the trail stars along an easy and immediately nice trail. All the trail construction that has finally begun after a couple years of hikers grumbling about the deteriorating trails in Garibaldi Park.
You really notice how deluxe the trail is to Taylor Meadows. Wide and raised (I think) since the last time I'd hiked it. Looks like they have used their mini backhoe to dig the edges of the trail and pack the centre of the trail a bit higher and flatter. The trail really feels luxurious and manicured, certainly as compared to the much more rugged and wild trails closer to Whistler Village. The Wedgemount Lake trail, Rainbow Lake and especially all the hiking trails in the Callaghan Valley look poor by comparison.
You can't help wondering that they focus money on the Rubble Creek trail more than others due to its location closer to Vancouver.. but then it could also be the fact that Rubble Creek is the starting point to such a wealth of trails. Taylor Meadows, Garibaldi Lake Mt Price, Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge and several more destinations with only alpine routes instead of marked trails.
Money well spent it seems though as the Rubble Creek trail is very nice. There are even two piles of cut boardwalk in the process of being installed near Taylor Meadows between it and the Black Tusk junction. In a couple weeks this whole, huge section of trail that often is mired in mud will now be a very luxurious, raised boardwalk.
Only a few patches of snow in shady areas above Taylor Meadows and on the approaches to Black Tusk the trail is covered in a few places. Hard packed and easy to walk on, making it not a problem at all. Two sets of two hikers passed by with snowshoes on their packs which no doubt a precaution as the BCParks site showed 60cm of snow at Taylor Meadows as of a the 6th of July! I must have misread that though as it seems impossible to have melted that much in just a couple days. But then those other groups must have misread as well..
Just over 13 kilometres to the final chute to Black Tusk and I noticed another access chute I had never spotted before just 10 metres before the usual, marked chute. Looks like two backpacks on the ground near it so it must have been climbed. We took the usual, marked with a tiny orange piece of trail tape. Looks like just those two other people for miles so no worry of someone above dislodging chunks of rock and we scrambled up. No sign of the other two hikers so we must have passed them as we went up our chute and they went down theirs. So just the two of us on this incredible mountain.
Despite being cold below the base of Black Tusk, up on top, even with the wind blowing the heat from the black rocks underfoot make it nice and warm. Looking around at the bivouacs dug into the boulders we wished we had packed for an overnight on top as many must have done before. All in all, in the 30 kilometres we hiked through Taylor Meadows and around to Garibaldi Lake we only saw 10 people, amazing... Midweek days in Garibaldi Lake are fantastic.
We saw a couple people catch two trout from near the bridge on Garibaldi Lake. They weren't even using a rod, just a line, a weight and a fly. They took them straight to the main beach and cooked them right away. I don't remember seeing so many fish at Garibaldi Lake before. We saw dozens in the shallow water, just off the trail to the bridge in the clear water. Some jumping in a strange, almost manic way.. weird. More were jumping out near Battleship Islands. I couldn't remember Garibaldi Lake being so beautiful before. But this surely is the hottest, sunniest and most devoid of people time I've been here.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2013
Cheakamus Lake in Garibaldi Park - Camping in June
Cheakamus Lake in Garibaldi Park is one of the best places for early summer camping in Whistler. The snow usually melts from the trail sometime in May and this year most of the snow was gone earlier than usual. Such an easy hike or biking trail conveniently close to Whistler.. Just 35 minutes from Whistler Village and we were at the parking lot at the Cheakamus Lake trailhead. We did bomb through the horribly potholed 10 or so kilometre logging road pretty quickly. If you have a car or non 4x4 vehicle you can make it, but slow going for sure. As usual in June there are few people on the trail. Just one runner, two bikers and no hikers but us. A lucky break in the weather brought out the the sun all day and the lake seemed to glow in that unnaturally looking blue that I can never seem to get used to. Amazing turquoise water, deep green forest and beautiful blue sky. The only sound is the deep and distant sound of water flowing past as Cheakamus Lake becomes Cheakamus River. The only movement is the occasional fish jumping in the distance. Cheakamus Lake is often described as a great lake for fishing, but two attempts at fly fishing here last year come up with nothing. Later this week the fish stocking begins in the smaller Whistler lakes. Cheakamus doesn't get stocked with fish, but Lost Lake usually gets 1000 fish and Alta Lake gets 750 or so every year. You don't need much skill to catch fish in those well stocked Whistler lakes, but this wild and huge lake surely takes a lot of effort and technique to be successful. With the first campsite at 3k was empty and with lots of sun we stayed there and didn't bother continuing to the nicer campsites at 3-4k further along the trail. Heading up to Helm Creek and Corrie Lake next week. Located across from where we sat on Cheakamus Lake. Corrie Lake is hidden in the trees far across and above us. A few patches of snow way up there but hopefully little to contend with on the trail. Beyond Helm Creek and Corrie Lake we will continue on to Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. About 15k from where we sit, the route from this side of Garibaldi Park splits off from the Cheakamus Lake trail about 1.5k from the trailhead.
SUNDAY, JUNE 17, 2012
The Meager Mudslide From 2010 Is Still Very Visible
The huge mudslide near Meager Creek Hot Springs back in 2010 looks like it happened weeks ago. Very few plants grow in the sandy dirt piles that scatter the landscape for several kilometres around the Upper Lillooet River near Meager. Dead and still dying trees that withstood the debris flow look barely alive. Hundreds lay in the wasteland and hundreds still stand. Most are greying and dead while some have bits of green still alive on their upper branches. For a wasteland the place is unexpectedly beautiful. Nothing seems where it should be. Oddly unnatural to see a whole valley, literally blasted away by water and debris and not quickly recovering. In BC everything seems to grow fast and green. In this area, only the occasional purple flower pokes out of the dead, grey, sandy ground.
It makes quite a surreal place to hike. And you can really wander for hours around here. The Upper Lillooet River winds through the chaotic terrain. Hiking along the shore you find bizarre rocks produced from the geologically active Mt Meager. Strange piles of mangled trees everywhere. And looking up the valley, destroyed landscape.
Meager Creek Hot Springs is still accessible, but you have to cross the Upper Lillooet River. It's usually quite tame and slow, but in the spring time the level rises and it moves faster. After this crossing, there is a 7k hike to the springs. An easy alternative to Meager Creek Hot Springs is Keyhole Hot Springs, just 7k up the logging road.
SATURDAY, JUNE 16, 2012
Cute Bear Cubs and Their Big Mom Lurking in Whistler
Amazingly cute bear cubs visited our backyard this morning.
There seem to be an extraordinary number of bears around already this year. Last week I saw two full grown bears wandering around together. So unusual to see two grown bears wandering around together.. and such different colours. In the vicinity of Whistler Golf Course there must be no less than 5 hanging around most of
the summer. It's unusual, it seems this year, to go on the Valley Trail around the Whistler Golf Course and not see a bear. But that seems the norm in Whistler this year. With so much forest throughout Whistler, bears surely take comfort in lurking in the shadows in the midst of so many people so close. I learned something the other day. The all to often encountering a bear on the Valley Trail can be inconvenient. If the bear doesn't scare off the trail by shouting or gesturing, try walking into the brush at the edge of the trail. The crunching sound caused by walking on the twigs and underbrush at the edge of the trail seems to spook bears into rushing quickly into the trees. Maybe the Whistler bears are used to people, but they still scare easily from foot crunching sounds they hear. Worth a try anyway.
MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2012
Keyhole Hot Springs (aka Pebble Creek) - Spectacular
The amazing Keyhole Hot Springs (sometimes called Pebble Creek Hot Springs) are only 1.5 hours from Whistler. Located west of Pemberton in a very geologically active part of BC. An area along the chaotically beautiful Upper Lillooet River about 100 metres long contains several hot spring tubs. Ranging from the luxurious, cemented into the side of a cliff, hanging at the edge of the river. To the less luxurious, but also amazing sand pools where the hot water bubbles from underneath you as you relax. You can dig these as large or as small as you wish and have to cool them down with river water from time to time as the temperatures rise.
Meager Creek Hot Springs are just a few kilometres before Keyhole Hot Springs, and still there and usable, however the giant bridge was destroyed in 2010 when the massive mudslide swept it away in moments. The $900,000 scrounged together over years of squabbling and negotiating to build it crashed through the valley below. This extraordinary bad timing and luck will almost certainly ensure that a new bridge will never be built. Not just because of the massive cost, but also the massive activity under the ground here. You can still get to Meager, but you have to walk there, parking and hiking from where the bridge used to be. The river here spreads through the valley considerable, so even when the water is high it may only be two feet deep, so very manageable. For a hot springs enthusiast, this is a small barrier, though if you do you are risking a very possible and sudden death.
Catastrophic mudslides can and do strike often here. Roughly one a decade. Meager Creek Hot Springs are in the wake of these slides, however, Keyhole Hot Springs is not. It is shielded from the path of these mud slides by a massive wall of rock laid down by the massive eruption of Plinth Peak in 410BCE. Plinth Peak is visible as you lay in the Keyhole Hot Springs and this wall of rock lays across the river valley from you, towering high above. Bring binoculars if you go and look at it closely and you will spot dark spots. These are trees and parts of trees eroding out of the rock face, frozen in time on that day 24 centuries ago.
What a spectacular place... and there is a beautiful, huge campsite too. There are two more hot springs in the opposite direction of Pemberton. These are Skookumchuck Hot Springs (2 hours from Whistler), and Sloquet Hot Springs (3 hours from Whistler). Skookumchuck Hot Springs is a collection of hot tubs of the kind you would see at someones house that collect hot spring water. It is a shabby looking hot springs, but somehow has a beautiful charm to it. Well worth a visit, at least if on the way to the beautiful Sloquet Hot Springs.
SATURDAY, JUNE 2, 2012
Lost Lake Fishing
Lost lake is one of the easiest places around to catch a fish. Standing on one of the several little floating islands, you see them jumping in every direction, almost constantly. You would swear that they must stock the lake, but they haven't. They haven't yet this year that is. In a couple weeks, usually the third week in June the lakes around Whistler are stocked with about 500 rainbow trout each. Amazing. They are jumping everywhere and they haven't even stocked it yet this year.
They are pretty easy to catch, it seems. Throw a fly in where they are jumping and within a minute or two you get a bite. Even if they didn't bite, it wouldn't really matter. The scenery is sensational. Distant, snowy Blackcomb mountain towers just over the bright green trees. And the lake is usually smooth as glass, reflecting the world above almost perfectly.
Lost Lake is always busy but mostly on the main beach and the big, clothing optional pier. The trails around the lake are quite busy as well and if you walk or bike them on the way to the lake you often see a bear lurking in the trees. Usually, it seems, being barked at by a tiny dog.
SUNDAY, MAY 6, 2012
The Monstrously Famous Hemloft in Whistler
The Hemloft shot into fame recently in Whistler. Constructed in the wilderness of Whistler by what can only be described as a super nice guy with a sense of adventure that is impossible to comprehend. Everything about this masterpiece is bewildering. From it's location. Hidden, yet in the middle of so much. You wouldn't expect something so grand, so understated, so graceful, in a rustic forest. It stands out as if it represents so much. Hidden in the midst of multi million dollar mansions it counts as a powerful contrast to at once seems so wrong with the world and so right. Jockeying for position, these magnificent houses rise on prime Whistler real estate, only to be overshadowed by this small, yet psychologically imposing spectacle of some forgotten true meaning of happiness.
Approaching the Hemloft, you scramble up and through deep rainforest just metres from your car. Looking back you can't even see the road you just left. The trees, alive and dead block your view. Closing the world you see into another world, sheltered from the rest. It was an accident that the creator of the Hemloft built here. He spotted a perfect grove of trees as he put it. But he looked for months. The accident landed his creation in the midst of mansions. On Crown Land as they call it. Not owned by anyone. We all own it, in other words. Canada. Canadians. You of course can't just build on land like this. But he did. Many people do in fact. Build little places like this, but of course not like this. This is exceptional.
If you can find it. Try walking toward it, or rather where you think it might be, and think of what it took to bring what was to become this place.. here. It's staggering. The trail, if you want to call it that. Is barely there. Certainly six months of the year it isn't. But, despite the massive internet knowledge, the trail is barely visible. This is, in every sense of the word, hidden.
Why, in this neighbourhood of millionaire excess should this creation stand as something?
Because it represents, in some abstract and real way.
Because it does. Because it has 94000 Facebook fans. Because the comments on the creator's site are passionate and thought out. Because it created something out of nothing. It grew out of passion. To create. To make something that wasn't there and have it be so beautiful as to create a following that is incredible. Only weeks ago, no one knew of this place. Now, nearly a hundred thousand people feel passionate about it. About this place that was for so long overlooked.
You do wonder. How many people have come to Whistler, taken this drive, and missed this place. Everyone missed this place. Except one person. He saw it. And now, we see it too.
In this world of unrest and misplacement, this is a contradictory shrine to something simple. He dragged this place into being. One piece at a time. Over weeks, then months, then years. Only to, as we see from the video online. To share a moment. A day. A special set of days. A safety. A longing for a place to sleep. He found it day after day. Then built a home for that way of thinking. It came out of inspiration and determination. Not to mention a skill developed of a breathtaking depth.
We look on it with easy eyes. We took some time to Google the details, then we pieced it together. The time we took, and the effort, was little in comparison to what he took to create this. When we look at one of the idols of modern time, we only see them as they are now. Not the pain of their foundation. This is what the Hemloft teaches us. Anything is possible. And anything can happen. And in this world, anything happens all the time. This Hemloft is a gift to our imagination. The impossible is possible.
If you don't fit this million dollar world, you can still outshine them if you want to. And if you don't. You can still just find a grove somewhere and build. And live. It would be presumptuous to say that this world is worth more than any other world, or million dollar house around. But it is. In the fundamental worth of reality, it is. Over 94,000 Facebook likes count as something in this world. Just as democracy in this world is founded on democracy. So the future of this cute and meaningful monument is a symbol of the future of our world. We recently watched the Arab spring rise out of Facebook into something worldwide. So should we see this little tree house in Whistler become a hallmark of what is right in the world.
Leave it beautiful as it is. 94,000 love it the way it is. And that number is counting.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2012
Elfin Lakes/Diamond Head Snowshoeing in Garibaldi Park, Squamish
The Elfin Lakes/Diamond Head trail in Squamish is an amazing place to snowshoe. The trail is easy to follow, not too steep, and after the first 5k the views are phenomenal. And astonishingly, amazingly, there are two luxurious huts. One after 5k is called the Red Heather Hut and is a day use only, warming hut. Which means it is a cute little house in a snowy paradise with large windows, a fantastic wood stove and stacks of ready cut wood to fill it with. This may not seem luxurious, but in the cold mountains of Garibaldi Park in Squamish, a little house with a wood stove is paradise.
From the Red Heather Hut to the Elfin Lakes Hut is a further 6k, and constantly beautiful. The views are incredible because the trail runs along a sharp ridge so you often have views both left and right. In the early morning or evening light this makes for quite an amazing contrast in light and colours reflecting off the mountains all around.
The Elfin Lakes Hut is quite a thing as well. Buried in a few metres of snow, you have to descend snowy stairs as if walking into a snow cave. Once inside two remarkable things hit you. First the warmth, the thing is heated... shocking. Second the size. This half buried hut looks small from the outside, but once inside you marvel at the hugeness of it all. Sinks, large tables, windows everywhere... and a set of stairs going up to another floor above. The upstairs is wall to wall bunk beds. Unbelievable cozy and tidy. The whole interior has a wonderful ski lodge feel. After I went back downstairs with the bouncing walk of a kid in a new tree fort, still amazed at this hut in the mountains, I noticed two modern timer dials on one wall. Turning one a bit sheepishly and brightness filled the place. There are lights. Unbelievable. The Elfin Lakes Hut has power. Unbelievable.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2012
Bushwhacking to Mount Currie Soon To Be A Thing of the Past
It seems the awful, bushwhacking route to the spectacular Mount Currie in Pemberton is well on it's way to becoming a proper trail. As reported this week in the Whistler Question newspaper, Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy has some forward thinking aspirations to enhance hiking in the region to encourage tourism. A fantastic idea that is well overdue. With the extraordinary increase in hiking popularity in Squamish and Whistler in the recent years, and Mount Currie's unquestionable beauty, the cost to construct the trail hopefully will be well spent.
The future potential of this trail is quite exciting. Better facilitating the Mount Currie to Wedgemount Lake route, which is virtually unknown except in a few back-country skier circles. One discouraging factor to this has always been the lack of clear route to Mount Currie. With this overcome though, the three day mountain and glacier spectacular from one to the other becomes that much more enticing.