Hiking in British Columbia's Garibaldi Provincial Park is this summer's must do weekend getaway. With 360 views of Whistler, Black Tusk, Garibaldi Lake and beyond, alpine meadows (and flowers, if you time it properly) and the crystal turquoise blue lakes, you can't ask for a better adventure.
When I think back on this hike, all I can think is "Wow, that escalated quickly!"
Not only because this two day, 20km hike turned into a 3 day, 54km journey after one rash conversation with my hiking partners, but because after nearly three years of living with this park in my backyard, I was just now realizing how precious it was.
Garibaldi Lake - day one AM
Packed. Showered. Ate. And just as we were leaving the drive way, got a text from our friend, Richard, "Have you left yet, I'm coming with you!". We pulled in his driveway two minutes later.
Grabbed a few last minute supplies in Whistler, and set off just south to the park entrance at Black Tusk parking lot. This is where we were faced with one of our biggest challenges of the whole trip - finding a parking space. As you can imagine with Instagram blowing up photos of #garibaldilake everyone within a 200km radius of Vancouver had decided they were now seasoned hikers and wanted to do this. On a Monday; the same day we wanted too. However, we managed to wedge the truck somewhere safe and rushed to the start line with our packs to bolt past the slow-pokes first and foremost on the trail. Priorities, am I right?
The 9km hike from the parking lot to the first alpine meadow is all switch backs, and if I am completely honest, easy. It's mind numbing and besides the people hiking in jeans and flip flops with one bottle of water between the group of them, there isn't much to look at. Roughly a couple km's from your first meadow opening, there is a lookout loop (takes two minutes) for you to view and offers a brief reward for the climbing you just did. It's a great spot to refuel your body, and have your trail mix stolen from the local chipmunk. But how can you say no to those sweet little faces? I couldn't, I even aided in their thievery by giving them a peanut or two. Ops.
As you carry on hiking you will have a choice to go to Taylor Meadows or go to Garibaldi Lake, and seeing as were camping at the lake, we chose the ladder. From here on the hike is the picturesque British Columbia post card you'd expect. Winding dirt trails, snippets of turquoise that illuminates with each sun ray that touches the lake, bridges and the towering trees become a little more sparse. Up close Garibaldi Lake is just as beautiful, however the true tones aren't always visible, which depends on the sunlight, The walk around the lake is gorgeous and smaller than I imagined, but worth stopping for lunch - which is what we did.
After pitching our tents, ditching our camp packs for smaller, lighter day packs and placing our food in the bear-proof shelter we were off and on for hike number two of the day.
Black Tusk - day one PM
Being near this massive, black, volcanic rock was one of my favourite hiking moments to date. While it was only 5.5km from the start of Garibaldi Lake, it was beautiful the entire time. Crossing the open meadows of grass with alpine flowers and rolling hills that backed onto a snow-topped mountain landscape really put your existence into perspective. The sounds and sights of fresh streams, the heavy silence, it was worth every step. Saying this hike was a climb and a half would be an understatement. Some serious elevation gain was conquered and while my boyfriend, Jonny, complained I was thankful Richard was there to back up my response. "Shut up!".
Naturally my luck came through and we received some rain, some sunshine and winds during our climb. Pair that with being sweating hot and then goose-bump cold, and you have a prime example of weather in the mountains. This all became non-existent when we started to peer down on Garibaldi Lake below us. So blue, so beautiful.
It was somewhere between looking down at where we came from, and looking up at a sign saying "No marked trail, use at your own risk" with a jumble of rocks and a towering Black Tusk in the distance that reality sunk in. Our final twenty minutes was hell. Hiking on shifting, black rock and going one step up and sliding two steps back was a type of fun I hadn't thought of tackling today, but it was a necessary evil to make it to the top. The three of us scattered in our own directions, each of us trying to prove our route was quickest. Richard winning, Jonny whining and me caught somewhere in between it was the toughest and most time consuming part. However, what felt like an hour later, we reached a ridge that was easy to walk on and finally enjoy the views. I was so excited I nearly cried and started FaceTiming my sisters to show them the epicness of it all. Two of us in the group thought it would be fun to keep going and hike up further, closer to the base, but after watching two pour soles ahead of us try and spend nearly half an hour barely moving, we decided our spot was good enough.
I can't explain the feeling of being up there in words, so I won't even try. And while the pictures do a better job, they still don't offer the full effect.
I will say one thing about being up there though, I did not want to leave.
Cheakamus Lake - day two. All. Day. Long.
After a rather chilly night sleeping, we did live to see the morning – and thankfully it brought plenty of sunshine for us. This meant we could dry out our items that seemed to get damp/mysterious wet in the tent after a bone-dry night. I did this grudgingly as I was convinced this tent was a pile of shit, and it was solely to blame for my awful sleep. Jonny, who is in love with the tent, disagreed. I only complied for roughly two minutes before I had to take a walk and put some distance between the climate-altering house in a bag and myself. It was then that I decided my efforts were best focused on preparing breakfast on the dock, which I did whilst basking like a lizard and conjuring up the will to jump in the freezing cold lake. Richard was all for it, a little because it would be his only chance to do so, and mostly because he didn’t bring any coffee and needed a blunt awakening if was to put up with Jonny and mines bantering for the next 19kms. So we did it. And it definitely was the things I was psyching myself up for: cold, refreshing, harder than it looks to get out of the water than it was to get it, that sort of stuff.
It wasn’t an hour later and we were ready to ascend, traverse and descent our way over the mountain range and to Cheakamus Lake. Besides the beautiful weather, the other bonus about doing this part of the hike was the quietness of it all. Most hikers don’t go past the Garibaldi Lookout, and so for most of the day we only saw around seven other people; two of whom we knew – small world, isn’t it!
Like every other day, the views were completely beautiful - and judging by the amount of scenic plane tours that flew over us, we weren't the only ones who thought so. The volcanic fields on the other side of Black Tusk were quite a surprise, and added an interesting, desert-like change to the hike. The trail changed dynamics a lot throughout the day and this was apparent to my knees by the time we reached the switchbacks. Obviously confused by the sudden switch to now walking downhill, I took the first and only tumble of anyone on this entire trip - I blamed the tent.
What seemed like hours later, we reached the bridge allowing us to cross the raging waters of Cheakmus river and carry on to the campsite section of the lake.
The views from Cheakamus Lake were a different kind of beauty from Garibaldi; now in more of a valley than on top of a mountain, we were surrounded by tall pines. We didn't complain however, it provided us with some shade, and a beautiful lake to jump into after a sweaty day. Which, in case you lost count, that was two dips in two glacier lakes in one day - BOOM!
Returning to Society - day three, regrettably
This was the fun part of the trip. The part when we realized we were only 3kms from being back at the parking lot... the wrong parking lot. The one that did not have our truck, and the one that ripped the idea of being close to a comfortable seat right out from under my dreams. Instead we had a 13km hike back to the main highway, where one could only hope a person in a truck would take pity on three smelly, woodsmen (and woman) and drive them back to their truck.
[ Five hours later]
We made it to the best wood-fired pizza place in Whistler where each, single-handedly demo'd a pizza and a single pint of beer. All the while getting a serious buzz and basking in the success of our journey.