As far as Easter weekends go, this one has been pretty awesome. Last week I was given the option to work later hours in exchange for Easter Monday off, and I jumped at the chance. Four-day weekends are what dreams are made of. The first thing I did was check Air BnB to see if there were any last minute bargains to be had, but there wasn’t a single pet friendly apartment or cabin available within 2 hours drive of Vancouver. Staycationing turned out to be a better choice as we had a good mix of relaxation, day trips and eating chocolate (mostly me). The sunshine and blue skies didn’t hurt either.
We decided to spend today, our final day off, in Pemberton and Whistler. We spent quite a bit of time on the sea-to-sky highway for various events and parent visits last summer and we’ve chosen a venue in Pemberton for our wedding next year. We’ve enjoyed getting to know the area more (outside of the Whistler lift lines and village bars) and look forward to any opportunity to jump in a car and explore some more. One of our favourite spots is the stunning turquoise (dog friendly) waters of Joffre Lakes, so we decided to go back and see what the Lakes are like in the snow.
When I first thought of this last night, I was assuming the park would look very similar to last time we were there in September, but with blue skies instead of grey clouds. I thought it would be fun if there was some snow on the ground, but didn’t think there would be much left at the end of March. Turns out I massively underestimated the altitude of the Lakes. It was lucky I checked some recent instagram pictures before we left and packed some rain boots and snow pants, just in case.
The majority of the summer parking lot was under almost a car’s height of snow. I know this because a the top of a very lonely minivan was peeking out of a snow drift, driver door open and all of the windows smashed in. It’s owner must have had quite the surprise when they returned from their extended hike. We parked in the small plowed section by the entrance.
The snow on the trail itself was hard packed but very slippery and not at all Hunter appropriate. Luckily we were only planning on walking the 200m to the First Lake, because we wouldn’t have gotten any further without snowshoes. When we got to the end of the trail, there wasn’t a spot of turquoise in sight. The whole lake was frozen over like some kind of Disney-esque Winter Wonderland. The sun was blindingly bright, to the point of discomfort. The whole scene was one of the most Canadian things I’ve ever seen.
I had this sudden urge to run right into the middle of the lake but the man wasn’t having any of it, even when I showed him the footprints leading all the way across to the other side (no holes in sight). We settled on a few metres in, enough to be standing on top of ice and not soil. When I was done pretending to be an ice princess, we walked along the edge of the lake for a bit to get some more pictures. I proved yet again to be one of the most uncoordinated human beings on the planet as I stepped in all the wrong places and ended up hip deep in show on more than one occasion. Oh to be a 22lb Boston Terrier who just skips over the top of snow drifts without even making a dent. It was worth it just to get to be in the snow again, and in the baking hot sunshine.
Joffre Lakes is 30 minutes north of Pemberton (2hrs 30mins north of Vancouver) and well worth the trip. We broke up our drive today with coffee on the patio at Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler Creekside, and a round-trip hike from Nairn Falls to One Mile Lake, just before Pemberton. We were planning on getting a late lunch in Pemberton after our fun in the snow, but Mile One Eating House was closed for Easter Monday so we continued on to Whistler. The Village was packed with apres-skiers but we managed to find a table on a sunny patio with a great view of the slope. Perfect spot for a burger. I even managed a quick trip to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company to get some buy-one-get-one-free Easter treats, that I’m about to tuck into. All of these stops were dog-friendly (except Rocky Mountain) which was a great Easter bonus.
I hope you all had a fantastic Easter, hopefully filled with sunshine and chocolate too!
When I first decided to move to Canada, I did the obligatory google image search to see what might await me. You may have even done it yourself. If you haven’t, do it now. Once you scroll down past the maple leaves and country maps, the first picture of the Canadian landscape is a beautiful lake with stunning turquoise waters, flanked by a glistening white glacier. The picture you’re looking at is probably Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada’s most famous of the turquoise lakes. The unique colour of the water is caused by glacial erosion of bedrock which results in tiny particles of rock, known as rock flour. When rock flour runs down into a glacial lake, it turns the water that unbelievably vivid shade of turquoise; a far cry from the mostly murky waters of the United Kingdom.
I haven’t made it to Lake Louise yet (though it’s been on ‘the list’ every year!), but I did round off the last long weekend of the summer with a day trip to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, just East of Pemberton. It was a toss up between Joffre Lakes and Garibaldi Lake (just South of Whistler) and Joffre Lakes won due to it being one of the only dog-friendly provincial parks in the Whistler area (of course Dave hiked too). It was a three hour drive to Joffre Lakes and it started to rain as we pulled into the parking lot. We considered turning around and heading to the nearest coffee shop, but decided to push on and see how it went. I’m so glad we did. Lower Joffre Lake, the first of three, is easily accessible just a few minutes walk away from the car park. I couldn’t believe how little effort was required to see so much turquoise! Apparently, neither could one very brave camper who went for a swim in the mist. We decided against it (d’uh), and returned to the main trail.
Before last Sunday, I always said I would never do a skydive. Since last Sunday, I’ve been saying the same thing. It’s those 5 minutes in the middle (the ones where I was somewhere between a plane and the ground) that I’m not quite sure about. Regardless of whether I’d do it again (and we’ll get to that later), the important point to acknowledge is that I jumped out of a plane! Me, the girl who is terrified of heights, jumped out of a plane! In the ultimate exercise in peer pressure, I decided to take my friend Dave up on his offer of joining him for what would be his second jump, and for some reason I agreed. Part of me was searching for some perspective on life to regain my work life balance after a particular busy month, while another part just wondered how bad it could really be. So much for 24 years and 9 months of willpower.
The jump took place in Pemberton, BC, which is just 30 minutes North of Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway. It’s a very small but very beautiful town, with fantastic scenery and amazing views. The day we chose was very sunny and very warm; perfect weather for falling 10,000 feet. I was so busy in the run up to the day that I hadn’t had time to get nervous, and even as we sat signing our lives away (literally) on the liability waivers the enormity of what I was about to do hadn’t really sunk in. We were harnessed up, double checked, and all of a sudden were making our way across the field to the world’s smallest plane. There was just enough room for the two of us, plus two instructors, to squeeze in behind the pilot. And even then we were sitting on each other’s laps. The flight up took around 15 minutes, and was a fantastically scenic experience in itself. As the instructors kept saying, ‘people pay hundreds of dollars for the flight alone’. So remind me again why I’m paying extra to jump out half way through?
When we reached 7,000 feet our instructors clipped our harnesses to theirs and went over the positioning. Jump out of plane, spread arms, arch back, keep legs back. Simple, right? Wrong. When the door to my left opened, it all became very, very real. I swung my legs out of the door and desperately avoided looking down, staring straight ahead at the mountains instead. My instructor was sitting in the doorway with his feet hanging out, while I was literally hanging from him, completely helpless. It was in that moment I realized that you don’t jump out of a plane, you fall. And you fall very, very fast. Somewhere in the depths of my mind I had imagined myself falling gracefully into position like a dove, and floating down without a care in the world. In reality I nosedived, somersaulted, kicked and screamed so loud that my waiting boyfriend could hear me from 10,000 feet below. I kept reminding myself to keep my legs back, but I couldn’t quite work out where ‘back’ was as I was staring at the ground, then the plane, then the ground. Needless to say, panic kicked in.
Once I managed to straighten myself out into some sort of T-Shape the experience was pretty amazing. I could tell I was falling, but only because of the speed of the wind rushing past me. We were still so high that the ground didn’t seem to be getting much bigger, and my stomach stopped flipping once we straightened out. It was very difficult to breathe, and as soon as I opened my mouth to ‘wooooooooooo’ I felt my cheeks fill with air. 45 seconds later the parachute opened, and I realized that I was so wrapped up in the unique feeling of free falling that I’d forgotten to even worry about the chute malfunctioning. Everything went very quiet all of a sudden, and the ground definitely started to get bigger. My brain took the time to process what was happening, which meant I found the parachuting much scarier than the free falling. I reluctantly took the handles and attempted to steer for a photo (the camera was strapped to the instructors arm), then handed them straight back to the instructor. The vast majority of accidents happen due to pilot error, so I’d rather not be the pilot. Everything happened pretty fast after that, and before I knew it I was sliding across the same grass field I’d left just 20 minutes earlier. And I was alive!
My initial feeling was one of delirious excitement and was very much powered by adrenaline. I couldn’t stop talking as I waited for my photos to be burned onto a CD, and then we were back in the car on the way down to Whistler for lunch. It wasn’t until later in the day when I realized how relieved I was to have made it to the ground uninjured that I started dwelling on how easily the ending could have been very different. I began to question my initial judgement at doing the jump in the first place, and even got annoyed at myself for not only choosing to be in that dangerous situation, but paying for the privilege. As I started texting, emailing and calling friends and family to tell them about my experience I kept reliving that moment where I first fell. It wasn’t pretty, and the more I thought about it the more scared I was. I likened the feeling to post traumatic stress syndrome, as my flashbacks kept me awake in the early hours of the following morning.
Even though I wouldn’t do it again in a hurry, I’m still so glad I did it. Jumping out of a plane was always one of those things that other people did, and now I’m one of those other people. I also achieved my goal of gaining a greater perspective, as there’s nothing like pushing yourself way out of your comfort zone to make you realize that life is too short to worry and stress. My bucket list is getting a little shorter, and my Facebook photo albums a little more interesting. I’ll end this with my thought for the week: No matter how bad your day, the world will never end, as it is round. And I should know; I stared it in the face from 10,000 feet.