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!
The Whistler Blackcomb Peak 2 Peak gondola has become the new Grouse Mountain lumberjack show. Remember the summer of 2011 when I had friends and family visiting so often I watched that show four times in six weeks? This year I’ve been lucky enough to have my parents and in-laws visiting within a week of each other, so naturally we’ve done some of the same activities twice. Throw in an engagement-moon weekend in late July and Whistler and the Peak 2 Peak (the longest and highest lift in the world, connecting Whistler and Blackcomb mountains) has become the getaway of choice. Even though we did the same trip up the same gondola three times in two months, our mountain experience changed significantly with the weather.
When you check the weather forecast on the Whistler Blackcomb website you get three temperatures. One for the village, one for mid-mountain and one for alpine (a.k.a. the very top of the top). When it’s 25 degrees on the ground in the middle of a long, hot summer it’s easy to forget 6 degrees at the top of the mountain is very, very cold. The one thing each of my visits had in common was a wish that I’d taken a warmer coat with me, only to decide the next time that ‘it can’t have been that cold, can it?’
Our first visit in July was our postponed would-be-engagement weekend which we cancelled because of forest fires. It’s a good job that James decided to propose on the original weekend anyway instead of waiting two weeks for the trip, because the weather pretty much sucked. It wasn’t too bad in the village, and the sun was even peeking out behind the clouds. Unfortunately when we got out of the gondola at mid mountain it was very cold and the clouds looked pretty ominous. It was our first time up the mountain in the summer so we decided to go ahead and take the chairlift up to the summit anyway. The clouds got darker as we got higher, until we couldn’t see anything in front of us or below us. And then the hail started. Let’s just say our tour of the summit was ‘whistle-stop’ to the extreme and we were back on the soggy chairlift within minutes. We were so cold and soggy that we didn’t even get off the Peak 2 Peak at Blackbomb mountain. Thank goodness the chalet served hot chocolate.
Our next trip to Whistler was with the in-laws in August. It was a beautiful weekend with clear blue skies and zero percent chance of rain. The views from mid-mountain were fantastic, and this time we made sure to explore to actually get out at Blackcomb Mountain and explore the other side of the Peak 2 Peak. The chairlift ride up to the summit was much more enjoyable in the sunshine, and we laughed at how low to the mountain we actually were now that we could see the rock below us. The laughing continued when we finally saw the stunning views that we missed on our previous visit when we were literally in the clouds.
Our latest visit was in September with my parents. It was a really warm day in the village so I convinced myself I didn’t need to bring a proper coat with me. Luckily there was on rain on this trip, but it was bloody cold at the summit. My jacket was well and truly zipped up and my hood was definitely staying up. We got some good photos, but were also happy to get back down the mountain again. The view from the Peak 2 Peak was distinctly autumnal and the leaves were definitely more orange than green. On this visit we were lucky enough to see some very Canadian wildlife: bears and marmots, just hanging out on the slopes.
We knew when planning our first trip that we’d be heading up the mountain more than once, so we paid $20 to upgrade to the Peak 2 Peak 360 pass which is valid all summer. We’ve saved $80 in lift passes so far and also took advantage of a Peak 2 Peak 360 ticket package to sample the all-you-can-eat Mountain Top BBQ buffet on our first visit. It was delicious and well worth the extra $15. Contrary to what this post might suggest I don’t actually work for Whistler Blackcomb, but I have had fun at their mountain this summer. Hopefully the weather will cooperate more next summer and we’ll get some proper hiking in. Cheakamus Lake, here I come!
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.
It was just starting to rain as we walked up the snow-lined path, our feet crunching noisily on the gravel. It was also much colder than I’d expected it to be, and my hands were balled tightly into fists and shoved deep into my pockets as we shuffled along the path. I heard the waterfall before I saw it, though the roaring of the water falling 335 metres into the rocks below was soon drowned out by the chattering and camera clicks that could only belong to a group of equally cold tourists. We picked our way awkwardly through a group of over excited toddlers wrapped head to toe in what looked like polyester covered marshmallows, and took our own photos of the Shannon Falls. A steep path to the right of the viewing area led down to the side of the waterfall, where we watched the ice-cold water smash into the side of the river bank. The trees provided some welcome cover from the rain, and the noise of screaming toddlers was soon replaced with the infinitely more welcome sounds of birds singing and leaves rustling. Facing away from the viewing gallery and into the trees, we could have been wandering through the depths of a remote, West Coast rainforest. We savoured the moment for the last time, before making the three minute walk back to the small parking lot on the edge of Highway 99.
Squamish is a small, rural community of a little over 15,000 people nestled in between Vancouver and Whistler on the infamous Sea to Sky Corridor. This number does not include the population of the ‘Squamish Nation’, an amalgamation of self-governed Indian Reserves which stretch from Squamish across the North Shore. The recent improvements to the previously shaky Sea to Sky Highway in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics have puts Squamish a mere hour’s drive North from Downtown Vancouver, and many Squamish residents commute to ‘the city’ daily.
My previous trips to Squamish have been fleeting at best, and mainly work related. In March 2011 a series of unfortunate events resulted in a 90 minute visit for pleasure rather than work, though at least 85 of these minutes were spent standing outside Shoppers Drug Mart waiting for a ride back to Vancouver, so I don’t really count that one. Needless to say, I was excited to be spending a weekend in Squamish on my own terms, and with no other agenda than relaxing.