Snow Capped Adventures

As with all post vacation energy, it seems as though my body is in need of another rest as soon as I come back from the holiday, usually due to the large amount of adventures Han and I seem to try and squeeze into the time we have available when experiencing our getaways. And so, not wanting to break from tradition, our last few weekends have been action packed as our diaries grumble and creak at the adventures we pen into them.

T+16 hours after landing on Canadian soil from Hawaii, we found ourselves in a car with friends and luggage abound on a weekend trip to Manning Park with our running club, Pacific Road Runners (PRR). Every other year the club organise a trip out to this beautiful national BC Park to relax, drink, snow shoe / run / ski (as you see fit) and generate that bonding and club atmosphere that all good clubs seem to exude. Being located roughly in the middle of Vancouver and the Okanagan (3 hours East from Vancouver), nestled cosily in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, and lying directly on Highway 3, Manning Park is not only within easy reach for us Vancouverites, but also a wonderful place to experience some of what outdoor Canada has to offer.

Our group were staying in the impressive 36+ bed ‘lodge’, which offered us plentiful space to cook, create, play and relax, and is just a mere 5 minute walk away form the main resort bar, restaurant and swimming pool. We had a wonderful couple of days snow shoeing up and around the main ski resort mountain to Poland Lake, before settling in for some hot tub action, poker tournaments, and beer drinking entertainment. I even managed to find time to throw in a few impromptu balloon modelling workshops.

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It was a great post-holiday holiday, and really did recharge the batteries ready for ‘normality’ back in our home town. Thanks a ton to the organising committee of PRR who do such a great job of arranging, booking and coordinating all these things.

However next weekend, not wanting to let the constant drip of weekend adventure come to a halt, we hit up with a double dose of adventure; not only had we planned to hike to Elfin Lakes and camp over in a desolate lodge with our good friends David and Julia, but it was also Han’s birthday on the Sunday.

Elfin Lakes is located near Squamish, about an hour on the road North to Whistler, and the trail starts at a car park 20mins off the main highway down double dirt tracks. We had researched the trip quite extensively over the previous few weeks as we knew that this was not going to be a simple case of hiking, be welcomed at a cosy warm lodge with our own rooms, before settling in for the night and making the return trip, and thus we felt we were aptly prepared for the weekend. The camping lodge is actually located 11km from the start point, over often steep, dangerous, avalanche risk terrain, and operates on a first come first served basis with 30 wooden bed frames and slats available to hikers. Although the lodge had a couple of gas stoves, you need to take your own rollmats, sleeping bags, food and drink and entertainment on the hike, and thus it was the four of us started off at 8am laden with full backpacks and a small niggling thought of “what happens if we don’t get a bed”.

But as quotes “Few hikes put you in such exceptional terrain so quickly”, and a couple of hours into the hike we had passed enough people to feel relatively comfortable that a bed would be available, and started to really enjoy the snow hike through the winter wonderland that was opening up infront of our eyes. Snow mounds that appeared so smooth and soft rippled into the distance, as they bought up memories of white sand dunes and simple desolate times that are now often lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We had hiked through the initial tree line and were now trekking in much more open terrain, reaching the half way house with all snow shoes in tact and making fairly good time.

However we knew that the next portion was uphill, and with 60+kg on your back, it was going to get a little tougher. We had also found ourselves at the head of the days hikers and were breaking snow and navigating through the terrain, and after another hour of hiking, with the initial burst of speed just a mere wisp of a dream, we were all coming to the realisation that this was not going to be as easy as we had initially envisioned. Thrown into the mix a torrential snow storm (so it may have just been a extremely windy with a lot of swirling snow), blisters, a couple of heart stopping falls down slopes, and 3 1/2 hours of hard graft hiking we were all more than ready to see the lodge.

30minutes later though, and through the limited visibility of the snow laden landscape, first the ranger lodge, and then shortly afterwards Diamond Head Lodge (our sleeping quarters for the night), appeared like a ray of sunshine infront of us. We bustled into the doorway and were greeted with a heater to warm us up, and a cool, crisp Granville Island Winter Ale beer that we had stowed in our packs, asking to be drank with a cool satisfaction that we had accomplished something. Beer always tastes so much better when you’ve earnt it, and this time it was like golden nectar flowing down my throat. We settled back, dried off, chose a bed (which it turns out we had free choice over being the first to arrive that day), and let our bodies relax.

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The lodge is actually just one very large room over two floors, the upstairs for sleeping, the downstairs for cooking and socialising. It has no running water (you boil snow), no showers, hole-in-the-floor toilets located in an outhouse (which is a struggle to go to when you need the toilet in the middle of the night), no phone or internet reception (peace at last) and basic cooking facilites, but this all added to its charm, quality and historical nature of the lodge. After a couple more beers, some pre-made pasta and sauce, and some red wine  that we had lugged to the lodge to pre-celebrate Han’s birthday, it was time to crash out and try to sleep with the 30 other people who had turned up over the course of the night, snoring and shuffling around in the very communal open plan lodge.

After a restless nights sleep though we woke up early and were keen to get underway on the return journey, which we promptly did after the emotionally warming cup of morning tea. We were gifted with some openings in the clouds and as we trekked and said goodbye to our fleeting host, we were aesthetically stopped in our tracks as the sun bathed the distant mountains in its morning rays, unlocking the scene that the previous days weather had denied our viewing pleasure. Nature can beautiful, and here we were experiencing that sentiment to its fullest.

The trek back proved to be both quicker (3 hours instead of the initial 4) and more visually pleasing, but also with its own set of problems with snow shoe breakages and painful blisters and sores. However when we reached the car, although we were glad to see the modern day appliances and comfort that it afforded us, we also had with us a new sense of achievement and appreciation that the journey had been more than the end result. An incredible mini adventure.

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The photos shown here are a small subset from the trips. To view the full gallery visit our Flickr albums here