Sunday, 19 October 2014

Enchantment at Garibaldi Lake

For the young and fit, the hike to Garibaldi Lake is a walk in the park.  But for older adults like me, in spite of my regular visits to the gym, it was a strenuous climb.  It was difficult to gauge the degree of difficulty from web forums - for a mostly young audience, it was a no-brainer.   We decided to play it by ear - see how whacked out we feel at the half way point before making a decision to continue.  Having the company of two young and fit adults made a huge difference in terms of morale.

I was caught by surprise at how quickly I went out of breath in the first kilometres.  The trail consisted of mostly switchbacks for the first six kilometres, with 15 degree grade in some areas but the surface was well-maintained and really all it required was stamina.  If I were to do it again, I would take it more slowly at the beginning so that panic wouldn't set in after a few kilometres and gave rise to concerns that we may not make it up to the lake.

There were lots to see on the way and certainly taking time off to take pictures was a good way to take a break.

This fairyland scene greeted us upon arrival at the parking lot

Lots of fallen trees but also lots of young trees - regeneration could be seen everywhere

The occasional vistas let us see how high we've climbed

This, together with the many hollow trunks and their weird insides, created a surreal landscape along parts of the trail

After 4 hours and 6.5 km, we reached The Barrier, an amazing lava formation 300 metres thick and 2 km wide that became a natural dam creating Garibaldi Lake.  If the Barrier collapses, the lake would be drained and Squamish would be a disaster area - unimaginable scenario but not impossible.  

This is the view of the Barrier - read up on this spectacular geographical phenomenon. This was a great place for a lunch break and also the decision point for us as to whether we were physically able to continue.  Decision was easy, since we were only 2.5 km from Garibaldi Lake, it would be silly not to continue after lunch even though the switchbacks had taken their toll and our muscles and knees were quite sore.  But the remaining 2.5 km seemed easy as it was undulating rather than uphill all the way.
View of the mountains at the Barrier

Friendly white-breasted nuthatch eating trailmix out of human hand

The first view of the serene Barrier Lake shortly after the Barrier was a great morale booster.

After this, the last 2 kms were still a struggle but the incentive was enticing.  The final descent to the lake was easy but steep, especially when I reminded myself that this would be quite a climb on the way back.  

First view of Garibaldi Lake and its pristine glacial waters

Breathtaking view of the mountains and the glacier - well-worth the hike!

They call this Battleship Island (!?) - surely war should be very far from our minds in this idyllic landscape?
It gave me pause to think that while this enchanting lake at 9 km up was our destination, for many, it was only the campground or launching pad for far more exciting hikes up to the spectacular views of Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge (30 km round trip).  If I were even 10 years younger, I would have gone for it without hesitation.   Now, I would have to settle for enjoying this vicariously through my daughter's experience.  (sigh!)  

I call this "The impossible dream - literally" (Photo by Robert Stupka)

The hike down as expected was very tough on the knees and we were thankful for our walking poles, a tremendous help especially over the steep gradient in the last few kilometres - couldn't have done it without them.  There was a slight drizzle but we hardly felt it because of the forest canopy.  It's only on the drive back to town that we encountered a real storm.  But the 9 hour demanding hike was worth it.  

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