Greater Vancouver Hike – Elfin Lakes

Elfin Lakes CampingDate: August 7-8, 2015

Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Elfin Lakes is one of BC’s best backcountry camping destinations. It’s easy to access, has more amenities than you would normally find in the backcountry, and has great views of the Coast Mountains. It’s not surprising that the trail is popular with day hikers, overnight backpackers, and mountain bikers.

At the Trailhead

To beat the crowds, we left Vancouver early on Friday morning. The hike starts from the Diamond Head parking lot, located up a gravel road in Squamish beyond Quest University. There are numerous reports of break-ins in the parking lot, so don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle.

The parking lot is at a lofty 960 meters above sea level, a welcome boost for anyone carrying a heavy backpack. Most of the hike to Elfin Lakes is along an old logging road, with plenty of room for 2 or 3 people to walk abreast. The first section isn’t gruelling, but it is a continuous uphill climb without much to look at. There is only one viewpoint – a brief break in the trees with a view over Squamish and Howe Sound. After 4.3 km and 440 meters of elevation gain, you arrive at the Red Heather shelter. This is a good spot to have a meal and use the outhouse.

Wide Trail

After Red Heather you quickly get above the treeline with more spectacular views of the mountains around. Elfin Lakes is another 6 km of ups and downs from Red Heather, with a net elevation gain of only 75 meters. Keep an eye out for pikas in the rocky areas – they are little rodents with a distinctive squeak.

Pika

Elfin Lakes is probably BC’s most comprehensive backcountry camping area. There’s a full-time ranger station, outhouses that usually have toilet paper, bear-proof food caches, a lovely cooking shelter with an amazing view, two lakes (one for swimming and one for drinking water), 35 tent pads, and a hut with 34 beds if you don’t want to bring a tent. The cost of camping at Elfin Lakes is $10 per person per night, or $15 if you want to sleep in the shelter.

Ranger Station Filtering Water Bear Caches Cooking Shelter with a View

From Elfin Lakes, there are two day hike options – the Gargoyles and Opal Cone. We had planned on spending Saturday hiking up to the Gargoyles, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was grey and drizzly with heavy rain forecasted, so we decided to pack it up and head home early.

I was also worried about my toe. I had stubbed it before we left Vancouver, but didn’t think much of it. However, by the time we arrived at our campsite, it was throbbing and purple. I “iced” it in the lake and taped it to prevent any further damage. I’m not sure if it is sprained or just heavily bruised.

Injured Toe Icing My Toe in the Lake Taped Toes

Check out the BC Parks website for more info about the campsite, and read the great trail reports on Vancouver Trails and Trail Peak.

Times: (with a large backpack on)
Parking Lot to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Red Heather to Elfin Lakes: 2 hours
(GPS data on Strava)

Elfin Lakes to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Red Heather to Parking Lot: 1 hour
(GPS data on Strava)
Elfin Lakes Map

Pictures: Elfin Lakes 2015
Hiking Panorama

Tall Toilet

Hiking and Mountain Biking

At Elfin Lakes

Elfin Lakes

Relaxing in the Sun

Camping Spot Panorama

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Cycling to Steveston

West Dyke Trail
Emily and I celebrated BC Day with a lovely bike ride to Steveston. It was our first time biking there and I was really impressed. I never knew Richmond had a good network of greenways, trails, and bike lanes. Obviously other people did, because Steveston was packed with cyclists.

Middle Arm Trail
We took the SkyTrain to Aberdeen and then biked along the Middle Arm Trail, past the Olympic Oval and across from the airport, where we had great views of planes taking off from YVR and float planes landing on the river.

Richmond West Dyke Trail
We continued down the West Dyke Trail, past marshy tidal flats and a farm with grazing cows.

Steveston Wild Salmon Fish and Chips
In Steveston, we wandered around town, checked out the pier, and ate deep-fried oysters, wild salmon, and chips (bad vegans, I know). I was surprised how many tourists in Steveston were there to check out Storybrooke, the fictional town Steveston becomes when Once Upon a Time is filming.

Railway Greenway
Our return trip was a quick zip down the Railway Greenway, a paved and separated route running the length of Richmond. The greenway follows the old Interurban train line and the former stops are marked with timetables painted on the ground – a clever way to highlight the history of the route.

All-in-all, it was a great, relaxing bike ride and a fun day. The route is completely flat and mostly separated from automobile traffic. Steveston is a perfect destination, with a popular pier, restaurants, and fish market. A perfect day trip.

Steveston Bike Ride Map
Our route there was a scenic 11.4 km and took us 1 hour.
The route back was 9.4 km and took us only 38 minutes.

More photos on Flickr.

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Greater Vancouver Hike – Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk

Garibaldi Lake
Date: August 12-14, 2006, August 8-10 2008, and July 10-12, 2009

Location: Garibaldi Pronvincial Park, near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Black Tusk was my first real backcountry experience, and you never forget your first. Glacial Lakes, towering peaks, alpine meadows – this hike has it all. I’ve seen a lot of BC since that weekend in 2006, but Black Tusk is still my favourite overnight hike in BC. I’ve been up there 3 times, and I’m itching to return again.

The Barrier
It’s a 7.5 km hike from the trail head to the campgrounds – taking anywhere from 2 1/2 – 4 hours depending how fast you can move with heavy pack on. It’s a steady uphill the whole way, rising 915 meters, including a section of switchbacks along The Barrier – an imposing lava damn holding back the water in Garibaldi Lake.

Campsite
There are two camping options – Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake. Garibaldi Lake is the nicer option, but it fills up quickly, especially on a long weekend. The campsites are pretty good by backcountry standards – with gravel or wood tent pads, outhouses, bear caches, and cooking shelters.

Little Creek
Late July to early August is the best time to visit, as the alpine flowers are in full bloom and the area is mostly snow-free. You can even take a dip in Garibaldi Lake if you’re brave (no matter how warm it might be outside, a glacial lake is never very warm).

The Ascent to Black Tusk
From the campgrounds, there are two day hike possibilities – Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. Black Tusk is a unique experience. If you’re afraid of heights, like I am, it’s a uniquely terrifying but exhilarating experience. The trail leads up a large scree slope and then traverses a ridge with a steep drop off before reaching the base of an intimidating lava column.

At the Summit
You can rock climb/scramble the top of the tusk but it’s not for the feint of heart. It is steep and the rock is loose. I’ve only ever made it to the top once, on my first trip up when I wore a bike helmet to protect my head. Every other time I’ve chickened out. But if you do make it to the top, the 360 degree views of Garibaldi Provincial Park and Whistler-Blackcomb in the distance are breathtaking.
View of Whistler Mountain

Transportation: It’s a 90 minute drive from Vancouver to the trailhead near Squamish, BC. Directions.

Pictures: Garibaldi Lake 2006, Garibaldi Lake 2008, Garibaldi Lake 2009

Ridge Walking

On the way to the Tusk

Black Tusk Snow Angels

Dr Seuss Flowers

Lake-side Reflections

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Trophy Hunting is Not a Sport and Should Be Banned

DSC_6601.jpg
Reading about Cecil the Lion has been breaking my heart. What a pointless end to such a beautiful creature. The rich American who killed Cecil deserves all the hatred coming his way right now.

Even as a vegetarian, I have no problem with people who hunt for food. But so-called “sport hunting” or “trophy hunting” is barbaric and should be illegal. If these big game hunters want to get a thrill shooting something, put them in a forest with other hunters and let them battle it out Hunger Games style. In real sports there’s a good chance you will lose.

Even here in British Columbia, the government permits trophy hunting of grizzle bears. Maybe Cecil’s death will spur support for Andrew Weaver’s private member’s bill to end trophy hunting.

Photo by Peter Glenday

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Foraging and Fermenting

Garden bounty
It’s summer and the world is our grocery store. Our garden is booming, so we’ve been enjoying a lot of fresh salad and kale smoothies.

Rooftop Apple Tree
Apple Crisp
I also discovered that the apple trees on our rooftop produce surprisingly tasty fruit. Perfect for eating raw or baking into an apple crisp.

Blackberry Picking
We also went back to our secret blackberry spot and picked a few containers full of delicious berries. We ate some fresh and froze the rest.

Homemade Kimchi
My latest food experiment is making kichmi (recipe). I was inspired after reading Michael Pollan’s new book – Cooked. It tastes really good and should help build a strong digestive system.

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Recovering from Health Problems

Ankle Sprain
June was a rough month. The parasite I picked up in India really did a number on my body. It took 10 days of strong antibiotics to get rid of it, and the drugs left my digestive system a mess. I also suffered a rash of other health problems, likely related to the weakened state of my body.

  • Anemia – very slow to recover, even with iron pills.
  • Weight Loss – lost 10 lbs and it’s not easy to gain back on a vegan diet.
  • Grade 3 Ankle Sprain – foolishly blew out my ankle playing ultimate frisbee.
  • Leg Cramps – often at night. Still happening infrequently and unexplained.
  • Hemorrhoids – and other problems with veins.

All in all, I visited a doctor 6 times, went to the hospital emergency room once, had 3 lab visits for blood tests and stool samples, and saw a physiotherapist for my ankle sprain. I’ve gained a new appreciation for our medical system’s strengths and weaknesses, and a realization that I’m getting old and my body isn’t as quick to recover as it once was.

Thankfully, I’m feeling better now. I’m taking extra-strength iron pills and probiotics daily, and I can feel myself getting stronger every day. My ankle is almost healed, and I’m itching to start running again.

My revelations about our medical system:
Free Medicare is Amazing
Although it was frustrating dealing with sickness and multiple health problems, I was treated well by our medical system. Amazingly, every visit to see a doctor was free. The only out of pocket expenses I had were for drugs and the physiotherapist, and most of that was covered by my insurance plan at work. It was stressful enough dealing with illness that I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about the financial cost as well.

Doctors Treat Symptoms
The most noticeable flaw in our healthcare system I saw was that the doctors were too busy to really consider my holistic health. I had a number of symptoms that I felt were linked, but the doctors just wanted to diagnose a single problem, run some tests, and prescribe medication.

Give me More Data
Samsun S Health AppI love data. At work we collect thousands of statistics every minute on the health of our servers and applications. It’s all available real-time with historical charts for comparison. I want that for my body. If I had been tracking my own vitamin levels, I would have detected the low iron before the parasite wrecked havoc on my body. Doctors order tests when they’re looking for a problem, but not when you’re healthy so there is no baseline to compare to or early detection of problems. BC has a great system for getting lab results quickly to patients (myehealth.ca) but you still need a doctor to order the tests. Cellphone apps are starting to collect health data, but what’s available now is trivial – heart rate, step counters, and the ability to manually enter data like your weight. What I’m looking for is an at-home blood test that can track blood cell counts, hormones, and vitamin levels. Once that data is available at the touch of a button, it will revolutionize our health care system.

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Luxurious Weekend in Whistler

Lifestyles of the rich and famous
Last year Emily won the grand prize in the FarmFolk CityFolk Win our Windfall raffle.

The prize description:

Enjoy a one night stay at Nita Lake Lodge in their beautiful Rainforest Suite with private elevator access, overlooking exceptional views of Whistler Mountain. Later that night, revel in Chef’s delicious tasting dinner for two in Aura restaurant with magnificent lake views.

On your way there stop in Squamish and take a Whistler Backcountry Tour with Sea to Sky Air. Fly over massive glaciers, sprawling lush forests, and glacial waters of Garibaldi Lake.

So, last weekend we got to enjoy a luxurious weekend in Whistler, staying in the huge Rainforest Suite at Nita Lake Lodge and flying around the Squamish Valley with Sea to Sky Air. Both experiences were world class. It was too much awesomeness for the two of us to enjoy alone, so we invited the Holdings to share some of the experience with us.
Sea to Sky Gang

We had mixed weather for our flight, with snow, rain, and low clouds obscuring some of the peaks. But it was still an amazing experience. We were in a little 4-seater plane with our pilot pointing out the mountains and lakes below us. It was neat seeing places we’ve hiked to before, like Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk, and the Chief, from a new perspective. The highlight was the 360-degree loop we did around Table Mountain.

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Table Mountain

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

The Rainforest Suite at the Nita Lake Lodge is easily the fanciest and largest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, with a huge master bedroom, dining room with seating for 8, and full kitchen. The couch folded out so the Holdings didn’t have to use their sleeping bags (we came prepared). We took advantage of the hotels hot tubs and canoes. Our dinner at Aura was an amazing 5-course tasting meal.

Roar

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Nita Lake Lodge

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

More pictures on Flickr.

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