Last weekend I had another opportunity to explore the vast wilderness and jaw-dropping beauty available within a few hours of Vancouver. On Friday, we jammed a rental car full of camping gear, and Emily and I drove north towards Whistler.
The trip was only planned a few weeks ago, so we didn’t couldn’t get reservations anywhere, but all of the provincial campgrounds have some spots that are first-come first-serve. We were hoping to stay at Alice Lake, a provincial camp ground about 90 minutes north. We left early Friday afternoon and hoped for the best, but when we arrived we were told they were full.
Luckily, there was a forestry camp site a few km up the highway called Cat Lake. For those of you unfamiliar with BC camping, there are nearly 1200 forestry sites in the province. They’re basically very rough campgrounds on logging land maintained by the Ministry of Forests. Most sites over a rough trail in and a spot to pitch a tent. Not much else, and very minimalist compared to the running water, washrooms, and other facilities at provincial parks. Often they’re free or charge a minimal fee, but they’re very unadvertised and hard to find – which makes them hidden gems.
Cat Lake is probably one of the more managed forestry sites, probably because it serves as overflow for Alice Lake. You had to hike into the sites from the parking lot, but there were wheel barrows available to haul your gear in. The guy living in a trailer and collecting money sold fire wood, and each site had a humongous picnic table and fire pit.
The best features, though, were the lake and privacy of each site. The lake had some small beach areas, and people would float these giant trees into the centre of the lake and use them as docks, diving boards, and log rolling venues. The camp sites were nestled between hills and trees and very spaced out. On one side we had a group playing loud music and on the other a bunch of drunk girls. But at our site we could barely hear them. We spent Saturday at Alice Lake, and the sites there were jammed together and lacked any privacy.
Saturday was spent hiking and enjoying the beach at Alice Lake. Sunday we hiked the Stawamus Chief before driving back into Vancouver. The Chief is a popular but strenuous climb in Squamish. The 3.5 km (with 600 m elevation gain) trail took us 2 hours and brought us to the top of the Chief, with amazing views of the area. Climbing was a good work out, with a few tricky areas, but people of all ages were climbing the trail. There were families with babies, young couples, and people with dogs of all sizes. Eating lunch at the summit was a great reward.
By the end of the weekend, we stunk like campfire, but ate very well. We had yummy pancakes for breakfasts, sandwiches with veggie pate for lunches, and roasted veggies for dinner. And all the food was vegan, even the pancakes.