Category Archives: Camping

Camping – 2 Nights at Alice Lake

Tent
Last year we celebrated Astrid’s 1st birthday with 1 night of camping at Golden Ears Provincial Park. This year, we celebrated her 2nd birthday with 2 nights at Alice Lake Provincial Park. I think we can keep this tradition going until she’s at least 14.

Eating Marshmallows

We were very close to cancelling the trip. When Astrid got hand, foot, and mouth disease and the forecast was nothing but rain, we didn’t think it was worth going at all. But Astrid got better and the forecast improved so we decided to go for a change of scenery if nothing else. We were prepared for a disaster, but Astrid loved it and slept well. It was a great experience.

Alice Lake Playground

In many ways Alice Lake is a perfect family-friendly camping destination:

  • It’s close to Vancouver, only an hour drive.
  • The campsites are quiet, with lots of trees, a picnic table, a fire pit, and plenty of room for a tent.
  • There are lots of other families with kids zooming around on bikes and scooters.
  • There are some easy hikes from the campsite around Stump Lake and up to Edith Lake.
  • You can rent a canoe, kayak, SUP, or paddleboat if you want to explore the lake.
  • There is a great playground for little kids and an introductory mountain bike course for older kids. There are also mountain bike trails for adults.
  • Lots of space at the day-use beach areas and new picnic tables. Just watch out for the geese — they will steal your lunch!

The only downside is that it is very popular. It is practically 100% reserved all summer, so you need to get reservations as soon as they become available (3 months before the date).

Canoeing on Alice Lake Little Chopper

It was awesome seeing Astrid’s excitement discovering our campsite. She enjoyed playing in the tent and helping with the chores (like preparing food, washing dishes, and chopping wood). She kept her distance from the campfire (it was too hot for her) but she loved the marshmallows (although it did take some convincing to try the first bite). She showed us again that she’s not a water baby. Our canoe ride only lasted 30 minutes and she spent about 5 seconds in the lake. Probably for the best considering all of the geese poop.

Sleeping in the Tent

Astrid slept well at night (it was really cold the first night and we all had toques on). She wouldn’t nap in the tent (it was too much fun) but she fell asleep in the backpack as soon as we went for a hike.

Modo Boost
Our battery died on us (twice) and we had to get a boost from our neighbours, who also happened to be driving a Modo vehicle.

Monkey on my back

Full album of pictures.

Golden Ears – Astrid’s First Camping Trip

Alouette Lake Selfie

Astrid’s first camping trip was a mild success. We came close to making a midnight getaway with the tent strapped to the car roof, but we were glad we stuck it out.

We went camping on the July long weekend in Golden Ears Provincial Park. We only stayed for one night because because reservations were hard to come by when we booked 2 months ago, but that ended up being a blessing in disguise.

Tent

Astrid had fun during the day, but had a hard time sleeping in the tent. She wouldn’t nap (thank god for Ergo naps), struggled to fall asleep at night, woke up at 11:30 pm, and cried on-and-off for 2 hours. We were close to bailing, but once she finally settled down, she slept until 8 am the next morning. It was cold overnight, but Astrid was bundled up and warm in the tent.

Getting Ready to Camp

Camping with a 1-year old is a lot different than the camping trips we are used to. We needed a bigger tent, a car accessible spot, and a lot more stuff (like diapers, toys, and a cooler). We spent more time in and around our campsite than we normally would and our big tarp came in handy as a play surface for Astrid.

Food time

Golden Ears was a good spot for a first camping trip – close to Vancouver (only a 1-hour drive), with some nice hiking trails, a beautiful lake, and a family friendly campground that was pretty quiet (when Astrid wasn’t crying). The only downside is the beach has no sand – only rocks and goose poop.

Creek Hiking

It was nice to spend so much time outside in nature. We split our time between the beach/picnic area, doing small hikes in the forest (often while Astrid napped in the carrier), and hanging out at our campsite. We even had an adventurous, off-trail “shortcut” down a stream that involved a lot of fallen trees and bushwacking.

Adorable

Astrid had a rough night, but enjoyed the rest of the trip enough that we are looking forward to going again next summer. By then Astrid will be walking and able to explore more. Maybe we’ll try 2 nights for her 2nd birthday.

More photos

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

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

Backpacking India: Chandrashila Trek

Chandrashila Trek
After our failed Singalila trek a few weeks ago, we were a bit nervous to try another one. As we’ve discovered, there’s a lot that can go wrong on a multi-day trek when you’re not feeling 100%. Further complicating things, this time we were traveling with our friend Dan, who only had two days to acclimatize to Indian food and the time change before we launched into our 4-day Chandrashila Trek into the Himalayas of Uttarakhand. Luckily, we all made it through with only minor discomfort and the trek was amazing.

Chandrashila Trek
We hiked through blossoming Rhododendron forests, swam in a lake (well, Dan and the Norwegians swam), had epic views of the high Himalayan peaks, watched a mongoose playing in a tree, visited a Hindu temple, and capped it off with a snowy climb to the top of Chandrashila at over 3500 m.

Chandrashila Trek
Our trek was organized by Red Chilli Adventure, and they did an excellent job. The guides were knowledgeable and fun, the food was plentiful and tasty, and the tents and sleeping bags kept us warm during the frigid nights. We were lucky to have a good group of fellow trekkers, including a pair of Norwegians, two other Canadians, and three French girls. Trekking seems to be a great way to meet the most interesting people from around the world.

Birthplace of the Ganges
Even though it was a 4 day trip, we only had two long hiking days. The first and last days were mostly driving. The roads were some of the best we’ve been on in India, and the views were excellent – Lots of lush valleys and a viewpoint over the start of the Ganges River. If it wasn’t for the motion sickness,the drive would have been completely enjoyable.

Chandrashila Trek
The first day featured only a short 2 km hike to our campsite next to Deorital Lake, which only took 1 hour.

Mongoose
The second day we covered 14 km through beautiful forests with a few great viewpoints. Midday we stumbled upon a mongoose. They can be viscious animals, but this one was just playing in the flowers.

Chandrashila Trek
The third day was the most intense, as we spent 5 hours walking up to a temple, climbing to the mountain peak, and sliding back down. The route was heavily travelled until the temple, after which we had to break trail up to the peak. The views from the peak were spectacular. It was hard work walking in the snow and breathing the thin air, but sliding down was fun and fast.
Chandrashila Trek
Chandrashila Trek

Chandrashila Trek

We got really lucky with weather. We had pouring rain and whiteout conditions, but most of our hiking was in sunny, dry conditions. Our hike on the third day started with drizzle and clouds, but cleared as we neared the peak.

Chandrashila Trek

We were really happy we did the trek. When we were planning our 2 weeks with Dan, we weren’t sure that a trek was a good idea – too much time in one place and too much that could go wrong. But in ended up being a real highlight for all three of us.
Chandrashila Trek

More photos on Flickr: Chandrashila Trek

Cat Lake Camping

Cat Lake in the Morning
My wife and I’s first camping trip together was to a little forestry campsite just north of Squamish. I have fond memories of that trip. I remember a tranquil lake, quiet isolated sites, and cooking great food over a campfire. One of the best car camping experiences (well almost, you have a short hike to the sites), I’ve had in BC and no reservation needed. We’ve been hoping to go back for years and finally made the trip last weekend.

Either memories can be deceiving, I’m getting old and grumpy, or Cat Lake has changed. Judging from what I wrote about Cat Lake on August 30, 2006, it was a party destination then, but it seemed more extreme this time:

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.

Maybe they’ve crammed in more sites, but I didn’t find quiet campsites. When a group decided to go skinny dipping at 2 am on Friday night, they woke me up on the other side of the lake (noises seemed to carry more over the water than between camp sites). I was ready to take an axe to the guy screaming “stop looking at my dick, the water is cold”. There was also a fire ban prevented any campfire cooking.

Cat Lake

The lake is still great for swimming – a perfect temperature and crystal clear. The floating logs are still there and great to play on, but inflatable rafts now outnumbered them.

Typical Cat Lake Campsite
This was a typical campsite – a giant tent, trash and empty beer cans littered around, and food left out to attract wildlife. It bothered me. I must be getting old and grumpy. I love camping and we still had a good time, but I wish more people could enjoy the experience without getting high, stupidly drunk, and making asses of themselves.

10 Tips for an Algonquin Canoe Trip

Algonquin Canoe Trip
Here is some helpful advice I wish I had when we were planning our Algonquin canoe trip.

  1. Pack like you would for a multi-day, backcountry hiking trip. Keep it light. Lots of small drybags are convenient for loading into a boat, but they’re a pain to carry. We spent almost as much time portaging as paddling. You’ll want most of your gear in as few backpacks as possible. (Christina says: “bring proper shoes for the portages”)
    Portage Fail
  2. The portages and campsites are all well marked with signs visible from a long distance away, but you’ll still need a map. We printed multiple copies of Jeff’s Algonquin Map (cropped to the area we were going) and put them in ziplock bags.
    Smoke Lake to Kootchie Lake
  3. Think about how far you want to travel each day. We were able to cover 10-12 km at a leisurely pace in 4-5 hours, but we never encountered a strong head wind. I know some groups like to cover more ground and will do 20 km in 8 hour days. The shorter days gave us lots of time to relax at the campsites (bring a deck of cards and a book). I found that my exhaustion level at the end of the day was more dependent on the portages than the paddling. Portages under 500 meters were easy and anything over 1 km was tiring. Having lots of little portages was never a bad thing (you get really good and getting gear in and out of the canoes quickly), but the bugs were often worst along the portage trails.
    Beaver Damned
  4. In addition to the usual backcountry camping gear (tent, water filter, etc), I recommend packing a tarp, carabiners, ziplock bags, and lots of rope. A handy way to setup the tarp to prevent water pooling is to tie it low to the ground (waist height) and then use a paddle to prop up the middle.
    tarps
  5. Learn how to setup a bear bag to keep your food safe overnight. What not to do:
    • Don’t throw all of your rope into the tree. Hang on to one end.
    • Don’t put lots of knots and your carabiner on the rope before throwing it over a branch. It will only get snagged. (There’s a reward for the rope and carabiner I left stuck in the tree on Big Porcupine.)
    • Don’t pull your food bag too close to branches. You want it high enough to be out of the reach of bears but not too easily accessible to chipmunks. We had chipmunks chew holes in 3 dry bags.

    Rope Stuck Bear Cache Rope Retrieval

  6. Campfires are allowed, assuming the forest fire risk isn’t high. Every campsite has a nice fire pit and you can scavenge deadwood. I’d recommend bringing extra paper to help get it lit. We only had a fire on two nights, but it was handy for drying clothing.
    Michael's Pants are on Fire!
  7. Pack lots of toilet paper and keep it dry. No one likes to use leaves. There are box toilets at every campsite and outhouses along some of the portages. They’re rudimentary but better than digging a hole.
    Treasure Chest
  8. For food, I like to eat fresh fruit and vegetables in the first few days, and rely on dehydrated meals at the end of the trip. Cans and bottles are prohibited in the backcountry, even if you plan on packing it out. This is in response to litter problems (likely beer bottles and beer cans). Most of our food was in ziplock bags and plastic containers, but our group did have a few contraband cans of beans. The wardens never checked when they visited our site. I’m guessing the rule is only enforced with troublemakers.
    Camping Dinner
  9. You have to get away from the highway where the lakes have motorized boats before you have a chance of seeing wildlife. We saw two moose on our 3rd day, the midpoint of our trip, on Kirkwood Lake.
    Moose
  10. Prepare for all kinds of weather. I was amazed by how quickly the weather changed from sunny and warm to a down-pouring thunderstorm. Bathing suits and a rain jacket are a must. A hat helps to keep the sun and rain out of your eyes. I also found biking gloves handy for paddling.
    Algonquin Canoe Trip

Enjoy your trip!