Saturday, August 4th-Monday, August 6th
We head to our northernmost destination today…Pemberton. Gigantic mountains surrounded our drive on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The peak in the header photo is the famous black tusk.
The weather was in the 80s and there hadn’t been rain for weeks. So rare in this part of the country. We stopped at the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park for a short hike to see Brandywine falls. This thundering waterfall plunges 230 ft. in to a cavern below. Many people just visit the falls, but we continued up a gravel trail with spectacular views of Daisy Lake (fed by Brandywine falls) and Black Tusk Peak up to the suspension bridges where the Whistler Bungee Jumping operation was. We watched absolutely mad people bungee in to a massive gorge over a roaring river. We watch a mother and daughter (@12) double jump, as well as two adults together. Absolute madness in our book, and a toe tingler for me! Very enjoyable 4+ mile hike.
After the hike we stopped in Whistler at the Tesla Supercharger that was located in the Fairmont hotel parking garage. It was absolute madness. The parking garage was packed full and so cars were parked in the charging spots blocking people like ourselves from accessing the superchargers. The hotel was mobbed with people. Picture this as a 6 star luxury hotel with Disneyland attractions set up around the pool and grassy areas. We couldn’t wait for our charge to be complete to get out of there to our B&B for the next 3 nights.
The Log House Inn in Pemberton so far had been THE best accommodation, bar none on the trip. The owner, Donna was a delight and so welcoming. We sat out on the deck relaxing with glacier views with a rainbow. Exactly our kind of place to stay!
When we started to research our hiking options on this trip we found one destination that popped up consistently — Joffre Lakes. Most of the hiking sites wrote it up as a moderate difficulty trail (3 miles each way) with a pretty good elevation gain (1,610 ft). The Joffre lakes hike as shown in the map below is a pretty steep climb between 3 glacier lakes. The sites indicated that the trail should not be considered by the casual hikers. … that was until someone posted a photo on Instagram and it went viral. You will understand why from the photos I post here. It’s like no where on earth BUT it’s a tough hike even for us experienced hikers.
The other problem that arose due to Instagram was the number of people that flocked to the trail to take photos of themselves, on the downed log to post on their social media account. We thought that wouldn’t effect us, but we were very wrong. Everyone we chatted with since arriving in BC had their own horror stories of the crowds at Joffre Lakes. The parking lots at the trailhead were full by early morning and people were parking along the roadway for a couple of miles in each direction. Park rangers were unsuccessfully trying to control the overflow parking on the road and closing off the lots when they were full.
Once people found parking then they created crowded conditions on the trail. Restroom facilities were unable to handle the number of people, the narrow trail becomes so crowded with people that you’re shoulder to shoulder. To make matters worse, people who shouldn’t be hiking the trail (either elderly, or not in shape to the challenge) are putting themselves at severe risk. Couldn’t believe the number of people in line for the restrooms with purses and sandals. What were they thinking?!
Since Joffre Lakes was our reason for being in Pemberton we asked Donna, the innkeepers advice. We had planned on doing the hike on Monday, thinking it would be less crowded than on a weekend. But alas, we didn’t know about Monday being BC Day a national holiday. She said that it would be fine if we left very early in the morning and got in before the Instagram crowds. We decided to do this hike immediately incase we got skunked in finding parking, we’d have another day to give it a go.
We had no idea how crowded it would be. We arrived at the parking lot at 7:20am. Though there was plenty of parking available, we parked in a spot that was close to the exit (read: brocante parking experience). We were on the trail by 8am. We figured this would give us the best (read: least crowded) photo opportunities. The portion of the hike from Lower Lake to Middle Lake was the most difficult (read: steep), even with all the hiking we had done to prepare, we were huffing and puffing. The portion from Middle Lake to Upper Lake is not as steep but the trail is very poor much of the time you’re scrambling/crawling over and across boulders to continue.
This was probably one of the most spectacular hikes and views we’ve experienced in our life, so culling the photographs to include in this post was a real challenge. Due to the number of photos I will break them up in sections.
It was a short walk to the first of the three glacier lakes. We arrived at Lower Lake with no one around and nothing but spectacular views. The water was so clear and blue-green. The dead limbs under the water made for artistic photos.
We then started the climb up to Middle Lake. There were very steep portions with a couple of sets of steps interspersed (thank heavens). It was tough going. In one of the photos you will see large boulders that are from the avalanches over the decades. On the lower part of the trail these boulders were cleared to groom the trail, but as you climbed past middle lake you have to make your way over/through these boulder fields. The reflection of the glaciers in Middle Lake were incredible. Again, with hardly anyone around (yet), it was peaceful and easy to take photos. Only 2 instagram queens taking each others photos on the log in the middle of the lake. The views that we were rewarded with at Middle Lake were worth all the preparation and effort.
Here’s a slideshow of the photos of Middle Lake:
Wanting to continue enjoying no people on the trail we pressed upward from Middle Lake to Upper Lake where we passed a beautiful stepped waterfall that fed Middle Lake. From there we crossed the stream that fed the waterfall, up sets of steep steps and over boulders and steep portions of the trail. We then crossed the feeder stream from Upper Lake to arrive at our first views of the glacier with lots of waterfalls feeding the uppermost lake. We were so close to the glaciers at this point. Bright purple wild flowers lined the streams coming from the base of the glaciers. At this point we were at about 5,700 ft. in altitude.
We had reached our ultimate destination and we took a long break and enjoyed the spectacular views. Because we left before breakfast was served our innkeeper, Donna, packed us bananas, apples and yummy homemade banana bread.
We encountered a very different trail on the descent. The hoards of people had arrived. Granted less people were able to reach Upper Lake due to the difficulty of the trail but never-the-less the small trail was packed. Look closely in the photos and you’ll see dots that are groups of people. As we got lower the crowds grew thicker. Many stopping to rest every few hundred yards. Some asked with desperate looks “how much further”. We didn’t have the heart to tell them to turn around as they were being foolish, but we did tell them the truth in the difficulty and distance they still had to go. Hum, I wonder if some of them came to their senses and joined the crowds back down to the parking lots.
A well deserved beer at the Pemberton Brewing Company followed by a refreshing shower, a nap and dinner out completed our day. What an incredible day it was!
Pemberton Day 2
Our inn keeper Donna served us an amazing breakfast–fresh warm banana bread, fresh fruit with yogurt and granola on top AND a delicious bacon, spinach, poached egg and mushroom dish. We were definitely fueled for the day. Since her advice on Joffre Lake the previous day was right on, we decided to go on a secret hike that she said we would love. Since it wasn’t listed in any of the hiking info we had she drew a map for us to find the trailhead. She described it as a shorter hike than the previous day (thank heavens) which would be hiking up the trail on one side of a waterfall, across a bridge and down a trail on the other side.
Easy right? The one thing that she neglected to mention was the very steep trail was right on the edge of the drop off for the waterfall! Forget the toe tingling! I was on the edge of freaking out for the better part of the hike! You’ll notice that the photos from this hike are of Joe as he wasn’t reluctant to be so close to the edges. He took most of the photos close to the waterfall as I was barely making it up the trail. Turning around and going back wasn’t an option because heading down the up trail was too steep, so I had to press on to complete the hike.
It was very hard to capture the force and sound of this waterfall that we hiked alongside. The views were spectacular making the effort totally worthwhile. Plus, in complete contrast to yesterday, we never saw another person during the entire hike. Donna was spot on, this was an incredible experience.
So, if we didn’t have enough waterfalls for the day…
we headed over to Narin Falls to tick that visit box. It was a short 2 mile hike in to these even more power waterfalls. The trail was a nice and shaded trail along the raging river that was fed by Narin Falls. These falls were very different than most that we had seen as they had hidden potholes from the water so it looked like the water was coming up from under. I was hanging on for deal life to the fence on the edge of the falls while Joe took photos. My toes were well beyond tingling and I was dizzy from the experience.
On our last evening in the Pemberton area we ate at probably THE best Thai restaurant, bar none, we’ve ever eaten at in our lives. Donna made reservations at Barn Nork for us as she said in the summer the small restaurant can get quite busy. The story of the restaurant is very interesting. Two young chefs from Chang Mai that worked at a high end restaurant in Vancouver for 5 years decided they wanted to live in the countryside and opened this little place about 2 years ago. Their food was original and absolutely delicious. We started with mouthwatering spring rolls followed by green chili curry with noodles for me and Pad set ew for Joe. This meal will forever be in our memories.
Tomorrow we would need to leave very early to start our journey homeward stopping in Mt. Rainier for some final hikes of our trip. – Part 7