Birds eating out of your hand. Colours you couldn't even dream existed. Fat little chipmunks coming up for a chat (aka snack). A whole new world. A place I had been dreaming about all summer long.
Where is this place you're probably asking...well right in my backyard. Kind of. About a 3 hour drive into my backyard to be more precise, just past Whistler & Pemberton..it's Joffre Lake Provincial park.
I can't believe it's taken me over a month to write about this adventure, but after it taking me over a year to finally get to this trail it sort of makes sense. My hiking partner in crime, Melinda & I had been talking about this hike all summer but hadn't made any solid plans to do it until we realized that summer was nearly over (sad thought mid August) & we would regret not getting out & doing it. So with that, we booked a car, packed up & headed off on what could not have been more of a beautiful Sunday morning out towards Pemberton. I've talked about it before from my Weekend Wanders; Whistler Edition , but man the Sea To Sky highway is unreal. Rivaled only by the Icefield Parkway between Jasper & Banff in Alberta, this is definitely one of my favourite scenic drives to experience. So armed with nothing but sun & blue skies we made it out to Pemberton in just about 3 hours & lucked out finding parking. First thing you should know is that if you show up anytime after 9am (so I've been told) expect to play a lot of "Lets try this lot again" which is what Melinda & I experienced. We arrived just around 12 pm and tried the first lot about a km from the main lot where the trail head is, & found nothing, but by sheer luck alone while turning around in the main lot a coup was leaving who had THE best spot, right next to the trail head, too perfect! We were stoked (even more than before) and took off on our adventure.
Not even 10 minutes from the parking lot & you'll begin to hear the "ouus" and "ahhs" of a large crowd, and you'll spot the opening at the first lake. It wasn't long before Mel & I had our jaws on the floor & knew we were about to have the best adventure day of the summer. While the viewing platform at the first lake isn't that big, we managed a few shots & figured we would have to pass it by on our way back to the car & the end & could maybe experience it without the large hoards of people who had stopped in.
From here, you're immediately gifted with the vertical climb we had been reading about. With an elevation gain of 370 meters, you'll do must of your uphill huffing & puffing from the first lake to the middle lake (1.5 hours) with some great views the higher you climb. Some of the best views of the day were seen on that climb, and even though seeing ht lakes up close was incredible, it still took my breathe away (not from climbing thank you very much) to see how insane it looked from above. At one point we were even gifted with birds straight out of Snow White ; if you put your hands out or even your arms the birds would fly right out of the trees and into your hands! No word of a lie, and I would have had photo proof had I not been so overcome with excitement & able to multitask...but none the less still another incredible aspect of this trail we got to experience.
We pushed ourselves along taking breaks where we could and soaking in the view but feeling pretty proud of ourselves once we realized we had finally reached the middle lake (and probably the most photographed spot on this trail). This is a spot a lot of people stop at for lunch or to take that perfect selfie before turning back & heading down. When we arrived it was jam packed full of people but we managed to find a little spot to refuel & take some of the most incredible photos I have in my collection now, was even brave enough to get into the water (just ankle deep but still! To say it was cold would be an understatement! Sure living in Jasper, Alberta I swam in my fair share of glacially fed lakes..but none as close to a glacier as this. Dipping my toes in nearly gave me brain freeze, but I did witness one very brave (or crazy) kid jump in not just once, or twice but 3 times! After we;d gotten our fair share of photos and fueled back up we headed off upwards & onward towards the Third Lake. Oh and just an advisory to anyone wondering..no filters were used in the posting of these photos (trust me, you don't need them!)
As we headed towards the upper lake on the trail we passed "the spot", the one place where people take that Instagram Worthy shot to make everyone jealous, think I'm kidding? There was even a line up 10 people deep to get their photo taken here. Mel & I opted to skip it and keep heading up. Once we were past the middle lake we began to hear rushing water, maybe a stream? Or a little river? Oh nope, actually a huge cascading waterfall that didn't come up in any of my research on the trail! This was the cherry on top of our day (both avid waterfall chasers). It seemed to appear out of no where & the trail towards the Third Lake and campground area took us right along side of it!
You've got to do a bit more climbing before reaching the Upper lake, and with no solid ground surrounding it on one side it's a bit of a balancing act to get out to it, but hey! That's all a part of the adventure, and it's well worth it. From the Third Lake you feel as if you could reach out & build a snowman on the glacier. The view from there is absolutely stunning & we both couldn't seem to take our eyes off it. At this point you have two options, take your photos & head back down OR take your photos &continue onward towards the campground. We opted for the latter of the two options. We figured since we had made it all this way already we would see how far we got before we should turn back to avoid the possibility of it being dark as we descended. And let me tell you, it was worth it. We had to do some pretty wicked bouldering to get across but the views from the other side of the lake are just as incredible, and we lucked out on a late start because basically all the people along that way had already turned back to the parking lot. So we soaked in all the views before admitting that if we didn't turn back we would be trekking back in the dark.
And just like that, and amazing day was over...KIDDING! We weren't even close to finish. Obviously coming all this way meant we had to do a return & it was probably the best part of our day. With a later start than most it meant that heading back down we had most of the trail to ourselves so this meant a few more stops along the way to take in the views & snap a few more photos without any one else in sight. Plus the late afternoon lighting was too magical not to stop. We even managed to get some shots at "the spot", which is basically a huge log that's submerged in the water so when you walk out towards the end it almost feels as if you're floating above the lake itself. It's cool, I will admit that, but the sheer volume of people lining up to have their photo taken there was too much for me to enjoy it when we first walked past, so with no one but Mel & I, we were able to enjoy this spot in peace. It was definitely worth the late start!
In total we hiked just over 10 km that Sunday, and as we finally got back to flat ground at the 1st lake we realized (again) had it all to ourselves & the evening light was absolutely breathe taking. With that there were a few more photos & a few more "I can't believe we just aw all that today" spoken between us. We were able to accomplish something we both had on our West Coast bucket list even before we met & had the most perfect day for this adventure. It ended the summer off on a serious high for both Mel & I whose feelings about living in Vancouver are quite similar in that it lacks something for both of us.
That being said, I know for me, I'm more than grateful that I had the opportunity to explore this part of BC. It gave me that feeling I had been missing for so long. The inspired & excited feeling that my life had been lacking as of late. One last hoorah before the less than awesome weather sets in for Winter here in Vancouver & I go into serious hibernation/planning mode. I hadn't intended on being in Vancouver another winter but after struggling to make decision on what I wanted to do it seem like this is where I will be staying for the next little while until I'm able to organize a plan I'm confident in. Until then I'm lucky to have memories like this to look back on to keep me going.