Travelblips

Travel blog by a global nomad

30 Aug

Glacier National Park, Montana

Huh… I’ve driven through Glacier National Park in Canada a few times (between Alberta and BC somewhere…). I know its about the glaciers but unless you hike in (I’m guessing – I’ve never stopped long enough. Ok. I did once as I do recall taking pictures of a marmot vogueing for me – until I didn’t give it any food and then it gave me such a scolding…), its not really that super spectacular to drive through.

So I have to confess, I wasn’t expecting much with Glacier National Park in Montana.

And to be honest, when we entered from the western side via the West Glacier entrance (nearly fainting at the $US25 entry fee given we were only going to be driving through it…Why couldn’t it be like Canada where if you aren’t staying for the night but just passing through, you don’t have to pay?!), it was a tree lined road with the odd glimpse of a lake (Lake McDonald). So, it isn’t actually a terribly spectacular entrance. Plus that was compounded by everything being hazy owing to several bushfires raging to the south.

After about 20 minutes, we begin to get a glimpse of some peaks high up above the tree tops. It began to really quite interesting after passing the end of Lake McDonald and following some river up.

And then we rounded a bend, and even the trees couldn’t hide the fact the cliffs to our right were pretty much hanging over us! We were in awe! These must be some of the most amazing near vertical cliffs in the world and the effect of them rising 200oft nearly straight up was staggering.

New found respect for the Montana Glacier National Park!

It took us about 3 hours to snake our way up to Logan Pass (somewhere north of 6000ft… sorry, don’t have map on me!), some delays due to road construction going on, but most being delays as we pulled into the many pullouts to take pictures of these steep glacier carved valleys…

I’m not going to go into lengthy description. The smoke make for slightly anticlimactic photography… But I will do my best to post photos to go with this post soon. Just remember, those cliffs hung over us!

30 Aug

Huckleberries in Hungry Horse

Huckleberries.

How much do you know about huckleberries? I think before arriving in Hungry Horse, Montana, I think if you’d mentioned the word ‘hucklberries’ to me I’d have probably have thought of the cartoon character, Hucklberry Hound – the southern drawl speaking blue dog. Now I’ve been to Hungry Horse and I know they are purple berries which it would appear are the panacia for just about anything to do with anything you can possibly think of.

We pulled into one of the huckleberry superstores lining this little town (there isn’t much else apart from Hucklberry superstores… Well. A few antique stores selling Montana oddities – usually well worth a sticky beak in this part of the world if you like that kind of stuff.. which I do…). I think this store was called the Huckleberry Patch (a quick search on google would confirm that it appears that is so).

Its a purple store. We walked into one of its many entrances and found ourselves in tackydom heaven, with cheaply made oddities generally in a shade of purple. There were magnets of bears holding huckleberries, purses with hucklberries on them, pyjama’s with huckleberries on them, things that dangle in front of windows that were purple and huckleberryish, there were pocket knives with hucklberries on them… the list goes on…

Being starved though, we blitzed through the several rooms filled with huckleberry mania to the restuarant where I ordered an Avalanche wrap with huckleberry cottage cheese and huckleberry viniagarette with a side of coleslaw with huckleberries. Are you getting the picture here that this place is a mecca for huckleberry consumption?

Surprisingly, the wrap was actually pretty good. The side of beans was even better… We almost got the huckleberry pie, but were actually feeling pretty full so didn’t pursue that option. I also failed to sample the home brewed huckleberry soda/pop drink…

With our stomachs no longer growling, we walked back into the store. The first section was dedicated to food. Huckleberry chocolate, huckleberry honey, huckleberry jam, huckleberry viniagarette, huckleberry lollipops, huckleberry licorice, huckleberry coffee, muffin mix, pancake mix (deep breath…) huckleberry tea, jerky…

The next room was the aforementioned souvenier store with every item you can think of emblazoned with huckleberries from baseball caps to t-shirts, sleepwear to soap, candles to fudge, plates to jelly….

And the last room seemed to be a little on the dull side and devoted to t-shirts etc loosely themed on the nearby Glacier National Park.

So. Now I know. A huckleberry is a very purple blueberry which has 1001 in which it can be marketed – have you ever seen such devotion to raspberries or strawberries?!

12 May

Of tractors, swans and Ontario hospitality…

It was supposed to be a genteel drive through Ontario cottage country. However, dating a farmboy is apparently, not going to lead to a genteel drive through cottage country!

From Goderich on the eastern side of Lake Huron in Ontario, we set off eastwards for our 1 day of car hire. But far be it for us to follow the beaten track… No, we were destined to drive the backroads and check out… farms. Turns out the ‘cottage country’ side of things might be a bit more restricted to the myriad of small communities dotted along the roads there – but inbetween (and especially off the main thoroughfare’s) its all farms. And of particular interest were the tractors. Apparently. Tractors. Did not quite ever envisage a day where I would be sitting in a car being regaled by tractor stories and having various tractor models pointed out to me and having to count seed buckets (seed buckets???!!) being towed by tractors!

So enough about tractors!

Fortunately, as mentioned, inbetween the farms, there are little communities here and there and since all of these communities are less than 3 hours drive from Toronto, with its large population, there was a lot of incentive to try and provide something ‘slightly different’ to attract the crowds. Sometimes its colourful pubs in exotic stone buildings, other times its large piles of tires and sometimes its artisans. I was particularly keen to see one place called “Metal Murals” which we had passed at 80km/hr on the way to Goderich. However, our journey back through tractor country meant I missed Metal Murals. It remains on my list of artisans I want to see…

After roaming the fields of Ontario for about an hour, we ran out of roads to twist and turn on between the tractor-filled farms and ended up in Stratford. Suffice to say, Stratford has done everything in its power to capitalise on the name – right down to a river called the Avon flowing through it. All that was missing were punts….

We had a late lunch in Stratford before setting off on this early glorious spring day (spring is late in Canada this year!), before taking a promenade down the main street, ducking into the little stores. Learnt that Stratford was the home of ‘the Beebs’ -apparently not something this thespian loving town is entirely proud of…

After checking out the stores, we walked along the Avon River (…) passed a couple of large (indoor) theatres (there are apparently 4 large theatres in town for the summer season of plays). As we approached a small bridge, the number of swans increased, but for some reason, they were leery of us and quickly, gracefully sailed away. We crossed the small bridge and watched a dragon boat team prepare for their first inaugural training session. A large white goose waddled around growling (yes… apparently geese growl. I presume it is Alert Level Red as opposed to Alert Level Nuclear White which is represented by a hiss…), and it turned out the mother was sitting on a newly minted nest with 5 eggs – right next to where all the paddles were stored for the dragonboat… The mother was not to thrilled by all the activity near her carefully chosen nest!

After spending about 10 minutes sitting in the sun and watching the dragonboat power its way into the slightly setting sun, we decided it was time to drive on – afterall, we were supposed to be in Toronto that night!

However, continuing the theme of driving off the beaten track, we quickly detoured off the main highway and headed to what was supposed to be New Hamburg. However, my tractor-loving driver (yes, being chauffeur driven) was of the mood to not follow my directions and we quickly found ourselves driving through a nicely tree’d suburb. Once thoroughly disorientated, I just sat back and tried to note down landmarks in case we had to navigate backwards out of the twist and turns of this suburb, I suddenly spied a large wooden wheel, towering up over the houses.

I pointed out the wheel to the driver and we zig-zagged towards the wheel and came across a park which just happened to have a large wooden water wheel briskly rotating next to a brown river! Kids ran along the shore and giggled gleefully as they skipped over a stone ford that had been built across the river. We went up and investigated the wooden wheel, apparently being driven entirely by warter gushing through a pipe and hitting the shovel spades of the wheel. A large commemorative plaque thanking everyone for their contributions to the water wheel left us with little clue as to its purpose other than it seemed to have been erected in the mid-1990s. Helpful.

We ended up dodging around the children and crossed the ford to the eclectic mix of slightly run down village shops that lay beyond. It was at this point we learned that we had indeed arrived in New Hamburg… As the light was growing golden, we contemplated staying at a B&B instead of driving to Toronto and/or having a meal. We scouted out the Waterlot Restuarant and Inn, and had a look at the pricey but delicious looking menu and then struck across the main street and walked slightly north towards another grande olde home, called the Puddicombe House. Outside there was a white sign advertising something about taking reservations for dinner before Aida.

As the Stratford arts season did not seem to start until 2 days after this day, we wondered when the performance of Aida was to be. Undeterred, my companion/chauffeur/tractor loving driver approached a lady struggling to get into her car and asked here when was Aida showing. She immediately stopped struggling to get into the car and turned and said, ‘Why tonight… are you staying in town?” We mumbled something about thinking about it, and within a minute, we were seated at Puddicombe House, ordering some appetisers as the lady struggling to get into her car dashed to her son’s place to get us tickets! Apparently, Mark Jutzi who runs the local funeral home, had bought the tickets to celebrate his anniversary with his wife and for some reason, she couldn’t make it… He had tried to pass the tickets off to his mother, the lady we had asked about Aida, who was also unable to make it… a few more inquiries and no takers. Until us.

10 minutes later, she was back with the tickets and gave them to us gratis! We were wowed and amazed by the hospitality of Ontarian’s!

After a quick somewhat greasy meal (and I ordered a salad!), we ran back across the path to the Water Wheel to move the car closer to the Community Centre where apparently Aida was showing. Turned out we’d parked right nextdoor to Mark Jutzi’s Funeral Parlour… We quickly scribbled a thank you note and tucked into the window of the hearse (seriously!) and drove around the corner, across the river and to the Community Centre located near Puddicombe House.

It was full! The parking lot was overflowing and the overspill stretched 7 rows down into a nearby field. Turned out the Community Centre was the old community hockey arena…

The entrance to the Community Centre positively hummed with people all excitedly greeting eachother and inching their way into the Centre. This was clearly a Big Thing. We joined the milling crowd to enter and eventually found ourselves in a large theatre with rows and rows of seats, with half of them gentle stepped rises. We muddled away around the seats until we found our own, on the first step about 10 rows back from the front and just off centre. Pretty darn good seats! The stage was covered in some very arty looking random white block pieces, lit gently by pink, purple and green spotlights. Black curtains surrounded the seats and back of stage, presumably shielding our eyes to possible gymnasium gear behind the curtains…

We broke open the program, a paper pamphlet being handed out in the foyer and saw a very long list of actors and some praise for the “TCP” (The Community Players) All actors were volunteers and presumably, local. This was turning into a big production for a small town!

Minutes later, the lights dimmed and the performance began. Although maybe some of the people singing didn’t have the voice projection of a Broadway or West End star, the performance was completely worthy of any such production! There was no way we were going to depart half way, disappointed in a some community production – this was full on professional, even if everyone was a volunteer!

During the intermission, we learned that there were over 260 spotlights being used to create the dramatic lighting, and that although the group had been producing plays for about 26 years, they’d only decided to go “BIG” in the last 3-4 years with such productions as Cats and Wizard of Oz – a gamble which has definitely paid off (as far as we could tell). We were told the ‘large’ performances were only given once a year and usually in the first week of May – so if you happen to be in the area west of Toronto in May, definitely worth checking their website to see what is on!

The final half was just as superb as the first half and we drove away from New Hamburg with a new found respect for the local community of actors and the high quality productions they put on.

10 May

Terror of the Torrent

Canadian falls at NiagaraNiagara… No trip to Niagara Falls would be complete without a trip on the Maid of the Mist.

Ah… Maid of the Mist. When one looks down on the Canadian falls, you can see a pretty dense white mist rising up above the height of the falls…

When you stand at the viewing platofrm near the Canadian end of the falls, a gentle mist wafts down on you, necessitating the odd wipe of the camera lens or glasses (sunglasses for me!).

And then there is the Maid of the Mist, the name of the boat(s) that sail from both the Canadian and American side, taking passengers up into the mist of the Canadian Niagara Falls….

With my companions, we flashed our tickets at the attendant and were waved on down to the boats. Now, being at the top of the gorge, it seemed a bit optimistic when the ticketbooth operator said we had 5 minutes and could make it down for the 1.15pm boat… So we started the descent – a gentle zig-zag concrete passage. This did not bode well for being down in 5 minutes! But after about 10 turns, we came to an elevator with a bunch of elevator operators ready to press that important button and express us down.

We crowded into the left and a few seconds later were disgorged at the top of a complex maze of metal bars and tents. More than one of us was relieved we were there in spring and before the summer crowds! This whole thing was clearly designed for allowing 100s and 100s of people to slowly inch down to the boat…

IMG_1319We had to pass through one more tent where we were hastily assembled on the green screen X and they took our photo (seems like every activity here entails having your photo taken and then you when you exit, you can flash your ticket and see a picture of you (or your group) superimposed onto a photograph of the falls. Could all be awkward if you went on a cloudy/rainy day and here’s this photo of you with a beautiful sunny Niagara Falls behind you…

Fighting our way into the blue plastic ponchos that had been handed to us, we rushed down the last set of concrete and metal barricades and joined the small crowd just getting onto the Maid of the Mist. That’s another thing about seeing the falls on the Canadian side – its the better side… So while the Maid of the Mists leaving the American side were invarariably heaving at the sides with blue-plastic poncho’d people, the Canadian boats (pre-summer) were about 1/4 full…

There were announcements in english and french (check – haven’t yet slipped over the US border…) and surprisingly, no mention of where the life jackets were should we opt to fall over the side… And then we chugged off, passing close enough to the American falls to be engulfed in the thunderous roar and gentle mist from the American Falls. Lots of birds drifted in the updraft from the water falling.

IMG_1325We sailed past Bridal Falls (a smaller waterfall adjacent to the larger falls) and the rickety wooden walk way with American’s standing on it, looking tiny against the massive torrent of water pouring over the dolomite up above.

Then there was a quiet few minutes while we sailed up to the Canadian falls, the roars of the two waterfalls somewhat muted in this dead space inbetween. Approaching the Canadian falls, there were some nice photographs to be had of the sides of the waterfall tumbling over, silhouetted against the rocky cliffs.

And then the water began to get slightly choppy.. and a gentle mist began to envelope us…. The wind began to pick up, zigging and zagging in from all directions…And the roar began to increase again as we drifted towards the west side of the falls.

And suddenly it was VERY choppy and we were not in any mist, we were in a situation that can only be described as a standing under a fire hose. This ‘mist’ had turned into thick, heavy rain drops which were pouring down on us. I wrestled with my now violently flapping plastic poncho, trying to take a quick photograph, wipe the lens of the drops and then pull the poncho down before another wave of water fell on me, as the boat rocked in the turbulent waters. Around me everyone was shreiking… the poncho was flapping… people tried to take photographs… people bumped into eachother as their poncho’s blew up… and the water tumbled endlessly, the sheer noise blotting out all other senses!

IMG_1331I had, I thought, sensibly rolled up my trousers to prevent them getting wet, but the wind was whipping up the poncho that I ended up with thoroughly wet legs anyway. As I turned to try and take a photo through the dense downpour of the white top of the falls, the boat jolted on a turbulence bubble and an even bigger splash fo water tumbled down and saturated my left arm. At that moment, the wind blew my hood off as I got slapped with another pail of water from a random direction.

Lets be truthful here… my memories of being in the ‘mist’ of Niagara falls are a blur of water, wind, wet and more wet. And my photography suffered as a result of it as I ended up just trying to see something… anything, through my new wind-blown rotating poncho. And throughout it all, I couldn’t get over that the water was fresh… It seemed weird as the last times I had been in driving wet windy conditions on a boat, was in Antarctica, where the water was definetely salty!

IMG_1339And did I mention it was cold as well?!

After what seemed like endless hours, suddenly the turbulence stopped and the wind abruptly dropped. I blinked and the fire hose of water suddenly became a gentle mist again, and then a few seconds later we were back in undimmed sunshine and all was calm.

I think everyone was shellshocked for a few moments – the ones who has remained on the front deck that is! We gradually realised we could finally orientate our poncho’s correctly and dry the camera’s and look again!

IMG_0584As my companions and me wiped off the excess water, we commented that “Maid of the Mist’ was bit of a euphemism for this experience and maybe the boat should be named after something that would more convincingly convey what it was like to stand under a fire hose of water… And then we guessed that might not be the best marketing ploy!

The trip back to the dock was quick and uneventful. The drying took longer…

29 Aug

Hiking to Wedgemount Lake, BC

lake1This a a tale of an unrelenting hike up… then an unrelenting hike down.

It’s been an abysmal year for me and long distance travelling – very unusual. So you know it’s sad when I view a 2 hour drive as long distance travelling! However, finally circumstances conspired to allow me to do an alpine hike this year. And of course, I make an immediate bee-line for one of the most difficult hikes in the Vancouver area…

A friend sent me a link of Vancouver hikes, and the banner of the webpage was a beautiful turquoise lake. So being one who sees a beautiful photo and then wants to see it with their own eyes, I immediately suggest we go and do that hike, the beautiful lake being Wedgemount Lake, its beautiful turquoise colour due to the rock flour from the glacier at the high end of the lake. Doesn’t matter that this hike has the steepest gradient of just about any hike in the area and I haven’t been doing a lot of strenuous field work this year – this is the hike I want to do! Luckily, my friend was game…

And so it was I found myself outside a coffee shop at an ungodly hour on Saturday, picking up my friend (after a purchasing a hot chocolate) and then in my car driving north to Whistler. The drive was a relatively quiet one, the traffic moderate and the road windy! We got to the turn off to Wedgemount Lake a little (*cough*) considerably ahead of the 2 hours and 20 minutes recommended on the website (possibly because they have upgraded the road since that was written??? Or… *cough*). As I turned off, my friend commented that he’d read that the gravel road was suitable only for 4WD vehicles. As I blew him off, I hiccuped inside, knowing the clearance on my Honda Civic is a lot lower than my previous cars as evidenced by the fact I keep hitting the front of the car on the curb when parking which I’ve never done before on any of my previous cars…

At first the gravel road was fine, and then it started to go uphill… and then we started to see cars abandoned on the roadside… Slightly worrying. And then we came to a hill which I fired up to… then the wheels began spinning and I could see these big pot holes! Groan. We were probably no more than a third of the way along the 2km track to the parking lot at the trail head. I reved up my car, tyres spinning and… but I’d paused too long to vet the trail ahead and with no 4WD, I wasn’t going forward again with out another run up. I figured I could have taken another stab at it and cruising up the left side of the road but one unexpected swivel or slide, and my car would get an awful dent! In the end, I rolled the car back down and reversed it into the next available space off to the side of the road behind all the other abandoned cars.

10 minutes later we were kitted out and hiking up the gravel road to the car park. As we hiked, a slew of 4WD expensive SUV’s passed, choked to the gills with Asians. Uh oh, looked like the quiet difficult hike we had planned on taking was going to be fraught with battling through a large contingent of some Asian outdoor club. Or two. Or three…?

When we got to the parking lot, it was crowded with a thick throng of ever-increasing Asians, all kitted out in expensive backpacks, gaiters, walking sticks, water bottles, radios, ipods, carabina’s, whistles, Arcteryx rain jackets, bear spray and just about anything else you might need(?!) for an arduous hike. The noise was awful!

forestAfter a small detour, we forged ahead, only to be overtaken quickly by some very game mountain bikers… I was damn impressed they were going to try to cycle up this reportedly steep climb. However, when we rounded a corner, they had pulled over and had a couple of maps out and were trying to work out where they had gone wrong – apparently Wedgemount Lake was not their destination and they had taken a short cut….

We had barely been hiking along the (what we were to learn was the ‘flat’ bit) trail, before we could hear this ever ascending volume of noise behind us. The Asian outdoor club was on the march. I just wanted to let them pass, knowing we’d hear them all the way up, but if we were behind, we’d hear very little. After a minute or two, we pulled off to let the pass. And pass… and continue to pass… Finally when about 30 had overtaken us, we moved on again, the radio chatter scaring us!

According to the notes from the website, it was to be a 20 minute hike through second-generation growth forest to 2 bridges which cross Wedge Creek. The floor of the forest was soft with pine needles. As we started to emerge out of the forest, more rocks appeared underfoot and then we came to a small rock slide with a restricted view of the valley below. Straddled across this rockslide were about 10 Asians all taking photos. We were effectively trapped until they moved. And as we waited, more Asians started to pour out of the forest from the car park trail. And these one’s had even MORE radio’s! We just stood there and let them all get past… Another 10 or 20 of them….

Finally we thought there might be a break in them and most of them seemed to have moved off the rockslide and we pushed on. However, in short order, we came to the two ‘bridges’ that crossed Wedge Creek, to find it choked with the Asians taking photographs again. Getting a bit impatient, I stood menacingly over a few until they finally moved. Fortunately the bulk of them had moved on.

And then began what can only be described as the ‘up’ section. Now, the extreme vast majority of hikes I’ve been on, tend to undulate in a general up direction and are interspersed with flatter sections and even downhill bits. This one was straight up. And apart from 2 sections, both less than 100m, never flat, and no down at all.  Just up.

At first we began climbing up through more forest, but along a ridge through which we could glimpse a rock slide to the left. It was a very steady push… I was quite relieved it was mainly scrambling over roots and the odd rock – I am probably even less fond of hikes like the Grouse Grind where steps have been put in. But. I am by no means as fit as I was when last working in the field….

The path meandered for an hour (at my pace) through the forest, and we could occasionally hear the waters of Wedge Creek to our right. Eventually we caught up and overtook the back stragglers of the Asian group, radio’s blaring loudly with chatter as the people who owned the radios had them cranked up to hear it over their ipods… Seriously people, hiking with music in your ears???? Seems to somehow violate the whole spirit of being out for a hike in nature to not be able to hear the sounds of nature!

We reached the half way point at lunch time which was a rock slide with a small brook babbling away next to it. As we were both suffering hunger pangs, we broke out our lunch and shared ourselves with the mosquito’s that rose up around us. The backwash of the Asians overtook us… but since we didn’t last too long in the company of the mosquito’s, we overtook them as they paused on the trail to eat as well.

fallFrom the half way point, our notes informed us it was an uphill trail to a ‘steep’ part just before the top. Well, if I had thought the bit before was unrelenting uphill…. This didn’t stop, meandering ever upwards and at a pretty steady gradient which I would say is comparable to the lower section of the Grouse Grind. Every now and then we caught a glimpse of Wedgemount Falls through the trees on the other side of the valley. According to the notes, Wedgemount Falls was 300m… at first glimpse we could probably still see a conservative 200m of the fall tumbling from the lip of a cliff above us…Oh my.

My friends GPS was by now practically registering a vertical line for our elevation plot – we had already hiked up about 750+ meters over just under 3km… This 171.5m rise for every 1km seemed to be a bit flat – afterall the road near my place is a 17% gradient according to the sign warning trucks to be careful – and it is not as steep as this!

Just as I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever get out of the trees and hit the legendary ‘steep’ bit before the top, we began encountering people coming down. I asked one party and they assured us we were only about 10 minutes away. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later we suddenly emerged from the trees and were standing on the edge of a gorgeous alpine valley. Green meadows, scrub and rock covered the valley but it was beautiful and above the treeline.

We scrambled over rocks and rounded some trees, when my friend suddenly commented, “Look at them! They are like ants!” I looked up to see the bulk of the Asians meandering up a steep rock slide for the final ascent. They did indeed look like ants, colourful ants completely covering the rock scree…. However, personally, I was relieved it was going to be a steep scramble up over rocks because they tend to go quicker than never ending trails, and also relieved the Asian outdoor club(s) were a good 10-15 minutes ahead of us (except for the stragglers behind us)! That would have been a nightmare scrambling past them.

Pausing only to take photos of a small alpine meadow still with some flowers, we quickly reached the bottom of the rock climb and began going up. I cannot speak for my friend who was beginning to fret about the descent by now, I was relieved it didn’t take long to do the scramble! Going down…pshaw. I dont’ get puffed going down…

lakeBefore long, we were cresting the first false crest and paused briefly to look back down the Whistler Valley, very stunning but unfortunately very unphotogenic owing to some unforecast cloud having rolled in. Then we quickly scrambled up the last bit and got our first glimpse of, well, I have to admit, the BCMC mountain hut there, absolutely swarming with Asians… But a few steps further along and there was the glorious turquoise lake! My friend detoured off down a small valley to a snow patch and I dawdled after him, taking photos. After he’d stamped and slid on the snow (newbie?!), we meandered back up to the BCMC hut… threaded our way through the milling Asians and continued on to the gentle trail that led around the lake to the glacier.

From the hill the hut sat on, I could just glimpse a bluish bit on the glacier and wondered if there was some deep crevasse of a small serac there or something. Anyway, would find out soon enough! The trail was a pretty easy one with the first 3/4s of is clearly marked out with strategically rolled and flattened boulders. The last little bit was yet another scramble over a mixed jumble of moraine debris and rock slides. And then I crested the last mound of rocks and boulders to find my friend enthusiastically photographing not a blue crevasse but a deep blue cave at the foot of the glacier! A small stream, filled with slabs of glacial ice flowed out from the cave. Wow!!!!

hutMany photo’s later, we had a shot of drambuie to celebrate doing the hike, took more photos and then after glancing at the time, reluctantly began walking back. By now the clouds were beginning to thicken and the temperature was falling (or we were just close to a glacier!) so it was becoming a bit dim. However, when we scrambled over the last moraine, we could see the BCMC hut was now bereft of people. Nice… the Asians had all begun to go back down. Seemed a bit weird to spend all the time getting up to the lake, and then not making the comparatively short and flat walk around to the glacier, but… we shouldn’t complain – we had had the glacier almost to ourselves apart from a couple of campers sweep through briefly.

By now though, I was running a little low on creating ‘potential energy’ (energy created when an object is lifted) so took a few minutes longer (I hope it was only a few minutes longer… felt that way to me) to get back up the shallow hill to the hut. Kinetic energy was good though. I would have no problems going downhill….. It took us 5 hours to get up, surely it would only be 2.5 hours to get back down?

With one last glance at Whistler Valley (still utterly unphotogenic with its high cloud ceiling), we began scrambling down the steep rocky bit. This is not a descent you’d want to do on a rainy day! In relatively short order, we were crossing the boulders of the alpine valley before entering the tree line and continuing our descent.

caveIt was rocky and it was root choked and it was down, down, down! Although I had no problems keeping up with my friend, it was an arduous task making sure I didn’t trip over a root or slide the wrong way down a rock! Every now and then he’d turn around and remind me that going downhill was worse because it was more technical – uphill was all plodding, downhill was about having to focus on where to put your foot etc…

Down and down and down we went… We were probably only nearing the rockslide where we’d had lunch when I began questioning if I had seriously climbed this??? Maybe I’d been teleported at some point – I just couldn’t recall it being this long and steep! Down and down we went…

Eventually we did hit the rock slide. Quick consultation with the elevation plot on the GPS. Not looking good. We were half way down, but apparently had only descended just over 500m – we still had another 700m to descend if the GPS was to be believed! Good grief!!!

The rock slide was terribly short (being rather flat in nature, it was a welcome relief to step from rock to rock…) and before we knew it, we were back on the trail in the forest going down and down and down… It never ended. By now I was verbally questioning many times if I had seriously climbed up all of this! It just hadn’t seemed to bad or so long or so steep. I was pretty impressed my legs seemed to be holding up, although I was definitely fatigued.

Down… down… down…. We entered a part of the forest I recalled a ‘flat stretch…’ It took us another 10 minutes to get there – and it was only about 100m long. Surely it had been longer than that??? Or was it the gentle incline it rapidly turned to had seemed flat when coming up relative to the steep bit below – the steep bit which we all to quickly found ourselves back on?!

The descent continued on down and just as I was very literally going to ask we pause for a moment, really our first pause apart from the GPS consultation up above at the half way point, my friend collapsed on a log ahead of me. His legs were killing him. Spasming from the unrelenting down. He needed  a break as well! Out came the GPS, more depression as we tried to estimate how much more elevation we still had to loose. It looked like we still had another 400m to go down over a distance less than 2km. Believe me, that sounded steep!

No where near refreshed but filled with a real need to get off the mountain and this trail, we pushed ourselves off the log and began going down again. There was no conversation at all – we’d both retreated into our heads trying to will ourselves to get down. Eventually the trail turned and began paralleling a rock slide. Ok. We were nearing the end!

However, the ridge trail seemed to be twice as long as memory served before we encountered the two bridges across Wedge Creek. I can’t speak for my friend, but my legs were aching horribly and despite being elated to hit the bridge, I did recall it was still all downhill back to the carpark…. However, it wasn’t as difficult. Sure, every step down hurt my m. rectus femoris thigh muscles, but I don’t  know why… cycling??? – my legs continued to hold me up even when I jumped down from a rock or over a root.

Finally we entered the ’2nd generation regrowth forest’ where it flattened considerably and the groud was relatively root free and covered in soft sawdust. I felt like I had large braces on the sides of my thighs and I was walking very rigid like. May not have looked like it but I sure felt like it! Although I had no energy left to speak of, I still raced through that bit – desperate to exit and be back on the relatively easy road. I think my friend felt the same way – he almost galloped through that forest.

And then… the car park. Oh if only my car had been able to get up that hill! My friend broke out his GPS and managed to depress us both saying we were still 2km from the car, which I refused to believe since the car park was supposed to be 2km from the road and I had driven at least a third of the way in. I desperately wanted to tell my friend to take my car keys and get the car (weak grin) but suspect he was also thinking of asking me to go and get the car for him. And so we both kept silent knowing it would be hit and miss if the car would get up the over the ruts on that hill and trudged back down the road. Making only the odd observation that the road was more of a decline than it had seemed coming up.

Finally we came to the hill with the ruts. I could see a car right where I’d parked… but it was in the shadow. Looking closely as we walked down the hill, I realised that wasn’t my car – it was some large 4WD. My friend was obviously thinking the same thing and pondered out loud that he didn’t think we’d parked my car so far down – we could see 2 cars further down the road. I said I didn’t park that far away – we’d parked just past the 2 cars (now 1 car) at the foot of the hill, and that car there was not mine. Where was my car???

We kept walking, alarm beginning to creep into our conversation – had someone stolen my car? I just couldn’t believe that! Who would do a hike like this and then test all the cars to see if there was one to nick? Or was there an organised gang out of Whistler than knew cars parked there were parked for the day and came to test them out? Whatever, I just couldn’t believe my car had been stolen and was seriously not looking forward to walking an additional 12km into Whistler to report it – or could I call 911 (since we did have phone coverage) and actually get some cops out here?

When suddenly, nearly parallel to the 4WD in ‘my’ parking spot, there was my car, nestled in right behind his big behind! Oh thank goodness – my car hadn’t been stolen! Woodenly, we threw our stuff in the back of my car, a little faffing around to get the car turned around and we were out and on the way home.

It had been a very long and ambitious hike and very worth it. But next time, I think I’d like to do that hike as an overnight camping trip!

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