After almost 2k km of driving (Part 1, Part 2), we arrived in the neighborhood of Whistler, Canada. During the summer, I had a number of people visit my gallery that told me of hikes I needed to do. One that came up was called Joffre Lakes. It sounded intriguing as you visit 3 different lakes with decent views of a glacier. My kind of adventure.
Hiking Joffre Lakes
We arrived at the parking lot about 8am. This was on purpose as our camper/trailer combo is almost 47 feet long (14.3 meters) and maneuvering in a parking lot when it’s full is a challenge. It’s a decent sized lot with room to park at least 60 normal sized cars. I tried my best to not block any other spots, but still have room to get out. There is an overflow lot across the street that could fit another 100 or so vehicles. Note that there is no parking along the highway (many signs to that effect).
There were a couple pit toilets available here (as well as 2 spots on the trail). You can check out the map that shows the distance and elevation markers at the trailhead.
Our guidebook (the venerable Milepost) said the best view of the glacier is from the car park. Since the clouds were blocking everything above tree height, we honestly thought we could do better. Best go for a hike.
The Lower Joffre Lake is only about a 5-10 minute walk from the car park. I would normally stop and give it a look, but the clouds were so thick that we could barely see the water. Hopefully it clears up by the time we get back. On to lake number 2!
The trail between the Lower and Middle Lakes is definitely the hardest part of this hike.
The trail starts around 1,200 meters and the middle lake is located around 1,500 meters. That’s a 1,000 foot elevation gain (over a 1.7 mile trail) for those that don’t metric. My hike up Mount McGinnis a couple weeks ago was a 3,100 foot elevation gain in 2 miles so this one felt pretty easy. However, I was in the minority. I can’t even begin to speculate on the number of people that we passed who were huffing and puffing. Perspective.
Since we weren’t in a hurry, and it looked like the sky was slowly clearing, we took a leisurely pace. We eventually arrived just as the clouds broke and we got an awesome view of the Middle Joffre Lake.
There is a log just past the main viewing area that is apparently the primary instagram photo place. It goes into the water and there was a line of people waiting to stand on it and take a picture. My lack of that picture is due to a personal refusal to take pictures that look exactly like everyone else (unless I have no alternatives).
We didn’t stay here long. There was a waterfall to see! I have no idea why I like taking waterfall pictures, but I do. So I did.
Upper Joffre Lake
I don’t know why, but a number of people I talked to turned around at the middle lake. I guess getting the popular instagram photo is all that matters to some. It’s only another kilometer and 100 meters of elevation. Not much more work for a much better view.
There are signs and ropes everywhere telling you to stay on the main trail. This is a very popular hike and they are trying to preserve the vegetation. If you want to get away from the crowds, bring a packraft. The plus to that idea is that you would be in everyone else’s photo. We didn’t feel like walking back to the trailer for ours so we stuck to terrestrial exploration. The hanging glacier was cool to see this far south.
After grabbing a couple photos, we started the trek down. Boy was it busy. Apparently there is a bus that brings people up here from the Whistler area. We passed so many people on the way up that the bus must have just dropped off a group. It seems like every other person was asking how much further it was to the top! I started telling everyone that I had no idea since we parked at the (non-existent) upper parking lot and were just starting our way down.
When we finally got to the bottom, it was time to check out Lower Joffre Lake. The clouds had started coming back in so it wasn’t nearly as clear, but still, a much better view than when we had started.
All of the lakes on this hike have a beautiful green tint. The hue changes based on the lighting so it’s fun to watch if you want to have a picnic at one of the lakes. I definitely recommend starting early as the parking lot was full by the time we got out. Not to mention the mass of people that were on the trail as we were coming down. I can’t even imagine how packed this place must be during the height of summer.
Now it was time to go find a train wreck in the woods of Whistler, Canada!
The drive down to Whistler from Joffre Lakes is very slow in a big rig like ours. There are lots of hairpin turns and just expect it to take a while if there’s traffic…probably caused by us. I generally avoid downtown areas in tourist areas since parking is a pain. My wife had been reading a brochure about Whistler and saw something about a train wreck in the woods. That sounds like a way better use of our time than wandering through tourist shops.
The parking out here wasn’t bad and I quickly started the 1.5 km hike. Since I wasn’t planning on being gone long, I just carried my gitzo tripod and my Canon 5d4 with a 16-35mm lens. Just before reaching the train wreck there was a super cool suspension bridge! I love these things. It crosses over the Cheakamus River which made for a cool picture in the late afternoon sun.
I ran across it a couple times since I enjoy the quirky movement they make when you bounce on them. Why do people ever want to grow up? I then entered a totally awesome spot in the forest. The train wreck consists of 7 box cars that are just sitting in the woods. People are free to spray paint their favorite graffiti slogans and do pretty much whatever they want. It’s a quirky spot that’s a hidden gem just south of Whistler Village.
It was a fun final day in Canada! It was nice to not drive so far and do what we actually like to do. Adventure. Explore. Be Awesome.
On to Oregon
To complete the story of the trip…We decided to cross into the US at night hoping that traffic wouldn’t be so bad. We only had to wait for about 30 seconds before border patrol talked to us. However, since we were transporting a rifle that was not registered in our name (it was my dad’s and we didn’t think of it) we got to go through secondary screening. Yay!
The officer we talked to inside was nice and was quite interested in my jump rope career. That made things go nice and smoothly. We got our paperwork stamped and off we headed into Washington.
The next day we stopped in to visit my best friend in Gig Harbor (and help work on a bathroom). We then headed down to Oregon and got to install a dishwasher and tear down a shed. Not the most photo worthy endeavors for me. I’m heading into Utah in early November to hike/photograph as much of the National Parks down there as I can. Should have some great shots from there coming up soon!