hiking garibaldi

These are the pictures that I almost lost.

A few days after these were taken, I left my camera and SD card on a bus in Seattle. A week after that, I got my camera, card, and pictures back.

I had spent the previous two days in Whistler visiting my friend, Max Chestnut (adventurer & photographer extraordinaire), trespassing behind waterfalls, biking along alpine lakes, and roasting marshmallows. They were an amazing and energizing few days but it was time to head back to the coast.

For a very long time, I had been daydreaming about visiting Garibaldi Lake. Pictures of it always seemed to be popping up on social media. That being said, I didn't actually know where Garibaldi was. As I was packing up my car, preparing to leave Whistler it occurred to me that maybe Garibaldi was actually nearby. It was. Right off the highway.

I am very aware of my surroundings.

The road to the trailhead begins at the Sea-to-Sky highway about twenty-minutes south of Whistler and almost two hours north of Vancouver. It's an unsuspecting offshoot that is not well-marked. I drove past it once and nearly missed it the second time. The road is paved albeit in rough condition (so more fun) and the two-level Rubble Creek parking lot was nearly at capacity when I arrived.

Just so we're clear, this was a very spontaneous decision. I did not go to Whistler anticipating that I would hike nine kilometers up a steep incline to reach a glacial-fed lake. I was enthusiastic but poorly prepared. I had my Converse instead of hikers, a canvas backpack with no actual back support, and a bag of granola. But you have to embrace opportunity—improper footwear or not.

The first six kilometers were steep. You gain nearly 700 meters in elevation along multiple switchbacks through towering, moss-covered trees and green undergrowth. Stocky birds kept wandering along the path to the amazement of the many tourists who were also hitting the trail that day. Light leaked in through gaps in the canopy, illuminating strips of dirt. Chipmunks dashed all around. I sweated and plowed forward with a determination that exceeded my fitness level. I passed clusters of people with massive bags on their backs—destined as they were to spend a night or two at the campgrounds located around Garibaldi. I was grateful for my light bag, although a little envious at the thought of spending the night in the alpine and waking to the immense landscape that I knew awaited me.

I took a long (LONG) break at the five kilometer mark to take in the view overlooking The Barrier—a two kilometer wide and three-hundred meter thick lava wall that restrains the waters of Garibaldi lake. It was absolutely astounding. Water running to the left, a massive drop below, and the crown of distant mountain peaks to the right. I had been having an ongoing conversation with a group of American tourists from Texas and New Orleans all day (they would pass me when I stopped to look at something and then I would pass them because I walked quicker, etc etc) and I met up with them again at this spot. Chipmucks were investigating their forgotten bags. The man from Texas jumped from boulder to boulder to the bottom of the lookout and stood near the edge, surveying the area with a satisfied look on his face. I clambered down after him and stayed there, admiring the magnitude of it all.

When I continued on, I got colder and colder. At 1,360 m elevation, the air was cool and my sweaty body was feeling a chill. I zipped up my jacket and trudged onward.

But all the hard work and discomfort was worth it.

The waters of Garibaldi Lake are epically blue. It was overwhelming just how beautiful it was. Mountains were cresting in every direction, pulling up into the low clouds and gradually, fading from sight. Rock paths led from the shore to tiny islands where trees and bushes sprouted. Other hikers wandered the pebble laden shores. Some knelt by the cusp pumping water through their purifying devices. There was an immense and tangible sense of peace.

I stayed there for awhile, slowing wandering the shores and sitting calmly under the trees, my thick scarf now wrapped tightly around me (at that elevation, it was very cold). I took some pictures, talked to the rangers, picked up some rubbish, and rested. It was remarkable to find myself there—standing in a photograph that I had seen once. I wasn't expecting to be there yet there I was. Life is unpredictable. Maybe I am too. I like knowing that I can follow the pulses of life whenever and wherever. I am so grateful to have the privilege that gives me the freedom to chase my whims.

This whole experience reminded me of the limitless possibilities of every day. And the value of always having a pair of hiking boots in your car—after a round-trip of eighteen kilometers, my feet were horribly swollen and blistered. But still my heart was satisfied, which is far more important.

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