Alpine Lake Hike/Camp for BC Day

Alpine Lake adventures…

I was itching to get out and hike into some more of the incredible places we are surrounded by in the sea to sky area. A long weekend needed to have some form of a hike/camp trip, even if it was just for one night. My interest in Astrophotography has me chomping at the opportunity to photograph the milky way, but many recent attempts have been foiled by weather. This weekend was shaping up nicely and not too hot for the hike in either. Tara found a great spot with good clear views of the Southern sky, and excellent vistas from an Alpine Lake to the Black Tusk, Garibaldi Mountain and other points of interest in the area such as Whistler Blackcomb to the North and the Sky Pilot to the South.

Brew Lake-1299
About half way up the talus field, stopped for a break. Didn’t notice Lukla squinting at the camera!

We set off with packs loaded, Lukla with her bear bell jingling as we trudged through the forest on the approach. The trail up is less developed than some of the more popular routes in the region, often times only visible thanks to flagging tape or rock cairns as we started to climb steeply up the crumbling face of the mountain. In some places it was so steep it was an all fours affair, with loose surfaces creating considerable challenge while wearing a fully loaded backpack, care with your balance was required. We took breaks in the shade and at a couple of view points on rock bluffs along the way up, and at around the 3 hour mark we snuck through the narrow forested top section of trail and popped out in a beautiful Alpine Meadow featuring a sizeable crystal clear lake.

Brew Lake-1305
The Black Tusk from one of our rest spots on the way up.
Brew Lake-1513
Garibaldi Mountain from a different perspective.

After trudging around the area seeking the best place to put a tent, we settled on a spot and began setup. The one challenge we faced was bugs. Endless bugs. Lukla was getting quite irritated by them so we put her in the tent for some reprieve and she seemed quite thankful, immediately falling asleep. As we started cooking dinner the sun was popping out intermittently from behind the patchy clouds, creating some very dramatic lighting over the meadows surrounding us. There was no flaming sunset but it was a lovely evening watching the alpine glow on the Black Tusk from our site. We weren’t totally alone, but there were only a handful of other people up there, so we all had enough space to at least feel like we were alone. We had a visit from a fellow camper on the other side of the lake who had slipped up on bring stove fuel. I always tend to over-carry slightly on fuel so I knew we had enough to give him half of what we had left. Hopefully it got them some dinner!

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Looking back into the meadow from camp kitchen at dinner time.
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Looking across the lake towards the Black Tusk

I tried to sleep after sundown for a couple of hours until astronomical twilight. But as usual I struggled. I set up near the water and immediately discovered that my suspicions of my night sky app being calibrated poorly were correct. There is easily a 10 or more degree variance in where the Milky Way was positioned from where the app was showing it to be while I was planning in the daylight.  I adjusted my location as best I could and then started experimenting with a few settings to find the optimum results. I use a 12mm Rokinon F2 lens which is manual focus. It can sometimes be hard to get the focus bang on as the indicator on the lens barrel is nowhere near exact, and focusing in the dark isn’t the easiest, even with focus assist and live view on modern cameras. Once I got it right I was pretty pleased with the outcome, although I would still like to get completely above the horizon with a clear view of the Southern Sky and get to a location somewhere East or West of Vancouver as the light pollution even from this far away is extremely evident in long exposure images. The stars above were incredibly impressive so I sat for a bit and watched to the North as the odd meteor streaked through the sky.

Milky Way-1421
The Milky Way Galactic core. Satellite streaking through the sky for convenient effect. The bright glow at the end of the lake is light pollution from Vancouver 100km away.

I managed to sleep  for a few hours and woke up at sunrise and went back out again. The sun was already illuminating Garibaldi Mountain but had yet to start peeking into our secluded little meadow. As I walked around the lakes edge, the water was as still as glass, with mist rising from its surface. Golden light hit the upper ridges above the meadows and reflected in the water like a mirror.  The sun started to creep in, small beams at a time. Alpine flowers, and mossy rocks glowed with condensation refracting the light, the mist on the lake was almost iridescent , and the trees lit up with yellow halos around their bows adorned in wizards beard. The air was still and crisp, cool and fresh in my lungs. There was no sound but the click of my shutter. The sun continued to poor in, filtered through a stand of Fir on the other side of the lake. Rays of light littered the waters surface, the crystal clear water allowed the sun to reach all the way to the rocks on the bottom of the lake. As the light continued to sweep in across the lake, our tent began to glow as did the trees and flowers around it. The water providing a perfect reflection of the scene and the forest behind it.

Brew Lake-1441
First sun reflected on the glass-like waters of the lake

A wave of satisfaction was gliding over me. This is why I do this. These moments, as limited as they are, make up the bulk of my reasoning for wanting to go to these places. It is gratifying in a way that is difficult to describe, but being able to escape from every day life; the hustle and bustle of work, and domestic living, chores, appointments, & responsibilities that are bestowed upon us by a society that we are born into. Escaping all this to go back to this simplicity is such a relief. 

Brew Lake-1456
The alpine flowers lit up with the low angle of the dawn sun.
Brew Lake-1480
Mist over the lake surface crept along like syrup over a hot pancake.

I climbed a small ridge and got a clearer view of Garibaldi Mountain from a different perspective, and a straight shot look at the Black Tusk from side-on. The sun was already quite high in the sky over the other side of the range, so the scene was already blued-out and a little hazy. I turned back to the lake which was still changing through its early morning colours and captured a couple more images from above. I sat for a moment as I watched a lone Merganser land on the lake, its wings glistening in the light. Too slow with the camera. I reflected (ha) more on my thoughts of how much I cherished this morning and this place. It makes me think about the Aboriginal people of this land, and of my home land. Every morning was an opportunity to experience this peace and tranquility that makes you feel alive. It wasn’t something on occasion here and there, or an “escape” from reality, but every morning they awoke surrounded by everything that they needed. There was shelter and warmth, plentiful food, clean air and water, boundless resources, and life was simply about living, and enjoying and exploring the land. No desire for riches, no longing for power, no greed, no corruption, no marketing or consumption. No traffic, no social media, no GDP, no share market disasters ruining thousands of lives. Minds were pure, hearts were open and full of wonder and respect. The sad part of this is that even if we wanted to, moving back to that kind of living is not really an option. If you step away from Western civilizations rules,  life can get very challenging!


Camp. What a spot.
Brew Lake-1498
More of the beautiful reflections.

Anyway, we cooked up some breakfast and then began to pack up. The mosquitos and black flies were relentless once it warmed up and the sun had taken over, so we moved forward our departure as it was difficult to sit and enjoy while they swarmed around. The hike down was tougher than the steep hike up. Hard on the knees and feet, and difficult in some sections that essentially involved down-climbing and the use of rock holds or tree limbs to avoid losing balance and going arse-over down a steep pitch of jagged boulders. It took as long to get down as it did to get up which is telling of the challenge. Relieved to reach our cache of cold water and lunch, we descended the logging road and immediately emersed ourselves back into the life of traffic and bustle as we pulled into endless stream of long weekend traffic returning South on the Sea to Sky highway. The Hiatus was over, for now.


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