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Words by Peter Vooys  |  Photos  by Jen Hanson

With names like Panorama Ridge, the Black Tusk, Sphinx Glacier and the Battleship Islands, Garibaldi Provincial Park stirs the imagination before you arrive. When you do, you realise there are no misnomers here. The Black Tusk, an ancient volcanic outcrop atop a mountain, rises from the summit like a …black tusk. Panorama Ridge boasts a … panoramic view of Garibaldi Lake and the mountains beyond. Simply beautiful. With a record breaking heat wave sweeping the west coast, Connected In Motion’s second hiking series this July promised another set of great vistas. Our arrival signaled the end of such good weather, the skies grew overcast and the mountains grew mysterious.

Garibaldi Provincial Park is nestled between Squamish and Whistler, British Columbia in the Coast Mountains.  A collection of ancient volcanos and glacial lakes that has become a popular multi-use outdoor playground for the Sea to Sky corridor. There are multiple access points and facilities for whatever outdoor pursuit that grabs you. Come when the snow flies and get a taste for backcountry ski touring. World renowned mountain biking and rock climbing compete for adrenaline junkies in the spring through autumn. Runners, day hikers and backpackers share the trails all year wearing the latest shades of florescent outdoor clothing. The extensive trail network and off-piste acreage mean you could spend a lifetime walking the trails without anyone around, and doing a quick jog when you see someone coming the other way. From weekend warriors to world class athletes, Garibaldi is ready to host. Vancouverites are lucky to have this at their disposal, and can take advantage of the potential for adventures in their own backyard.

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Garibaldi Provincial Park is a protected section of coastal temperate rainforest, one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet. The forest used to stretch from Alaska to Peru; a long thin strip of arable land between ocean and mountain. Due mostly to over foresting of its giants, only pockets of the coastal temperate rainforest survive, of which British Columbia has the lion’s share. To reach the campground on the shore of Garibaldi Lake, you have no choice but to get intimate with the rainforest. The trail is a long 9km uphill through the thick woods. Immersed in a living cathedral, there is a sense of the spiritual here. Massive firs and hemlock rise like pillars supporting an unseen canopy. Beams of sunlight illuminate the long strains of lichen that adorn the branches and trunks of trees. Moss grows thick in the undergrowth forming intricate designs with the wildflowers. Sound is swallowed by its dense enormity, and you can actually hear the forest breathe. All the while, you are ever ascending, hoping to catch a glimpse of the promised land.

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Of course, by the time the trail opens to Garibaldi Lake at the campground, you have probably had your fill of ancient atmospheric forest. You are heavenly rewarded. The campground is right on the shore of the lake, making it one of the most picturesque places you could eat a s’more. The bright blue waters of Garibaldi Lake open wide before they meet an amphitheatre of mountains on the far shore. The ring is broken by the massive Sphinx Glacier stretching to touch the lake. In the immediate foreground, the Battleship Islands, aptly named, are perfectly placed to catch the last rays of sunlight and give your photos the perspective they deserve. This is where CIM called home for four days and three nights.

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The campground is a community of hiking and climbing enthusiasts. First time to Garibaldi? There are a ton of locals and returnees eager to share their stories, willing to share their unpublished routes. Communal cooking shelters become trip planning centres over shared desserts, coffee and hot toddies. We had a great time meeting other hikers and sharing a laugh, medical supplies and some batteries. (Black Diamond lantern to the pump’s rescue! Thank goodness for AA’s!). Our evenings were filled with enormous and sprawling meals, as is expected from CIM. One fellow hiker commented that “out of all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen such a professional spread!” As the guides dusted their shoulders off, Hank rolled his eyes.

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Since arriving and departing from the campground were time sensitive and time consuming, we were left with two days for day hike exploration. We decided on the Garibaldi classics: tackle the Black Tusk and take in the splendor of Panorama Ridge. Both hikes took us through forest, sprawling valleys and lush alpine meadow before splitting to the different summits. In the meadows, we crossed streams amidst a display of alpine flowers, speckling the fields in an array with bright colours. Lavender lupines, red Indian Paintbrushes and yellow Glacier Lilies intermingled with white Sitka Valerian and Western Pasque defying the harsh mountain climate with their growth. The area was ideal for bear sightings, and despite the groups wishes for a (distant) sighting, they remained elusive. We did encounter a flock of aggressively curious Whiskey Jacks that, like our Type 1 diabetes group, had a taste for granola bars.

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Above the tree line the clouds came into play. This translated for us into shrouded paths, elusive views, and dripping noses. Drops of hundreds of feet off the path were hidden, begging you to look over the edge and tempt your vertigo. Arriving at, or close, to what we thought might be the summit, we checked our brochures from Tourism BC. Yes, this was the spot where you can see lakes and mountains clear through to Vancouver. We lifted our heads. Cloud obscured anything beyond five feet. Garibaldi tauntingly kept its views from us.

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Feeling slightly cheated by the view, we took comfort in good company. We did hike over 35km, we did gain about 2000m of elevation, and we did run out of breath more than once. We certainly ate enough to prove exercise was had by all. No one had been in danger of overheating. Plus moody mountains offer their own version of beautiful, and we felt like we had experienced something special. But the views were to remain a postcard image, for now. Garibaldi had enticed us to return.

Our decent through the rainforest gave one last vision of the mysterious. The clouds had dropped with us, giving eerie depth to our surroundings. The path disappearing before our eyes. The trees bending and twisting out of the fog as if walking with us. The enveloping silence reminding us that we would be back to this land of misty giants.

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Interested in joining us on our next adventure? Email us at info@connectedinmotion.ca. Contribute to the conversation with #CIMadventures.

Thank you to MEC for making these trips possible through an Access and Activity Grant, and to Animas Canada for their ongoing support in helping people live life without limits.

MEC-Animas-Thank-You

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