You can see the bulk of the pics I took over on Flickr. It's an amazingly gorgeous place. Full report behind the cut!
The night before we left, disaster nearly struck as I realized my backpack hip belt didn't fit me anymore. It was about three inches too short. After some panic, I managed to get it to fit. Still, it wasn't the most comfortable thing in the world. I'll need to see if I can get a new belt. My backpack is ancient (seriously, I think it's older than I am.) but it works just fine for me. Note the little teddy bear in the pocket. That's Appleton, named after Appleton Pass, the first place I took him backpacking.
I was a little worried there wouldn't be any space for us at the campground, but it was Wednesday, and I needn't have worried. Nevertheless, I was counting all the cars in the parking lot. I was also a little worried about my physical condition. I've never been the fittest person, and lately my knees have been wearing out, but I took things slow, one step at a time, and Andrew never showed any inclination to do otherwise, even though I told him he could go on ahead. It's not the worst hike in the world, but it's steep and tedious, and the day was hot. Anyway, we made good time. Slow and steady is a pretty good technique.
The campground wasn't too crowded, a fact that would change as the week went on. Our site was tiny, but we weren't spending much time there, anyway. The Garibaldi Lake campground is pretty luxurious for a backcounty campground. There are day shelters where you can hang your food and wash your dishes. There's no plumbing, but there was a sink with bottles of water and some extremely dubious-looking sponges. There were also picnic tables both inside and out. This made for a very communal feel, since we typically had to share the table with others. Our first tablemates had brought a huge pot with them, while the next people over had lugged in a bottle of wine. Later people would carry in inflatable rafts. We realized then that everyone has their priorities for their backcountry trip. There was a suprising amount of alcohol, given that Whistler is Party Central and not too far away. Apparently some people can't enjoy their booze unless they carry it up a 4,000 foot slope. Anyways, our priority? Heavy camera equipment!
We were told that there was to be a minor meteor shower that night. We'd been wanting to do star photography, so that was nice. We saw a few meteors, but I'm not sure how many photos we got. Most every photo had a streak in it, but those could well be satellites. We saw the Milky Way, and were blinded by people who didn't know how to properly use flashlights.
Morning came, and it was then I discovered the true perils of this place. I'm used to worrying about bears and raccoons getting into your food. I'm not sure why I never worried about mice, but they're the big problem at Garibaldi. Despite the little plastic things that are supposed to keep them off the hanging line, at least one got into my bag. It was an open reusable shopping bag, so it probably just fell in. But it ate three little baggies of goldfish crackers and a bag of mixed nuts the size of my fist. Judging from the tiny poops, it was just one tiny mouse, but it ate the mass of at least three or four mice. It chewed into my bag of chai powder, but didn't like it. I still tossed the chai. :-( Thankfully, it didn't eat all my food, little bastards.
The second day, we wanted to go for a day hike. We figured it might be short, to make up for the exertions of the day before, but it wasn't. We ended going up to Panorama Ridge, which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and probably the hardest hike. The hike, from the junction of the main trail, is short, but steep. Even the steepness might not have been a problem, but on the last section of trail you have to clamber over boulders and scree and snow, and it's easy to get lost. People coming down kept saying "you're almost there, it's worth it!" I had no doubt it was worth it, but I did doubt the "almost there" part. Believe me, on that trail, you're not almost there until you're completely there. The last thirty feet or so were the hardest. And it was hot and dehydrating. We managed to make a little hollow to capture snowmelt that we could filter.
Despite constantly reapplying sunblock, I got a ridiculous sunburn. But, this also meant it was a good time to be on the nearly 7,000 foot peak. Otherwise, it would have been way too cold and windy up there, but as it was, it was glorious.
Andrew let me use his trekking pole on the way down, which undoubtedly saved me many times from falling and breaking my face open. We only got lost once. :-/
We would have slept the sleep of the satisfactorily exhausted that night, if not for the fact that some people decided to party until the wee hours. Despite groping for my earplugs that were right beside me, I couldn't find them, and ended up stuffing toilet paper in my ears. I was too tired to get up and yell at them, and kept hoping someone else closer to them would. I guess everyone else had better earplugs.
Day three saw us on another day hike, this one much less strenuous. There are a couple little lakes you pass as you hike in, which we'd ignored in favor of pushing on to the camp. So we headed back there. On the way, we explored a side trail that turned out to be an old abandoned trail along the creek. Now, the current trail goes up a steep hillside, and then down again. I think it does this so it meets up with the trail to the upper meadows. But it means you have to go up and then down. The route we found bypassed that, but it probably only worked out because water levels were so low, we could just hop across the usually raging creek. But we had found an excellent shortcut which we used again on the way out. There were a lot of rocks and fallen trees, but I used my tripod as a walking stick.
When we got back, after a nap, we waded in the lake, and Andrew took a swim. It was around 85 degrees, even on the shore of a subalpine glacial lake. At a few times, the lake looked like a regular beach party. This day, Friday, was the day it got crowded. Turns out it was a three day weekend in Canada. This was no problem for us because we went during the week. (Suckers! I mean, poor people who have to work Monday through Friday jobs...) The site right next to ours filled up with a couple in one tent, and their buddies in another, who were going to take over our site when we left the next day. These were the smart people. The main campground filled up that night.
Saturday, we packed up and headed back. We easily passed hundreds of people, both day hikers and overnighters, heading up. At one point, a ranger headed down, stopping to let them know they'd have to go to the smaller campground. He'd overtake us, but then we'd pass him again as he stopped the inward bound hikers. I don't know why he let in as many people as he did--even if he did warn them they'd be crowding in. Eventually, he started turning them away completely.
Back at the car, we checked to make sure no one had broken into the car. No human had. However, a single mouse poo was found on the lid of Andrew's McDonald's cup, and much more mouse poo was found in other places. They ate a granola bar, and tried vainly to chew into a bag of animal crackers, but curse those little bastards!
The three day weekend also meant that Whistler was crowded. But what am I saying, Whistler's always crowded!
We stayed at a hostel across from my parents timeshare. Our first move, after checking in, was to inhale milkshakes and pancakes at the downstairs diner. Then, showers. Then, Andrew happened to run into my dad right before I took my own shower. This meant they got to have their first potentially awkward dad-and-boyfriend time. My mom was super sweet to Andrew, assuring him that she liked him. She has difficulty reconciling her desire to preserve me forever as her little virginal girl with her desire to see me be a grown woman in a healthy relationship. We've had shouting matches a couple of times about her inability to let me grow up, one of which happened because she was faced directly with me and Andrew coming to Whistler and...sharing accomodations. But hey, she was nice and more lucid than usual! She did manage to get in a good average level of non-threatening schizophrenicness though, so Andrew could experience that.
Dad bought us tickets up the mountain, along with a BBQ that they hold up on top. Mom didn't want to go, which was probably for the best. I'd rather expose her to my boyfriend in small doses. And it was hot. Godawfully hot. I got lightheaded a few times, though the Vitamin Water I bought before the gondola ride was blissfully frozen slush. I learned I just had to have a bottle of water with me at all times.
So we rode the gondola up Whistler Mountain, and then over to Blackcomb, then back again. Andrew and I were pooped, and didn't really want to go hiking, but we did want to go up the Peak Chair, which required walking down a steep path for a distance farther than I remember. The path was FULL of tourists who didn't seem to understand how trails worked. Possibly I was just too hot, tired and cranky to have the least bit of patience with them. The thought of having to walk back up that made me sick, so we decided to walk down from the peak with Dad.
To get to the very tippy top of Whistler Mountain, you take an open ski lift up a super steep cliff and a glacier. Andrew lost his camera's polarizing filter to the glacier. :-/ But it was otherwise a great experience for a stupidly hot day. Glacier wind, yay! Up top, there's this big Inukshuk from the Olympics. Dozens of people were lined up to have their pictures taken standing on the thing. Andrew wanted to be a ninja and have his picture taken from the opposite side where there were no people. So here is Andrew, with Inukshuk and Tourist Butts.
We survived the walk back to the Roundhouse, had our BBQ with accompanying mediocre live music, and headed back to the hostel. So tired...
The next morning, after I went to the convenience store and considered smuggling a KinderEgg home for the Lulz, we went for a quick walk by the lakes, so I could show Andrew more of the places I love. We saw a fledgling robin sleeping on the path. Just sitting there motionless, until finally it opened its eyes and hopped off the path.
Then I took Andrew to my special place, the delta where Whistler Creek meets Nita Lake. Looks like someone didn't understand how deltas work, and put some benches on the edge of where the delta used to be.
After breakfast with the parents, we headed for home. I drove at first so Andrew could enjoy the scenery, but I soon started to feel sick. I was nauseous and lightheaded, and felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. Food and water didn't help much. I think it was a combination of the physical exertion, the heat, the stress of having boyfriend meet parents, and the simple fact that my period was starting. I did my best, but when I started having the dreamy little flashes that mean I'm either falling asleep or about to have an aura,* I pulled over. I couldn't drive much after that.
I did manage to have enough energy to help navigate through downtown Vancouver, which we decided to drive through for the heck of it. The map we'd gotten of British Columbia only had a tiny map of the whole Fraser River Valley. Not Downtown Vancouver. They had submaps of freaking Dawson Creek, but not one of the biggest urban areas in all North America. We also hadn't reckoned on Pride taking place. But we survived Vancouver, and we used the map to amuse ourselves while we waited for half an hour to cross the border back into America, land of cheap gas.
*I've never had an aura while driving. It's not the same as having a proper petit mal seizure, since at no point do I lose consciousness, so I'd probably be safe, but I'd rather not find out what it's like.
Geology field trip to follow!