Time to go for April’s lake. We’d been wondering about Alice Lake for a while and figured that it should all be ice-free by now. Maria and I had never hiked around Alice Lake (it’s rated easy) so we thought we might as well do so with the aim of getting in some swimming for Andrew and Merewyn.
We collected Andrew and Merewyn and were at Alice Lake for around 10.30 am. We headed out along the south shore of the lake and took the old logging road up to the top of Debeck Hill. We plodded our way up the hill and were soon passed by a pair of mountain bikers who kindly told us about an alternative route down off the summit. Great: we wouldn’t have to trudge back down this old road. After about half an hour we came to the old steam donkey logging engine mentioned in the book, which still seemed to be in as good a condition as when Dawn Hanna wrote about it over a decade ago.
Further up the road we passed below a granite cliff-face where we could make out the scratch marks and smoothing action of passing glaciers. Definitely one of the clearest examples I’ve ever seen. We met a local guy coming back down who told us we were near the top, and he remarked on how many people he’d seen already today. It was a fine, mostly sunny Good Friday so I guess a lot of people had the same idea we did. A little later we reached the summit of the hill, decorated with three tall radio masts and a 3-m satellite dish. Passing underneath we reached a clearing at the top of the cliff where we had great views cross the Squamish Valley and up to the north.
We rested here for some time, enjoying the warm sunshine and the scent of the pine trees. The clouds were drifting across the peaks in the Tantalus Range, occasionally almost revealing them before swallowing them up again. A couple of light aircraft were making a series of practice take-offs and landings.
Reluctantly we moved on and, after a couple of attempts, found the trail down that we’d been told about. Clearly not a hiking trail, we quickly realized it was a mountain bike trail we were following and we hoped that we wouldn’t have any encounters with bikers coming up behind us unexpectedly (for both parties!). We followed the trail down over obstacles, along logs and wooden bridges. Personally I couldn’t imagine cycling down such a trail as it wound its way between rocks and trees, dropping steeply all the while. Still, as a trail it was much better than the road and actually really quite enjoyable on a sunny day. Typical granite-moss-cedar-pine landscape of the Howe Sound and Squamish area. Very nice.
We came to another clearing and another cliff edge, where sometime in the past a large rockslide had taken away much of the hillside. We could see the talus slope far below us, and beyond that, the Sea-to-Sky highway. Back on the trail we continued our descent and were beginning to get a little uneasy about where this trail was taking us. We were expecting to curve round the back of the hill at some point, but the trail kept heading south. I had visions of coming out somewhere in a housing estate in Squamish. The trail continued its meandering descent through the trees and came to another clearing. This time we had views up to Garibaldi (just about), though it too was covered in clouds.
We rejoined the trail and to our relief, soon came to a junction where we’d been told to turn left. We passed more old logging artefacts and ended up on a black diamond bike trail called Mid-Life Crisis. We followed this down and eventually emerged on Jack’s Trail, which we knew would lead us back to the lake. And within about 15 minutes we reached the lake, passing moss-covered maples and cottonwoods and sinus-clearing young skunk cabbage along the way.
Time for lunch. We bagged a picnic bench and ate, wondering how to approach the afternoon swim. We were close to a dock which would make it easy for Andrew and Merewyn to jump in, but it was occupied by a family fishing team. We looked at the map and decided to head off on the Four Lakes trail and stop at any suitable looking spots.
First we passed alongside Stump Lake, through tedious young second growth forest. No growth under the trees, very barren and uninteresting. Ironically, the lake itself was really quite nice, with several patches (gardens) of floating sphagnum moss. From Stump Lake, we peeled away and headed through open forest of maple and cedar which were draped with the greenest of lichens, making for an overwhelming sense of green. Despite the fact it had been logged, it was still pleasant forest as it retained a number of large cedars.
We came alongside the Cheekye River and went down for a look. The river was running low, as expected for this time of year. I was amazed that so small a river could possible drain the western flanks of Mt Garibaldi. Alpha Mountain in the Tantalus Range was just about visible.
Back into the trees and the trail began to climb gently through the forest. We encountered snow patches, just a few here and there at first but soon the trail became a mixture of ice and snow making it a little slippery. After a while we came to a signpost pointing to Fawn Lake and we trudged through the snow to emerge at a little beach where Andrew and Merewyn both declared that this was the lake to swim in. And that was despite the fact that the lake was more than half covered in ice…
A quick change and into the chilly water they went while Maria and I went to work with the cameras. They swam over to the ice only to find it was slush, not solid ice. They both swam through it like a pair of ice-breakers, laughing all the while and thoroughly enjoying themselves. They returned to shore for a moment, only to turn around and go in again. More swimming through the slush – like a giant slurpee…
We were joined by a pair of Steller’s Jays that watched intently for signs of any food. Unlike their Whisky Jack relatives they pretty much gave us no indication that they were even there. But for me it was a great chance to get a good photo of one, something I’d not managed to do before.
The swimmers returned, skin bright red from the cold, long enough to consider going in again for a third time! Crazy, just crazy. Obsessive even :-) Eventually they hauled themselves out with chattering teeth and the need to get moving again, which we did. We set a pretty good pace through the snow up and soon reached Edith Lake. We paused there long enough to spot an osprey wheeling over the lake, and then headed back towards Alice Lake. From here the trail wound downhill through a series of switchbacks, making us realize that we’d gained quite a bit of elevation as we’d hiked up from the river. We joined Edith Creek and followed it down to Alice Lake, and back to the car.
And so that is how we spent all day on a short hike. We all really enjoyed it. Just enough hiking to be interesting, a now-favourite lake, warm sunshine and the first signs of spring. We couldn’t have asked for a better day out.
Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 300 m
Photos on Flickr