Four Lakes Trail, 7 Jul 2013

This wasn’t our first choice destination but we learned a valuable lesson when it comes to going somewhere on a warm sunny Sunday in the Lower Mainland. That lesson is get out early! We didn’t leave the apartment until nearly midday and by the time we reached Brohm Lake, the cars were parked for half-a-kilometre along the road. We pulled in to see if anyone was leaving, but we ended up doing a shuffle turnaround in the parking lot along with half-a-dozen other cars. OK, so that’s out – what next? We drove up to the Garibaldi Lake trailhead and ate lunch by Rubble Creek, pondering out next move. We briefly considered just hiking the lower portion of the Garibaldi Lake trail but decided against it.

We made up our mind and headed back towards Squamish where we pulled in to Alice Lake Provincial Park. To our surprise we found it easy to get a parking spot, and set off on a gentle hike on the Four Lakes Trail. We’d hiked this trail once before back in April 2009 as part of the Lake Challenge, and to be honest our expectations were low. We rationalized our decision: it was just a simple hike to stretch our legs. We bought an ice cream from the concession as we walked over to our first lake, Alice. We took the anti-clockwise route, past all the picnickers and swimmers, quickly reaching the other end of the lake where the other batch of swimmers were enjoying the water. The various summits of Garibaldi towered over the lake, and the summit glacier glowed a faint blue.

From here we turned up the path alongside a little creek, and followed switchbacks up the hill towards Edith Lake. I’d forgotten about the switchbacks and on such a warm day, they were quite unwelcome :-) But we soon topped out and found ourselves in nice open pine forest with a dense understory of salal. A few coralroot flowers bloomed here and there, and were mostly dying off. A few minutes later and we emerged onto an old logging road, now covered in a layer of soft moss and pine needles. We headed for the shore of Edith Lake, but couldn’t get a good view. As we turned to walk further along the road, we spotted a couple of pinesap flowers pushing up through the soil. Naturally we stopped to try and get a photo :-) A few metres further on we saw some more, and then some more. With that, I can honestly say I’ve never seen so much pinesap anywhere before. The light level was low among the trees but that didn’t stop us doing our best to capture them.

Our path turned into a mountain bike trail, and our only other available view of the lake was only marginally less uninspiring so we turned around and headed back to continue on towards Fawn Lake. Another patch of pinesap caught our attention, right by the signpost. Further on, another group just begged to be photographed, especially as it was on the edge of a low embankment, right at waist level (no crouching down necessary!). As we walked on along the old road, we spotted many more groups of pinesap, one of which was the largest we’d ever seen – perhaps 40 cm across packed with numerous flowers only a few centimetres apart. Wow – we’d really hit the jackpot when it comes to seeing pinesap. I’m happy enough when I see one or two, as on Mt Gardner last weekend, so I was blown away by the number we’d seen today.

Fully content never to bother taking pinesap pictures again (we’ll see how long that lasts…), we stepped up our pace. By now, the ominous clouds we’d seen at our lunch spot had filled the sky and the distant rumbles of thunder were no longer as distant. So far, though, no sign of rain so we were happy to keep walking, and soon reached Fawn Lake. I think Fawn Lake is the prettiest of the four lakes on this circuit, and would have enjoyed a bit of time there relaxing, but the thunder kept us on the move. From here the trail wound its way through a different kind of forest – cedars now the predominant tree, with patches of ferns covering the forest floor: a very different feel from the open aromatic pine forest of earlier. Though overcast, the forest wasn’t as dark as it could have been and, especially with the dry trail, we enjoyed hiking this section. Not much in the way of anything to photograph, which was a good thing as it kept us on the move.

A flash of lightning lit up the sky overhead and we counted until we heard the thunder: about 2.5 miles away. Still no sign of rain and being deep in the forest, we didn’t feel any immediate threat from the storm. The forest grew darker, though, and we came to a couple of switchbacks down to the level of the Cheekye River. Here in the gloom, something white stood out brightly against the soil: our second saprophyte of the day, Indian Pipe. Now I was really excited – we hadn’t seen Indian Pipe on the mainland before, only on the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island and some up the Sunshine Coast. Here, a small patch was barely pushing its way through the soil but already it was living up to its nickname: the ghost plant. It really looked quite ghostly in the dim light under the trees.

Moving on, we stepped out of the forest onto the left bank of the Cheekye River and looked up at the ominous clouds overhead, Alpha Mountain towering over the Squamish River valley. We ducked back into the trees, and promptly spotted more Indian Pipe – and a bit further some more. OK, now I really did have to get the camera out again! I was able to rest the camera on the ground to get a steady shot of the little grove of ghost flowers. Happy with that, the camera went away and within a minute, we turned left as we reached Stump Lake. We briefly stopped to take a look across the lake at a small clearing, before returning to the trail and walking the last 15 minutes back to the car. Only then did a few raindrops wet our faces :-)

We both agreed that today’s hike was a really pleasant surprise, and it catapulted this trail way back up into the list of easy shoulder-season hikes. We left the park with smiles on our faces – you can’t ask for more than that of a day out.

Distance: 6 km
Elevation gain: 100 m
Photos on Flickr… to come

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