Alice, Edith, and Fawn Lakes, 18 Jun 2022

Opinion:
One of the few truly easy hikes near Vancouver with excellent trails. Although it’s not dramatic or exciting, the forest greenery is soothing and at the right time of year, there’s a pretty good flower show, including a selection of lesser-known blooms. Today, it was a perfect recovery hike for me and it felt so good to walk again after a month off.

Fact
The park wasn’t busy and we had no trouble getting a spot in the parking lot on the south-east side of Alice Lake. From there we followed the trail up alongside the creek to Edith Lake, went around the lake before picking up the trail to Fawn Lake. Then we retraced our route back to the car finishing off with a circuit of Alice Lake.

The trails were in great shape with just a few muddy sections. Given the easy nature of this trail, it’s almost guaranteed that hikers won’t be wearing mud-capable footwear so I feel that BC Parks should do something about these mud spots, otherwise they’re just going to get bigger as people forever go around them. (That seems to include the mountain bikers too.) The trails are mostly well-signposted – the loop around Edith Lake is not, but that’s because it’s not an official park trail.

It was a good day for flora: foamflower, large-leaved avens, starflower, coralroot galore, pinesap, queen’s cup, bunchberry, pond lily, Labrador tea, lupines (cultivated?), salal, pipsissewa (in bud), Siberian miner’s lettuce, and rattlesnake plantain. We heard and saw plenty of birds too: common merganser, ravens, Swainson’s thrushes, Steller’s jays, chickadees, robins, kinglets, and some familiar unidentified calls. Several Douglas squirrels chased each other around and I startled (and was equally startled by) a sizeable garter snake near Fawn Lake.

Distance: 7.5 km
Elevation gain: 130 m
Time : 3 h 15 m

Key moments

  • 🙂 Finding the biggest patch of coralroot we’ve ever seen, plus the biggest patch of queen’s cup for many years
  • 🙂 Opening the car door to be greeted by the soothing sound of a tumbling creek
  • 🙂 Enjoying the peace and greenery of the forest
  • 🙂 Savouring the simple joy of walking again along an easy trail
  • 🙂 Finishing off the day with a sunset beer on the beach
  • ☚ī¸ None… unless you count the eejits building a campfire on the ground next to their picnic table…
  • ☚ī¸ Ah, well then there was the day after – I now have the worst calf strain I’ve ever had….

Story
It’s been a long month of not being able to walk. But at least I was able to cycle last weekend so I could to get some fresh air and exercise. This weekend was supposed to be our first backpacking trip of the year, to Helm Creek, but there was no way I could manage that so we had to cancel. (And then we found out that the trail was closed anyway due to a habituated bear.) I needed an easy hike to test my feet again and Alice Lake is perfect for that.

The weather didn’t exactly look promising, showers following us up the Sea to Sky highway with no sign of any mountain tops – including the Chief – but remarkably we found patches of blue sky once we reached Squamish and that was the last we saw of the rain. I wasn’t expecting the day-use area at Alice Lake to be busy given this weather and we easily found parking at the south-east corner of the lake, driving past several swathes of starflower along the way. I kept my eyes open for ghost plant (having seen some here a few years ago) but saw none.

We pulled into a parking spot close to the trail and were greeted by the most wonderful sound of a tumbling creek, a sound we’d missed over the past few weeks, and one we just sat and listened to for a few moments before even thinking about walking anywhere. I find the sound of running water to be especially soothing after spending so much time in the city, and one of my favourite summer moments is hiking alongside a high-country creek running high with meltwater. It’s so invigorating!

With some trepidation I started out on the trail, taking a few minutes to let my feet get used to being in close-fitting shoes and dealing with uneven ground. I don’t remember the last time I walked so slowly… But it didn’t take long to find my stride (so to speak) and we settled into an easy rhythm. The forest green was all encompassing with an array of mosses, alder and maple leaves, sword ferns, and fresh spring growth on the forest floor, the delicate flowers of Siberian miner’s lettuce lining the path by the creek. It felt like the perfect path to restart my hiking journey.

The trail led us upwards, turning away from the creek to climb a steep slope where the switchbacks offered good views over or into the forest – so many fallen trees, so many mossy rocks. It wasn’t long before we spotted the first patches of pink and pale yellow coralroot with the embankment above us providing an easy opportunity to get up close without having to scrabble around at ground level. We reached the top of the climb and the path levelled off, meandering through spindly second growth trees – western white pines, Douglas fir, and cedar – embedded in a carpet of moss. I scanned the ground near the salal bushes in search of other flowers, but really it was coralroot’s time to shine with it growing pretty much all around us. The piece de resistance came in the form of the most impressive patch of coralroot we’ve ever seen, where so many were growing so close together that they formed a mass of pink stems and flowers. Needless to say I just had to take a moment to capture them. Wow!

By now we were only a short distance from Edith Lake, and we joined the wide easy trail. Looking on my phone, I could see a trail that led around the lake, something we hadn’t done before, so we decided to check it out. A couple of spots allowed us to get down to the lakeshore for a view – of sorts, I guess. To be frank, it’s just a small, forested lake with nothing much to get excited about, so the views are more about seeing further than the next tree. Back on the trail we spotted some queen’s cup in bloom, which was a wonderful surprise. We’d seen some leaves along the way but so far no flowers. Here, they were abundant and we stopped to admire them. And by admire, I mean photograph of course…

Continuing around the lake, and encountering a few mountain bikers, we tiptoed over muddy spots along a narrow path through the salal and salmonberry, skunk cabbage and bunchberry, and emerged on another old logging road that followed the eastern side of the lake. We came to a clearing where some folks were hanging out, our attention drawn to the amazing patch of multi-coloured lupines. The various colours had us thinking this was a garden at one point, our suspicions confirmed by the sight of a rockery wall built from stone filled in with succulents, and finding lily of the valley, columbine, and a couple of other cultivated plants growing. Was this the site of a cabin at one point? We were surprised the garden was still doing so well. It was definitely a nice spot, and I’d be surprised if people didn’t camp here (even if it is in the provincial park).

We completed the loop of Edith Lake, pausing for another lakeside view among tall Labrador tea, before picking up the old logging road again, now heading north towards Fawn Lake, which we planned as our turnaround point. The bed of the old road was nice and soft on my feet and made for thoroughly enjoyable walking – I don’t remember the last time I simply enjoyed walking so much! This past month has given me some useful insights into what it means to have limited mobility, and right now I was so grateful for such an easy, level trail.

I scanned the side of the trail for signs of pink knowing that pinesap and its ground-hugging relative gnome plant grew in abundance. We didn’t see any gnome plant but we saw some wonderful pinesap, including a superb little grove of flowers growing together in a tight bunch. However, the lack of gnome plant was more than made up for by the stunning little meadow of queen’s cup that filled an open spot on the forest floor. We picked our way down to it over mossy ground to get a closer look and size up a few (well, a couple of dozen) photos. We spent some time just admiring the sheer quantity of flowers – one of the most extensive blooms of queen’s cup we’ve ever seen – most of which were at their peak bloom. Glorious!

We returned to the trail and completed the rest of the journey to Fawn Lake, which is probably the prettiest of the four lakes along this loop. I went off exploring a side trail and disturbed one of the largest garter snakes I’ve ever seen – I don’t know who was the more startled! Bird song from robins, song sparrows, and other unknown birds echoed around the lake, some of it from nearby trees though I never did spot the source. A Steller’s jay hopped down in search of leftovers and posed long enough for me to take a few photos.

Looking at the map, it seemed to make most sense to retrace our steps back to the car, as it looked shorter. Normally I wouldn’t want to repeat such an easy trail but today I was more than happy to do so, knowing that the trail that continued on to Stump Lake would probably be a little too uneven for me. We enjoyed the walk back as much as the walk out, passing through an avenue of tall firs and cedars along the old logging road, the peace and quiet only broken by the occasional mountain biker or three.

It wasn’t long before we were back down by Alice Lake, and my feet felt fine so I suggested we add a loop of the lake to our hike. In retrospect it probably wasn’t a great idea because we ended up making the hike longer than if we’d just done the regular loop of the four lakes! Not that I cared at that point – I was just enjoying being in the forest. We startled a merganser as it surfaced in a shaded section of the lake close to the shore, turning tail and paddling off as quickly as it could.

We met remarkably few people on our wander, which was unexpected but very welcome. We savoured being in the trees, by the lake, under a mossy cliff dripping with maidenhair fern. It was all good. The liquid song of Swainson’s thrushes filtered through the branches above us and we caught a rare, fleeting glimpse of one as it dashed between trees. Douglas squirrels chased each other back and forth through the flowers and up and down tree trunks.

And then we were back at the car, where I was glad to shed my footwear and pull on sandals to let my feet cool off. That was the perfect way to ease myself back into hiking, and we celebrated with a beer and food in the afternoon sunshine at Locavore before a relaxing, quiet drive home. The city threatened to undo some of the peace that had descended on us, but we grabbed another beer, hopped on our bikes and headed for the beach, where we found the perfect spot to watch the sunset.

6 thoughts on “Alice, Edith, and Fawn Lakes, 18 Jun 2022

  1. Oh no! I didn’t know you had hurt yourself! I am glad you’re on the mend and what a perfect trail to ease you back into walking!

    We found bunches and bunches of coralroot too last weekend, but I didn’t know its name. So pretty!

    This whole post is such a relaxing read. I love Alice Lakes.

    1. Yes, it’s been a long month getting back on my feet – not something I want to repeat, but since it was likely an autoimmune issue there’s no guarantee it won’t.

      It’s a really hard flower to photograph well and I have many failures :-) Glad you found it too!

      Yeah, I’ve come to really like that circuit, especially in the winter to get some different, easy greenery, and May/June to catch the flowers.

  2. Yay for recovery hikes + I’m glad you’re able to walk again (boo on the calf strain though), especially ones that are so pretty and calming!

    The flower show is definitely impressive and your photos are gorgeous! I really like that you include key moments of the hike too. :]

    1. Thanks Farrah! Very kind of you to say. I started adding the key moments for those trip reports that I didn’t have time to write in full but wanted to at least highlight the best (and worst) parts up and above the facts.

      Thankfully the calf strain didn’t last long and I’m back to full hiking now – just got back from an awesome week in the BC backcountry.

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