For the blessed inhabitants of British Columbia, one can easily immerse oneself in the wilderness for the space of a weekend and then rejoin civilization within a few short hours. Not long ago, Eva and I decided to embark on such an experience ourselves by heading up to Elfin Lakes for an overnight hiking trip. When I first discovered that there was a trail called Elfin Lakes, my geeky self was immediately hooked on the idea of hiking an elvish-related trail. As an almost life-long fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (I first read the entire series as a preteen on family camping trips), I could not resist the opportunity to explore such a magical-sounding place.
Known for being a popular snowshoe winter hike, Elfin Lakes runs twenty-two km in total (round-trip) and is perfect for snowshoeing beginners such as us. The trail itself never becomes extremely steep; the main hardships originate from the sheer distance and the difficulties of traipsing through thick sheets of snow. Luckily for my hiking partner and I, the snow wasn't especially deep during late April and snowshoes were no longer absolutely necessary (although they would have been welcome during certain sections). Also, we were extremely glad that we broke up the hike into eleven km halves by camping overnight at the Elfin Shelter-- it would have been quite miserable to have hiked Elfin Lakes in its entirety within one day.
As has become routine for our hiking expeditions, Eva and I woke up early and sleep-deprived on Saturday morning. We grabbed our requisite coffees, turned on the music, and began the drive over to Squamish. Once we arrived at the Diamond Head trailhead, we sorted our gear out, paid the $15 fee for the shelter, and grabbed our camping permits for the night.
Happily, the first five km were easy and relatively snow-free. We reached the Red Heather Shelter for our lunch stop, chatted with other fellow hikers, and took a break from our heavy backpacks. The next six km, however, were more nightmare than daydream.
The second half of the hike was like walking through a blizzard. The fog, mist, rain, and sleet made us feel like we were trudging through an eternity of evil winter. As the trail became steeper, we were forced to take short and frequent breaks in order to preserve ourselves both mentally and physically. If the day had been clear, we would have enjoyed blue skies, warm sunshine, and stunning alpine views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Sadly, we were barely able to see further than twenty feet ahead of ourselves-- we struggled at times to even pick out the next bright orange trail marker.
By the late afternoon, we finally found ourselves at the doorstep of our temporary home. Words can't express how supremely happy we were to pull off our snow-drenched socks, boots, and rain-soaked sweaters. Within the heated lodge, we were able to warm ourselves by a gas stove, hang our wet items, and roll out our sleeping bags on the wooden bunk beds on the second floor.
Eva and I then proceeded to have the chill evening and night in recent history. Our schedule was something as follows:
- eat our late lunches
- read for twenty minutes
- pass out involuntarily for fifteen minutes
- lounge around for an hour and a half before we bothered to head outside for the washrooms
- chat inside the lodge for almost two hours
- eat our dinner
- read our books until our eyes hurt and everyone else in the hut was sleeping
We loved it.
The next morning, we woke up leisurely, rolled up our sleeping bags and mats, ate breakfast, and headed out. In comparison to the previous day's hike, the trip downwards was a cake walk. To put things in perspective, the hike up took us about four and a half hours while the hike down took a mere three-ish hours.
Even after finishing the hike and returning to my daily routines, it was hard to shake off the memories of walking through the silent snow (unless we were playing Coldplay) and warm sunshine while enjoying the companionship of a best friend. I cannot wait until my next overnight hiking trip!
Would you ever want to visit Elfin Lakes?