The Elfin Lakes Hike is both a beautiful and dangerous heel toe dance in a hypnotic mountain dreamscape that commands respect. I am new to hiking, and this is my second big hike. I drive the 8km shady gravel road up to the parking lot in Garibaldi Park and dodge the deep potholes. After leaving Surrey BC at 5am, picking up our party and driving 70 kms, we are hitting the trail before 8 am. A grizzly bear has been spotted in the area, and our bear horn is useless against him, and we can’t even jump in the lake to escape, because he loves to fish.
You need to prepare your body for the 22 kilometer hike, by packing water, food, sunblock, bug spray for the black flies (I made my own by putting 20 lavender essential oil drops in a spray bottle of distilled water). But more than that, you need guts to prepare your mind for whatever the hike demands. As we lace up our hiking boots, our friend tells the story about how on a previous hike here a man in her group had a heart attack on the path and didn’t survive, and she waited until a helicopter airlifted his body off the mountain.
She will point out his commemoration marker when we reach it. Our other friend tells about the time she finished the 6 hour hike, and her car wouldn’t start due to a lost radiator cap. When the tow truck couldn’t drive everyone in her party down, she walked the 8 kms down the gravel road after the hike, and then worked her shift in Langley that evening.
I follow behind the two warrior goddesses confidently, yet mindful that the mountain can give but also can take away. A rolling boulder, a falling tree, or a grizzly paw, means we are gone. Yet, we must surrender to the calming two step rhythm of the trail. By settling the physical body onto the task, it changes your mental state and puts your mind and imagination onto a higher plain. The hike paints a surreal canvas for your heightened senses. A man with a larger than life backpack is going to fly down from the summit, 2700 meters high, in the hang glider inside of it. The sound of crushing gravel reveals smiling mountain bikers passing by, and fading into the dust.
A mom appears pushing a jogging stroller in the opposite direction. A black poodle puppy trots along with his owner, visits each of us and makes us smile, and then frolics in the long grass and eats it. The feel good physical vibes turn the landscape into a watercolor painting of dreamy lava sculptures, pillowy beds of purple and white heather, and tall pines in glassy blue lakes with fresh breezes and rainbow tinted sun. A gallery of colorful tents on platforms overlooks snowy mountains at the summit, and food is tow-roped up, up, and away from the bears. Stairs lead to a Dr. Seuss type outhouse that is accessible even in the heaviest snowfall, if you can get to it.
My hips feel the burn from climbing the uneven rocks and tripping on them, but I am overwhelmed with gratitude for our mini vacay in this otherworldly place only 70 kms from home that took our collective souls on a hang glider ride today. What happens in Elfin Lakes doesn’t stay in Elfin Lakes. It is shared with the world.
Like the people in the parking lot with New York licence plates, and the group of Japanese tourists still on the trail, it is celebrated. I used to think hiking was going for a big walk in a scenic area. Now I know that it is so much more. Pushing your body to do the best it can, elevates your mood and imagination to do the best they can, and frees you from all your worries.