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Not your average Saturday hike!

Rain adds to the experience of Joffre Lakes

click to enlarge Hiking Joffre Lakes
  • Hiking Joffre Lakes

By Alice Richardson

It’s a rainy Saturday morning and I've been wondering what people do in the wet months of October and November in Whistler. I'm not quite ready to give up my bike, but the weather forecast calling for five days of black clouds with black rain convinces me that the biking season is over.

So what now? Surely not the gym already?

Jorge has been trying for weeks, without success, to drag me hiking in the rain, professing that the forests are great in the rain. Today I give in. I dust off my hiking boots, apply some duct tape to my waterproof trousers and off we set for Joffre Lakes.

This is indeed an enchanting walk. If anything the rain only intensifies its Alice In Wonderland magic!

After the first lake and a bit of a flat, gravelly walk, the terrain becomes reasonably challenging. Put it this way, you couldn’t bike it! It is steep in parts, fairly rocky, and in a few sections you need to scramble. In the rain it’s also muddy and slippery. All this combines to make this a slower trek than others. (But then I am no mountain goat — years of living in London, you see!) Yet this is a hike that's best walked slowly.

Joffre Lakes is a magical forest hike. Within minutes we're walking into a winter wonderland. The first layer of snow scatters our paths and feathers the bushes. Spanish moss clings creepily to the trees around us, like a tangle of dusty Victorian spider webs. Mountain squirrels zip skittishly up trees and out of sight so fast as to cause you to question the movement in the corner of your eye.

It takes us about an hour and a half of slowish hiking and picture-taking to reach the second, striking, aqua-blue lake. Within minutes an ethereal mist rolls in. The ghostly cloud floats over the lake, rain hitting the water like diamonds dancing on its surface.

The supernatural follows us as we hike on to the third lake. Pounding up the trail, our feet encounter a frequent smattering of fantastic fungus. Now, I’m not usually interested in mushrooms; being from the UK, I am much more enamored with the arresting pink and dazzling yellows of the deciduous trees above. But our cautious stepping forces us to look down and notice the action at our feet.

One mushroom in particular is a Gaudi-esque montage of body parts, a child’s pottery lesson gone wrong. The rare Matsutaka (Pine) mushroom has a wide glossy table top, like recently polished silver. My favorite is the Amanita Muscaria mushroom. If you were to ask a child to draw wild mushrooms, he would draw this — a fantastic cluster of shocking red hats with white pimples.

These are truly out-of-the-ordinary sights. Even Millar the dog seems more quizzical than usual.

On our descent out of the forest, the light soon starts to dim. As dusk draws in, the fluorescent yellow leaves glow and where they have fallen, light up our path like fallen stars.

This is not your average forest hike — this is hobbit country!

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