It’s an understatement to say the summer of 2020 was unique. With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting travel to all but the bravest, or most brazen individuals, we decided to stick around and explore more of B.C. Not to say this was a tough decision. We’re lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, so we feel lucky that we could still get a big time travel and vacation vibe by staying close to home.
One of the first parks to open once restrictions were lifted was Golden Ears near Maple Ridge. Already a popular park in normal times, Golden Ears in particular has seen a huge influx of visitors this summer. Largely, that’s because it’s beautiful and close to the suburbs of Vancouver, but also because many of the other popular parks close to the city remained closed through most of the month. Still, it was not hard to get away from the crowds once you got on to the trails. We ended up going multiple weekends in a row in May, just to get outside and start getting back into hiking shape. This park is a gem. It’s got a bit of everything, but the forests are what stick out as a highlight for us. The mossy, temperate rainforest and patches of old growth fill your eyes with every hue of green.
One thing we’ll never forget, in a year of things we’ll never forget, is that getting camping reservations went from competitive to a blood sport. Camping was already a popular thing to do in B.C., but once it got the blessing of health officials as one of the recommended, safe summer activities, everyone that was camp-curious went all in. Store shelves were bare of most camping gear and supplies. The B.C. Parks website crashed multiple times the first day camping reservations were opened, and we, like many others, came up empty handed.
We were saved by having a reservation that we made before the pandemic started. On a rainy weekend in early June we headed out for our first camping weekend (and first weekend out of Vancouver this year) at Sasquatch Provincial Park. It was a chore to get down the pockmarked forest road out to the campground, and our car, weighed down with camping gear, bottomed out and broke our rear suspension. Luckily, the campsite and the park was more then worth it, and we were able to get home safely and get the car fixed. Moody lake views, beautiful private coves all over the place, and a real feeling of isolation just an hour and a half from the city.
Settling into our Bubble
Luckily, the rolling window for camping reservations was short, and things became more attainable as the summer wore on. We had our first bubble-friends camping weekend at Golden Ears. For many of us, it was the first time we had all hung out together, in person, since the pandemic started. It was a great weekend for all of us to feel like the summer had started, and that we started to get into the groove of the new-normal.
No pain, no gain, no views
June was wet and cold, so much so in recent years that Vancouverites have started to call it Junuary. But as the calendar scrolled over to July, things started to get hot and dry. The government introduced a day-pass pilot program to help manage crowds as they re-opened the areas most popular parks. One of those is Garibaldi Provincial Park, which makes up a large part of the area between Squamish and Whistler. There are many popular hikes within that park. One that we had circled early was Panorama Ridge. A beast of a hike, 30+km and 1,300m+ of elevation gain, many people do it as a 2 day affair, staying in one of the backcountry campgrounds along the way. But by that time in the summer, we felt we were ready to kick our own butts. So, we set the alarm for 6am, grabbed a day permit as soon as they opened, and made our way up the Sea to Sky highway as the sun rose. The day was incredible, the sun was bright and warm, and the cool alpine breeze kept it from ever getting to hot. We expected that our bodies would ache by the end, and that we’d get some awesome views. What we didn’t expect was that we happened to get lucky and hike during peak wildflower growth. It was unlike anything we had ever seen.
The views just kept on coming. From the iconic peak of Black Tusk, to Helm Lake and Whistler mountain in the distance, it made each section of the hike interesting to the point where you forgot about the distance you were covering. After quite the scramble up to the peak of Panorama Ridge, you crest over the ridge to see the cerulean-blue of Garibaldi Lake and the view that is the star of the show.
Interior Lake Tour
August brought more sun and heat, and by the time our vacation week arrived mid-month, temps were starting to push into the 30’s. Our plan was to head into the interior, starting with 4 nights camping at Martha Creek, exploring the area around Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks. The days were hot, the nights warm, and the lake cool. It made for some great swimming and star gazing after hot days in the parks.
Glacier National Park
We always pick a really big hike to do on the front end of our trips. We have the time, the energy and the motivation to see as much of the parks we visit as possible. There’s also a unique satisfaction that comes from pushing your body hard, and following up with guilt-free eating and drinking during the rest of your vacation.
We chose Glacier National Park for our big hike day. Every time we’ve driven through the area we’ve said ‘we should check it out sometime’. For awhile it was intimidating – almost all the interesting hikes have big-time elevation gains. But, this staycation summer trip seemed the perfect time. Our hike of choice was Abbott Ridge, which was confirmed with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Ranger at the trailhead. “My favourite hike in the park, it’s amazing!”. Alright then, let’s get to it!
What you see of the park from the highway is only a tasty appetizer. Once you get deep into it, there are so many amazing views along this trail, it made the 1300m elevation gain in only 6km seem totally worth it. Even though the distance was moderate, that gain, and the technical terrain made it for a strenuous full-day affair. We were physically finished at the end of the day, our feet and legs burning and weak, but our mood was elation. One of the most spectacular trails we’ve ever done. We can’t wait to go back and explore some of the other amazing trails.
Max Chill Time
The back half of the trip was all about making sure we recovered and relaxed mentally as well as physically. We rented an adorable lakeside cottage on Shuswap Lake, and finished off the week with some more camping at Ellison Lake in the northern Okanagan. This trip more then anything ended up being about the lakes. We stayed on 3, swam everyday, and really gained a big appreciation for B.C. lake culture. This might just become a tradition for us.