Garabaldi Provincial Park Day 2: Black Tusk

Day 2: Helm Creek Campground to Black Tusk

We woke up the next day feeling a bit sore from the first day’s hike but got going (out of the tent) by about 7 AM.  Funny the mosquitoes and black flies apparently don’t sleep and damn were they hungry!  I made my go-to camping breakfast (oatmeal, raisins, brown sugar) and we were soon ready to hit the trail.

It was another perfect day.  I think we got spoiled by the temperatures the first day but we didn’t pack enough warm clothes.  We started out with sweaters and pants but we should have brought our parkas.

The hike to Black Tusk started out the same with us re-tracing our steps down the same trail to Panorama Ridge.  I wasn’t bored of that trip at all though so it was really enjoyable.   After about 5 kilometers we headed in a different direction towards Black Tusk and the trail was spectacular.  There were continually little waterfalls.

And great views as we started to gain elevation.  That’s Garabaldi lake in the background.

Has anyone seen any Dr. Seuss movies…remind you of anything?

We kept hearing these funny sounds when we were walking down this path.  It was a marmot.  We were really close to him as he was whistling on this rock.  He must have been calling out to his sweetie because he jumped off the rock, ran through some grass and started bolting straight for us.  My friend almost screamed and then he darted into some grass on the other side.  We were both laughing hard about her reaction.  What are we 20 times as big?  Okay, fine I admit it startled me too. 🙂

We saw another one a few kilometers later and this time I had my phone ready.

They are pretty cute little things.  The trail for this part of the hike was fairly easy.  I’d say it was moderate at best.  The whole time you are surrounded by beautiful green and wild flowers but it’s open at the same time.  The trees are all fairly large at this point.

We had been hiking for a couple hours already when we finally got out of the tree line and hit the snow.

The big black thing in the distance is Black Tusk.  The hike through the snow wasn’t that difficult but I’d say this is when the hike starts to become difficult although it gets much harder soon.  Reflecting on this hike I think my kids could handle it but I don’t think I’d want them doing it just yet.

It’s weird when you are out there and you come across this sign which would be completely buried in snow all winter.  Black Tusk in a dormant volcano and you can read about it if you want.

By this point in the hike were still warm enough.  We peeled layers earlier in the valley area and then put them back on once we got to the snow.  The day before we did this hike was the gay pride parade in Vancouver.  We passed a group with a big Pride flag so we had a nice chat with them at one of our breaks.

This is actually a picture on Black Tusk and you can sort of see the grade.  You could keep your footing okay but it helped having hiking poles.

We got to a junction point and there were people going both ways.  We followed the route that looked easiest.  That was a mistake.  We ended up among these really giant rocks and had to make sure we didn’t disrupt them and send them sliding down the hill.  They were all shale type rock and really sharp.  My friend was struggling a bit at this point in the hike.  It was really really steep.  After we got through the big rocks we hit the volcano rock that was about softball size and really lose.

We made a decision that we were going to cut across it to get back to the main trail.   We had to cross about 200 feet of it and I was nervous about this part.  She was a little apprehensive about it but she leaned into the slope properly and got across okay.  Then we had to trudge through a long pass of it on the other side too.  It was 3 steps forward and one step back because the rock slides beneath your feet.  Here’s a good picture of what it looked like going through the smaller rock.

We got to the top and there was some cloud cover and it was cold.  I’m guess it was about 4 C at best..or at least it felt that cold.  There is something about being at the top of a mountain like that makes you feel very insignificant in a good way.  The clouds literally rolled over us and you could feel the moisture in them.

I got my finger in this one a bit.

There were about 20 people at the top with us.  We sat down on the other side of the ridge with a group of four guys in their early 20’s.  We had a good chat with them and I enjoyed watching them interact with each other.  I kept thinking to myself.  You guys have no idea how amazing it is to be young, free and hanging out with you best friends.

Things we take for granted.  I’m sure I am doing the same thing right now at this stage in my life…need to pinch or punch myself more often.

I packed what was going to be an amazing lunch of hummus (homemade of course), naan bread and carrots.  Somehow I forgot the damn hummus so we enjoyed the carrots and some of the naan.  I also packed a crazy amount of trail mix.  I always pack enough food to be stranded for at least a day…and the handy sleeping bag.

The sky opened up and we got to appreciate everything.  The first two are the side of black tusk.

It’s spectacular!

Another view of Garabaldi Lake.

The young guys were talking about continuing on to the very top.  We looked at it and given the clouds rolling around I felt pretty content doing what we had done.  We decided to skip it.  I’m guessing it was another hour to get to the very top.  They call it a chimney because you have to shimmy up the volcanic rock which is very sharp.

So we headed back down. Usually I find the downhill the hardest on my knees.  This time the downhill wasn’t too bad.  It might have been because you slide a bit with every step.  Not sure.

We ended up getting down the mountain fairly easily.  The hardest part was finding some cover for my friend to go pee.  She was a little self conscious about the whole thing.  It was pretty funny.  She found a couple small trees but there was always threat of another hiker walking by 🙂

When we got to the bottom we decided to hike to Garabaldi Lake to check it out.

It was really pretty all the way.  We came across some whiskey jacks.  I know you aren’t supposed to feed wildlife but somehow birds are different to me.  We had them landing all over us and we have some great pictures.

Garabaldi Lake is spectacular.  It’s the most amazing blue colour.  Not turquoise but this brilliant beautiful blue.

There were a huge amount of people on the trail.   I felt like I was at a tourist attraction for a minute.  I could not figure out how some of them got there.  They looked out of place in comparison to everyone else…like they stepped off a bus.  I’m pretty sure there’s no way up but a pretty decent hike so I should give them more credit.

After Garabaldi Lake we hiked back to the campground.  The day ended up being another 25 kilometers or thereabouts.  It was awesome.  Of the two hikes I personally feel that Black Tusk is much harder.  I asked a bunch of people which one they liked better.  Most said Panorama but everyone had to think about it a bit.

The next day we hiked out.  She had some sort of timeshare so we went into Whistler and spoiled ourselves by showering, swimming and sitting in the hot tub.   Pure pleasure after about 60 km of hiking.

I can’t say enough good things about this hiking weekend.  It’s popular for good reason.  This is God’s country.

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