We've all heard tales of the elusive backcountry sweet spot. It's a place where the trails all flow downhill or where the fish bite on every cast. Once found, though, many adventurers are shy about sharing its location. Perhaps they fear fame may sour its sweetness. It's not my column's intent to publicize your Sea to Sky backcountry hideouts, but I subscribe to a different wilderness preservation theory, one that says promotion can lead to protection for our backcountry. And so, a couple of weekends ago, Melinda and I shared Squamish's Hut Lake with our visiting friends Brett and Sheena.
From the Paradise Valley Road, we pull onto the side road. It soon steepens and turns to gravel. Our truck claws up the broken road. Just when it seems that this dusty, bumpy road is going nowhere, we arrive to find a dozen vehicles parked in a makeshift lot. This is the parking area for nearby Levette Lake. It's also the starting point for our hike to Hut Lake, five kilometres away.
"Follow the road and turn left at the tower," says a local person at the trailhead. We thank him for the info and hike up the road.
Brett and Sheena are no backcountry strangers. They've just finished working this summer as wilderness guides for a Vancouver-based children's camp. This trip is their first in six weeks without the weight and responsibility of guiding and they are eager to adventure.
After a kilometre, we find the tower and turn left onto a boulder-strewn, forested trail. While descending the rocky path, Brett admits that it's a luxury to be hiking without singing camp songs. After about an hour, we arrive at Hut Lake. While Melinda and Sheena search for potential tent sites, Brett and I check out the lake. "Raft!" he and I yell in stereo.
In moments, all four of us are looking at the large backcountry raft parked along the shore. Moments after that, our trip turns nautical, trading backpacks for bathing suits. Embracing our new mode of travel, we paddle our craft to inspect some lakeside cliffs and wetlands.
From the centre of the lake, we can see the glacial peaks surrounding us. We alternate between paddling, cruising and swimming until dinner. Hut Lake's accommodating site allows us to spread out. At sunset, we prepare our tents as a light rain begins. After a round of hot chocolates, we all share goodnights and retire to a tent-fly chorus of raindrops.
Brett and Sheena have since returned to Ontario. They take with them pictures and stories from Hut Lake to share with friends and family much in the same way that their dozens of summer campers will share their adventures with new classmates.
Our wild places are best protected when we have close, personal bonds to them; when we've cooled off in their waters, hiked their trails or sheltered beneath their trees. The more people that experience adventure, the stronger our collective desire becomes to respect and protect these places for future generations to share.