Words by: Brent Hillier Photos by: Brent Hillier & Eli Relke
Eli Relke and I had set our sights on a big trip for the season, or perhaps a more accurate way of describing it is that I had convinced him it was a good idea. Never the less we decided to get our feet wet with another trip first. So we headed to where many mountain bikers had gone before, the Elfin Lake Hut. Situated in Garibaldi Provincial Park at 1470m, the upper most parking lot is at 950m, which in the winter makes it a very manageable ski tour. In order to give ourselves more of a ride we decided to start our adventure from the city of Squamish at 40m above sea level. We began our climb at about 8:30 and worked our way through some of Squamish's expanded climbing only trail network. At the top of the new climb we hike-a-biked up Cakewalk and saved some time by cutting out a switchback on the road. After a quick lunch we were back to climbing up the road towards the upper parking lot. From there the climb to Red Heathers was slightly more difficult then in the winter with skis. Something both Eli and myself had exclusively only done in that area.
The climb up through Red Heathers was a welcome grade change. With more ease we were able to spin our legs up the mountain. As we approached the top of the meadow a large boom of thunder went off and the skies opened up.
With our heads down we crested the top of Paul's Ridge and began our decent down to the shelter. With the sudden change of weather the shelter was a welcome escape. Elfin Lakes is also the end of the road in Garibaldi Park, at least for bikes. Unfortunately the over 25km climb left us wanting more but Garibaldi couldn't provide us with it. We did take advantage of what BC Parks could provide us with, a fantastic hut surrounded by an amazing vista.
We woke up the next morning to find the bad weather had continued throughout the night. After some coffee and oatmeal it was time to face the inevitable and start what was going to be a cold and wet ride. I've always enjoyed the decent to the parking lot during the winter, the ride on a bike is even better. We were wet, cold and visibility was poor but we weren't complaining. My cheeks hurt from smiling and the entire time all you could hear is hoots, hollers and plenty of laughs. It by no means was technical but as far as wide paths go, this one was the best.
Although the distance was over 50km it took very little time. So little time that it certainly could have been day trip, but a night in the Elfin Lake Shelter was a great vacation and we didn't mind the extra down time. The final decent we knew would be a quick one, we never imagined it being that quick. Thankfully the Shady Tree is open for lunch and we were able to get a pint and warm up.
As this was a prelude to a bigger and better adventure to come it achieved what it was supposed to achieve. We worked out the kinks in our gear, more importantly what not to bring the next time. It also brought to light a form of mountain biking we hadn't really explored before. Mountain biking on the West-coast is all about the journey, it's the trail that defines the ride. We had just ridden a distance that featured trails that by no means were world-class. But that's not why we went, we went for the destination. A common goal for hikers and some back-country skiers but not for the free-riders that Eli and I consider ourselves to be. It was a great experience and I hope to have more opportunities like it in the future. Perhaps the ban on mountain biking in Garibaldi Park will someday be lifted and it could become common practise to ride from hut to hut by bike during the summer months. One can only dream. In the meantime we'll continue the spirit of mountain bike touring and if the accommodations aren't there then a tarp and bivy-sack will have to suffice.
Stories, Pictures and Video of all my adventures, on skis and bike.