Elfin Lake Hut, a backcountry hut buried in Garibaldi Provincial Park, might be a popular, too often-trodden hut to those in the backcountry community however, it still holds the intrigue and elation of a secret backcountry find. The 11 kilometer uphill slog does enough to detract those who are looking for the easy escape and luxurious living. It’s a great spot for a quick getaway with friends and family. A space that invites time to steep in the silence and depth of the elements and each other, rather than the noise and frequency of Wi-Fi passwords and cell signals. It turned out to be the perfect option for a quick overnighter when myself and my two brothers had a rare synchronised night off. Although I have no brothers by blood, brothers find a way, blood or not. And that brotherly connection that allows for a perfect combination of challenge, competition, comradery and unconditional love, has to be nurtured. We jumped at the idea of marching off into the backcountry to feel the everyday realities of our regular lives melt in our wake.
Time spent in the back country is something I will always cherish. Moving from the routine reality of our constructed urban environments, to the unfamiliarity and unpredictability of the backcountry I feel a soulful shift. Mental clarity accompanies the physiological changes as we begin our ascent. Starting with a subtle, yet consistent uphill grind, sweat sneaks through our skin and de-layering begins as we wind our way through the snow-covered forest. 6 kilometers in, the Red Heather Emergency Hut awaits us. Here, a rest and a snack is in order. Whiskey Jacks swarm us and eat out of our hands and off our heads as we deliberate whether it is time to don snowshoes or not. After our first uphill push into the alpine, it becomes glaringly obvious that snowshoes are necessary, as each step forward is accompanied by half a misstep backwards. We walk through a world collapsed and condensed by the fog, skirting ridgelines, and crossing miniature valleys to finish the final five kilometers catching the occasional glimpse of the surrounding peaks and moody mountains.
Arriving after 4.5 hours, the hut stands staunch and stoic amongst giants – a beautifully constructed, classic A-Frame, designed and built to withstand winter’s toughest tempest. Inside, a propane fireplace warms, long games of crib call and a bottle of scotch beckons, as we’re able to unwind and disconnect from our own little realities that exist just a few hours away in the city. As the evening unfolds, so does the sky. The clouds and fog clear and we are treated to a stunning, moonless world of wonder. The cabin is situated at the end of a ridge, and in almost all directions, the ground seems to drop off and massive peaks silently peer down at us, making us feel even smaller than we already are. Surrounded by such immense beauty, underneath a sky that sizzles with the light of a thousand distant worlds, I lose myself in the enormity of it all. It’s in this moment of miniscule, this mind altering and melting momentous realization of our minute stature, that I lose my enflamed, engrossed and encompassing sense of individuality. It’s here that I feel connected and grounded to this earth, it’s here that I find myself in a place of serenity and gratitude and it’s here that my heart beats hardest.
Long after tucking myself into one of the many wooden bunks, I receive a rude awakening from my bladder, and dread the thought of putting on clothes warm enough to drag myself outside to the adjacent outhouses. But had it not been for my unruly bladder, I may never have mustered up the energy to take in a sunrise unlike one I have ever experienced. As the sun slowly crept up the spine of a distant ridge, a crescendo of deep blue’s morphed into aquas, light purples, and pinks and eventually ignited the sky in flames of orange and yellow. All the while, the sun began to consume the tallest peaks at our backs until they were awash in a cotton candy pink, before relenting and silently letting morning settle and breathe life into our tranquil piece of mountain top.
After a quick breakfast, we packed up our gear, strapped into our snowshoes and retraced our steps from the day before. Walking back to the trailhead on a crystal clear, bluebird day that had the sun beating down on our backs, we took in vistas of the Diamond Head range to the north and the Tantalus range to the South West. It was a quick descent, and as we packed our things into the truck and made for a favourite breakfast joint, that feeling of yup, we did it again came over me.
An overnighter – that’s all we were able to coordinate due to our schedules. But the time spent cooking dinner, playing crib and chatting about nothing and everything all at once – minimal as it was – is integral to cultivating that unspoken feeling of connection. Relationships and friendships often grow from sharing roots in things like common values and shared interests. And these roots can grow and quickly entrench themselves and serve as a great foundation. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to dig and get dirty, tug at those life-giving roots, and work to cultivate and nurture those friendships. And it’s trips like these that serve this purpose perfectly.