When somewhere is recommended to us by 2 different and unrelated people we take this as a good sign and worth exploring. The guy in the car rentals had suggested Joffrey Lakes as well as the hostel owner’s son and they were conveniently located just off the road we had planned to travel as well. He’d mentioned that the car park could get busy but as we were relatively early, 10am leaving the hostel, but also much closer than other popular tourist centres and with so little traffic on the road that we assumed we’d have no problem so were surprised to obtain one of the few remaining spaces in a not inconsiderable car park. We were anticipating a pleasant but not too strenuous hike, we didn’t have too much time to spare as there were places to go before trying to find a camping spot at a ‘first come first served’ site. We were a little disconcerted to see some serious kit being worn and unloaded from various vehicles as we donned some modest apparel and put a few more items in the back pack than we otherwise would.
Observation of the direction and distance posts told us that the first lake was 15 minutes away, middle lake would take 2.5 hours to hike the 3.5 km with the top lake a km further on. We didn’t study the ongoing information about the glacier beyond that! We were somewhat over-prepared for the first lake but set off anyway, bumping into it in less than 5 minutes as it was only 150metres from the car park! It was stunning, a sparkling deep turquoise, even under the grey skies, same colour as my fleece top as commented by a fellow hiker. We debated whether we would have time to reach the middle lake on these estimations, 10metres a minute (roughly) and back without taking all day. We set off determining to walk for an hour and then assess our progress as whether to continue or turn back. We arrived at the middle lake in 45 minutes!
We had nearly exhausted ourselves as we maintained a pretty steady, brisk pace. Unfortunately we actually climbed over 400metres in that distance so had very jelly-like legs on arrival at the middle lake only to find it rather busy and no space to sit down and enjoy another spectacular view. The climb had been tough, passing many people resting by the wayside. One group of 3 women were stopped at the bend on a zig-zag section ahead and as we approached one put out her walking pole as if the block the way, much as one does with a ski pole when someone is trying to push-in in the lift queue. Barely able to speak I just fumed quietly and vowed to knock it out her hand as we passed as we were stopping for no-one. I find it essential to maintain a certain pace when undertaking tough walking, if I lose that rhythm then I quickly tire and lose all forward momentum so a walking pole wasn’t going to stop me in this excursion. Roger informed me later that he thought she’d only put it out as she was about to set off which was marginally better but one doesn’t pull out into moving traffic, one gives way, doesn’t one?
We were pleasantly surprised to arrive at this lake so soon as we had little concept of our progress there being no waymarkers. Roger was keen to continue to the 3rd lake as we’d not made it right up to the water side of Eaton Falls nor to the peak of Mt Ambler. I was less inclined to proceed as the skies looked quite threatening and what’s another lake? We’d seen 2 green lakes already. However, I relented so we proceeded onwards and upwards, more upwards though! The trail, to this point, had been very well constructed but now we were clambering over, admittedly stable, rocks and boulders when we weren’t climbing steps and even a ladder!
We emerged from the bushes onto the very rocky shore of a less turquoise lake, due to the wind whipping up the surface. Facing us was the glacier we’d omitted to consider. Not that we had any intention of venturing forth, we just knew nothing about it. We’d managed to split up a group of 6 by overtaking the last 2 but managed to clamber past the other 4 to find a suitably flat rock to perch and enjoy our gourmet lunch of a satsuma, an apple and a crunch bar. Really it was just an excuse to rest our legs. There had been many signs about not feeding the wildlife, this being bear country etc. There needed to be signs for the animals not to pinch the human’s food! A very scraggy looking bird alighted a rock adjacent to our perch and tried to pinch a piece of crunch bar out of the one in Roger’s hand, on the way to his mouth, much like the seagulls in British seaside resorts but a fraction of the size. It also made a dive for my camera whilst I tried to photograph it mid assault. It failed to obtain any food (that way!) and I failed to obtain a decent picture but there is one of it blending nicely into the dark grey rocks.
We decided to head off and turned to make our way back through the rocks only to find that we’d been joined by hoards who had taken up residence all across the access route, effectively blocking us in. We scrambled, as best we could and only once did I nearly land in someone’s sandwich box. Our descent should have been quicker but lasted equally as long but less exhausting, just more punishing on the knees. A few ascenders enquired as to the duration of their journey and we tried to be positive, although were probably later cursed by some for being too optimistic. Towards the bottom, a group stopped us to ask if it really took 2.5 hours and whether it was worth it, no and yes. Another pair we could hear as they approached, planning their day on the basis of a 5 hour walk so I felt compelled to enlighten them also. I’m not sure who these snails are that the parks authorities use to judge time and distances.
We resumed our journey, passing a lake with a massive log jam whose native name actually translates to blockage. We had started to notice the previous day, a rather strange phenomenon, which probably has a very simple explanation. Along the tree lined road sides were great clumps of gossamer cobwebs encasing a dying or dead branch. They became so frequent that some kind of natural change was occuring, whether the spiders descended on the dead branch or the branch died because it was entombed by cobwebs is something I’ll have to investigate.
We headed on to Lillooet and possibly some sustenance. Unfortunately it didn’t look too promising so we continued on to Lytton with even less to offer. It was quite a long distance to the next town along the route we had wanted to use as that took us past Hell’s Gate where there was a cable car across the deep canyon where the mighty river narrowed to 30m. This had been recommended by only 1 person so we opted to follow our stomachs and divert away from that road to Spencers Bridge where there was even less on offer! It appears that in certain parts if Canada there is no desire to eat out or no provision for that option which seems very strange in the all-consuming western world of the twenty first century.
Our next option was Merritt which also took us back towards potential camp-sites however the wind was now increasing. As we approached the town the skies above the hills opposite were ominously black so we relented and booked into a motel room with a kitchenette and coffee machine, just perfect. No frills but everything we needed. We were bound on both sides by neighbours but the noise from the, very necessary, air conditioning unit obliterated any potential disturbance.