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Parkhurst Ghost Town Snowshoeing in DecemberIf you you don't have a 4x4 and park near the highway turnoff the route is easy to follow.  At the first Sea to Sky Trail sign under the Wedgemount sign, follow the snowy road to the right.  This road runs parallel to the train tracks, Green River and Highway which will be to your right.  After 1 kilometre you will come to the Whistler Paintball parking area, bear right and continue along the snow buried road.  After a couple hundred metres you will see the Sea to Sky Trail branch off of the road to your left past a yellow gate.  This route is fairly difficult and at times hard to follow as the deep snow obscures the trail.  The better, easier and shorter route is to continue straight (don't go left at the Sea to Sky Trail sign and don't cross the yellow gate).  You will now be walking along the wide, snow buried logging road that runs parallel to the Green River and after a few minutes you will cross the Green River and have the train tracks to your right.  This is when the trail finally becomes very scenic as you will be snowshoeing through a huge meadow with some nice views.  Keep walking with the train tracks on your right and in a few minutes the meadow will narrow and keep your eyes out for the "Green Lake Loop/Parkhurst" trail sign.  This trail is very Parkhurst Ghost Town Houseeasy to follow as there are frequent yellow trail ribbons in the trees.  This trail takes you into the deep forest and gently ascends up to Parkhurst.  Once at Parkhurst the yellow ribbons stop and you will run into various ghost town sights spread over about a 4 kilometre square area.

It is possible to connect to the Sea to Sky Trail from Parkhurst and continue snowshoeing to Whistler.  It can be tricky to find however as the summer trails are unmarked and hard to follow when buried in snow.  You can however, quite easily walk in the direction of the Sea to Sky Trail and when you reach the power lines and the clear cut forest underneath, look for the wide path that connects to the Sea to Sky Trail.  The blue dotted trail on the map above is one of many possible unmarked routes in the snow you can take.

The town was once a thriving logging community, but when logging stopped here in the 1950's so did life in the town.  As recently as a decade ago there were several old houses still standing, however, heavy snow and the wet climate have flattened almost all of them now.  Still, it is a wonderful glimpse of the past and remarkably untouched.  More info, maps and directions to Parkhurst Ghost Town click here..

 

Elfin Lake Snowshoeing Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park

A challenging, yet well marked 11k trail leads to a winter paradise

Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park is an absolutely phenomenal, though long, snowshoeing trail that begins at the Diamond Head area in Squamish.  From Whistler Village, the trailhead is just over an hours drive away, located near the south end of the massive Garibaldi Park.  The Elfin Lakes Trail is very well marked and maintained and leads to the wonderful, Elfin Lakes Hut.  This amazing hut sleeps 33 and is solar powered and propane heated.  There is a charge of $15/person to stay the night there which is a small price to pay for the beautiful comfort after the long, 11 kilometre snowshoe hike to get there.  This area is very popular with skiers as well as snowshoers in the winter and deep snow covers the trail usually from November to June.  The trail to

Elfin Lakes starts out ascending through deep forest, reaching the Red Heather Hut after 5k.  This is a small warming hut equipped with a wood stove complete with a stack of wood free to use, though Elfin Lakes Snowshoeingsleeping here is for emergencies only.  The final 6k from this hut to Elfin Lakes takes you along a beautiful ridge with amazing views of snowy mountains all around.  The sheer distance of this snowshoeing trail ranks it as difficult.

Expect to take four hours to reach the Elfin Lakes Hut as you are almost constantly ascending a gradual, though consistently uphill trail.  There are several jaw-dropping views along this final 6k stretch.  This trail is so well marked with orange poles and tree markers that you can reliably find your way after dark or before sunrise with good lights to assist you.  You often see, with some shock, skiers trudging up the trail, not far from the trailhead after the sun has set.  Making their way to the Elfin Lakes Hut in the dead of night seems to be a pastime of quite a few local skiers and boarders.

As this trail is within Garibaldi Park, dogs are not allowed.  This is a courtesy to all the animals that inhabit the park and the potential disturbance that dogs my introduce to their environment.  BC Parks staff can issue fines for dogs in the park.  Though it is rare, it does happen as Elfin Lakes is regularly staffed with rangers and even has a separate ranger station near the Elfin Lakes Hut.  Getting to the trailhead can be problematic during periods of heavy snow.  The gravel road runs deep and high into the mountains to the trailhead parking lot.  You should be prepared with tire chains and may have to walk from the lower parking lot below the main, usually deep with snow trailhead parking lot.

Elfin Lakes Trail Snowshoe Map

 

A Short History of Skookumchuck Hot Springs

A Short History of Skookumchuck Hot Springs

Two hours north of Whistler, this winter oasis is open year-round

As you sit back in one of the several ramshackle tubs that fill from the Skookumchuck Hot Springs, below you a mystifying process takes place. For every kilometre below you, the temperature rises an astonishing 30c. And under you there are a bewildering array of water channels snaking through this massively heated ground. Fissures and cracks in the rock below you. These pockets and channels of water are extremely hot, and if the geological circumstances are just right, as they are at Skookumchuck, they will be forced to the surface to become a surreal, natural phenomenon. A hot spring.


In British Columbia, hot springs appear quite predictably along fissures amongst the mountain ranges. Skookumchuck is of course in one of these fissures. An astonishing one at that. Take a look at a map of BC. The Lillooet River cuts a remarkable swath through BC. It runs from Whistler, north, then east, then south, eventually ending in Vancouver. You could, as many have done, canoe from Whistler to Vancouver. And all the while follow the current. It’s quite incredible.


The Coast Mountain Range, in which engulfs you in Skookumchuck, is of course very geologically active. Geologically recent that is. Some mountains are old, some young. These ones are young. The Pacific Ring of Fire, which runs from New Zealand, through Indonesia, up along Asia through Japan, and across to Alaska, then down the coast of North America, through the notorious California, ending at the southern tip of South America. Where this Pacific Ring of Fire is, frightening geological activity is. And the Coast Mountain Range lies within this. It produces a ring of volcanoes that created, and creates some of BC highest mountains. The Coast Mountain Range is magnificent. And under it all, rumblings continue, both producing these wonderful hot springs and spectacular events such as the Meager Creek slide in 2010, which effectively closed the reigning, premier hot springs title of best hot springs near Whistler, now held by Skookumchuck.

 

In short, if you gouge deep into the Ring of Fire as the Lillooet River does, you create, really facilitate, an artesian to reach the surface. An artesian is simply where pressure far below pushes water up to the surface. Hot water. And this is the wonderful source of Skookumchuck Hot Springs. Really quite incredible. The Pacific Ring of Fire, which recently burst forth near Japan and Christchurch, New Zealand, found a shallow spot, a crack in the earth, in which to push hot water to the surface. More incredible still, this impossibly remote place in Canada was found thousands of years ago, and certainly cherished. Of course it was. Hot water flowing out of the ground. Wow.  The people that likely came across these springs first, are known today as the In-SHUCK-ch people. This is remarkable for several reasons. Let’s trade places for a few minutes. You sink back into this wonderful water of the Skookumchuck Hot Springs, and I’ll tell you a story.

 

These springs were taken into ownership in 1859 by a wealthy businessman from nowhere near here, William E. Stein after he applied for a pre-emption. This is a wonderfully spectacular phenomenon of mankind’s history. He saw it, wanted it, applied, and then owned it, legally. Take a moment to get your head around that. And after you shake your head it confusion, think of what the In-SHUCK-ch people thought of that. Anyone in fact. There was a time in our history where you could look at the ground, say, “ I want that”. Apply for it, and get it. A piece of the world, the ground, the trees, the hot springs. It’s yours. More accurately, William E. Stein’s. He owns the ground? The hot springs. It’s hard to fathom now, but imagine explaining it to an In-SHUCK-ch person back then.

 

This is obviously ridiculous. But common sense has somehow won in the end. Kind of. These hot springs should obviously be owned by no person or people. Of course common sense doesn’t prevail, even in the face of such obvious facts. Certainly this ownership by William E. Stein is ridiculous, but oddly it still holds. In fact it was still “owned” by his heirs, then sold on to other “owners” until 2007 when it was purchased by the Canadian Government. Finally, freed, though at quite an expense, to ownership by no one. But of course that’s not true. The childish, “me first” ownership mentality will eventually win out in the end. The Government of Canada bought Skookumchuck as a “Treaty Related Measure” for the In-SHUCK-ch treaty negotiations.

 

Though it’s true, at least in recorded history that people now known as the In-SHUCK-ch saw it first. It’s also, more so, a fact that the world of the In-SHUCK-ch people that first came across these wonderful hot springs, didn’t have a concept of ownership of the ground. You couldn’t own the ground, a tree, a river, a hot spring, any more than you could own the ocean. The ancestors of these people surely have been plunged into a world of petty land ownership quarrels, and they surely will enter into it with the same pettiness and fundamental absurdity as William E. Stein did. You almost can’t blame them.

 

But for my part, they are beautiful. The hot springs that is, next to the Lillooet River, that no one seems to own. Water bodies have escaped this absurd human creation of drawing lines on a map and claiming ownership. How do they own it? By having enough other people agree that they do. Does someone own Lillooet Lake? Someone must have spotted it first. Why not? Because enough of us agreed that water cannot be owned. We don’t collectively think this through to the ground under us. Not really. We accede to what is established in the past is true. It must be. If someone today said that they own a star that they just “discovered” through a telescope. Despite the ridiculous irrelevance of their statement, we would not even accept a possibility of their claim being true. It’s absurd. “I saw it first, it’s mine.” This ridiculous thinking, though far beneath us, is still with us. Our past, our present. If Bill Gates bought Greenland, as theoretically he may have enough money to do. Wouldn’t I have a say? You wouldn’t? Who did he pay, to “own” it? How did the people that sold it to him own it? What if, like the original In-CHUCK-ch people, we don’t perceive that the world could be “owned” or any part of it. Then how can it be “owned”?

 

It can’t. It simply can’t. Because the world lives in a different set of rules now. An evolution of humanity. A person with 500 billion dollars is just a person to me. They can’t “buy” our world. They can’t “own” a part of it. So on principle, in defense of what is right, Skookumchuck cannot be owned, traded, or used as a bargaining tool to placate the descendants of the ones that saw it first. If Bill Gates wanted to buy Skookumchuck for 500 billion dollars. Some privileged people would take the money. But I would say. Sorry. You can’t buy what can’t be sold. If the original claim to ownership is that someone saw it first and talked about it in legend. Then another person saw it and petitioned to own it, was granted ownership. You will certainly agree from a body that didn’t own it. Then it was passed down the generations, sold and then resold to the Canadian government. The fact that any ownership at all is confidently proclaimed is astonishing. Really astonishing.

 

But there we are.

 

As I lay back in the wonderful, steamy heat of the Skookumchuck Hot Springs. In the midst of the mighty Coast Mountain Range, part of the unfathomable Pacific Ring of Fire. I stop caring. The place is deserted. I sink into the water. I don’t own this little bit of Skookumchuck right now. Whoever thinks they own it. Whoever will ever own it. Fight over the inevitable, inevitability of having to “own” everything. At this moment I’m here. I don’t own it. I don’t want to. I wouldn’t want to. Somehow I can see that owning this is wrong, immoral, pathetic. The Canadian Government got it partly right. They bought it back from ownership. Now it belongs to us all, or more accurately, no one. I just hope that this moment. Right now. Sinking into the Skookumchuck Hot Springs, surging from part of the Ring of Fire far below, can be had again and again. There is something about this place. Something I can own forever. This moment.

A Short History of Skookumchuck Hot Springs

Skookumchuck Hot Springs is one of four accessible hot springs near Whistler, BC. Though it's a bit shabby and institutionalized, it has an unmistakable charm and beauty. It lies within a very beautiful campground, which runs along the crashing Lillooet River deep in the Canadian wilderness, 96.5 kilometres from Whistler Village.

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