June 17th 2016 – Upper Joffre Lakes 12:32
Weather is overcast and feels like 10 degrees with a light wind off the mountains.
I hiked to the top of a rock moraine for my lunch break today. It’s my first day patrolling in the backcountry this season. I was anxious on my commute up – but now that I am here things feel natural again.
The park is calm and quiet, a couple of campers are resting below or adventuring around the site with cameras and friends.
The park looks different this year. Though it is always changing, I feel a sense of something new in the air. Maybe its the plants pushing through from winter cover or just myself feeling comfortable in my roll now.
The Upper lake looks especially serene today. From where I am sitting, it looks almost like glass – still and translucent.
I haven’t seen any wildlife today (aside from some mooching Whiskey Jack birds). I watched for bear droppings when I was walking along at a lower elevation.
Why is it that food always tastes so much better out here? I’m nodding with approval as I chew my tuna, kale and pickle sandwich. I’m especially excited about the kale because it came from an Indigenous garden at UBC that my brother-in-law helps tend to. Its so flavourful and I feel blessed to have it.
I wish I was staying here tonight. The sun is trying so hard to peak through…
Mt. Slalok is still bearing a lot of snow. It is such a majestic mountain – often mistaken for Joffre peak. I would imagine that this must frustrate the mountain (being confused for someone else) – it is so looming and protective of the land below its strong shoulders. I remember when people would mix my sister and I up as children. I was never bothered with the confusion but appreciated those who could tell us apart and use the correct name.
I cleaned up a few old fire pit remains today. I am incorporating lots of education into my daily routine this season to help people understand the importance of preserving the alpine from things like fire.
Peak camping season is creeping its way into the South Coast…but for now, I will sit here and enjoy the silence because it’s perfect.
Until next time,
June 18th 2016 – Joffre Lakes (trail to 2nd lake) 13:38
Weather is overcast with light, sporadic showers.
Chainsaws: Fast, sharp and fun. Spending the day with my Senior Ranger clearing the trail below second lake. Its nice to get my hands back on a saw after my winter off – it’s always a learning curve. The trees have had their way with the trail, thrashing and throwing themselves around it. Fall and winter storms always seem to transform the park.
Trees are so incredible, complex and important. And in an instance, they can collapse and cause chaos in the forest. Wildlife trees especially – small homes turned upside down with one strong gust of wind or push of snow. I don’t know that we often think about the homes involved – belonging to insects, birds, fungus etc,.
I can hear it now: “tragedy has struck the Carpenter Ant community in the old decaying cedar – millions dead and some missing”. The Ants must find a new home or continue living in the remains strewn across the forest floor.
Ants are extremely cool as well. Here are a few facts I know about them:
- The total weight of all the ants in the world is the same as (or larger) than that of all humans (CRAZY!).
- Ants are one of the strongest creatures (in regards to their size).
- Ants have two stomachs (a second to hold food for others).
- Ants are afraid of other Ants.
- Most Ants can survive 24 hours underwater (so flushing them down the toilet might just be their escape plan!).
It’s time for me to fire up the saw. I will write more tomorrow on the last patrol of my shift.
Ranger Murrell, over and out!
June 19th 2016 – Birkenhead Lake 12:32
Weather is cloudy with the occasional sunny breaks and feels like 15 degrees.
Birkenhead lake is stunning. It is one of my very favourite places to just sit and meditate on life. The water is quiet today – I can only see one solo paddle boarder drifting out into the distance. I love it here.
I did a loop of the campground to see how things looked this morning. The kids riding around on their bikes always makes me smile. It reminds me of when I was young camping with my family. We were always the rowdy bunch – six kids will do that.
I am sitting on a large rock facing the water. I haven’t passed a soul on the lakeside trail I am making my way along. Sundays are for sleeping maybe.
I like to listen to the birds telling their stories above me. I try to whistle along with them the best I can. It is incredible how calm and peaceful this place is – must be something in the wind, quieting my spirit.
I am going to walk the entire lake trail to do some assessments and check with ongoing projects. Maybe I will stop at the old wilderness campground for a snack.
Anxiety has always been a struggle of mine. It probably stems from some past trauma and hasn’t resolved itself, I’m unsure. All I know is that nature heals. When I am somewhere like this I do not feel lost – even in the darkest corners of the forest, I am found.
Heading out now.
Next shift: June 23rd – 26th…
June 24th, 2016 – Upper Joffre Lakes 13:01
Weather is cloudy with rainy periods and feels like 5 degrees (brr).
Tuna and pickle sandwich again. I really need to work on my lunch game.
It’s freezing today – the rain doesn’t seem to want to hold off while I’m here. The glacier run-off, to my right, is roaring by. It drowns out any sounds coming from the park.
Last year I saw a photo of Matier Glacier (sits above Upper Joffre Lakes) from two decades ago. It’s crazy how much it has receded – It’s also crazy to think about the earth warming while I am sitting here shivering. Brian Menounos, a glacier researcher, said in a CBC News article: “It’s discouraging that much of Western Canada’s 25,000 square kilometres of ice fields won’t last the century.” To think of a world without magnificent glaciers is devastating. Glaciers are important climate indicators and they are also a very significant freshwater resource for Canada.
I know there are many studies happening right now to follow the changes occurring on our little planet. Last year I helped with an impact monitoring survey for a backcountry campground – I am very curious to see the changes happening as more and more people venture out into the mountains.
I met a wide range of people today. Some from the USA, Japan and Germany (to list a few). This is one of the reasons why I love being in this area. I get to have conversations with people about their lives and culture while I’m hiking. If this park could talk, it would have so many stories; having eavesdropped on all the campers chatting under the stars. I can only imagine all the different languages and mannerisms it would learn just by hosting the visitors on its rocky landscape.
The weather is eerie like this. I am going to finish my lunch and head down as I have to stop at another park today. BE RIGHT BACK.
16:15 Nairn Falls Provincial Park
Weather is nicer here. The sun is starting to come out.
I am having a quick snack before heading to the Nairn falls viewpoint to mend a hole in the fence.
I love this area because the river is so vibrant green – ironically named, Green River. Starting at Green Lake in Whistler, it flows down and is a tributary of the Lillooet River. It is moving so incredibly fast and has high levels with the spring runoff.
The trail weaves along the riverbank and is relatively flat. The summer months welcome many visitors to the viewpoint – it’s dramatic and beautiful so makes sense.
This park is home to some pretty spectacular wildlife – in particular the Rubber Boa. They are the smallest of the boa constrictor family and one of the only snake species that can handle living in cold temperatures. I haven’t seen one yet – but I’m hoping to cross paths with one soon.
My legs are starting to feel tired from the day and I’ve got my tools ready now. One last trail before home.
That’s all for now,
June 30th, 2016 – Callaghan Lake Provincial Park 17:30
Weather is sunny with cloudy breaks – feels like 25 degrees. Hmm summers coming!
I’m writing this from inside my truck after my shift. Today was too busy to write in the field.
I spent the day with my Senior Ranger paddling around Callaghan Lake. We patrolled and cleaned up wilderness camping areas across from the drive-in campground.
Callaghan Lake is one of my favourite parks. It’s pristine wilderness is exhilarating – home to grizzly bears and hordes of huckleberries. The area is surrounded by mountains and deep, thick forest brush.
The water was clear and calm, a light wind funnelling in from the mountains. I love canoeing – the process is so relaxing and simple. Listening to the water splash off the blade of the paddle is music to my ears.
The wilderness camping areas were scarce – we found a few remains of illegal fires but nothing we couldn’t cleanup. I wonder how many bears are lurking in the bushes waiting for us to leave…Last time I visited the park I saw 3 black bears playing along the road. I love bears – their curiosity and wayward nature fascinates me.
We found some awesome little pools to cool our feet off in. You never know what you might find in the woods…
I’m headed into the backcountry until Sunday. Expect a full report of my weekend come Monday.
Ranger Murrell, over and out.
July 1st, 2016 – Upper Joffre Lakes 18:30
Weather is cloudy with dark, rainy periods and feels like 2 degrees (Um it’s July right?).
Spending two night up here for the long weekend. Campground is completely full (77 tents). Watched groups of people hike up with Canadian flags or face paint – I almost forgot it was Canada Day.
I can’t write much since it’s going to be a very busy evening – I will try to update tomorrow.
I love sleeping up here. The wind howls and the air smells so fresh (unless of course you have to visit the outhouse…which I try my best to keep from smelling too badly). Noodles and chocolate for dinner. Adult food.
Tomorrow my Senior Ranger and I are hiking out to Birkenhead Lake for the day. We are planning on doing a boat patrol on the water. I always look forward to days like those…
It’s freezing here tonight. Ranger tip: put boiling water in your Nalgene and place at the bottom of your sleeping bag for cold nights. You’ll sleep like a baby.
I love this area because the glacier run off is so very loud as it rushes down into the lake. Creeks babbling about and the wind is filling any silent gaps. With so many campers this evening you would expect to hear lots of chatter – not from where my tent is thanks to nature.
I have to go do campground checks now. Will update soon.
Happy Canada Day,
Ranger Diaries break while I adventure to Nepal with some days off! Stay tuned…
July 28th, 2016 – Middle/Lower Joffre Lakes 13:00
Weather is sunny with light clouds floating by. Feels like 30 degrees – hello summer!
I spent the morning at Nairn Falls doing a project and now I am back at Joffre for the afternoon. I hiked to 2nd lake in 30 minutes – which I’m certain is my best time yet. It’s so incredibly hot out today. I forgot my lunch in the truck but luckily have tons of fruit and a granola bar…
It’s interesting being back to work after my whirlwind trip to Nepal. I’ve been thinking about it constantly and find myself pointing out the differences between here and there in my head as I hike. Below the beautiful green hillsides of Nepal, garbage lines the streets – but here in BC for instance, garbage is hardly seen to that extent (especially in our parks, as its quickly cleaned up to preserve the landscape). On my trip, I saw groups of Nepali people just standing silently and observing the world around them – so calm and at peace. Meanwhile, as I sit watching the visitors, I’m struggling to see the same kind of contentment. Our lives in North America are so busy and at this very moment I can see the product of that with all the people hustling around. Since I got back I’ve been trying to slow down and preserve whats happening around me. I don’t know the next time the wind will feel like this on my face or when the ant beside me will carry that blade of grass again.
The lakes look stunning today – bright and still. The park is flooded with visitors and I passed several hiking groups on the way up. This long weekend I will be spending one night at Nairn Falls and one night here in this park.
It’s cool to have a job that lets me camp and get paid for it – but it can also be very exhausting on busy weekends. Usually, when I get home, all I can do is crash with some T.V (this weeks binge show being: Americas Got Talent). It can be challenging having a physical job because most of my hobbies involve outdoor activity. If I’ve had a demanding day in the backcountry, the great outdoors is the last place I want to be after work. On one hand, it keeps me in shape for the sports I love but on the other, I have to push myself more to get out after a long day. It’s about finding a good balance I guess…I’m still working on that.
I don’t have much time to write today because after I eat I need to hike out! Full report after the long weekend.
July 29th, 2016 – Nairn Falls Provincial Park 20:45
Weather is overcast and feels like 20 degrees.
I just finished a day of patrolling at Joffre Lakes with my Senior Ranger. Currently I am sitting down for dinner in my tent trailer that I have parked in Pemberton. The park (Joffre Lakes) wasn’t as busy today as I expected for the start of the long weekend – but we shall see what Saturday brings!
I love being out here in my trailer for the evening – It saves so much driving back and forth from Squamish to Pemberton. Our trailer is a 1978 Bonair tent trailer – super old school and quirky – It reminds me of home and gives me happy camping thoughts.
I come from a huge family – 2 girls, 4 boys and our lovely parents. Life was busy for most of my childhood, we didn’t travel much but we did have family adventures in our old camper van. We played in small campgrounds beside towns with names that no one knew. We had beautiful adventures building forts and chasing each other through the forest. I wouldn’t change anything about the freedom of my childhood and the lessons that it taught me.
Sitting here now I am reflecting on some of those old memories and smiling. I am exhausted. The day was filled with finishing projects and doing general park maintenance (clearing trail, cleaning the pit toilets, garbage clean-up, permit checks, park education etc,.).
I will check back in tomorrow!
July 31st, 2016 – Upper Joffre Lakes Provincial Park 0600
It’s 6 am. Weather is partly cloudy and cold.
I am wide awake – not sure if it was the cold drop of condensation that landed on my temple or the stream of light coming through my tent fly. BUT – I am up now.
The park is so quiet. I don’t see a single person rising yet…
This is my favourite time of day – I love seeing the sky change and listening to the birds begin their morning songs. I slept in our little one-man work tent last night – it was extremely cozy. Check out the MSR Hubba – if you are looking for a super light, quick set-up tent – this could be the one for you!
Today we are digging a sign post in and repairing a toilet seat before hiking out and heading to the next park! It’s been a busy weekend. We didn’t see as many campers in the backcountry as Canada Day weekend saw – but the day use numbers were sky rocketing.
Here’s a shot from the evening just before I crawled into bed – is there anything more magical than a sunset in the mountains?
August 4th, 2016 – Callaghan Lake Provincial Park
Weather is cloudy with sunny breaks – feels like 14 degrees in the shade.
Today we are doing another lake patrol on Callaghan lake. I have to be honest, this is starting to be some of the best days on the job for me. I love this park,
A lot of the wilderness camping areas are only accessible by boat – hence the constant canoeing. I used to spend a ton of time in canoes in my teenage years. I worked at a Forest Education Centre called Blue Lake (back in the East Kootenays of BC). I remember singing the paddle song with kids and having splash wars or races on the water. I’ve missed this activity in my life. And I can say “if you don’t use it, you lose it” – for all the years I’ve been out of a boat, my navigating and paddling techniques have diminished immensely. Luckily I am getting lots of practice in at Callaghan lake this season.
We have our canoe filled with gear for the day: backpacks (with all the Ranger essentials), small scooper for cleaning up fire pits and some garbage bags.
I was especially excited today because we checked out a new (to me) trail in the park. A short, steep hike brought us to a very spectacular place above the lake.
I love my job – seriously I say it all the time but I mean it. Some days I am exhausted and completely over socialized beyond belief. But other days I spend out here; in the wild, with the wind and echo of running water nearby.
I have seen so many beautiful places in BC during my seasons with Parks and exploring on my off time. However, I am never ceased to be amazed by a new view like this. I feel the happy endorphins rushing through my veins as we approach the highpoint. Its breathtaking.
There is still snow on the ground and the contrast of green and white is making for beautiful photo opportunities.
We had to go down and touch the water to see how cold it was – the colours of the lake are almost rainbow like: from light turqoise to bright green, deep blue to dark purple.
After we did some clean-up of old fire remains, we checked out some of the icebergs floating on the lake. I stuck my hand and GoPro into the water to try and capture some of the icy view. The photo came out pretty alien-like but I love how crystal clear the reflections are:
It’s places like these that keep my spirit adventurous. Always wanting to see a new place and experience that feeling of being on cloud 9 – surrounded by mountains and sky.
Heading home and back into the mountains tomorrow for another boat patrol – this time at Birkenhead Lake. Catch up soon!
Ranger Murrell, signing off.
Due to a busy summer and some side projects happening, I will be doing Ranger Diaries every 2 weeks (2 shift blocks!). Stay tuned!
September 16th, 2016 – Nlhaxten / Cerise Creek Wilderness Conservancy 12:00
Weather was completely socked in and rainy. Felt like 5 degrees.
Today my senior Ranger and I hiked into the conservancy for the annual Kieth’s hut maintenance day. Each year the Flavelle family and friends get together to clean/renovate/organize/chop wood and prepare the hut for winter.
“Keith’s Hut was built in the memory of Keith Flavelle by his friends and family in 1988, after a climbing accident took his life on the East Ridge of Mt Logan. It was established in the tradition of public mountaineering shelters of the Coast Mountains, as an inspiration and focal point for getting out there – skiing and climbing.”
I love coming up for this event to meet some of his family and close friends. It’s so motivating to see such a devoted group of people. Most of them aren’t able to make it up to the hut on a regular basis but still put the time in to make it clean and comfortable for winter visitors.
Upon arrival we were greeted by Kieth’s sister and given some hot tea. We got completely soaked on the way up and that chai hit the spot. People were busy mopping the newly renovated floor, bleaching the walls and scurrying busily around the hut. A fire crackled in the back and I could still faintly smell the fresh wood being split outside. This was my second time hiking in for the cleanup. I was excited to see the family again and connect over the beautiful place they have created to remember their loved one.
Each time I come up I am reminded of my own families tragedy. Of losing one of my brothers. As I look around and watch the family bonding over Kieth’s legacy, I feel a sense of longing for my family and my brother. People pass on and time seems to just fly by. I find myself thinking about Jesse less often. But when I am reminded again the pain almost seems worse – the memories of him are more faint and the thought of his absence being a dream is long forgotten. I know that it’s real now, I don’t question the past. It’s been decades since Kieth passed away – but I know the feeling of loss doesn’t leave it just becomes silent and haunting.
As I scrub the windows I stare off towards Anniversary glacier in the distance. I see the clouds thundering past and the mountains desperately trying to surface. This beautiful place. I continue to drag the squeegee down to pull the cleaner across the large triangle windows. I peer off and imagine the skiers diving down the surrounding slopes, climbers with big grins heading down the trail after a great day in the mountains. I think about the exuberant passion for adventure that people have out here. I think about my time spent in the mountains – the good days and the challenging ones. The days filled with hearty sandwiches, a cold wind nipping my cheeks and a summit view I’ll never forget. I think about the days where the weather rolls in, when the mountains don’t welcome you with open arms. Each trip is a new lesson and a chance to grow as a person.
I stand by the fire to dry my coat before heading down the trail back to the truck. I look around at the happy, warm faces chattering about. I wonder about Kieth. I wonder about how his family and friends lives would have be so much different if he was here. If they never felt that loss. But I blink that thought away. Because what I see before me now is something of it’s own beauty. It’s the definition of family and in the end that’s all that matters.
Officially on layoff for the winter season! Tune in for the 2017 season!