We started the day like many others this summer: me (with coffee in hand, and in mouth/stomach/veins) discussing with my 7 and 9 year olds what to do. We knew wanted to do something we hadn’t done before, but what? After tossing around a bunch of ideas, and googling a ton of stuff (“hike to lake Vancouver”), we settled on Whyte Lake Park.
A little bit of history here about Whyte Lake Park… there isn’t much. I’ve heard the trail was created in 2010 for the Olympics, but don’t quote me (I don’t even know where that came from). The city of West Vancouver site explains that, “At 124 hectares, Whyte Lake Park is the largest park in West Vancouver. It features trails, a lake, wetlands, creeks and stands of old-growth forest. The park connects Nelson Canyon Park to Cypress Provincial Park, creating a large contiguous area of parkland.” I don’t know about you, but I would have to look-up “contiguous.”
The craziest thing about all the instructions on the internet about how to get there is that there really weren’t any, and if there were, they were vague at best. For example, one set of directions said “somewhere before exit 1 near/Horseshoe Bay…” another set said, “you’ll turn off at exit 4 Drive under the highway and there’s a parking lot somewhere down the road…” It was as if no one wanted us to find this place.
But find it we did and I’ve attached a small picture here to show how tiny the sign is after said “driving under the highway after taking exit for Caufield.” Basically it doesn’t even look like a car can fit there, but when you turn the corner you see a parking lot carved into the side of the highway, separated only by a massive rock face. It can fit about 20 cars. It being a Sunday, we had to wait a bit for a spot — about 10 minutes. When one finally became available, I had to stand in it to fight off other arriving cars.
I have to admit I had high hopes for this hike. Mostly because there’s a lake at the end of it and the pictures I did see online were fabulous. The walk itself is absolutely gorgeous — the trees are massive, the light pours through the branches and it sprinkles all over the ground — it also smells delicious. The babbling river runs beside the pathway pretty much the whole trail, and there are bridges at stairs created anytime the pathway gets even a little bit more than “moderate.”
The trail is pretty new and really well-marked — it’s a steady uphill climb and a few areas have boardwalks to protect the ecosystem. There are also a lot of off-leash dogs that are supposed to be leashed, and it pains me not to point that out to dog owners, but it embarrasses my family.
After hiking for about an hour, we heard voices ahead and saw light streaming through the trees. We knew the lake was ahead and we quickened and our pace.
At first, it was a bit of a disappointment. It looked really marshy. It’s a beautiful space, but it’s smaller than the pictures… as is the dock — The dock itself can probably hold 10 people without sinking. And that includes three dogs, which seem to be there at all times. It made me feel down, and so did my youngest. There was no room for us. Tears followed.
With no place to sit, we totally wrote off the lake and kept walking – trying to find a place to sit and eat the lunch we’d lugged along. The feast was delicious, but after eating, the tears were still flowing.
“I’m so disappointed,” my youngest wailed, “I’m such a small person, and I’ve gone so far with the promise of a lake to swim in.” Oh the agony. He cried for about 10 minutes because life was unfair and there wasn’t ever a reward for working hard. After all, he said, “kids don’t even like hiking!”
I finally decided to venture onto the dock, as people had vacated the bench, and the sun made an appearance from behind the clouds. I looked at my 7 year old, his tears still wet on his cheeks, and I decided that he could take a dip if he still felt like it. It wasn’t a second later he stripped down and put on his swim shorts and was cannon-balling it into the water. My oldest followed him, with more of a tentative jump. They swam to the nearby raft-like log structue, and I watched as it began to drift away.
This is the point where I mention that I don’t actually swim in water when I can’t see the bottom. This is obviously because of the leeches and zombies that inhabit the dark murky depths. Obviously. But as the raft (thought it was a dock) drifted further and further away from the actual dock, my heart skipped a beat. They are good swimmers, but 20 metres is beyond what they can do. I honestly almost shat my pants. So I took them off and traded them for a bikini.
Basically, I huffed it out to the raft to save my children (who were laughing at me), and a dad took pity on me and helped me push the raft back closer to the dock. I think it’s because his own 80+ year old father had made the swim, and wasn’t about to swim back. Let’s just say it was not a bandeau bikini swim. Yeah. Nipplegate.
Since I’ve already written a novel about this day-trip, I will leave you with one little nugget. Kids are hard. They are hard to please, and it’s hard when you let them down. It’s also hard when they grow up and are more capable than you and don’t have the same fears as you. While I am happy with myself for not passing on my lake paranoia, I am scared for what else they have in store. I hadn’t planned on facing a fear that day — but thanks to them, that’s what happened.