Last summer, I drafted a ‘bucket list’ of hikes and overnighters I wanted to complete. Hearing of my list, a close colleague, Linda, recommended a little-known area in the Pemberton backcountry called Tenquille Lake. I messaged my friend, Nima, who moved to San Francisco a few years ago. “Any chance you are back in town over the long weekend? Crazy idea…want to go backpacking?”
A resounding yes was all it took from Nima for us to put a plan into action. Brandon and Ashley, two of our closest friends from high school, were also able to join. By the time Saturday morning rolled around, I was giddy with excitement. We met in my parents driveway to load up my dad’s truck with our gear. Boys in the back, girls in the front, I drove us the few hours up to Pemberton. We stopped at the liquor store and gas station before hitting the last leg of our drive.
Or so we thought. We took a wrong turn and ended up driving far into Mt. Currie instead of Pemberton Meadows. Realizing our error, we final got ourselves turned around and onto the right track towards the Hurley FSR.
A large “You Are In Grizzly Bear Country!” sign prompted us to stop for a picture.
Linda had given me detailed instructions on how to navigate Branch 12, which is the last stretch of the road up to the trailhead. “There are 45 water bars,” she had warned, describing the interceptor dykes used on old logging roads to prevent erosion, “So go in at a diagonal, and come back out on the diagonal, never letting both front tires in at the same time”. Despite the high clearance of my dad’s four wheel drive pick-up truck, we hit the first water bar with a thud. I corrected my approach, and slowly, we made our way up the steep, winding road, and each successful bar was met with a “Wow, that was awesome!” or “Good job! You’ve got this!” as my friends cheered me on.
When we at last reached the trailhead, we were greeted by the buzz of mosquitos. We forged on, however, first through a blanket of forest, and then up into alpine meadows.
We had been hiking for just over three hours when I, second in the lead behind Nima, gasped in awe. The pristine Tenquille Lake below, the surrounding mountains cupped it gently. The sight of our destination hurried our pace, and we were out of breath by the time we reached the campers’ hut at the edge of the lake. Just as we were about to begin our trek around the lake to secure our camp site, a group came up from the lakeside. “No way, Tobi?” Brandon said in disbelief as the group walked closer. Of all the places to run into an old friend! It had been seven years since we had all been together.
We pitched our tents, and jumped in the lake to wash off the sweat from the day. The glacial water burned cold, and none of us were in for long. Dinner consisted of hot dogs and undercooked spaghetti made on the pocket camp stove I had packed. As night fell, Tobi’s group joined us, bringing with them a large pot of hot cocoa. We quickly got acquainted with Tobi’s friends, and as we all shared stories and kept warm with sips of spiked hot cocoa, I paused. Surrounded by friends, new and old, I noted to myself how this was one of those serendipitous occasions that one rarely appreciates in the moment, and I was grateful for recognizing in the moment that this would be a trip that I would remember forever.
Although I willed it not to, the night came to a close. In the morning, Nima and I took a walk around the lake, and were invited in for pancakes by Tobi and friends. By the time we finally made it back to our campsite, Brandon and Ashley were up and hungry (we still owe them pancakes!).
We packed up our tents and headed past the hut to say farewell to Tobi before beginning our trek back down to the truck. On our way down, we were surprised by the number of hikers we passed who were making their way up to the lake.
At long last, we reached the truck, navigated the water bars, and were back en route South to Vancouver. We stopped for a bite to eat at Function Junction in Whistler and before we knew it, our trip was over.