Being surrounded by nature is one of the greatest gifts in life. Even though I live on the western coast of Canada in Vancouver, a city as green as it could possibly get, it can still feel soul-crushing to be surrounded by concrete day in and day out. The noise, stress, routine, and time it takes to get from point A to point B can suck the life right out of you.
But I know that if I begin to feel like the daily grind has consumed my life, if I start to feel that I’m watching the days go by, I can always count on nature (like an old friend) to pick me back up. I can trust that this big beautiful planet will reinvigorate me with energy and life. There’s a sense of peace and reconnection with oneself in the absolute serenity of nature — though, for me, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find.
Recently, I had the longing to escape the city. I’ve done a lot of hiking in and around Vancouver, but wanted to go somewhere less busy than the popular trails. After researching online and finding some dreamy photos of sparkling blue glacial lakes in a provincial park north of Pemberton, B.C., I was sold on visiting Joffre Lakes.
From Vancouver, Joffre Lakes is about a three-hour, one-way drive along the incredibly scenic Sea to Sky Highway — through Squamish, past Whistler and the little village of Pemberton. After a 4:30am wake up call, copious amounts of coffee, quiet streets and an even quieter highway, steep hills and winding roads, I finally arrived at the gravel parking lot of Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, which was about half full at the time.
Only five minutes from the parking lot is the first of the three glacial lakes, a beautiful body of water but the least impressive of the three. From here, the trail winds through the forest before opening into a gravel field where the path leads up a steady incline that is bound to get even the fittest of hearts pumping.
With each step, I slowly fell into a rhythm. I focused all my attention on the trail: the cool fresh air rushing into my lungs, the incessant sounds of the forest and nearby rushing streams, the occasional noise of woodpeckers hammering tree trunks. My mind was calm, but alert in case of wildlife — especially bears. The higher I climbed, the better the views became. Snow-capped mountains were blanketed in wispy white clouds, which revealed sharp peaks in the distance once the wind pushed them away. In places like these — away from a world of cell service, technology, and manufactured noise — it’s easy to feel intertwined with the environment.
The second lake I approached was stunningly green — a place of pure tranquility. Fallen trees under the surface of the clear water appeared to be lying in peaceful sleep, as if they had been there for centuries. Here, noise was lost and my thoughts floated to a place of pure presence.
By the time I reached the upper lake and its impressive glacier backdrop, my body was invigorated, my mind at ease. While soaking in the view and having a lunch break, I noticed more and more hikers start to arrive at the lake. Families with young children came wandering along the trail, twenty-something outdoor enthusiasts with music blasting from their headphones raced by, couples took selfies together at the water’s edge, and groups of foreign visitors with ill-advised footwear flopped down for a rest on some boulders. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who wanted to get out of the city.
This got me thinking. For those of us living in or around big cities, how much further will we have to travel to truly get away from it all in the future? Urban sprawl shows no signs of slowing down, and with the rise of social media, how long will it take until the places we consider remote today are remote no longer?
The future of our natural environment and its implications on how and where we travel may be uncertain, but one thing is for sure: now is the time to go out into the world and explore.