Animal House II: The Tenquille Invasion

Tenquille Wandering

“Are you guys all from Whistler?”

I asked. He finished chugging another Pilsner and shouted out:

“Yeah buddy, how’d you know?”

I smiled as a reply and kept walking, past the Canadian Tire Queen sized inflatable mattress floating in the lake with somebody passed out on top of it, the shotgun and shells, the brewery worth of beer cans, the frenzied pack of dogs, the bleary eyed girlfriends wearing swimsuits that might have originally fit them some time back around ‘95, the Brahs tomahawking hatchets at the nearest tree trunk as if training for Z-Day, wearing board shorts, 5 dollar shades and baseball caps with comedy sized flat brims (still nonplussed by the sticker)

Yes, yes, we had arrived, along with approximately 60 other people, 3 babies, 10 dogs and 8 mountain bikes at the Tenquille Lake Recreation Site to bask in the glorious death throes of Summer, long may she rest in peace.

Getting here had been no mean feat for our 2WD jalopy. It had developed a mean cough in its muffler somewhere along the 4WD section of the Birkenhead River-Tenquille Creek Branch FSR. As we crawled through the water bars, giving the belly of our steed a good scratch I thought the lady doth protest too much. Eventually though we realized that she was hobbling along slower than we could actually walk this road, so we parked about 3km’s back from the Trailhead. Indeed, we walked at the same speed or faster than other 4WD vehicles on the road, overtaking them at the waterbars. Do yourself a favour, bike the road. Unless your truck is seriously jacked, you will be crawling it. A bike would be faster on the way in, and way faster and more fun on the way out.

We made short order of the trail itself. It looks like somebody is trying to reroute the old trail away from all the muddy sections that have become hilariously braided. This rerouting is creating a bit of chaos as there are now branches off the main trail everywhere. We talked to some guys who had tried to hike in the previous night, took a wrong branch, and ended up back at their trucks via a different trail a few hours later, wherein they decided to camp instead for the night. Another aside, cross to the other side of the lake outflow on the way in for the shorter and easier trail to the cabin.

Over the weekend we summited Tenquille, Finch Ridge, Copper Mound and McLeod. All nice, hands in pockets, rambles in the Class 2 range. Views were pleasant. Some MTB’rs got heli-dropped onto the summit of Mount Barbour, biked down to the Tenquille Lake Hut, one of them pretty much straight lined from the summit of Finch Ridge back to the lake, then they biked out to Pemberton the next day. I’m pretty sure their sweat was Red Bull.

But the mountain rambles were really an aside to the sociological observations to be had at the Cabin. I’m a bit of a closet Anthropology Anorak. I love “bottle” movies that try to create a microcosm of society in a single location, like Hitchcocks seminal “Lifeboat” or “12 Angry Men” or the more recent “The Mist”. This “Cabin in the Woods” would serve up a Jungian Smörgåsbord of inferior functions amongst the various tribes that had gathered here. There was the 20 odd throng of Whistlerites on hiatus until the shralping of the pow could commence again, they set up camp at the only beach near the cabin and built a towering inferno of trees that they had felled during the preceding evening, I imagine as an act of obeisance to the snow gods. One of them told me that all the wasps around this year were actually a sign, a mystical sign, that there would be many pow days this Winter, and thus, the prophecy would be fulfilled.

Another group was the 20 or more hipsters and collegiate friends, likely from Vancouver, here to celebrate somebodies 30th birthday from what I garnered. They lit a pretty big fire away from the cabin, but unlike the other fires that were burning in the woods that night I believe they fueled it with a type of wood that I likely hadn’t heard of before.

There was a handful of serious Mountain Bikers. Nothing much to say about them, what they were doing was badass and they knew it.

Making up the rest was a melange of 20 or more disparate members of a splintered tribe of hikers, backpackers and mountaineers. Some new parents looking to expose their progeny to the wonders of the wild, some experienced hikers showing their “cotton t-shirt” friends an introductory hike into Cabin Life, a large enough group from the BCMC looking to bag some peaks and then myself and Spring, just looking to get away from the heat at sea level and spend a relaxing weekend in the mountains. We met a few other couples like us also.

We’d brought bivy sacks but I decided to sleep in the Cabin for the experience. That night, long after the sun had set, the first few individuals started turning in for the night, myself and Spring being among them. A few people inexplicably came up into the sleeping area of the Cabin and proceeded to talk loudly for a good while. I guess they hoped their chatter would help lull the rest of the cabin to sleep as I can’t imagine any other reason why somebody would do that. Throughout the night the cabin and environs were treated to a cacophony of dogs barking, babies crying, people making their way in to sleep and then out to empty their beer engorged bladders.

I, unfortunately, missed most of this as I had brought industrial grade earplugs and slept like a baby. The next morning, some individuals got up earlier than most of the rest of the cabin. These were the same individuals that had been trying to lull everyone to sleep by talking loudly in the sleeping area the night before. I guess, as they got up, they tried the same approach again to keep everyone asleep by talking loudly once more. I applaud their efforts, but, unfortunately, the talking only served to wake everyone up. It was a valiant effort though. One of them I think was trying to create a background rustling whitenoise to help people to sleep by doing morning calisthenics on top of his sleeping pad. The loud shushing from his neighbors let him know that this was actually more deleterious to the serenity then he must have intended.

The early risers continued talking through breakfast, talking about how loud the babies and dogs were in the night, with people sleeping on the floor around them so, I guess now was when everyone needed to be awake.

We got up and left for our day trip to visit some peaks nearby after a quick breakfast and by the time we returned this communal pastiche had largely disbanded. Everyone was choosing to pack out the vast majority of the garbage that had been hauled in to the Cabin which was a good sign. What was lacking, somewhat, in consideration for those present at the Cabin was made up for with consideration for those who may visit the Cabin in the future.

We had decided to wear our trailrunners to the cabin, knowing the trail in would be mellow, and just carry our boots for our mountain top excursions. For the hike out, with packs liberated from the weight of thousands of calories, we decided to trail run back to our car. We made the 4WD parking lot in about half an hour from the Hut. At the parking lot there was some Whistlerites having a tailgate party. I asked if they had space to give us a lift back to our vehicle and, with a slight amount of hesitation, they agreed.

From there we rattled our way back to paved roads and then drove non-stop until home. Overall it was a good weekend. I didn’t expect to be alone at the Tenquille Lake Hut but I also didn’t expect the magnitude of people that had descended upon it. Apart from a few incongruities in some manners, such as the numbskull who decided to clean his dishes and brush his teeth and spit in the water 10ft upstream from where we were filtering some drinking water, the various different cultures got along fine and everyone was amiable. We were all there for the same reason. To enjoy being out in nature, enjoy the sunshine and make lasting memories in our own ways. It was certainly a different type of trip for us, but no less valuable in many ways. The only thing that could possibly have made it better would have been a Toga party. Toga! Toga! RIP Belushi, RIP.


Author: Leigh McClurg

I grew up in County Dublin, Ireland and moved to British Columbia, Canada with my wife in 2010. I fell in love with being in the Backcountry and Mountains that are all around me here and try to spend all of my free time exploring those wild places. My main goals are to chase happiness, see as much of this planet and its cultures as possible and grow every day through knowledge and experiences.

Share This Post On

1 Comment

  1. Leigh, glad you enjoyed your time at Tenquille. Unfortunately missing in your account was a thank you to the local residents who built the cabin through a huge volunteer effort with donated funds. And if course the Pemberton Wildlife Association who continue to maintain the trails and cabin. And please divert your Toga parties to Cultus Lake

    Post a Reply

Leave a Reply

Do you know someone who would be interested in this?

%d bloggers like this:

Send this to a friend