Tag Archives: Lost Lake
Summertime in Canada, especially for children, is often portrayed as a series of long, carefree days spent exploring the outdoors, playing in and on the water and spending time with friends and family.
While this is certainly not how the season plays out for everyone, the Matheson children of Vancouver would seem to have close to the quintessential summer vacation from 1927 to 1934.
In 2011, the Whistler Museum received an account of their summers at Alta Lake from Betty Jane Warner, the youngest of the three Matheson children. Every year the Matheson family would spend two months renting one of William “Mac” MacDermott’s three cabins (the same cabins later lived in by Bob and Flo Williamson and the descendants of Grace Woollard).
The final days of June would see Betty Jane, her siblings Jack and Claudia, her mother Violet and, in some years, a maid board the Union Steamship in downtown Vancouver bound, eventually, for Alta Lake. The family did not travel light – they brought a steam trunk and five bags – but unfailingly, Mac would meet them at the PGE station and see them and their luggage across Alta Lake to what Betty Jane called their “summer cottage”.
This cottage consisted of a sleeping porch, a small sitting area, a kitchen complete with wood stove, and two bedrooms. Mac provided use of a shared outhouse and woodpile and each of his three cabins came equipped with its own outhouse.
As Betty Jane recalled, “We loved Alta Lake and looked forward to our happy times each summer – no matter how basic our living conditions were compared to our city living.”
It’s easy to see why they looked forward to summer. The three children took walks around the lake picking ripe blueberries, rowed among the water lilies and dragonflies, and joined Mac on treks to Lost Lake and Green Lake where “there were always rotting old logs to climb over and the threat of lots of bees!”
Over the years they got to know their summer neighbours and packed picnics for train excursions with permanent Alta Lake residents. With the nearest store at Rainbow Lodge, even going out to get groceries could be an adventure.
Baths in the copper tub were reserved for Saturday nights and few days required dressing up. Once every summer Betty Jane and Claudia rowed up the lake for tea at Mrs. Harrop’s tearoom, requiring them to “shed our blue denim coveralls for something a little more dressy to wear for the occasion.”
The Matheson family chose Alta Lake after their father, Robert, met Mac and the Philips while staying at Rainbow Lodge with Violet and became “enchanted with the area.”
He was unable to join his family in the summers and remained in Vancouver where he worked as an architect. His firm, Townley & Matheson, designed quite a few buildings still standing in Vancouver today, including Vancouver Motors, the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Point Grey Secondary and Vancouver City Hall.
It was after his death in 1935 that the Matheson family stopped coming to Alta and, according to Betty Jane, “our happy summers came to an end.”
Whistler Western toad migration is almost done!
If you’ve been up at Lost Lake recently, you may have seen these tiny toads behind the black carriers in the wetlands or crossing the paths around you. You may have even helped us move them off the path (thank you!).
Just in case you didn’t have a chance to see them or to speak with one of the Nature Interpreters at our Discover Nature booth, we’ll be providing answers here to some of the questions people have about the toads and the steps taken to protect them.
Every spring, a female Western toad will lay approximately 12,000 eggs in shallow water. These eggs become tadpoles in just three to 12 days and are ready to leave the water after six to eight weeks. At Lost Lake, this means crossing the beach, the Valley Trail and the road to join the adult Western toads in the forests and grasslands. In nature, less than one per cent of these toads make it to breeding age. It is our responsibility to make sure human activities don’t increase their mortality rate.
To help the toads survive this journey, the RMOW is working towards a more “toad friendly” environment around Lost Lake Park. Barriers and fences have been put in place to direct toads towards the forest and nature interpreters from the Whistler Museum’s Discover Nature program educate passersby about this sensitive and protected species.
At some point, the toads must cross the Valley Trail and Lost Lake Road on their way to the upland forest areas where they will hibernate for the winter. To protect them on their journey, Lost Lake Road is closed and people are asked to please watch their step and walk their bikes.
Although the toads are pretty cute, visitors to Lost Lake are asked not to touch the toads with their bare hands as the toads’ skin is very sensitive to human oils and sunscreen. Picking up the toads or poking them can cause them serious harm or even kill them.
These steps, which may seem inconvenient, are taken not only to protect a sensitive species but also because Whistler is home to many different creatures, including people. All of these creatures deserve to be respected.
If you are interested in the Great Toad Migration and would like to help, come visit the Whistler Museum Nature Interpreters at Lost Lake. We can supply you with gloves and cups and teach you how to handle the toads without harming them.
If you see the toads anywhere other than Lost Lake, we would love to know! To report sightings or if you have any questions, please contact us at DiscoverNature@WhistlerMuseum.org.
Kara is a Nature Interpreter with the Whistler Museum’s Discover Nature Program and a recent graduate of Whistler Secondary. Find her at Lost Lake under the white tent by the concession or on our Nature Walks meeting at the PassivHaus at 11 am Tuesday to Friday until the end of August.
We’ve got quite a few photos for this week – that’s because we happen to have this week represented in almost every year of the Whistler Question Collection!