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Dentalia Shells
These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.
Illustration by Manami Kimura
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07
Feb
2007
argaiv1050
Wedgemount Lake E-mail
(7 - user rating)
Written by Brian Grover   

Level: Difficult
Distance: 18 km r/t
Time: 8½ h r/t
Elevation Change: 1189 m
Map: Whistler 92J/2
Season: July to Sept
Access: See Getting to Whistler

Get off the bus where a blue BC Parks sign indicates Wedgemount Lake. If the bus driver doesn't know where that is tell him to look for a turnout just 11 km north of Whistler Village. From Highway 99 cross the BC Rail tracks and the Green River before turning left onto the abandoned logging road that will serve as a trail for the first 3 km. After the first two kilometres the trail becomes very steep, an attribute it will retain for the rest of the hike.

Soon after crossing the log bridge over Wedgemount Creek you'll be engulfed by a forest of old-growth conifers marking the boundary of Garibaldi Provincial Park. This is what the surrounding countryside used to look like. The forest gradually begins to thin out as altitude is gained eventually giving way to scrub and talus. This last pitch, known as the "Stairmaster," is the steepest of all but those who persevere will be richly rewarded.

Turquoise Wedgemount Lake lies at the foot of a nest of stupendous glacier-clad peaks. Garibaldi Park's highest, 2686 metre Wedge Mountain, dominates the picture. A single arm of Wedgemount Glacier reaches down to gently touch the lakeshore at its far end. Perched above the near end is the beehive-shaped shelter erected by the B.C. Mountaineering Club. For those willing to grunt up the trail with a full backpack there is also a wilderness campsite. Whether on an overnighter or an extended day trip be sure to leave enough time to explore the glacier close up. Never, of course, cross an icefield without the proper training and equipment. Extra caution should also be taken when making the return descent, especially when laden with gear.

Glacial-fed streams and lakes contain an inordinate amount of clay suspended in the water, hence the lovely bluish-green colour. Look for water trickling down from the melting snow pack for drinking instead. Due to the elevation you should even be able to find patches of the white stuff well into September.

bearpaw

 

Comments 

 
+1 #3 RE: Wedgemount LakePeter M 2014-08-11 21:42
I did this today. The walk from the Whistler bus line 1 is 3km + 1km to the parking lot. The hiking route has been revamped somehow and old sections have been closed. It was a steep hike, but did not require equipment and it wasn't really dangerous either. It took me (a fat old man with fibromyalgia) 3.5 hours to get to the top + 1 hour for the highway section. It was tough, but lovely! I drank water directly from the glacier stream, and in total went through 6 litres during the trip up and down. (I carried 4.5 L up.) As a note, you may want to bring bug repellant as the flies can get annoying.
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0 #2 Guess you didn't read...Brian Grover 2013-07-16 16:38
...the access section, Richard.
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0 #1 RE: Wedgemount LakeRichard 2013-07-16 14:30
Get off the bus... what bus? Greyhound? Can I be sure that they'll be willing to pull over?
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