The Magic Tree of Lost Lake has lost its shine.
Around 90 ornaments hung on the small white pine over the past five years by the public were mysteriously removed on Monday, Nov. 5, and an elderly Whistler couple who have visited the spot for years were shocked to discover it "stripped bare."
Al and Rosemary White have been walking to the spot regularly since a bench was placed there with a dedication to them in 2004. Both bench and tree are located on Tin Pants trail, which winds up to a scenic ridge with views over the resort.
They fell in love with the spot while walking there as 87-year-old Al recovered from several serious operations and have returned time and again. Their 922nd stroll to the bench was on Monday, White said.
"Isn't that a son of a gun? A friend of ours put an ornament on it in 2007 and it grew from then on. We've put a couple of things on ourselves, but people from all over the world have put stuff on it," he said.
"We were quite surprised to see it now. We went up there today and there wasn't a damned thing left on it. I don't know who did it... we went there after lunch today and the tree was denuded."
White explained that the bench contains an inscription of one of Rosemary's favourite sayings, "Live Like It's Heaven on Earth" and is now an orienteering landmark for geocaching competitions, known as the "Heaven on Earth" bench.
"The only rational thing we could think of was that someone like the muni had taken everything off and put it in a big bag in order to put them on again after winter. But it has survived six winters now with the ornaments on. It's on a snowshoe trail in the winter and people drop by," White said.
However, Dave Patterson, manager of parks and Village operations, said that the Resort Municipality of Whistler did not remove the ornaments. Whoever did remains a mystery.
Stephanie Reesor, a friend of the Whites, said the ornaments hung by strangers made the spot special for many and have been a source of wonder and consolation.
"I just call it the Magic Tree. I've heard stories that are mindboggling about what this tree has done for some people. It has made some people feel like there is hope in the world, when they found it," Reesor said.
"I put it up on Facebook, 'who stripped the ornaments from the Magic Tree at Lost Lake,' and there was three comments from upset people in 30 seconds. People know about this tree," Reesor said.
"Al started walking to that bench (after it was dedicated). He could barely walk. Rosemary loved to walk and Al was determined to get better. ... Slowly but surely there were between 60 and 90 ornaments on this tree next to it."
All had stories attached to them, Reesor said. "One woman hung an ornament because her mother had died and it was her favourite Christmas tree ornament and they wanted her to be closer to the mountains," she said. "More and more showed up. It was nuts how many ornaments showed up. It was completely covered.
"It became a legend, this little tiny tree overlooking beautiful Whistler Blackcomb. Such beautiful ornaments: little skis and angels, all different things."
When asked if people should defy what has happened by starting over and adding new ornaments to the tree, White said he wanted them to.
"Sure, we hope people will still put things on it... It belongs to the people who use the trail and a lot of people have been interested in it over the years," he said.