After a very quiet day on Sunday, during which I explored a couple of local bars and did some shopping we began the second week of our holiday from our base at the Mountain Fun RV Park, Brackendale.
Brackendale, a suburb of Squamish but a town in its own mind, is the Bald Eagle Capital of British Columbia, although at this time of year there was only one pair in the area (we did catch a glimpse of them, later in the week). The eagles normally start to arrive just after the height of the salmon run and gorge on the carcasses of dead fish along the Elaho and Squamish Rivers. My daughter lives in Brackendale so it made perfect sense for us to choose this park. Very friendly and helpful staff and a most wonderful setting, towered over by forested mountains with several trails leading off the site. Laura was at work on the Monday which allowed us to borrow my Canadian car (some of you may remember that when Laura returned to Canada after Christmas she wrote her car off) so that we could do a little bit of exploring around the area on our own.
Squamish, almost equidistant between the ski-ing town of Whistler to the north and Vancouver to the south west, on the Sea to Sky Highway, is fast becoming the “go to” town for adventure holidays in BC. It has numerous hiking and mountain biking trails, lots of opportunities for climbers of all abilities, kite surfing, kayaking and is one of the premier white water rafting destinations in Canada. It is also home to a fairly recent “attraction”, the Sea to Sky Gondola, a modern cable car ride that takes you to the summit of Sky Pilot Mountain, about 3,000 feet above the impressive body of water that is Howe Sound. Just to the south of the gondola station is the really impressive Shannon Falls, the third highest waterfall in BC.
We parked at Shannon Falls just before 11 am and took the short walk to where the viewing area is located, this falls runs down the face of a granite escarpment so it hasn’t cut into the rock Its one of the many extremely impressive sights in this part of Canada and is, at over 1,100 feet, the third highest in BC. From the falls there’s an undulating woodland trail to the base gondola station, we didn’t have to wait long before we were in our “car” and taking the 10 minute trip to the summit of the mountain. The top of the mountain is almost a day trip destination in itself, with several viewing platforms, a decent cafe with bar, a range of walking trails and a suspension bridge that isn’t for the faint of heart. We did one of the shorter trails, taking photo’s as we went, including several of the Staumus Chief, a large granite outcrop which has a very interesting legend attached to it (I’d love to show them all but there isn’t the time or the space. I will probably bring a selection of the better ones to the Bash) had a late lunch and returned down the mountain in time to pick Laura up from work, all get changed and head out to https://gibbonswhistler.com/norman-rudys where we ate excellent burgers, drank some great local beer and cider (A Frame Cream Ale and Lone Tree Apple) and won $50 playing bingo!
We probably drank a little bit more than we should have before Laura dropped us back at the Park for a good sleep before Tuesday’s adventures.
Tuesday dawned and I went for an early stroll around the park before breakfast and Laura picking us up to take us to the start of the Four Lakes trail, just outside Squamish. It’s reasonably easy walking, about 6.5km, taking in Lakes Alice, Edith, Fawn and Stump and affording great views of Mount Garibaldi. BC is set up for tourism but not in a “Blackpool” sort of way, if you know what I mean. Places are well signed and all the trails are well defined. It’s always best to stick to the trails and making sure that the wildlife knows you are there is no bad thing.
Back to the RV for a sandwich and a cuppa before setting off on my very own daughter chauffeured Squamish Brewery Tour, although a smallish town Squamish has three craft breweries, Howe Sound, Back Country Brewing and A Frame. Each one with something to offer. We started at Howe Sound, carried on to Back Country and finished the evening at A Frame, where it was also Trivia night. If I had to rate them it would be A Frame, Howe Sound and then Back Country, out of the 12 beers I tried though only two weren’t really to my taste and several of them (Garibaldi Pale and the Bitter at Howe Sound, Ridgerunner Pilsner at Back Country, Okanagan Lake Cream Ale and Shuswap Lake IPA at 6.5% at A Frame) all deserve special mention. We didn’t do very well in the quiz.
I’d been doing my research and wanted to visit the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, so Wednesday saw us driving to Whistler, via a short hike to Brandywine Falls, where we started our day with a leisurely walk around the town. Whistler has become a high end tourist destination for much of the year but it still has a small town feel, even with all the designer shops jostling for space with the souvenir places. We had intended to take the cable car and walk through the snow walls at the top of the Blackcomb mountain but they were closed for construction work. Instead we had a look around the quaint but very interesting Whistler museum where we learned about a fascinating female pioneer called Myrtle Phillips, who had trekked to what was to become Whistler from Howe Sound in 1914 where, with her husband, she built a lodge on Alta Lake. We lunched at the EL Furniture Warehouse, a chain where all courses are $5.95! Extremely good value, lots of locals including cops were eating there and it was surprisingly good. I had my first taste of Poutine. Mrs C went to have a wander around the shops, she has little interest in native art. Laura and I visited the Audain and watched a video of Beau Dick (a First Nation chief, native artist and activist) ceremonially “Breaking the Copper” on the steps of the BC Parliament. The ceremony of Breaking the Copper is a stylised ritual which dates back to times of inter tribal conflict. Chiefs would show their wealth and at the same time their disdain for their opponents, by breaking a valuable and prized copper shield with axes and rocks. Beau died in 2017 but he continued to fight for the rights of his native Kwakwaka’wakw people right up to his death.
With little time to spare we set off back to Squamish, via a road which is known to be a haven for wildlife. I saw a Coyote which I was very pleased about but unfortunately no bears. The afternoon saw the three of us taking a light aircraft flight over Howe Sound, this was a joint Fathers Day (for me) birthday (for Mrs C) present from Laura. I’d been in a helicopter before, but never a small four seater plane, exhilarating is the only way to describe it. We flew over Echo Lake, almost impossible to get to from the ground, and out over Howe Sound. That evening we stayed on the park, ate a light meal and had a glass of wine, followed by some quality time playing three handed rummy. Just as it was getting dark Mrs C looked out of the screen door and exclaimed “Oh my god, there’s a bear out there” and there was, a decent sized black bear, no more than 10 feet from our camper van, digging around in our fire pit. I have to admit to panicking just a little and not getting a decent photograph of him, so you’ll have to take my word for it. I do have corroborative witnesses if needed.
I’m going to cheat here a little bit. The highlight of the second week, apart from the time we spent with Laura, was a long weekend holiday within a holiday, driving through central BC to Kelowna on Lake Okanagan, where we stayed for three nights. We did a wine tour, ate some excellent meals and saw some very interesting sights, before returning south along the lake shore to Osoyoos where we visited the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural centre. From there we headed west on route 3 to Coquihalla Canyon and the Othello Tunnels and then back to Squamish.
Coming Soon; Postcard from Kelowna, Osoyoos and Coquihalla Canyon
© Colin Cross 2018