Vancouver looked stunning in the early morning light when I arrived after my overnight flight from Honolulu. I took the SkyTrain to Central station and waited in the sun for my Greyhound bus to Whistler. The time passed quickly, and I was soon heading further north on the two-hour trip. After leaving the city, the route followed the coastline past the snow-covered Tantalus mountains to Squamish where there was a brief stop. After that, mountains abounded. My daughter, Robyn, and her partner, Steve, were waiting to greet me. For the next week we had family time when they weren’t working but otherwise I explored on my own.
Whistler is a well-known ski resort, which in the summer transforms into a mountain biker’s haven. It seems it is also a mecca for young Australians who staff many of the shops and cafes in ‘The Village’!
When I arrived, the ski season was in its last week so I had the opportunity to observe Gaper Day! This is a traditional annual event that takes place on the last day. It requires dressing in a silly costume, ascending the mountain and partying. Revelries later transfer to bars, notably The Longhorn at the base of the gondolas. A good time is had by all! This year, according to hearsay, the police were too vigilant in the days prior and uncovered the hordes of alcohol that had been stashed on the slopes, thus curtailing excessive drinking (at least on the mountain!). I walked past the bar in the early evening and everybody was singing, dancing and enjoying themselves. Meanwhile, the mountain bikers had taken over the chairlifts. There were queues to go up and scores of bikers racing down.
The Valley Trail is an extensive cycle and walkway system in and around town. Judging by the name, the newbie, such as myself, could be confused and believe it is one track. Not so! The series of trails stretch from Function Junction (locally known as ‘Function’) in the south to Emerald in the north and encompasses lakes, roads and forest. I walked for miles during the week, always on the alert for bears. I only saw one though. It was foraging on the golf course and the golfers on the green nonchalantly ignored it. (My daughter saw a bear, she believed to be this one, knocked over by a car a couple of weeks later.)
Lakes are many and Robyn and Steve live near Alta Lake. During the week, I walked right round it. We also hiked to Lost Lake and once I ranged as far as Function, being very mindful of bears on a deserted part of the track through the woods.
Green lake appeals to many. The float plane lands and takes off here and the Nick Nicklaus Golf course has a popular cafe/restaurant overlooking the lake and mountains. I can recommend enjoying a cocktail on the patio!
Robyn and Steve’s landlady, Penny, has three Samoyed dogs, so we occasionally took one of them with us. Three were too many to manage! All the lakes have decks jutting into them where people can sit, sunbathe, read or admire the view. Special dog ramps are attached so that dogs can go into the water easily. Activity in and around the water is plentiful, with the tracks well used by cyclists and walkers.
At the end of my first week, we went to Squamish to meet Steve’s sister and to go for a hike up ‘The Chief’, an enormous granite monolith. I hadn’t been forewarned! After the first flight of steps I wondered if I would make it. The climb was steep (an understatement) the entire way up and the last part required the use of a chain to pull you up the rock face. It is a very popular spot and is swarming with hikers at the weekends. I admired Steve’s sister for tackling it when she had given birth to premature twins only a month before!