CELEBRATING WHISTLER, BC
By Chris Millikan
Already widely touted as prime snow sports territory and renowned home to 2010's Winter Olympics, Whistler inspires us to investigate warmer weather prospects. And riding on Whistler's Mountaineer, Howe Sound's vistas, mighty Stawamish Chief, spectacular Brandy Wine Falls and heart-stopping Cheakamus Canyon sharpen our appetites for summertime activities.
AN OLYMPIAD OF SUMMER ADVENTURE
Having settled into the Pinnacle Hotel in the heart of town, we stroll to the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center. Within a glassy Longhouse and grassy-domed Istken pit-house, these bands showcase their histories, creative work and dynamic cultures.
Carved canoes, dramatic ceremonial masks and even contemporary fashions integrate aboriginal motifs. Multi-media presentations reveal lifestyles rich in dance, music, sports and traditional crafts. Next time we'll sample the cafe's native-style foods.
Returning to the village we make our way through the pedestrian mall, shrubs, flowers and artwork border tempting alfresco restaurants, boutiques…and shops. Some sell souvenirs, others excursions: hikes, river rafting, zip-lining, rock climbing, kayaking and horseback riding. At a table overlooking the lively square, we map our upcoming explorations on Whistler's intricate trail system, frequently toasting many possibilities with wine…
Next morning, Robbie of Whistler Eco-Tours guides us on a combination pedal-paddle expedition. Mounting bicycles, we meander along a 2-½ kilometer forested trail to shimmering Alta Lake. Exchanging bikes for lifejackets, paddles and a sleek canoe at dockside, we set off into million-dollar views.
As we silently cross the waters, Robbie points out Mt. Rupert, Easy Chair and the Wedge, all magnificently snow-capped. An osprey hovers above her nest atop a nearby snag. Ashore, a Blue Heron spears breakfast; an auburn merganser mama and her fluffy ducklings preen on a cottage dock. Such natural peace is inspiring.
Beaching at Rainbow Park we stretch our legs walking over picturesque Bridge of Sighs crafted from lacquered curly branches, to visit the original log cabins from Whistler's first resort. In their windows, old photos depict newlyweds blissfully experiencing outdoor adventure, just as we are today. Robbie reminds us that steam trains once brought honeymooners here.
Like those early guests, we cross Alta Lake to its northern end, canoe through tall reeds and into the River of Golden Dreams. Yellow pond lilies bloom profusely under sunny skies invoking our own 'golden dreams.' Lofty cedars, firs and hemlocks resemble green sentinels safeguarding the serpentine channel. Portaging around a logjam, the gentle shallows end abruptly and as we merge into the main river, the churning whitewaters force us sideways. Stroking furiously to correct our bearings, we then proceed smoothly between rocky banks topped with orange salmon berry briars, purple fireweed and pink wild roses. Our shuttled bikes stand ready for action at Green Lake, five kilometers later.
We hug this huge lake tinted turquoise with glacier-ground rock flour, skirt a golf course, spin along glacially fed Fitzsimmons Creek and pedal through village suburbs before re-entering another forest trail. Pausing to watch incredible tricks at a skateboard park and bustling terra-formed bike park, we arrive back in town - triumphant explorers.
Swooping up Whistler Mountain on our second morning, we achieve awesome bird's eye views. Immediately below our gondola, legions of cyclists in full body armor jump their way down the lower slopes. Amid this frenetic activity, a brown bear grazes nonchalantly in a lush meadow nearby; pudgy pikas dart among the rocks. Midway, some riders exit gondolas for the world-famous mountain Bike Park or thrill-ride downward on gnarly trails.
The first iconic Olympic Inukshuk rises beyond the sundeck at Roundhouse Lodge, 1850 meters above sea level; village roofs sparkle below. Down a short trail, the Peak Chair carries us to Blackcomb's sky-high summit and another gargantuan, much photographed granite Inukshuk. Staunch mountaineers scale steep basalt faces on distant Black Tusk, while we happily loop up and down alpine meadow trails delighting in sights both small and grand, from tiny pink wildflowers nestled among sun-warmed crevices to lofty snowcapped peaks soaring into crystalline air.
Tramping through dappled woods on our last morning, we find Lost Lake secluded among huge evergreens. Families will soon play along its sandy beach; even swim its warm waters. Returning on a winding trail past upper village resorts, we watch from a covered bridge as a kayaker negotiates mammoth blue and yellow polyhedrons tumbling and bouncing down Fitzsimmons Creek. Inside, hydro-bronc riders buck cascading waters.
Chugging back down the Sea-to-Sky corridor in the Glacier Dome that afternoon, we savor tiny finger sandwiches, blueberry scones and flaky tarts. Over steaming cups of Earl Gray tea we agree that Whistler rocks as a summer playground!
WHEN YOU GO:
PHOTOS by Chris and Rick Millikan:
1 Whistler Village Inukshuk- Whistler Mountain offers awesome views of this all season resort area...
- For complete all season information www.whistler.com
- Train travel from North Vancouver to Alta Lake Station, Whistler www.whistlermountaineer.com
- Stylish boutique hotel in Library Square www.whistlerpinnacle.com
- Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center www.slcc.ca.
- Adventure into the outdoors with Whistler Eco-tours www.whistlerecotours.com
2 Whistler Pedal to Alta Lake- Our ride first follows a woodsy trail to Alta Lake.
3 Whistler Paddle- Across Alta Lake, we enter the River of Golden Dreams.
4 Whistler Green Lake- Our cycling group stops to study Green Lake.
5 Whistler Cyclists- Troops of summer cyclists replace winter's downhill skiers.
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