The Potters packed a sturdy pair of hiking shoes and a walking pole each and travelled to Canada recently to go walking. John was hoping to see some bears and Lyn was keen to avoid them!
It was midmorning before we headed for Whistler village, about a 7 km drive from Creekside where our apartment was. It was buzzing with holidaymakers.
We took the Whistler Village gondola up to the Roundhouse Lodge and had spectacular views to the mountains beyond and the rocky valley floor far below us.
Taking advantage of the fact that he had a captive audience John chose this time to mention that last week a mountain biker on a local trail had crashed into a black bear. Both took fright and ran off into opposite directions so, fortunately, no harm done to either man or beast.
In front of the Roundhouse Lodge, I posed for a holiday snapshot in front of a gigantic bear carving. Hopefully, that would be as close as I would get to a bear encounter!
From there we hiked the Harmony Loop, an Intermediate Trail which descends through alpine forests and was rockier than I had expected. Holding onto a walking pole made it much easier so I was glad we brought them. It was exhilarating hiking at such an altitude, like walking on the top of the world (though not quite Everest!)
Beside the trail, the mountain flowers which had been in full bloom a few weeks before were now looking scraggly although there were still some patches of purple fireweed. Their season is all too brief.
After our walk, we had lunch out on the Roundhouse Lodge viewing deck. I ordered the ‘light’ lunch which turned out to be an enormous plate full of Farro salad, a sizeable chunk of wild salmon, green salad and bread.
Re-energised after a hearty meal we decided to go for another walk. We took the Peak Express chairlift to the Top of the World summit for a short stroll before catching the chairlift down again for an uphill walk back to the Roundhouse. Enough walking for the day!
Back in Creekside, we stopped off at the supermarket to get some supplies. John, being a pie man, quickly spotted an ‘Aussie’ meat pie. Each winter swarms of young Australians come over to work at Whistler during the ski season and I imagine that these were created to appeal to their taste buds.
For me, it was a spicy vegetable samosa, and along with a packet of stir fry vegetables and an artisan French baguette dinner was quickly sorted.
The following morning we were back at Whistler to ride the Peak to Peak gondola which links Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. It truly is a marvel of engineering with the longest unsupported lift span in the world, an elevation of 436 metres and a length of 4.4 km. Again the mountain views were spectacular.
A young Canadian family was with us in the gondola. They had another bear story to tell. Yesterday one of their kiddies was at a bike camp with thirty other five-year-olds when a large black bear suddenly ambled out of the bushes towards them. The instructor quickly hopped out of her car and tooting loudly drove towards the bear. Fortunately, it ran off.
We all peered down to see if there were any bears hunting for berries far below us on the valley floor, but no such luck.
On Blackcomb Mountain, we headed for the Lakeside Loop, an Intermediate Level hike through the alpine forest.
Our walking sticks again came in useful as the gravelly surface was slippery in parts. There was only one tricky patch where mindful of my hip replacement, I was about to slide down on my bottom but a young guy kindly extended a helping hand. The granite dust soon turned my sturdy black walking shoes a chalky white.
We passed many little Inuksuk, clusters of informal stone sculptures built by hikers. Traditionally an Inukshuk was a marker or cairn built by the Inuit people of Canada’s Arctic. But since being chosen as the logo for the 2010 Olympic Games it has now also become a universal symbol of international hope and friendship. I picked up a rock and placed it carefully on top of one of the sculptures.
Apart from bears there is plenty of other wildlife here in the mountains: eagles, hawks, hares, deer and hoary marmots. It was the hoary marmot I’d have loved to see. It is the largest ground squirrel on earth, so quite unique. They are called after their raucous whistling alarm call and gave Whistler its name.
Hikers quite often see marmots sunning themselves on large rocks or feeding in the alpine meadows in the summertime. But maybe it was just too early in the year as there were none to be seen.
After we’d eaten our sandwiches beside the lake we headed back. By this time we’d hiked for 21/2 hours so we were ready to call it a day. We stopped off at the Mountain Café where we drank cappuccino from man-sized mugs. Then it was back down to Whistler on a chairlift, dangling our feet, and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.
I was keen to visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler’s Upper Village. Here the two First Nations people from this area are bringing their history to life and sharing it with a wider audience.
When we arrived there it was only an hour until closing time. John decided he’d rather have a good look around the excellent gift shop and find a comfortable chair to sit on while I headed upstairs to view the First Nations masks, totem poles, canoes and weaving.
There wasn’t time to view what is reputedly an excellent short movie or take part in the guided tour but I did to listen to a short drumming performance and joined in a short workshop where I learnt how to twist a chord out of cedar wood fibre after it has been soaking in water to make it more pliable.
There was a lot more to see and experience here than I had realised. We should have gone earlier and stayed longer.
Whistler: Last Day
After all the walking we’d done on the previous two days I was under the impression that today was going to be laid back kind of day. Late morning John announced it was time to go for a walk. I was imagining a short leisurely stroll but it turned out to be a 12km long hike around Lake Nita. And once we were on the way there was no turning back!
But it turned out to be an enjoyable walk. The weather was not too hot, there was a pleasant breeze and the path was wide and sealed so the walking was easy. The trail wound through forested areas. We shared it with other walkers as well as many bikers.
We lingered at Lakeside Park where lots of families were enjoying picnics on the grass and sunbathing. Eventually we made it back to Creekside and headed for Dusty’s Bar and Barbecue, one of the original eateries there which has been around for more than 50 years.
Here we drank cider and had a shared plate of tacos, pulled pork and Asian slaw with a sweet and sour sauce and enjoyed the friendly service.
We finished our day with another cultural visit to the Audain Museum which is a superb modern architecturally designed building nestled amongst the trees. It was built by and houses works from the private collection of wealthy benefactor Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa .
I’d been looking forward to viewing their collection of British Columbian paintings especially those by Emily Carr. And these did not disappoint but what made the greatest impression on me was the outstanding collection of Northwest Country masks belonging to many different first Nations people. They evoke such a strong feeling and have a spiritual quality which is hard to put into words. Just beautiful!
By Lyn Potter
Lyn is an Avid Traveller (both local and international), always with a camera at the ready.