Back for More Fun and Adventure in the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada
After my last post on this amazing place, I continued traveling around British Columbia in Western Canada for a few more weeks and ran across some incredible places and people I will write about in later posts. What I did do on the way back was revisit Squamish, which I think justifiably bills itself as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. This is a tall order in a vast country chock-a-block full of amazing places for outdoor fun. My last post included more general information and links so this one won’t cover much of that. This one is mostly photos and a few stories and suggestions for places to explore while you’re in the area. These two posts barely even scratch the surface, so I hope you find and share more things from your own journeys here.
First stop was breath-taking Shannon Falls where we dipped our toes in the cool blue green river below and marveled at everything around us. Dropping down from a height of 1,099 feet, this waterfall is the third highest in BC and framed beautifully in its 210 acre namesake provincial park. Then we took a hike up the backside of the Stawamus Chief and paused all over the place for photo opps. If you’ve ever done something like the Grouse Grind in nearby Vancouver and wished for a similar experience without the über crowded ant farm conga-line madness, then this might be the hike for you. We had a great chat with the gals working in the tiny, but interesting little gift shop at the start of the trail where you can get a few souvenir tchotchkes or maybe a cold drink if you’d like one on a hot day.
Although I am primarily a rock climber, this area has something for nearly every outdoor recreational pursuit I can think of. Over the years I have tried most of them here and all are accommodated in world class fashion. This is where I learned to rock climb with friends from high school back in my teenage years. This is where I first tried kite-boarding only a few years ago and where it took me over an hour to stop shivering because it took so long to finally spend more time out of the water on the board than in it learning to fly the big kites. This is not a reflection on the quality of instruction, which was totally excellent. Rather it was the fault of my own shortcomings and an underestimation of how warm I’d be in a dry-suit with only a t-shirt and shorts.
This time we went on a couple of really outstanding day hikes with a group of close friends that I’ve known almost my whole life. You really couldn’t ask for better or more fun and adventurous friends, so the combined scenery and camaraderie made for some of the best days you could imagine. The first one was up to Deek’s Lake and left via a trail-head at Porteau Cove just south of Squamish proper. There and back in more than a morning, but less than a day. We bumped into a couple of people running the full Howe Sound Crest trail from North Vancouver to Porteau which I understand is about 29 kilometers long. Of course that doesn’t begin to describe the elevation gains and losses you’d encounter along the way. That kind of long-distance fitness level blows me away, but not that unusual in a fitness oriented place like Squamish. While that did inspire me to up my game, what really blew my socks off and made me happy right down to my core was seeing my childhood bestie and longtime climbing buddy Kevin back outdoors again. Two years and two reconstructive surgeries after suffering a devastating injury during a climbing accident, he is only recently able to hike again. Super fit mountain goat that he is and fresh from this long period of forced inactivity, Kev literally hiked circles around me both days. This is just the best and I am inspired not only by his courage and positive attitude throughout, but also by the incredible love and support he received at every step of the way from his wife and family.
The second hike was shorter, but steeper and was actually much more scenic all the way up. This one was High Creek Falls and required a 20 something km drive up the Squamish Valley Road to reach the trail-head. Hiking distance is about 6 kilometers each way for a total of 12 and elevation gain is (insert unknown amount here – but maybe 2,000 ft?) … enough for spectacular views of the Tantalus Mountain Range and glaciers across the valley. Did I mention that this hike is a little steeper? I did? Well.. okay then. Actually a fair amount of it requires use of hands and feet. There are ropes and cables sprinkled liberally along the path so you can “Batman” up in style, safety and air-conditioned comfort. Unless your dog or pet badger has opposable thumbs or a spin-prop pet beanie, then this is probably not the trail to bring them on. I don’t know that it is illegal, but they better have Conrad Anker climbing skills unless you want to try hand-over-handing up the faux via ferrata ropes while holding your pooch. It’s doable, but challenging let’s just say.
If you’re not up for the hike, there are also rafting trips leaving from just up the road that I think would be a very fun outing here. One super cool thing about this hike was the addition of some great new local friends to our merry band. This made the outing a lot more fun and informative as the combined locals not only shared all kinds of interesting things along the way, but they’re all powerful hikers, so I had no doubt I’d get a piggy-back ride to the top if my own legs wimped out and went on strike. Kudos and thanks to Richard here for rescuing us from the horrors (kidding) of a full descent back through clever use of his truck and a rather lengthy bike ride down a steep, bumpy forest road.
While seriously scenic, this hike is also a more serious outing in that it would be possible to fall over the edge and plunge far down vertical chasms here and there while trying to get that perfect Instagram selfie snap of the spectacular waterfalls beside the trail. That said, there is absolutely no reason not to go and I think you’d find far fewer people here in general due to its location away from the main town center and proximity to a Starbucks – or any roadside chuckle hut serving premium roast coffee. Pro tip – there is a fabulous and I do mean fabulous little cafe on the way in just north of Brackendale called Fergie’s Cafe. This place is gold and serves wonderful healthy food in a beautiful setting where you can eat outside if the weather is nice. It’ll be on your right as you exit Brackendale heading north up Squamish Valley Road.
Final thought and suggestion here for those people who like trains, and quite frankly who among us doesn’t? Squamish has a super cool train museum well worth an afternoon exploration and it’s easy to find. Admission is around $15 CDN if memory serves. If you’re traveling to or from the Squamish Spit for a round of Kite-Boarding, then it’s right along the way and convenient for a stop and look-see. Enjoy.
There is so much more I could include about this wonderful area, but I think two posts now should be enough to give you a taste and hopefully planning an adventure or three there. My next couple of posts will concentrate on some other areas I visited on this trip both in Canada and the Northwest USA. Stay tuned…