British Columbia

Downhill in Whistler

A journey to the south-western Canada. Province of British Columbia is considered to be one of the most beautiful places of the globe. Its wild nature, rainforests, mild climate, ocean coastline, plethora of mountain hiking trails and ideal spots for winter sports do the job. A low impact of destructive globalization on defenseless nature adds a bit to exploring enthusiasm. A following couple of few weeks I decide to spend on discovering British Columbia.

We are on the way to Harrison Hot Springs. The natural springs resemble a casual swimming pool with a bit warmer than usual water which allegedly has some medicinal properties. The town of Harrison Hot Springs is situated on the tranquil lake in the shades of mountains. We set off to one of the mountain trails to walk through lush and dense vegetation. Large ferns, tree trunks covered with spongy moss and high humidity smell like a real rainforest.

Brook crossing

Every single part of British Columbia province I visit is with no exception beautiful. Just stop anywhere beside the road and you have another stunning viewpoint. Various terrain forms diverse landscape. Mountains, valleys, passes, rivers and ravines. Green areas and lots of untouched natural environment. The trees bend just above the giant upright fjords. I carefully reach a narrow brink to take a look into a canyon that has been for centuries sculptured by turbulent Fraser River. Suddenly, the rain sets in changing the scenery. Smooth surfaces of granite rocks reflect lights. Particularly the effect is visible on the steep walls going down the fjord. Finally the sun shows through the thin layer of clouds and a beautiful rainbow appears.

Canadian spirit of the Alps

We leave Vancouver and head north. The first stop is on a road near Squamish. After a short walk we reach the Shannon Falls, a 335 meters high waterfall. Despite small amount of water flowing the time it takes to leave the ridge, touch bare rocks in the middle until the clash of water with river surface is impressive.

When I hear a name ‘Whistler’ it automatically brings four associations to my mind: bicycle, snowboard, mountains and snow. In low summer season adrenalin-seeking downhill bikers gather up to cruise down specially prepared routes. There are some more technical trails, a quick section for speed, a part with obstacles, dirt jumps with a gap in the middle, high northshore tracks with swing ending with the steep few-meter high drop onto firm clay. Even a dreary rainy Saturday is not discouraging so at the bottom station there is a descent amount of people waiting in a line for lift.

Whistler has been made to measure as a North American counterpart of an Alpine town. The difference is that the bartender would ask you in English about the drink you want to order. Snowboarders would show up with the first snow. At that time Pisten Bullies would prepare professional snowpark with rails, halfpipe and huge jumps.

Snow and potentially unlimited freeriding on untouched powder surely rank Whistler in the world’s top ten of such places. I recon it pays to look for opportunities to spend the winter at Whistler Blackcomb and for a few months keep on freeriding fresh Canadian powder.

Victoria on Vancouver Island

Parliament of Victoria

There are two easy to confuse names involving Vancouver. Vancouver is British Columbia’s largest city and it lies on the ground. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and it is located on Vancouver Island, close to BC mainland. We plan an extensive loop for today as not to doubletrack during the day. This involves using two different ferry harbors. First we drive south to Tsawwassen Bay. The ferry takes onboard more a hundred cars, however bad luck makes it just the barrier closed in front of us. An extra hour on the rocky shore. Waves gently shatter obsolete piles deep-rooted in the bottom. Out there, nearly on the horizon I spot a couple of peaks covered with the first October snow.

We get off on Vancouver Island and drive towards Victoria, the BC capital. As we pass the low-rise buildings I surprises by no presence of an American let’s build a lot, quickly and for cheap construction idea. The opposite of Las Vegas paper quality real estate. Victoria has solid, complex and diverse architecture, combine it with lots of greenery around and you get a shapely urban area.

The capital’s central point is the bay and the promenade leading along it. Local artists sell handicrafts, most of which are carved Indian totems. In front of me a parliament building emerges with a descent size courtyard and meticulously clipped green lawn. In the absence of politicians working I walk into a building to see the main assembly hall. Having left the building I take a long walk and cruise around narrow, but bustling streets of the capital.

We drive along the coast, occasionally stopping to see yet another panorama with mountains, vast valleys and turbulent rivers. In the end we take a ferry from Nanaimo to Horeshoe Bay. This time we are in the north so we have got to drive south again and here’s the smart way to finish our intended loop.

A few interesting facts:

Steaming clock in Gastown, Vancouver
  • the majority of Canadian immigrants come from Asia
  • 75% of Canadian population live within 150 miles of the border with the U.S.
  • three northern territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) have a total area more than 12 times bigger than Poland. This huge area is a home to as little as a 100 thousand people
  • the shredded BC coastline has a length of over 27 thousand kilometers
  • BC is also a 6000 coastal islands, most uninhabited. A treat for hermit lifestyle freaks
  • the two largest mountains in Whistler serve as much as 3307 hectares of land for snowboarding
  • average annual snowfall in Whistler is more than 10 meters
  • there is no way to get a beer in a convenience store in Canada. All sort of alcohol is available only in Liquor Store and Cold Beer & Wine Store

October 2007