Road signs in British Columbia can be puzzling. The indigenous people’s language of western Canada is called Squamish. Many of the sounds in their language have no correlation to any other language. So, different symbols have been adopted to represent the sounds. For example, the ‘7’ in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh is called a glottal stop. I cannot even explain how it sounds, but I do know it is how the Squamish people spell their name.
Knowing the road sign was helpful because we decided to head north for some adventure! Our oldest son, Aaron, is home from the US Naval Academy for four weeks so we wanted to get some family travel in. He has been pining away for real mountains. Since we have been to Whistler, Canada, in the winter, we wanted to see it in the summer too.
British Columbia is a magnificent destination no matter what time of year you go. In the winter when the landscape is covered in a thick white blanket of snow the skiing is world-class. For the non-ski bums there is snowmobiling, snow-shoe hiking, and even horse-back riding. If you prefer to be inside on a cold winter day, then you can stay warm and comfortable in front of a roaring fire in the lodge with a good book.
During the summer, the snow melts away revealing lush deep green forests flanking wild rivers that cascade over tall precipices as awe inspiring waterfalls. The lofty snow-capped peaks make striking silhouettes against blue skies. Everywhere you look there are spectacular vistas. The hiking is absolutely amazing this time of year. That is what we came for.
My wife made reservations at the Mountain Retreat Hotel in Squamish. Squamish lies at the head of the Howe Sound along Canadian highway 99. After Squamish, the highway heads up and inland into the Garibaldi wilderness. A sign on the way into Squamish proudly reads “Outdoor Recreation Capitol of Canada.” It is correct!
The first day, we were anxious to go exploring so we dropped our gear off at the hotel and headed for food and fun. After a nice meal we went to a local park called the Smoke Bluffs. It is a rock climber’s paradise! The natural granite rock formations are neatly cracked and split forming perfect hand and foot holds. Aaron and Elijah upon seeing them instantly became giddy with excitement like young school boys on the world’s largest jungle-gym. Mom and I were a little nervous that they were going to get in over their heads, literally.
The Smoke Bluffs are a great place for novice to advanced climbers. There are numerous well marked routes up the many rock faces, some with pitons already installed for safety. We saw many climbers and climbing instructors scampering up the cliffs. I was in awe of some of these climbers as they braved the dizzying heights. I think you have to be part mountain goat to get up some of the routes. We saw one climber traverse a sheer cliff face like he was Spiderman. Aaron wants to go back and attempt some serious rock climbing. I think he probably will go without us. I have no desire for that level of adrenaline rush.
We all agreed that after the long drive we were ready for an early evening so we could get a good night’s sleep and get up early the next morning for some real adventure. So, we headed for the hotel.
In the next post, I will tell you all about the Sea-to-Sky Gondola and zip-lining across the mountains! Stay tuned!