What's a better way to spend a weekend than, hiking, waterfalls and 25 degree (celcius) weather? Pretty much nothing if you ask me. Last week I was feeling pretty anxious & cooped up so I made a quick last minute decision to head up to Whistler for the weekend. Having lived in Vancouver now for just shy of 10 months I was a bit disappointed in myself that I had waited this long to go up. That was quickly rectified & I was on a bus headed out of Vancouver first thing Saturday morning. A relatively close (2 hour's on the bus) getaway, Vancouver connects to Whistler along one of the most scenic roadways I've ever seen, the Sea to Sky Highway. I was well equipped with a book for the ride up & thought I could even take a nap an recharge my adventure batteries from the week, but I was happily distracted by the view out the window. Mountain ranges & ocean views are what you'll see the whole way up from Vancouver, passing through the adventure town of Squamish the first Whistler town you'll hit is Creekside, and the final destination being Whistler Village.
Getting off the bus I was greeted by an old co-worker who just so happened to be spending his morning skiing up at Whsitler Blackcomb on one of the last days the hill would be open and from there we made our way out to the hostel, HI-Whistler. This is one of the nicer hostels I've stayed in, located about a 15 minute drive outside of the village it was built and used as part of the athletes accommodation during the 2010 winter Olympics. Purchased after the games & now a budget accommodation, it boasts good sized dorms, bathrooms bigger than the one in my own house and views of the mountains. Not only that there's a park behind the hostel with everything you could need to enjoy a summers day including a volleyball court set-up. We wasted zero time and we were back off in the car to get our adventure on.
Not far from the hostel is 'Function Junction' where there's a small organic grocery store, and the start of a trail I'd been reading up on before heading up on Saturday. As far as I know it's been named the "Train Wreck" Trail & for good reason. Quite some time ago 7 train cars derailed the tracks south of Whistler Village and the train cars have remained in the forest & have been used as art canvas's for some pretty talented graffiti artists. You can park in the lot for the grocery store and head down the marked trail for about 10-15 minutes before you come to two large rocks painted blue. At that point you have the choice to go right or left, the actual trail heads off to the right but we took the left entrance to head towards the wreckage. Let me just say that this is an "explore at your own risk" trail. I had read about it on a few different trail websites, and each of them briefly state that because you are crossing CN property train tracks should you get caught there is a good chance you will be fined for doing so. With that in mind, it is frowned up to visit this site but we found more than a dozen others out on this trail that afternoon and left with no fine but some pretty wicked photos.
One of the first things you hear is rushing water when you get away from the highway, and I was more than stoked to find this beauty through a clearing off the trail. There's a steel cable wrapped around a few trees allowing you to climb right down to the waters edge and take in this gorgeous waterfall. A part of Chekamus Lake, the falls flow down into some pretty wicked whitewater and along the rest of the trail. From here we kept going & just as we thought we may not find the wreck, through the trees down from the tracks we spotted them! Most of the cars are grouped together in one part of the woods but if you go up a bit of a hill you'll find two others that are pretty gnarly looking after so many years in the woods, you can see they've been used as homes for the more transient of people and for the more adventurous they've been built into a pretty rad mountain bike trail. Some of the cars even have trails built through them and one even has tracks built on the top as a jump about 10 ft off the ground. All in all well worth the trek out there and some crazy contrast between the wilderness and the modern day transit system. The trail continues on for a ways but the views get more limited and the bike trails more frequent so we decided to head back towards the hostel to change & head up into the village.
I'd seen the village on TV during the Olympics six years ago, and during my guilty pleasure watching Peak Season (anyone else guilty of watching Dre & Amanda duke it out with her tiny dog on her lap) but getting up there I didn't really know what to expect, and in an instant I realized that I could have actually been in Australia. Yep, as per most other ski resort towns Whistler is home to probably the biggest population of Aussies outside of the land down under (don't quote me or anything but that's how it felt walking around the village). We found ourselves a good spot on a patio at Longhorn's and settled in for some food, pints & people watching from the sunny patio. We witnessed some crazy outfits, some even crazier dance moves & a resident employee of the bar who is actually the "longhorn masseuse" yep, that's right. A rough ride down the mountain? A brutal wipe out? Never fear Missy Masseur to the rescue, she'll rock up to your table mid chow session & work out those kinks. Still can't really wrap my head around that, but I guess everyone has their calling. After getting our fill of the people & the food we headed off to explore the village a little more and take in some of the remaining Olympic set up.
We closed out the night talking all things travel with our Aussie dorm mates who were touring through Canada from Ontario all the way to Vancouver via train before heading back to my all time fave spot sin Aussie-Byron Bay!
Day 2 started with nothing but blue skies & some serious adventures to be had. We packed up and got the car moving towards our destination for most of the morning-Chekamus Lake. Driving out from HI-Whistler there is a turn off just over the bridge for the Chekamus Service road, an old logging road and not the smoothest of rides to the trail head/parking lot, it was doable in a reliable VW so there's no need for any 4WD but if you have it then it might go a little quicker. Without fail we made it up to the trail head and began our way out to the lake. The trail itself is fairly casual, no switch backs, and only a few inclines at the very start, most of the trail is leveled out and surrounded by some of the tallest tree's I've ever seen! Keep your eyes peeled for a lot of felled trees that do involve some climbing to get over and continue on but once you reach the lake you won't be disappointed. Maybe it was too early, or maybe everyone had decided to spend their Sunday morning brunching in the village but we basically had the trail to ourselves on the way out, as well as the lake, only coming across a dozen people on the way back to the car. After taking in the sweeping views & the peaceful lake front we made our way back to the car with a few more stops before heading back to Vancouver
Pit stop # 1 after our hike was a waterfall! No hiking necessary as there's a paved walk way out from the parking lot to a viewing platform. Brandywine Falls is between Whistler and Garabaldi Park, with a few trails around the actual falls (and down to a rocky area at it's base) it's a pretty spectacular view from the platform & if you catch it at just the right time you'll find a lovely little rainbow at the bottom too. Pit stop #2 was outside of Whistler and in Squamish, basically on the side of the road. As you're pulling off into the parking area for Shannon Falls Provincial park if you look high enough up you can see the mouth of the falls. And again like Brandywine it is a huge park area where people were having a classic Sunday picnic with their families and tonnes of people we're headed up to the two viewing platforms for the falls. The first one has you at the base of the falls and along a stream and all you can hear is the roar of the water pouring and. From there with about 5 minutes worth of climbing you're at the second look out a little higher up and close enough to feel the mist on your face. Of all the waterfalls I've seen on my travels throughout the years, Shannon Falls is definitely in my top 3!
From Squamish it's a little over an hour and 15 back to the city & the crazy hustle and bustle that is Vancouver. Getting the first feel of summer was something I've been craving since last September when summer seemed to slip away a little too quickly. I can't wait to get out and spend more weekends exploring what BC has on offer and have a few friends visiting over the summer months I 'm stoked to take around to some of these spots & discover some new ones along the way!