A weekend in Squamish
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
For years, Squamish was little more than a gas stop on the Sea-to-Sky Corridor for skiers making a beeline for Whistler. Over the last decade, though, the city of 19,000 has gained recognition and acclaim for its own unique attractions that easily satisfy visitors in search of fun and adventure. And, since it’s only a two-hour drive from Bellingham on Highway 99, it makes for an easy weekend away.
Squamish sits in the shadow of the Stawamus Chief, a precipitous granite mountain revered by serious rock climbers the world over. The Chief overlooks the city and Howe Sound, a picturesque fjord that empties into the Strait of Georgia. It’s also on the banks of the Squamish River, and it’s here our weekend began on a clear, wintry November morning.
Snug in waders and waterproof boots, we stepped onto the rocky Squamish riverbed, walked knee-deep into the current and had our first-ever lesson in fly-fishing. Around us the eagles were calling, filling the crisp morning air with their beautiful, distinctive cries. They knew these returning salmon were nearing the end of their lives, and it was easy to tell they were hungry for the rich, pink flesh.
You can’t visit Squamish without admiring the Chief, but we were determined to do more than look at it. The first of the Chief’s three peaks involves hiking to an 1,800-foot elevation, some of it up wooden stairs built into the well-worn trail, and other parts boulder hopping. The route is steep and taxing, but for those with the stamina to complete it, the Chief promises the reward of spellbinding views and brilliantly clear waterfalls that cascade over the rocks. Do this hike, and I can guarantee you’ll sleep well that night.
We stayed up long enough to dine on beer-battered chicken wings and lamb burgers smeared with rich fruit chutney at the Howe Sound Brew Pub, washing them down with a flight of the brewpub’s superb beer. Squamish’s craft tasting trail boasts three breweries and a craft distillery. But the hike had us spent, so we made it to just one before turning in.
The cold was taking its toll on our last day in town, so we headed south down Highway 99 to tour the impressive Britannia Mine Museum. Seventeen percent of the world’s copper was mined here between 1900 and 1970, when the low price of copper forced the mine’s closure. Today it’s a museum where visitors in hard hats ride trains deep into the belly of the mountainside. Inside the mine shafts we learned about the hazardous work conditions endured by miners, whose days were filled with darkness, toxic dust, noise and unfathomably heavy labor.
We headed home on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, a route that constitutes one of the many highlights of a Squamish getaway. The circuitous highway runs between West Vancouver and Whistler, delivering inspirational views of the mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean, dotted with the Gulf Islands, on the other. It’s a quintessential British Columbia experience and the kind of drive that leaves you grateful for the beauty and bounty of the Pacific Northwest—and longing to return.
For more details, go to http://www.exploresquamish.com
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