Whistler, BC: Home of the 2010 Olympics

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If the following photos look familiar to you, it might be because Whistler was the home of the 2010 Olympic Games. What you probably don’t know is that it was June when the games were recorded.

Okay, not really, but seriously it could have been. Whistler is gorgeous and full of winter sport, but the temps stay pretty low even in summer.

We were feeling a little wiped out from all the getting around and frigidity of the Victoria Island portion of our journey, so for our first day in Whistler we decided to keep it chill. It was actually a sunny, pleasant day – pushing 60 degrees Farenheit, so we drove a little bit down 99 with the intention of finding something scenic and looking at it.

Scenic is not tough to find in Whistler – around every bend, over every hill there is something to see. The view above is fairly common… snow-capped mountains, evergreens flourishing beside trickling streams, rushing waterfalls. Wildflowers galore. And also bears.

Noted.

Noted.

This sign greeted us as we began the winding ascent to the official home of the winter games, on a quest for waterfall viewing. It was an exceptionally foggy morning (pretty early, as we were still somewhat jet-lagged 3 hours ahead of the rest of the west coast) and we didn’t THINK there were any unpleasant creatures about.

But still.

We locked the car doors and drove past one or two black bears foraging on the side of the road. They may have been intimidating in real life (ie: outside the car), but they appeared to be much more interested in posing for pictures than in taking a bite out of any hapless tourists or misdirected winter Olympics spectators. They were just doing their thing with no apparent concern for the cars driving past.

Normally there is an entry fee for the park, but it just so happened that a private event was going on that day, so the fee was waived. We drove past the ski jump and the official mascot for the 2010 games. We passed the Olympic rings. We kept driving until we found what we were looking for.

Official 2010 ski jump of death

Official 2010 ski jump of death

The official 2010 rings and stone man

The official 2010 rings and stone man

A waterfall!

It was ethereal and mysterious in the lingering fog and rising mist. The sound of rushing water was at once calming and invigorating.

Ethereal beauty and invigorating calm

Ethereal beauty and invigorating calm

There didn’t seem to be much of a road beyond this point, so we drove back up 99 and got lunch (Southside Lodge, excellent diner cuisine slash hostel). Feeling fortified and refreshed in our quest for pretty things, we headed north this time.

It took about 30 miles, but eventually a sign for Nairn Falls caught our eye. Parking was a cinch, and we found several signs that informed us that a quick trek through a mile or so of trail would bring us to the falls.

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The trail was pretty easy walking and we came across several families with young ones as well as older folks along the same path. I love wildflowers and paused to admire some of them as we went by. The idea that something so beautiful would take root and bloom whether any human being would ever be involved or not is one that I find haunting and inspiring.

I could philosophize further, but that’s not really what we’re doing here. I’ll just let you think about the daily miracles that go unseen by human eyes and take away your own deductions from it.

Nairn Falls: the main event. The falls are gorgeous, and now that the fog had cleared we enjoyed sunning ourselves on the wooden deck built across the rocks at the base of the falls.
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More wildflowers grew in the cracks between the rocks, and the foaming water looked frigidly inviting. I couldn’t stop taking pictures and videos, struggling to master a perfect panning shot without the aid of a tripod or steadicam rig. As you can imagine, this was an absorbing endeavor. When I looked up to locate my parents, I found my mom doing the last thing I would have expected.

She was lying down. On the wooden deck. Feet propped on the railing, arms out to the side, eyes closed.

This woman was on vacation.

So I joined her, and in a matter of minutes Dad plopped down next to us. Just three Matzes lying in the sun, enjoying the waterfall mist and the waterfall noise and all the wonderfulness of being in Whistler, British Columbia. Should you visit Nairn Falls, you may very well be tempted to do the same. It was highly gratifying.

As you can imagine, after all this excitement we needed some ice cream.

Prompted by signs for a Pemberton just a bit farther north, we located and drove through the small town featuring a skate park, a library, and a coffee shop. There was ice cream too, so we lounged on the deck furniture and reminisced about our favorite parts of our road trip so far.

It’s been a beautiful, delightful, enjoyable day in Whistler. Let’s do it again tomorrow.

The view from Mount Currie Coffee in Pemberton, BC

The view from Mount Currie Coffee in Pemberton, BC

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Butchart Gardens, then North to Whistler

In which Victoria’s brisk breeze drives us inland to one of the most beautiful gardens in Canada.

British Columbia! Oh, how lovely thou art. From the legendary Butchart Gardens to the ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia, to a quick zip through Vancouver (wow!) and a 90-minute drive up the Sea-to-Sky highway to our destination of Whistler, BC. Goodness, what a treat for the eyes.

We spent the morning enjoying breakfast at the Huntingdon Hotel, a cozy place just spitting distance from the harbor, with lovely views of gardens from the room window and a delightfully sunny breakfast area.

Feeling refreshed and adventurous again, we drove around downtown and West Victoria for a bit, enjoying the offerings of home and business architecture and the local Tim Horton’s (nonexistent in the Washington, DC area). This place is cute. And I mean cute. If it had been about 10 degrees warmer (Fahrenheit, that is) and slightly less windy, a jaunt around the downtown walkway would have been in order.

Instead, we found a haven at Butchart Gardens, a 55-acre outlay of landscaping that is both relaxing and awe-inspiring.

Revel in blooms and tall trees

The gardens were once a limestone quarry, owned by enterprising cement manufacturer Robert Butchart. Once the quarry had fulfilled its usefulness, his wife Jennie came up with the idea to turn it into a humungous garden. It took awhile, but between the time she started (1904) and now, the gardens took over and turned into an awesome display.

We finished up our tour with an overpriced gelato (but really, the ambience is worth it) and set out for another ferry ride. This one was considerably less chilly than before, and we passed a pleasant 90 minutes staring at the horizon.

The GPS got a little confused, sending us on a brief detour through an Indian reservation (I would tell you which one, but I couldn’t hope to reproduce the blend of symbols, and letters, and numbers spelling the name).

Once back on track, we stopped in Vancouver for some groceries. What a cool city! I felt like we were on set for a Doctor Who episode. Between the hazy cloud cover, rolling streets surrounded by tall buildings, and the mountains in the distance, the whole vibe was futuristic. I need to see that again.

Awesome and awful both together

Getting out of the city meant driving on a big scary bridge. The Lions Gate is a suspension bridge that connects Vancouver with the North Shore and all points north (like Whistler). It’s named for the Lions, two mountain peaks looming ahead of us as we drive over the bridge.

I don’t know much else about it except that it is high. Super, crazy high. With lots of water underneath.

And we made it.

Then on to 99: the Sea-to-Sky Highway. What a view!

Drive into the sky

The beautiful route got us through the mountains and into Whistler in about 90 minutes, for an arrival time of about 9:30 pm. The sun was just setting as we dropped our bags and took a look around. The view from our condo window:

It’s like a full-size Christmas Village.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a good week.

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