Sea to Sky...Oh, My!

Friday, June 03, 2016 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Vancouver, BC
Waking in sync with Eastern time zone internal clock, we were up by 6 a.m. and left the hotel around 7:30, trying to negotiate a difference of opinion between our Garmin GPS and Google Maps.  A bit of traffic slowed our progress as we left the city center, through the fires of Stanley Park, and headed north toward Whistler and the Sea to Sky scenic route, also known as BC-99.

At Horseshoe Bay (pictured above), we stopped to check out the western end of Trans-Canada Highway 1 and found some caffeinated drinks. Near the ferry terminal, we talked to Alison near a small portside park before continuing on our way toward Whistler.
Unlike the disappointing Overseas Highway across the Florida Keys, the Sea to Sky actually delivers on some spectacular views, as it winds along the shore with rocky mountains looming over the landward side of the road.  As we drove along admiring the spectacular vistas, we pondered whether familiarity leads locals to find this scenery mundane after driving the route on a regular basis.
Sea to Sky Highway
We stopped at Shannon Falls Provincial Park, home to the third tallest waterfall in British Columbia at 1,100 feet.   This was a popular spot with a 150-yard uphill climb to a superb viewing point.  For good reason, there were lots of tourists buses when we arrived.  It had the feel of a genuine Pacific Northwest forest with thick moss covering many surfaces.
In search of a bite for lunch, we left BC-99 in Squamish, a popular center for outdoor sports at the north end of Howe Sound and headed to the town center.  Squamish has a pretty little town center with hanging baskets of flower decorating the downtown.  Forestry is the main industry in the area but the town has also become a bedroom community for people who work in Vancouver and balk at the high cost of housing in the city.
Squamish city center
Back on track, we continued north, enjoying the scenery as the road climbed through mixed growth forests and snow-capped mountains appeared ahead.  At Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, we found our first letterbox in British Columbia, completing our goal of finding a box in each of Canada's provinces.  At the park, we lunched on the salads we bought at a grocery store in Squamish before returning to the 99 for the last few miles into Whistler. 
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Brandywine Falls
Situated in the Coast Mountains, Whistler was incorporated as the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 1975.  With a permanent population just below 10,000, Whistler plays host to more than two million visitors annually.  The city is popular with Europeans and Australians as well as North Americans, who come for both winter and summer sports.  Especially popular with skiers, Whistler hosted most of the skiing events when the Olympics came to Vancouver in 2010.
We spent an hour strolling around Whistler's award-winning pedestrian village center.  No wonder it attracts so many visitors.  It has the cozy appealing look and feel of a mountain village you would expect to find exclusively on movie sets, not actually in the real world.  
Porteau Cove
Around 2 p.m. we turned back south on the Sea to Sky Highway, headed back toward Vancouver.  On the way we paused at yet another of the small provincial parks along the highway.  Porteau Cove Provincial Park is located directly on Howe Sound, the southernmost fjord in North America.  Wedged between the sound and Brunswick Mountain, the park features a gently sloped gravel beach, which has an impressive collection of driftwood.  Sitka Spruce and stunted shore pine trees abound.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Our last stop was the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.  Opened in 1889, the original bridge was built of hemp rope with a cedar plank deck.  This was replaced in 1903 with a wire cable structure and again completely rebuilt in 1956. The current bridge is 460 feet long and hangs 230 feet above the Capitano River.  The park is a private facility, charging admission and attracting more than a million visitors annually.

With seven footbridges suspended between old-growth Douglas Firs and connected to the Capilano Suspension bridge, Treetops Adventures was opened in the park in 2004 on the west side of the canyon, forming a walkway up to 98 feet above the forest floor.
Lion's Gate Bridge

Back across Lion's Gate Bridge and through Stanley Park, we returned to the Hampton, arriving a bit after 7 p.m.  Fatigued from a full day, we rode the elevator downstairs to Bogart's, where we enjoyed a delectable meal while plotting our agenda for tomorrow.

FRIDAY, 3 JUNE 2016  

Daily Stats
  • Miles driven:  166
  • Weather:  57° to 76°, overcast, sunny