Who are we

We are a family of 3 who took a break from our routine. Usually we live in Scotland but February to the end of July 2011 we were on the road in North America for 6 months. We are Mark (also known as Dad), Rachel (also known as Mum... and a whole bunch of other names... my usual at-home blog is here) and little h (10/11 years of age during the trip).

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Beautiful British Columbia – part two (Whistler, bears and h’s first blog words)

On Thursday 16th June we set off for a short trip north from Vancouver to Whistler. Whistler is mainly a skiing resort (and this being June the skiing was pretty much finished) but we went because everyone said it was worth a visit whatever the weather and also because there was a strong chance of seeing bears there. There are black bears all around the Vancouver area (the North Vancouver newspapers are full of ‘there’s a bear in my back yard’ stories) but you don’t often see them just hanging around and we were keen to try and catch sight of them.

So, off we drove following the 1 to join highway 99 (the ‘Sea to Sky Highway’). The 99 takes you past Horseshoe Bay and then along the Squamish river inland and it is, on a sunny day, an absolutely beautiful route (luckily we caught a nice day). There are striking mountain backdrops, pretty places to stop (like Shannon Falls) and great water views. Apparently the road was much upgraded for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and it isn’t too far to Whistler so we got there mid afternoon, checked in and went for a little look around.

Whistler is mainly a very new, purpose-built ski resort with heaps of hotels, restaurants, sportswear shops and so on. It’s all clean and largely staffed by young Australians. With the skiing season over the activities on offer were more along the lines of mountain biking, hiking and general tourism and, with only one day there (and a girl whose least favourite sport is cycling) we took the latter option for the most part. We nosed about, swam in the outdoor pool (view of the mountains – lovely!) and took in the atmosphere.

Then on the morning of Friday 17th June (sadly a somewhat cloudier day) Mark and h went off to enjoy Whistler’s main tourist attraction – the cable cars that take folks up to the top of Whistler Mountain (and past wild bears if they’re lucky). Also, if they’re really keen, they can go over to the nearby peak of Blackcomb Mountain too (on the Peak to Peak section of the ride). As I’d already done one cable car ride back in California (and being up in a metal box hanging from a string is not really my idea of a good time) I let them do this alone and went and got on with something else (the Washington State blog post, I think it was). Here is our youngest team member with her account of the Peak to Peak and what they saw:

So, on Friday 17th June, Dad and I went up Whistler Mountain in a gondola (that’s what they call cable cars here). It was very cold and snowy at the top of the mountain. I spotted a marmot and a chipmunk. We took a quick look around, but we were cold, so we got on a Peak to Peak Gondola to Blackcomb Mountain. We didn’t see much as it was extremely misty, but it was still fun. There were no animal spottings on the first Peak to Peak. At the top of Blackcomb a food place was opening. They were playing music. We couldn’t see it very well because of the mist. We got on a Peak to Peak gondola to take us back to Whistler from Blackcomb. It was very misty, as you can probably tell from the photos. We were starting to worry we wouldn’t see a bear. We didn’t hang around at the top of Whistler for very long. We got on yet another gondola to take us back down. It was less misty this time. We were quite upset at not seeing a bear. When we were near the bottom, I spotted a deer. Just when we were pretty much at the bottom, Dad spotted a mama and baby black bear. There were lots of people cycling around, so they were tough bears, obviously, and not scared by people.

So, success all round and after lunch we set off back down highway 99 to our hosts in North Vancouver – stopping at the various information points on the way, seeing more black bears in a field as we went and then finally calling in for tea and cake in a very British shop in Lions Bay (there are loads of British people all around the area). The photos from our Whistler expedition are here:

Whistler mountain and area

On Saturday 18th June we went to visit one of Vancouver’s major museums – the Museum of Anthropology (out in the University campus on the other side of the city). It’s a beautiful place in an equally beautiful setting and it’s packed full of First Nation totem poles and other wooden pieces (some old, some new). A lot of the collection comes from what was called Queen Charlotte Islands (but is now back to its former name Haida Gwaii) but there are other items from all around the world plus a huge ceramics section as well. We wandered a bit, ate sandwiches outside and then took one of the hour-long free tours (and though it wasn’t aimed at kids at all it kept h’s attention… which shows how well done it was). A lot of the collection was very striking so we (i.e. Mark) took heaps of photos. Here is our Museum of Anthropology day out (plus some Vancouver shots on the way back to base):

Museum of Anthropology and area

We spent the rest of that weekend doing family stuff (well, it was Father’s Day too) and then on Monday 20th June we set off for a few days in Vancouver Island. We took so many photos in V.Island (it was brilliant – we could have stayed for months!) that, although we wanted to add them this time, in fact they will have to have a post all of their own (we could do a post just of whale photos…). So Vancouver Island will be the next post…


The Bug said...

I swear, H is so fetching & then to be that articulate at her age. Sigh. I was probably making grunting noises & thinking in pig latin when I was her age. :)

Love all the photos. I think I would definitely be game for a gondola ride (I think - I'm apparently a lot more squeamish in my old age). But the scenery - even misty scenery - would be worth it to me.

Rachel Fox said...

Oh, she's not perfect... but then I'm sure she'd say the same about us (especially at this stage...).

The gondola thing - I might have done it if I'd not already been on one a couple of weeks earlier. Plus this one was about $50 per adult... and we are spending money madly enough as it is! That's my excuse anyway. Oh and I've got to get back in an aeroplane again at the end of the month. Quite enough sitting around in mid-air for me then...


Titus said...

Wow! That was post of two perfect halves for this house - mountains! snow! ski-ing! mountain bikes! for Craig and the MOA for me. Two very large British Columbian totem poles on loan at the British Museum last time I was there that fascinated me, absolute treat to see so much more now. The bird on the shells with the people sheltering underneath is magnificent - was it wood or stone?

And I am very taken with the marmots, and with the bizarre letter/number combinations of characters to represent what I'm presuming is the First Nation names of things.
Great reportage from h. Tough bears indeed.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, I've never been skiing... my brother went in our house and it never grabbed me as a 'must do'anyway. All that time spent getting dressed up and up the hill... not for me. I just like a good walk.

The bird on shells is "The Raven and the First Men" by Bill Reid (well-known artist in BC - info here - with help from a few others). It is made from laminated yellow cedar apparently. Big too.

Rachel Fox said...

"The Raven..." was made especially for the museum and has a room all to itself.