Whistler Days 2&3

WHistlerdays 2&3

Saturday was our second day in Whistler and also our busiest day. We woke up earlier than usual in order to drive out to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. We had run into a couple when we did the Peak 2 Peak Gondola trip that suggested we make the 40 minute drive out to the Joffres Lakes to go hiking. They also suggested that we get to the park before 9am because the small parking lot fills up crazy quickly with hikers and campers.

We got there a little after 9 and found parking easily. Joffre Lakes Provincial Park consists of three lakes: Lower Joffre Lake, Middle Joffre Lake, and Upper Joffre Lake. Each of the lakes are glacier fed and a beautiful turquoise color. The walk from the parking lot to Lower Joffre Lake only took about 5 minutes and was a very easy, mostly downhill, walk. There is a nice viewpoint on Lower Joffre Lake and you can see the lake and mountains in the distance.

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My brother Tyler and I then continued on to make the long, uphill trek, to Middle Joffre Lake. The hike to Middle and Upper Joffre lakes is very difficult but well worth it, as you have a fantastic view of the mountains, icefields, and rushing streams that come from the Matier Glacier. From the parking lot to Middle Joffre Lake, it is a 5km, or 3 mile, rocky, steep route up the mountain. And man, was it a difficult hike. There were more than a few moments when I contemplated turning around and going back down the mountain but I stuck it out (with multiple breaks to catch my breath and drink some water) and made it up to Middle Joffre Lake.

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Despite the difficult hike, I’m very happy that I continued to hike up the mountain because the view of Middle Joffre Lake was spectacular. Because the lake was created by a melting glacier, the lake water is a pristine turquoise color. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Because the water comes directly from a glacier and is up in a mountain you could say that the water is “pretty cold.” That didn’t stop my brother from doing a backflip or two off of a fallen log in the water. He came out of the water shivering but he drew a little crowd that was impressed with his backflip so it was totally worth it.

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We hung out looking at the lake and taking photos for a bit and then decided to make our way down the mountain. It had taken us about an hour and 10 minutes to make it up the mountain, (supposedly it was supposed to take 3-3 and a half hours to make it up to Upper Lake?!) and it only took us about 35 minutes to make it down the mountain. On our way down, we passed hiker after hiker unlike our trip up where we only saw one other group going up the mountain.

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After we got back to Whistler, we were scheduled to go ziplining. Our tour with Ziptrek Eco Tours began at 4:10. We had signed up to do the Eagle Tour, a tour designed for individuals who had previously ziplined (we have ziplined before in both Hawaii and Mexico) so this sounded like the perfect trip for us. The trip consisted of 5 lines, the first being the longest.

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Our two guides were Sarah and Colton. Sarah was only 21 and originally from Australia. She had been in Whistler for about a year and a half working in the resort village. Colton was originally from Ontario. He had been working for Ziptrek for about three months and was planning on staying in Whistler during the winter so that he could try-out for the Paralympic Snowboarding Team. He had lost his leg from under the knee about 3 years ago in an accident. Both of our guides were super energetic and you could easily tell that they loved living in Whistler and working in the village.

I absolutely loved ziplining in Hawaii and Mexico, and therefore it was on my list of must-do’s on our vacation. While I don’t necessarily love heights, I don’t hate them, and I enjoy the rush that you get from ziplining. It is the closest feeling to really flying that I will probably ever get (besides flying in a plane) and it is such a fun experience once you get over the initial step off the platform and into the air. If you ever get the chance to go ziplining, I highly suggest you take it!

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The next morning, we headed out to the train-wreck located in Function Junction. The story has it, that decades ago, a train derailed south of Whistler and seven train cars were left scattered about near the Cheakamus River. A new suspension bridge was recently finished in July to make it easier for tourists to make their way out to the abandoned cars. Previously, hikers had walked along the train tracks to get to the cars and that didn’t make the train drivers too happy so the bridge was put in. Over the years, the train cars have been transformed into works of art as they have been covered in graffiti. They have also been transformed into a bike park as there are wooden ramps built around the cars and on top of them. It’s kind of a crazy site.

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You are able to climb in a few of the abandoned cars as well as climb on top of them. I did both. I was kind of nervous to climb on top of the car, but it was kind of cool to climb up the ladder and walk around on top of the car. Lots of little kids and adults alike had also climbed on top of the cars to explore.

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After exploring the trainwreck, we left Whistler and made the 4 and a half hour car ride south back down to Seattle. We plan on going out to Mount Rainier tomorrow!  

Whistler Day One

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The third city we visited on our trip was Whistler, British Columbia. On Thursday morning, we left Vancouver and took Highway 99, otherwise known as the Sea to Sky Highway all the way to Whistler. Our trip on the highway was filled with fantastic views. Most of our trip was spent along the Strait of Georgia with fantastic ocean views and mountains surrounding it. The highway continues on and leads you up higher into the mountains. It was incredible to see all of the trees that covered the mountains and the snow-capped peaks.

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We made a few stops along the way to Whistler. Our first stop was at Porteau Cove Provincial Park. Porteau Cove has a nice long dock you can walk out on and check out the mountains in the distance. It also has a nice beach area and an area with picnic tables. There were even a few people scuba diving down near the beach area. Porteau Cove is a great place to stop to take in the ocean views before moving on to the mountains.

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Our next stop on our way to Whistler was Shannon Falls. The parking area for Shannon Falls was packed but luckily, we managed to find a spot pretty quickly. It was only about a 5 minute walk to the lowest viewing area for the waterfall. Apart from the viewing area, there were different hiking trails that took you up around the falls, but we just made the quick walk to the viewing area and then got back on the road.

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We arrived in Whistler at about two in the afternoon. Because we could not check into the condo we are staying in until 4pm, we decided to explore the resort town. First, we drove out to Green Lake which is just north of Whistler. It was pretty difficult to find a way down to the water level of Green Lake, but we finally found a small park that had water access. There weren’t any boats out on the lake and it was eerily calm.

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After Green Lake, we drove back into the heart of Whistler to explore Whistler Village. Whistler Village sits at the base of Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. Whistler and Blackcomb mountains make up the largest skiable area in North America, they have more than 8,000 acres between the two mountains. Whistler was a co-host of the 2010 Winter Olympics and part of the village area is made up of the Olympic Village.

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Prior to arriving in Whistler, the number one thing that I wanted to do was go zip lining. There are two main zip lining companies in Whistler, Superfly Ziplines and Ziptrek Ecotours. After looking through the two different companies and the various options they offered, we decided to go with Ziptrek Ecotours. Their booking office is located in Whistler Village, so we went there to book our zip lining trip for Friday. The option we chose also offered a combination of zip lining and the Peak 2 Peak Gondola tickets at a discounted price so we went with that option.

We received our tickets for the Peak 2 Peak Gondola right away, so we went to go use them before the gondolas and chairlifts stopped operating at 5:30pm. (So far on this trip, I’ve noticed that Canada likes to open businesses and restaurants later and close them super early compared to hours in the U.S. It’s kind of odd.) The Peak 2 Peak Gondola trip can begin at either the base of Whistler Mountain or Blackcomb Mountain. We had been told that Blackcomb was usually less busy than Whistler, so we went there to begin our trip up.

The trip up the mountain takes about 28 minutes. Halfway up the mountain, you have to get out and switch chairlifts. I felt like my ears were popping every couple of minutes. There are fantastic views from the chairlift, but if you are afraid of heights I would strongly advise you not to do the Peak 2 Peak Gondola trip. When we arrived at the top of Blackcomb mountain, we quickly hurried to get on the actual gondola. We had started up the mountain at about 4:15, and as the gondola stops at about 5:15, we didn’t have much time to get across to the other mountain, back to Blackcomb, and then down Blackcomb before the lifts stopped operating. Because of this, we weren’t able to explore the different hiking trails at the tops of the mountains, but my brother Tyler did run far enough up a trail to make a snowball and successfully throw and hit me in the head with it.

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On Friday (tomorrow), we plan on heading out to Joffre Lake and do some zip lining later in the afternoon. It should be a pretty exciting day and I can’t wait to go zip lining again!

Vancouver

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We arrived in Vancouver on Monday afternoon. On our way, we crossed the border in Blaine and my brother and I were able to jump out of our car while we waited in line to cross the border. There was a park along the the area where the cars waited to be checked and many people were out walking. There were two pretty flower beds on either side that made up the U.S. and Canadian flags. After snapping a pic in front of the flag we walked back to our car which hadn’t moved far.

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While driving in to the city, I was greeted by a very different city skyline than I am usually used to. Instead of a skyline similar to Chicago or New York, or even that of Seattle, Vancouver looked as if it was taken out of an Asian city skyline and placed in a North American setting. Most buildings looked rounded and stacked on top of each other. They also had windows on almost every floor that opened up and were made mainly of reflective metal. Something about it was just very different. As we drove closer into the city and were at ground level with the buildings they didn’t seem as unusual but from a distance they do.

After checking into our hotel, the Marriott Pinnacle Downtown, we walked across the street to the waterfront. The Olympic Torches that had been built for the 2010 Winter Games were a staple to the area we walked about. From where we were sitting we could also watch the seaplanes taking off and landing. With the mountains in the background it was a very cool setting.

We did not have enough of our day left to go out and drive somewhere, so instead we decided to walk a few blocks to rent bikes and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring nearby Stanley Park by bike. Stanley Park is located just off of the downtown area and is a big change from the sky scrappers found in Vancouver. We biked around the entire island, which is about 9 kilometers or five and a half miles.

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Spokes is where we rented our bikes from and is located right at the entrance to Stanley Park.

While biking around the island, we had great views of the mountains and the Lions Gate Bridge. Along the pathway that surrounds the island, we stopped multiple times to look at the views. At one point we stopped to take pictures of the Lions Gate Bridge and spotted a few sea otters in the ocean not far from where we had stopped. We continued on and found ourselves riding along the sea wall. Farther on, we passed a beach packed full with people.

The next day, we left the hotel early in order to make it out to Lynn Canyon. Vancouver is known to have nice hiking paths as well as suspension bridges. When it comes to suspension bridges, there are two main options, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Lynn Canyon Park. We opted for Lynn Canyon as it is free to both enter and park in the park. By the time we got there, the park was already pretty full but we did manage to wait at the start of the bridge to get a few good pictures on the bridge without big groups of people on it.

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After walking across the bridge, we hiked for a bit until we came to a part of the trail where we could access the river. There were two logs stuck in the middle that my brother Tyler was able to walk across to get to the middle. Hesitantly, I followed and luckily made it across as well. We hopped from rock to rock making our way towards the waterfall in the park. We weren’t able to actually get to the waterfall so we turned back. I attempted to cross the river the same way that I had before, but did not fare as well the second time. I stepped off of the sturdy log and into the water. Luckily only one foot went under but it was freezing for the rest of our hike.

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Lighthouse Park was our next destination. It was another walk out to actually see the lighthouse, but luckily a much shorter one than what we had done in Lynn Canyon. Lighthouse Park has a restricted area around the actual lighthouse so we were not able to see it up close. Instead, they have a lighthouse viewing area if you are willing to climb up a few rocks. We did so, but it was not as exciting as seeing the lighthouse up close would have been.

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Next, we drove down to Granville Island. Granville Island is known for having a large market area as well as lots of little shops. When we arrived, it was filled with families and tour groups. We strolled through the market which was similar to that of Pike Place Market in Seattle but was all inside and much smaller. We were tempted by their fruit tarts, pies, and cookies but continued our walk on.

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Granville Island  was very busy, and instead of eating dinner there, we decided to drive to Gastown in Downtown Vancouver. We had dinner at a nice bar and restaurant on the water and then walked down the street. Along the cobblestone street were many souvenir shops so we stopped in at a few on our way down to see the steam clock. I was not sure why such a big deal was made about this clock, but supposedly it is the last working steam clock left in the world. So I guess that is kind of a big deal. Every 15 minutes it plays a little tune and has steam come out of it.

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On Wednesday, we drove down to Steveston, which is about 30 minutes south of Vancouver, to go whale watching. We went to Steveston Seabreeze Adventures for what we originally thought was a 3-4 hour long whale watching trip. When all 23 passengers boarded the boat though, the captain mentioned how there was a group of orca whales farther down south and if no one had any planes to catch later in the day, we could go all the way down to see them. Our 3-4 hour long trip became a 5 and a half-ish hour long trip. But it was worth it! We went all the way down to the Strait of Georgia, just south of Victoria, and saw a few large groups of orca whales.

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On the boat ride down, we passed many islands and saw a large group of sea lions sunning themselves on a group of rocks. Earlier on our trip, I swear I saw a lone dolphin out in the water as well. Our guide didn’t confirm it, but I swear that’s what I saw. Despite the longer trip, (we almost boated all the way back down to Seattle!!!) it was entirely well worth it. We saw many whales and even saw a few breach, or jump out of the water and into the air. Our guide informed us that it takes a lot of energy and calories for them to do that and that is why it is a rare sight to see.

Steveston also happens to be the town where the ABC show Once Upon a Time is filmed. They were filming near the docks when we were there and we saw a big crowd standing near trying to get a glimpse of the actors. We drove through the main street where “Storybrooke” the town from the show, is set.

We leave for Whistler this morning and even more mountains! My internet has not been the best in Vancouver so I hope to add more photos to this post later or in an additional post later.