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Summer in Whistler
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Summer in Whistler
  Whistler Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

People are drawn to an area for one of two reasons: work or pleasure. For Whistler, BC. the little town at the bottom of a ski hill, it's pleasure -- pleasure that once belonged exclusively to ski enthusiasts who worshipped Whistler's wintery season, with its silky slopes and bright skies. But now, through clever development and marketing strategies, such as installing a championship golf course and filling nearby lakes with trout, and advertising river rafting and hiking, the streets of the car-free mall-like village liven on hot summer days as well.

But what if we don't have time to hike or fish or golf or ski? That's Ok. Whistler is still a delightful rest stop or turnaround point after a leisurely drive on the notorious and scenic Squamish Highway -- notorious because of the constant road washouts during spring thaws and heavy rains and scenic because of the impressive Howe Sound and Coastal Glacier Range that keeps us company much of the time.

We found out one recent sunny Saturday that curiosity can be as time consuming as construction delays, but, of course, with much less stress.

The first diversion along the appropriately nicknamed Sea to Sky Highway is the BC Museum of Mining at Britannia Beach. The informative tour begins with a slide show and ends with a guided adventure into the mine itself. ( The mine ceased operations in 1974 ). However, if we wish to remain above ground, as I did, a walk among detailed mining artifacts in the three-story museum aptly reveals what it was like when the huge tiered concentrator building that's attached to the mountainside was in full swing. It's one of the last gravity fed concentrators in North America.

Another delay was at tumbling Shannon Falls. It looked like someone left the tap on, the way the water dropped straight down. Watching the mountaineers conquer a rock face wall was riveting, too. They were out in droves that day with their picks and ropes and heavy boots, climbing Stawamus Chief Mountain, the second largest monolith in the British Commonwealth, beat only by the Rock of Gibraltar.

Then came Squamish, the only town of any significance on route. At this point, we'd only come 35 miles, but with all the poking about we did, exploring every nook and cranny and stopping to take pictures and everything, three hours had gone by.

Squamish was one hundred years old in 1988; however, access to Vancouver by road didn't take place until 1958. In any event, then and now, the self-contained community thrives on logging and mills. Squamish isn't inundated with tourist trivia, but it does have a visitor center and a few gift shops; and it does have a McDonald and a Kentucky Fried Chicken. A mural of the Royal Hudson, the famous steam train belonging to BC. Rail, adorns one of the local walls on the main street of town.

Next to admire was Alice Lake Provincial Park. I must say, it has one of the prettiest natural campsites I've ever seen boats floated peacefully, families picnicked on the shore. Of course, as most appealing government parks, this one was full.

Finally, we arrived at Whistler. We were too late for lunch and too early for dinner so we settled for a bag of peanuts, a drink and a stroll. The atmosphere was pleasant as we meandered about the picturesque brick lined plaza along with other visitors; past sidewalk cafes with happy clientele sipping beer and chatting with friends; past the conference center; past a horse and buggy; past a puppet show; past gift shops, lodges . . . gosh, it was like a friendly giant party with friends and relatives.

Around the village square, brand new condos, resorts and private dwellings blended perfectly into the forested, mountainous landscape. Above and beyond were the hiking trails, the trout filled lakes, the tennis courts and the golf courses. And visible to all, was the real reason for the area's expansion, the increasingly popular Whistler Mountain, its skiers path bare of snow this hot summer day, the lifts empty. But, we did not mind. There was plenty abuzz down below. Actually, we were rather sorry when it came time to go.

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