After our visit to Alaska, I thought British Columbia would seem tame -- but boy, was I ever wrong. The southwestern-most corner of Canada is thick with Native American heritage, deep forests, and some of the most incredible wild animals I've seen anywhere. From the bears we saw at Tweedsmuir Provincial Park to the sea birds off Stanley Park, I learned from our first day in this province to keep my binoculars with me at all times.
Other RV travelers we met in Alaska had told Steve and me about a great B.C. RV park, Whistler RV Park & Campgrounds that's set right outside the ski town of Whistler. I was excited to get there, but I wasn't prepared for the powerful beauty of the Whistler area. Two mountains dominate the skyline, Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain, both of which are famous for their winter skiing and summertime mountain biking and hiking.
Even in November, snow blanketed the mountainsides. In the lower elevations of Whistler Village, fly-fishing streams still flowed freely, but the crisp edge of winter was definitely in the air. We checked into our campsite, got all set up, then headed out to explore Whistler. The village is a charming collection of shops, fine restaurants, and cafes, mostly designed to look like a modern Swiss-Alpine village. They offer special bear-watching hikes and birding tours, but nearly everyone we saw was there to hit the slopes in one fashion or another. We saw kids with snowboards, grown-ups with skis, and plenty of inner tubes and snowshoes.
Whistler RV Park & Campgrounds is also near a place called Squamish that's famous for being the‚ outdoor capital of Canada.' Squamish literally has every outdoor activity you can think of. There's salmon and cutthroat trout fishing on the Mamquam, Cheakamus, Squamish, and Elaho Rivers, rock climbing, horseback riding, and white water kayaking on the Mamquam. The region is large and extends all the way to the coast, including the scuba-diving center of Porteau Cove. Steve and I will definitely be coming back to Squamish and Whistler in the summer. He's dying to try fishing those rivers!
B.C. is just my kind of place. I love this deep-forest terrain, and the evergreens make this an especially fun place to visit at the start of winter. Wherever the snow hasn't reached, it's green as far as the eye can see. Plus, the fishing here can't be beat.
Sally and I took a snowshoeing trek on Whistler Mountain, then spent another day cross-country skiing on the forest trails. Talk about a workout! There's nothing like hiking in snow to get a person warmed up from head to toe. Let me tell you, we earned our hot cocoa those nights. After all our exercise, I was glad to take things a little easier on our day trip to Vancouver.
Vancouver is more than just B.C.'s biggest city. It's also the city that's getting ready to host the winter Olympics in 2010, so there was a hustle and bustle on everywhere we went. Vancouver is bordered by water on three sides, so it has a surprising number of sandy beaches and pretty coastlines. And the fourth side is edged by the Coast Mountain Range, so there's plenty to look at. Sally really wanted to visit Stanley Park, a massive forested park that's full of long winding trails for walks or bike rides. We had a great time tooling around in the park, looking at the graceful trees and admiring the ocean views.
After we left our RV park, we headed even further south to Victoria, a small city on the coast that Sally was really excited to visit. Victoria is known as a little patch of England in Canada, and sure enough, it's full of tea shops and English-style pubs. We tried beef pasties there (I wasn't up for the steak and kidney pie) and wandered through all the shops and stores. Sally even found a kilt made of my grandfather's tartan, but I'm not ready to start wearing kilts either. Because it's November, we decided to put off our trip to Butchart Gardens until next summer, when we plan come back. They say you can take a hydroplane up from Seattle and be in Victoria in a matter of hours, so maybe we'll give that a try.