A Day Trip … not to Whistler

To jog your memory, we left this day trip narration in yesterday’s post just past Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, driving on the Sea-to-Sky highway in British Columbia, Canada. Our goal was to spend a pleasant afternoon strolling through the village of Whistler, taking in the atmosphere of this fabled, world renown resort and 2010 Olympic venue. ¡Vamos! Let’s continue North.
a4735-falls-whistler-2881To be precise, there’s more than one Whistler. After passing the Whistler RV Park & Campgrounds on the left, you first come across Whistler ‘Creekside’, the original resort. A little further up on Hwy 99, you’ll find Whistler Village, than Upper Village and finally Backcomb, with the base stations for the highest sky & board runs of the resort complex.
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What you don’t find are charm and accessibility. Parking is restricted to outlying lots, the closer in, the higher the fees. Tour buses cruising, huge hotel- and condo-behemoths dominating the view, every square inch designated for maximum profit. We had originally planned to hike to Lost Lake, but the only legal parking spot where they didn’t charge in 30min increments was a full-sun 15-minute trudge along a shoulder-less, busy, golf club access road to reach the trailhead. Another time, maybe! There was no café, no public toilet, no convenience store for water, no fun – it wasn’t even pretty to drive around, so we got the hell out of Whistler and continued on Hwy 99 to Nairn Falls Provincial Park, passing pretty Green Lake on the way.
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The Nairn Falls were created when the strong flowing Green river worked its way through a narrow canyon, before rushing toward its confluence with the Lillooet River in the Pemberton Valley. Aside from geological interest, there is also a lot of history here, both for members of the Lil’wat Nation, who consider the Nairn Falls one of their spiritual sites and in regard to gold rush activities in the larger Lillooet District in the 19th century.

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The approach to Nairn Falls consists in part of the traditional path the Lil’wat people used in the old days. As you walk along this narrow forest trail through towering trees and substantial rocks, covered with brilliantly green mosses, the river flows alongside, yet well below the footpath. It creates an ever-present roar and although the sound of the rushing water varies according to the terrain, it is never completely muffled and increases noticeably as you get closer to the falls.

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And just past this bend in the path, the view widens over a gigantic, layered installation of gigantic chunks of basalt. You scramble up onto the viewing platform, while submerged in the howling crescendo of the rushing water. The Falls are finally before you.
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At least the upper portion of the falls. And not even that is easy to frame, since Nairn Falls consist not of a single, straight waterfall, as one might expect, but a succession of convoluted narrow pathways, bridges and ‘potholes’, allowing the river level to drop by 60m through a twisted canyon.

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Please tilt your head 45º to the left while viewing this picture. Thank you.

When you stand way over in the corner of the viewing platform and tilt your head, you can see most of the upper canyon all at once. But without climbing down to river levels, you really don’t get the full impact. Since my nimble-goat-days are pretty much over, I elected to forgo that adventure in favor of some close-ups and mood shoots of the parts of Nairn Falls I could see without killing myself.

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Listening to this video may give you an impression of the incredible power at work here. 

Turning away from the mesmerizing force of the falls, we get a glimpse of the peaceful mountain scene surrounding the falls, …

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… before we climb down over softly curved rock ledges to a lower platform overlooking the lowest portion of the falls. Halfway down, you can just see the edge of the upper platform between the trees.

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Down here the deafening roar of the river water gushing through a stone arch is even louder than above. A fine mist fills the air and bright sunlight reflects off wet rock surfaces with a blinding glare. Nature is having fun demonstrating her power to us feeble humans!

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This churning, foaming cauldron of river water, my friends, beats any espresso macchiato with foamed milk at a hoity-toity Whistler bistro hands down!

Before returning to Vancouver, we stopped in comfortably small-town Pemberton for a tasty burger.

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The trip home offered many more sights over gorgeous mountain tops, rocky outcroppings and dark forests, as well as beautiful far views along the Squamish river and into Howe Sound. Through the angle of the setting sun, the contours of the landscape became more dramatic and the colors appeared richer than earlier in the day. Despite our Whistler flop, this was a wonderful day trip!

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