Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A day trip along the Sea to Sky highway #99 - April 6, 2009

It was a beautiful sunny and warm day here in Vancouver yesterday and still being a little sore from the long bike rideon Sunday I was determined to get out and enjoy the weather. I decided to check out both the views and progress on the major upgrade to the Sea to Sky Highway - Highway 99 which leads north to Whistler and beyond - my planned turn around point was to be the Tantalus viewpoint north of Squamish. The highway is about 80% complete on its major upgrade - I had hoped to be able to take the new Horseshoe Bay - Eagle Bluffs by-pass which the media reported as been opened but it was closed today for some finishing work. The only main area with heavy construction is in the town of Squamish where they are 4 laning the highway through a vibrant growing town.

The plan was to stop at a number of the sites along the way - I usually do those on the east or north bound route on the way up and on the west or south bound on the way back - much easier than trying to cross the highway. There are many other stops that one came make that I didn't stop at on this trip - Alice Lake Park, Smoke Bluff and Squamish Chiefain to name some.

Here is the story of my trip through Sea to Sky country.

Stop #1 - the new trailhead parking for Deeks Lake and Howe Crest trails:

My first stop turned out to be a pleasant surprise - I had heard that the trailhead for the Deeks Lake and Howe Sound Crest trail has been moved to the Porteau Cove Rd development so I wanting to check that out - well just off the Highway is the new parking area for those who don't want to venture up the rough gravel road to the actual trailhead some 3.7 km from the parking lot. This is one of the views that awaits anyone who stops at this site.

Stop #2 - the Old Britannia Beach Mine Site:

My second stop was in at the old Britiannia Mine site - now a developed tourist attraction the area is also undergoing a major re-birth with a housing development above the original townsite.
I was battling the sun in trying to get a good shot of the old restored mine.

Stop #3 - A short walk to the gorgeous Shannon Falls:

The third stop was at Shannon Falls - a small provincial Park that has this large waterfall as its main attraction - there is also a connector trail to the Squamish Chief from here.

Stop #4 - An off the beaten path stop at Cat Lake Forest Service Site:

My fourth stop was not a regular one on my usual sorties to this area but rather a spur of the moment one - it is a visit to a small forest service campsite at Cat Lake - the turnoff is just past Alice Lake Park and just before the turnoff to Brohm Lake - you follow a narrow and in places rutty gravel road into a base parking area - from there it is a short 2 minute walk down to the Lake - there are some 30+ walk in campsites around the lake - it is ice free and there were only a few patches of snow lingering around.

Years ago this use to be a real rowdy and problem site but since they closed the road and made people walk into the campsites and have an on duty operator in the peak season things are a lot quieter now.

Stop #5 Tantalus Viewpoint

The fifth stop was my turnaround point at the Tantalus viewpoint - here you get an unobstructed view of what many call the Alps of Canada - the Tantalus Range of the Coast Mountains - while close to civilization they are mostly inaccessible due to the Squamish River having to be crossed. Views like this help enforce the thought that this highway drive is one of the most spectacular in the country.

Stop #6 - Brohm Lake Forest Tour:

I am now southbound and make the sixth stop of the day - the Brohm Lake Forest site my next stop. There is a well defined network of both hiking and biking trails here - I have done most of them on previous visits to the area.

Stop #7 - Lunch at Mcdonald's at Walmart in Squamish:

My seventh stop isn't pictured here as it was time for lunch so the McDonalds in the Walmart in Squamish filled that void.

Stop #8 - Garibaldi Viewpoint - Highway:

The next official stop was at the Garibaldi Viewpoint - here you get a great view of the gem of the Diamond Head area of Garibaldi Park - Mt Garibaldi.

The second image is of the Squamish Chief - a major rock climbing area - also trails lead up the backside to the summit of the Chief.

I had hope to make my next stop the Murrin Lake Park - but there was construction going on there and the access into the parking area was restricted so I took a rain check on this one this time.

Stop #9 - Porteau Cove Marine Park:

The last stop on the southbound trip was at Porteau Cove Provincial Marine Park - this is a gem of a Park offering camping right on the shores of Howe Sound - the southerly most fjord in North America - it has a sunken ship offshore and great diving opportunities - the views on this crystal clear day were outstanding - I could have stayed there for many hours just taking in the scenery but I didn't want to have to tackle the rush hour traffic so I started the trek back to Vancouver.

As it was there was some sort of traffic congestion at the highway just as you approach the Horseshoe Bay - Marine Drive exit - not wanting to wait I took the lower or Marine Drive approach to Vancouver and then took Park Drive through Stanley Park and past English Bay which seems to have more people out sunning themselves than on some summer days.


Today I will be taking it easy in preparation for tonights bike ride - it will be nice to be able to ride in just a long sleeve t-shirt and my shorts.


Also will need to start the process of getting the next FOYP work party list of participants going - this next one is a mid-week one and is usually the easiest one to fill as we have many members who are retired and want a mid-week experience.



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