Saturday, 22 April 2017

GLACIAL FJORD: SEA TO SKY















A short 90-minute drive north of the city of Vancouver, the nation's gateway to the Pacific, is a recreational Shangri-La that attracts four season adventurers from around the globe to ski, board, hike, mountain bike, kayak and climb the local peaks.

It also attracts professional photographers, and weekend warriors, eager to capture the lively footprint of the village or the perfect stillness in nature. This Saturday, it was the destination of one of my new colleagues, Richard, armed with a camera in his pocket to shoot the scenes that took his fancy. A keen thesis editor and some unpredictable rain dampened those plans.

The North Shore mountains, Grouse, Cypress and Seymour, provide easy access for the happy winter adventurer and a beautiful backdrop to the young city of Vancouver -- Canada's third-largest metropolis, year-round.

They also bring us some of the rainiest, snowiest, coldest and windiest climates in Canada. Combined with the westerly winds off of the Pacific, those lovely peaks make for a panoply of weather extremes on any given day.

Certainly, not as cold as in recent past. And not as warm as millions of years ago. Ice cores tell tales of the ebb and flow of temperatures in this part of the world. Rock cores and sedimentary deposits tell other tales.

While the city sits on relatively young sandstone and mudstone, the North Shore Mountains are made of granite that formed deep within the Earth more than 100 million years ago. There are Cretaceous outcrops of sedimentary rock just off Taylor Way at Brother's Creek that reveals familiar fossilized plant material. Species common in the Cretaceous and still extant today.

This treasure trove wilderness playground stretches along the breathtaking Sea-to-Sky Highway affording breathtaking views of the Pacific as it follows the coastline of Howe Sound, a glacially carved fiord which extends from Horseshoe Bay (20 km northwest of Vancouver), past Lions Bay to the hamlet of Squamish.

It is a short jaunt further north that takes you into picturesque Whistler Valley.

Carved from the granitic mountainside high above Howe Sound, this scenic pathway, blasted into the rock of the steep glacial-valley slope, has been a rich recreation corridor and traditional First Nation hunting ground.

The ground you move over has seen oceans rise and fall, glaciers advance and retreat, the arrival of early explorers, the miners of the Gold Rush and now the rush of tourism.