Thursday, 9 May 2013
STAWAMUS CHIEF: SQUAMISH RISING
Eagles, bears and breathtakingly beautiful scenery await those who travel north of Vancouver, British Columbia to the town of Squamish.
I had the great pleasure of meeting one of those travelers last evening while enjoying a stunning sunset dinner at the Boathouse on Kitsilano Beach -- Barbara Samways, a delightfully interesting woman and wonderful conversationist out exploring the West Coast via tour and rail.
British by descent, Barbara has traveled the world. living in what was once Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and finally settling down in the isolated beauty that is Perth. We talked of the world's great beauties and a shared love of travel with friends and family. Canada is new to her and a geologic playground that I love to call home.
While we lack the turquoise waters and kaleidoscope of colorful fish that warmer waters offer, I wax poetic about our deep blue Pacific, mountain peaks, rich geologic and interesting early history -- all of the things that captivate me and I hope she'll enjoy. I'm looking forward to meeting up with her after her three-week sojourn to hear what sights from our young country delighted her, viewed from a fresh set of eyes.
Situated at the head of Howe Sound and surrounded by mountains, Squamish is cradled in natural beauty as only a West Coast community can be. Growing in fame as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, visitors will discover the abundance of attractions, activities and opportunities to explore in this wilderness community.
Before Europeans came to the Squamish Valley, the area was inhabited by the Squohomish tribes. These Indians lived in North Vancouver and came to the Squamish Valley to hunt and fish. The first contact the Indians had with the white man was in 1792, when Captain George Vancouver came to Squamish to trade near the residential area of Brackendale.
During the 1850s gold miners came in search of gold and an easier gold route to the Interior. Settlers began arriving in the area in 1889, with the majority of them being farmers relocating to the Squamish Valley. The first school was built in 1893 and the first hotel opened in 1902, on the old dock in Squamish.
Squamish means Mother of the Wind in Coast Salish, which is testimony to the winds that rise from the north before noon and blow steadily until dusk, making Squamish a top wind surfing destination, and host to the annual PRO-AM sailboard races.
The Stawamus Chief, the second largest freestanding piece of granite in the world, has made Squamish one of the top rock climbing destinations in North America. This magestic peak is said to have been one of the last areas of dry ground during a time of tremendous flooding in the Squamish area.
Many cultures have a flood myth in their oral history and the Coast Salish people of Squamish are no exception. They tell of a time when all the world save the highest peaks were submerged and only one of their nation survived. Warned in a vision, a warrior of the Squamish nation escaped to safety atop Mount Chuckigh (Mount Garibaldi) as the waters rose.
After the flood, a magestic eagle came to him with a gift of salmon to tell him that the world below was again hospitable and ready for his return. He climbed down the mountain and returned to find his village covered by a layer of silt.
All his people had perished, but the gods gave him another gift, a second survivor of the flood, a beautiful woman who became his wife. For their gift of generosity they had shown, the couple took the eagle as their chief totem and have honored it through generations of Coast Salish people.