Long drive north through British Columbia

Thursday, 10 August 2006, Prince Rupert, BC
Arriving from the Sunshine Coast, we immediately began the journey to Prince Rupert. We had made the decision a few days earlier to skip Vancouver, even though the ferry arrives just west of the city. We have come to see that cities are not really truck camper friendly. It is stressful to drive around them and find parks in the vehicle. It is also very difficult to find somewhere suitable to stay overnight, unless we take a motel room. We have also acknowledged that this trip is primarily to see places that are not so easily accessible on shorter holiday trips - we could easily fly into Vancouver from Australia at a later date, stay at a hotel and explore and discover what the city has to offer. So, we haven't skipped a city, which is purported to be one of the world's most beautiful, just because we are in a hurry to get to Alaska!
Highway 99 is the scenic route to take from Horseshoe Bay (the ferry arrival port) up through Whistler and on to highway 97. The more usual and probably much quicker route from Vancouver is highway 1 to highway 97. Along the way we have met a number of Canadians and all have told us to take highway 99 as it is so beautiful. Well we took their advice last Saturday and seemed to come off the ferry and drive straight onto the highway, which is aptly named the Sea to Sky Highway! Within 1 kilometre of its beginning I remarked to Juergen that I could see why it is called the scenic route. Until you reach Squamish you are following the coastline of Howe Sound. The road climbs along the cliff-face affording spectacular views of the inlet and the islands situated in it. Unfortunately there is nowhere to stop to photograph these wonderful scenes, so we have to carry them in our memories and you will have to find them in your imaginations!
Squamish, where we arrived in late afternoon, marks the end of the spectacular views of the Howe Sound, but from there on the road winds its way along the valleys of forested mountains, which continue to be a part of the scenery for the majority of the journey to Prince Rupert. We spent the night at the Cal-Cheak Recreation Area, about 20 km south of Whistler and on the banks of Callaghan Creek. There were no sites left in the campground, but the camp host didn't object to us parking in a large open space and, other than some very noisy fellow campers, we were glad of somewhere to stop.
Whistler is to be the centre-piece of Canada's 2010 Winter Olympics. It is already a well-established winter resort and summer playground, and as such, not really so interesting to us. We were somewhat impressed by the architecture of the ski lodges, which showed more imagination than others we have seen along the way. We stopped long enough to find a wireless hotspot and book our ferry for Saturday, and then drove on. Just north of Whistler is the beautiful Green Lake - and it has the greenest water I have ever seen. From there we followed the Green River, which flows between Green Lake and Lillooet Lake, almost to Pemberton - and, yes, the Green River is also very green!
The girl working at the Pemberton Tourist Information was extremely helpful. We had read of the turquoise-coloured lakes called Joffre Lakes, and she provided us with all the information we needed to find them, but unfortunately not with a car park! When we arrived at the Park, the small car park was packed. It was a Sunday and a long weekend and lots of people had decided that a hike up to the middle and upper lakes was a good way to spend it. We just wanted to see the bottom lake and the view from there. Juergen ended up parking (a little precariously, I thought) on the slope of the entrance to the car park, and we walked the 500 metres to the first lake. The lake is the most stunning turquoise colour. And the glaciers which feed the 3 lakes are clearly visible from this lower lake. It is a lovely wooded setting and we sat in the stillness for some time. No-one else was around which was how we realised that all the others parked there must be climbing up to the middle and upper lakes. I'm sure the views to be had from there are even more amazing, but we were trying to cover a large distance quickly while not missing all the sights, so we satisfied ourselves with the wow-factor of the lower lake.

Continuation on > Page 2 > !

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