Monthly Archives: August 2018

Whistler Mountain Bike Park – Day 2

This is the second part of Jeff’s guest post!

On day two, I decided to head all the way up the mountain. After all, this was my last day here, and I wanted to make the most of the mountain. Enough trails were completed on the first day on the lower mountain that it seemed to make sense to skip this section until later that day. There was a pronounced thermocline heading up to the Garbonzo area. The wind picked up a little and the temperature dropped about 10-15 degrees. Although the chairlift passed through a cloud at one point, I was able to start the trails with great visibility and sunshine. I took Una Mas (a blue free ride trail) followed by Mid-Guard, South Park, and Earth Circus (all very large, sweeping downhills with jumps) down the other side of the mountain to the bottom of Creekside, and took the Gondola back up.

After getting off the Gondola, it was time for Freight Train (black diamond free ride trail), followed by an accidental double-black diamond technical run called No Duff. Oops, I didn’t mean to do that! This double-diamond run was about the sketchiest run I had ever been on.  Some sections I walked down, and on other sections I wasn’t sure what to do – it was that steep! The rock section was about 100 feet down and I couldn’t even get an eyeball on  parts, due to the grade. Ultimately, I was faced with three choices:  head back up to the junction (a long, steep uphill), slide down on my butt (with the bike) or take my chances on the downhill.  (This is where the downhill rig would have been very helpful!) After some water and more contemplating, I decided to mount my steed and cautiously head down. Whew, made it!

After the sketchy downhill this trail took me to an open field area, where I noticed another black bear a little distance off the trail. I took my camera out and shot a couple of bear pictures. Shortly thereafter I saw that this black bear had 3 small cubs with her! This is something not to mess with, so this time I scurried off down the trail with extreme urgency. I finished up doing black and blue free ride and technical trails, with a couple more double-diamond ones thrown in the middle. By the end of the day, I was a little more comfortable with the more extreme trails. I packed my stuff and drove back to Ferndale, Washington, very happy to be in one piece. The only casualty was my Reverb seat post, which broke on one of the many jumps.

Whistler Mountain Bike Park – Day 1

This is a guest post by Jeff!

Whistler, touted as the downhill capital of the world among mountain bikers, is located in British Columbia, Canada. Whistler has been on my radar since the late 1990s, but given its remote location it was a challenge to reach from Florida. As such, it has been on my “must do” mountain bike bucket list since starting our West Coast Tour. The drive from Ferndale, Washington takes about 2 hours, however the scenery starting from Vancouver and heading north to Whistler is nothing short of spectacular. Serious eye candy! The north and west showcases the Strait of Georgia followed by snow-capped mountains, and to the east for the entire drive are steep mountains laced with lush emerald green forests and rocky cliff faces. Whistler is similar to most ski-resort type towns with its many quaint shops, restaurants, and hotels. During the summer the town is transformed into a mountain bike mecca sporting the latest in downhill bicycles, equipment, and gear. My “all mountain” mountain bike is about the minimum recommended rig for this mountain, and countless times during my two day trip I could have used more suspension as mine bottomed out on the larger jumps and drops. One of those downhill bikes would have been nice, but I decided to stay with my rig.

Upon arrival, I parked in one of the many lots for $7.00/day, suited up in my downhill gear (full-face helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, and gloves), grabbed my carbon-fiber steed, and headed for the ticketing area. The ticketing area was bustling with all kinds of people and bicycles. Hikers could take the gondola up in one direction to the subalpine and alpine hiking trails, and a chair lift was used for the mountain bikers, whisking them up in another direction. A lift pass for a bicycle is similar to a skier in that it costs about $53.00/day, and the lifts are open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. My stamina isn’t what it used to be, so 6 hours of mountain biking was plenty for me, before retiring to my hotel (hopefully in one piece). After paying for my lift ticket and getting a trail map, it was time to catch the first chair lift.

While on the chair lift, I studied the map only to figure out that there were many chair lifts and a gondola which serviced the mountain bikers. The main area, called Fitzsimmons, was the original Whistler downhill area. This took up one entire side of the trail map, with a seemingly endless intertwined spaghetti bowl of trails. I flipped the trail map over to find two more large sections of trails. One trail area was higher up on the mountain, called Garbonzo, and the other trail area which encompassed the opposite side of the mountain was called Creekside. After getting off the chair lift, I discovered that the Garbonzo area chair lift was labelled, “experts only.” Consequently, I felt it was prudent to stay on the lower section of the mountain first, before venturing further. Given that the lower section had everything from easy to “Pro Lines”, it would take the better part of the day just to figure out the lower trail system.

The trail map yielded a wealth of information. I determined that the trails were further subdivided into “Technical” and “Free Ride” trails. About 70% was setup for technical riding, and about 30% was earmarked for “Free Ride.” If you don’t mind leaving the earth from time to time, the Free Ride trails offered buff single track, with various jumps and table tops, all broken down from beginner to Double-Black expert levels. The technical trails are much less buff, and generally contained natural obstacles, roots, rocks, logs, drops, jumps, and other natural or constructed features that required technical riding skills, and again were divided from beginner to expert levels. I started on an easy free ride section called “Easy Does It”, and it proved to be a great introduction to the large, sweeping berms all the way down the mountain. Throughout the first day, I spent my time on mainly blue intermediate free ride and technical trails, but ventured down a couple of black diamond free ride and technical trails just to get the flow of the mountain. On my last run of the day, I about ran into a rather large black bear hanging out on the trails. Good thing my disk brakes work well! The bear saw me, and scurried off down the trail. A great first day!

Vibrant Vancouver

IMG_4483Staying just minutes from the Canadian border has provided the opportunity to make a couple of day trips to the vibrant city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver has been on my bucket list of cities to visit for quite some time. I am an avid science fiction fan and many Sci-Fi TV series has filmed here, including my all-time favorite “Stargate SG-1”. Vancouver is even known as Hollywood North, due to the very active film and TV production community. I looked forward to visiting the city and seeing if I could spot some of the shooting locations!

Our first visit was to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. It is part of Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, a private attraction that includes a boardwalk through the temperate rainforest, a “walk in the treetops” and a cliff walk anchored from a cliff face. Not for the acrophobic, the various walks and bridge take you face-to-face with high cliffs and long drops! It was very well-engineered and perfectly safe, of course. One tip though – go early! We arrived shortly after the park opened, and by the time we left a couple of hours later, the park was becoming extremely busy. Not surprising for a lovely sunny summer day.

Our next stop was the Anthropology Museum, located on the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus. It housed a fascinating collection of artifacts from cultures throughout the world, with a special emphasis on the region’s First Nations. One room was full of totem poles, used as house poles (supporting structures), and to mark significant locations. The rooms were not only crammed full of display cases, they often also had multiple drawers under the displays that housed yet more collections. You could literally be there all day just browsing through it all. My only criticism was that the displays weren’t organized in any way that I could discern (like, by geography or timeline). There were placards describing what the artifacts were, but didn’t provide a lot of context. I found it confusing.

IMG_4449We dropped by Granville Island, once home to factories and sawmills but now a market and shopping district. We browsed the shops and indulged in a late lunch / early dinner before heading back.

Another day we schlepped our bicycles up and embarked on a tour of the city by bicycle. Vancouver is extremely bike friendly, with wonderfully-designed trails that have separate lanes for pedestrians and two-way bicycle traffic. Keeping bicycles separate from both cars and pedestrians just makes SO much sense, and is way safer – and  more enjoyable!

We cycled all around the seawall perimeter of Stanley Park, enjoying views of ships and ocean and the Vancouver skyline. We stopped at a sandy beach to watch several dogs enthusiastically chasing (and retrieving) balls tossed into the sea. We passed beautifully-landscaped parks and residential areas, museums and restaurants, as we cycled along the shoreline. We saw flocks of Canadian geese browsing the green lawns. (How did we know they were Canadian Geese? …. Because we were in Canada!  <rim shot>) Circling back, we cut across the city to find a nice pub for lunch, then cycled by the cruise ship port and on back to our parking spot at Stanley Park. It was a great way to experience the city up close and personal on a cool and cloudy day. Oh, and did I recognize some of the Stargate SG-1 shooting locations?  Yep, I noted a couple – which was super awesome!

My impression of Vancouver is that it is a fantastic city – clean, safe, friendly and scenic. There are cultural attractions, theaters, a university, and a thriving downtown. The outdoor activity options are almost endless, with ocean and mountains in close proximity. I did NOT see the homeless problem so evident in some of the other US cities we’ve visited recently, and I don’t know what Canada does differently to deal with that. The only negative I saw was the traffic, it pretty much sucks. Like many port cities, bridges are bottlenecks that back up almost all of the time. I’m also not sure how I would like the gray, cold and wet winters … but the summer weather is just ideal!