Living as we do out here in the flatlands of northern Germany, every trip back to Canada we look forward to a little bit of hiking. For the past four trips – 2005, 2006, 2009 and just this past month – the red-haired girl and I have climbed up the Stawamus Chief, a massive granite monolith whose sheer face dominates the eastern side of Squamish, British Columbia.
In 2006, we went up as a family with a friend of hers to Peak 1:
In 2009 we made it the furthest yet - to Peak 3:
This past month we first went to Peak 3, then skirted down through the forest and up again to Peak 1.
I fully expect the photo of our next hike up to show some little guy next to a tall red-head.
It takes about two hours to climb as the trail winds up through evergreen forest along a rushing creek before branching off into paths leading to three separate peaks.
As the sign at the trailhead says: this is no walk in the park.
The first part is quite steep and dominated by wooden stairways, recently upgraded to allow for the massive increase in the number of hikers over the past few years. On our way down this year we started counting the number of people we met along the way. In only 30 minutes we counted no fewer than 215 people including 16 children plus eight dogs headed up the path as we were headed down.
I’d slip into a nostalgic riff about how when I was a kid we used to walk up there on a weekend and meet maybe a half-dozen people on a crowded day, before launching into a tirade about how the explosion of tourism is ruining the planet, but because I get up to that far too often, I’ll spare you.
Besides, the atmosphere in this post-industrial version of Canada is a lot better than it used to be. You used to see – and smell – great wafting drifts of white smoke shifting up or down Howe Sound from the former pulp mill at Woodfibre. The former mill site you can see as a white patch on the far shore behind us in the background. The mill was taken down a few years ago and shipped for reassembly in China. Far up the Chief you also used to hear the background sound of woodcutting machines at an equally massive sawmill plunked at the entrance to Squamish, but it’s been gone for ages.
These days the town promotes itself as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, so if the tourists have picked up and that and descend on the place in their thousands every summer day, that’s the trade-off. The surrounding countryside is so much cleaner than it used to be, making the view from the top even more worth the climb.