Learning to Like Squamish or, when the eagle spoke to me

Friday morning, I was losing my shit. The constant cloud-cover and near constant rain was just too much. I sent messages to friends employing many expletives. It was ugly. I’m not proud of those messages or the way I lost my composure, but there you go, honesty isn’t always pretty.

In an effort to raise my spirits, Jill suggested I meet her for lunch in Vancouver then go attack one of the local hikes. Begrudgingly, I agreed and set off to purchase a new pair of hiking boots. Despite the footwear, all I could think about was riding my bike. Then I got to thinking about the camp-site my employer, Anne, had told me about the night before. She’d also shown me a couple of logging roads I should check out. “They may still be covered in snow,” she warned.

“Sorry to bail on you Jill, but I gotta go ride my bike…”

By 12:30 I was parked at a little campsite on the banks of the Squamish River. Within an hour, I was dressed for the weather but smiling because the rain was holding. Knowing the road I was on would soon begin to climb, I figured I would check it out first. After just a couple hundred feet of vertical gain, the road immediately turned to snow, too deep for me to ride. I had ridden three kilometres and was already turning around. Crossing back over the bridge I had driven earlier and turning left so as to continue north on Squamish Valley Rd., I started to turn the pedals in earnest. And I smiled.

The dirt became pavement for about a kilometre but quickly returned to shower me with a fine misting of mud. Meandering next to the Squamish River, the route was lined with waterfalls and lush trees covered in moss. Rocks, boulders and mountains soared to the sky. Every turn brought yet more natural beauty. Not a vehicle passed me for at least an hour, maybe longer. The rain, too, kept its distance.

Eventually, the road became more and more snow-covered, less and less friendly. Sometimes I would ride over the ice and through the frigid puddles that sat within the ongoing washboard divots. Sometimes I would ride atop the hard-crusted snow that lay between the vehicle tracks. As the way deteriorated, the 4-wheeler tracks became ever more snow filled. With the rain just starting to lightly fall, I got off my bike and walked about 100 metres in the snow to the 17km mark. Now, we turn around.

The ride back was quicker, both because I was heading down-stream and because the closer I got to camp, the harder the rain fell. Only from the hips down did my body move. Otherwise, I was motionless for 45mins; teeth clenched, fingers rigid around the bars, arms locked in position. The closer I got, the faster I rode, the harder the cold rain poured. It was fantastic, everything cycling is to a cyclist. One more gear, one more kilometre, one degree colder. Smiling through it all.

Back at the van, I quickly wiped down Irene, stripped off those filthy cycling clothes and put on some warm layers. My toes were pretty damn cold, but the rest of me felt great. Not long after dinner, I was fast asleep.

Saturday morning I rose knowing that most of my wet weather riding kit was a soaking heap in the back of the van. That being the case, I decided to go for a hike.

Walking easily in my new boots, I soon arrived where I turned around the day before, the 3km marker on Ashlu Road, just beyond the hydro-electric plant. From there I walked atop the snow where 4-wheelers had previously laid tracks. Venturing off those slightly beaten paths, I would sink to my knees in snow. That lesson quickly learned, I slowly carried on to the 5km marker. Just beyond, the trees opened to a small clearing. Wanting a bite to eat, I sat down on the snow upon my rain-jacket, had a snack and just sat there.

It was dead quiet, like back in the desert. So I sat, taking it all in. Watching, listening, smelling, feeling, sensing. I did some stretching, focused on my breathing and just enjoyed being out in the woods. As I stretched my arms above my head, I turned my gaze to the grey sky above me. In so doing, my focus quickly fell upon the eagle that was soaring in circles several hundred feet above me. This may sound silly, but it really felt like that eagle was watching me, watching over me; telling me it would all be okay, that I would find home in this new place. Thanking the eagle, I stood up, put on my pack and made the hike back to camp.

That evening I was able to use the firewood left by the previous campers to make a fire. Sitting by its warmth, I ate dinner and read a couple chapters in my book. As the sun went down, the wood ran its course and I was in bed by 9pm. I felt rested, rejuvenated and reassured. It was a good feeling, I slept soundly.

Back at work today, I know there will be more rain. In fact, I can hear it on the roof of the van right now. But that’s okay. Let it rain. Now I know just how easy it is to get away, to camp, to ride my bike and explore. Friday morning I was at my wit’s end. Today, my wit’s are about me. I feel good about the decision to move here, confident that the adventures laying in store will be rewarding and enjoyable. I think of that eagle and the message she gave me and I smile contentedly, at peace.



Flood warning siren for kayakers

Think I’ll just take a break right here.

Waterfalls, everywhere.

Icy, snowy, muddy roads around every corner


Back at camp

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