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Photo Essay: A Winter Weekend in Squamish

Photo Essay: A Winter Weekend in Squamish

Last Friday after work Greg and I threw our bags into the car and headed north up the Sea to Sky highway for a weekend in Squamish. Except this time we weren’t going to sleep in a tent or climb a mountain.  This time we were going to do things we had never done before like go river rafting to see eagles, visit the Britannia Mining Museum and lots more.

As we arrived in Squamish we noticed that even though we were only an hour from Vancouver and still at sea level, the ground was blanketed in snow – apparently we had reached winter!  We stayed in a cute little cabin at Sunwolf, an old fishing lodge and cabin complex north of Squamish right next to the Cheakamus River that has been renovated and now hosts a river rafting business. The cabins have fireplaces and river views but no TVs or wifi – just what you want in a wilderness setting.

The next morning we layered up in warm clothes, rubber boots and rain gear and headed over to the main lodge for our eagle float tour.  Never heard of an eagle float?  I hadn’t either.  Basically, you float down the Cheakamus River in a white water raft except its winter so there are no rapids, there is snow on the ground and an eagle or four in every tree!  The rivers in the Squamish area are the winter home of a large bald eagle population (they even set a world record in 1994).  The best time of year to see the eagles is November through early February.

The tour started with coffee, muffins and a check in with the guides at the lodge, then we boarded a bus for the short drive down to the put-in.  After a quick safety orientation we were on the water and spotting eagles right and left. It was raining so it was hard to take photos and protect the camera but I still managed some ok shots.  Part way through the guides served us hot chocolate – such a nice touch.

Sunwolf Eagle Float in Squamish
Floating down the river, looking for eagles
Sunwolf Eagle Float in Squamish
Two eagles fighting over a fish

Most of the time I really just wanted to put the camera down and enjoy the moment: the sound of the water, the mist swirling, the snow on the river bank and the eagles looking down at us, heads cocked, wondering what these strange creatures were doing sitting on a big yellow branch, floating down the river, not eating any of the tasty fish. The guides told us that the rainy weather was the best to see the eagles since they tend to stay put in the trees when it rains and therefore are easier to see.

Sunwolf Eagle Float in Squamish
An eagle watches us float by
Sunwolf Eagle Float in Squamish
The misty Cheakamus river

Before I wanted it to end, the float was over and we were pulling up to the bank to get out of the boats and walk a few hundred meters through the mossy forest to the lodge. Once there we were served a tasty chilli lunch next to the fire with brownies for dessert!

We had thought about going hiking in the afternoon, but it was raining really hard so we went for a drive up the Squamish river valley instead to check out the snowy scenery.  We hit up the pub at Howe Sound Brewing in downtown Squamish for dinner.

Squamish River back roads
This single lane bridge over the Squamish River doesn’t see much traffic at this time of year.
Squamish River in winter
The Squamish River and its mountains.
Squamish River in winter
Bridge over the Squamish River
Squamish River in winter
Squamish River in winter

We started Sunday morning with the best eggs Benedict in the world.  No, that’s not an exaggeration!  I had heard the food was good at Fergie’s the tiny cafe at Sunwolf, but the Dubliner eggs Benedict was amazing: bacon, apple, caramelized onions, dubliner cheese…. omg delicious!

Fergie's cafe in Squamish
The aaaaamazing Dubliner Eggs Benedict at Fergie’s

After checking out of our cabin at Sunwolf we headed downtown Squamish to Nexen beach since it is one of the best places to see the Stawamus Chief, Shannon Falls and Howe Sound.  Next we headed over to visit Shannon Falls up close and personal to see if was frozen at all (it wasn’t but the path to the falls was pure ice!)

Stawamus Chief from Nexen Beach
Clouds swirling around the Chief
Nexen Beach, Squamish BC
The old pier at Nexen beach stretches out into Howe Sound
Shannon Falls, Squamish, BC
Looking up through the rain at Shannon Falls

We finished our Squamish weekend with a trip to the Britannia Mine Museum.  I’ve driven past this place about a thousand times but I had never been in!  Apparently it was the largest copper mine in the British Commonwealth at one time – who knew? They did a big refurbishment and remodel a few years ago and the museum part of it was way fancier than I expected and had a cool section about what life was like for the miners and their families who lived there in isolation before the road to Vancouver was built.  The highlight of course was the underground tour of the mine which included a ride on a little mine train and live demonstrations of loud and scary drills. Plus we got to wear hard hats the whole time so we felt like real miners.

Britannia Mine Museum
The entrance to the tunnels at Britannia Mine Museum
Britannia Mine Museum
Inside the huge 10 storey tall mill building where the rock was refined.

After the museum it was back into the car for the drive back home.  It was an unusual trip to Squamish for us but it was definitely a memorable.

Disclaimer: Back in the summer Tourism Squamish held a photo contest and somehow,  I won! My prize was two nights at Sunwolf, a rafting trip and some passes to the Britannia Mine Museum and the Sea to Sky Gondola (which I haven’t used yet). There was no expectation of a review or blog post associated with these prizes and all opinions are my own.

Looking for more things to do near Squamish: Hike to Garibaldi Lake, Hike to Elfin Lakes or explore the trails near Brohm Lake.

Taryn Eyton
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