Monday, December 1, 2014

Where eagles fly, we can see their view with Sea-to-Sky Gondolas

Howe Sound, as seen from Sea to Sky's Summit Lodge.
As someone who best loves to experience the outdoors via paddling, it can be a bit of challenge to get out and about on adventures when the cold weather comes calling. 

Mind you, in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, that's later than it is in most of the rest of Canada.


One can always head south to paddle in warmer climes, but that requires booking flights and organized planning, not to mention at least a week's worth of time.

But there are plenty of other non-paddling adventures to be had in and around Vancouver, day-trips that provide adventures in the outdoors.

One of those outings is fairly new to the area. The Sea-to-Sky Gondola in Squamish, B.C., just opened to the public last summer. 

I had a chance to experience it myself for the first time last week.

I'm not fond of heights, so there was a little trepidation on my part before climbing into the gondola that would take us up the side of Habrich Mountain to Summit Lodge. Watching the car in front of us zoom up suddenly reminded me of my first trip in a helicopter - no wings, just a quick vertical rise into the air.


Less than a minute into the ride, though, I was too busy enjoying the view and trying to take photos to think about that nagging fear of heights.

And then came the eagles.

I spotted the first one as it swooped past us, overhead, from the mountain peak to our left. It was huge, and my first thought was, "Golden eagle!" It was that big. Then I realized it was probably a juvenile bald eagle - they are larger than adults, and lack the white head feathers that characterize the species.

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Up, up, and away!

Looking skyward, I spotted two more, then another, as they soared back and forth across the mountain paths.

This, of course, is the time of year when bald eagles gather in the thousands along the valley near Brackendale to feast on the salmon as they continue their spawning run upstream in the Squamish River. 

We quickly climbed past them on our way up the side of the mountain, watching other gondolas slide past us on their journey down the mountain.

When we got to the top following our 10-minute ascent, another treat awaited us: the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. And no, the bridge is not named after the beer - rather, the beer is named after one of the main mountain peaks in this area that you can view once you cross the bridge from the lodge. (Although they do have Sky Pilot on tap in the lodge).

A quick trek across the bridge takes you to a platform that provides a beautiful view of Howe Sound (and Watts Point, where George Vancouver first encountered members of the Squamish Nation)

The spot also serves as the start of the Spirit Trail, one of many trails the public can walk from the lodge. This particular trail they plan to leave just for walking; other trails will be used for snowshoeing, once they get enough of the white stuff down.

We enjoyed two different views of Sky Pilot and its neighbour, Co-pilot Mountain, then it was back to the lodge for lunch.

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Trudging across the suspension bridge - to a wonderful view.

The plan was to stay a little longer, but because of an incoming weather front that was going to sock everything in and force the closure of the gondola, we had to pack up and head down the mountain.

But there are plenty of Christmas programs planned for the next month at the lodge, so if you go up there, don't be surprised if you bump into me, taking in the festivities.

Want to see some more images from my trip up the mountain? Check out my Facebook photo album.

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