Starting the New Year with Eagles

The Artist and I ushered in the New Year with out-of-town friends by taking a trip to Brackendale, a small town just north of Squamish. Marked as the “Eagle Capital of the World,” Brackendale is home to one of North America’s largest congregations of wintering bald eagles. They feed on the chum salmon in the Squamish River.

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On a trip a previous year, we only saw one eagle flying overhead and were understandably disappointed. This trip yielded far greater results. We winded along the river bank, enjoying the crisp January air and the sun on the mountains and snow.

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Once we rounded this bend, we saw our first eagle perched in a tree.

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That’s the closest I’ve ever seen one. Majestic and huge, just like they’re portrayed on US money and other things.

We thought that sighting was exciting but then we walked a little further and saw this!

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Jackpot day! Not to mention numerous eagles flying overhead. We probably spotted a dozen in total. This is a good time of year to get a visit in if you’re a bird watcher like we are!

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What Goes Up Must Come Down

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I hiked The Stawamus Chief in Squamish, BC. It’s been on my bucket list for a while and, as everyone in Vancouver says, “You HAVE to do it!” It was also on this list of 10 amazing day hikes to do near Vancouver which we’re kind of slowly working our way through—I wrote about #1 here.

The Chief

The Chief

So we did it. I love having Fridays off to be able to climb mountains when it’s less crowded, especially on sunny Fridays with clear views. The Chief is 11 km with a 600 metre elevation gain, accessible through Shannon Lake Provincial Park. We parked here where a lot of tour buses stop to get a picture of Shannon Falls and then started the ascent up the mountain.

Shannon Falls

Shannon Falls

This is the sign that greets you once you enter the forest:

Caution signLuckily, I wasn’t expecting it the Chief be “a walk in the park.” That being said, I also wasn’t expecting it to be so similar to the Grouse Grind in its relentless number of wooden stairs to climb up for a good hour or so. But it was a lot more enjoyable because of the views along the way and the canopy of forest that keeps you relatively cool and shaded.

IMG_8895One of the views A gigantic rock along the wayIMG_8894Don’t believe signs like this. Someone had written: “This is a lie!” on the other side.

Not Far Now!We eventually came to a fork in the road where we could choose a path that led to the 1st peak (or South Peak, which is the closest), or another path that led to the 2nd and 3rd peaks. We opted for the 2nd and 3rd ones (or Centre and North peaks as they’re also called). We reached the 2nd one in 2 hours since our departure.

2nd Peak / Centre Peak

This is how you get up to the 2nd peak. Boy did I feel hardcore.

climbing the chainsWe passed some teenage girls on this section, one of them who exclaimed: “Whoa, I feel like a mountain goat!” That wasn’t such a far off description.

ChainsBut does it get any better than this? The view of Howe Sound from the 2nd Peak:

Centre PeakThe town of Squamish below:

IMG_8920We made some chipmunk friends who tried taking off with our food:

chipmunk & Squamishchipmunks on backpacksSince it wasn’t even noon yet, we decided to hike over to the 3rd peak which is only about 25 minutes further.

A sliver of Squamish between the trail leading from the 2nd to the 3rd peak:

IMG_89513rd Peak / North Peak

This is the highest peak and also the one with the most vegetation at the top. It offers a slightly different view than the 1st and 2nd ones—you can see several peaks in Garibaldi Provincial Park, as well as people atop the 1st and 2nd peaks below. We stopped here for about an hour for lunch.

view of 1st and 2nd peaksNorth Peaktree on North PeakGaribaldi Provincial Park1st Peak / South Peak

We debated going to the 1st peak since you have to climb all the way back down to the fork in the forest and then climb up again with a different set of chains and ladders (too bad there’s no trail from the 2nd to the 1st peak!) but since we’re all or nothing-type-of-people, we decided to go for it. We definitely felt the fatigue on this one, but again, the views from the top were a good reward for the work.

1st peak2nd and 3rd peaks in distanceThe skies were starting to get a little moody so we started the descent while we still had daylight left. As hard as I thought going up the trail was, going down was even harder! Oh my wobbly knees. They were quivering by the time we got back to the parking lot. But as they say, “What goes up must come down.” We thankfully came down with no injuries—sore bodies and sweaty skin, yes, but also a lot of great memories.

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