Road Trips

The Great Canadian Road Trip: Whistler to Vancouver

Whistler to Vancouver: Exploring Possibilities

By Laurie Izzy

Oct 30, 2015 7 min. read

Article was updated 7 years ago

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Heading East

If you're new to The Great Canadian Road Trip series, please click on my name, Laurie Izzy, and it will link you to the page where the previous 11 installments are located. Or, if you would like to take a step back to remember where we left off last week, you can click on Day 11: Tofino to Whistler before you ride along with me today.


  • Whistler to Castlegar

  • Distance: 9 hours, 740 km, Hwy 1 East

  • Favourite Song: Free - Into the Mystic, Zac Brown Band

  • Quote: “At the center of your being, you know who you are, and you know what you want.", Lao Tzu

Whistler to Vancouver: Exploring Possibilities

After three glorious days of home-cooked meals, girl talk and laundry, it was time to say goodbye to my life-long friend and her guest-room in Whistler to begin my long journey back to where I started; Ontario. I'd spent my respite time writing, walking the neighbourhood and plotting my return route all while looking up local house rentals, jobs, and moving companies. Whistler Village is a bustling, high energy resort where you can find a variety of people-types regardless of the season; stoked mountain bikers, skilled skiers, serious hikers, the rich and famous, and people from all over the world taking in its charm. There are remnants of the 2010 Winter Olympics everywhere, and the pride of that time in our country's history can still be felt when you walk past the Olympic Rings near the park square.

Olympic Rings near the park square

Whistler Village

During my stay in Whistler I had reached out to an old colleague of mine who was now working in Vancouver, and he invited me to stop in for a coffee before I drove out of town. On the morning of my departure, instead of taking the scenic route north through Pemberton which I'd originally planned, I would travel the Sea to Sky Highway south and spend a few hours in Vancouver before taking the more direct Highway 1 E path.  As I packed up my duffle bags full of clean laundry I heard my phone ding. Assuming it was a message from the person I was about to have coffee with to confirm our meeting time, my heart began to pound when I saw who the sender was. It was "T", and this was the first I'd heard from him since our reunion in Calgary (if you missed the part about the mysterious "T-man", go back to the beginning). "When will you be back through Calgary? I want to see you", it read.

Life has a funny way of playing itself out despite our ideas, wants and intentions. The reality of it is, once you learn (I've recently learned this) to really go with what 'is' and not what you 'imagine', things are pretty simple. The reality of that moment was, I had made alternative plans because after miles and miles and days and days of contemplation, I had come to realize that he was a part of my past, not part of my present, and as it turned out, not part of my immediate future either.

After texting back something to that effect, which may or may not have had a tone of 'it's too late now' attached to my reply, I made my way towards Vancouver on a cool and rainy September morning to inquire about the possibility of a job.


Image Source: Hello BC

Vancouver to Castlegar

After connecting with a previous business acquaintance who helped me explore the potential of working for him should I relocate, I left the west coast mountains with a mountain of possibilities of my own. Although I wasn't particularly enamoured with going back to an industry I thought I'd left behind, I imagined that working in something familiar with someone familiar, at least for the short term, would ease the transition of moving to a new town and a new Province all alone.
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It rained until I drove out of Vancouver, and by the time I pulled in to the town of Hope to change out of my business clothes and into proper road trip attire, I smiled when I found myself amidst happy weekenders (it was Friday afternoon). From Hope I decided to take the more scenic #3E Crowsnest Highway, instead of the Trans Canada. The fact that this highway by-passed the City of Calgary and would therefore prevent me from pursuing another visit with my past, had absolutely nothing to do with my alternate choice of route. Yeah, I know; I didn't believe it either.

Crownsnet Highway

Image Source: Crownsnet Highway 

The Kootenay Region

I was headed towards Nelson, a mountain town nestled in the heart of the Kootenay Mountain Range, but I had left Vancouver later than I'd anticipated and I wasn't all too sure I was going to make it by dark. Each hour of my drive revealed more exquisite scenery than the hour before and I was elated at the fact I'd be driving within several different mountain ranges over the next few days. The Kootenays are much different than the coastal mountains, and the small towns along the over 1000 km of Highway 3 provided a scenic opportunities to stretch my legs.

The Kootenays

The Kootenays

I drove through the small town of Hedley, which is also the name of a favourite Canadian band (check out the song One Life by Hedley; I put it on when I drove through town in their honour). Even though the town's population is tiny at 500 people, this little dot on the map has a big history. Local First Nations of the Similkameen River Valley have called it home for over 7000 years, and gold was found in 'dem der hills' back in 1898 according to local history. Next stop was Osoyoos; complete with desert and tumbleweeds right in the middle of southern B.C. Who knew.


It's true; watch out for deer at night

As dusk approached I found myself in a bit of a panic; according to the most recent road sign, I was still several hundred km from Nelson. I didn't know if the next small town on the sign had restaurants and hotels or just a gas station and a post office. There had been several of each along the drive so far and the which type of small town I'd reach before dark would be a matter of chance.

Lurie Izzy

With my wandering eyes taking in the twilight shadows on the mountains, I came back to reality when I came upon a small herd of deer jumping across the road a few dozen metres ahead. No more shadow gazing; it was time to keep my eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. As I came around the next bend in the road, a large, stately buck complete with enormous antlers stood still on the shoulder, and his eyes reflected my headlights. "Please don't dash out in front of my car, please, please, please, please" my voice said out loud as I drove past him. I then put down all four of my windows, pulled on my sweater and turned up my stereo as loud as I could stand it. I didn't care if I was getting cold or growing deaf, I wanted the deer to hear me coming from miles away.

After 90 minutes of driving in the dark and up-down elevations that made my ears pop, my stress level reached +10 on a scale of 1 to 5. Thankfully, it wasn't long afterwards when the town of Castlegar's twinkling lights promised a safe place to rest. I found a Super 8 Motel offering a free breakfast just off the highway, and so I gathered my familiar overnight duffle bag and had an easy check in. Once settled I determined that my original plan of reaching Nelson wasn't going to be practical, so I decided another day along The Crowsnest Highway until I reached Alberta was the way to go. I wasn't interested in taking my time on the drive back to Ontario. My original ideas of a return trip full of Ranch B & B's and camping under the stars in the Prairies were abandoned in favour for a few motels, 8 hour drive days and a night in my tent on the shores of Lake Superior. The way back to what's familiar isn't as exhilarating as the way out and into the unknown.

As I tucked myself into bed, I thought about the fact I'd leave the beautiful B.C. behind at some point the following day. Every other time I had left this spectacular Province, I was wrought with melancholy as I never knew how soon I could return. Not this time; in a matter of months, I would return to its borders with all of my worldly possessions and finally get a chance to call the mountains home. Goodnight BC. Until we meet again.
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