The Great Canadian Road Trip: Day 11 of 20

For those who are unfamiliar, the highway that runs from North Vancouver up to Whistler and beyond is referred to as the Sea to Sky Highway, aka 99 N.

By Laurie Izzy

Oct 23, 2021 6 min. read

Article was updated 7 months ago

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Home away from home

  • Nanaimo to Whistler

  • BC Ferries to Sea to Sky Highway 99 N, 4 hours, 162 Km

  • Favourite Song: Ready to Start, Arcade Fire

  • Quote: "It takes a long time to grow an old friend." John Leonard

Day 1: Barrie to Lake Superior Provincial Park

Day 2: Agawa Bay to Kakabeka Falls

Day 3: Thunder Bay to Winnipeg

Day 4:   Winnipeg to Moose Jaw

Day 5: Moose Jaw to Banff

Day 6: Calgary to Salmon Arm

Day 7: Salmon Arm to Nanaimo

Day 8: Nanaimo to Tofino

Day 9: Tofino to Campbell River to Nanaimo

Day 10: Nanaimo to Whistler

Back to the Mainland

I made the ferry from Departure Bay in Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay on the mainland with lots of time to spare. On the boat ride over a week earlier, I hadn't explored the ferry's offerings other than the sun deck, which is where I stayed the entire 1 hour and 40 minute trip to the island. I was so enamoured with the whole first time on a BC Ferry thing that I never took a look around. This time I decided find the floor that held the cafeteria, comfy seats and free Wi-Fi.   If you have the propensity towards seasickness, I recommend staying outside in the fresh air. The gentle rocking of the boat whilst sitting in a confined space with hundreds of other people was enough to make my head spin and stomach turn. Back to the comfort of the salt fresh air on the upper deck, I sat in a quiet corner reflecting over the past 11 days as I watched the sun's rays dance across the calm waves. I saw the head of a seal bobbing up and down as it watched us churn past, and a short while later I swore I saw the fins of a few dolphins come up from under the water's surface. When I went to the railing to watch for their return, they vanished. I thought about the entire 'right place - right time' mantra that we humans often throw around when good things befall us. Some call it luck when something wonderfully unexpected happens. My Dad used to say that the definition of luck is when hard work meets opportunity. I'd definitely put in the work as far as hours of staring out to sea hoping to see something - anything - and there it was - times two.

Canadian Road Trip

After an hour on the deck, I decided to head down to my car to try and catch a quick nap before we arrived in West Vancouver. The next thing I knew, the loud horn sounded and we were there. The island and the beaches of Tofino that I"d left just a few short hours ago had already become a distant memory.

Over the Sea to Sky

For Outlander Series fans you'll recognize the title as a line from the show's theme song. For those who are unfamiliar, the highway that runs from North Vancouver up to Whistler and beyond is referred to as the Sea to Sky Highway, aka 99 N. I was on my way to my best friend's house of 30 years who relocated there over 25 years ago. We'd stayed in touch with trips back and forth, emailed regularly, and I was stoked to spend the next several days sharing my great Canadian road trip stories before returning to Ontario.
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It was dinner time and she wasn't going to be home until early evening, so I had some time to explore what the Sea to Sky corridor had to offer. I disembarked the boat and pointed my Chevy northbound as I breathed in some of the most incredible scenery from a highway I'd ever seen.

Sea to Sky Highway, aka 99 N

Source: Sea to Sky

My first stop was Porteau Cove, a small inlet in Howe Sound that's host to a provincial park known for its sunken treasures for deep sea divers to explore.

Porteau Cove

From there I pulled off the highway a short time later in the coolest small town I'd ever seen. Squamish, known as the Outdoor Capital of the World and home to The Squamish Nation for thousands of years, is nestled among the mountains and sits at the very tip of Howe Sound, where the ocean ends. The Stawamus Chief, that stands guard over the town, is "claimed to be the second largest granite monolith in the world" (Wikipedia) which, is just one of the many reasons this gem of a town is considered as one the top rock climbing destinations in the world.

The Stawamus Chief

I also checked out Shannon Falls, the third highest waterfall in B.C., which is next door to the Sea to Sky Gondola. Although I didn't have time to take the trip up and over 885m above sea level, I vowed to return to get a first hand view the next time through.

Sea to Sky Gondola

Source: Vancouver Sun

Whistler Bound

Once back on the highway north, I began to plot my relocation plans as I drove past dozens of provincial parks, hiking trails, lakes, mountains, and white-water rapids that flowed under bridges and alongside of the road. I had seen beautiful scenery before, and I had even driven this highway before, but it never looked as stunning as it did to me that day.   Just before arriving in Whistler, the sign to Brandywine Provincial Park beckoned, and although it was close to gate-closing time, I had enough time to walk the easy trail through another beautiful forest of huge pine trees to yet another beautiful waterfall. This one was kissed by a rainbow near the bottom of the circular canyon down below.

Brandywine Provincial Park

Time for a Pit-stop

I arrived in Whistler shortly after 7:30pm, and when I pulled into my friend's driveway she ran out on the porch to greet me. I can't tell you how wonderful it was for someone to know my name and recognize my face after being among strangers for the past 10 days. She helped unload my duffle bags of dirty clothes, and after hugs and squeals of delight at the thought of spending the next three days catching up between BFF's, she brought me inside to an amazing dinner waiting for me on the kitchen counter.   We spent the rest of the night talking about where I'd been and where I wanted to go with my life.   As the night rolled along, the hours of conversation finally gave way to my growing exhaustion. She tucked me in to the spare room, and I had never been so thankful for the gift of a lifelong friendship and the smell of clean sheets. Tomorrow I would plan the 5000 km road trip back to Ontario while I simultaneously planned my relocation to B.C. But first, sleep: 9 glorious hours of it.

Laurie Izzy with her friend
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