And, if you end the evening tucked under a duvet in a Pan Pacific Mountainside suite, after multiple courses of divine tastes and lovely velvety glasses of red wine followed by four chilly tastings in the -32 degree Celsius Vodka Room while snugged into a Canada Goose jacket, well…life’s alright.
It all started innocently enough. I had pitched the idea of a ‘shoulder-season’ Whistler story. The truth is, Whistler doesn’t really have a shoulder season. There is a ridiculous list of year-round activities. What I was really talking about was switching it up from the usual fare.
For one thing, except for the super hardcore, it’s no longer ski season. And, since neither Kevin or I are into the killer downhill mountain bike riding, that too, was out of the running.
We could, of course, go golfing and that would have been fine, but after ten holes I tend to drift. I begin to wonder why I’m still chasing that dimpled ball all over those long fields.
Now, this is just a stab in the dark, but I think I might have a bit of an attention issue…
So, what I knew is that I would need multiple activities to stay amused. Plus, I wanted to do stuff that was new to both of us.
And, with my fifty-fifth birthday (Freedom 55!) rapidly approaching, it was time to shift gears a little. Doing different things together might be a way of shaking up our usual conversations.
Luckily, after the debauched evening at Bearfoot Bistro, our first activity didn’t start until ten a.m. And though it was fairly low-key, with my slightly shaky hands, there could have been the potential for a mishap because, as we all know, hijinks can often lead to tears.
Jon Fathom proved to be just the ticket for our morning. Fathom owns the Fathom Stone Art Gallery & Studio and, after an instructional video and some hands-on guidance, we were free to carve our own soapstone inukshuk. “Wow. The dust from these cuts is like baby powder,” says moi, with a firm grasp of the obvious (which is when Fathom explained that talcum powder is made from soapstone).
My husband, the man who last did an art project in elementary school, sketched his inukshuk on the blackboard, then drew it again on the soapstone and carved and cut and sanded up a storm. We were both so engrossed in our mini-sculptures that we barely had time to grab lunch and get to Vincent & Cheryl Massey’s gallery to do some weaving. I know. I know. It sounds a little like Basket Weaving 101.
But here’s the deal. First off, their gallery and home is hippie-heaven-gorgeous, they’re lovely people (he’s an amazing potter) and plaiting strips of wet cedar bark turns out to be pretty darned cool thing to do. Let’s not forget the act of weaving is probably pretty deeply embedded in our African ancestral roots. And, just like when we were doing the carving, time left the building while we chatted and wove and solved the puzzle of braiding the cedar lengths into two little coasters.
Two, I might add, very very cool cedar coasters.
Exhausted by our artistic endeavours (and perhaps still slightly hungover) we opted for an early night at the Dubh Linn Gate Restaurant. We shared a heaping pile of starters. Almost everything is made in-house with locally sourced ingredients. My favourite was the little platter of local sausages and house-made pickles.
On Sunday we shifted our focus from arts and creation to the great outdoors. Hosted by Whistler Eco-Tours, we started off with a hike with naturalist, top-rated ski-instructor and general all-round ridiculously interesting, Jeannie. As we hiked to Cheakamus Lake, she shared the names and some characteristics of the indigenous plants. Long ago, I learned some of the basic names of the BC flora; sword fern, bracken, dogwood, huckleberry, salmon berry and other usual suspects.
But Jeannie was naming stuff that I swear I’ve never even seen before.
Have I ever mentioned that I love learning the names of things?
We hustled back from the hike, grabbed a pizza and got ready to meet Chris, another guide with Whistler Eco-Tours and, coincidentally, Jeannie’s significant other. Like Jeannie, Chris was easy-going, quick to laugh and beyond-competent when it came to getting us in the canoe and ready to paddle. The plan was to head across Alta Lake to connect to Green Lake. Best of all, we’d be doing it by paddling the River of Golden Dreams, about the coolest name for any river. Ever.
Stormy winds added a few ripples to Alta Lake, but with Chris in the helm, Kevin at the bow and myself lounging against the strapped-in drybags, where I could occasionally dip my paddle to help, there was nothing to fear (in my defense, I’d twisted my ankle a little at the end of the hike and it was seizing up rapidly, making paddling rather tricky).
With the wind at our backs, we quickly left the lake behind and entered the River of Golden Dreams, a narrow passage festooned with sunny-yellow lillies and low-hanging trees. Meanwhile, thunder boomed behind the mountains, sounding closer with each reverberation.
It was close to five when we pulled into Green Lake and could get a real good look behind us. What we saw was an ominous black cloud matched with more and more booming thunder. Chris radioed the van’s driver, we exited the canoes and, like magic, we were delivered back to our car at the Pan Pacific for the drive home to Vancouver. The heavens opened up just as we left the hotel. (Timing perfection. Thank you Chris!)
One bag of ice and some ibuprofen later, and, once the monsoon stopped, a beautiful drive down the Sea-to-Sky highway and we were back in our Vancouver world.
I am writing this today while sitting on the sofa in our little apartment in the Olympic Village. There is a fresh bag of ice on my ankle (which feels almost completely recovered) and my coffee mug rests on a very groovy artisanal cedar coaster. Our inukshuks gleam and beckon from their perch on the bookshelves – where they point the way – back to Whistler.
If this is what Freedom 55 looks like – I think we’re going to be alright.