Thursday, March 26, 2015

Travel video is NOT new - it boasts a long & storied history

One of the earliest "travel video" producers.
In past blog posts, I've written about some of the classic books of travel literature. There are posts all over the Internet featuring lists of the best of this genre, which is really all subjective, of course.

Now hold on, Baba Louie - before you click to another page, this is NOT a list of my favourite travel books. In fact, I won't be going on about travel writing at all in this post - at least not about travel writing in its written form.

I go to a great many professional development symposiums, conferences, workshops, etc. during the course of a year. There's no doubt that the landscape of travel writing has changed dramatically in the last few decades, first with the entrance of the world wide web into the area traditionally dominated by print media, with a bit of television and radio programming thrown into the mix. Then came social media. So it's crucial travel media people stay on top of the game.

Now, social media is seen to be a very new aspect of travel media coverage. But there is one aspect of it that perhaps is not really new - it's just, well, different.

I'm talking about video.

At most of the pro-d sessions I've been to in the last few years, one of the common themes that seems to stand out, almost like a mantra, is "Video is king."

We truly are a video-oriented society.

Choose your weapon: video cam or DSLR?
That's one of the reasons I've started putting my energy into producing some travel videos for my own YouTube channel as well as for the site TripFilms (some of which have been picked up by USA Today and MSN for their sites).

However, although it seems to be the "latest-and-greatest" way to share travel adventures and experiences. video presentation of travel stories is not new - it's just much more accessible to the average person than it was when travel films first began, almost as early as movies themselves.

You don't need a huge camera crew, expensive equipment, and almost unlimited funds to make travel videos these days. There are inexpensive video cams, DSLR cameras with video capabilities, relatively inexpensive software editing programs with which to produce films/videos, and a greater ability to travel the world than ever before.

It's certainly come a long way since the days of Nanook of the North, a 1922 documentary made by Robert J. Flaherty, a professional prospector and amateur film-maker. (No, it was NOT Frank Zappa who first used Nanook.) Flaherty made this film during two years of living in an Inuit village on the shores of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec. He didn't have a lot of other films to pattern after, so he was a pioneer - and some of the techniques he developed are still in use today. It may have also been the very first video featuring someone paddling a kayak. You can watch the movie in its entirety on YouTube.

That was made and distributed while films were still in the silent era. (For a real treat, I've embedded the full-length version of this film at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!)

Once the "talkies" came into vogue, it didn't take long for filmmakers to introduce that into what was becoming a popular topic for the "shorts" shown in theatres between the cartoon and the feature attraction. One of the first to jump on the bandwagon was James Fitzpatrick,who produced a series of TravelTalks for MGM.  You can still see some of them online, or as fillers on TCM (that's where I stumbled across them).

Just like reading the old travel literature in books and magazines from previous decades, it is enjoyable as well as instructive to watch some of these old films, and get a sense of where we've come from.

Some of them were interesting, and - judging by today's standards - not all that great. But it was an evolving art, just as the videos produced today are also an evolving art.

So as you're watching - or perhaps, producing - another modern-day travel video, take time to think back to the past and realize that what was old is new again.


Nanook goes kayaking: the first-ever paddling video?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sometimes, bad situations can be good ones in disguise

Like anything else in life, paddling can impart lessons.
Kayaking in sight of the Alaskan coast.

One of the toughest lessons many of us have to learn - certainly, I've found it to be - is that what may seem like a bad situation may actually turn out to be quite good.

Or at least do some good, where you wouldn't expect it to.

I've experienced many significant  examples of this in my life. But none probably more so than when I got hypothermia in Alaska.

It quite possibly saved my life; at the very least, it resulted in a series of actions and incidents that might not otherwise have played out the way they did.

It was August, 2004. I was in Wrangell, Alaska, preparing to start a week-long kayak tour down the coast with a brand new company. The tour consisted of a guide and several other travel writers invited to go on this first-run trip to sort of test it out for the company, and help promote it by writing about it for various publications.

The day before the tour began, we went down to a quiet bay in front of the town to practise in-water re-entry to a kayak so we would be prepared in the event we capsized one in the water during our trip.

Now this can be a tricky manoeuvre if you have no previous experience attempting it. Although I had exited and entered a kayak while in the ocean before, that did not involve tipping it, first. It was also in the warm waters of the Caribbean as opposed to the fairly frigid waters in the Gulf of Alaska, a section of the North Pacific Ocean off the coast of Alaska.

Because we weren't going anywhere and we thought it would be a routine kind of operation, we didn't wear wet suits as we would be on the trip.

Bad move.

I was having a devil of a time trying to climb back into the kayak after righting it following my "capsize."

The guide came over to steady it and encourage me. That's when he realized things were starting to go south.

I think I heard him say, "Grab my boat and hang on."

I ended up back on shore, shivering uncontrollably. I couldn't get warm, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.

Back at the B'n'B we were staying at, I was having a hard time talking, moving, focusing, and I was still cold while eating lunch.

I remember the guide saying, "When I saw your eyes roll back into your head, I knew you were in trouble, I knew we had to get you out of the water."

Someone said my lips looked blue.

So off they trundled me to the local hospital.

Turns out, I was hypothermic. They ran a series of tests, said I'd be okay, but the doctor said there was no way he could let me go on a five-day kayak tour given my condition.

So my trip ended before it began.

Immature bald eagle on the Pacific coast.
However, the doctor said something else.

He said there were some odd readings with respect to my heart, something he could not definitely determine the nature of, with the equipment available at the small town facility.

He advised strongly to go to my family doctor back in Vancouver and get a better diagnosis done.

I did that, and was a bit floored by the result.

After performing all the proper scans at  St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, my doctor told me I had a bicuspid aortic valve in my heart. It was a genetic condition I'd been born with, and eventually I would need surgery to correct it, probably within 10 years. In the meantime, I had to be sure to take antibiotics for any dental procedure to prevent the very-dangerous potential infection from getting onto the valve.

Armed with that knowledge, when I started experiencing odd symptoms continually in 2012, they performed an electro-cardiogram and based on the results, told me I needed to have open-heart surgery as quickly as possible.

That happened almost eight years to the day I got the news about my heart condition.

By November, I'd had surgery. By the following June, I was well enough to have re-scheduled shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. With some good rehab, I was back paddling by mid-August.

What brought this to mind recently was a video I saw on the Paddling.net Facebook feed, dealing with the topic of hypothermia and paddling. You can see the video below.

So - I am NOT for a second suggesting hypothermia is a good thing, it's a serious issue and one all wilderness travellers should be prepared to recognize and deal with. Do NOT take this as a suggestion to go out and get hypothermic to see what health issues you might have. (I feel I have to state this here, on the off-chance someone who's a Darwin Award candidate reads this and misinterprets the message.)

I began this post with the thought that bad things can produce good results, that from something bad, there can always spring some good. However, while we're experiencing the bad, it can often be a real challenge to keep that in mind; let's face it, it's tough to see the sunshine if you're stuck at the bottom of a deep mud-bog, trying to claw your way out.

But eventually you will, and you'll once again see the sunshine, you'll find the good from out of the bad.

So if you start to feel a sense of despair, or depression, or you're discouraged, try to find something that's happened in your life like my hypothermia, then remember how, even though it was a really crappy experience at the time, it morphed into something that brought some real good into your life.


Some tips about hypothermia.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Where in the world is YOUR favourite cuppa joe?

"Where is your favourite place to travel?"
Cups up! Campfire cappuccino.

As a travel writer, that's one of the questions constantly asked of me when I meet someone for the first time.

That's not what I'm writing about, though.

If you've ever wandered onto my Facebook personal page, you probably know how much I love coffee. And coffee culture. And trivia about coffee. Friends are constantly posting stuff about coffee onto my Timeline.

And, of course, people always like to know what my favourite coffee is, where is my favourite place to drink or purchase coffee, and - since I'm a travel writer - where is the best cup of coffee I've ever had.

That's easy.

The best cup of coffee I ever had was during my very first international trip (outside of Canada and the U.S.) in 1991.

Belize.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was our last day, we had an afternoon flight out of Belize City to LAX, then on to Vancouver.

For our last meal in the country, we decided to go for brunch at the Fort George Hotel.

From the first sip, we knew we'd stumbled on something exquisite. We were having coffee-gasms. Right there in the hotel dining room.

Several cups later, we finally came up for air, and asked our server what kind of coffee it was.

He smiled, and said, "Guatemalan chocolate coffee."

Even Nikki, our African grey parrot, loved Second Cup.
We never feed our birds caffeine, though.
Now it was not "flavoured" coffee; I'm not a fan of that type of coffee (yeah, I'm a purist). The "chocolate" was simply what it was called. It was rich, sweet, fragrant, smooth - and that was just the aroma. It almost didn't need cream or sugar.


After I returned home, I was on a mission to find a coffee as close to that coffee as I could. None of the Guatemalan coffees I tried came close, though. Then, eight months later, at a mall in Edmonton, I decided to grab a coffee at a Second Cup.

Now I'd never tried their coffees, since, at the time, I lived in Fort St. John, B.C. and there were no Second Cups, not even a Tim Horton's there, at the time. I looked at the menu, saw "Guatemalan" beside something called "Huehuetenango." So, I tried it.

Bingo!

While it wasn't exactly what I'd had in Belize, it was the closest I'd ever come. Or ever would come: Sweet, rich, mellow, just about perfect. I liked it so much, I gave them my address and credit card info, and set up monthly shipments of a few pounds to Fort St. John so I could enjoy it all the time.

Slurping coffee aboard a Chilean ship docked in North Van.
Sadly, Second Cup - the only company licensed to sell it in Canada, then - stopped carrying the brand in 2008. I found a place in Ontario that now sells it, and will ship it, but it didn't taste as good as it had in the past, so I've resigned myself to life at Tim's. Cheaper, less hassle, but not as good.

Since that trip to Belize, I've sampled coffee all over the world. Ironically, because we import coffee from places like African and South America for consumption in North America, that often leaves lesser-quality coffee in those countries.

Travelling around Africa for six weeks, I gave up trying to enjoy a good cup of coffee, and opted for tea instead.

Ditto, in Ecuador. Although I didn't give up coffee for tea, it was not as good as the coffee I drank at home.

When I returned to South America six years later, Starbucks had infiltrated the consumer coffee market, so forget about enjoying an authentic native coffee.

Starbucks in Lima tastes the same as Starbucks in Taipei, which tastes the same as Starbucks in Vancouver, which tastes the same... you get the picture. And yeah, I'm not a Starbucks fan. If I want burnt coffee, I'll take a cup of Tim's and re-heat it in the microwave.

I have enjoyed good cups of coffee elsewhere.

The best iced cappuccino I've enjoyed was a Terri's Cappuccino Bar in Fort St. John. It was a regular daily indulgence there, winter and summer, for two years.

video
Don't forget to add the Bailey's!

And nothing beats a cup of "campfire cappuccino, brewed on a camp stove, served up with a healthy portion of Bailey's, during a camping or paddling trip.

I tried to obtain some samples of Kopi Luwak during a trip to Malaysian Borneo, as that renowned "civet-poop coffee" is produced in Indonesia. No luck, though - although I did enjoy some wonderful "pulled tea." (As it turns out, the way this coffee is harvested may not be in keeping with good practices with respect to treatment of wildlife, so I may postpone the hunt indefinitely.)
Enjoying a coffee on the road in Haida Gwaii.

As for other coffees...

Kona coffee from Hawaii is VASTLY overrated, in my opinion. I've sampled several cups on both Maui and the Big Island, including some at a coffee plantation.

Quite frankly, I couldn't figure out what the fuss was all about.

And while I've never sampled Jamaican Blue, I suspect my reaction would be much the same as it was to Kona.


That's not to say I'll never enjoy a cup of coffee on the road. But I feel like I've already found the Holy Grail of Coffee, so I'm resigned to the fact that even if I'm at Avalon, the coffee they serve there probably will not match the cup I enjoyed back on that April morning in Central America.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Can't ski? Another murderous press trip in Colorado provides other options

If you didn't read my previous book review about Cynthia Baxter's travel-writing sleuth Mallory Marlowe, you might think I've just returned from a horrible fam tour from the Rocky Mountain state.
Despite what the cover depicts,
this is not a
'Pooch of the Powderhorn' story

That's not the case, though, as you've probably surmised by now.

No, this is another mystery story revolving around the adventures of New York-based travel writer Mallory Marlowe, who just happens to have the ability to stumble into a murder-mystery on every assignment.


This time, in Too Rich and Too Dead, she's off to a Colorado ski resort to write an article about the kinds of activities and adventures that visitors can enjoy when they prefer not to ski down the mountains. (While that may sound far-fetched, it's not; I've sold paddling stories to Ski Canada magazine, and that sometimes surprises people.)


Oh, and by the way - this was published before pot became legal in the state, so if you read it, keep that in mind.


Part of Marlowe's assignment involves interviewing celebrity health-guru and spa owner Carly Cassidy Berman, a former high school classmate. Before she can complete her assignment though, the celeb turns up dead in a mud bath at the spa.


Then the fun begins.


Mallory is sucked into trying to solve the mystery while trying to still complete the research for her travel article. Along the way, she gets entangled in not one, but two potential romances - one with a suspect, and the other with Trevor Pierce, her boss and editor of The Good Life magazine.


He shows up worried about her when news of the murder reaches New York, and given her previous adventures in Florida, he wants to make sure nothing happens to her. Or that's his story.


There are plenty of red herrings, and Baxter does a good job of conveying what a travel writer on assignment often has to go through to get a story completed.


Again, the depiction of a travel writer's life is a bit idealized; personally, I'd love to have her gig, myself: one guaranteed week-long trip each month, a spot in the magazine guaranteed, all expenses paid, and a good chunk of coin when the story is published.


Travel writers' Heaven, in other words.


The protagonist does manage to solve it and gets her magazine piece completed, as well.


Like the previous novel, there is also a section at the back with "travel articles" that contain information about the destinations and activities mentioned in the story, a nice added extra.


Since writing and publishing this second book in the series (2009), Cynthia Baxter has not written any more. The last book published by Bantam Books in her other series, Reigning Cats and Dogs, hit the markets in 2010. Her Facebook page has not posted anything in a few years, so it looks like she's not writing any more.


It's a pity; I would loved to have read more Murder Packs a Suitcase stories from her.




See? There's plenty to do in Colorado besides ski.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ghostly tales, aquatic tails await paddlers on Grand Manan

Getting their "seal" of approval.
We were surrounded … heads popped up in a different spot every few seconds. It was their element. 

All we could do was watch.

Watch, we did. Trying to focus a camera for a good close-up of a seal was another matter, though. Just when you thought you were set, sploosh! it dove, resulting in another excellent picture of a waterspout.

Still, no one was complaining. For the first time in three days, there was no rain or fog. Two days earlier, eight kayaks had set out in pouring rain from Grand Manan Island's North Head, heading for our first night's campsite: Ross Island.

Ross Island was the site of the first permanent settlement (1784) in this Bay of Fundy archipelago. The island is uninhabited today, although the original settlement's stone foundations are still visible. When we first landed, the present concerned us much more than the past. We were wet, hungry, tired and grumpy.

Adventure High guides Derek and Jen lifted our soggy spirits with a hearty meal of fresh haddock, rice and veggies.

A ghost story from Derek lifted our spirits further. The ghost of a former slaver supposedly haunts the island, cursed by a slave he threw overboard in chains to avoid being caught by boarding authorities.

Jen, our guide, checks on the paddling pack.
A ghostless night gave way to another sunless day, while the rain gave way to thick fog. An ugly weather forecast dictated a day trip along Ross Island through Cheney Passage, returning to our first campsite rather than paddle to a new site.

Paddling south along the coast, we watched cormorants, gulls, bald eagles and terns flew along the wave crests and the coastline. Sometimes the fog would clear a little, but most times it hung thick in the air, limiting visibility to 100 metres or less.

A few hours into our journey, an abandoned lighthouse materialized almost from nowhere, looming over us spectrally in the fog. A short paddle past it brought us to a beach littered with more spectres: the flotsam and jetsam of several shipwrecks. A leisurely lunch followed, giving way to a leisurely paddle back to our campsite. A supper of scallops, pasta and cheesecake surpassed the previous night's repast.

This lighthouse is just a ghost of its former self.
The next day we paddled north under overcast skies, cruising between Great Duck and Nantucket Islands, the former known for its automated lighthouse, the latter for its resident bull, which the owner allows to run free on the island.

Passing around the north end of Low Duck Island, we spied seals on the shore. At our approach, they slid into the water. We spent an hour drifting, watching them swim around our kayaks, while they watched us. It is hard to say who was more interested, the seals or us …

After lunch we headed northwest, homeward bound. Two hour's paddling landed us back at North Head - just in time to see the clouds disperse and the sun shine for the first time in three days … just as our trip was ending.

Oh, well. It would have been too hot paddling under a blazing sun, anyway  …



(Not our trip, but a similar experience. Video: Paul Dinning.)

(This story was originally published in Ski Canada's Outdoor Guide).

Monday, December 22, 2014

What do paddlers do when water freezes? Go mushing, of course!

Mushing down the trail in K-Country. (Snowy Owl photo)
Unless you're lucky enough to live in an area where you can paddle year-round, there always comes a time when a paddler has to hang up his paddle for the winter and wait for the spring, hoping to avoid cabin fever.

Although Vancouver does provide some opportunity for year-round paddling, it can be uncomfortable for many (and a bit more risky, since spilling out of a kayak into the open ocean during winter poses the serious threat of hypothermia.)

Sometimes you can get around cabin fever by flying south. But that's not always possible in terms of time or money.

But, you're itching to get outdoors, and enjoy the woods and mountains in a similar fashion to what you do in a canoe or kayak during the warmer months.

The solution?

Trade in your canoe for a dog-sled.

Now, while many of us own watercraft, running dogs with a dogsled is an entirely different type of animal (pun intended). If you're not committed to working with, and looking after, a team of dogs 12 months of the year, your best bet is to hook up with a dogsled touring company.

I was lucky enough to do that when I lived in Calgary.

And herein lies the tale of how I made like Jack London in the wilds of K-Country...

Once you glide along the snow, the wind whipping your face and snow flying behind you, you get the distinct feeling that mushing is the only way to travel in winter. If you’re passing through the Spray Valley, one of the Rocky Mountains’ most pristine and beautiful areas, you'll be convinced even more.

I was able to enjoy just such an experience, during a short day trip with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours, a Canmore-based company whose tours run anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Thanks to the dogs, any dog sledding trip always begins with a high level of excitement, whether it’s just an hour-long jaunt or a two-day excursion. The animals are bred and trained to run, and they love nothing more than hitting the trail to burn off their energy.

Before they hit the trail, they’re worse than a group of kids at Christmas, waiting to be given the go-ahead to rush out to the tree and start opening their presents. They strain at their harnesses, yipping and yapping, as if the only thing in the entire world worth doing involves running down a winter trail.

The dogs are not the only ones that have to be prepared. Snowy Owl clients receive a half-hour of instruction about the dogs and driving sleds. Once the dogs and the people are ready, then the fun begins.


Hmmm...that mushing looks ...
interesting.
Clients have two options for any trip: a more relaxed mode, riding on the sled comfortably wrapped up in a blanket while a guide drives; or, they drive the sled, for whatever distance with which they are comfortable.

“We like to include people in the driving,” says owner Connie Arsenault, “so they get what we get from the experience of mushing through the back country.”

You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to try your hand at driving. Although a certain level of fitness helps, even couch potatoes can experience the thrill of driving a dog team, as Snowy Owl will adjust their tours based on people’s fitness levels. Of course, the guides can always spell clients when they tire.

Driving sled dog team can be an exhilarating - and humbling - experience. You may not realize just how fast you’re going until you actually fall off a sled moving at full speed, and sit helplessly in the snow, watching your team continue down the trail without you.

On this particular trip, I avoided that pitfall, choosing to ride rather than drive, so I could absorb the scenery and snap some photos as we slipped down the trail.

No other winter sport compares to the feeling of mushing. Cross-country skiing is invigorating fun, but because of the amount of energy you have to spend just skiing, you may not always enjoy the full beauty of your surroundings unless you stop. Snowmobiling lies at the other end of the spectrum. Everything whips by too fast from the back of a gas-powered vehicle, and the noise is distracting. And while I really enjoy snowshoeing, it's much more contemplative, there is less adrenalin, and you just can't cover as much ground as a dogsled can.

Mushing combines the best of both worlds: enough speed, (but not too much), combined with the silence of winter wilderness, broken only by the swish of the sled runners along the trail and the panting of the dogs. It also offers the unique joy of interacting with the dogs.

Snowy Owl offers two-hour, half-day, full day and evening or moonlight tours as well as an overnight trip. On all the tours, the guides try to impart a love and respect for the wilderness setting in which the tours take place.

"Wilderness teaches lessons," says Connie. "It treats us all as equals. If we are arrogant, we need to be humbled, and the wilderness can do that. It's our teacher, reaching out to the natural element in all of us to teach us what we need to learn."

That philosophy parallels Native North American philosophy and spirituality. Snowy Owl builds many aspects of traditional Native culture into its tours.

All tours start off with an introduction that credits Native culture with the origin of dog sledding. The educational aspect goes beyond simply hearing about how Native cultures lived day-to-day. Depending on what tour you sign up for, you may get to meet all the dogs at the Snowy Owl kennel, helping to clean and feed them, load them into the truck and eventually harness them to the sleds.

One program - an evening affair, "Legend of the Snow Moon," - educates guests about the way the Native and Inuit cultures viewed the winter sky.

On the overnight trips, entitled "The Ghost of Fortune Mountain," guests sleep in Sioux-style tipis, and experience Native story telling around the campfire. The "ghost" in that tour's title stems from the fact guests often hear - but don't see - wolves on these trips. Natives referred to wolves as ghosts, because while their howling lets you know they are there, you very rarely see them.

Even the food contains a Native flavour. On the longer day trips, guests enjoy a traditional Canadian Native campfire lunch that includes foods like Native bannock and deli smoked beef (a modern compromise, since they don't have time to catch and smoke wild game meat) toasted over an open campfire. Buffalo stew is available on some trips.

On our shorter trip, though, we finished off our day with hot chocolate and home-baked cookies around a campfire on the snow clad shore of Spray Lake. As I glanced out across the snow, I’m already thinking about returning to do one of the longer trips, so I can perhaps hear the howl of the “ghosts” reverberate throughout the winter night … .



Mushing through the mountains (video by Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours)


(a slightly different version of this story was originally published in the March 2003 issue of Westjet Airlines magazine)

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.

video

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.

video

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.