LUND, BC - Gazing out on a lazy sun-drenched afternoon over the fluid jewel that is our very life on this Earth causes reflection - with every feeling of disgust, disappointment, dread, and despair - on what our ways have wrought in the Gulf.
Across the great sprawling mass of natural territory that is western Canada there are half-way points that are no more, neither places of departure nor destination, and, invariably, the community possessed of a "glass half empty" disposition. This is not to say that they were once points of departure, but so many have left and never returned, and, back in the day, they were all, I suppose, termini, to a point. These stops-along-the-ways – once bustling, now emptying towns and small cities of the west – are becoming fewer and fewer as Canada, sadly, goes urban and loses history.
Squamish, British Columbia is a halfway point, but it sits apart from rural rest stops. Squamish stands alone because it’s so close to Vancouver and Whistler: halfway. It might stand above if Squamish were to activate its location as one of the biggest outdoor attractions in the world; if Squamish didn’t seem so squeamish to do so. Look up, Squamish, way up.
Chief among its distinctive advantages is the Chief - the Stawamus Chief. At a point driving along British Columbia's Sea-to-Sky Highway and, rounding a/the/that corner, you will whisper, in hushed awe, when it appears, "The Chief." If you're with others in your vehicle, someone will say, "That's a big f**king rock." You might likely say it to yourself. It is a big f**king rock of granite. Yea, so it’s a rock. Some lists put it as the 2nd largest granite monolith in the world, except this list. What good is a big rock? Ask any kid and the answer is quick and rock-solid: climb it, and they do. From all over the world, they are drawn to climb the Chief. It’s not just any big f**king rock.
Squamish, or Squeamish or Squagmire or Squamptom - the later is what my friend, and fellow writer and journalist, Myles Estey (pictured with Prince, from when he was reporting out of Liberia for my radio show, and check out his blog) delights in calling it. He's pulled it out of some incongruent reference to a classic rap video, N.W.A.Straight outa Compton, that only he - along with fellow dudes who surf, board, climb, ski and bike - knows. It has something or other to do with substituting Squampton every time you hear Compton in the lyrics, which seems to me to be an intentionally convoluted and confusing exercise in uselessness. But, for Myles, the idealist, it is, apparently, never ending fun.
My family, my friends and I, as I have purposely set out to re-discover on this adventure across western Canada, live for never ending fun; none of it useless, much of it spontaneous, most of it nonsense, and all of it genuine. As my sister, Brenda (left), wrote the other night when detailing the somewhat irrational things her children and middle-aged brother are doing at present, "What fun!" For my sister - the more conservative of us two - to make such an exclamation is a profound testament to where we are in our lives, indeed.
Myles, Martin, the realist, (pictured, and whom you'll meet in moments) and Barrett, too, are the classmates whom I took as friends from my student years at UBC. There is no finer a trio of noble young men, and I am a better man for having had the great fortune to meet, to share, to know, and to be squared with them, each to his own. Remarkably, despite our age difference, as I'm old enough to be their dad, our friendship has and always will stand on rock-solid footing.
It's Barrett whom I entrusted as partner when I climbed the Cornflakes on the Chief and, later that same summer, The Crags of Strathcona.
Martin, not only a realist, is also an occasional inventor of words - some of which I won't let him get away with, like awesomer. There is a limit to my patience for all that is dude. It is also through his eyes that I have come to see Squamish disengaged from its enviable halfway point, squished between Vancouver and Whistler on the Sea-to-Sky Highway and letting the world drive by.
I'm lucky to have Martin as my guide. There's nothing like a local to show you the secrets of a place. And, as you will see, Squamish is and can be more than a strip of gas stations, Starbucks and fast-food chains strung-along-a-strip on the Sea-to-Sky that most passers-by only know it to be.The squirarchy (yes, a real word, not one of Martin's inventions) of Squamish needs to stop squawking and squabbling like they're playing 43-man Squamish, stop sqaundering the Chief brand and draw inspiration from that big f**king rock.
Squamish, feel my squib as the first stop on my wandering west, and you, my dear fellow wanderer, prepare to meet Martin and Shannon, Shasta, too, and hear tell, for the first time, of the Cantankaroo. Let the fun begin.