Is My Valley?
Travel the Valley Trail to find out
Photography and story by Christopher Woodall
There's something about the Valley Trail that grabs your essential juices.
It's not an obvious sensation that strikes right away, of course. The feeling that you are at some place special — as opposed to simply going, "oh gee, this is kinda nice, eh?" when you take that first step — usually kicks in only when you're well on your way down a segment of the trail.
Maybe you're on the Valley Trail because someone told you about it, or it seemed like a healthy thing to do, or you were bored with the Disney-esque life of downtown Whistler... or whatever.
But there you are rounding a bend and suddenly you're seized with the god-driven need to... look... up.
There it is: some crazy person put this breath-snatching view right in front of you and now you can't move your legs until your eyes tell your brain all about it.
This orgasmic "wow!" happened more than 550,000 times last summer, say municipal parks and recreation statistics about the number of trail visits. If you could tap into those little zaps of spine-tingling electricity, we'd all pay less on our Hydro bills.
There are lovely vistas all along the Valley Trail and everyone has his or her favourite. Maybe it's that spot at the north end of Lost Lake looking south across it and up into Blackcomb Mountain. Maybe it's just as you enter the grove of cedars on the north edge of Whistler Golf Course. Or maybe the picnic table beside the gently murmuring River of Golden Dreams at Meadow Park is where you like to hang out.
For me, it's wheeling along the stretch between Wayside Park and Nita Lake.
Put your arms around the man, woman or animal you love best. Your arms are the Valley Trail. It's sensual sinews encircle most of Whistler, from south of Whistler Creek north to the first entrance to Alpine Meadows.
And this year the outcasts in Emerald Estates will see the trail snake a tendril out their way along Green Lake.
A "park visions" master plan is due to make its appearance later in June which identifies all the trails and parks in this resort municipality and the municipality's aims for them. Many of the ideas have to do with taking tracks through woodlands and upgrading them to official trails, complete with signs.
A lot of those signs will highlight the historical and natural heritage we have in this valley. There are near-forgotten pioneer trailbeds, a bog iron mine, a ghost town, the particular mountain valley plant life and this planet's exposed earth bones to enjoy.
Competition for space on the trail among walkers, cyclists and more recently in-line skaters has seen the trail evolve to accommodate everyone. The original plan in 1979 was to have a four-foot wide walking path of gravel to link the five lakes with Whistler Village. Public input demanded widening the path to eight feet to allow multiple uses. By 1982 the route following the sewer main between the golf course and Hwy. 99 was paved to make it easier for cyclists.
"Back then there were only 10-speeds," says Parks technician Heidi MacPherson. "The narrow tires made it difficult to ride on gravel."
The initial success of the first paved portion made way for paving the trail to Whistler Cay. The next phase saw the trail paved to Meadow Park and then south to Whistler Creek by 1985.
Today the trail is as much a "commuter highway" as a recreation attraction.
Popularity of the trail is such that Parks people have plans to widen some sections and pave a new section of the Valley Trail from Lorimer Road north along the highway to the baseball fields in Spruce Grove Park. This would go a long way to creating one completely paved loop that would ease trail congestion by spreading out in-line skaters and others who prefer a paved surface for their outdoor enjoyment.
Trail users in Nordic Estates and on that eastern side of the highway can look forward to a bridge to get them across Highway 99. The bridge, however, will sit at a point where it uses a large bluff to create an "on-grade" crossing: no stairs to mount.
The success of Canada's first trail patrol last summer will carry on this year. Volunteers equipped with first aid kits and communication radios roam the trail on weekends and holidays to offer assistance and advise "speeders" and others about the Share the Trail Code of Conduct.
Patrollers came on all sorts of situations last year. Far and away the biggest concern was dogs off leashes causing problems, accounting for 18 per cent of trail user’s troubles.
Other events in the life of a patroller included people asking for directions (13 per cent of patrollers' time); skaters in need of instruction (13 per cent); slowing skaters and cyclists (11 per cent); skaters without padding (10 per cent); injury assistance, bike and skate repair, and moving stopped traffic from blocking trail (8 per cent each); trail maintenance (7 per cent); noting where better trail signs are required and dealing with pesky bears (two per cent each).
Of course, bears always get the right of way.