I like to know exactly where I am.
It's a map-reading thing. I would default to navigator on family driving vacations when I was a kid. I got to look around then, not so much now. Our mountains are a wonderful experience that requires you to focus on the road when you're at the wheel.
It's too bad for the driver, really, since there is so much to look at.
The Sea to Sky region has constant curves, dips and hard igneous surfaces. It's a question of geology and with that above-mentioned curiosity I picked up In Love With Earth in Squamish & Whistler by Diane Mitchell.
Mitchell, the curator of education and collections at the Britannia Mine Museum, south of Squamish, took two years to write this guide to the landscape around Whistler and Squamish.
She starts with the fun stuff, our place in the 170-million year old Ring of Fire, the volcanic circle around the Pacific where the Earth's plates meet. It's a slow moving tectonic drama that created our Coast Mountain Complex — the range that we drive past each day.
Do you know our volcanoes? Mount Garibaldi, Mount Cayley and Mount Meager are part of a chain that extends south into the U.S. and includes Mount St. Helens. Other volcanoes and vents making up the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt include Black Tusk, Powder Mountain and the Table.
Before you worry, it's important to point out that these are currently inactive. Mitchell writes that no one is certain if there will be another eruption, but the two most likely candidates would be Cayley and Meager, both near Pemberton.
She goes on to describe the 2 kilometre-high glaciers that carved out our valleys.
Mitchell also provides a list of the most beautiful features in the region, many of which can be seen from the Sea to Sky Highway. From Shannon Falls and Stawamus Chief at Squamish, to Wedge Mountain at Whistler, to the Joffre Lakes north of Mount Currie, Mitchell describes their geological provenance. It's like hearing the story of where giants came from.
From here, there is a look at the rainforest, its flora and fauna, and how they came to live in this turbulent system.
And throughout the book are colour photos, mostly taken by Mitchell, with detailed captions.
To this geographical navigator it's an interesting book, packing a lot of topographical facts into its 101 pages. It is presented clearly and is easy for non-geologists to understand, whether they be adults or teens.
It is clear that Mitchell wants to share her knowledge with the widest audiences possible. So the next time you are skiing down a slope or climbing a rock face, take a moment to think about the volcanoes and glaciers that made both the slope and the beauty around you. Get a copy of this book and travel millions of years through Sea to Sky time.
In Love With Earth in Squamish & Whistler retails for $27.95 at Armchair Books in Whistler Village. It is also for sale at the Whistler Museum and Carlsbergs Gift Shop. In Squamish, it is available at the Adventure Centre, Valhalla Pure, Quest University Bookstore, Sea to Sky Gondola and the Britannia Mine Museum.
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