It may be true that no man is an island and no man stands alone. But for us people, collectively, in Whistler this past long weekend, our mountain town was definitely transformed into an island overnight by the infamous rockslide on Highway 99 near Furry Creek.
As news of Whistler’s temporary isolation aired worldwide Wednesday morning, those of us living in the Sea to Sky Corridor were suddenly forced to rethink our plans for the August long weekend and swallow the reality that we would not be able to drive to Vancouver in a short 2.5 hours.
Many people in Whistler decided to stay in town, instead of taking the eight-hour detour towards southern pastures. Some people even flat out panicked at the thought of being stuck in Whistler and proceeded to buy the Husky gas station out of gas, and Nesters out of milk. (While I personally never set foot in a grocery store during the Rock Slide Shopping Spree, I did hear several rumours about people stealing water out of other people’s shopping carts.) And everyone realized that without a fully functioning Highway 99, Whistler can be a pretty damn hard place to get to.
Of course, the province of British Columbia is full of hard places to get to.
This is a place, after all, built on top of mountain ranges, inlets, and temperate rainforests. This is a place where the roads do not run straight. And this is a place where ferries are often considered a more efficient way to get from Point A to Point B than bridges.
In some ways, last week’s rockslide was a gentle reminder that most of the province, including Whistler, is rugged, difficult terrain. While the Sea to Sky Highway may seem perilous at times, it actually is not that bad compared to other travelling options.
So, in tribute those who sucked it up and travelled along the Duffey Lake Road and the Fraser Canyon during the rock slide weekend, I have compiled a list of five other hard places to get to in British Columbia. It is not the most scientific list. But hopefully it does at least a bit of justice to the bush whacking, bumpy road driving and ferry waiting that is so characteristic of this province.
1. Powell River To start it off, I went with the town of Powell River on the southwest coast. Travelling to Powell River epitomizes ferry travel in B.C. The town is only 214 km west of Whistler, but a bunch of inlets and mountain ranges make it impossible to actually drive there as the crow flies. Instead, you have to take two ferries, starting at Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver. As a result, what should be a four-hour trip suddenly takes seven hours. And that is assuming you make both ferries.
2. Nakusp Number two on the list is Nakusp. You wouldn’t think that in the landscape of the West Kootenays, east of Whistler, ferry travel would be required. Of course, there is the tiny town of Nakusp, located on the shores of the Upper Arrow Lake. Whether you approach Nakusp from the east or the west, you have to take a ferry. And while both ferry rides are short (15 minutes and half an hour), anyone who has taken ferries knows that any sailing adds significant hours to a trip.
3. Bella Coola This town gets spot number three because of the notoriously narrow, winding highway that leads to it. Locals actually refer to the 43 km road into Bella Coola as “The Hill” because of its intense twists, turns and steep incline. At one point, the highway even features an 18 per cent grade. Scared of heights? Of course, if you choose not to drive the highway to Bella Coola, there is always the option of yet another ferry ride. This one from the north of Vancouver Island.
4. Fort Nelson The reason I put Fort Nelson on this list is not because of its bad road conditions. And thankfully, no ferries are involved with driving to this northern town. The biggest challenge with travelling to Fort Nelson is that it is just so far away. About 1,598 km from Vancouver, in fact. It takes a few days to drive along the Alaska Highway to Fort Nelson, and most of the highway has no mobile telephone service. Travellers are advised to pack enough emergency supplies to last two nights in case things go wrong on the road north.
5. Atlin Finally, on this list of hard places to get to in B.C., is the tiny town of Atlin. I was going to end with the Queen Charlotte Islands, but then I realized that I have gone on long enough already about ferry travel. So Atlin it is. In case you have not heard of it, Atlin is located in the far, far north of B.C. It is so far north, in fact, that the only way to get there is to drive south from the Yukon. That’s right. Not from British Columbia, but from the Yukon.
Hard to get to? I think we can safely say yes.