In Arthur's footsteps — exploring Blackcomb's high country trails 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROBIN O'NEILL, COURTESY OF WHISTLER BLACKCOMB - Mountain Hiking could be playing a much bigger role in attracting tourists to Whistler.
  • Photo by Robin O'Neill, courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb
  • Mountain Hiking could be playing a much bigger role in attracting tourists to Whistler.

"When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek the new. The restless craving in the souls of men spurs them to climb, and seek the mountain view."

- American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox

It was a beautiful afternoon. The air was warm, but not uncomfortable. Big, bumbling cumuli kept forming and dissipating — some would spin around Blackcomb Peak for a few minutes and play hide-and-seek with the sun — creating a kind of chiaroscuro effect that transformed everything on the trail into a dreamlike fusion of shadow and light.

"This is so cool," said my guest. "So very, very cool..." I smiled. Nodded in agreement. "I'm so grateful for this," she continued. "Getting up into the high country was exactly what I needed today. This place — this trail — is exactly where I want to be right now." She sighed with pleasure. We kept on walking.

A gang of grey jays suddenly picked up on our passage. Loud and territorial, they serenaded us from the branches of a storm-ravaged hemlock. Krwak-Kwrak-Kwrak, they cried. "Friend or foe? Friend or foe?"

A fat marmot — its winter coat ragged and near fully-shed — waddled across our path and into the adjoining stand of juniper. Didn't even look up at us, so intent was he on his next bite. We followed his progress as he munched his way though the shrubby conifers all the way to the far edge of the patch. It was almost too funny to be real.

"You arranged for this to happen, didn't you," said my guest. And we both laughed. Indeed — I couldn't have choreographed our mountain adventure better if I'd tried. We were on our way up to Decker Mountain, on the Blackcomb trail system that Arthur DeJong and his intrepid band of alpine elves have been hard at work creating/improving/updating over the last four years. And my guest was having the time of her life. As for me, I was getting serious host-points. Yeah baby!

"I never realized just how beautiful this place was in summer," said my guest. "I mean, it's not like I'm a Whistler newby. I've just never hiked here before. What a revelation..."

According to Tourism Whistler statistics, "nature and scenery" remain the number one draw for Sea to Sky summer visitors. And it leads the other categories by quite a margin. Which is no surprise, really, given the width and breadth of our physical plant. Alas, until very recently, there were few ways to access our alpine wonderland in summertime... unless you were core enough to create your own trails and hike your own lines. But DeJong wants to change all that.

Manager of "All Things Green and Progressive" at Whistler Blackcomb (WB), DeJong is on a mission to bring mountain hiking to Whistler in a big way. And he wants to do it in a manner that invites participation from a wide range of fitness levels, social backgrounds and physical abilities.



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