Reviewed by G.D. Maxwell
In the preface to his recently published,
, Jack Christie captures the essence of the place when he writes,
ÒIf you canÕt enjoy yourself in Whistler, youÕre dead and donÕt know it.Ó
JackÕs probably enjoyed himself in Whistler — and pretty much every other
place heÕs been — as much as anyone I know.
And in the new volume, he offers up that
enjoyment and sense of wonder in an easily digestible format crammed with more
information, page-for-page, than most of us can dig up in a decade of poking
around our surpernatural back yard.
Organized geographically, south to north,
highlights both the journey and
destinations avid hikers, bikers, picnickers, climbers, rafters, paddlers and
nature lovers might want to check out from Squamish to Pemberton, with a few
choice spots as far north as Lillooet thrown in for good measure. If you only
have one guidebook for this part of the world, it should be this one. ItÕs not
exhaustive and would neither replace nor supplement volumes dedicated to, say,
climbing or paddling, but as an all-around introduction to the Sea-to-Sky
corridor, itÕs an invaluable starting point and a great read. It ought to be in
every home and condo in Whistler.
In the introductions to each section —
Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton — and throughout the text, Jack stuffs
his prose with historical tidbits, keen observations, colourful characters and
tips designed to make the reader aware he or she is passing through both a
place and a time. And stressing, whether describing a novice hike or an exposed
trek requiring advanced skills, that ÒThe thin veneer of civilization around
the Sea to Sky corridor suggests a cosiness that can be deceptive. Éthose who
do not respect the wilderness often face uncompromising consequences.Ó
The range of activities covered, makes this
book suitable for families with small children who are just looking for a short
stroll to a natural setting where they can enjoy a picnic lunch, Alice Lake for
example, to the no-pain no-gain crowd who might want to tackle the vertical
hike up to Wedgemount Lake. Whether writing about something as pedestrian and
prosaic as wandering along WhistlerÕs Valley Trail or describing the raw
wilderness of entering the Stein Valley via Blowdown Pass and hoping for a
chance encounter — at a distance — with grizzly, Jack expresses the
serenity or excitement of a place with the keenly focused eye of a seasoned
naturalist and the encyclopaedic detail of a historian.
Scattered throughout the text of a place are
informative sidebars highlighting some of the people whose pioneering, in the
broadest sense of the word, left indelible imprints on the places described.
From Joan Matthews, a champion slalom skier who mapped much of the backcountry
north of Squamish, to Randy Stoltmann, whose work for the Federation of
Mountain Clubs of B.C., helped highlight the need to preserve large tracts of
The sidebars also give Jack license to compile
a list of Òbests,Ó from best eagle watching spot to best midnight cross-country
ski, to best ghost town to JackÕs top three trails: JackÕs Trail at Alice Lake,
Tin Pants, west of Lost Lake and Joffre Lakes Trail, in case you were
To ensure you donÕt get lost, reasonably
detailed maps are sprinkled liberally throughout the book, marked with
highlights noted in the text. And to ensure youÕre suitably motivated to use
the maps, the book makes generous use of black and white and gorgeous color
photos taken by JackÕs traveling companion, wife, photographer and lifeÕs love,
In a perfect world, the book might include an
index organized around level of difficulty and round-trip time. As it is, that
information is included in the text and hunting for it carries the bonus of
leading you further into JackÕs entertaining prose. Besides, this is a book
that should be read cover to cover. The reward for investing the time will be a
hike or bike ride or paddle you might not have known about or a new
appreciation of some of your old favourites.
The Whistler Book: An All-Season Outdoor
, is Published by GreyStone Books.
Jack and Louise Christie will hold a book signing at Armchair Books this Saturday, July 2, from 1 to 3 p.m.