Racquel Foran, Publisher
Weekend Getaway to Whistler/Squamish
One of the things the Jim and I were keen to do with Van Helen was getaway on last minute excursions. We took our first go at it the last weekend of August. At one o'clock in the afternoon on August 28, we decided we wanted to get out of the city for the weekend. We toyed with venturing to the the Sunshine Coast, one of my favourite places, but settled on Whistler because we wouldn't have to deal with the ferries. We figured we needed to leave by three o'clock in order to avoid the worst of the traffic as well as give us any hope at all of finding a campsite or RV park with availability. This gave us two hours to get ready and hit the road. It was however, the middle of Jim's work day, so he locked himself in his office to wrap up his work week, while I went to work packing the van. The first real test of Van Helen's convenience. Once again she did not disappoint!
I made the decision from the outset of purchasing Van Helen to keep her as stocked and ready to go as possible at all times. Meaning things like bedding, towels, coffee, dry and canned foods, dishes, etc. are kept permanently in the van. This meant preparing came down to packing into the van our clothes and the perishable food items we would need, battening down the hatches, and hitting the road. I am pleased to say we pulled out of the driveway at 3:05! There is no way in the world that I could have accomplished that back in our tenting days. I admit that I didn't pack much in the way of food as we weren't confident that we would be able to find a site and we didn't want to go through the work of loading up the fridge if we failed to find a place to camp. So milk for our morning coffee, and some cold drinks were all I packed. Once our destination was decided, we planned to pick up a few groceries nearby.
As we think it is wise, we had a plan A, and a backup plan. Plan A was to head to Cal-Cheak, a recreational site in the Callaghan Valley about 15 km south of Whistler Village. Tucked in between Callaghan Creek and Cheakamus River, Cal-Cheak has 55 campsites spread over three separate areas. All are first come first serve and none have services. But as we feared, by the time we arrived all campsites were full. We decided to drive up to Whistler to purchase groceries and then try plan B, the Whistler RV Park and Campground.
Driving right into the heart of Whistler Village on a Friday evening was not something we wanted to endeavour even during this slower COVID year, so we stopped just south of the Village at Creekside Village. It is a great little shopping stop directly on Hwy 99 on the way to Whistler Village. In addition to grocery and liquor stores, there's a Starbucks, a pub, a hotel, and several funky retail outlets, as well as several other service outlets like a gas station and bank. We were able to get everything we needed for a quick BBQ dinner, as well as delicious homemade sandwiches for lunch the next day.
It was now nearing sunset and we needed to find a place to park for the night. We headed to plan B, the Whistler RV Park and Campground. Located 40 km north of Squamish on Hwy 99, Whistler RV Park sits on a ridge overlooking the Pemberton Valley. (Sadly, because it was almost dark when we arrived, I did not get any photos).
Upon arrival we were greeted by one of the most pleasant fellows I have ever met. This guy clearly enjoyed his job, and he just oozed the Whistler vibe - which I understand that if you have never been to Whistler you will not be able to appreciate this description, but as soon as you do visit, you will immediately understand. He was laid back, super friendly, and in no particular rush. Sadly the property was full. He did however have eight overflow sites which he said we were welcome to choose from if we wanted. The overflow sites were marked off along the side of the road leading up to the site's office and gates, but sat outside of the gates themselves. They had no services, and we could not have a campfire because we were not within the gates, but the cost for the night was only $20 versus $65 to be on the other side of the gate and we were free to use all the same amenities - sold!
At first it seemed weird setting up on what was essentially the side of a road, but the van blocked the road and we we backed up against the side of rock face hill; with the awning pulled out, our outdoor rug, and camp chairs we managed to set up a cozy little space for ourselves. Jim fired up the BBQ and we cooked our go-to easy meal - steaks and baked potatoes. And here's the thing, I think in most ways we won. Traffic up to the main gates more or less stopped at 10 pm, not that it was particularly heavy before then. Four more of the overflow sites were eventually taken, but all arrived late and departed first thing in the morning, so this meant we had an abundance of privacy.
Jim and I have not been very enthusiastic about the idea of RV parks. The reason we purchased Van Helen was to be able to explore places we have never been, but being engulfed in nature is a big part of the appeal. Sure we like to have access to water and power (we hope to get better at rationing and going off grid), but we don't want to spend our time in what are essentially parking lots lined with RVs and trailers. And when we took a walk through Whistler RV Park that is what we found; rows of homes away from home lined up side by side, packed so tightly you might as well have been sharing a hotel room with strangers. Just not our thing. (Find details and review of Whistler RV Park here.) So we were quite content with our roadside location.
Needless to say, we weren't interested in spending an entire weekend parked by a road, so in the morning, after a quick breakfast, we packed up Van Helen and headed south again towards Squamish. I had found another recreation site, Squamish River Campsite that was our ultimate destination, but it is located 24 km off Hwy 99, so we were hoping to find something closer to the highway so we didn't end up going too far off route only to find no vacancy. We did make one detour to Paradise Valley Campground, which had a vacancy and looked lovely, but they had extremely strict COVID restrictions in place that more or less made you a prisoner in your individual site, and they did not have power and they would not allow us to use our generator, so we decided to move on. We are, however, interested in checking it out when the world returns to some degree of normal. Look out for a future blog and review.
So we continued south until we arrived at the entrance to Klahanie Campground. Located directly across Highway 99 from Shannon Falls, Klahanie offers, full service RV sites as well as tent campsites. Although we arrived about 40 minutes before they started accepting registrations for the day, the lovely Ann who was working in the office got us one of the few available serviced RV sites left, and it was a pretty decent one. Shortly after 1 pm we were set up in our new location for the remainder of the weekend.
For the most part we quite enjoyed Klahanie. A stroll through the campground led us to a number of sites that were real gems as they backed onto the Howe Sound and revealed spectacular views. There were also some pretty special tent sites nestled in the woods that offered an abundance of peace and privacy. The individual RV sites did not feel overly cramped and old growth trees loomed over the grounds, casting shadows and shade on the hot August day. (Visit our campgrounds page to get more info about the Klahanie and to read our review.)
The remainder of Saturday was spent doing exactly what we like to do, a whole lot of nothing. We kicked back in our camp chairs, ate some snacks, listened to the sounds of nature and watched the activity of campsites around us. We also took a stroll down to Darrel Bay. (Visit our Points of Interest page to find out what we learned about Darrell Bay.)
For us, this is the purpose of these weekends - they change our scenery and force us to do nothing. There are no chores to complete or errands to run. Our phones aren't pinging at us, and we can forget about everything beyond the forest for just a while. It is restorative in many ways.
Sadly we had to pack up early on Sunday morning as it was they day of our grandson's first birthday; we had to be back in town by 1 pm. Again we were grateful for both Van Helen and where we live. The convenience of the camper van made hitting the road in the morning easy - packed up and on the road in 30 minutes! We were stunned, a camping record for us. And then we were only 90 minutes from home. Quick showers and we arrived at the birthday party at five minutes to one - perfect timing that could not have been achieved without the convenience of Van Helen and access to great camping close to home.