Photographing Van Life, Part 3

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If I had to choose only one activity we could go do while we were van-life-ing, it would be mountain biking. My wife, Tera, on the other hand, would without a doubt choose rock climbing. We both enjoy both methods of recreating, and we’re making a conscious effort to balance time doing each activity. For this reason, we’ve been really looking forward to spending some time in British Colombia, and in particular Squamish, which is a Mecca for both biking and climbing.

A few days before we had planned to start our Canadian adventure, we got to do some great mountain biking in Bellingham, WA. The trails were amazing and I would highly recommend a stop there for anybody road tripping through the Pacific Northwest. The only bad part about our stay in Bellingham was that a ton of smoke had rolled in from the fires in BC and Montana. Since we had heard from friends and seen on web cams that Squamish was also quite smoky, we decided to go check out Vancouver Island for a few days, in hopes that the smoke there wouldn’t be as bad, and that by the time we were done there, Squamish would have cleared out.

A woman skips pylons in a lakebed
Hanging out on the shore with the pups in Squamish BC. Photo: Mike Schirf

One of the places that Tera really wanted to visit before we started the trip was Tofino, a small little surf town on the southwest side of the Island. We hopped on a ferry just outside of Vancouver and started the trek across to the Island. I had seen some beautiful photos from the area and was really excited about potential photo opportunities that might arise.

When we arrived though, we realized we had traded smoke for fog. We didn’t get to see much of the landscape at all, which was a total bummer. But we made the best out of our few days there with a little day of surfing and some nice dog walks on the beach.

A woman and dogs walk near a lake
Enjoying a foggy walk along the beach in Tofino, BC. Photo: Mike Schirf

Then we couldn’t take it anymore. We knew Squamish was still smoky, but we headed to the Promised Land. Tales of incredible splitter granite cracks, and the kind of singletrack that bikers around the world dream about awaited.

A dog looks over a forest landscape
Yours Truly Riding some granite slab in Squamish, BC as our dog Milly Looks on. Photo: Mike Schirf

Luckily the smoke only lasted a few days and we quickly found out that the hype around Squamish was well-deserved. We climbed and biked as much as we could, definitely burning the candle at both ends. Squamish had everything we had wanted and had been looking for on our trip; great places to park and camp the van, beaches where we could take the dogs for walks and pick blackberries along the way, and of course world-class biking and climbing.

A man climbs a rock wall
Tera climbing Crime of the Century, Squamish BC. Photo: Mike Schirf

There were so many highlights it’s hard to pick favorites, but a few that stood out for climbing were the Angels Crest, a 13 pitch route up the Chief, which is a 2,000 foot granite peak that shadows the town of Squamish. Then there was a really cool 2 pitch route at the bottom of the Chief, called Exasparator, a 5.10c finger crack that some call the best finger crack in the world.

A woman looks over a lake in the valley of a mountain range
Tera enjoying the view after climbing the 13 pitches of Angels Crest. Photo: Mike Schirf

I wish I could have ridden all the trails in Squamish 10 times. It’s the kind of place where you just start to feel confident in your riding skills, and then you check out a new trail and are quickly brought back to reality, but in a good way. Half Nelson was definitely on the top of my list of favorite trails. It’s a fantastic machine-built trial with awesome berms and rollers. It will keep you smiling for days.

I was also lucky enough to be invited by some Canadian friends to go up to Whistler and ride a new trail up Into the Mystic and down Lord of the Squirrels. The alpine views from the top were magical, and the time and effort it took to build Lord of the Squirrels was very evident. I believe the whole thing was a multi-year project, and it had only just been open a week or so when I got the chance to ride it. I’d definitely put it on my list of best trails ever ridden, for sure.

A bike in the forefront of a beautiful mountainscape
Biking in Squamish BC. Photo: Mike Schirf
Mike Schirf, Photographer,