Tag Archives: Discover Nature

We’ve Reopened

Over the past few weeks museum and other cultural organizations have begun to re-open around the province, many with new procedures in place and some with reduced hours and services.  Locally the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and the Audain Art Museum both reopened with reduced hours on Friday, June 26.  Over here at the Whistler Museum, we’re taking things a little more slowly and officially reopened to the public on Wednesday, July 1.

We didn’t have any balloons but we have reopened! Whistler Museum Collection

Our reopening comes with a few changes, beginning with our operating hours.  The museum will be open only six days a week and will be closed on Wednesdays (apart from July 1) for the foreseeable future, though we will continue to be open until 9pm on Thursdays.  Visitors to the museum will also notice some physical changes to the space, with a barrier at the front desk and designated pathways through the exhibit area (we have also repainted some areas, which eagle-eyed visitors will notice are a slightly different shade of gray).  You can find more information about changes in our protocols and procedures here.

Our summer programming will also be starting up in July.  Walking tour season will begin July 1, with our Valley of Dreams Walking Tour, a historical tour through the Village, accepting up to ten participants at 11 am and the launch of a digital version of our guided nature walking tour.  This online tour includes videos and images related to Whistler’s rich natural history that correspond to numbered locations along the Nature Trail starting at Lost Lake PassivHaus (more information can be found at whistlermuseum.org/naturewalk).

Discover Nature will look different this year, with “no touch” tables and much more distance between our interpreters and visitors.

This summer our popular Discover Nature program will rotate through different parks around town, bringing visual displays, “no touch” tables, and on-site interpreters to feature different themes and aspects of Whistler’s natural history Mondays through Fridays.

Crafts in the Park, a joint program with the Whistler Public Library, is going virtual this summer, with seven weeks of crafts brought to you from Florence Petersen Park.  Each Saturday, beginning July 11, we will share a video filmed in the park to share a little about Whistler’s history and lead you through a craft project.  Families can sign up with the Whistler Library to receive weekly craft supply packages and craft supply lists for each week will be shared online so everyone can participate.

We are also very excited to be able to announce that we will be presenting a virtual screening of Mike Stein’s film Highways of the Past:Canoeing the Grand Canyon of the Liard, with a Q&A session with Mike, on Tuesday, July 7.  Participants must register for the event, as space is limited.  Go to the Events page on our website to find out how to register.

Though the season will be different than we initially planned, we’re looking forward to a busy summer at the museum, both online and in person, and we are especially excited to welcome our members and friends again (a few at a time and from a safe distance)!

Walking Tour Season Returns!

Summer walking tours are back!  This year we’re excited to be offering two daily tours through June, July & August.  Join us to explore our area’s history with our Valley of Dreams Walking Tour or learn more about the valley’s nature and biodiversity with our Discover Nature Walking Tour.

Whether you’re visiting Whistler, here to work for the season or a long time local we guarantee you will learn something new about Whistler’s history and nature.  Tours last approximately an hour.

Valley of Dreams Walking Tour: meet outside the Visitor Information Centre at 11 am

Discover Nature Walking Tour: meet outside the Lost Lake PassivHaus at 11 am

Whistler Museum: Year in Review

The past year has been one of great exhilaration, vision and accomplishment for the Whistler Museum & Archives Society.  Together with the Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers, the museum continued to advance its mission to collect, preserve, document and interpret the natural and human history of mountain life in Whistler, and broaden our program offerings.

2018 marks the busiest year in the museum’s history, with over 12,800 exhibit visits and an additional 10,600 people partaking in the museum’s many events and programs.  These programs included our long-running Valley of Dreams Walking Tour, which educates guests and locals alike on the pioneer history of the region, tales behind the development of the mountains, and the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The tour is currently in its 22nd year and runs daily throughout June, July and August.

Walking tours have been run by the museum for 22 years, making it our second longest running program (beaten only by the Annual LEGO Building Competition).

The museum’s Discover Nature program was another highlight from the past year.  This program, which runs in July and August, included a Discover Nature Station at Lost Lake Park and a nature-based walking tour.  Our friendly interpreters used the touch table items to engage participants and to encourage questions about the marvels of natures.  Participants also had the opportunity to dig deeper into any of our items on display (or things not on display) to discover fun facts about some of Whistler’s local organisms.

Other museum program highlights this year included Kids Après, Crafts in the Park (in partnership with the Whistler Public Library), Nature 101 training seminars, our 3rd annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week, Feeding the Spirit and, of course, our long-running Speaker Series.

Brandywine Falls, now a provincial park, was once the Conroy family homestead and then a bustling resort run by the Gallagher family. Photo: Whistler Mountain Collection

My personal favourite Speaker Series event we held this year was with Julie Gallagher, who grew up at Brandywine Falls, and whose parents Ray and Ruth Gallagher ran a resort in the current location of Brandywine Provincial Park.  After delivering a riveting talk on April 28th, Julie offered to take staff and guests on a walk through Brandywine Falls the following day, describing where many lost structures were located, and even showed us a few remnants of structures just off the main viewing area that I personally have walked past many times but would never have noticed if she had not pointed them out.

One of the major accomplishments of the museum this year was the completion of Coast Mountain Gothic: A History of the Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Huts, a virtual exhibit with the support of the Virtual Museum of Canada.  This exhibit explores the story, design and construction of Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Huts and the people and organizations who brought them to life.  This was a major endeavour that took over two years to complete and was also the museum’s first fully bilingual exhibit, with all interpretive text available in French.  You can check our the exhibit on our website under exhibits: VMC – Coast Mountain Gothic.

The VOC building the Harrison Hut in October 1983. Photo: Jay Page; UBC-VOC Archives, October 1983.

Given our lack of physical space in our current location, we are glad to have the opportunity to tell Whistler’s stories through our Museum Musings column every week – thanks to the Pique for allowing us to share 52 Whistler narratives in 2018 that would have otherwise been left untold.  We are grateful to everyone who reads our column and attends our events.  Thank you for your continued support and we’ll see you in the new year!

– Brad Nichols, Executive Director

The Great Toad Migration

Whistler Western toad migration is almost done!

If you’ve been up at Lost Lake recently, you may have seen these tiny toads behind the black carriers in the wetlands or crossing the paths around you.  You may have even helped us move them off the path (thank you!).

Just in case you didn’t have a chance to see them or to speak with one of the Nature Interpreters at our Discover Nature booth, we’ll be providing answers here to some of the questions people have about the toads and the steps taken to protect them.

The great Western toadlets on their annual migration at Lost Lake. Photo: Kristina Swerhun

Every spring, a female Western toad will lay approximately 12,000 eggs in shallow water.  These eggs become tadpoles in just three to 12 days and are ready to leave the water after six to eight weeks.  At Lost Lake, this means crossing the beach, the Valley Trail and the road to join the adult Western toads in the forests and grasslands.  In nature, less than one per cent of these toads make it to breeding age.  It is our responsibility to make sure human activities don’t increase their mortality rate.

To help the toads survive this journey, the RMOW is working towards a more “toad friendly” environment around Lost Lake Park.  Barriers and fences have been put in place to direct toads towards the forest and nature interpreters from the Whistler Museum’s Discover Nature program educate passersby about this sensitive and protected species.

The toads are helped across the trail by volunteers who also encourage people to walk their bikes and step carefully.

At some point, the toads must cross the Valley Trail and Lost Lake Road on their way to the upland forest areas where they will hibernate for the winter.  To protect them on their journey, Lost Lake Road is closed and people are asked to please watch their step and walk their bikes.

Although the toads are pretty cute, visitors to Lost Lake are asked not to touch the toads with their bare hands as the toads’ skin is very sensitive to human oils and sunscreen.  Picking up the toads or poking them can cause them serious harm or even kill them.

The toadlets blend in well to their surroundings, making them easy to miss.

These steps, which may seem inconvenient, are taken not only to protect a sensitive species but also because Whistler is home to many different creatures, including people.  All of these creatures deserve to be respected.

If you are interested in the Great Toad Migration and would like to help, come visit the Whistler Museum Nature Interpreters at Lost Lake.  We can supply you with gloves and cups and teach you  how to handle the toads without harming them.

If you see the toads anywhere other than Lost Lake, we would love to know!  To report sightings or if you have any questions, please contact us at DiscoverNature@WhistlerMuseum.org.

Kara is a Nature Interpreter with the Whistler Museum’s Discover Nature Program and a recent graduate of Whistler Secondary.  Find her at Lost Lake under the white tent by the concession or on our Nature Walks meeting at the PassivHaus at 11 am Tuesday to Friday until the end of August.

Discover Nature at Family Après

If you’ve been at Family Après in Olympic Plaza over the past couple months, you might have recognized a tent from the Discover Nature summer program at Lost Lake.  In July and August the Discover Nature team shared its knowledge of Whistler’s natural history through touch tables, activities and nature walks around Lost Lake.

Discover Nature at Family Après focuses on some of the animals that are active in Whistler during the winter.  The challenge is to identify eight mammals in Whistler that neither migrate nor hibernate using replicas of their skulls, tracks and claws.  This may not sound like a whole lot to go on but the teeth can give you clues about what an animal eats and the shape of the skull can indicate traits such as a keen sense of smell or better than average night vision.  Hints and help are also on hand if you get stuck.

The touch table at Discover Nature in the summer. Some of the same skulls, pelts and tracks are on display this Monday in Olympic Plaza.

While hiking, biking and even skiing around Whistler I have encountered over half of the animals featured at the Discover Nature tent, but one that I have never seen is the wolverine.  After learning about an encounter John Millar once had with a wolverine, I’m not so sure I want to.

Wolverines are the largest members of the weasel family, which also includes martens, mink and river otters.  Sometimes described as a mixture of a dog, a bear and a skunk, wolverines have short legs, long hair and distinctive markings, including a dark mask around their eyes and a light stripe on each side running from their shoulders to the base of their tails.  Although wolverines are typically about the size of a medium-sized dog they are effective predators and can even smell prey hibernating beneath six metres of snow.  Their diet can range from berries, rodents and ground squirrels to mountain goats and moose.

John Millar outside his cabin (today the area of Function Junction). Millar Creek was named for this early settler. Photo: Philip Collection.

Millar is perhaps best known as the trapper who introduced Myrtle and Alex Philip to Alta Lake.  A Polish immigrant, Millar arrived in the valley sometime before 1906 by way of Texas, where he worked as a cook at a cow-camp.  He purchased some land along the Pemberton Trail near the junction of Millar Creek and the Cheakamus River (today the area of Function Junction) and built a roadhouse for travellers, supplementing his income from trapping by charging 50 cents for a bed (meal not included).

From the account of Dick Fairhurst, Millar may not have always been the most successful trapper.  He regularly caught marten, rabbit, mink, muskrat (the basis for a memorable stew), and beaver.  Once, however, while out on his trap line Millar caught a wolverine.  Thinking it was dead he added it to his pack and walked on.  Unfortunately for him, the wolverine was still very much alive and came to while still on his back.  It ate a hole through Millar’s pack and “grabbed John by the seat of the pants.”  While Millar managed to extricate himself from the angry wolverine it was awhile before he could sit comfortably again.

Discover Nature will be back at Family Après in Olympic Plaza this Monday, March 5.  If you think you can tell a wolverine from a bobcat, come by and say hello.

2017 Western Toad Migration Begins

This past week the annual Western toad migration began again at Lost Lake Park.  Tens of thousands of these tiny toads gradually emerge form the lake to travel to the surrounding forests, though less than one per cent survive the journey.

The tiny toadlets crossing the trail at Lost Lake Park are about the size of a fingertip.

Western toads are found west of the Rockies between Mexico and Southern Alaska.  They will have three different habitats throughout a year: shallow bodies of water during spring breeding season, terrestrial forests and grasslands in the summer, and underground dens for winter hibernation.

The adult toads will migrate to breeding sites in early spring to mate and lay eggs.  One female can lay between 12,000 and 16,000 eggs.  They will then quickly hatch and become tadpoles in three to twelve days.  The speed of their development is highly dependent on the temperature of the water.  In six to eight weeks these tadpoles will then develop into dime-sized, terrestrial dwelling toadlets.  This is when their treacherous journey begins.

By the end of the summer the toadlets will leave the water to join their adult counterparts in the forests and grasslands.  During this life-stage they are easy prey for garter snakes, birds, small mammals and even other amphibians.  They are also easily trodden on because they are so small and well camouflaged.

The toadlets blend in well with their surroundings, making them easy to miss.

Once they have reached their destination, they will hibernate for the duration of winter, usually using existing animal dens or making their own.  It will take two to three years for these toads to mature, and they can live ten years or more, continuing this cycle throughout their lifetime.

Lost Lake is home to the largest population of Western toads in Whistler.  It is unfortunate for the toads that it is one of the most popular beaches in Whistler; however, it creates an amazing opportunity for people to see and understands this process firsthand.  The migration takes two to four weeks, and environmental technicians and volunteers will be on side to direct pedestrians and vehicle traffic, as well as monitor and help the toads cross safely.  Anyone in the park during this time is encouraged to use caution when walking and to get off their bike when travelling on the trails near the park and the beach entrance.

The toads are helped across the trail by volunteers who also encourage people to walk their bikes and step carefully.

Though Western toads are considered relatively common in BC, it is expected that there will be population declines in southern BC as the species has been disappearing in wide ares of their historic range in the US.  This is believed to be a result of a number of factors, the greatest of them being habitat destruction due to development in and around wetlands.  Other causes include rising temperatures, increased UV radiation, and changing water levels due to climate change, traffic on roads and pollution.  The province in monitoring their habits and tracking populations to learn more about how to support this sensitive species.

They are on the provincial yellow list, which means that they are considered a species of conservation concern, and they are a protected species under the BC Wildlife Act.

By Teah Schacter.  Teah is a summer student with the Whistler Museum’s Discover Nature program at Lost Lake.  She recently graduated from Whistler Secondary School and will be attending university in the fall.

Discover Nature this Summer with the Whistler Museum!

With help from the Whistler Naturalists and the Whistler Biodiversity Project, the Museum will again be offering a public education program throughout July and August at Lost Lake Park.  The program includes a “pop up” museum at Lost Lake, nature walks and an activity booklet for kids.

Our touch tables let you handle things like skulls and pelts that you won’t normally find out in the forests.

Because last year’s was so successful (the Museum interacted with an average of 250 people per day) the “pop up” museum will be at Lost Lake for 4 days per week instead of 3.  It will be open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am – 4 pm beginning tomorrow, July 4th, and running until September 1st.  Find us at our tent outside the concession by the Lost Lake beach.

Highlights this year will include touch tables showcasing a wide range of Whistler’s amazing nature hosted by nature interpreters and a different theme for each week day of operation – forests, bears & berries, wetlands, things with wings – so come back on different days to discover something new!

Discover Nature will also include nature walks meeting at 11 am at the PassivHaus Tuesdays through Fridays and ending at the Discover Nature Station.  Nature walks will run for about one hour.

Don’t forget to fill in the Discover Nature activity booklet!  This self-guided booklet is full of fun activities that teach about the wonders of nature here in Whistler.  The booklet includes illustrations by local artist Kate Zessel and a completion certificate.  Get your own copy of the Discover Nature activity booklet at the Whistler Museum, Lost Lake, Armchair Books and Whoola Toys.

We’re looking forward to to a fun summer discovering nature!