I have no idea what this is going to end up looking like as I am writing my first ever post on my IPad. I've been in Victoria for the last few days and have not had Internet access... We are now in Starbucks reconnecting to the online world.

That picture floating around somewhere on this page is Thetis Lake... It's a beautiful place i cannot wait to explore more. There are two 3 km loops around two beautiful lakes with ideal trails for running.... Plus I think there are some trails that lead off up into the mountains that are calling to me.
There is the best breakfast place I have ever been to (and I have been to a lot!) in Victoria... The Blue Fox. Even at 1pm on a weekday there is a 45 minute wait for a table. But it is totally worth it.

All righty, this IPad app is not the best... It has taken me about 20 min to type what I have written so far and the random addition of capitals and line breaks are frustrating me! Perhaps this is more a problem with my incredibly small hands and short fingers than the app itself...
Despite having lived in Horseshoe Bay as a teenager for some 10years, I have never explored north of there by bike.  True this was also the part of my life when I hated exercise and hoped in all seriousness that I would break my leg to get out of PE class.... but still biking has always been the exception.   

But yesterday we ventured out into this unchartered territory.  We rode up the Eastern side of Howe Sound in the direction of Squamish and Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway.  It's a funny thing; you (as in I) think you know the city you live in, but then someone goes and says the Eastern side of Howe Sound, and you have no idea that is precisely where you have lived most of your time here.  That's why I love this blog.  It pushes me to figure these things out.     

The ride was surprisingly difficult - there were 13 (!!) small (ish) climbs at giving it a climb rating of 5 according to mapmyride.com - whatever that means.  I think it's something like - good for you, you warmed up your legs a little for all the real climbs out there, here's a pat on the back.    

Porteau Cove lies just south of one of the most dangerous spots for rockslides along the Sea to Sky Highway.  In 2008, a slide blocked the highway seriously messing up traffic for 5 days, but thankfully nobody was physically harmed.  Porteau Cove has an emergency ferry dock, so that when slides do happen, traffic can be sent via ferry either to Horseshoe Bay or Squamish.  

The area is really spectacular with views of a million little islands (I exaggerate a little), and bluey/green water, unlike the adjacent ocean water - perhaps due to glacial water coming down from the mountains?  

So another thing I came across - Howe Sound is a sound - a sound is a geological term, not just some word they stuck to Howe to make it sound better.  A sound is a large ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight and wider than a fjord ... what are all these terms!!! 

Find more Bike Ride in Canada
So I stand corrected - when we bought the property on the highway, there was nothing on it - we (ok probably not me as I was about 2) along with my aunt, had to put in everything - including a well for water and all. 

So why did we choose this place essentially in the middle of nowhere to start a tourist-driven business?  Because of the spectacular hotsprings across the road - Liard River Hotsprings.  These are the second largest hotsprings in Canada - despite living across the road most of my life, I didn't know this until just now!  The first pool and boardwalk was built by the U.S. Army in 1942 - I am guessing this is the same time that they were building the Alaska Highway - connecting Alaska to the rest of the states (after Pearl Harbor, they feared a Japanese invasion of Alaska).  There are two pools - the Alpha pool (in the picture) which has always been the most popular, and the Beta pool, farther on up the boardwalk.  Although both pools were always open when I lived there, the Beta pool has been closed due to a snail on the Red Listed species list.  Something else I just learnt!!  

The hot springs were a huge part of my childhood.  We were there all the time - summer and winter.  I remember getting all bundled up in our snowsuits and heading out to the springs.  There was some degree of strategy to getting changed to go in/out of the pool as it was freezing... literally like as cold as -50 some years.  When I got older I was so annoyed when they put a steel door handle on the changing room... didn't anyone know flesh sticks to cold metal?!! 

We used to roll in the snowbanks and jump back into the hot water - or sit under overhanging tree branches and have someone shake off the snow over our heads.  My dad created the -50 below club - he sewed fur loincloths for a group of men who for us, and himself, and they posed out in the snow at the springs.... 

There were numerous upgrades and improvements to the pool over the years - but the best one was when a tree fell over one end of the pool - the cooler, slightly deeper end.  This tree soon became a destination - a place to play volleyball, a climbing challenge, a jumping spot.  It's funny how the best improvement came from a free through the course of nature.    

Remember this large lump of granite?  This is the Chief - besides the Grind, this is probably the most popular hiking destination in the Vancouver area. 

It is claimed to be the second largest monolith (single massive rock) in the world... what is the first?  Well the only other one I can think of is Ayer's rock, so that's my guess.  Turns out monoliths are quite an interesting topic themselves - did you know in Lalibela, Ethiopia there are 11 churches carved in the 12th century from red monolithic volcanic rocks; and they are considered the 8th wonder of the world?  Ok that's enough following wikipedia into the depths of random facts.  I could get lost in there for days.  

Back to the Chief - there are three peaks to hike to and it takes about 5 hours to do them all (although that is just a bit of hearsay, I have never done it).  We just went to the first peak, and because the trail becomes more difficult for dogs, we turned around there.  As it was, Tim (the dog) had to be carried up a few ladders, but ultimately seemed to be enjoying himself.  

Normally the summit provides a fantastic view of Howe Sound and Squamish below, but we found ourselves in the middle of clouds, that only blew off for glimpses of the town below.  It was pretty cool though to be surrounded in clouds, completely in another world. 

An update on something I mentioned ages ago - the 40km hike from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove that I wanted to do... well my friend Michelle is going to do it with me next Monday!!  Yes :D I am so excited! 

Vancouver doesn't get hot often, but when it does, it is my favorite place to be.  The past weekend was for me, what summer in Vancouver is all about. 

Friday I did the Grind with my mom, and was so hot and sweaty after I headed straight down to the ocean to cool off.  There aren't many other places - none that I can think of - that you can climb a mountain then within minutes be in the ocean!  I was waiting to meet up with some friends in the evening, so I set myself up on the one of the many grassy fields at Ambleside Park and enjoyed my book (Plain Truth - Jodi Picoult, a good one).    There is nothing so relaxing as lying in the shade reading a book... just missing a big glass of ice tea... but I suppose a camel back is close enough.  A few chapters later it was time to head to my friends house.   We played Bocce ball in her backyard - this is basically a formal ("adult") version of the kid's game throwing rocks at things  - which pretty much everyone has done at least once in their lives.  During this rousing game, we realized there was a great tree in her yard that I had failed to climb despite having lived their for a year and visited often - this is very abnormal for me, as I love to find a good climbing tree.... so anyways checked that one off my list. 

In the evening we got Indian takeout and headed back down to Ambleside for a picnic.  To work-off our meal, we went for a stroll along the beach... to TCBY, my favorite frozen yogurt shop.  I love this place, and not just because I worked there for almost two years, and it feels a bit like home - but also because the yogurt is absolutely delicious!! 

We topped off our night at our friends house playing an XBOX dancing game, that I swear is more of a workout than doing the grind!! 

Saturday morning, Diana and I hit the grind again - and somehow it was even hotter today.  It was absolutely packed full of people - so many that at some points I felt like I was just waiting in a queue rather than going for a hike.  A bit silly.   We of course headed back to the beach after for another swim, and later met up with some more friends.  We took over one of the playing fields in the park and had a 3 on 3 ultimate game - ultimate is kinda like football, but with a frisbee, and no tackling - you just try to complete a pass behind the opponent's goal lines without running with the frisbee... that's the essence of it anyway.  And to top off our day we ordered pizza and sat around in the sun playing Catchphrase.  

To me, these two days sum up Vancouver in the summer - beautiful mountains, crowded beaches, good food, and great friends.  

The Old Cabin
I had a bit of a different childhood.  I grew up at Mile 497 of the Alaska Highway - a place about halfway between two towns - Watson Lake (Yukon) 3 hours to the north and Fort Nelson 4 hours to the south.   We started out living in the Old Cabin (on the left) which my parents had built several kilometers out in the woods, away from the highway.  I don't really remember a whole lot about this place.  I only lived here for a year - I think there was a fire? - and we bought the cafe out on the highway.  I remember this place not as it looks in that picture, but in a state of disrepair - parts of the roof fell in and people eventually started taking logs for firewood.  

I grew up working - I was seven years old when I first started helping out with cleaning the rooms - I would get $1 per bed I made.  I had a really hard time getting the pillowcases onto the pillows - for me it was a huge struggle and the pillows were piratically bigger than I was. When I got older I took on the task of doing the laundry.  I learnt how to fold sheets on my own - something again quite challenging when you are a little girl - it was one of my proudest accomplishments.  After my stint being the laundry girl, I was given the task of cleaning the RV park - raking the grass, organizing the rocks around the fire pit, picking up garbage, restocking the outhouses and cleaning the bathrooms.  The only time I ever refused to do any task was when my mom once told me I had to dig through the bathroom garbage to find paper towel I could reuse to clean the floor.... I still think that's just gross.  

When I was 12, I started waitressing. I loved waitressing - maybe not the mornings when mom would come bang on my door at 6am to get me to cover a shift for someone who had failed to turn up to  work.  But I loved the work.  I loved the busy-ness of it - running around like crazy was incredibly fun for me.  And the tips! I'm sure they weren't anything compared to say what a girl working in Cactus Club makes, but to me, it felt like a fortune.  I waitressed every summer until we sold the lodge in 2003.... and I haven't been back since.  

It feels crazy to me that those days that feel like yesterday are long gone. I have a serious itch pulling me back in that direction.... 

The Squamish River
I am slowly falling in love with Squamish.  Not really the town itself - although there is a really great sandwich shop with a delicious turkey and cranberry number... but the surrounding wilderness. 

Today the adventure north was to try mountain biking for the first time with my sister-in-law.  I had a feeling I might love it, and sure enough I think I have found another passion.  I should say though that it wasn't really "mountain" biking, more like trail-through-the-woods biking... there wasn't really any real downhill and it wasn't a particularly challenging ride.  I think they call it a green run (or the biking equivalent).  But still, it was enough of a taste of the sport to have me hooked for more.   My brother is a serious mountain biker - like the crazy type.  And I aspire to be like him. :D

My brother
After our ride, we headed to Alice Lake.  Something kind of interesting (and glad I didn't know before) about this lake is that due to the presence of a smelter operational until 1972, the water became so acidic the only life form in it was some metal-tolerant algae.  I wish right after the website told me that, they would then tell me that now it supports a host of thriving species... or at least, that I don't need to worry about my skin falling off.  So far, so good though.  I am a little bit ashamed to say this was my first time this summer getting in the water.  I am usually in the water as soon as the sun makes an appearance, so I am glad this wrong is righted.  By the way, smelter has nothing to do with the fish - but more to do with extracting metals from their ore.   Hmmm another very wrong assumption.  

The Grind as the locals call it, or the Grouse Grind, or Nature's Stairmaster, is a 2.9km hike up the face of Grouse Mountain. 

The website warns that this is a seriously difficult trail and that there are perhaps better options for the "average hiker."   People take on average an hour and a half to climb the 2,830 stairs and gain 2,800ft of elevation.  You can always tell the locals from the tourists - and there are about half and half this time of year. (Record is 23 minutes!)  The locals carry nothing - maybe a water bottle, and are wearing workout clothes and runners - in other words, they know what they are in for.  The tourists have no idea that this is not a scenic hike, but an intense, nausea-inducing sort of satisfying torture.  They are often spotted having a break on the side of the trail, often in jeans, and sometimes even mini-skirts and high heels.  I must say props to them.  I find it noticeably harder to go from Vibrams to proper runners... I don't think I could even do it in heels.  Mind you I can't do much in heels.... 

These are Vibrams by the way (on the right) - basically gloves for your feet, and the most fantastic things in the world... well apart from straight old bare feet, but these provide a little protection from the elements.  

So back to the Grind.  Hikers first came to the mountain in 1894 - a hunting party found (and shot) a blue grouse here and named the mountain after the bird.  It wasn't until 1981 that the local mountaineering club started following the steep animal paths and established some semblance of the trail we know today.  

The grind is something I do purely for the intense workout, that and my competitive nature always pushing me to get a better time.  I used to do it in 45 minutes back in the days when I ran a lot more, so I would like to get back to that point.   By the end of the summer.... and by the end of next summer, maybe beat the standing women's record of 31:04?  hmmm.... aim high right? 

There are quite a few social rules to doing the grind.  For example, I had to tell my mom that I do not talk when I do the grind.  Seriously, it is not a socializing time - if you want to socialize, go do one of the much, much more enjoyable hikes on the North Shore.  And if you are in a group there is the tricky situation of differing physical abilities.  It is very frustrating for me to have someone who is in much better shape than me wait every few minutes for me to catch up and then go dart ahead before I even have a chance to catch my breath.... This type of situation happened once on a date once - I have never sworn so much (luckily he was a good sport and took it well).  Either make it look like you are at my pace too and walk with me, or just leave me behind entirely and meet me at the top.    Ok enough ranting. 

Saw this today and thought it was rather bizarre.  Ted (the movie about the grown-up teddy bear) just came out, so maybe this guy was really excited about it?? Anyway it brightened my day and I wanted to share the randomness.  Perhaps I should get a giant teddy for my passenger seat?  Better yet - maybe strap one onto the back of my bike - helmet and all?  :D  

Delicious Japanese salad
For my second set of guidelines I am going to focus on food and nutrition.  I feel it is essential for me to tackle my diet and exercise regime before I move on to more lofty goals - finding my passion, communicating open and honestly, living a more eco-concious life... etc, etc.... because that is where I draw my daily energy and clarity from.  I feel like if I have worked out and eaten well, the world is a different place, a far happier place, and everything seems more manageable.   So back to nutrition:

1) Track all the food I eat for a week (www.mapmyride.com) to see where I am at - how many calories I am eating vs. how many I should be, and what kinds of foods am I eating too much/little of... that type of stuff.  

2)  Eat-clean.  This means avoiding overly processed foods, and eating a majority of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and natural proteins.  I would ideally like to move away from meats that are from those farms that just cram all the animals together and pump them full of hormones and instead eat more free-range meat and wild game... mmmm wild game :D 

3) Eat out less, and when I do make more health-conscious decisions.  When I eat out, which is a fair amount, I tend to use the logic that this is some sort of treat, and that I should eat accordingly... comfort foods, desserts, etc.  But really that logic is flawed.  I eat out way too much for it to be any sort of treat.  I want to eat the same sort of healthy foods when I eat out that I would cook at home... and not be swayed by all the tasty sounding dishes.  I will of course do this sometimes... maybe once a week?  

4) Drink more water. Water makes every in your body run smoother.  One important reason to drink more water for me is to lubricate my joints.  My knees are temperamental to begin with, so I really need to make sure they are oiled and running smoothly. 

5) Remember to take my multi-vitamins daily!  I currently take a women-specific multivitamin as well as Omega-3s and L-lysine... but I only take them a few times a week because I just keep forgetting.  I just read an article that was very anti-vitamin so I will do a bit more research and talk to my dietitian friend before I pursue this one, but I'm pretty sure it's a good idea.  I take multi-vitamin because I have heard it's good for general health, and the Omega's to keep my brain functioning well (it is also a mild anti-depressant - and is good for many other things too) and the L-lysine because a friend of mine mentioned it was good to help prevent coldsores - so without doing any research of my own (seems silly now that I've realized I didn't) - I started taking that too.  Ok so through writing this my goal has morphed into researching vitamins/supplements and seeing which ones I should really be taking.