Not even 20 minutes from Squamish is the trailhead to Elfin Lakes. This 11km trail gains 2,000 feet of elevation through Garibaldi Provincial Park - half of it through the forest and half through Alpine meadows... think Heidi and the Sound of Music. I swear I could have been in the Alps.
The trail is an old road created to access Diamond Head Chalet which was built by two young Norwegian men (Ottar and Emil Brandvold) and a Canadian woman (Joan Matthews) in the 1940s. Diamond Head chalet was the first high-altitude ski lodge in BC north of Vancouver - at this time people had to take a 4-hour ferry ride just to get to Squamish - this was followed by a train to Garibaldi station, and an overnight there before even beginning the hike in!! Pretty cool. I just started reading about these 3 people and find them fascinating - they were all competitive skiiers who met in a tournament in Banff... the three of them dreamed of creating a hut to hut system for hikers and skiiers throughout Garibaldi park... and went on to do so.
Now if these people weren't cool enough already - Joan was also the first graduate in sculpture from the Vancouver School of Art. They developed a rehabilitation program to have war veterans come up into the mountains to help build cabins with the main focus being on the men's mental and physical health. They also adopted a local deer as their pet - "The only thing about that deer," laughs Ottar, "was that we could never train him not to get into our bed." After Joan and Ottar had two kids, Joan stayed down in Squamish more... but wasn't just a housewife - she became the chief ambulance driver for the area.... wow this woman is my hero. To read the whole history of this area - check out this article
So back to the present.... Sonia and I hiked in early saturday - carrying all our gear for camping as we had heard this place was seriously popular and we expected the hut to be full up from people who hiked in on friday. Not the case at all. There were maybe 6 people staying there, but the campground was almost full. After the hike in, we dropped off our stuff, and carried on for another 10km hike or so. We wanted to go check out Opal Cone - which is some sort... of cone? But we had to turn around after we hit a large, roaring creek with no easy way of crossing, and we couldn't see the trail on the other side. I am still unsure if we actually saw Opal Cone or not... it is a Cascade Volcano responsible for 15km of dacite lava flow (sounds like this is a wrinkly rock ridge). I think we must have seen this... oh well.
We hiked back to the hut - jumped into the glacier cold lake, and cooked ourselves the most delicious steak and potato dinner. Sonia even had a glass of red wine. We sat on the porch and played crib watching the sun go down....
I'm in white :D
So you know how I said I tried mountain biking before... well I don't think that was quite true... that was perhaps cross-country. Yesterday I really did try mountain biking... and I have never done anything so seemingly stupid, but incredibly fun in all my life.
Who with any sense of logic would stick themselves on a bike and hurl themselves down steep (STEEP!) descents, around sharply bermed corners (I just learnt this term - like banked), along wooden bridges, and off jumps (ok, I havent got more than a second of air yet).... but apparently I am this crazy person. And I loved every minute of it. Except perhaps that minute where my bike skid out from under me and I found myself pounded into the dirt. I have never loved a helmet and padding more as my whole head shook within its protection.... I probably would have scraped away part of my cheek without the helmet - so ... lesson here, always wear the protective gear!! Anyway as it was I only ended up with two grapefruit sized bruises on my thigh, and I feel like they are a mark of my accomplishment. Now I know I don't work for lululemon anymore, but I feel the need to say that despite grinding my leg into the dirt and scratching the skin underneath, those pants still look brand new!!
I learnt that you just need to keep looking ahead and trust that no matter what you are going through, you have the tools to handle it, as long as you do not freak out..... kinda sounds like real life?
Spent the most incredible 3 days at Diana's cabin. Absolute heaven on earth.
Our first day was pretty lazy - we swam and lounged around in the sun reading. We got to go for an extra boat ride across the lake (one of my favorite things about going to the cabin is sitting on the bow as we speed through the water - this time in the dark!!) to pick up David and Mike who headed up to the cabin later than night. We spent the evening playing catchphrase (best game in the world, by the way), then jumped into the lake one last time.... tradition says the absolute last thing you have to do before you go to bed is leap into the lake :D We slept on the deck out under a sky full of stars.
One of my many very spectacular falls
Our second day was much like the first... we broke out the boggle around midday... I am the undefeated champion, but Diana gets closer and closer every time.... later got into the Rummoli and the beer... ok I don't really drink, so I slowly sipped away and managed to finish half of one. Somewhere in there - probably before the beer - Diana and I headed out for some water-skiing. I have tried water skiing twice before. The first time was in my chubby days when I hated all physical activity, so that didn't go well. The second time, I was terrified... I went absolutely pale (with fear), and failed to get even partially up and gave up without a fight. So I am proud to say that this time there was no fear at all, no anger - only minor frustration and joy that I had made some progress (Diana says I got a "partially up")! Next time...
That night we roasted marshmallows and played some more catchphrase... slept on the deck... rudely awoken by rain...
The third day got off to a rough start as the book I was reading took a turn from mildly annoying to unbearable... but then we got the windsurfer out and my world changed. Ok maybe that a bit of an exaggeration - but it was pretty awesome. I have never tried windsurfer before - but after Diana somewhat awkwardly cruise across the lake and not end up in a pile of rocks, or worse up a tree - I was quite excited about it. And what fun it was! I felt like by the end of it I had some semblance of control over the thing, and even managed to sail myself back to the dock.... ok after all this graceful, controlled maneuvering, I then fell off at the last minute and cut my ankle on the rutter thingy-majingy. But not much blood... enough to make me fear sharks were going to come eat me... but since that is highly unlikely in a freshwater lake, I was fine...
One final accomplishment of this weekend, which probably doesn't seem like a big deal - but it was!! I dove off the dock. Head first. After smacking my face (and my eyes, ow!) once, I looked like a graceful swan ("just after it has been shot" - thanks Mike). No really, all I did was dive from practically no height... but this was something I had been afraid of for years and never, ever did. I quit swimming lessons as a kid when they started making us dive... so yes... big day :D
On a bit of a spur of the moment, my mom and I decided we should take a trip to Whistler, so we did. In a nutshell we rode the Peak 2 Peak, hiked the Alpine trails at the top of Blackcomb for a couple of hours, watched a terrible movie on tv (Just Friends, just terrible), went for a late night leap into the lake, cycled around the Valley trail... that's about it.
The Peak 2 Peak is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Whistler (apart from the mountain biking and skiing). It was built in 2008 to link Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain (hence Peak 2 Peak). It holds the world records for the longest free span between ropeway towers (3.03km) and the highest point above ground (436m...1,430 feet). It cost $51 million to build... ah so that's why it is a steep $50 to go on the thing...
Peak 2 Peak
Reading about the construction of this thing is pretty incredible! The concrete for the foundations had to be transported up the mountain by helicopter, the cables had to be shipped from Europe - and because they were so heavy had to go to Washington where the largest crane is - where they had to be picked up by a special heavy load tractor and trailer from Quebec, they had to bring one of the few haul-rope splicers in North America in from Wyoming.... suppose this isn't so interesting to people who know what kind of work goes into making these things, but I had no idea!! Cool.
Construction only took one year longer than it was supposed to (which seems pretty good?) and the opening ceremonies featured someone base-jumping from the middle of the gondola!!!
So everyone in Whistler really is from Australia - everyone! Click here
Whistler was originally named London mountain (due to all the fog), but acquired the name Whistler from the call of the Hoary Marmot.... despite the large population in the area, we didn't see any. We did however hear many...
Sorry, what's that word? Yes you read correct - the Seawheeze - Lululemon's half marathon. The first of this now annual race was this past Saturday. I have done quite a few local half's and this was probably one of the best. Not my favorite (which is the April Fool's half on the sunshine coast - mostly for sentimental reasons), but it is for sure second. The amount of preparation and little details that went into this event was incredible.
The expo the night before the race was seriously more like a party hockey players on stilts, a lovely relaxing lounge with hammocks overlooking the water, free popsicles and free manicures/pedicures. I have never heard of this at a race before!! Mind you some of those toenails will probably be falling off in the next little while, the effort might be in vain. The swag in the race package was also impressive - bottle of water, dried fruit, 15% off clothes (which of course sucks you in to buy something), free coffee voucher, flip flops (!!), and not to mention that the bag itself was one of those shoe backpacks thingies. Pretty cool (although slightly useless and likely to be thrown out).
The morning of the race kicked off with sunrise yoga (which I missed) and an incredibly long gear check line - I wasn't looking forward to picking up my gear after either. I have never seen so many spectators and people cheering at a race before - it really made a huge difference.... plus you always had to be on the lookout for quirky little touches - paddleboarders out in the water cheering, guys riding triple sized bikes along sides, a large group of drag queens, mermaids perched on rocks, a tai chi demonstration, taiko drummers, a cappella singers and witty signs saying things like "your pace or mine." (just to name a few!!) I wish I had run with my camera to capture some of this!!
The post race food was delicious - apart from the super nutrituous recovery drink... couldn't even drink it! You seem to have to worry about super-nutritious things... But wow - the waffles were amazing!!! And fruit skewers and watermelon and mini quiches... delicious - I am getting hungry just thinking about them. Also after the race was a concert (fun. and Hey Ocean) and sunset yoga on Kits beach - neither of which I stuck around for (my family was having its own beach party).
The run itself was hard! The route was challenging with lots of hills - lots, you know, being more than none. And in some stretches it got crazy hot - no breeze, no shade... just keep plodding on, feeling your skin burn. It was my slowest half marathon, and my feet are in the worst shape ever (details that may gross you out), but trust me, I'll be back next year!
So you know how much I love biking? Well today was perhaps the one exception. My mom and I were meeting my cousin and her boyfriend out in Delta (like an hour away) for some go-karting, and since that only lasts about 15min, we wanted something else to do. I had the hair-brained (or is it hare-brained??) idea that we ought to bike down to Point Roberts. Point Roberts is a little piece of America surrounded entirely by water or Canada - so yes, after our go-karting adventure (which was awesome!!!!) we planned to venture down there. And by planning I really mean we agreed to do it with no planning whatsoever, which may have been the problem.
Things got off on the wrong foot when my mom 'realized' she left the bike book at home, and we had to use google maps to try to figure out where to start, where to park, all those details - we both were getting frustrated... so we parked in a random residential area and went from there.... and discovered this whole time the darn book was in her bag... had to laugh. So we got ourselves on track. This is where I should tell you that this book was written in 1973... that's really old for a guide-book.
After following one road for miles, it suddenly ended, well sort of ended... it gave us the option of crossing a murky, garbage filled ditch on a log someone kindly laid across. Mom was a little hesitant (and perhaps logical), but I was sure we could carry the bikes across and carry-on... so we did. This new route led us to the train tracks - we again had no choice to follow this oil-soaked road along the tracks until we found a place where it wasn't illegal to cross. This was one instance I really wished I had fenders on my bike!! I was covered in oily grime within minutes. Still have marks on my legs that just won't come off. Anyway I was still cheery and enjoying the adventure at this point, and really enjoyed the whole ride to the race track. It was after that point that things went really downhill.
Well really, I started to get hungry... and every dead end we ran into (which was often - seriously out of date book!!) made me get irrationally angry. At one point I hear my mom chuckling behind me... apparently she finds it quite humourous how my normally cheery and positive attitude (I think my positive spin on everything annoys her) disappears quickly as my hunger grows. Sorry mom! My mom had told me that we would find beautiful beaches lined with fish and chips shops... not true! It took us forever to find a place to eat. Once we did, my mood improved drastically and despite more wrong turns (the books fault, I swear!!), we finally made it back to our car.
Just one random fact about Point Roberts (also affectionately called Point Bob - that doesn't count) - in 1973, a drought hit the area causing tensions between the American and Canadian residents of Point Roberts. If Delta did not agree to provide the residents with water, the Americans threatened to cut off the Canadians water supply and apparently even hung up signs saying "Canadians go home." Delta complied and in 1986 this arrangement became permanent.
So my friend Emily - one of my oldest and dearest friends - has been home this past week from New Hampshire. She goes to Dartmouth and is working on a cure for every disease out there.... ok maybe not, but she studies experimental and molecular medicine. I have given her the well deserved nickname Emstein, as she is the most intelligent person I know and I'm incredibly proud of her.
Anyway she has come home and brought two of her friends with her, and we have had the pleasure of acting tourists in our own city and exploring it with them. We first went south to Harrison Lake where Diana has a cabin and spends most of her weekends in the summer. Emily and I both hadn't been there for a number of years, so it seemed long past due for a visit. Diana's parents picked us up in her boat and we sped over to their cabin on the far side of the lake - this trip is my favorite part as the three of us always sit up front and dangle our legs over the front, skimming our toes in the water until we pick up speed, and hold on for the ride. We spent the good part of a day there, swimming in the lake and lazing on the dock, and just enjoying the peace and quiet of such a secluded area.
We next went north. We drove up the Sea to Sky highway to spend the day in Whistler. Mostly our day consisted of shopping and browsing touristy stores - the three of them fly back to Boston tomorrow, so it was their last chance to pick up gifts, and clothes and things for themselves as well... they live in Hanover which has very few stores... just a GAP I think.... So it was an afternoon of wandering, shopping, drinking tea and eating the famous Cows ice cream. Cows is a very successful Canadian (from PEI) ice cream chain - it has been rated Canada's best, as well as the World's top place for ice cream (don't know how legit that one is... but it is really good). Cows is not only known for its ice cream but also it's cleverly mocking t-shirts making fun at pop culture.... you can find shirts like "50 Shades of Hay" and "Moomoolemon" - my two favorites. (50 Shades of Grey is the latest greatest (yet terrible) book (smut) and moomoolemon is referencing Lululemon, where I used to work). I seem to have gotten a little stuck on ice cream... I had cookie dough by the way, and it was delicious!!
After our shopping extravaganza we drove around a few beautiful places in Whistler - a couple of lakes and out towards Callaghan Valley, hoping to see some bears. No luck there. I always thought tourists were crazy for wanting to see bears so badly... but now here I am, one of them.
Warning: You are entering a particularly beautiful area! :D
I am constantly being blown away by the beautiful places in my own backyard. Just an hour or so into the woods in West Vancouver is Whyte Lake - inviting green water nestled in between giant Cedar and Douglas fir trees. The water was deliciously warm after being heated by the sun all morning, calling for us to go for a swim (and also very important - it seemed leech free). It was quite a popular spot and we hadn't anything to swim in, so I will go back another day for a dip. And probably many more days after that.
During our hike I learnt a few interesting tidbits of information from my companions. Did you know that the Guinness family (of Ireland) built the Lion's Gate bridge? Our city would cease to function without this bridge - it is a very big deal. They also own the plot of land our trail started in and are building a development in the area.
Another thing topic of conversation - A man in Florida went to retrieve his golf ball from a water hazard on the green and a croc grabbed his leg (it was going for the ball, but overshot a tad). His quick-thinking friend hit the croc with a golf club, only to be accosted for hitting the thing by an irate woman who had befriended the hungry crocodile. She had built their friendship on marshmallows.... which look suspiciously like golf balls.... So I also learnt on that hike that you probably shouldn't feed golf-course-resident crocodiles marshmallows.
Oddly enough with an entirely different group of people later that night marshmallow eating crocodiles came up in another conversation.... how bizarre.
Several years ago I went to a Vipassana meditation retreat. It was 12 days of silence. 12 days of eating barely two meals (vegetarian) a day, avoiding eye contact with my fellow meditators and doing nothing but living with the thoughts in my head and noticing life as it was passing me by. Throughout this incredibly long 12 days - longer than any other 12 days I have experienced - I went through an incredible range of emotions. Sometimes I would find myself in complete despair, and others incredibly happy for no reason at all.... well no there usually was a reason - it was watching the leaves of a trembling aspen quaking in the wind, it was really tasting food for the first time in my life. It was feeling energy inside me, and it was being so stuck in my own head, that in order to get out, I found myself dancing to a tuneless song in my head - a little break, a little salsa dancing in the bathroom. I felt like I was going crazy, but I also felt like I was waking up to some real truths of life.
There is one principle, one teaching of Buddhism that has stayed with long after I stopped being a vegetarian (6months) and my meditation routine lapsed... and that is anicca - the nature of things to always be in a state of impermanence (now there is an oxymoron!). This too shall pass - seasons change, bad moods pass, good moods do to, relationships end, new ones begin, life goes on - even if it feels like it won't, even if you fear what the future holds - tomorrow and every day after that will still be here, and it is your choice how you greet them.
Today I am sad - a part of my life is over, and I am grieving. Every aspect of my life is in a process of changing, and I am feeling as if the only thing I can do is hold on and enjoy the ride.