For those die hard grouse grinders who cannot go a winter without swiping their pass, starting the timer and heading up a hill in hopefully record-breaking speed - there is a winter version of the infamous Grouse Grind.  Now I have heard of people (my uncle...) who wear crampons and use ice picks to scale the normal grind in the winter, but for the more .... sane.... folk (not a dig here, I think I fall into the not sane category too), there is another, completely different trail from the top of the gondola.  Sorry it's feeling like a run-on-sentence kind of night! :) 

Unlike the regular Grouse Grind, which is a 2.9km trail of pure torture (that feels wonderful) straight up to the top of Grouse Mountain and the gondola down - you have to use your own body power for the return portion of the Snowshoe grind.  However, gravity, and a pair of slippery snow pants, often helps out.  

The Snowshoe Grind is a 4.3km out-and-back trail to the top of Dam Mountain (yes, that is really what it is called).  The route is not as intense as the regular Grind but still has some steep sections - with an overall gain of 705ft (215m). The view from the top is absolutely spectacular and totally worth the effort!  

Click here for the Website
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! 

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.  

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
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 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. 

Trout Lake
When you wake up and it is a beautiful day, what do you feel like doing?   

For me, it is riding my bike.  I couldn't come up with any errands to give myself a destination, so I decided just to explore.  It's weird, I have lived in this area for about a year, and yet everywhere I went today felt like new territory.  I had been getting bored out here - thinking there was no character and lacked the greenery of the North Shore ... but after my ride today I realized that I haven't really given the area a chance.    

There is Trout Lake - a beautiful dog friendly park, and on sunny days like today - just packed with large groups of people having barbecues or playing sports.  There were numerous times I wanted to stop and watch a little league game but didn't... I have always wondered if it is weird to watch (and cheer for, of course) random kids Sunday games?  

CMHA bike riders
There is also a large park in the center of Burnaby - creatively named Central Park.  Something kind of cool about this part is that it was opened in 1986 (same year I was born - exciting time :D!) by Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  Who knew?  

Again there were families everywhere.  An grampa was out having a barbeque with his grandson.  It made me itch to go camping and roast marshmallows over the fire - I haven't done that in way, way too long.  

The park was also the finishing grounds for the 55km Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) ride to support mental wellness and recovery.  This is from their website:

"We ride to raise awareness and acceptance of those living with mental illness. We ride because recovery, when the right supports are in place, is possible. We ride because healthy choices, including exercise, builds resiliency and promotes positive mental health. We ride because cycling is fun and good for us and our environment and we ride for us, all of us."

Something to keep in mind for next year!  

Find more Bike Ride in Burnaby, Canada