A Walking Adventure on Pender Island

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Welcome to Pender Island!   (Said this little guy, poking from behind a tree as I made my way from the ferry terminal to the campsite).

Walking is one of my favourite activities.  I find the repetitive motion meditative, and love blasting through podcasts, while I hike around beautiful places.  It is refreshing, rejuvenating, and I get most of my best ideas and inspiration from a good long walk.

This was one of the reasons why I decided to go on a walking tour of Pender Island a few weeks back.  Pender Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands between Victoria and Vancouver.  Although larger than Saturna Island (my previous posting), it is smaller and less populated than Saltspring Island, making it a great place to get away from a relaxing weekend.

If you are:

  •  In love with super long walks.
  • Want to camp on the beach, and hike around lakes all day.
  • Ok with having deer camp out beside your tent.
  • Into watching otters play and fish all morning while you make your breakfast.
  • Looking for an island with a great vibe, full of friendly people.

…Then you should check out Pender 🙂

Here is the story, and details, on my long weekend adventure to Pender Island.

I took off to Pender on the 2:45 pm ferry on the Friday afternoon of the long weekend.  You catch the ferry to the Otter Bay Ferry Terminal on Peder Island from the Tswwassen Ferry Terminal in Vancouver.

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All the essential weekend gear!

The walk to the campsite from the ferry terminal took me about 1 hour and 15 minutes, at a relaxed pace.  Alliteratively, it would have been very easy to hitch a ride for part of the way.  The walk is simple, with only a few right turns needed.  There was a decent enough shoulder to be walking on, and cars were respectively of me walking on the side of the road.

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I stayed at Shingle Bay Campground, which is a reservable backcountry campground.  Be warned- there was a super steep hill you have to trek down to get to the campground (and then up again each day!!).

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The view from my campsite.

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Looking out from the campsite during low tide.  During low tide you can walk out to the mini chunk of land.  During high tide this is mostly covered in water.

The campground was beautiful, and after settling in I was looking forward to a relaxing evening.  Unfortunately my neighbours had another idea for their long weekend adventure.   After asking them to shut down their party numerous times up until 1 am I decided to start scouting spots further away to move my tent.  The bad news was I lost my beautiful ocean front campsite, with a nice tent pad.  The good news was I couldn’t hear them from the other side of the campground, and was quite comfortable camping in the ‘overflow’ tent area for the weekend.

Day #2

On Day 2 my plan was to trek to 3 different lakes that were located within a reasonable walking distance of the campground: Roe Lake, Buck Lake, and Magic Lake.  Roe Lake is very close to the campground, and to get there you simply walk straight up the hill out of the campground, and once you’ve walked up the road just a couple minutes you reach a sign that directs you to head right, into the woods, towards the lake.

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Once you are on the trail, stay right at the first diversion, and then a quick left will bring you to a look out point where you can enjoy the view, go for a dip, or fill up your water bottle for boiling water later (more on that in a bit though, not really a good idea!).

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Roe lake is full of vegetation

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Typical for the Gulf Islands- no one else in sight for miles!

Past Roe Lake you continue along the trail, before reaching another diversion where you head straight downhill.  I found this path to be very tricky as it was loose gravel, and I felt like I did more of a controlled slide for 10 minutes rather than a downhill hike!  Eventually you reach the bottom and make a sharp left, heading towards the road.

At this point you will come across one of my favourite places of the whole weekend, a beautiful long grassy field, with a view.  This park was called Shingle Bay Park, and it made a perfect napping and reading stop 🙂20170805_124904

Just past the park, on the opposite side of the road, past Crowsnest Drive, you will find the start of a trail heading up into the woods.  Take this trail, called the Masthead Trail, up towards Masthead Road (about 10 minute walk).  You might find this map helpful for navigating the mazes of roads and trails around Pender Island.  Once you reach Masthead road, take a right and you will reach Galleon Way.

Now here’s where things in my weekend went wrong!  I accidentally turned right on Galleon Way, as you will see by the map Galleon Way is a twisting, turning round, and I sure did get turned around.  So instead of ending up near Magic Lake, I basically did a 360 and ended up back at the Shingle Bay Park!  Feeling defeated, and tired form walking about 10 km’s, I decided to pull up on the beach and cook some lunch.

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You can see all the smoke in the background from the horrible wildfires the ripped through BC all summer.

So here I was, enjoying my time on the beach when all of a sudden some VERY GIANT WAVES started rushing up on shore, coming dangerously close to my cook stove.  I had to grab all my scattered belongings and run up to higher ground.  Be careful on the Gulf Islands because when large ferries go by the delayed waves rush up onto shore.  Whoops!

After my lunch I decided to boil up that water that i collected from Roe Lake.  I boiled it all, and treated it with a water filtration tablet.  Just before taking my first sip I noticed there were TINY LITTLE SHRIMP LIKE BUGS still in the water.  Gross!  I ended up throwing it all out, which meant my next step was a 7 km walk to the grocery store, rather than getting to Magic Lake or Buck Lake.

Advised:  Bring a lot of water to your campsite on the first day, to avoid trekking to the grocery store.   There is no potable water at the campsite, and my idea to drink from the lakes didn’t work out too well.

So I was off, a 7 km walk through roads and small trails that connect roads across the island.  People were incredibly helpful with directions, and also with offering rides.  I was enjoying the walk, so didn’t take them often.

Along the walk I did end up walking by Buck Lake.  There didn’t appear to be beach access, but it was enjoyable checking out the beautiful lake front homes. 

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Some visitors to the lakefront homes.

Needless to say, after trekking back to the campsite, I enjoyed a night of reading in the tent 🙂  Also to my surprise, the campsite was quiet :):) 

Day #2

On Day #2 I decided that I was going to make it to Magic Lake, and this time I knew where to go!

To get to magic lake, I started the day the same as yesterday- up to Roe Lake, then up the Masthead Trail, but this time I turned right onto Galleon Way, and meandered along Galleon Way before turning into the disc golf park, and walking through the park to meet the road on the other side.  This road was called Schooner Way and just a little ways down the road (turning right off the disc golf trail) you reach a small picnic area along Magic Lake.  

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This was a perfect stop for some reading, and cooking lunch!

After my stop here I decided I wanted to charge my phone, and was desperate for an earl grey tea, so I walked a few Km’s up Schooner Way and found a lively cafe.  There was also a liquor store, grocery store and pizza joint there!

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The cafe was probably one of my favourite parts of the weekend.  I was there around 2 pm on a Sunday and there was a group of 10 men in the back, jamming away on their musical instruments and signing to their hearts content!  I sat and watched for more than an hour.  They were very talented and enjoying themselves, it was such a pleasure to get to sip my tea and watch their free entertainment.  

After the stop here,  I headed just down the road a further couple of minutes before reaching Medicine Beach.  This was a beautiful area.

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The smoky atmosphere doesn’t do it any justice!

Now for the real fun, I decided I was way too tired to make the big trek back, and instead I was going to attempt to use one of the “Car Stops” on Pender island.  

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It is very common to hitch hike on the gulf islands, so I felt very safe.  And after only a few cars passing by a nice couple picked me up and dropped me off right back at the trailhead and I made it back to my campsite quickly!  

After lounging in the tent for a few hours I headed up to the washroom, only to return to my tent to find 3 young deer standing right out front of my tent!  We stared each other down for a few minutes, both of us in awe!  Finally, they allowed me to unzip my tent and crawl in, and they went on their way to pick apples from the trees I was camping under.  

Day #3:

On my final day on the island I had a very relaxing morning, where I took my camp stove down to the water and cooked breakfast overlooking the ocean.  While I was cooking I watched 2 otters play around in the water, catching fish, and chomping away on their well deserved meal.  It was such a pleasure to watch!  (You can check out my instagram page for a video clip!).

I made time on the walk back to the ferry to stop at a beautiful area called Roesland, which was just along Otter Bay road.  This area was one of the most beautiful spots on the island.

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I highly recommend taking a stop here, and hiking around to the small semi-attached island (as long as it’s low tide).  Also, this is the site of a museum (which wasn’t open when I was there), but had some fantastic old farming machinery to take a look at outside!

On the final lap to the ferry I was shocked by the number of cars that pulled over to offer me a ride!  I was really enjoying my walk, and didn’t want a ride, but it just goes to show how friendly people are over there.  

Also- don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers 🙂

And one more thing…

You MUST have lunch at The Shack before boarding your ferry.  This was hands down the best salmon burger and fries I have ever had.  They are located right beside the ferry terminal.  Funny story– I had been thinking all morning how delicious the meal was going to taste, and how nice it was going to be after eating camp food all weekend.  When I arrived to the The Shack I saw huge “Cash Only” signs up.  I was horrified!  I had built up how delicious this meal was going to taste in my mind, and had no access to an ATM or other food.  Luckily the owners offer to let me pay by E-TRANSFER!  Haha!  I actually paid at a  restaurant via an electronic money transfer.  You know you are desperate when !!

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I hope you enjoy Pender as much as I did.  Let me know if you have any questions about getting around!

Saturna Island- Biking/Camping Adventure

Saturna island is a tiny island, just 12 square miles in size, located between Vancouver and Victoria and is one of the 5 main southern gulf islands.  Although it is the closest to Vancouver it is by far the least populated with year round residents and gets the least amount of visitors, which was evident by the lack of people everywhere I went on my weekend trip a few weeks past!

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All geared up and ready to go!

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One of my favourite shots of this beautiful destination!

I spent a weekend biking and camping on the island, and I have shared my tips and tricks with you here, so you can enjoy a great weekend too!  
This is a perfect trip for you if:
–  you want a weekend cycling trip that involves manageable biking (still very hilly though)
–  you want to experience nature up close.  Saturna is definitely wild!
–  you are looking for a quiet weekend away from civilization.
–  you enjoy biking from beach to beach reading a book all day.
–  you are a solo traveller that want a safe location to travel to(no bears or wild cats to worry about)
–  you don’t have a car and are looking for somewhere to travel to on the weekend.
Here is a great map I used when touring around:
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Take a look at what I got up to and let me know if you have questions for planning your own itinerary! 
Day #1
To get to tsawwassen  by bike I took the skytrain from Vancouver out to Bridgeport station.  From there you take bus 620 to the ferry terminal.  You simply put your bike on the front of the bus, and you also bring it right into the skytrain section specifically for bikes.  I understand there is a biking route to get out the ferry terminal, I haven’t looked into it as in this case I was rushing to catch the ferry after work.
The ferry ride is about 3 hours and involved a stop on Mayne island to transfer ferries.
I ended up arriving in Saturna at 10 pm, which is not a good idea now that I look back on it.  I ended up having to bike 10 kms across the island to my campsite on an island i’d never visited before, at night!  I felt safe with the number of good lights I brought, but the freaky part was how uninhabited Saturna is.  Because the island is mostly forest I realized if I ran into trouble there were no cars passing by, and very few houses on the stretch to the campground.  I would advise arriving during the day 🙂
My campground was called Naveaz Bay.  I reserved my site in advance from the parks Canada reservation system.  It is only 5 dollars a night for back country camping sites across BC.  When I arrived in my site a group of girls had set up, and I had to kick them out!  Reservations are new for many of the parks campgrounds in BC.  While setting up my tent I was greeted by an owl and right away I felt the calm feeling of being on the gulf islands.  The bike in was a pretty crazy ride on a rough/semi gravel road, followed by a 1km downhill hike to the campsite, let’s just say, I was happy to be resting in my tent!
Here is a shot from the campsite:
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Day 2
When I opened up my tent on my first morning I was pleasantly surprised to find that my site was directly facing the ocean!  I hadn’t noticed because I arrived at night.  It was a beautiful surprise.
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Surprise!

After having some breakfast I took a walk to Echo Bay, located right near  the campsite.  The water was incredibly blue and it was a stunning site.
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From there I headed back up the hill to where I had parked my bike and took the 10 km ride back into town (just for reference this ride took me between 30 and 45 minutes depending on how much gear I was carrying, and I was riding a heavy hybrid bike).
Just before hitting the ferry terminal is the one general store on the island.  I was there on a Saturday which meant there was a market happening.  The general store is pretty fully stocked and on Saturdays the adjoining cafe is open for sandwiches etc.  It was a great spot to stop for a tea, charge my cell phone, and they also let me fill my water bottles up there each day.
After a rest I decided to bike down to Thompson beach, without realizing how massive the hills are on this stretch.  I was wondering why I saw no-one else biking or walking on this road.  I definitely had to walk a few of the hills, especially on the way back up which included a 20 percent grade hill that stretched on for at least a km.
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Instead of biking I would suggest leaving your bike locked at the general store and walking down- this would avoid pushing your bike up some of the massive hills!
Thompson beach was breath taking and picturesque, and just like everywhere on Saturna there were only about 5 visitors down there for the 2 hours I spent lounging on the beach.  There are some hiking trails to do here, but knowing I still had to trudge back up the hill I decided to forgo this hike.  Here is a list of the few short hikes on Saturna.
After the massive trek back up the hill and back to the campground I was pooped and ready to relax and call it a night.
Around 12 am I awoke out of a deep sleep because I heard something scratching at my tent wall.  Every time I heard it scratch I would jostle the tent to scare it away.  After 10 separate times like this I decided I had to turn on my light and see what was happening.  As the light flickered on a little mouse popped his head over my back pack at the end of my tent!  Wow!   What a surprise- what was he doing in there?
The next 30 minutes were pretty comical with me trying to get him out of there.  First I tried chasing him out, but he just kept hiding in my clothes and camp gear!  I ended up having to take every single thing out of my tent to get him out of there.  Quite the process for the middle of the night.  I realized he got through a hole in the tent and had to do some late night patch work.  So this is your warning:  don’t keep any food in your tent, and patch even the smallest hole in your tent.
Day 3
For my final day on the island I packed my gear up and hiked back up the hill to my bike.  I dropped my gear off and then walked the short trek out to Monarch head to get a beautiful view of the surrounding gulf islands.  I had just stashed my gear behind a  tree in the woods, but honestly the gulf islands are so safe there is really no need to worry about stolen gear.
The trail to Monarch head is short and including taking plenty of pictures and chatting with locals I completed it in less than an hour.
Next I biked back into town for a water fill up and a tea and then took the road down to Winter Cove, another beautiful ocean front area, perfect for a picnic.  There is also a short 1 km walk through a marshy like area (with board walks) out to an area called the Boat Pass, where boats enter through a narrow opening in the rocks to enter the cove.  Very beautiful views out here, especially of Mount Washington.  Winter cove is also a great spot for a swim.
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My trip ended with a pretty tough 5.5 km tide back to the ferry from winter cove.  I was definitely cursing not yet investing in some light weight camping gear on this ride.
The one area I didn’t make it to was East point, where the lighthouse is located and whales are often spotted.  I decided to save this for the next trip!  Also apparently there is a campground called Breezy Bay located just near the ferry.  I think this will be a good option for the next trip as it is more centrally located and wouldn’t involve the 10 km bike ride from Naveaz bay back to town to start each day.
Overall Saturna is a stunning small island that will get you feeling connected back to yourself and nature.  It’s also a great spot for a workout and adventure.
If you head there, be sure to leave a comment about your trip!

Bike, Hike, and Camp Whistler

Over the July long weekend, Kyle and I headed up to Whistler for some biking, hiking and exploring!  We were completely blown away by how extensive and beautiful Whistler was, compared to the small glimpses we had before while spending most of our time in the village.  Whistler is home to numerous lakes, full of beach goers on a warm day, extensive trail networks for biking, walking, and hiking (not including heading up the mountain), and plenty of photo stops to capture the various mountain ranges in the background.

If you are looking for a weekend trip that is:

  •  Family friendly
  • Cost effective (we spent $270 on food, gas, and lodging, the spa was extra though!)
  • Physically pretty easy (doesn’t involve major extensive hikes), as long as you are generally active you will enjoy this trip.
  • A perfect mix of roughing it, and luxury (spa day!)

Then this trip might be for you.

Our itinerary included:

  1.  One day spent biking the Whistler Valley Trail
  2. One walk to Lost Lake for a picnic dinner
  3. Short hike to the Whistler Train Wreck.
  4. Hike from One Mile Lake to Nairn Falls.
  5. Day a the Spa Scandinave.
  6. 3 nights spent ‘free’ camping.

Day #1:  Drive from Vancouver to Whistler.

We were hesitant about making this drive on a long weekend, but luckily ran in to virtually no stalled traffic.  The roads were heavy with cars, but we still made it in 2.5 hours to Whistler!  There are numerous paid campgrounds located in and around the Whistler area, everything from tent sites, to RV sites, to sleeping in yurts!  It’s much more of an affordable option then spending 100-300 a night on a hotel in Whistler.  We choose to go with the free option, because we have a self contained unit.  We often park on logging roads, and forest service roads, and find free campsites online.  We set up shop, pulled out our propane campfire, and enjoyed the evening.

 

Day #2:  Bike 30-40 km on the Whistler Valley Trail.

The Whistler valley trail is a relatively flat, mostly paved and hard packed gravel trail that connects Whistler Village to many of the surrounding lakes in the area.  You can take a look at this map that I used from the official Whistler website for an idea of how extensive the trail networks are:  whistler-hiking-biking-map.  The Website also lists shorter treks you can take on the trail, if you aren’t interested in doing the whole loop like we did.  If you are interested in seeing the exact route we took, check out the red markings I have made on the map here:  bike route marked (the drawn in red markings is our route).

The trail is off the main roads for the most part, so you don’t have to worry about cars and traffic.

Before we started the trail we headed into Whistler, grabbed a Starbucks and took in the sights and set up for the Canada celebrations.  Everyone was decked out in their red and white to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday!

20170701_094058.jpgWe started the bike ride from the main day parking lots (there are 5 huge lots located in the middle of the village- $5 a day for parking in lot 4).  Heading out the back of lot 5 we connected onto the trail and started the trek on the lost lake path.  From here you follow along lost lake before diverting to the left, rather than continuing around the whole lake.  Following the trail a little further we made our first photo stop- Green Lake. 20170701_105857

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I thought Green lake was the most beautiful stop on our ride.

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After Green Lake we rode along, while taking a few more pictures, until we came to a great snack stop at Meadow Park.  It was such a beautiful setting with families flying kites, dogs running around and jumping into the river, and people paddling their canoes down the river.

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Riding along Green Lake

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Green Lake with the mountains in the background.

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Geared up for Canada Day!

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Coming into Meadow Park:

 

Beyond Meadow Park we followed the trail for about 10 minutes of quick riding before coming upon some beautiful ‘wildlife viewing platforms’, which made for some good photo taking.

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Soon after we reached Rainbow Park, the first major beach area that we had come across on the bike ride.  It was loaded with families having picnics, and young adults blowing up their rafts and mattresses, piling on the cases of beer and chips, and getting ready for a river float.  This was a great stop for lunch, AND there was even a man selling Gelato- what a find 🙂

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Rainbow Park

Past rainbow park you head uphill for a bit, before turning left and riding on the road for a short period of time before connecting with the trail again.  From there you ride along and circle around 2 of Whistler’s smaller surrounding lakes:  Nita Lake and Alpha lake.  Both of these lakes were also filled with people sunbathing, and enjoying a day off work for Canada day.  To finish off the ride we circled the lakes, and rode back to the vehicles and grabbed our dinner gear to head down to Lost Lake for a picnic.  Make sure you have some energy left, because it’s about a 30 minute walk from the parking lot to the lake.  It was well worth it though, to cook a delicious Indian dinner and enjoy the views.

We topped off our night by watching a free outdoor public concert put on by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, a special performance by Canada Day.

Day #3:  Whistler Train Wreck Hike and Spa Scandinave

The Whistler Train Wreck hike is a short, easy hike, perfect for all fitness levels, and especially kids.  The train derailed in 1953 and the train cars were never removed from the forest.  As a result people have come down and painted art and graffiti on the cars.  For full details on how to get to the hike, check out the trail description HERE .  The trail is short, maybe a 30 minute walk from the vehicle, but involves a beautiful crossing over a raging river on a suspensions bridge, as well as you get to check out the 7 art covered train cars (2 are hidden a little further down).

 

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Disclaimer:  Don’t climb up here 🙂  

Now for the best part of the trip!  We spent the rest of the day at the Spa Scandinave!  For $70 you can spend as many hours as you like following their hydrotherapy circuit, this means spending 15 minutes in a hot environment (sauna, steam room, hot tub), followed by 10-30 seconds in a cold pool, followed by 15 minutes of relaxation in front of one of their fireplaces, in a hammock, on one of the beds indoors, or on a comfortable reclining bed/chair.  The place is completely silent, and is heavenly.  I began to feel every little cell in my body relax as we enjoyed our day here.  It is well worth the $70.  For more details on the spa, check out their website here:  Website.

Day # 4:  Hiking from One Mile Lake to Nairn Falls and back.

Our 3rd night we had spent camping north of Pemberton on a friends piece of land.  We enjoyed the morning with them, and only had a few hours to do a hike on our way back.  With so many beautiful hikes around Pemberton, we ended up choosing one just off the highway for convenience.  We pulled over at one mile lake- which is the lake just outside of Pemberton on the Sea to Sky highway.  From here you can follow the trail network all the way to the Nairn Falls campground, and then complete the 1.5 km from the campground to the Falls.  The whole trek was about 8 km’s total.  You get some good undulation with the trail, but nothing too strenuous.  The trail is very well marked from the lake, simply follow the signs for the Nairn Falls Connector.  Alternatively, you could also add a 1 mile walk around the “One Mile Lake”, which we chose to forgo and take a dip instead!

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The waterfall is huge!  Very hard to capture it’s power.

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And that was the end of our weekend!  We made our way home, stopping along the way to take a few more photos of the mountains (which I can’t get enough of).

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The “chief”

I hope this blog was helpful to spark some ideas for you for a short, active, enjoyable, and relaxing weekend up in Whistler.

Get outdoors, and explore 🙂

Katherine

 

Summer Hike Ideas: Mount Strachan

Now that we have finally been graced with some nice weather in Vancouver, it’s time to hit the trails!

Mount Strachan is a beautiful and challenging hike on Cypress Mountain, and one I recommend if you are into:

  •  Circle route hikes (it’s not an out and back trek)- lots of variation in scenery
  • Good views on a nice day
  • Big uphill scrambly portion “Christmas Gully”
  • Site of a plane crash & wreckage
  • Easy to access from cypress mountain.
  • Beautiful views of the Howe sound and Garibaldi mountains on a clear day

Mount Strachan is:

  • 10.5 KM’S
  • 550 M Elevation gain
  • Not an easy hike, good amount of rocky portions to navigate.  I would rate this hike as intermediate.
  • Best done between July and October once the snow has melted (the scrambly portions are pretty dangerous if still wet and slippery).

The trail starts from the Cypress Ski Mountain resort.  For complete directions please refer to this website.

The first part of the trail meanders through the woods alongside Yew Lake.

Keep an eye out for beautiful birds:

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And beautiful huge trees!

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After reaching a few junctions and crossing a few bridges you reach the Bowen Lookout, overlooking the Howe sound with a beautiful view of Bowen Island.  This is a side trek trail- and worth checking out:

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After trekking through the forest you will reach a wooden map board, and then two wooden bridges.  This is where you enter Strachan Meadows and are about to start the climb up the gully to the top of the hike.  There aren’t many marker points through here, but just stay left of the gully and follow the rocks, and the eventual trail path to make it to the top.  It’s a bit of a slog, and scramble, but have fun with it 🙂

Once you get to the top, there is an option to head right or left, head left first for the first viewpoint.  You will go right later before you start your descent over the other side of the mountain.

You get a really great view of the Lions (middle photo), another very popular hike here in Vancouver.

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Once you’ve rested up it’s time to head over the second lookout.  You walk back towards where you came up from Christmas Gully and then head straight across to the second lookout.  It’s very easy to navigate.

Once you’ve had a good look at the second lookout it’s time to start heading over the back of the mountain heading in the opposite direction that you came up Christmas Gully. Walk along the rocky surface at the top of the mountain a little ways down along the ski lift, aiming to find two orange markers that will get you on the descending trail back in the forest.  It took us a bit of time to find these.  We saw other people coming up different routes, so be sure you find the trail markers and forested path or else you will miss the plane crash!

Within 30 minutes of descending you come across a plane crash from 1963!  This was a T-33 Navy jet on a training mission.  It took several days to locate the crash site, and much of the site is still preserved- as you can see!

After the plane crash we found the route not to be very well marked, and in some cases we were worried we had got on the wrong trail.  Ensure you have these directions with you!  The downhill portion seemed to take a very long time, which is why we had thought we had gone the wrong way.  It also seemed like we were heading in the wrong direction, but the trail eventually veers back towards Cypress mountain.

As we were finishing the hike we came upon a plethora of “BEAR IN AREA” signs!!  I was happy to have seen these all at the end, so I didn’t have to be too freaked out while we hiked 🙂

 

I hope you get out and enjoy Cypress Mountain and the Mount Strachan Hike.  Let me know if you make it out.  If you get a nicer day then we did I would love to see your photos.

  •  Katherine

Hot Springs & Hiking Near Whistler

Need a weekend getaway to somewhere peaceful, and out in the middle of nowhere?  Want to combine this with a great hike?

One of my favourite weekend trips Kyle and I have taken over the past few years was out to the Skookumchuck Hot Springs located north of Pemberton.  Although a bit of a drive from Vancouver, if you make this trip into a weekend away, and include a nice hike on the way back then it’s well worth it.  Or you could pay to spend the weekend at the hot springs and relax the weekend away.  To read more about the hot springs themselves, where they get there name, and the history of the area, follow the links from this site:  LINK

The hot springs are nothing fancy in themselves, but they are definitely relaxing, peaceful, and set in a very beautiful location.  If you aren’t into roughing it a little bit, this won’t be a trip for you!

The first step is to gear up with your tent, food etc. and head out on the 3.5 hour drive north of Pemberton to the hot springs.  There are really great driving directions found on this site:  LINK.  That link is also the site where I found all of my original information for planning this trip.  On the way there we made a few pit stops to stretch the legs.  One in particular was Nairn falls, which was located about 20 minutes north of Whistler on the right hand side of the road.  We also stopped at Shannon falls viewpoint, near Squamish.

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Here are some shots I took from the car on the way up, trying to capture the beauty!  It was quite a drive, but relatively easy to navigate given the directions above.  Be prepared for quite a long stretch of gravel road near the end of the trip.  It was fine in our truck, and at the point of our trip would have been ok for travel in most vehicles.

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When you arrive to the hot springs site (after travelling on a gravel road for quite some time!), you can pay for your campsite before entering as there should be a person working at the gate who will take your payment and let you in.  We paid $30 for 2 people to camp for the night, and also purchased firewood on top of that from him (which wasn’t a great price, so if you can bring your own I would recommend that).

The campsites are beautiful!  Located right along the Lillooet River

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Pretty good spot to set up!

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10 steps down from our campsite

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Looking left along the river from our campsite

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Looking up from the river’s edge to our campsite

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Looking down at the river’s edge from our ‘tent’ – aka we sleep in the back of our truck!  Luxury camping.

Once you set up camp, throw on your swim suit and head over to the hot springs.  They are very close to the campsites, just a couple of minutes walk.  Oh and beware- swim suits were optional, especially as the night rolled in.

The hot tubs are heated from an underground hot spring, which is visible, but you can’t bathe in that one because it is deemed too hot!  Instead, the hot springs are funnelled into a collection of random old hot tubs, wooden tubs, and large blue bins!  It is really nothing fancy, and a pretty eclectic bunch of bins and tubs, but as long as you aren’t expecting Spa Scandinave style you will really enjoy it! Each tub is heated to a slightly different temperature so you can rotate around and find one of your choosing.  They even had one freezing cold tub, which felt amazing and invigorating to jump into in between the hot ones.

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A view of the hot ‘pools’ with the spring located to the back left

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A couple of the tubs.  The closest one in the photo was the freezing cold one!

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One of the other larger hot tubs located near the back.  This one really was an actual hot tub like you would have at your home- out in the woods!

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Where the hot water comes from.

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Another view.  You get the idea- it’s nothing fancy!

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loungin’

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So relaxing, you can barely keep your eyes open!

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I love this photo!  Kyle looks like a little happy kid in a play pen!

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Tub hoppin’

That night was very early night considering how relaxed we felt after a few hours of tub hopping, and how peaceful it was to sleep beside the river.

After one night of camping and enjoying the pools we decided to make our way for a hike before heading back to Vancouver.  Unfortunately we became so incredibly relaxed from the tubs we didn’t make it to our ultimate goal of hiking Joffre Lakes, which is more of a major hike in the area.  Instead we ended up wandering around Alice Lake, and finding two short hiking trails that suited us better.  Alternatively, a nice relaxing, but long trail would have been checking out Chekamus lake (if you go up in the summer).  We went up in the winter months, and weren’t sure if the road was 100 % accessible or if there was snow on the ground.  Chekamus lake is a relatively flat hike, about 14 km, and would make a perfect end to your weekend.  If neither of those sound interesting, chose another one off of this extensive list.

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On the drive home

One final tip:  We stopped in Pemberton at a coffee shop and got some delicious muffins the next day.  They were so good that after splitting one we went back in and got some more.  The bad news, I can’t remember the name of the shop.  If you know it you must comment so everyone else can enjoy!

Let me know if you make it out here 🙂  I hope my pictures did it justice and you find it just as relaxing as we did.

Hiking/Canoeing Pitt Lake & Widgeon Falls- beginner friendly

Looking for an easy canoe ride to a short hike ending in beautiful waterfalls, and all within an hour and a bit drive from Vancouver?  You should check out Pitt Lake and Widgeon falls.

Pitt Lake is located about 1.25 hours from Vancouver.  Once you get to Pitt lake you have about a 45 minute canoe ride until you come to the start of the trail for a 6 km round trip hike to Widgeon falls.  The whole trek is very beginner friendly, and makes a nice easy day for families, locals, and tourists!

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The first step was securing a canoe for the day.  Luckily my lovely friend loaned his to us.  If you don’t have access to one, we saw people renting them from a small shop right at Pitt lake.  On the trail report website found HERE they have provided the name and contact number for this canoe rental company.

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Making funny faces is my specialty…

Once you’ve got your canoe organized, make your way to Pitt Lake, google maps driving directions HERE.

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Nice views on the drive 

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And You’ve arrived!

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From Pitt lake you can find a parking spot (often crowded here), and then head out on your paddle.  The paddle is pretty much straight across the lake from where you launch your canoe and you will head into a large clearing between two stretches of trees (you can see in the photo above, you will head straight across and head to the left of that tree line straight ahead).  We found we were a little unsure as to the exact canoeing directions, listed HERE, but if you just paddle straight across the lake (slightly to the left), into the clearing, and then stay left for the entire paddle you will make it to Widgeon falls.  This is what the area looks like once you arrive to start the hike.  On the day we were here (I believe it was Canada Day) there were PLENTY of other canoes and hikers.

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Plenty of “Bear in Area” signs, which was concerning for me.  But we didn’t see any!

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Locking up the canoe, and getting started on our trek.  How did we make a mess already?

Once you have safely stowed your canoe (up on the grass to stay safe from the tidal lake) you can start on the hike!  Make your way up towards the information signs and then head right.  You start walking through some long grass, and the trail eventually heads more into tree dense woods until you come upon the waterfall after about 1 hour.  For all the detailed hiking directions check HERE.  The hike is short, less than an hour if you are quick, and eventually you come across some large rocks and beautiful waterfalls.

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Happy hikers

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Make sure you bring a lunch and plan on spending some time exploring around the waterfall area 🙂

 

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haha…

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Definitely a little dangerous, and not advised!

 

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Oh, and if it’s a super hot day like our day was, then pack your suit for a swim on the hike back!  We found this little spot just off the trail.  The water was FREEZING but especially refreshing during our hike.

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With the drive to and from Vancouver this is definitely a full day trip, even though the hike itself is only about 6 km round trip and the canoe trip is about 1.5 hours for a beginner.

One more thing…on the way back in the canoe we found the current to be VERY strong the day we were there.  Be prepared to have to paddle much harder on the way back and to have two strong people in the canoe to do the paddling.  I do think this paddle was beginner friendly, but just be ready to work on the way back a little bit harder!

Let me know if you make it out to Widgeon falls and Pitt Lake this summer, I would love to hear about it 🙂

Hiking near Portland, Oregon- Multnomah Falls

Over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 Kyle and I drove from Vancouver down to Portland for the weekend.  True to our style, we camped in the back of our truck and hiked/explored the Portland area for the weekend.  (if you are looking for a website with free campsites check out freecampsites.net ) we have used it on numerous trips across the US and never had any issues.  It was incredibly rainy for the most of the weekend, yet we still fell in love with this area of the States!  If you haven’t been, I highly recommend making the drive.

As part of many things we did that weekend, I wanted to share one of our hikes.  We hiked in the Columbia Gorge Area at a spot called Multnomah Falls, located HERE on Google Maps.  I have never hiked such a short hike with so many beautiful waterfalls.   To get to the hike from downtown Portland we drove along a beautiful stretch of road called the Historic Columbia River Highway.  There were many beautiful spots to hop out of the car for photos.  IMG_3775.jpgIMG_3776.jpgIMG_3780.jpg

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Wearing my “Sunday Best” 🙂

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Once you make it to Multnomah Falls there are plenty of hikes to take part in.  For those who are only there to see the main waterfalls, the good news in you can park your car and don’t have to do any walking :).  Here are some photos of what you can see from just a short walk from your car.

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After checking out the beautiful falls, for those that are in for a short hike there is a 2.7 mile “Loop 1” you can walk along, and there is also a 5.2 mile “Loop 2”, which is the one we did.  Take a look at the map for details.   We found the trail to be quite popular and busy, which was helpful because it wasn’t especially well marked.  We never actually got lost but there were a few stream crossings and sketchy points where we were happy to be able to ask around for the next directions.  Be sure you have your map with you.

The start of Loop 2 begins with a pretty major ascent up to the Multnomah Falls Lookout.  If you are a seasoned hiker you will have no problem, but we saw many families with children as well as people in jeans/people who didn’t appear to be regular hikers trudging up the hill.  For those of you who hike around Vancouver- you could think of this part of the hike as pretty Grouse Grindish.  You do most of the total climbing of the trail in the first section.  You could consider hiking the trail in the opposite direction and that would mean descending this portion instead of ascending.

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Your reward from parts of the ascent.

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Making our way up.

Once you reach the falls lookout, it’s all fun and games from there!  You meander for the rest of the hike through a variety of terrain (quite slippery at times) and get the most beautiful view of more than a handful of waterfalls.  IMG_3756.jpgIMG_3758.jpgIMG_3761.jpgIMG_3762.jpgIMG_3763.jpgIMG_3766.jpg

You might even spot some deer too!  These guys were super close to the trail, and were clearly not startled by us.  If was beautiful to watch them up close.

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Besides the first ascent to the top of the falls lookout (which many people were hiking up and right back down) the rest of the hike was moderately difficult.  There weren’t many other inclines, yet the trail was a little bit technical at times with some rocks to maneuver over etc. so consider wearing hiking boots.

Check out the Columbia River Gorge webpage for more details on the falls, as well as a link to a PDF which has both the loop hikes listed.  https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/crgnsa/recarea/?recid=30026

With plenty of rest and photo breaks, snack breaks, and time to enjoy the scenery this hike took us 3 hours.  If you are a slow hiker, or like more breaks budget for 4-5.

Oh and don’t forget the most important part- stop in at the shop and lodge on the way back for a treat!!!!

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I am really not sure the hike was strenuous enough to warrant a cookie that size…but it was tasty!

I look forward to heading back to Portland and hiking more of Oregon’s beautiful hikes.

And just for fun, I thought I would throw in some photos of some of our other highlights from the trip:

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Having coffee on a double decker bus in the “Hawthorne District” – Aka hipster area…very neat spot to check out.  If you like books you have to go to Powell’s Books on Hawthorne.  Bring your Visa card.

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At a Komboucha bar on Hawthorne street.  Serve yourself flight tastings, and board games!

And the drive home was lovely.  We chose to take the long route and head out to the coast and follow route 101 back up towards Seattle.  IMG_3796.jpgIMG_3802.jpgIMG_3805.jpgIMG_3811.jpg

Well, I hope you have a great time if you head out in this direction.  Let me know if there are any hikes in the Portland area that you recommend for me!