5 Beautiful Days on Pender Island

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I got to spend five beautiful days on Pender Island, BC with my boyfriend Scott, thanks to his parents who let us use their “cottage” (two bedroom, two bathroom, gas fireplace…not exactly roughing it).

We arrived on the afternoon of December 31st and rang in the New Year together at the cottage. Then we spent the next 3 sunny days exploring the island. Starting the year off exploring nature and enjoying beautiful views with my favourite person was pretty much the best way to kick off 2016.

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Me and my favourite guy out exploring.

There are lots of  roads and trails you can follow and find your way to little beaches and pretty views.

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One of the things that really stood out to me was the fact that Pender Island has so many Arbutus trees! I absolutely love these coastal trees that are native to British Columbia. Read all about them here!

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Arbutus trees
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The gorgeous red peeling bark of a large Arbutus tree.

We also checked out a short hike in the “Enchanted Forest”. While it had some decent views at one end, as well as the Arbutus trees pictures above, it was definitely one of the less spectacular places we went. When I had searched online about hiking on Pender, one of the first sites I came across described the Enchanted Forest as confusing, easy to get lost in, and suggested that one should allot a fair amount of time to it. We did not find it in the least bit confusing and it is pretty close to the road and meets up with it in a few spots so I think it would be pretty hard to get lost if you have any familiarity with hiking or being in the woods at all. It also only took us about 45 minutes to go to both ends, including stops for picture taking. And while it didn’t have the level of breath taking views as some of the other spots we went, it was still a lovely walk.

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Enchanted Forest Park entrance, Pender Island

My favourite place that we discovered was Gowlland Point. We found it just driving around exploring. We drove to the end of a road and saw the ocean, so we walked down to it and were amazed by the long stretches of gorgeous beach with stunning views.

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Gowlland Point, Pender Island, BC
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Gowlland Point, Pender Island, BC
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Gowlland Point trees.
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Gowlland Point, Pender Island, with Mount Baker faintly visible in the background.

It rained on the last night, but we were already back inside, warm and cozy by the fire. On day five we had a leisurely morning, and then packed up and headed home…and for me, back to work after three weeks off! It was a wonderful trip. Pender Island is beautiful, so if you get the chance to check it out, you should! And if you are looking for some yummy pub food check out the Port Browning Pub!

Happy New Year to all of you! I hope 2016 treats you well and is filled with adventures, good health and happiness.

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I’m a Cover Model! My friend’s hiking book.

I’ve mentioned before that I only discovered my passion for hiking in the last few years and the main person I have to thank for that is my dear friend Chloë Ernst.

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Chloë paddling towards Widgeon Falls.

She took on a contract to write a book of hikes near Vancouver and invited me along to do a few of them with her. I wasn’t in very good shape at the time so it was pretty tough at first. Luckily for me, Chloë was very patient with me, and also very good at picking hikes that would challenge me enough for me to make progress, but not be so hard that I would be turned off hiking altogether.

The first hike that really made me fall in love with hiking was Upper Shannon Falls near Squamish, BC (Distance 7.5km, Elevation gain 470m, Intermediate).

When we reached the top and I looked out over Howe Sound, it…changed me. I was in awe and knew I needed more of this in my life. Plunking down and drinking in the rugged beauty of nature while eating a well deserved snack in the sun made me so happy. I was addicted.

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View of Howe Sound from Upper Shannon Falls viewpoint.
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Chloë admiring the view of Howe Sound from Upper Shannon Falls.

Hiking is my therapy. The combination of nature and exercise melts the stress away. Seeing incredible mountain views remind me of the big picture and how the little things really don’t matter all that much.

Over the course of about a year or a little more, I did several hikes with Chloë for her book. My fitness level gradually improved, and I started spending (too much) money on gear and technical clothes because I knew I had finally found a hobby I was passionate about and would stick with. We ended up redoing some of the hikes so she could double check her notes and add in more details, and I was very pleased to see the progress I’d made in terms of fitness compared to my first time doing them. That’s another thing I find rewarding about hiking – you can really see how your fitness level is improving. Minnekhada is actually one of the first hikes I ever did, and when I do it now it really shows me how far I’ve come. I still have a ways to go but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

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Part of trail at Minnekhada. It seems very shire-like for you LOTR fans.

During these hikes, both of us were snapping pictures regularly, and then one day Chloë sent me an email asking me to give her approval to use some pictures of me for her book. And THAT my friends, is how I became a cover model! I’m also on four pages inside!

You can (and should) buy Chloë’s book here. It features directions, summaries, statistics, route details, stats, pictures and maps for each hike. It also includes interesting facts, history or tips on nearby events or restaurants for some of the hikes as well. You can look up hikes by certain criteria such as being dog friendly. And, best of all – you can throw it in your bag and bring it with you for reference (your phone won’t work everywhere when you are hiking)!

Not my best photo but here I am thrilled to get my copy of Chloë's book. That's me on the cover!
Not my best photo but here I am thrilled to get my copy of Chloë’s book. That’s me on the cover!

The book is done and published, but we are still hiking, and I feel like I’m just getting started!

Thank you Chloë for bringing me along, being patient with me when I was horribly out of shape, and making me a cover model! And most importantly, thank you for being such a great friend!

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Chloë also has great ideas like packing beers to enjoy in the sun beside Widgeon Falls.

Mount Seymour

View from top of Mount Seymour first pump
Mount Seymour, First Pump

Monday was a holiday here in Canada and it was a beautiful day. My friend and I loaded our day packs, got a breakfast sandwich and then headed to Mount Seymour to hike up to the first ‘pump’ (peak). The website says it’s not open until July, but we’ve had hardly any snow this year so many trails have been clear much earlier than usual.

Now, it’s going to be hard for me to write a good account of this hike because I was in a lot of pain from about 20 or 30 minutes into the hike. I’ve been trying to break in my La Sportiva Thunder III GTX hiking boots, but things just kept getting worse. I tried moleskin, doubling up my socks, loosening the laces, tightening the laces…but the blisters kept coming. So, this hike felt a lot harder than it would have otherwise. There were also a LOT of bugs, which was hard to get used to after the joy of bug free winter hiking! Four days later I’m still nursing about a dozen nasty bites – and yes I used bug spray! But last night I grabbed a Therapik from MEC and it seems to be working really well! I will review that in another post.

That being said, it was a good hike. We took the “road” route, which for much of the way was pretty open and sunny. In the beginning it was loose smaller rocks, but as we went on the path narrowed and the stones became larger and more stable.

I had to take breathers much more often than usual because the pain in my heels was really getting to me. Shortly before we reached the first pump I actually started to feel a little light headed…but I was determined to see that view before heading back! I also didn’t want to let down my friend by giving up.

So we made it up and found a sunny spot to sit and eat…and ice my heels in a patch of snow! (Note to self – remember to pack Advil on hikes!) Up top the bugs were mostly absent and it was nice and warm so we hung out and relaxed for a bit.

Photo by Chloe Ernst. That little pink, black and skin coloured patch on the rocks is me!
Photo by Chloe Ernst. That little pink, black and skin coloured patch on the rocks is me!
Photo by Chloe Ernst. Me taking a break and basking in the sunshine.
Photo by Chloe Ernst. Me taking a break and basking in the sunshine.
Beautiful!
Beautiful!

Once we’d had enough of a break and snapped a few pictures we decided to head back. Going down was much easier on my feet and we made good time. About 15 or 20 minutes from the trail head it started to rain – at first it was just a few big fat raindrops here and there but then it started to pour. It felt great though – it was still sunny and warm and the cool drops were actually quite refreshing.

I must say, I’ve never been so happy to take off a pair of hiking boots and slip on my comfy runners in my life. I fully plan to do this hike again with different footwear, and a better coating of bug repellent.

Eagle Bluffs Hike on Cypress Mountain

Eagle Bluffs Viewpoint
Eagle Bluffs Viewpoint

Due to the lack of snow received in the Lower Mainland this year, we were able to hike Eagle Bluffs on Cypress  Mountain (Distance: 8km
Elevation Gain: 350 meters) yesterday without snowshoes. It was a beautiful day for one of my favourite hikes. Previously I’d only done it in the summer so it was great to get to see it in another season – and without all the bugs!

It took us about four hours at a moderate pace with about a twenty minute break at the viewpoint. There were a fair number of people on the trail taking advantage of the good weather and lack of snow. The beginning section is made up of some fairly steep switchbacks which gets you warmed up really fast – and then it levels out and is quite pleasant for the rest of the hike.

This was the first time I used my new Black Diamond trekking poles – and the first time I used poles for a full hike in general. I really liked these poles – the handles were comfy and they were easy to adjust. The flick locks feel a lot more secure than the previous poles I had which just had a twist-lock mechanism – which failed, hence the new poles. I found it really made a difference to use them – my legs didn’t get as tired, and it helped with balance, moving quickly, and reducing impact on my knees. There are plenty of reasons to use trekking poles – you can read more about those reasons in this Outdoor Gear Lab article. I also found them useful for balancing during a stretching break!

The Eagle Bluffs viewpoint is breath-taking. The photo at the top of this post is the view from one angle. Here are a couple more:

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Eagle Bluffs hikers
Me looking out at all the freighters in the harbour.
Photo taken by Chloe Ernst. Me looking out at all the freighters in the harbour.

In the above photo I am wearing:

  • My new La Sportiva hiking boots which I am still breaking in. I find it takes me a while to get super comfy in any sort of trail shoe so I will reserve judgement on these for now.
  • My MEC Sandbagger pants that I absolutely adore. They are perfect for hiking because they are stretchy, durable and super comfy. I also like that they don’t flare out at the bottom – this helps prevent getting snagged on branches and roots. I also think they are cute enough to wear in the city before and after your hike without feeling like you are looking like a grubby hiker.
  • My MEC Ruby jacket is a great layering piece. It is light, thin and soft but provides a decent level of warmth. I was wearing this with just a technical T-shirt underneath for most of the hike. I just threw my North Face Thermoball jacket (see pic below) over top when we were stopped and I cooled down. I’ve actually been wearing the Ruby jacket a lot in the city as well. It’s cute and very practical. The Thermoball is super warm for it’s size and weight, and it packs down into it’s pocket so it’s really easy to bring anywhere.
  • My MEC Frigorific Headband (see below pic). I love this thing because I often get too hot to wear a toque while hiking, but this is perfect. I can wear it easily with a ponytail, and it lets my head breathe and not get too hot but keeps my ears warm.

So that was my Sunday! Hiking with one of my best friends to admire my favourite type of eye candy.

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Yours truly in my happy place.

Bonus photo: This is the same view as the first photo in my post, but taken last summer. It looks different every time I go there!

View from Eagle Bluffs
Eagle Bluffs, Cypress Mountain

Get yourselves outside and into nature if at all possible! It’s good for the soul!

A New Direction?

Hello everyone!

I have taken some time away from the blog because I am reconsidering it’s direction.

As mentioned previously, I have developed a passion for hiking over the past couple of years. This passion is growing and I am looking to get into backpacking on overnight and multi-day trips.

I think this might be a better use of my blog, and because it is my passion, I will enjoy the writing more.

I will still post about simple living and happiness periodically, but you can expect to see a lot more about hikes and hiking gear in the future.

I hope you will stay with me, and I thank you all for reading.

ETA: I have made my old posts that don’t relate to the outdoors private.

A Beautiful Day for a Hike

Yesterday I had a wonderful day doing what I love the most – exploring nature with a friend. For the locals: We headed out to Buntzen Lake in Port Moody. We did the loop around the lake, with a detour at the north end to go around another small lake and catch a glimpse of Indian Arm.

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That’s my friend leading the way.

I love hiking year-round. The benefits of fall and winter hiking include the fact that you don’t get as hot and you don’t have to fend off the bugs!

And, you get to see some cool things, like this:

I love watching steam rise out of the trees to join the passing clouds.
I love watching steam rise out of the trees to join the passing clouds.

 

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More cloud appreciation.

We stopped at North Beach for a snack and a stretch and got to appreciate the view.

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View from North Beach, Buntzen Lake Hike, Port Moody, BC, Canada
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Dock at North Beach, Buntzen Lake

And then we continued on along the trail taking in the sites of the lake, moss covered trees, trail-side mushrooms, streams, and several waterfalls.

IMG_0594It was a gorgeous day for a hike. I only wish the pictures could do it justice. If you are able to, I highly suggest you find a friend, pack a bag and head out into the woods!

Make sure you are prepared though – hiking safety is important!  Check out the Mountain Equipment Co-op website for some tips and tricks.