Aldergrove Lake Regional Park

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Enjoying some sunshine at Aldergrove Lake Regional Park.

Last Saturday we did some easy hiking at Aldergrove Lake Regional Park. There are a few trails so you can do a short hike or join up with other trails to make it a bit longer. There were some slight inclines but it is more of a walk than a hike.

Scott was fighting a bit of a cold so we wanted to take it easy but still get some outdoor time and movement in. I had never been to this spot before. It was a lovely spot for a walk without having to drive  too far (Scott lives in Surrey).

I got a Fitbit Flex a few days ago, and so far I am loving it! It’s definitely helping me be more aware of how much activity I’m getting in during my work days, and motivates me to do things like get off the bus a stop early. I’ll post more about it once I’ve had it for a while.

I should say that I realize how lucky I am to live somewhere where I can be outside in January dressed like I am in the picture above – warm walking boots, thick leggings, a long sleeved base layer and a light jacket. I started with a toque and gloves as well, but shed them pretty soon after going up a couple of hills.

I hope you are all doing well and getting outside when you can despite winter temperatures!

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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.

Overflowing Buntzen Lake

Buntzen Lake Loop is one of my favourite easy hikes. It’s long enough to get a decent workout, but it’s not steep or too challenging if I want to bring along a friend who is new to hiking. And most importantly to me, it’s gorgeous no matter what the weather is doing. In fact, I like it best when it’s cloudy because you get awesome sights like this:

View from the far beach.
View from the far beach.

When we were driving into the parking lot there were signs warning that the lake’s water level was really high and that some sections of the trail may be closed. We decided to chance it anyway, and luckily, the trail was open the whole way around. There were a few “Hazardous Tree” warning signs along the way, but that was it. However, it was quite something to see how high the water level was compared to usual, so I thought I’d whip up this post to share some pictures with you. My thoughts around the high water levels are that the ground became very dry during our drought, and then when we got that heavy dump of rain, the ground was unable to absorb it so it just flowed down the mountains into the lake.

Check it out!

The main beach.
The main beach.
The far beach - I couldn't even get to the dock I like to take my pictures from!
The far beach – I couldn’t even get to the dock I like to take my pictures from!
Luckily it didn't get high enough for the tables to float away!
Luckily it didn’t get high enough for the tables to float away!

Fall is in the air and the cooler temperatures are ideal for hiking – and there are less bugs! As always, I urge you to get out into nature – it’s good for your health, your stress levels, and your soul!

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.

Gear Review: Therapik Insect Bite Treatment

The Therapik next to a pen for scale.
The Therapik next to a pen for scale.

Therapik Insect Bite Treatment: Bugs LOVE me and my body reacts to their bites quite strongly with swelling and redness and itchiness that lasts for days! I was browsing the MEC website and came across this little device that heats up and apparently helps draw blood to the area. I didn’t really believe it would work, but the rave reviews convinced me to give it a try because I was scratching myself raw. I just tried it out today, four days after getting the bites (they say it works best when used right away) and…it WORKS! So far anyway. I used it about two hours ago on the worst offenders, and they aren’t itching now! I think this little thing is going to live in my hiking bag from now on! It’s a little clunky, but it’s pretty light.

All you do is place the end against your bite and push on the big blue button for 30 seconds (or less if it gets way too hot). Apparently the heat causes blood to rush to the area which helps clear away the ‘bug poison’. (Please read their official description as that is really not a very technical description!)

Caution: Make sure you don’t hold it on your skin for longer than 30 seconds. I have a high pain tolerance and wasn’t paying attention once and ended up burning myself and getting a nasty blister. I’m hoping it won’t leave a scar because that’s not exactly a cool scar story.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Thunder III GTX day hiking boots

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La Sportiva Thunder III GTX day hiking boots: These boots look great and seemed to fit well in the store. I had a MEC staff member check the fitting and he thought they fit well. I wore them around the house for a while and they felt good, but as soon as I went hiking – pain and blisters. I took them on four hikes, hoping they would break in, but, no such luck. I think it was a combination of the fact that there is a rough seam up the back inside of the heel, and the fact that the sole is very stiff. But, this is exactly why I always buy my gear from MEC – because of their Rock Solid Guarantee I was able to return them hassle-free! I’m going to wait for my heels to heal before I go trying on more boots to find their replacement.

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.