Aldergrove Lake Regional Park

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!

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!

Keeping busy, having fun.

Hello everyone!

I owe you a few posts! I went camping at Birkenhead Lake which was amazing! So I will do post about that soon.  I also owe you a couple of gear reviews (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad).

Life has been very busy lately, but very good.

I’ve got to sort through some photos, and then I will get to posting!

In the meantime, here are a couple of pictures from this past long weekend:

Horseshoe Bay. One of my favourite places for a quick walk or bite to eat.
Horseshoe Bay. One of my favourite places for a quick walk or bite to eat.
Enjoying the sunshine and views at Whytecliffe Park in West Vancouver.
Enjoying the sunshine and views at Whytecliffe Park in West Vancouver.
Me and Scott - the best thing keeping me busy lately!
Me and Scott – the best thing keeping me busy lately!

Vancouver Folk Festival 2015

This year I attended the Vancouver Folk Festival on the Friday night and most of Saturday, and as always, I had a great time. I think the Folk Fest qualifies for my outdoorsy blog since the whole thing happens outside at the beach!

My friend Chloe (left) and me enjoying the show from the back of the crowd at the main stage.
My friend Chloe (left) and me enjoying the show from the back of the crowd at the main stage.

The thing that always impresses me the most at the Folk Fest (besides the musicians) is the fact that everyone is just there having a good time. People are friendly and polite. It is a family friendly environment with plenty of kids and activities for them to do, but there is also a beer garden and yet no one seems to get out of control or obnoxious.

There is an artisan’s market which is accessible to the public as well. I bought a lovely blue and teal batik for $15. I bought two last year, but I ended up using them on my furniture to keep cat hair off my couch and chair, so I needed to buy another one to use as a beach/picnic blanket. I also bought a portable charger for my phone which will come in handy when I’m camping next weekend (stay tuned for a post about that as well as a review on my new tent).

There are lots of good eats at the Folk Fest as well. They have a “food court” of food trucks with plenty of tasty options. Although I must say, I was disappointed that the Kaboom Box wasn’t there as had been advertised. I’d been looking forward to having their amazing veggie Buddha Burger since last year. I’m not even vegetarian but that is seriously one of the best burgers I’ve had. I believe they are usually downtown so if you come across them I highly recommend you give them a try.

My favourite act that I saw perform twice was the The Strumbellas. They are listed under country on iTunes but I would describe them more as upbeat folk-rock. I bought their most recent album yesterday morning and I’ve been listening to it non-stop.

Some of the other acts I saw included Hawksley Workman, Frazey Ford, Adam Cohen, Perch Creek, Pokey LaFarge, Melbourne Ska Orchestra, The Sadies, Basia Bulot, and Trampled by Turtles. Overall, I was impressed by the talent.

I even got to chat over dinner with the drummer and fiddle player from The Jerry Cans, a band from Nunavut. They were really nice and I was disappointed that I missed their performance on Saturday morning.

The venue is amazing. The stages are all set up on the grassy areas at Jericho Beach and sometimes you are treated to beautiful sites like this as you are dancing along to the music:

Beautiful sunset at the Vancouver Folk Festival on Friday night.

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.

canoe, paddle, river, hiking, west coast, vancouver, outdoors
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.

view, hiking, howe sound, upper shannon falls, vancouver, west coast
View of Howe Sound from Upper Shannon Falls viewpoint.
hiking, west coast, vancouver, view, mountains, upper shannon falls, howe sound
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.

minnekhada, hiking, vancouver, west coast,
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!

hiking, widgeon falls, vancouver, west coast, beer
Chloë also has great ideas like packing beers to enjoy in the sun beside Widgeon Falls.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Thunder III GTX day hiking boots

la sportiva

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.

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:

Eagle Bluffs hikers, viewpoint
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.

Selfie at view point
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!