Posts Tagged With: Vancouver

The Best ‘Long Weekend’ Backpacking Trips

With the Labour Day long weekend coming up, I want to share some of my favourite long weekend backpacking trips! There’s lot of single night hikes in Southwestern BC, but long weekends are the best for backcountry hiking because the extra day enables you to explore further and to really escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned hiker, here’s 5 of my favourite backpacking trips near Vancouver:

For the Beginner: Lindeman Lake

Trail profile: Day 1 (2km, 300m gain), Day 2 (8km, 200m gain), Day 3 (2km, 200m loss)

Lindeman Lake is the perfect backpacking trip for beginners and one of my personal favourites for long weekend trips. I’ve been to Lindeman Lake twice for the May 24th long weekend and what makes it so great for beginners is that the campsite is only 2km from the parking lot, so it’s a great way to test out carrying a heavy pack for the first time. Once you set up camp, there are all kinds of options for what to explore over the rest of the weekend.

I wrote a post summarizing the different trails, but my recommendation for newbies would be to hike up to the campsite on Day 1 and then do a day hike to Greendrop Lake on Day 2. Greendrop Lake is approximately 8km roundtrip from Lindeman Lake, so it makes for a good day hike. Then on Day 3 you can hike back down to the parking lot and drive home. Lindeman Lake is located in Chilliwack Provincial Park, so you will need a backcountry permit, but there’s no reservation system and it’s only $5 per night, per person. Please remember that no campfires are permitted in this park at any time of year.

 

For the Bucket List Hiker: Garibaldi Lake

Trail profile: Garibaldi Lake Trail (18km, 820m gain), Panorama Ridge (15km, 610m gain), Black Tusk (11km, 820m gain), Mt. Price (11km, 620m gain)

I know, this hike is insanely popular and busy, but it’s popular for a reason! Garibaldi Park is only an hour and a half drive out of Vancouver and it boasts some of the most amazing views of the backcountry. I’ve only been in BC for 5 years and I’ve already done this iconic hike 3 times! There’s a lot to love about Garibaldi Lake, from the beautiful blue hues of the lake, to the breathtaking views of the glaciers and surrounding mountains, to swimming in the ice-cold lake and watching the sunset paint the mountains pink. But my favourite part of Garibaldi Lake is using it as a base from which to explore some of the surrounding trails. While Garibaldi Lake is gorgeous, the trail to the lake itself is a snooze-fest. It’s 9km of forested switchbacks, but has a huge payoff at the end. But from there, the rest of the trails in the park are breath-taking from start to finish!

There’s a few different ways to hike Garibaldi Park as a long weekend trip. I’ve done two long weekend trips to Garibaldi Lake and both times I left work a little early on Friday afternoon and hiked the 9km up to the lake on Friday night. From there, I stayed two nights at the lake and did day hikes on Saturday and Sunday, before hiking back out on Monday. However, if you’re a beginner I would recommend hiking up on Saturday morning instead and just doing one day hike on Sunday. Both times I hiked in Friday night, I started hiking around 5:30pm and got to the lake around dusk. If you’re a new hiker or not comfortable hiking or setting up in the dark, start your hike on Saturday morning instead.

Once you get to Garibaldi Lake though, there’s lots of options for day hikes. Panorama Ridge is my personal favourite and Black Tusk is also very popular. There’s also the lesser known Mount Price, which leaves the lake in the opposite direction of the other two hikes. Panorama and Black Tusk are both very popular and well marked trails, Mount Price is a bit more of a bush wack at times and isn’t well marked. So stick to the well marked trails if you aren’t familiar with way-finding.

However, if you’re making Garibaldi your destination for the long weekend, you’ll have to plan in advance. You must book a backcountry permit in advance for $10 per person, per night. The campsites release 4 months in advance of the date you book and they do book up fast. There is overflow camping at Taylor Meadows campsite, but it’s 1.5km away from the lake and definitely not as nice as the Garibaldi campsite. And as a final reminder, Garibaldi has been having problems with littering, so If you visit Garibaldi, make sure to pack out all of your garbage and leave no trace that you were there.

 

For the Through Hiker: Heather Trail

Trail profile: Day 1 (13.5km, 300m gain), Day 2 (9km, no gain), Day 3 (17.5km, 1000m loss)

Personally, I’m a big fan of through hiking. It’s great when you only have to set up camp once and don’t have to carry your heavy pack with you every day, but there’s something really fulfilling about through hiking and ending at a different location from where you started. It requires a bit more coordination as you’ll often need 2 vehicles, but it’s fun not to have to retrace your steps at any point.

Through hikes often require more time than just a long weekend, but one hike that can be done over 2 nights that I absolutely loved was the Heather Trail in Manning Park (it can also be done as a return hike, but I think it works best as a through hike). Manning Park is my favourite provincial park in southwestern BC and has some of the most scenic hikes. The Heather Trail is particularly well known for its wildflowers as the trail is mostly comprised of alpine meadows that burst into bloom in late July. The other highlights of the trail include walking the ridge along first brother mountain and camping at Nicomen Lake.

On Day 1, drive out to Manning Park and hike 13km to Kicking Horse Campsite. There is another camp called Buckthorn Campsite located at 5km, but it’s an easy walk to Buckthorn and not a scenic camp, so I’d recommend pushing all the way to Kicking Horse on the first day. Along the way, do the 1km summit up First Brother Mountain. On Day 2, it’s a more relaxing 9km hike to Nicomen Lake through meadow after meadow. Nicomen Lake is great for fishing if you’re so inclined, but bring your bug net because there’s a lot of flies. Nicomen Lake technically marks the end of the Heather Trail, but instead of turning around and hiking back 21km, I’d recommend hiking the Nicomen Lake Trail 17km back to the highway. 17km sounds like a lot, but the entire trail is downhill and we did it in just 5 hours. The benefit of hiking the trail this way is that there’s limited elevation gain. The hike starts at Blackwell Road, which is located 1000 metres up from the highway, so you do most of the elevation on the drive up. There’s no reservation system for this hike, but you do need a backcountry permit, which costs $5 per person, per night.

 

For the Long Distance Hiker: Elfin Lakes

Trail profile: Day 1 (11km, 600m gain), Day 2 (13-22km, 350-600m gain), Day 3 (11km, 600m loss)

I’m sensing a theme with this list because Elfin Lakes is another trail I’ve done 3 times! But my favourite was a 3 day trip that I did over the Labour Day long weekend in early September. Elfin Lakes is also located in Garibaldi Park and while it also gets a lot of visitors, it feels a lot less overwhelming than Garibaldi Lake. There’s a hut and tent pads at Elfin Lakes and you will have a similar problem as Garibaldi Lake in that you will need to book your reservation early if you want to be assured a site. The hut books up really fast in the winter and the tent pads book up really fast in the summer.

I say Elfin Lakes feels less overwhelming though because the campsite is much more wide open than Garibaldi and there’s a lot more area for people to disburse during the day, so it doesn’t feel quite as busy. You can swim in both lakes, but the Elfin Lakes are WAY smaller than Garibaldi Lake and therefore, much warmer and enjoyable for swimming. If it’s clear, you can also get an amazing view of the stars at night. My suggestion for Elfin Lakes would be to hike the 11km to the Lake on Day 1, then do a day hike to either Opal Cone or Mamquam Lake on Day 2, and hike out again on Day 3.

I call it the long distance hike because the options for your Day 2 hike are definitely nothing to scoff at. Opal Cone is a 13km round trip from the lakes, with about 350m in elevation gain and Mamquam Lake is a 22km round trip with 600m in elevation gain. I did the trip with my friend Brandon and we tried to get to Mamquam Lake on Day 2, but it was insanely hot and there’s a lot of elevation variation, so we never made it the whole way to Mamquam. We ended up turning back around 8km in, making for 16km in total. But the good news is, Opal Cone and Mamquam are the same trail, so even though we didn’t make it to Mamquam, we still got to do Opal Cone. There’s a lot of ground to cover on this hike, but with the exception of the first 5km from the parking lot, the entire hike is incredibly scenic!

 

For the Photographer: Skyline II Trail

Trail profile: Day 1 (12.5km, 610m gain), Day 2 (14km, minimal gain), Day 3 (12.5km, 610m loss)

Finally, the last hike on the list is not only my favourite hike on the list, but my favourite hike of all time! Like I said, I love Manning Park and for me, the Skyline Trail is the highlight of the park. It’s the most scenic hike I’ve ever done and it’s not even that crowded. Granted I didn’t do it on a long weekend, I took a Friday off to make it my own long weekend, so it might be busier on an actual long weekend. But that said, I did the same thing for the Heather Trail and it was definitely a lot busier.

I also hiked Skyline in peak wildflower season, which may have contributed to my love of the trail, but either way, I think I would have loved this trail because it has so many incredible views. The entire Skyline II Trail is 25km long and can be hiked with as a through hike or a return hike. The trail runs from Manning Park to Skagit Park, with Mowich camp smack-dab in the middle at 12.5km. I did the trail as a return hike from the Manning Side because the 2 trailheads are a 2 hour drive apart, so it’s logistically challenging (but not impossible) to coordinate. My recommendation is to start on the Manning side and hike to Mowich Camp on Day 1. From there, you can day hike along the Hozameen Ridge trail on Day 2, which branches off the main trail and continues towards Hozameen Mountain and the border.

Hozameen mountain is a very distinctive mountain and you’ll be staring at it all of Day 1, so it felt great to hike to the base of it. The trail continues on for a long time and actually ends on the American side of Skagit Valley. A good target for your day hike is to hike 7km to the Border monument. There’s a distinctive peak at the end of the ridge where you could end (because it is a steep downhill to the border monument), but I really wanted to see the monument, so we pushed through the last 500m to reach the monument – but the peak at the end of the ridge is a great place for lunch! We returned to Mowich Camp to sleep and then hiked back out the way we came on Day 3. But since the distance is the same on both sides of the Skyline Trail, you could hike out to the Skagit side instead if you wanted to make it a through hike. I’ve heard the Skagit side isn’t as scenic though and is mostly in the trees, so I didn’t mind hiking back along the same trail. The backcountry permit for this trail is the same as Heather Trail – no advance booking required, but the permit is $5 per day, per person.

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A Hot Start to Summer

Summer has been off to a great start this year! I think I’ve alluded to how much I love spring in BC and this year summer has been just as much of a treat for me. Temperatures have been in the high 20’s since the end of May and it always amazes me to realize that I’ll actually get to enjoy three full months of summer!

Our warm and dry winter led us into an even warmer and dryer summer. The grass that was beautiful and green all winter has turned golden brown in the summer heat. I can only recall two days when it has rained since the beginning of June. I love the sun, but the heat has definitely required a little bit of an adjustment from what I’m used to. At any given time it’ll be between 27 and 30 degrees in our house and I’ve taken to leaving all the windows open and sleeping without blankets and the fan pointed right at my face. Unfortunately, the dry heat and lack of rain hasn’t been great for the wildfires across the province and the air quality has been pretty bad in recent weeks.

But I won’t complain because I absolutely love the sunny weather! I’ve been planning my summer activities with abandon, not worrying about how the forecast might turn out. We’ve already crammed in a ton of summer activities and knocked a few more items off my bucket list.

The fun started right after my return from Brazil with a visit from my wonderful parents! They came to stay with us for the May long weekend and we took advantage of the holiday to travel down to Washington State for the weekend. It was Mom and Dad’s first trip to Seattle and we did a little exploring around famous Pike Place Market and then cheered on the Boston Red Sox at a baseball game at Safeco Field (I think it was my first time not cheering for the home team). We didn’t spend too long in Seattle though and opted instead to spend the weekend exploring enormous Olympic National Park.

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The Park is located south of Seattle along the west coast, just below Vancouver Island. It was quite a bit larger than we thought, so we spent two days driving around the park trying to fit in as many of its diverse attractions as we could. We had a picnic lunch at a waterfall in Elwha, hiked through the forest near Crescent Lake, went tidepooling at Rialto Beach, and took in the amazing views along Hurricane Ridge. It’s a beautiful park and I wish we’d had a bit more time to spend there. We tried to fit in a few small hikes so we could see a bit of everything, but we did have to spend large portions of our time driving.

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Olympic National Park is also home to another setting you might be familiar with, Twilight. The area serves as the setting for Stephanie Meyers popular franchise and we passed through many of the towns from her book. Rialto Beach is located just across the river from La Push and we had a good laugh when we drove through Forks on our way there. They’ve definitely capitilized on ‘Twilight Fever’ and we saw a lot of references to the books around the town. The sun came out for us though, so we didn’t see any vampires around!

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Towards the end of May, Seth and I bought bikes as a new way to explore the city. Steph joined us for a bike ride around the Stanley Park seawall at the end of May, but otherwise we’ve mostly been biking around New West. We discovered one of the outdoor public pools within biking distance is free, so that’s been a great way to cool down on hot days. New West is very hilly though, so I really need to work on my leg muscles for biking!

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In June we kicked off our camping and hiking season. Our first camping trip was out to Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. Karen and Grant joined us and we had a fun drive out, stopping for a pretty memorable meal at one of the local bars called Tractorgrease. We spent the weekend BBQing, lounging by the lake, working on our frisbee skills, and making s’mores over a campfire. We ended the trip with a short hike up to Lindeman Lake, one of Chilliwack’s many mountain lakes.

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We also made a trip out to Golden Ears Provincial Park in early June with some of my colleagues and went on a nice hike out to Viewpoint Beach, nestled in the mountains along one of the freezing, snow-melt rivers. The river would numb your toes, but we went for a swim in gorgeous Alouette Lake at the end of the hike, one of my favourite places from last summer.

One of the biggests excitements of the month was the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which I’m sure you know was hosted in Canada this year! I bought a set of tickets to several games in June of last year and I couldn’t wait to finally see the women play. We had tickets to two games from the group round (Cameroon vs. Ecuador and Japan vs. Switzerland), two games in the round of 16 (Canada vs. Switzerland and Japan vs. Netherlands), and the quarterfinals (Canada vs. England). It was so incredible to cheer on Canada twice at sold out games with more than 50,000 people in attendance! We finished off the tournament with tickets to the final; it was a bit of a disappointing game since we decided to cheer for Japan, but still an incredible event to witness! Most of all, I was happy to support women’s sports and I hope that Canada came to appreciate their awesome female atheletes a little bit more.

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Some other highlights from June included going on a tour of UBC and Wreck Beach with Amy, seeing Ed Sheeran in concert, and celebrating my 25th birthday. I didn’t manage to get tickets to see Ed Sheeran in the first sale, so I had to pay a lot more to get tickets from a third-party, but it was so worth it! Ed is such a fantastic performer – it’s just him, his guitar, and a loop station on stage. Steph and I had such a blast watching him, we decided if he ever comes back we’ll be shelling out for floor seats! I also had a great birthday. I’m pretty sure we gathered up all the Newfoundlanders we could find in the city and had a nice BBQ at the house; although sadly, I forgot to take any pictures.

Our most recent exploit was a Canada Day hike in Garibaldi National Park. I’d heard a lot of good things about Garibaldi from people at work, so we wanted to check it out. We did the 18km hike with one of my colleagues and it was just as impressive as everyone raved it was! The hike itself is a bit of a slog – you start with about 6km of steady uphill through the trees before you really get to any scenery. We stopped for a snack at the 6km mark and encountered one of our favourite birds, Gray Jays (or as they’re known in BC, Whiskey Jacks), which don’t need much enticing to eat straight out of your hand!

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The scenery improves a little after that and we hiked through some peaceful meadows before finally reaching gorgeous Garibaldi Lake. It’s a glacial lake and has some of the clearest, blue-green water I’ve ever seen. It’s surrounded by snow capped mountains with the Sphinx and Sentinel Glaciers on the far side of the lake. My colleague was doing a dry run with his big pack for a weeklong hike he’s doing in August, so he had his bag filled with every sort of sandwich fixin’ imaginable and we had a delicious meal on the shore of the lake. After lunch, we all went for a swim in the freezing, crystal clear water to cool down before the hike back. We ended the day with the New West fireworks show, which truly made for a perfect day!

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That’s my summer thus far in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to lots more camping in July and I’ll be home for a full two weeks in early August. Sending lots of love and sun back to Newfoundland!

Maria

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A Year in British Columbia

It’s officially been a year since I moved to the West Coast!

It’s been a pretty eventful year and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by! Looking back, I realized I’ve actually done very little writing about my time in BC over the past year and decided to reflect on some of the adventures I’ve had. Despite the lack of blog entries, I have been pretty busy and decided to make a list of some of my favourite things I’ve done in BC over the last year to share with you. Here are the top 12 highlights of my year on the West Coast:

12. Annual Festivals in the Lower Mainland

Enjoying hot cider at the Christmas Market

Enjoying hot cider at the Christmas Market

I’ve discovered there’s always something going on in and around Vancouver and there are tons of events and festivals to check out throughout the year. There’s the Celebration of Lights firework shows in July, the rotating Food Cart festivals around the city, the Pacific National Exhibition in August, Fright Night at Halloween, and the many Christmas light festivals and Christmas Market in December. We recently did Dine Out Vancouver as well, a 2 week festival in January where restaurants all over the city offer three course meals for $18, $28, or $38.

 

 

Skiing on Seth's Birthday

Skiing on Seth’s Birthday

11. Skiing Cypress

I have to admit that the ski weather isn’t always the best outside Vancouver, but I love having access to skiing so close to the city! I’ve been up to Cypress three times since I moved here; they do seem to struggle to get enough snow and to keep it on the mountain (although I’ve been told it’s been a bad season), but it’s a great size mountain and only 30 minutes away! I am hoping to get out to Whistler this year though!

 

10. Hiking in the Okanagan

HIking in Summerland

HIking in Summerland

 

Over the Labour Day long weekend Seth and I drove out to the Okanagan and spent three days camping in Okanagan Lake Provincial Park. We spent our time swimming in the beautiful lake, visiting wineries in BC’s premier wine region, and hiking along the train tracks of an old steam train. It was a pretty relaxing weekend and we loved all the beautiful scenery in the Okanagan and along the drive.

 

Canadian Women's Soccer

Canadian Women’s Soccer

9. Sports and Concerts

Living near a city that actually attracts popular artists and has several home teams in multiple sports has been a real pleasure, although one that I still haven’t really taken full advantage of. We saw the women’s Canadian soccer team and the Vancouver Giants play this year and we’re planning to catch a Canucks game soon. Hopefully this summer we’ll also get a chance to see the Vancouver White Caps (soccer) and the Vancouver Canadians (baseball) play. I only went to one concert last year, Elton John, but there’s always someone putting off a concert downtown and I plan to pay closer attention to who else visits this year!

 

8. Hiking the Chief 

View from the top

View from the Chief

One of BC’s more popular hikes in the lower mainland is The Chief. We decided to hike it when my Dad visited in early June. As challenging as the hike proved to be (it’s about a 700m elevation gain in just a few kilometres), the view from the top was amazing! The Chief has three peaks that you can hike to, but we were so exhausted after the first one that we decided just to do one. Pretty much the entire hike is rock steps and near the top there’s a fair bit of climbing using chains attached to the rock, but it’s well worth the effort once you reach the top!

 

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Cherry Blossoms in April

7. Spring weather

Spring is actually a real season in BC and this was the first year I’ve ever appreciated it! I couldn’t believe when the cherry blossoms starting budding in April and that it was 22 degrees outside when we had a team BBQ outside at work in early May. Sorry Newfoundland, but I do not miss snowy May 24 or Juneuary.

 

 

6. Kayaking the Sunshine Coast

A little starfish I found

A little starfish I found

My parents came to visit in September and we made a little journey over to the Sunshine Coast and ended up going kayaking in Porpoise Bay. It was probably one of my favourite times kayaking! Porpoise Bay is completely sheltered, so the water was super calm and we saw all kinds of interesting things, from starfish and sea cucumbers, to harbour seals and river otters! We didn’t even need a guide because it was so easy going, so we just spent the morning exploring several bays.

 

 

 

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

5. Trips across the Border

Vancouver is so close to the US border and I love being able to hop across the border when it strikes my fancy! In April Emily came for a visit and we went down to Washington to see the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and to visit Seattle. Then in August, as you probably know from my previous blogs, my friends came from Newfoundland and we went on an epic road trip from Vancouver all the way down to San Francisco! We decided that Oregon is the undiscovered gem of the west coast.

 

4. Camping at Cultus Lake

Grilling burgers on our camping trip

Grilling burgers on our camping trip

 

Camping was my new discovery this year. We went camping for a weekend at Cultus Lake, but honestly, I don’t think it mattered where we went, I just loved it! My parents gave me their old tent from the 80’s and we bought little bit of camping gear and just had a great time soaking up the sun, swimming, having campfires, and cooking outside. It’s so nice to get out of the city, especially in a place like BC where there’s so much gorgeous landscape to explore!

 

Alouette Lake

Alouette Lake

3. Exploring Alouette Lake

We didn’t get a chance to go camping at Alouette Lake, which is located in Golden Ears Provincial Park, but we went there for a day trip in July and loved it. The lake is located right at the base of the mountains and just has the most beautiful backdrop! You can rent canoes there, which was tempting, but we opted instead to go for about a 5km hike along the river next to the lake up to a waterfall. It was a great day and we hope to go camping there this summer.

 

2. Adopting the Vancouver Lifestyle

My first race!

My first race!

 

Don’t worry, I’ll never stop being a Newfoundlander, but one of the things I love about Vancouver is the active lifestyle that people try and live. I really took ownership over my health this year; I started running and hula hooping and made a big effort to adopt better eating habits. Like Newfoundland, everyone here loves the outdoors, but there’s a bit more of an opportunity to enjoy it (weather-wise), so I made every effort to get out and enjoy nature!

 

 

Trying some Ethiopian Food!

1. Trying all the restaurants!

Vancouver is so incredibly diverse and there are so many amazing places to eat here! One day I was just thinking about all the restaurants here and realized that I’ve barely eaten at any chain restaurants in the last year! I love trying new foods, especially those that are not easily available in St. John’s, and have been busy trying out as many new foods as possible. My favourites are probably Indian, Thai, and, of course, sushi, but I’ve tried a lot new foods since I’ve been here and love that most of the restaurants are locally owed and pretty authentic. I currently have a tie going for my favourite restaurant between this wonderful vegetarian mexican restaurant at Commercial-Broadway, Bandidos Taqueria, and a delicious sushi restaurant at Royal Oak that my friend introduced me to, Sushi Oyama.

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