Family Updates

Late summer patio weather in Vancouver
It’s almost Thanksgiving and I’m thankful for a healthy and happy family.

Emily has a new job as the Grants Manager at ArtStarts.

My body is slowly healing. I had my iron levels checked in September. They’re improving but still low – 19 μg/L (up from 10 in in June). My ankle is almost fully healed. I’ve started running again and curling. I still have days where I’m tired and low on energy, but I definitely feel an improvement.

We had a lovely visit with Emily’s mom a few weeks ago: watching Fringe theatre, walking through autumn leaves, eating vegan food, and playing board games. The perfect family visit.
Fall colours in Vancouver.

Kelsey and Matt are busy growing pumpkins.
Growing a pumpkin

My parents are busy living the pioneer lifestyle and building an off-the-grid home. You can read all about their adventures on their blog.
Farmer Mom

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at Christmas.

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Loving the Cloud Money

One of my favourite tech discoveries this year has been nTrust – a mobile payment app made by a local Vancouver startup. I’ve been using it to transfer money between friends (like Interac e-transfers but without any fees) and purchase lunch from local food carts.

They’ve been pushing hard to increase their user base and running a lot of lucrative promotions. If you sign up using referral code ‘chr597’ you get $10 for free. They’ve also been running deals with cloud money discounts at my favourite food carts – Arturo’s and Culver City Salads. Nothing like a free lunch.

I’ve been using their app a lot and they asked if they could feature me on their blog. The post went up today – Keep on (taco) truckin’. Somehow I mislead them into believing I was a born in Vancouver, but other than that I’m happy with how it turned out.

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Vegan Weekend in Portland

Boke Bowl
Emily and I spent the Labour Day weekend in Portland soaking up the vegan delights and the hipster vibe. We’ve been to Portland a few times now, but I’m still amazed by the quantity of funky facial hair, tattoos, ironic fashion, and (most importantly) the selection of vegan food.

Here were the best restaurants we ate at this time:
Harvest at the Bindery – 5/5
Vegan Brunch
This is one of Portland’s newest vegan restaurants, and an instant favourite of ours. They served the best vegan brunch I’ve ever had. The BBQ pulled trumpet sandwich was bursting with flavour – highly recommended. The miso grit cake and biscuits were also delicious.
Harvest at the Bindery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Portobello Vegan Trattoria – 4.5/5
Vegan Dinner
Excellent vegan Italian dishes with perfect flavour and texture. It was great being able to eat pizza, ravioli, and an ice cream sundae for dessert, all without dairy or soy.
Portobello Vegan Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vtopian Artisan Cheeses – 4/5
Vegan Cheese Platter
This is the future of vegan food. No one will miss dairy cheese if they can eat these creamy, rich, flavourful, cultured vegan cheeses. We couldn’t decide what to eat, so we had a cheese tasting platter with 5 different vegan cheeses. Our favourites were the chive & dill and the smoked gouda.

Boke Bowl – 4/5
Eggplant Bun
Not a vegetarian restaurant, but they have plenty of vegetarian/vegan options. The caramelized fennel ramen bowl and the grilled eggplant steamed bun (which is basically an Asian taco) were really good.
Boke Bowl West Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Natural Selection – 4/5
Natural Selection Entree
Nice place for an upscale vegetarian dinner. We enjoyed our fancy 4-course vegan meal, but none of the dishes wowed us, even though the price was twice as much as everywhere else we ate.
Natural Selection Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Petunia’s Pies & Pastries – 3.5/5
Vegan Biscuit
Petunia’s is a cute, gluten-free and vegan bakery, only a few blocks from Pioneer Square. Our biscuits weren’t as good as the ones at Harvest (the lack of gluten was noticeable). We wanted to order waffles, but they only make them on weekends and a holiday Monday didn’t count.
Petunia's Pies & Pastries Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bonus: Ground Kontrol – 4/5
Ms Pac Man
One of the cooler places we went in Portland. A funky bar/arcade with a mix of classic and new games, beers on tap, and a food menu surprisingly full of vegan options. It wasn’t gourmet, but our vegan frito pie was really tasty.
Ground Kontrol Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Portland Weird

The rest of our time in Portland was spent wandering around the funky neighbourhoods, checking out Art in the Pearl, watching a prize winning movie at the film festival (For Love and Broken Bones), and shopping at thrift stores – Emily and I both picked up shiny new shoes.
New Shoes

More pictures from our trip and the train ride on Flickr.

Portland Streetcar

Amtrak Cascades View

Amtrak Sunset

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Greater Vancouver Hike – Elfin Lakes

Elfin Lakes CampingDate: August 7-8, 2015

Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Elfin Lakes is one of BC’s best backcountry camping destinations. It’s easy to access, has more amenities than you would normally find in the backcountry, and has great views of the Coast Mountains. It’s not surprising that the trail is popular with day hikers, overnight backpackers, and mountain bikers.

At the Trailhead

To beat the crowds, we left Vancouver early on Friday morning. The hike starts from the Diamond Head parking lot, located up a gravel road in Squamish beyond Quest University. There are numerous reports of break-ins in the parking lot, so don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle.

The parking lot is at a lofty 960 meters above sea level, a welcome boost for anyone carrying a heavy backpack. Most of the hike to Elfin Lakes is along an old logging road, with plenty of room for 2 or 3 people to walk abreast. The first section isn’t gruelling, but it is a continuous uphill climb without much to look at. There is only one viewpoint – a brief break in the trees with a view over Squamish and Howe Sound. After 4.3 km and 440 meters of elevation gain, you arrive at the Red Heather shelter. This is a good spot to have a meal and use the outhouse.

Wide Trail

After Red Heather you quickly get above the treeline with more spectacular views of the mountains around. Elfin Lakes is another 6 km of ups and downs from Red Heather, with a net elevation gain of only 75 meters. Keep an eye out for pikas in the rocky areas – they are little rodents with a distinctive squeak.


Elfin Lakes is probably BC’s most comprehensive backcountry camping area. There’s a full-time ranger station, outhouses that usually have toilet paper, bear-proof food caches, a lovely cooking shelter with an amazing view, two lakes (one for swimming and one for drinking water), 35 tent pads, and a hut with 34 beds if you don’t want to bring a tent. The cost of camping at Elfin Lakes is $10 per person per night, or $15 if you want to sleep in the shelter.

Ranger Station Filtering Water Bear Caches Cooking Shelter with a View

From Elfin Lakes, there are two day hike options – the Gargoyles and Opal Cone. We had planned on spending Saturday hiking up to the Gargoyles, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was grey and drizzly with heavy rain forecasted, so we decided to pack it up and head home early.

I was also worried about my toe. I had stubbed it before we left Vancouver, but didn’t think much of it. However, by the time we arrived at our campsite, it was throbbing and purple. I “iced” it in the lake and taped it to prevent any further damage. I’m not sure if it is sprained or just heavily bruised.

Injured Toe Icing My Toe in the Lake Taped Toes

Check out the BC Parks website for more info about the campsite, and read the great trail reports on Vancouver Trails and Trail Peak.

Times: (with a large backpack on)
Parking Lot to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Red Heather to Elfin Lakes: 2 hours
(GPS data on Strava)

Elfin Lakes to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Red Heather to Parking Lot: 1 hour
(GPS data on Strava)
Elfin Lakes Map

Pictures: Elfin Lakes 2015
Hiking Panorama

Tall Toilet

Hiking and Mountain Biking

At Elfin Lakes

Elfin Lakes

Relaxing in the Sun

Camping Spot Panorama

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Cycling to Steveston

West Dyke Trail
Emily and I celebrated BC Day with a lovely bike ride to Steveston. It was our first time biking there and I was really impressed. I never knew Richmond had a good network of greenways, trails, and bike lanes. Obviously other people did, because Steveston was packed with cyclists.

Middle Arm Trail
We took the SkyTrain to Aberdeen and then biked along the Middle Arm Trail, past the Olympic Oval and across from the airport, where we had great views of planes taking off from YVR and float planes landing on the river.

Richmond West Dyke Trail
We continued down the West Dyke Trail, past marshy tidal flats and a farm with grazing cows.

Steveston Wild Salmon Fish and Chips
In Steveston, we wandered around town, checked out the pier, and ate deep-fried oysters, wild salmon, and chips (bad vegans, I know). I was surprised how many tourists in Steveston were there to check out Storybrooke, the fictional town Steveston becomes when Once Upon a Time is filming.

Railway Greenway
Our return trip was a quick zip down the Railway Greenway, a paved and separated route running the length of Richmond. The greenway follows the old Interurban train line and the former stops are marked with timetables painted on the ground – a clever way to highlight the history of the route.

All-in-all, it was a great, relaxing bike ride and a fun day. The route is completely flat and mostly separated from automobile traffic. Steveston is a perfect destination, with a popular pier, restaurants, and fish market. A perfect day trip.

Steveston Bike Ride Map
Our route there was a scenic 11.4 km and took us 1 hour.
The route back was 9.4 km and took us only 38 minutes.

More photos on Flickr.

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Greater Vancouver Hike – Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk

Garibaldi Lake
Date: August 12-14, 2006, August 8-10 2008, and July 10-12, 2009

Location: Garibaldi Pronvincial Park, near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Black Tusk was my first real backcountry experience, and you never forget your first. Glacial Lakes, towering peaks, alpine meadows – this hike has it all. I’ve seen a lot of BC since that weekend in 2006, but Black Tusk is still my favourite overnight hike in BC. I’ve been up there 3 times, and I’m itching to return again.

The Barrier
It’s a 7.5 km hike from the trail head to the campgrounds – taking anywhere from 2 1/2 – 4 hours depending how fast you can move with heavy pack on. It’s a steady uphill the whole way, rising 915 meters, including a section of switchbacks along The Barrier – an imposing lava damn holding back the water in Garibaldi Lake.

There are two camping options – Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake. Garibaldi Lake is the nicer option, but it fills up quickly, especially on a long weekend. The campsites are pretty good by backcountry standards – with gravel or wood tent pads, outhouses, bear caches, and cooking shelters.

Little Creek
Late July to early August is the best time to visit, as the alpine flowers are in full bloom and the area is mostly snow-free. You can even take a dip in Garibaldi Lake if you’re brave (no matter how warm it might be outside, a glacial lake is never very warm).

The Ascent to Black Tusk
From the campgrounds, there are two day hike possibilities – Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. Black Tusk is a unique experience. If you’re afraid of heights, like I am, it’s a uniquely terrifying but exhilarating experience. The trail leads up a large scree slope and then traverses a ridge with a steep drop off before reaching the base of an intimidating lava column.

At the Summit
You can rock climb/scramble the top of the tusk but it’s not for the feint of heart. It is steep and the rock is loose. I’ve only ever made it to the top once, on my first trip up when I wore a bike helmet to protect my head. Every other time I’ve chickened out. But if you do make it to the top, the 360 degree views of Garibaldi Provincial Park and Whistler-Blackcomb in the distance are breathtaking.
View of Whistler Mountain

Transportation: It’s a 90 minute drive from Vancouver to the trailhead near Squamish, BC. Directions.

Pictures: Garibaldi Lake 2006, Garibaldi Lake 2008, Garibaldi Lake 2009

Ridge Walking

On the way to the Tusk

Black Tusk Snow Angels

Dr Seuss Flowers

Lake-side Reflections

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Trophy Hunting is Not a Sport and Should Be Banned

Reading about Cecil the Lion has been breaking my heart. What a pointless end to such a beautiful creature. The rich American who killed Cecil deserves all the hatred coming his way right now.

Even as a vegetarian, I have no problem with people who hunt for food. But so-called “sport hunting” or “trophy hunting” is barbaric and should be illegal. If these big game hunters want to get a thrill shooting something, put them in a forest with other hunters and let them battle it out Hunger Games style. In real sports there’s a good chance you will lose.

Even here in British Columbia, the government permits trophy hunting of grizzle bears. Maybe Cecil’s death will spur support for Andrew Weaver’s private member’s bill to end trophy hunting.

Photo by Peter Glenday

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