Category Archives: Hiking

Camping in EC Manning Park

Camping with Modo
A few weekends ago, we booked a Modo car, loaded up our camping gear, and drove out to Manning Provincial Park for the weekend.

Shadow Falls Derek Falls Wildflower Walk Naturalist Guided Tour
We did a few light hikes – Three Falls, Lightning Lake, and the Wildflower Walk.

Campfire Cooking
We relaxed by the fire and cooked good vegan food.
Vegan Camping Breakfast Stirring the Yams Making Chili Roasted Corn

We stayed at Coldspring Campground. Pro tip: the campsites at the far end (#30-44) are farther from the highway and more secluded. It was a nice campground and conveniently located within the park – close the Lightning Lake day use area and Manning Resort, where there is a general store and a good source of fresh water (the wells in the campground had a boil water advisory).
Tent Sleep-in Modo Tarp Holder Lightning Lakes Relaxing Sneaky Chipmunk

More pictures.
EC Manning Park

Greater Vancouver Hike – Sea to Summit

Upper Shannon Falls Viewpoint
Date: July 1, 2014

Location: Squamish, BC (map)

Description: When a private company decided to build a gondola next to my favourite day hike, I was worried that a great recreational area would be turned into a tourist trap. Luckily, other than greater difficulty finding parking now, the changes have been overwhelmingly positive. The Sea to Sky Gondola opens up a lot of new recreational opportunities, including a great new one-way hike under the gondola from the base to the summit (the Sea to Summit Trail), plus it provides access to a number of hikes from the top.

The Sea to Summit Trail will inevitably be compared to the Grouse Grind, but they are nothing alike. The Grind is an gruelling workout, the Sea to Summit is a real day hike, with fabulous viewpoints, varied terrain, and spots to take enjoyable breaks. The only similarities with the Grind are the licensed patio at the top and the gondola waiting to bring you back to the bottom.

Sea to Summit Trailhead Crowded Chief Trail Passing under the Gondola Hiking Chain
The Sea to Summit trail follows a number of existing trails. The first trail marker is at the gondola base, but most hikers will start at the Chief or Shannon Falls. The trail follows the Lower Shannon Falls trail, climbs the staircases at the beginning of The Chief trail, and ascends the Upper Shannon Falls trail (trail map). The Chief trail is the steepest part of the hike and can get quite congested. Once the trail branches off to Upper Shannon Falls, it becomes less busy. The second half of the hike is virgin trail with more exposure to the sun. There are two options for getting to the summit, you can stay on the Sea to Summit trail or take Wrinkle Rock. We took Wrinkle Rock, which seemed like the more popular route. It is shorter but involves some steep, rocky sections with chains to help pull yourself up.
Old Logging Road Exposed to the Sun Sea to Summit Rope Climbing Finished the Hike

There are two great places to take a break near the midpoint of the hike. At the top of Shannon Falls there’s a spot where you can relax near the creek. 15 minutes further, there’s an excellent viewpoint of Howe Sound.
Upper Shannon Falls Rest Howe Sound View

Sea to Summit Elevation MapThe Sea to Summit is a moderately difficult hike. There are some long, steep sections that will get the heart pumping and a few areas where chains are needed to pull yourself up some rocky areas. The trail covers 6.6 km with nearly 1000 meters of elevation gain. We completed it in just under 4 hours, moving at a leisurely pace with lots of breaks. This isn’t the Grind, so you don’t have to feel like you’re racing up, although a few trail runners did pass us.

There’s a number of things to do once you get to the summit. Most hikers will want to head straight to the Summit Lodge, where there are washrooms, refreshments, and food. There’s also an amazing view from the patio, a suspension bridge, and a number of viewing platforms. Don’t expect to find lumberjack or birds of prey shows – it isn’t nearly as commercialized as Grouse Mountain (at least not yet).
Sea to Summit Patio Sea to Summit Suspension Bridge Suspension Bridge Posing

The summit provides access to several other hiking trails – ranging from some short and family friendly strolls to backcountry access to hardcore trails like Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail. The only one we did was the quick Panorama Trail. It’s more of a walk than a hike, but worth exploring for the epic Chief Viewing Platform, which gives you a sweeping view of Howe Sound and all three peaks of The Chief. It costs $10 to take the gondola down.
The Chief Viewing Platform

More trail descriptions on the Sea to Sky website and on Trailpeak.

Time: 5 hours if you want to enjoy yourself
Hiking the Sea to Summit Trail (including Wrinkle Rock): 3 hours
Lunch Break at Upper Shannon Falls: 30 minutes
Relaxing at the Summit: 30 minutes
Panorama Trail: 15 minutes (plus 15 minutes for pictures at The Chief Viewing Platform)
Gondola Descent: 15 minutes
Hike to the Parking Lot: 15 minutes

Transportation: It is only a 60 minute drive from Vancouver to the trail head. You can park at either Shannon Falls or The Chief parking lots. Avoid the Sea to Summit Gondola parking lot, as it has a 3 hour time limit. Directions.

Pictures: Sea to Summit Hike 2014
The Chief
Sea to Summit Hike Busy Chief on Canada Day Sea to Summit 1/4 Mark Sea to Summit Gondola With the Soft Rocks Rhea Hiking Upper Shannon Falls Jig Upper Shannon Falls Tight Squeeze Upper Shannon Falls Viewpoint At Upper Shannon Falls Lightning Strike Survivor View of the Gondola Narrow Trail False Summit Virgin Trail Hiking with Dogs Sea to Summit Gondola Sea to Summit Gondola Please Leash Your Dog End of Wrinkle Rock Sea to Summit Gondola Terminal Finished the Hike Sea to Summit Peak Area Beautiful Terminal Building Suspension Bridge Sea to Summit Hiking Board Chief Viewpoint Howe Sound Sea to Summit Gondola Sea to Summit Gondola Gondola Descent Wayward Hikers The Chief Sea to Summit Gondola View Sea to Summit Gondola

Greater Vancouver Hike – Brohm Lake

Green Carpet
Date: April 20, 2014

Location: Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Over the Easter long weekend we were looking for a good mountain hike that would be snow free. We found a great one in the Brohm Lake Interpretative Forest, just north of Squamish. It was unbelievable how green and vibrant the forest is, with layers of moss below towering cedar and fir trees. The area was logged until the 1970s and the stumps of giants can be found along the trails.

There’s no mountain to ascend, but there is still quite a bit of ups and downs and some great mountain views (assuming it isn’t cloudy). Be prepared to work your leg muscles. We stopped at one of the viewpoints along the Cheekamus Trail for lunch. It had an open view of the mountains and river below. 10 minutes further along the trail there were two spots with picnic benches, but the view wasn’t as good. Here’s a GPS map and elevation profile of our hike, and a good trail description from Vancouvertrails.com (check out the comments for reports on recent conditions).

Total Time: We spent 4 1/2 hours doing a large loop clockwise loop that covered several trails (Bridge, Cheekamus Loop, High Trail, Tantalus View, and Brohm Lake). You can make your hike longer or shorter by picking different trails.

Transportation: Drive just past Squamish and Alice Lake Provincial Park, 75 minutes from Vancouver.

Pictures: Brohm Lake 2014
Brohm Lake Interpretative Forest Map Brohm Lake Bracken Fern Brohm Lake Forest Windy Path Viewpoint Hiking Lunch Spooky Trunk Picnic Table River Valley Helping Nature Green Beast Observing the Beast Busted Stairs Strawberry Head 1960s Viewpoint

El Salvador Resort Vacation

Beach Chairs at Sunset
El Salvador is a slice of paradise. The weather is perfect, the water is warm, the food is good, and the locals are friendly. The tourism industry is still developing but it gives the country an authentic flavour.

Every winter my Dad escapes the cold clutches of Winnipeg and organizes a group trip somewhere warm. This year it was El Salvador and Emily and I decided to join them. All-inclusive resorts are not our preferred way to travel, but we thought it would be good to spend some time with my parents and El Salvador seemed more adventurous than the normal Mexico, Cuba, Dominican destinations.

The Surprise
Turtle Family
My mother didn’t know we were coming. I didn’t know my sisters were coming. My dad had a web of secrets he managed to keep until we all arrived in Toronto the night before our flight to El Salvador. I was shocked when I bumped into Kelsey and Matt in the hotel lobby a few hours before my parents arrived. We schemed and joked about how to surprise Mom.

We managed to sneak into her hotel room and hide in the bed and behind the window curtains. When Mom came in, she dropped her bags and left before we could get out of our hiding places. I was still under the bed covers when I heard Matt whisper, “I think she left”. I was about to chase her down in the hallway when I heard the door opening again. This time Mom entered, heard us giggling, and called out: “Hello? Is there someone in my room?”.

Mom might hate surprises, but we enjoyed the look on her face when she realized that we were having a big family vacation.

The Resort
Poolside Lounging
We stayed at the Royal Decameron Salinitas, one of the few all-inclusive resorts in El Salvador. It sprawls along the Pacific Ocean with several pools and restaurants. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. The rooms were all beautiful with ocean views.

In the morning, I would get up early and go running. The security guards at the front gate had no problem letting me in and out, and I never worried about my safety. Even at 7 am, it was hot and humid and I was soaked in sweat by the end of my runs.

The spa at the resort was surprisingly good and well-priced. We had massages and also tried the Temazcal, a free 30 minute spiritual ritual inside a Mayan sweat lodge.

One interesting thing about this resort is that the majority of the guests were from other Central American countries (especially on the weekend). There were a sizable group of Canadians, but we were definitely outnumbered by families from Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and even El Salvador. As a result, most of the entertainment was in Spanish and a lot of the staff only spoke Spanish. The tours were geared at Canadians with English/French speaking guides, but on the resort there was no forgetting you were in a Latin American country. I liked that.

The Food
El Salvador BreakfastThe food on the resort was good, but it was difficult keeping to a vegan diet. Luckily I’m willing to be flexible when I’m on vacation, so I ate vegetarian instead. I just couldn’t resist the fresh papusas, stuffed with a refried beans and cheese. Every meal had fresh fruit and vegetables, salsa, corn tortillas, and some kind of bean dish (although you had to watch out for random bits of meat). The one thing I couldn’t find was fresh mango or coconut.

Beach Day and Boogieboarding
Waves Collage
The beach in front of the resort is protected by a large breakwater, so there aren’t any large waves. The resort has another property 30 minutes away (accessible by a bus shuttle) with a long sandy beach. We spent one day there catching waves in the ocean, boogieboarding, playing ping-pong, and relaxing. If I wasn’t worried about burning in the sun, I could have spent all day in the ocean.

Volcano Hike
Cerro Verde Panorama
The best excursion we did was a day long hike of the Santa Ana volcano in Cerro Verde National Park. The hike started in a forested jungle and ended along the crater of Santa Ana with a view down to the pool at the bottom. The 8 km hike with 420 meters of elevation gain took us 4 1/2 hours including a 30 minute break at the top for lunch (map and elevation profile). For Emily and I it was a nice, light hike. For my parents it pushed their physical limits a bit, although they never struggled.

Ziplining
Zipline RockstarWe went ziplining at the nearby Apaneca Canopy tours. I was impressed with how well run it was. They had 14 lines, starting with small ones (around 20 meters) to get used to the harnesses, and ending with long runs (280 meters) that went over a valley with a coffee plantation. The staff was good at keeping everyone moving and ensuring we were safe and having fun.

Cultural Tour
Amongst the Beans Ahuachapán Tour
We took a bus trip and cultural tour down the Ruta de las Flores to check out some of the towns. We stopped at a market, a coffee mill, furniture factory, chocolate store, and a geothermal power plant. It was good to see some of the smaller villages, but I would have liked more unstructured time in town and less guided elements. The geothermal plant was interesting, but I didn’t need a 2 hour tour.

Photo Highlights
Full photo set on Flickr
Ready to Jet Canadian Eye Mask Hotel Room First Run Water Aerobics Sunset Kiss Coffee Beans Bean Roaster Village People Floppy Hard Hat Transit Bus Ready To Zip Apaneca Ziplining Zipline Disembark Coffee Cherries Porters in Paradise Izalco Horsey Walking Stick Mom Mom and Dad Hike Me and Izalco At the Santa Ana Peak Santa Ana Jump Forced March Agave Parents Tight Squeeze Ping Pong Showdown Shuffleboard Ladies Iguana Sweaty Runner Temazcal Playing in the Pool Beach Sunset El Salvador 2014 Sunset Tree Sad to Leave, Happy to Return

Greater Vancouver Hike – Cypress Falls

Creek
Dates: July 6, 2008 and October 14, 2013

Location: West Vancouver (map)

Description: Cypress Falls is a great spot to get lost in the woods. Towering cedar and fir trees reach for the sky and Cypress Creek rumbles along the ground in a series of small waterfalls. The hike up from the parking lot to the upper falls is quick, but there are a number of side trails to explore. We covered most of them in 90 minutes and less than 5 km of hiking. Here’s a GPS map and elevation profile of our hike.

It’s not a strenuous workout and there are no epic views, but Cypress Falls is a great spot for a light, relaxing hike. I noticed the the trail is popular with young families, dog walkers, and trail runners. It’s also a good hike in the spring and fall, as it’s snow-free almost all year.

More trail descriptions here and here.

Total Time: 90 minutes if you take your time and explore all the side trails.

Transportation: The trail starts at a parking lot on Woodgreen Place, just off of Woodgreen Drive one block past Woodcrest Road but before you get to Woodgreen Crescent (not kidding). Make sure you look at the map before you go. The 253 Caulfield bus will take you right to the trail head.

Pictures: Cypress Falls 2008 and Cypress Falls 2013
Growth Rings Warning - Danger! Cypress Falls Hikers Tree Tops Christina Cypress Falls Hiking Cypress Falls Cypress Creek Still Creek Trees Cypress Falls Bridge Living in a Log

Hiking in Gros Morne

Hiking in Gros Morne National Park was the highlight of our vacation in Newfoundland. We spent 5 days exploring the unique geology of the area, climbing to amazing viewpoints, and stumbling upon wild animals. Here are our favourite trails.

Green Gardens
Green Gardens Leap
Green Gardens was the most diverse and stunning hike we did in Gros Mourne. You start by hiking though the barren, red rocks of the Tablelands, descend through a small forest, and emerge at a spectacular cliff along the coast. There’s a staircase that will take you down to the water where you can take a dip in the ocean, explore ocean caves, and walk to a small waterfall.

If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can continue along the coast and complete a large loop of the area, but this involves fording two rivers and doubles the distance and time for the hike. There are 3 back country camping areas along the coast that looked comfortable. We only did the short hike, but if I went back I’d camp overnight, spend more time in the area, and do the full loop.

Rocky Green Gardens Waypoint Ocean Staircase Smoochy Falls

Distance: 9 km round trip + another 2.5 km if you go to the waterfall
Elevation Gain: 431 m elevation (mostly on the return)
Total Time: 4 hours (2 hours of hiking and lots of time to explore and relax).
GPS Map with Elevation: Strava
Trail Description: Parks Canada

Lookout
Red Chair Lookout
A quick, rapid ascent up a trail behind the Discovery Centre brings you to a spectacular lookout with 360° views of Gros Morne, including Bonne Bay and the Tablelands. At the top you can relax on the park’s signature big, red chairs and watch the clouds drift by. The Lookout Trail offers the best bang for your hiking buck, with some of the best views in the park and less than 2 hours of hiking.

Last Staircase Newfie Superhero Field of Pitcher Plants Boardwalk

Distance: 5.6 km round trip
Elevation Gain: 324 m elevation
Total Time: 2 hours (1.5 hours of hiking and 30 minutes of enjoying the view).
GPS Map with Elevation: Strava
Trail Description: TrailPeak.com

Gros Morne Mountain
Gros Morne Peak
The James Callaghan Trail takes you to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain, the highest point in the park at 806 meters above sea level. It’s one of the longest and most challenging hikes in the park, but also one of the most popular. It was the only hike we did where there was a steady stream of people in front of and behind us.

The first part of the hike is a steady climb through the trees until you reach the decision point at the bottom of an avalanche chute. A big warning sign tells you not to proceed if you can’t see the top of the mountain. From there, it’s a steep scramble over large rocks that rises 500 meters in less than 2 kilometers, along a one-way trail. The temperature drops steadily and the wind picks up. We were happy to have packed lots of layers. The hike back down the backside of the mountain is more gradual.

We delayed our hike by a day in the hopes of getting better weather. It was sunny when we left the parking lot, but before we reached the summit clouds had moved in. So we didn’t get any amazing views but we did see a moose on the way down.

Gros Morne Warning Gros Morne Staircase Moose! Misty Descent

Distance: 16.9 km round trip
Elevation Gain: 836 m elevation
Total Time: 7 hours (5 hours of hiking and 2 hours catching your breath, eating, and enjoying the view).

GPS Map with Elevation: Strava
Trail Description: Parks Canada

Tablelands & Wallace Brook Creek
Wallace Brook
The Tablelands dominates the the southern part of the park and is a fascinating area to explore, but it doesn’t offer much in terms of hiking. We took the guided walk that is offered by Parks Canada everyday at 10:00 AM. It was interesting to learn about the unique geology of the area – an ancient ocean floor pushed up by plate tectonics where few plants grow because of the poisonous soil. We also explored the area on our own by turning off the trail at Wallace Brook Creek and walking up to the waterfall.

Tablelands Tour Serpentinite Tableland Boardwalk Wallace Brook Falls

Distance: 5 km round trip on the trail + 1 km detour up Wallace Brook
Elevation Gain: < 100 m elevation
Total Time: 1 hour for the guided walk. 2 hours if you want to explore Wallace Brook Falls.
GPS Map of Guided Walk: Strava
GPS Map of Wallace Brook: Strava

Baker’s Brook Falls
Baker's Brook Falls
This was probably the least interesting hike we did, with long stretches of board walk over boggy terrain. Luckily the bugs weren’t too bad. We were hoping to see a moose, but we had no such luck. The waterfalls at the end were nice, but not worth the long walk.

Baker's Brook Boardwalk Moose

Distance: 10 km round trip
Elevation Gain: relatively flat
Total Time: 2.5 hours
Trail Description: TrailPeak.com

Vacation to Gros Morne, Newfoundland

Sunset Panorama
Emily and I are back from our great Newfie adventure. 9 days exploring the other side of Canada and dipping our toes in the Atlantic Ocean.

Parts of Newfoundland looked a lot like BC, with the ocean shoreline and deep mountain fjords, but the skyline felt bigger. The weather was also colder, the mountains smaller, there’s a lot less people, and hardly any vegan food. I think we made the most of our trip. We saw an iceberg and a moose, picked fresh dewberries, visited a viking settlement, hiked their biggest mountain, skinny dipped in the ocean, and listened to Newfie speak whenever we could. We spent most of our time in Gros Morne National Park but also drove up the top of the Great Northern Peninsula where there were icebergs and lots of whales.

Whale Rocking Iceberg
My biggest tip to someone looking to do a similar trip: bring binoculars!

Top Activities

  • Hiking the Green Gardens Trail in Gros Morne. We did this as a day hike, but I regret not doing an overnight hike. It was a gorgeous area.
  • Waiting for the sun to set from Cape Onion.
  • Seeing whales from the top of the Santana Trail in St. Anthony.
  • Skinny dipping in the Atlantic Ocean. It was cold but it felt good after hiking in the sun.
  • Watching an amusing play at the Woody Point Heritage Theatre – Sherlock Holmes and the Nazi of Bonne Bay.
  • The 360° view from the top of the Lookout Trail in Gros Morne.

Ready to Ascend Ocean Skinny Dipping Red Chair Lookout I'm a Viking

We also did two boat tours – one from St. Anthony and one in the Western Brook Pond. I wasn’t overly thrilled with either. Seeing an iceberg up close in St. Anthony was cool, but the whales were just as easily spotted from land as from the boat. The Western Brook Pond area is too similar to the BC coast to really get excited about.

Newfoundland Travel ExpensesCost
9 days in Newfoundland cost more than a week in Hawaii. Luckily I had a free Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Deer Lake, which saved us $950. Our rental car cost over $700 plus $115 in gas, but it was a necessary expense. We logged over 1200 km driving. There was a Japanese pair staying with us in Woody Point who were trying (with limited success) to explore Gros Morne car-free. They were very grateful when we took them site seeing for a day.
View from the Discovery Centre

Accommodation in Newfoundland wasn’t cheap, but it was offset by the 3 nights we spent camping in the park and our cheap food costs. We only stayed in places with kitchens so we could cook our own meals. We spent $210 on on activities, with the boat trips ($65 each) being the most expensive. Our 7-day pass for Gros Morne ($44) was the best value considering how much hiking we did. The theatre show was $23 and well worth it.

Pictures
Full Set on Flickr
Newfoundland Panorama
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