One of the highlights of my trips to Canada in the past was when my uncle would take me flying. Those days are gone, but I’m lucky enough to have a friend who took me up for an evening tour of the greater Vancouver area.

Pre-flight checks

Boundary Bay

Departing Boundary Bay – after a touch and go

Alex Fraser Bridge

The new Port Mann Bridge – this was under construction on my last visit

Coming in at Langley

GPS log of our route – unfortunately it took a while to lock on.

Vancouver Sun Run – 10K

So, the name gives it away… I was planning to run 10K today.  Instead, since the training hasn’t exactly been going to plan, I decided to walk the event instead and consider it training for the 4daagse.  And since Mum is out here with me, I dragged her along too for the ride!
The truth of the matter is that despite I always tell everyone that I’m visiting Vancouver, my Grandmother lives in a neighbouring city rather than Vancouver itself, and we very rarely make it downtown.  So, it was actually quite good fun to go into Vancouver, first on Saturday to pick up our start numbers, and then again today for the race itself. 

We were lucky to have fantastic weather, resulting in an amazing turnout of 51,417 participants.  Not for nothing is this billed as Canada’s largest 10K.  As walkers, we started in the last group, and didn’t manage to get over the starting line until about 10.30.  As the official race start was at 9am, we had a lot of hanging around.

The route took us past the cathedral, and to the tip of Stanley Park, home to the Vancouver Aquarium, which is one of the places we always used to visit when I was a kid, and then primarily along main streets around the edge of town, finishing up at the ice hockey stadium.  I couldn’t help but think that if I ever decide to run a marathon, it would be pretty cool to do it in Vancouver.  It’s a city that can’t help looking good, with the water and the backdrop of snow covered mountains.

Vierdaagse Training Progress:
Total distance: 79.9km / 49.9mi
Longest walk: 25km / 15.6mi

I’m still looking for my first sponsor for the Vierdaagse! You can sponsor me here: 

Northern Flicker

These photos don’t have much to recommend them technically speaking, but I found them a nice series nonetheless. They were taken at 400mm handheld, and have been significantly cropped. A lucky sighting whilst we ate our lunch at a rest area off the Trans Canada Highway.

Road Trip (9): Facts and Figures

Total Distance Travelled: 2295km

(I messed up with the GPS, so I had to reconstruct this with Google Maps. Note to self – next time, download the track each day…)

Elevation Profile: Golden to just before we rejoined the main highway near Hope and the batteries in the GPS ran out. The coloring of the tracks indicates the direction we were travelling. Generated by

Vancouver Island

I stayed in New Westminster just long enough to put a load of washing through, and then jumped back into the car and drove over to the ferry terminal at Tsawassen. I arrived with just minutes to spare before the 5pm ferry, and as I rushed through the terminal, and past the seating area at Berth 3, I was reminded of my 2 hour wait there with Grandmere and Janet on the way to Tofino last October.

On that occasion we had a picnic that Janet had brought with her, and ended up sharing it with a couple Toronto lads that we met on the way (a complicated story involving canceled flights, aborted landings, ferries and minivans that I never managed to blog at the time). This time, I was clutching a care package that Grandmere put together whilst I was busy with my laundry – separate baggies of smoked salmon, cheese, dills and crackers, enough protein content to last a week! I found myself a good spot on the outer deck and enjoyed the sun, and the view of the islands. A perfect day for the ferry ride.

Uncle John met me at the other end, and we drove back to his place, where we met up with old friend, Doug, and cousin James. Dinner was at the Blue Nile, an Eritrean restaurant, where by chance I’d eaten before with Jen, on the night of a poetry reading a couple years ago. (This being the poetry reading where I was persuaded to sing with Jen, and we fell about in hysterics in front of a coffee shop full of people. A Canadian style coffee shop. Not a Dutch one….)

Road Trip (8): Back to New Westminster

A quiet morning at the cabin to finish our trip. I went for a run along the dyke – a perfect spot for running, it has beautiful views, is flat, and even has mileposts (well, technically speaking, kilometre posts). Not that I ran further than the first post 🙂 I also had another go at trying to find the geocache which I know is hidden in the woods there. The one Mum, Janet and I hunted for last year. Still didn’t find it.

I planned to visit the Great Blue Heron nature reserve on the way home, but we couldn’t find the way in. Most frustrating. Maybe the next time. Back in along the highway then to New Westminster, the road was packed the whole way home, and we were held up with construction work. A slightly anticlimatic end to the trip.

Road Trip (7): Peachland to The Cabin

It seemed a shame to leave our peaceful lakeshore cabin early this morning, but as we had a long way to travel today, we didn’t have much choice. Nonetheless, we found time to stop and drink a cup of coffee by the lake before we left.

We kept clear of the highways today wherever possible, and found ourselves interesting back roads to travel along. In a country the size of Canada, the most readily available maps show only the major roads, so find a more interesting route is usually a combination of luck and perseverance. We did pretty well, only hitting the occasional dead end, and found ourselves some good routes that wound along the hillside, looking down onto the lake.

Our most interesting road of the day was a single track gravel road, with the sign “no winter maintenance”, which more or less means “enter at your own risk”. We decided to chance it, and found ourselves on a bumpy, potholed track that clung to the edge of the hillside, with a steep drop on the driver’s side down to the lake. Whilst I clung to the steering wheel, and tried to keep us on the road, with tires intact, Grandmere offered the usual, not particularly reassuring commentary appropriate to these occasions – “I hope we don’t meet anyone”, “I hope we don’t have to turn around”. Believe me, I had no plans of either backing up or trying to make a three-point turn up there! When we finally emerged at the other end of the road, I was glad of a “put your foot down and go” drive along the highway for a while.

We made a couple stops along the way – first at a desert information centre near to Peachland, and later at a lakeside bird hide, near to Oliver. We didn’t find many birds at the latter, though we met an interesting gentleman of Ukranian origin, who, finding Grandmere resting on a bench, stopped for a chat.

This whole area is a mixture of sage bush filled desert and rich farming land. Our route took us through the wineries and orchards, and thanks to all the blossom, I sneezed my way through the countryside. We stopped in Oliver at the Burrowing Owl winery, for a tasting and some lunch, which we ate on the restaurant’s balcony, enjoying the sun and the view over the vineyards.

After lunch we found some more backroads, through farm land and wineries, until we ended up in a small town called Keremeos.
Driving through a section of road side stalls, I was amazed to see stall with clogs hanging up. I stopped, looked more closely, and did a double take. The stall had everything Dutch, and then some… Gouda cheese, clogs, Delft blue “stuff” (both china and tack), herring, smoked eel, and a shelf full of Indonesian cooking ingredients, reminiscent of the Albert Heijn. The crowning glory, though, was a section dedicated to drop (nasty licorice sweets, which come in many varieties, and are much loved by the Dutch). I got chatting to the owner – a Dutch lady in her eighties, and she told me that she imports a container of produce from The Netherlands each month. Even, and here she waved a copy at me, the Aller Hande, the free magazine produced by the Albert Heijn supermarket. How many readers it has locally, I wouldn’t like to guess!

Further along the road, we climbed back up into the mountains, and slowly the landscape began to transform into something familiar – mountains, creeks and forests – it was beginning to look like Vedder country. Aside from a few trucks, the road through the mountains was quiet, and we were able to enjoy a last couple hours of peaceful scenic driving. It was some time since Grandmere had last driven along those roads, and she marvelled at the improvement in the road quality since her day. I can imagine that these windy mountain roads were quite sporty 50+ years ago.

At Hope the road rejoined the Trans Canada Highway and we sped long to the Vedder. Although I don’t consider that our trip is officially over until we reach New Westminster, this really felt like the end point – back on familiar territory and in rush hour traffic.

Road Trip (6): Golden – Peachland

Leaving Golden to start our journey back home we had a choice of a few different routes. Option 1 – return the way we came, was ruled out very easily (Dad has taught me well), leaving us with the choice of a long journey south via Cranbrook and then heading west, or returning via Revelstoke and then heading south along the Upper Arrow Lake, and then west through the Okanagan.

We decided to take the second of these options as it was a little shorter and looked to be quite interesting. The first hour or so didn’t get us very far on our way home, as I wanted to show Grandmere the Blaeberry valley, which I’d seen on my way up to our wolf walk, and was very scenic. Up in the valley, surrounded by farm land, you would hardly know that you were barely any distance from the Trans Canada Highway, it felt like another world altogether.

Once we hit Revelstoke, we decided to stop for lunch. By that time we were officially back on Pacific Time, so it was really only 11.30 am, a little early for lunch, but as the last major town before we headed south, it seemed a good idea to make the break there.

Leaving Revelstoke we headed south along the Upper Arrow Lake. The road winds along the west side of the lake for some distance, until Shelter Bay, and then drops you at a small ferry. Unlike the Trans Canada, which had been fairly busy, we barely saw any other cars during our trip along the lake. A fact which Grandmere was to comment on repeatedly throughout the day.

We had a half hour wait for the ferry, sitting with our books and enjoying the sunshine, before making the 30 minute journey across the lake. Leaving the ferry, we had our moment of great excitement for the day – a bear sighting by the side of the road! Looked to be a young grizzly, but driving along at 100 km/h, it was hard to get a good look.

About an hour further down the lake, we encountered the second ferry of the day, and were lucky enough to arrive just as it was loading up. In fact, this second ferry, crossing over to Needles, was a cable ferry, and the journey took only 5 minutes. I guess we wouldn’t have had to wait long, even if we missed it.

Once we left this ferry, we also left the lake behind, and climbed up into the Monashee mountains. For quite some time we traveled on winding roads, hugging the cliff edge (cue Grandmere: “it’s a looong way down”), and climbing back into snowy pine forests. This was a very slow section, with speed limits often dropping down to 40 or 50 km/h on the bends. Finally, we slowly dropped down into the valley again and enjoyed the views of lush farming landscape until we reached the busier centre of Vernon.

After a peaceful day on quiet roads, the increased traffic wasn’t too appealing so we kept driving, through Vernon, and on through Kelowna. Grandmere’s memories of Kelowna were of a small, pretty town, but from what we saw, those days are long gone. The drive through Kelown along Route 97 brought us along mile after mile of strip malls, and I think we spotted every fast food outlet in Canada.

We continued to Peachland, a small town on the side of Lake Okanagan, and found ourselves accommodation for the night – a cute little cabin on the lake shore. A little fancy, perhaps, for a single night stay, but well worth it. After 10 hours of driving, my hips had completely seized up, and I was glad of finding a quiet place to rest. Whilst Grandmere hadn’t been able to hear all the traffic passing by our last motel, I had certainly been aware of it!

Road Trip (5): Emerald Lake & Lake Louise

I had though that this afternoon we might visit Lake Louise, which is further up the Trans Canada Highway in Banff National Park. Although the lake has a reputation for being rather too popular with tourists, it seemed a shame to be in the area and not to visit.

After a chat with Casey, though, we changed our plans a little, and aimed for Emerald Lake, in the same direction, but still on this side of the B.C./Alberta border, in Yoho National Park. Either way, we had to drive through the Kicking Horse Canyon – a very scenic route with the road hugging the mountain side, and a steep drop down into the canyon – slightly alarming for one like myself that suffers from vertigo. Although it wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t really helped by Grandmere’s comments “It’s a looong way down” and “what a steep drop”.

Although we didn’t stay too long at the lake, as it was rather cold and I was concerned about turning Grandmere into a block of ice, the lake was well worth the visit, and there were very few other visitors. Much of the lake was still frozen over, and the only thing spoiling the view were some of the chalets peeking out from between the trees.

Once we had seen the lake, we continued on to the nearby town of Field for a late lunch at a cute little cafe called Chercher la Vache. Field is a small town, situated on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Although on our way up here we hadn’t seen too many trains, we seem to have seen a lot more now that we’re up in the mountains. With the exception of one (empty) passenger train, they were all 100+ wagon freight trains.

With lunch inside us, we decided to make the push for Lake Louise after all, only 30 or so km further down the road. I was pleased to find that we would pass the Spiral Railroad Tunnels, a great feat of engineering which I remember from a previous family trip, 14 years ago. Like so many things, this time of year, though, the viewpoint was closed so I was left disappointed.

This is probably the only time of year you can visit Lake Louise and find the car park empty. I flung my camera bag over my shoulder with enthusiasm, and then my heart stopped as I felt something fly out and hit the ground with a terrible smash. My new camera?? No, thanks heavens, just the bottle of gin that Grandmere insisted we needed!

The lake was frozen over with a layer of thick snow. It would have made a good photograph, and something other than the typical photo seen of the lake, if it weren’t for the overcast sky which merged rather seamlessly into the snow on the mountains and lakes. As it was, it was a little dull and miserable looking, not helped by the fact that the snow had been tramped on. Before coming I was sure that I had been to Lake Louise in the past, but seeing it, I have no recollection at all.

On the way back I took the side road up to Maligne Lake, another well known spot which is touted as being more attractive and less popular.Unfortunately, as soon as we took the turning, we discovered that the road was blocked by 2 feet of snow.

The drive back to Golden was lovely. The sun finally broke through some of the cloud to shine on the mountains and around us. For a period in the river valley, we ran alongside a beautiful creek, and I was desparate to take a photograph. Unfortunately, there were no stopping places around, so the spot will have to stay in my memories only.

Back in the motel the long day caught up with us, and we spent a relaxing evening reading our books and snoozing. Going out for dinner seemed too much hassle, so we settled for cheese sandwiches. Sitting on the bed in a motel room, scavenging some dinner, reminded me of Mum and I, five years ago in Bluff, Utah. I seem to remember that that dinner was limited to pepperoni and pickles!