A Walking Tour of Vancouver’s Hidden Past

Opium Dens. Rum Runners and mobsters. Paint thinner and the Blind Pigs. A corrupt, scandalized, polygamist AND wanted-criminal for its longest serving mayor. Unbelievable racial tension. The site of Canada’s first drug bust. Massive, incredibly violent multi-day race riots.

Talk about an incredibly checkered past for such a beautiful, modern city!

IMG_2830When we were recently in Vancouver we went on a fascinating walking tour with “Forbidden Vancouver” where we heard stories that brought alleyways and buildings, street corners and intersections, neon signs and historical figures to life. Read More

The Heart Mountain Horseshoe Check-In

The Bow Valley is an incredible playground. A landscape feature that follows the Bow River as it winds its way down from the huge Bow Glacier in the Canadian Rockies near Lake Louise, the Bow Valley wraps Canmore & Banff in pine forested valleys, and protects those iconic townsites with magnificent, towering, sawtoothed peaks like a fringe around its edges.

IMG_3639.jpgWhen it comes to playing in the Bow Valley, hiking and scrambling your way up Heart Mountain is a right of passage, sort of like hiking up Ha Ling, a popular hike that perches you high atop the Canmore Town site. Both are challenging as their elevation gains happen over very short distances, as the ravens fly.

Heart Mountain, and in particular, the more difficult Heart Mountain Horseshoe traverse, is better than Ha Ling. Hands down. With its spectacular views of the outer edges of the rockies extending in 3 directions, and views of the prairies rolling out to the east in the fourth, it is a far more fun “check-in” hike to do each year. It’s slightly more difficult (read that as seriously fun!) with climbing sections that have a bit of exposure…. making it way more challenging, and far more of an adventure than simply a grueling hike…. and it has the bonus of being less crowded, once you leave the Up-To-The-Peak-and–Back-Down-Again day trippers behind. Read More

Oh, How I Love Vancouver!

Vancouver is, perhaps the most beautiful city in all of Canada. We were fortunate enough to spend a week there for my husband’s work recently, and I plan to highlight some of my favourite experiences there in the next couple of posts.

Armchair travellers take note: as far as Canadian urban destinations go, with its food scene, its architecture, its active lifestyle, its incredible parklands, its hordes of coffee shops, and its fresh fish (did I mention the food scene!?), it’s right up there at the top of the heap of places to put on your bucket list! Read More

The Invisible One

We almost missed her. She was so quiet. So still. Face looking down, way down to the rocks that shored up the pillar far below. Feet stepped up, balanced on a ledge between the rungs of metal fencing. Face calm. Expression flat.

There, but not there. Read More

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Fancy talking about what I want to be when I grow up at a time like this… our daughter has just finished her university undergrad degree. She’s the one growing up, not me… right?

In many ways, my baby IS grown up. After her last exam, she decided (with a lot of persistent prodding from me, I’ll admit), to go through her room and tidy up a bit. You see, she is a hoarder and I am most definitely a purger on the spectrum… and therein lies some persistent conflict which I’ve struggled to keep in check over the years. Read More

Wasootch Ridge Canada Day Adventure

Bill and I celebrated Canada Day (July 1st) last year by heading outdoors and enjoying one of the things we love most about this amazing country that we live in: it’s great, big, wide open wilderness spaces. If you are planning on visiting our incredible National Parks this year, on Canada Day, be warned: this is Canada’s 150th Birthday, and all Canadians have free access to National Parks passes this year, so it is expected to be very, very busy. (If you are Canadian, and want to get your free parks pass, you need to order them ahead of time as they won’t be available at the park gates, so click HERE.) 

In case you are wondering where to escape the hordes this Canada Day, here’s an idea: trek on up Wasootch Ridge in Kananaskis Country’s Wildland Provincial Park (on the eastern edge of Banff National Park) as we did last season. There were wide expanses of wilderness to see, heights to climb (like a series on mini mountain peaks), a picnic spot with tremendous views, and some terrific sunshine. Along the ridge itself, we only came across a handful of scattered hikers, so it was a great escape and adventure.  Read More

Advice to the Young Backpacker

An interesting thing happened to me yesterday that got me really thinking, and pondering times and trips gone by. A wonderful young woman, a very good friend of my daughter’s, is finishing up university and heading off travelling to Europe, backpacking with a friend. Talk about an exciting adventure! Oh, to re-live our year long backpack trip way back in 1989! She wrote this to me:

Hi Sheri, in about 21 days, I’ll be heading off to Europe for two and a half months. Emily told me that you’ve been quite a few times. I also love reading your blog, so I was wondering if you had any tips, tricks, and suggestions about backpacking in Europe. 🙂
And in about ten minutes flat, I’d fired off 23 pieces of advice to her! The way the tips rapidly came to mind and literally flew out of my finger tips sort of stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking that maybe I do know a thing or two about travelling, and that maybe those pointers might be worth sharing to a wider audience.

Read More

A Traveler In My Own Backyard

Sometimes it’s really good to be a tourist in your own backyard… a traveller in your own city. I was reminded of the importance of this by two things that happened this week. Read More

A Snowshoeing Birthday Adventure

You know how much I complained about the weather (a truly Canadian thing to do, by the way!) in my last post? Well, there’s an expression in the mountains here: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.” We experienced the reality of that hyperbole Sunday. Read More

Channel Your Inner Elk-Ness

Seamus & I went for one of our exercise walks today… nothing special, just a wee hike we’ve done countless times before. Because we hike there often, my mind tends to wander and novelty… the idea of seeing and experiencing something new… doesn’t snap it back to reality.

We’ve had an unfortunate cold snap, of late, with temps plummeting down into the minus 20’s (that is, around -25C or -13F), just when spring is supposed to be upon us. With the amount of daylight increasing rapidly, it is nice and bright at 7:30am now (where it used to seem as though it was the middle of the night, when the clock face read the same in the depths of December). So those extra minutes of daylight we’re gaining each day, at a rate of about 3 minutes a day where we live, is such a tease when it is so cold!

UGH. I am so ready for spring, I’ll tell ya!

These rather bleak thoughts were going through my head as I was hiking up the Highline. But there’s only so long that this kind of negativity can pull you in… when the exercise endorphins start to kick in, when the rhythm of your footsteps work their trance-like magic, and when you begin to be aware, visually, of your surroundings, like the dawning of a new day, creeping up on you.IMG_2320.jpg

The snowfall, of late, has been coming in horizontally, driving its way through the forest canopy and catching itself on the tree trunks. The resulting patterns it has created on the roughness of the tree bark, the hairs of the lichen and moss and the expiration of the trees (I imagine them actually breathing) are beautiful. These features have created sticky patches that have snagged themselves lines of snow… but only on one side of each tree trunk, throughout the forest.

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The lines work themselves in horizontal patterns across the width of every trunk, on one side, full of graceful curves, gentle dips and elegant arches.
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And when you look far, far up the tree, you can get taken in by the hypnotizing patterning of its stripes.
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Up close, the repetition of sage green moss on fresh, white snow on brown bark is a subtle, but beautiful contrasting pattern.

And then there are the faces, staring out at you, from the trunks alongside the trail…

It’s hard to keep miserable when faced with smiley tree sprites all around you. Or maybe it’s just the cold temps, and the prolonged winter, messing with my head and driving me a little bit insane!

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When I emerged from the forested trail, the resident herd of elk were hanging out. Some standing, others curled up in the snow, just chilling. About 50 of them. A reminder that we survive these cold snaps, if we just take them in stride…. if we just channel our inner elkness.