Deep Cove – Savoring the sun and perhaps a swim with the seals?

I think I’m in denial that Summer has ended. Coming from Australia, you hardly notice the gradual merging of the seasons between Spring to Summer, Summer to Autumn/Fall as there are regular sunny days tempered by cool breezes and most of the time small amounts of rain either side.  I am clinging to the occasional sunny afternoon here in Vancouver and trying not to think about the reality that fall has arrived…almost overnight. The colour of the leaves are changing, and dropping one by one to the ground, I am snuggling under the duvet more and I also found myself walking out of a store with a new sweater last week. Experiencing the seasons in full swing is a beautiful thing of course, and I will try my hardest to embrace it all but if I had to choose, warmer weather will always my preference.

So with the unpredictable weather on the weekend, it was a risk to head to Deep Cove in North Vancouver for a kayak. However, my husband must have had good vibes or something because the minute we parked the car, the sun came out and it appeared to be lighter and warmer than when we had left home.

Deep Cove is a small bay town in the easternmost part of North Vancouver, BC, Canada. It is located at the foot of Mt Seymour and fronts onto the Indian Arm, a branch of the Burrard Inlet. It is also approximately 13 kilometres from downtown Vancouver.

It is a popular area for water sports; kayaks, canoes, paddle boarding, boating, fishing as well as other outdoor activities including hiking and biking.

At Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak a double kayak will cost you about $38 for two hours. You are provided with life jackets, pump, rope and given a good introduction to the area and where to paddle.

It’s a peaceful and pretty perspective that low on the glassy water, and while gliding around we saw our friends racing each other…

we saw many summer cabins that were of a particular size (including jacuzzis, hammocks and flags with lookout spots) around the Cove (locals refer to Deep Cove as the Cove) which weren’t catching a lot of sun at that particular time…and some that weren’t so steady looking.

It was a little cold in the water, but was tempting to swim with the seal swimming right by us

many boats and yachts,

A lighthouse on a point,

and two well fed seagulls.

A relaxed afternoon and a great way to soak up the few sunny days that are about.

Two places I recommend to eat/drink in the Deep Cove area are:

Honey Doughnuts located at 4373 Gallant Ave, North Vancouver, for a sweet snack and coffee or lunch.

Deep Cove Osaka Sushi located at 4355 Gallant Ave, North Vancouver, for excellent sushi and sashimi.

For strolling, I had to mention this cute gift store called Room 6 located at 4389 Gallant Ave, North Vancouver too!

Take me to the Top – Lions Peak, Vancouver

So this is Rob here and my delightful wife has kindly handed over the reigns of her Blog to me for one day. This was no mean feat, might I say! Being a Zielinski too I feel that I can write under Greenskis with authenticity. So here goes.. hope you enjoy!

It’s an odd way to start an epic hike but mine started in the hot tub at the Hillcrest Aquatic Centre. Yep, that’s right, whilst I was whiling away a cool and crisp March morning in the lovely warm waters the plan to climb the Lions Peak was hatched. There, next to me was our great friend, Nicole, who provided the necessary local knowledge. I asked her what those two distant peaks were that were intermittently obscured by clouds. They were the most prominent features on the skyline and they beckoned. Her casual reply was “Oh they are the Lions Peaks and they are a bit of Vancouver legend.” The next question was reflexive – “So can you climb them? And is it hard?” Not being a rock climber but an adventurous soul I was hoping her answer was “Yes” to both. Indeed it was. They are definitely hike-able, require no mountain gear and afford one of the best views of Vancouver and the surrounding area. That’s all I needed to hear.

The Lions Peak way in the distance from downtown

In the distance the Lions Peaks are visible from anywhere in Vancouver

Fast forward about 6 months and with a reasonable amount of background reading and a hiking crew all ready to go we set out at dawn to climb the Lions! But first a bit more background on these little beauties. It is well-known that most Vancouverites desire to climb the Lions but few actually ever get around to it. Being in Vancouver for the short term provided the requisite motivation and so I enrolled two other Aussies to join me. The Lions are a pair of pointed peaks (West Lion – 1,646 m (5,400 ft);East Lion – 1,606 m (5,269 ft)) along the North Shore Mountains in Vancouver. They can be seen from much of the Greater Vancouver area, as far as East Burnaby, south to parts of Surrey, and from the west on the  Howe Sound Islands. Along with the Lions Gate Bridge named in their honour, these twin summits have become one of the most recognizable Vancouver landmarks.

The earliest recorded climb of the West Lion in 1889 happened almost by accident. A group of hunters following a herd of goats found themselves at the top with no place to go but down. Sadly there is no cable car to effortlessly transport you down like on Grouse Mountain and I soon learnt that it is the descent that really hurts you. Most of the hiking advice websites recommend to plan for a 3-4 hr ascent, 1 hour to enjoy the scenery and 3-4 hour descent. That adds up to 8-9 hours, a double shot of coffee and a very long and arduous day.

On the day we chose to climb the Lions we accidentally coincided with the Lions Bay Community annual ascent. That translated to another 50 people, mostly on the 60+ years side, attempting the climb. All in all there were about 300 people who climbed that day. That brings me to my first piece of unsolicited advice, get there EARLY! Not just to snare one of the rare parks at the start of the climb (the run off car park is about 1km away … down hill) but to enjoy the climb in some serenity. So we three, set off full of vim and vigour and enjoyed a reasonably placid start to the hike. The first section was on an old fire trail and only a gradual climb. This quickly led into a lovely well-marked park that wound its away over gullies into valleys and traversed some lovely quintessential West Coast pine forrestscape.

Typical but beautiful West Coast Pine Forest. The trail is well-marked.

Some old pines make way for new growth
Some old pines blown down in storms make way for new growth

We were enveloped by massively majestic old pines, and occasional fallen giants as storms, winds and father time continually remodel the forest. After an hour and much banter amongst the group, things began to escalate – in both oxygen demands and steepness. Occasionally one would be tempted by a stunning view of Howe Sound but mostly it was solid progress through dense pine forest. In parts it was definitely steeper than the Grouse Grind so I was starting to blow out many candles.

Halfway up and we were excited. Stunning Howe Sound in the background.

Halfway up and we were excited. Stunning Howe Sound in the background.

As we crept out of the tree line we were greeted with an awe inspiring vista. The vastness of the valley was humbling and off to the left one caught a good look at the West Lion. Boy, it looked a fair hike away and it remained a couple of hours of hard yakka. We saw some fire pits up of hiking groups who prefer to share the awesomeness with no one. The next section was across scree, granite boulder fields, and occasional ponds of snow. Even though we were well into August and the weather was a picture perfect 23 degrees and blue sky as far as the eye gazed, the amount of snow this area receives meant that it stays alpine all year round. The snow wasn’t troubling at all more of a passing novelty for us three Australians. It also afforded us with ammunition for an impromptu snow ball fight.

Some scrambling over granite boulders and lingering snow islands.

Some scrambling over granite boulders and lingering snow islands.

Well you had to, didn’t you? Through this section over your right shoulder lay the vastness and beauty of Howe Sound.

Wondrous Howe Sound, nothing more to say

Wondrous Howe Sound, nothing more to say

This body of water starts at Squamish and transports the gazillion litres of snow melt from the mountains each year. We wondered what constitutes a Sound and later I discovered it is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight (even the Great Aussie Bight?), and wider than a fjord; or it may be defined as a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land. Right back to the hike. At this point, high above the real tree line and in the boulder fields another path joins and this one started way back at Cypress Mountain. So there is a second way of getting to the Lions but apparently this way is EVEN longer and not as picturesque.

My favourite mountainscape - stunning palate of blues

My favourite mountainscape – stunning palate of blues

We had 30 mins to go and I was getting pretty pumped. The last section is a bit of more strenuous weaving and climbing up larger boulders. Definitely no climbing required but just a little more technical than the rest of the hike. At this point you are at the saddle of the Lions and the West Lion is over to your left and the East Lion to the right. The East Lion is out of bounds to climbing but many tackle the West Lion. As you can see in the picture below there is a pretty precarious section to navigate. No mistakes are possible as the ‘trail’ is narrow and the mountain falls away so steeply that a fall would be curtains.

West Lion (far top right) stands proudly out in the distance.

West Lion (far top right) stands proudly out in the distance.

At this point of the summit some 1500m above sea level I felt no desire to climb higher. We shared this moment with a few ‘tame’ black crows that were actually terrifyingly large. I suspect they fed on wasted scraps from the horde of climbers’ lunches. All I could think of was their massive beaks just pecking away at my eyeballs if I was unlucky to slip and perish up there. OK that is a crow pecking eye phobia I have had for a while and occasionally it leaps into my thoughts.

Black Crows grow big in the Mountains

Black Crows grow big in the Mountains

So what did we see and was it worth the effort. You betcha!! We were lucky enough to see Mt Baker way down in Washington, USA still capped in snow. There were mountains in every direction but one. Howe Sound was in that direction and it continued to absorb your gaze effortlessly. Capilano Dam was visible which supplies the vast majority of drinking water to Vancouver. And way off in the distance the city skyline of bustling Vancouver twinkled.

Perching on the Precipice. Howe Sound in the distant.

Perching on the Precipice. Howe Sound in the distant.

We decided to sit down and enjoy a hearty lunch. I was fortunate to have my wife’s famous Quinoa Salad and it went down the hatch in record time, even for me! Man it was tasty. One weird observation up here was that there was reasonable mobile phone coverage which weirdly took a little away from the experience. But I guess if you fell and hurt yourself the ability to call was comforting. The youngsters probably twittered or facebooked their achievement.

The descent was next and I really wasn’t looking forward to it. There’s no longer any anticipation and the constant pressure on the knees and quadriceps was likely going to be crippling. A few tourist helicopters whizzed by and I wistfully imagined hitchhiking a ride back down. Fast forward 3 difficult hours and we were down. My legs were jello and doing the Wobble, totally under their own control having severed any connection to my neuromuscular junctions. We washed away the pain with a lovely lemonade a few girls were selling to raise some money for something or other. Heck it was cold and it was good. Next stop was BierCraft, the local Belgium beer and schnitzel house to meet my wife and son for a crisp, cleansing, and cold beer. Talk about the exclamation mark on a day that was most definitely mind-blowing.

Sunday sunshine + coffee = a smile on my face

We are loving Vancouver. People are friendly, the city is beautiful (as I have mentioned previously), homeowners take pride in the appearance and state of their homes, there are lots of activities to participate in for children and adults, and living here has had a profound effect on our health and fitness levels.

The truth is, we did not journey all this way for the weather specifically and every Vancouverite keeps telling us that this (coincidentally the year we are here), happens to be the coldest and well…the wettest on record for a while.

So after our wet adventure last night and the not so sure sky above, we did step out this morning prepared with rain jackets to go for a leisurely Sunday walk. Just as we hit the street, the sun appeared! I have taken some pictures of homes around the Mount Pleasant area for you to all get a feel for the house proud nature of the neighbourhoods.

So when the sunshine shows its bright glowing face, it is a time to rejoice and appreciate how this place can be even more gorgeous and amazing – and just a tip for those who have not travelled or lived here, you need to seize the moment immediately because it can change within minutes!

However the people of Vancouver, BC and beyond are tougher, more outgoing and positive I think when it comes to the weather, as rain, hail, wind, snow or shine they will go out anyway and have some fun.

We spotted the newly opened 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters cafe (their second cafe location), 2902 Main Street last weekend at the car free festival. I thought what better way to ease into our day than a cup of possibly the best roasted beans in the city. The place has a really cool industrial fit out, my husband and I particularly loved the garage style doors that … and exposed beams.

It was too tempting not to order something sweet to complement the coffee as a window of Lucky’s Doughnuts was staring me down at the counter. We ordered our standard cafe lattes, a mango square doughnut and almond pistachio croissant.

Followed by some park time in the sun, here I was, sitting and smiling with my family on a sunny Sunday.

Stanley Park miniature train ride, Vancouver

On Saturday afternoon, we visited the seasonal attraction of the Stanley Park miniature train ride. Our good friends here invited us to join them as they have two boys too.

We set off on bicycle which I might add might have been a little ambitious as it was a 45 minutes each way. There was the right amount of breeze to stay cool on this mission and a little sun out so cycling conditions were good. When we arrived all I could think of was throwing back a cold lager. Alas, that would have to wait till later and I went with the sensible choice of hydrating with water and topping my energy stores up with popcorn.

The entrance to the Klahowya Aboriginal Village was marked with a colourful designed eagle board leading us into where the ‘spirit train’ is situated. This is a great way to learn about the legend of the ‘Sasquatch’ or Bigfoot.

For a family with children under four years of age, a group ticket is the best value at $25. The train ride is approximately 10 minutes long. The train is a replica of the Canadian Pacific Railway engine #374. This engine was made famous by pulling Canada’s first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in the late 1880s.

There was the story, song and dance as we weaved around the forest track and tunnel seeing animals like the eagle, bear, frog and Sasquatch. I also learnt that they have a special Halloween themed train ride and Christmas lights themed ride as well which sounds wonderful.

A relaxed way to spend the afternoon…until the way back. One huge black cloud loomed and just as we jumped on our bikes it started to rain, a little, a lot … then we were drenched! Of course, this was the day we left over enthusiastic and under prepared without any rain gear.  We hightailed it half the way until we made it to the safe haven at Steamrollers – 437 Davie Street at Homer, Yaletown. They are seriously quick and healthy burritos, not to mention so delicious! They are a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR = fast food), which only uses steam to cook their food, preventing shrinkage, locking in moisture and nutrients supposedly. They even provide kid’s options on the menu which got the thumbs up from our little guy.

Ok, so a little damp later we made the dash again to the Canada line down Davie Street and jumped on with our bikes to get us as close to home as possible. Dare I say, this an accomplishment even a local Vancouverite would be proud of!

The evening ended with a warm bath and finally a good lager! I highly recommend the Calico Brown Ale by Tenaya Creek, Nevada. It goes without saying that after all that the household was very peaceful as we all slept really well.

Please note: The photos represented here are not my own (sourced from google images).

 

It’s a green-light day.

I am literally going to shine the light on my own bad behaviour around our household.

Right now, our mud room light is on, door is open, kitchen light on, dining room light on and living room light on. Ok, so I would normally use the excuse of something like ‘well we are living in a place with minimal natural light…it makes me feel warmer, safer, more comfortable etc’.

Another thing I am very aware of is that each day when I feel the cold, and yes I feel it much more in Vancouver given that Spring time here is like our Aussie winters, I notice that the heat dial I have turned up mysteriously ends up turned right down, well off actually whenever I next walk past! This is not to mention the labyrinth of wires and cables hidden behind our television and other gadgets with flashing lights and all on…ok so I am not the tech head in this family but given I still live here I am responsible too for the amount of plug-ins that are running constantly.

Almost 30% of all our greenhouse emissions come from our houses. Just under 5 million people spend more than 10% of their incomes on energy and therefore classed as “fuel poor”.

I am trying very hard to introduce these new changes into my life to reduce my carbon footprint, make ethical choices as a consumer and being more respectful of the beautiful environment that surrounds me. Next step, being energy-efficient – well that’s one of my biggest weaknesses! This is going to be one of my biggest challenges yet…

I am going to take simple steps and try to be as conscious as possible to do this everyday:-

Replace lightbulbs with low energy lightbulbs.

Turn all lights not being used off.

Unplug as many appliances as possible overnight; TV, DVD, computer, toaster, kettle and coffee maker.

Also, today on June 4th I have just discovered that Canada’s major environmental organisations, together with leading charities, unions, bloggers, and others will darken their websites and join thousands of Canadians like you to Speak Out in defence of nature and democracy.

Right now, Canada’s parliament is pushing through a bill to weaken many of the country’s most important environmental protection measures and silence the voices of all Canadians who seek to defend nature.

My goal today may not have a lot to do with this new bill, but it is awareness that counts right? It’s ideas, it’s thinking, it’s doing, its positive changes right?
6. Sixth green action – START REDUCING MY HOUSEHOLD’S ENERGY CONSUMPTION AND INCREASE EFFICIENCY.

Our little bed of green babies are growing and thriving…

A follow-up on our little green babies growing in the garden. My husband has really become the green thumb and is filling up our neat little patch with a few more edible items. It is wonderful to see my son also witnessing first hand how seeds grow, flourish and then see them make a journey into the kitchen and then magic – a delicious green dish arrives to greet him at the dinner table!

The new additions to the family are:-

1. Sugar snap peas – Just one cup of these are you are well on your way with 21 percent of the RDA for Vitamin A which is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes, skin and essential for vision. These peas are a rich source of Vitamin C, 150% more than garden peas. They are also lower in calories than green shelling peas.

2. Romain lettuce – These are a heart healthy green with high levels of Vitamins A, K and C at the top of the charts as well as a great source of folate. It plants well and stores well with sturdier leaves and a courser texture than other lettuce varieties.

3. Leaf lettuce – This is an essential for your trusty garden salad. With a mild flavour and bright green colour, it also provides many health benefits such as folate.

4. Dill – Is a very good source of calcium, manganese, iron, fibre and magnesium. It has healing components in it which can help neutralise toxins in the body. It has a wonderful flavour which suits fish, soups, sauces, salads and even spicy dishes.

So there you have it, our 14 green babies sitting peacefully in their rows doing their thing. Oh and you’ll be pleased to hear that my son who has been watching his pea pot intensely over the last week has seen it shoot! On its way, is the little green pea.

Oh, and if anyone knows an ‘organic’ solution for looking after an edible garden I would love to hear it? I want to keep away the mites from tomatoes, bugs and caterpillars away.

An EPIC weekend…

Smarter, stylish living…do we all aspire to this?

Western Canada thinks we do, with the largest sustainable lifestyle showcase taking place at the Vancouver Convention Centre. It’s where “Style meets Sustainability”. Now in its 6th year, it is a celebration and immersion of all things ‘green’, for a stylishly sustainable lifestyle. The theme this year was “All Things Food, local. Organic, Healthy”.

So I had to attend given I want to learn as much as possible about sustainability, especially the foods that I consume and those choices I make can make a positive impact on our environment. The timing couldn’t have been better given my new goals to live more ‘green’ as I put it.

It was hard not to walk away with a few hot topics firmly planted in my mind which were:-

  • Buy/Eat local – Coop companies and community gardens supplying Vancouver
  • Grow your own – Whole Foods providing advice on how to grow organically
  • Travel smart – energy-efficient cars, bikes, car-sharing companies.
  • Support Fair Trade products – Fair Trade Vancouver, seeking to increase awareness, availability and sales of Fair Trade products to Metro Vancouver.

Kid’s were also considered as our planet’s future depend on them. There were activities set-up to play with eco-friendly toys and a large garden patch for them learn how to grow food by planting herbs in a raised garden bed as well as taking home some seeds to do at home.

There was even a Eco-Fashion marketplace to check out some of the ‘waste-couture’ as I’ve heard it termed. There were designers selling scarves and accessories made with the thrums or scraps left over in the weaving process, handbags using a multitude of sourced recycled products for example, aeroplane seat belts used in handbags, which I must say was unique and smart …to a specific taste of course! There were some divine linens and baby wear made from bamboo textiles which are extremely eco-friendly and anti-bacterial too I found out!

The local food movement has been gathering momentum over a number of years now globally. For many of the exhibitors at EPIC the hot topic on their lips was reducing the number of kilometres/miles from farm to plate. Farmers who market locally are often relatively small in scale and therefore can make real improvements to their production practices which in turn impact the environment positively. The World Watch Institute reports that the average food item eaten in North America has traveled 2,500-4000 km from farm to table. The ‘eat local’ goal would be to achieve a 160 kilometre /100 mile radius boundary which is large enough to reach beyond a big city but small enough to feel truly local. It’s a big subject which I need to read up more on, however some reading material I am going to take a look at soon are;

> The 100-mile diet by Alisa Smith & J.B MacKinnon                                                              > State of the World – Innovations that nourish the Planet by the World Watch Institute

I spoke with Matthew Stuart, General Manager and Buyer for NOWBC a Cooperative online farmers market which makes it simple to eat local organic food. He sources some of best organic produce around from notable farms just to name a few like:- Glen Valley Organic Farm, Forstbauer Natural Food Farm and Klippers Organic Acres. They carry a variety of organic produce, meats, dairy, flours, grains and much more.

It was well worth going and its given me loads to think about, however for now I will take another small step towards living more green. Do you know what the most exciting thing was for me? Seeing my son’s expression of anticipation and delight as he was given a pea seed to plant and watch grow at home.

5. Fifth green action – START GROWING SOME OF MY OWN HERBS, FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.