An achievement – I climbed the Grouse Grind!

If you saw my earlier posts on the Grouse Grind, my first experience to the top was via the luxury of the Skyride and I mentioned this was a ‘must do’ as there is so much entertainment up top of the mountain.

Then my husband (in my opinion of peak fitness), enjoyed his first experience grinding his way up. At the time, I wouldn’t have considered it reading the Trail Facts from the grouse mountain website…

Length: 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles)

Elevation Gain: 853 metres (2,800 feet)

Total Stairs: 2,830
I read the word ‘challenging’ and thought, that will be great for my ambitious husband but how did I miss the rest of this sentence on the website?

“The trail is very challenging. Keep in mind that there is a wide range of mountaintop trails that might better suit the average hiker.”

I assumed I would fall in-between the ‘novice and average hiker’ range so if I was going to do it, the pace would be my own and not competitive at all.

The advice on the site??

“On average it takes and hour and half and novice hikers two hours is recommended.”

Ok, so a good friend who has completed the grind many times previously invited me to come along and well with my husband’s motivating force persuaded me to say yes. It was a “yes” rather than “YES”. There was trepidation as he has a habit of making things sound easier than they actually are.

The record by a woman is completing it in 31:04 minutes and the official record at 23:48 minutes by a man. Not that I was paying attention to any of these statistics prior to embarking on the trail, in fact I was purposely trying not to focus on anything but putting one foot in front of the other in order to reach the final step.

The start of the trail is clearly marked as demonstrated in this picture…

so there is little chance you can start in the wrong direction. I put my timer on and we set off, quietly confident that it would be better than anticipated.

I was into the trail by about 10 minutes and I could feel my elevated heart rate and breathing becoming fiercer. The girls were feeding me words of encouragement to reach the first 1/4 Mark. This point they assured me takes the longest and I was alert and ready looking out for it. It could not come quick enough I can tell you.

There was a busy and eclectic crowd should I say on the trail last night, perhaps the gorgeous weather we’ve been having in a straight set brought them all out this week, and who knows what their motivation was for reaching the top?  My driving force was a cold, crisp glass of white wine or two while soaking up the beautiful expansive views around me.

For others, I am sure some of these motivations were filtering through the various groups…

Generation Z’s – The youngest lots were stopping, not for water but to get their iPad out (What the?) and change the music on their iPods which might have well have been on a loudspeaker for everyone to hear the volume was so high.

Generation Y’s – The ego motivates with ‘I am sure this will be a piece of cake and I can socialize and possibly even pick up once up top’, but sadly the comments I heard from a few girls before they even reached the 1/4 mark was “I can’t go any further, I can’t do it”, with a slightly less impressed look from some of the other girlfriends.

Generation X’s – like moi, we were mostly quiet and happy to step aside should any freaks want to sprint past us, I was quietly internalizing most of the pain so as not to show us up, reveal our age or any negative thoughts crossing my mind every couple of minutes particularly when I was just past the half way mark.

Baby boomers – I’ll show these young upstarts a thing or two about endurance, I even heard some 75-year-old telling some younger sprinting males they were “not allowed to go downwards”…tutt tutt.

At the half way mark, I saw my first chipmunk. Really cute I might add, but I think he might have been taunting me for a bit because he kept circling me back and forth, almost to say ‘You can turn back now, it’s not too late’. I was starting to have doubts about whether I was going to make it, however all the words of encouragement from my friends topped up my dwindling motivation.
I looked up after a bit and there it was….the light! That could only mean one thing and my friends confirmed it, we were close, give or take a few hundred steep stairs.
At that stage I was practically lifting one leg in front of the other and might have sounded like a ‘Sasquatch’ grunting and huffing heavily but I knew that I could only do one thing and that was keep moving as I was close.
The last marker of achievement, the final frontier was reaching the yellow rope. I was whimpering at the painful thought of knowing I was so close yet not close enough. This was tormenting me as I was literally minutes away and felt I could have collapsed in a heap, but I just had to find whatever energy reserves were remaining to clutch it.
Yippee! I made it! I checked in with my timer and I achieved it in 1hr 19mins and then it hit me. I was enveloped by sweeping views of Vancouver’s city and sea which were more dramatic than what I recalled from going up by gondola recently. The sun was fading and it felt magical. It was surreal looking out at the majestic Douglas Fir, Hemlock and cedar trees which were dense, darkish and towering over me on the trail and now beautiful pyramid-shaped silhouettes sitting at the same level as the clouds and I. Now onto a treat at Altitudes Bistro.
After this vigorous endeavour, my wine couldn’t arrive quick enough. My body’s elevated  temperature had however reduced my appetite which took a while to kick in. I chose the CedarCreek Pinot Gris from the Okanagan Valley, British Colombia. It was incredibly refreshing with hints of peach and melon. I decided on a charcuterie plate to complement which included a terrine with some cured meats, walnut bread and cheese. With this delicious selection in front of me, for a moment I was transported to Alsace, France (one my favourite countries) it was so delightful.
My final thoughts? Overall I would recommend you do the Grind at least once in your lifetime, it is well worth it when you reach the top. Although the thought of repeating this over and over to beat my time does not inspire and will hardly qualify me for a Grouse Grind enthusiast or obsessive, it is a killer workout which you will be proud of regardless of how long it takes. The overriding feeling of achievement and rush of endorphins you are rewarded with washes away any pain you may feel (as I did) along the way.
Please, I would love to hear any stories or thoughts from fellow grinders out there now that I have accomplished this!

Summer water parks in Vancouver

Finally, bless the sun is out! It’s glorious and it is weather that just makes you want to scream with excitement up to the heavens…after an intense and long cold spring.

My son’s expression is priceless when I ask him which water park would he like to go to today? He is literally a kid in a candy store and he is giving it much thought. I ask “Would you like to go to the water park at Granville Island or Stanley Park?” He replies, “Ummm Stanley Park, no Granville Island!”.

Silently, that was my pick although we’ve been to Stanley Park recently too. Both have quite a bit going for them in terms of surrounding entertainment, so either way you are likely to have a happy and worn out child by the end of it.

Ok, so I’ll start with the Stanley Park option. Stanley Park is close to Downtown, surrounded by beautiful and breathtaking scenery of the ocean, mountains and Lion’s Gate Bridge and more. The park itself is a lush green forest approximately 1000 acres and if it wasn’t such a popular tourist destination you could easily get lost in the half a million trees that are hundreds of years old. Cedar, Hemlock and Douglas Fir trees surround you everywhere you walk. The water park is open from June 1 to September 1 from 10am-6pm.

If I take my son to the Stanley Park spray area, I will pair it with the Aquarium which is only a few minutes away on the north side of the park. With Summer camps in full force by July, you are best to arrive here via public transport and earlier in the day if possible. It is a free attraction which makes it even more alluring. It has a wider area of the soft spongy tarmac covering in some of the play areas making it slightly safer for the younger children.

Between the spray park and the Aquarium, there are many shady spots on the grass to enjoy a picnic lunch. I recommend you bring your own packed goodies. Whatever you do, DO NOT order any of the ‘hot food’ from the Lumberman’s Arch cafe – in my one and only experience, choosing what I thought to be the healthiest options on the menu; how many ways can you go wrong with a salmon burger and fish & chips?? It was overcooked, dripping with oil, tasteless and typically overpriced given the location.  It was a very disappointing experience and it is just about the only place to eat conveniently close by. The food at the Aquarium is better, more palatable and appears to be better quality in some areas of the ‘hot menu’.

So, do you know where I am heading with this? Further to mentioning earlier that Granville Island water park was personally my choice for the day, the options of gourmet food are endless!

Granville Island is the largest free attraction in North America. It is situated right next to the kid’s play area as well incase your child literally gets cold feet (the water is a little chilly still). It is open May 21 through till September 5 from 10am-6pm. All the delectable foods on Granville Island are all close by, minutes walk away. Sushi and gelato always work a treat for my son and I, particularly Gi Gelato & Coffee House did it for me at 1535 Johnson Street, Suite #105 Granville Island. Freshly made creamy flavours including sorbet which I love are fantastic and not expensive.

Say no more, a good day out, a free day out (just about) and we are both happy.

Stanley Park Spray Park – Vancouver Park Board