Monday, September 5, 2016

Labour Day Weekend in Vancouver and Whistler

For Labor Day (or Labour Day, as it is called in Canada), we took a second annual trip north to Vancouver, British Columbia to check out the famous ski area, Whistler, and the alpine summer hiking that can be accessed from the resort chair lifts. Taking the gondola from the base ski area, it saved our legs the ~4000 feet ascent, putting us at treeline for the start of the hike. We thought it would be a flat-lined and easy hike from here, but we were in for a humbling surprise. The remaining 16 miles were a near constant roller coaster of elevation and emotions as we trudged up and over mountain flanks to see a tiny scribble of the trail proceeding up and over the next distant peak. Each time, I thought to myself that the connecting trail we could see must be a mountaineering path that splintered off to reach the mountain summit. I was sadly mistaken as an hour later I found myself looking back to the former location from the once distance neighboring mountain flank.

The trails, dubbed maliciously as a combination of "The Musical Bumps" and "High Note," were rated as some of the most scenic in the Western British Columbia region. However, 2016 was the year summer forgot the Pacific Northwest, leaving us shrouded in a low cloud layer and inconsistent mizzle and mist. Fortunately, a fast-moving, low-lying cloud layer is a photographer's delight as they somehow manage to give mountains an even mightier pose and enhanced mysteriousness.

Ride up in the Whistler Express gondola

Craig trudging up Pika's Traverse trail at the start of the trip

Blanketed in a cloud

Although we couldn't see the eye-popping peaks around us, the clouds made for pretty dramatic photos

Mini rock man on the trail.

More clouds as we make our way down the first of 3 Musical "Bumps" (Piccolo, Flute, and Oboe).

Loving life at treeline

Marching our way of peak 3 of the "bumps." I believe this was Oboe. 

We've finally almost arrived at our camp site for the night at the base of Mt. Fissle.

When we planned the trip, we had a dream of staying in an established wood hut that holds up to 12 campers. I imagined with the bad weather might have to share the space with, at most, 3 people. Again, the story I told myself and the reality of the trip diverged when we rounded the last corner to see a slew of humans buzzing around the hut like a beehive and about 10 other tents already established in prime spots nearby. I'm very thankful that we brought our tent as a backup plan. 

The evening got cold FAST and after setting up the tent, we spent nearly the entire night inside drinking whiskey and reading National Geographic.

Looking out of the tent at the adorable mountain hut. 

Due to the cold, we spent the evening in the tent until the setting sun and low clouds put on an irresistible show.

Sunset on the camps.

 Sunset on Mt. Fissle with out tent in the front left.
Did I mention it was cold? I went into full caterpillar mode.

The following morning, the clouds parted for several minutes to reveal the peaks around us. The brief vista was quickly obscured as we watched the next round of thick, low layers gracefully spill over the ridge face.

 How cute is this hut?! It belongs in the Swiss Alps!

We were also briefly treated to a glimpse of this MASSIVE GLACIER! This is Cheakamus Glacier and she's a beaut!

Photos don't do Cheakamus Glacier any justice in telling the story of just how wide it is!

So many beautiful shades of green and blue.

On the home stretch to return to the gondola for a relaxing sub-alpine ride down the mountain. I love the contrast between the red and gray of the peak in the background. 

The second to last climb before the gondola is the wall in front of us.  

While I felt the description and other reviews of the trail were misleading regarding just how continuously steep this trail is and I was bummed that we didn't get the full effect of wowing peaks (seriously guys, Google the magnificent views this place boasts when it's cloud-free), I really enjoyed the experience we had. The low, swirling clouds, although effective in reducing our visibility to 50 feet in some instances, also gave us the equally beautiful nebulous and mystical perspective and reminded me that it's the dynamic aspect of mountain environments that draws me to these places. 

We made it! On the gondola and back on to Vancouver.

The remainder of the weekend was filled with city relaxing in our fancy-pants hotel (which is especially appreciated after a few days in the mountains), ramen, and the musical 'The Book of Mormon.' Labour Day success!

Outside of Japan, Vancouver is the place to be for ramen! 

So good!

The Book of Mormon

View from our hotel room

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cycling Sunrise Road, Mt. Rainier

With crossed-fingers, Craig and I decided to cycle Sunrise Road on Mt. Rainier before it was scheduled to open for cars in several weeks. We called the Mt. Rainier ranger station, but they gave us no useful information concerning how far the plows had cleared the snow. Not sure sure how far we would be permitted to go, we took the risk figuring that we would at least get a small climb in.

We were in luck--all 14 miles and 3263 feet of elevation gain were clear! Although it was a constant uphill slog, it was a beautiful ride with a speedy downhill. Speaking of speeding downhills...this ride also taught me a very good lesson about speed checking and having a heightened awareness of surroundings during a decent. As I began to make my way down the flank of Rainier, an elk ran out in front of me when I was going about 35mph! It was a terrifying experience, but through a combination of my shrill screams, clamping down on my breaks, and him tripping over his own feet to bolt out of the road as fast as he could, no one was hurt. I used to love the feeling of cruising fast after a long climb, but I think I'll think twice about my speeds after that near-miss. 

Coming around the bend!

Craig riding on the car-free road.

We finally get to some small snow banks on the roadside.

Mt. Rainier in the background.

Almost there!

Woo! We made it!

Mt. Rainier

Monday, May 30, 2016

Weekend at the Hyatt Ziva, San Jose del Cabo

Not one for resorts, I was skeptical of our planned getaway to the all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. As someone who's idea of "relaxed" is being exhausted after my energy has been drained from being outside all day, I was honestly worried that I would get bored. I couldn't have been more wrong!

Although the resort was certainly missing a night-life scene (you won't find any dance clubs or trendy bars here), it was overflowing with details to entice you to unwind and de-stress. There were multiple pools (and one with a swim-up bar), ample amounts of comfy deck furniture on shaded balcony areas, a tequila bar tucked away under a waterfall and staircase, massage parlors, and quiet areas on the beach to stare out at the ocean while a cabana boy continuously refills your drink. It also helped that hotel facilities were gorgeous and I seriously wanted to buy everything in the hotel room for our own house!

Because it was all-inclusive, we never had to pay for anything once we were on the hotel property. Aside from our first night, where I received an under-cooked fish (yuck!), most of the food was pretty good. For drinks, the wait-staff defaulted to cheap alcohol, but if requested, they would pour top shelf booze at not extra charge! Winning!

Even though I don't think I'll be making a habit out of resort stays, I definitely understand why some people do. Everything was simply so easy!

We arrive!

The open-air lobby

Loving this simple desert-inspired room!

First thing's first...let's eat cheese and get some Tecate in these champagne glasses. 

 View from the room. Note the swim-up bar on the far side of the pool. 

These elevator mirrors were just begging for a dance party every time we left the room.

More views around the hotel.

The pool at night.

I had hoped to swim or snorkel in the ocean while we were here, but the violent shore-break and strong rip currents left something to be desired.  

One second you're on dry land....

 The next minute, you're in ocean up to your waist.

I ♥ the swash zone.

Doing some beach reconnaissance work

Remember that swim-up bar I mentioned? It was awesome!

Tequila--it's not just for margaritas or shots. Here we are getting schooled on sipping tequila.

Some of the best food we had at the hotel came from this pool-side taco cart.
Most of the people at the resort were laying out in the harsh sun all day. I'm not sure how they didn't combust into flames from the intense heat and blazing sun rays. Craig and I could be found under an umbrella guessing the length of everyone's stay based on the saturation of their sunburn. 

Craig in the infinity pool.


Post-dinner beaching

Fireside chatting 

Our day out in San Jose del Cabo. I was really looking forward to getting out of the resort and seeing the actual city and its people, but I have to admit, it left something to be desired. Although it was quaint and adorned with colorful buildings, they were mostly filled with art studios and tourist shops that I wasn't interested in seeing. I have to admit that we didn't do much planning ahead for our day out so maybe we missed a section of town that better represented the city. Adding to our disappointment may have been the insanely hot day that caused us to be swimming in our own sweat and out of water by the time we walked to the city center. 

The Mission of San Jose del Cabo

To break up the beach-sitting and pool-swimming we tried out the facility's basketball and tennis courts. We only played both sports for about 2 hours before rushing back to the pool activities. Have I mentioned how hot it was in Cabo?