Hiking St. Mark’s Summit

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St. Mark’s Summit is a great summer hike that’s part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail. These photos are from two trips up to SMS, about three weeks apart. The first set is in early June (with Jan+Alyson) and the second in late June (with my sister, her boyfriend Mark + Jan). It’s cool to see how much more snow there was earlier, even though both days were pretty warm.

On both days, we did this as a day hike from the Cypress alpine parking lot – a 20 min drive from our place in downtown Vancouver. When we took Dana (my sister) and Mark, we stopped at the viewpoint halfway up Cypress to take in the views – bonus tourist pic!

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The trail leads up from the chair lift before it turns into a gravel road. If you keep going down the road, it becomes a trail again. That’s the start of the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

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The trail is really nice and quite wide in most sections – it would be a great option for running if you’re looking for a long stretch of runnable trail with some elevation. It’s about 11km roundtrip to St. Marks and back.

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If you decide to head up in late May/early June, you’ll know you’re getting close to the summit when you start to have to cross snowfields. Even though I was a bit sweaty in shorts and a tank top, it was surreal to be walking over snow!

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Along the way and at the summit, there are great views of the Lions. If you continue on the trail for another ~15km from St. Mark’s, you will go up Mt. Unnecessary and come right up to the Lions (FYI I haven’t hiked to the Lions yet – I really want to this summer – but I have heard this involves lots of scrambling and you need to be very careful).

We had 2ish L of water with us on both hikes (for 3 and 4 adults), and that was more than fine on a warm day. Shoe-wise, it was very do-able in trail shoes as long as you don’t mind getting a bit wet.

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When you do reach the summit, the views of Howe Sound are awesome! I suggest bringing some snacks (and, as always, the 10 essentials) so you can relax and enjoy the view. Bonus, if you bring some almonds, I’m sure the Whiskey Jacks would appreciate a snack, too!

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Quick stats: 11km roundtrip | (late) May-Oct | about 3-4 hours roundtrip running, 4-6 if you’re walking | Parking at Cypress Bowl | 460 m elevation

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As usual, photos thanks to this guy :)

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Cypress Snowshoeing

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A few weeks ago Jan and I decided to go for a quick afternoon snowshoe. We’ve gone up Hollyburn a few times, so we decided to check out the paid snowshoe trails in the Cypress resort. An adult trail ticket is $10, and you can get a season’s pass for $99. The one bummer is that the pass only gives you access to the snowshoe trails – you need a separate one for the cross country skiing. I can definitely snowshoe more than 10 times in a season, but I’m not sure I want to go to the same place 10 times.

So anyway, we headed into the trails to see what they were like.

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Pros: The trails were easy at the beginning. Flat, short, pretty. I would definitely be able to bring my parents, or other visitors who I’m not sure I want to drag up a mountain. As we kept going, things did get harder, but the trails were really well marked (similar to ski trails – green/blue/black etc.) and we knew what we were getting into.

We had snowshoes with us, but another “pro” might be that you can rent snowshoes in the Nordic Area parking lot, which would be convenient. The snowshoes are $24 for the day and include your trail ticket.

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Cons: Honestly, just that there is a cost. There aren’t many great viewpoints in the resort, but the trails do lead to the BC parks trail that sends you up Hollyburn. Considering you can do that (and a lot of other local trails) for free, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to pay. I think the resort trails would be nice for someone who wants to explore a few trails without a lot of elevation gain, or who just prefers marked/groomed trails (though Hollyburn is also marked, and seems groomed because of all the foot traffic).

What do you think? Worth it for the extra $$?

Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail Snowshoe

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On Saturday, Jan and I joined our friends Greg, Martina and Christine for a day in the snow. We’d all done a bunch of snowshoeing on the North Shore Mountains (Grouse, Cypress and Seymour) this year, so we thought we’d venture further north and look for some new-to-us terrain.

We decided to head to Squamish and check out the trails that start at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola. The gondola entrance is just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway, about a kilometre before downtown Squamish. At the bottom, there are amazing views of the Chief, another awesome hike (which I’ve done in the summer, but not the winter!)

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Anyway, you can either hike up to the top, or take the gondola. We really thought about hiking, since the fee to go up+down is $37.95 per person, but a ticket to go down only is $9.99 per person. The guys at the bottom told us to expect a 5-6 hour trip if we hiked up, so we chose to ride. Vancouver trails says the hike takes about 3.5 hours in the summer, so I guess that would mean about 5 hours of hiking/snowshoeing in the winter. We also didn’t have trax or microspikes, which probably would help a lot. The views going up the gondola were spectacular, even if the price was a bit much. I plan to come back to do the full hike up at some point!

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At the top of the gondola, there is a viewing platform and cafe. Just behind the cafe/gondola exit, there is a snowshoe rental area and a nice, warm firepit. When we got there, around 10 am, it was really quiet. We took a few photos and then headed down a snowy road/wide walking path until we reached the trailhead. Along the way, we saw some people ice climbing on the rock faces! I’d love to try it this winter.

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The trail we chose is called Al’s Habrich Ridge trail. It wraps up around the northwest part of Habrich Ridge, part of Mount Habrich. The trail map we picked up at the bottom of the gondola says it’s an advanced/backcountry trail.

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We reached the trail head and pretty much immediately started going up. The trail has 340m of gain in 3km. The steepest section is at the beginning, but this was definitely a workout. We ended up getting to the top in just under 90 minutes, and the return trip was much faster (partly due to sliding down ;). I felt like we were hustling for most of the way up.

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The trail map says that the markers go from 1-44, but at the “top”, we only saw #33. The trail pretty clearly ended, and there was a spectacular viewpoint, which looks out to Garibaldi, Atwell, Tantalus peaks as well as Howe Sound. A connector trail called Robin’s Connector apparently leads to another viewpoint with views of Habrich itself, Sky Pilot, Copilot and Ledge peaks, but it wasn’t broken in and we weren’t really prepared to be trailfinding.

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Overall, I’d say that snowshoes were the way to go. We did see some people in with microspikes, but there were definitely some deep-snow sections. At the gondola, they recommended renting poles, which we decided not to do. It was totally fine without them, but you could see how they’d be helpful given the steep terrain. I don’t think it would have been worth the extra 10$/person.

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Trail comments in general: I thought this trail was really well marked for a backcountry trail. We never really wondered if we were in the right place, which is impressive given the amount of snowfall we’ve had.

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I will say that it’s not an easy go, and I’d make sure that you have ample time, snacks and of course the 10 essentials. We saw a few older kids (12+) on the trail on our way down, but I think the average child would have a hard time with this one. The views were totally, absolutely, 100% worth the tougher hike!

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When we got back, I was surprised at how busy the gondola area was! The cafe was bustling with people who rode the gondola up for lunch with a view. If you’re looking for an interesting lunch spot (maybe to take visitors) this could be great! Otherwise, it seemed a little bit expensive/typical ski-lodge food, so we decided to head down to Squamish for a late lunch.

We ended up at the Howe Sound brewery, which was really great. I had so much trouble deciding what to get, but ended up going with soup+salad with salmon on top (very typical lunch for me!). Jan had a burger (I think Christine did too) and a beer, which he said were both great. I got the soup of the day (tomato-lentil), and the cup size with a small salad was more than enough food.

photo creds, as usual, to the wonderful Jan Heuninck

What I’m Reading – 2016

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I mentioned in my year in review post that I set a goal to read 15 books in 2016 (and just barely hit it). Since then, a few people have asked me what I’m reading, so I thought I’d do a post here. If they’re available, I’ve linked to the book so you can get it on Amazon. The photos in this post are all from Amazon as well.

41o8vogdbsl-_sx321_bo1204203200_Once a Runner This was a really good book about what I think it would be like to be an elite runner. I liked it because I identified a bit with the running part, but felt like my eyes were opened to the elite part. I will say that if you’re not a runner you may not enjoy it as the actual story was slow sometimes. 

51lzfulqnll-_sx320_bo1204203200_Good in Bed This novel is not exactly smart, but it is funny and well done chick-lit. I got it for the plane ride to Thailand and ended up finishing it on the beach. 

51msgttbcal-_sx325_bo1204203200_Brooklyn Loved this story about a woman who emigrates to the USA from Europe. It won a bunch of awards and it’s now a movie. I haven’t seen the acutal film, but the book was really good. One of my favourites for the year. 

downloadEtta and Otto and Russel and James This book was great because it’s so Canadian! If you’re from here you will actually recognize the names of places mentioned. I thought it was sweet and thought-provoking as well, but an easy enough read that I also finished it on the beach. 

download-1Who Do You Love Another Jennifer Weiner chick-lit pick, for the plane ride back to Vancouver (planes make me nervous! I need to be distracted!) 

download-2MWF seeking BFF This was a straightforward story about a woman who moves to a new city and spends a year actually working hard at making new friends. I liked the funny little stories, and it was nice to know that it really is hard (for everyone! not just me!) to make new friends as an adult. 

41qfnhnsncl-_sx322_bo1204203200_ Commencement Story about 4 girls and how they go separate ways after graduating from university. It was ok. I read it in June-ish and honestly can’t remember much more of the plotline. 

41c4dnzc30l-_sx322_bo1204203200_Crazy Rich Asians Really funny book about a wealthy family in China and Singapore – not only perfect if you live in Vancouver, but just a great light read all-around. This might have been another plane pick for me. 

51mrr60eoulChina Rich Girlfriend This is the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians. I read it because I liked the first one! More of the same – easy to read, funny, and a pretty engaging story. 

download-3A Man Called Ove Hands down, my favourite book this year. I liked it so much I bought it for three separate people for Christmas, and I lent it to someone else. I loved the perspective of the old man and the light way Backman weaves his story. 

51fh9uoqtnl-_sx327_bo1204203200_ Internal Medicine A good book because each chapter is its own story – makes it easy to pick up, read, and put down again for a few days. This was a gift from my friend Jenny (also a resident) and is one of the best descriptions of life in residency that I think I have come across. 

41alqsiwqbl-_sx320_bo1204203200_ In Her Shoes Jennifer Weiner again. More plane travel. Ahem. 

51ojgf9wzql-_sx330_bo1204203200_The Expatriates I heard a lot of buzz about this book, so I picked it up in early November. It might have been that marathon training was making me crazy tired (I usually read just before bed), but it took me a while to get into this one. It was ok. 

download-4 The Golden Spruce This is a really great book if you live in BC – it tells the (true!) story of a logger and environmentalist in the early days of the city, and what happens to the famous “golden spruce” on old Masset in Haida Gwaii. Also a bit of a slow start but really liked it in the end. 

download-5 Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes A cute book that I read mostly because it was the cheapest one in the bookstore right before I got on a plane back to Vancouver from Sacramento. Light and funny. 
518qvfq3pzl-_sy346_A Fall of Marigolds
 
Another one of my absolute favourites this year, this book bounces back and forth between the stories of two women. One lives in the early 1900’s and the other in the early 2000’s, but both are equally compelling. I usually find books like that harder to follow, but this one was really well done. Definitely a book I’ve been recommending to friends and family. 

img_6039Finally, I also tried a bunch of new cookbooks this year! My friend Jess invited me to her cookbook club a few months ago, so stay tuned for a review of some of those books to come! (In the meantime, Samantha, who started the club with Alex, doesan amazing job with food blogging in general – you can check out her thoughts here)

Goals for 2017

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Do you make resolutions on January 1st? I’ve read lots of different opinions ranging from resolutions don’t work to everyone should make them. For me, the new year has always been a built-in reminder to set some new goals. Sometimes, they’re a bit of a flop (I’m still biting my nails) but in previous years, I’ve developed some great habits from my New Years goals: running, travel, doctoring, my move to Vancouver, and new friendships are all things that have developed from past goals.

I like the idea of calling something a “goal” instead of a “resolution” because I think it seems more practical. For example, “stop biting my nails” really is a resolution. You have to resolve to do it. But a goal is something that you can work towards, and that you can hopefully measure.

Every year, I look at the same four categories and try to set a few goals in each: Health/Fitness, Career/Education, Financial, and Personal/Other. If you’re not sure what goals to set, I really like this exercise to help figure it out.

Here are a few that I’ve chosen for this year:

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Health/Fitness

  • Run a 50km race (!!) and 5-10 others

  • Run a trail race (besides the 50k)

  • Average 15000 steps/day (average for 2016 was just under 19000)

  • Floss daily for 10 weeks

  • Drink at least one glass of water every day for 10 weeks

Many of my goals are based on the idea that it takes 10ish weeks of consistent behaviour to create a habit. To help measure this, I’m using an app called “Productive“. You set a goal and check it off every day (or week, or month, or however often you want to do something!)

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Personal and Other

  • Read 15 books (this was just barely achievable in 2016, so I’m not changing the number :)
  • Visit 2 new countries
  • Play outside 12 times (not running) – this is off to a great start with lots of snowshoeing recently!

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Career/Education

  • Pass the CCFP
  • Publish my research

And that’s it! Are you making any resolutions this year? Do you have any tricks/tips that you use? Do you share your goals with family/friends? xo

Happy New Year! Looking Back at 2016 and Welcoming 2017

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Happy New Year! I have to admit that I don’t usually go nuts for New Year’s Eve, but I love the new year. It’s the perfect reminder to reset once a year, and I always take the opportunity to look back at the year that just ended and set some goals for the new one. I’ll post soon about those “resolutions” (goals? ideas? plans?) but for now, here’s a quick review of my 2016!

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Last year, I did a lot of things! We travelled to Thailand, Montreal, Toronto, New York City, Sacramento, and San Francisco. I met my goal to read 15 books. I backcountry camped, ran my first trail race, and moved in with Jan.

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I spent a lot of time with my favourite people, including family and both new friends and old (Dana + Mark, my parents, Alyson, and Jenny came to visit!).

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I passed the final step of the LMCC and accepted a position as the new Sports Medicine Fellow at UBC.

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Fitness-wise, I ran a lot and PB’ed in the 5k, 10k, half and full marathon (I qualified for Boston!). I hiked a lot. I canoed and snowshoed and cycled and skied. Here’s a recap of my year on Strava!

Since I was on call on NYE, the night was pretty low key. To make the day awesome, though, Jan and I decided we would start the year by watching the sun rise on 2017 from Seymour Mountain. We convinced Sarah and Alyson to join us (the Joffre lakes crew!) and left downtown at 6.15 on New Year’s Day.

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We were at the alpine parking lot by 7.10, and started to snowshoe up. It was absolutely beautiful, very quiet and snowy.

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We arrived at Brockton Point just as the sun was coming up and the city was all pink and lovely. It’s pretty amazing to be the only ones on a mountain at sunrise and is my favourite way I’ve ever started a new year.

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At Brockton point, it was pretty windy (Jan: “It’s a SNOWSTORM!”), so we decided not to go any further. Instead, we headed back down the mountain and we were in Van for brunch at Burdock and Co. (yummy but a little pricey) by 10.30. It’s a pretty easy out and back trip, with small steeper ascents and lots of flatter terrain in between.

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I feel so lucky to be surrounded by awesome people and so much nature. Bring on 2017!