After a brief hiatus, I am back with more travel stories!
On my previous trip, as I explored amazing places in different countries, I kept thinking about how much of my own country I have yet to see. Canada is known throughout the world for its natural beauty, and I certainly haven’t done it justice yet.
It just so happened that my sister wanted to take a trip out to the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta since we had never been before, so we booked 17 days for our west coast adventure. This first post will cover the B.C. portion of what I’m either going to call the “Sister Saga” or the “Madeleine Ordeal.”
We began our trip in Vancouver, after a beautiful flight from Ottawa over the Rocky Mountains.
We were picked up at the airport by our friend Mark, who was one of my mom’s closest friends and who let us stay with him while we were in Vancouver. His home in West Vancouver has a pretty great view.
For our first day, we decided to see the city itself and ended up walking around all day.
We began by walking across the city and taking a quick boat over to the peninsula appropriately named Granville Island.
Granville Island is a very cool place. There is a market, a brewery, a theatre, and many stores selling art. It was at the market that Madeleine began to showcase a very particular talent: I’m pretty sure she can sniff out free samples. Whether at the market or in downtown Vancouver, Madeleine had a talent at locating anything edible and free. She is also a talented photo-bomber.
Returning from Granville Island, we walked the Seawall Path to the inuksuk sculpture. Inuksuk are cairns found in the Arctic region built and used by the indigenous people there such as the Inuit. Their uses have included markers for hunting grounds or navigation, and they are now recognized as a Canadian symbol (as shown by the 2010 Olympics symbol). You can recognise the flag of the territory of Nunavut by the prominent inuksuk in the centre.
Fun fact about Nunavut, if Canada were to completely split up with its 3 territories and 10 provinces becoming their own countries, Nunavut would be the world’s 8th largest country. In fact, 8 of the 13 would be in the world’s 50 largest countries.
After our day in the city we were ready to get out and see some nature. We were advised to check out Lynn Canyon Park because it is beautiful and free. Madeleine wasn’t too thrilled with the suspension bridge, but she faced her fears and hurried across.
The trees here were absolutely giant. One of the items topping my West Coast list was seeing trees like this, so Lynn Canyon was a great start.
The first part of the path follows Lynn Creek up a bit to the “30 foot pool.” The water was clear, allowing us to see pretty far down.
At the pool the path diverges from the creek and brings you along a boardwalk through the forest. Madeleine inadvertently recreated the famous blurry photo of bigfoot.
From Lynn Canyon we drove to Deep Cove for lunch and more hikes.
We started at the Baden Powell Trail Head and began on the common trail. In a few minutes we found a less travelled branch that seemed to only have one direction: up.
The path led up to the Cove Forest and was completely worth the climb. We didn’t encounter anyone else on the way, which really made it feel like an adventure through the woods.
The trail ends at Quarry Rock. It affords a nice view of Deep Cove and reminds me of some Group of Seven paintings. The rain cleared the rock of all the picture takers to complete the view.
Having spent a day walking all around Vancouver and another day hiking, we were ready to sit for a bit. This actually worked nicely for our plans, since we took the day to drive to Whistler and back. To get there we drove the Sea-to-Sky Highway and stopped many times on the way.
We stopped first at Murrin Provincial Park to see Browning Lake.
Just before passing through the town of Squamish we stopped to see the Shannon Falls. Honestly, the entire drive was an experience in natural beauty.
Next up was the Brandywine Falls.
We soon arrived in Whistler, a small resort town best known for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.
We walked through town looking for food we could afford, then took the ski lift about halfway up one of the mountains.
Madeleine had been on the lookout for bears ever since we arrived in BC. She got quite a scare from a large black dog back in Lynn Canyon, but even now looking out over Whistler our bear count was at zero. Before leaving town we checked out Lost Lake, which was already a popular hangout for beach-goers.
We then continued to enjoy the mountain + ocean scenery all the way back to Vancouver.
We had now been staying in Vancouver for a few days without seeing Stanley Park. This had to be fixed.
There are a number of totem poles in the park that are quite impressive. Totem poles are an example of indigenous Northwest Coast art. If you live in Canada, you’ve likely seen examples of this style of art – it’s pretty distinct. The plaques included in front of the totem poles were a great introduction to understanding them, as they included a breakdown of what was carved. By the last one we were fairly good at differentiating between a raven and a thunderbird. There was a recently carved totem pole there by a member of the Squamish nation, the others are replicas of ones kept in a museum out of the elements.
During all of our sightseeing, we were thoroughly enjoying our stay with Mark. We were treated to stories about our mom, and benefited greatly from his advice on the Vancouver sights. On our final day we went together on a hike to a lighthouse, then he treated us to a fancy dinner of BC salmon at a restaurant overlooking the harbour.
Having finished off Vancouver in style, we took the ferry the next day over to Victoria. Victoria was a beautiful city with the possible exception of the street our hostel was on. We were hoping that the transition from staying in a house to staying in a hostel wouldn’t be too rough, but the first thing our new roommate (who was wearing a cowboy hat with a dream catcher tied on the back) said was that he thinks Bush did 9/11. Super.
We did some walking around town that brought us down to Beacon Hill Park and the coastal walk looking across the water to the mountains in Washington. In Beacon Hill Park is Mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway and a statue to Terry Fox. The statue is there because it is where he would have finished his cross Canada run.
Victoria’s harbour was picturesque, between the house boats and the provincial parliament buildings. Madeleine and I spent about an hour playing cards in the shade on the parliament’s lawn.
It was Madeleine’s idea and priority that when we visited Victoria we had to go whale watching. We found a reasonably priced tour and took our chances, hoping to see something. It turns out we were quite lucky, since we saw both humpback whales and orcas! That was a highlight of the trip, and we were able to add humpbacks and orcas to our Canadian wildlife list.
We were fairly content at this point with what we had seen of BC, but everyone and their mother told us that The Butchart Gardens were a must see. We aren’t exactly garden types, but we decided to give it a try.
I was getting a strong Alice in Wonderland vibe at first, until we got to the rose garden that didn’t yet have any roses, (so just pretend the arches have big red roses and look really nice).
We had mixed feelings about the gardens. They were very pretty, but they were also pretty expensive and we were on a budget, but we also weren’t exactly in the target demographic, so take that as you will.
Our final day in Victoria was fantastic because we met up with my old high-school friend Danica. She’s the type of hilarious and kind person who puts you in a good mood just because of how fun it is to be around her.
We were lucky enough to have her as our guide for the day, and she took us on a hike down to Mystic Beach. We spent the hike comparing and contrasting what we thought it would be like to die by cougar attack vs. bear attack.
We ended the day at a beach with mammoths made of driftwood and the Washington mountains once again in the background. After a fantastic day of catching up, we said goodbye to Danica and returned to our hostel, ready to begin the Alberta part of our trip the next day.