Canada, Part One: Vancouver, Garibaldi Provincial Park, & Whistler
Trip Dates: Wednesday, July 5th-July 8th, 2017 (part one)
In anticipation of my upcoming trip to the town of Muskoka in Ontario, Canada, I am going down memory lane to relive the beauty of another part of Canada in which I had the opportunity to explore this past summer: Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. Having been to Toronto several times thanks to growing up across the pond in Buffalo, New York, I was eager to delve into Vancouver and experience the Canadian culture once again, eh?! And so, Vancouver was the first official destination on my bucket list trip which also included stops at the magnificently gorgeous Jasper National Park and Banff National Park over in Alberta, Canada.
After a pretty epic road trip to Havasupai, the Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park in the Southwest United States, I took a few days to recuperate and then hopped on a plane bound for Vancouver. Landing around 3/4pm in the beginning of July meant only one thing: pick up the rental car and take advantage of the long summer days. I cruised over to a popular spot among both the locals and the tourists: Stanley Park, a public park that that is almost entirely surrounded by the waters of the Vancouver Harbor and English Bay. I had planned to watch the sunset while enjoying the mountain view from Third Beach but a stubborn hunger strike had other plans. I heard the sushi was great in Vancouver so I opted for Ki-Isu Japanese Restaurant although I actually wouldn't recommend it! Remember when I mentioned the long summer days? There was still time before the sunset and yet I just didn't know what to do with myself. Sleeping in the rental car wasn't an option so I found a place in Granville Island, Granville Island Hotel, using the app "HotelTonight" (use my code KRMUSCARELLA to save $25 off your HotelTonight booking!) and finally watched the sunset over the marina while enjoying a glass of wine before catching some Zzzs.
It was off to the races on day two, visiting the kitschy and crafty shops and public markets on Granville Island. I was really on the fence about spending another night in Vancouver as planned or making a break for nature a day early. So, while I didn't opt for the Brewery Tour at Granville Island Brewing, I still enjoyed a delicious lunch of peanut dip and a nice refreshing summer ale before doing what bookworms do: visiting the Vancouver Public Library. While the building designed by architect Moshe Safdie was undergoing some construction, the visit was still worthwhile as I was able to see the resemblance of the modern-day Colosseum. Did you know the Colosseum design was actually Safdie's tribute to the ancient world, when the notion of libraries was first formed? Very cool! From the library I headed to Gastown, home of the Gastown Steam Clock, one of only seven steam clocks in the world! And then, I hit my breaking point. I simply could not be around people anymore. I could not handle the Vancouver traffic or the struggle to find parking spots or the accompanying anxiety. I thought to myself, "I have all of this in Los Angeles, I simply want to get away from the crowds" and so, I left much of Vancouver unseen and didn't look back.
In the 30-minute drive north to Lynn Canyon Park, I rolled down the windows and took in the lasting views of the Vancouver Harbor. Lynn Canyon is home to a multitude of trails including a suspension bridge, a highly recommended free alternative to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. After getting my much-desired photo on the suspension bridge, I had another difficult decision to make. The next item on the itinerary was backpacking to Garibaldi Lake but, remember when I left Vancouver a day ahead of schedule? By the time I left Lynn Canyon it was close to 4pm, I had an hour and a half drive to the Black Tusk Trailhead, AND my permit technically was not valid until the following evening! In "YOLO" type-fashion, I decided to drive to the trailhead via the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) and "make my decision then."
Knowing it was about 5:30pm when I arrived at the trailhead and that I had a 5.6 mile, 2600 feet of gain hike ahead of me and that the sun was not set to go down until around 8:40pm, I frantically relocated items from my suitcase to my Deuter and positioned my bear spray accordingly before it was off to the races. I was determined to solo backpack in a "foreign" country, not get eaten by bears and/or otherwise die, and Garibaldi Lake was by far the most perfect destination. Not only did I feel like a superstar hiking faster than I ever hiked before among the lush greenery (no, there was simply no time to stop for bug spray!), I was taken aback by the flowing waters and numerous pristine lakes. The further I climbed, the more beautiful it was. And, although I had a suspicion yet still much to my surprise, my home for the night was covered in snow. I vocalized my prayer of thanks to my bank account for my new sleeping bag and to the REI employees who encouraged me to get the insulated Nemo sleeping pad. I set up camp in the only 7'x5' piece of land I could find that was not covered in snow.
I marveled at the beauty of the snow on the mountains above the glacial lake while making my Mushroom Risotto/hot apple cider dinner and trying to capture the alpenglow. The gentlemen I passed on the trail finally strolled into camp and we chatted a bit before they estimated the temperature would get down to 20/30 degrees, immediately prompting me to bundle up and get cozy in my sleeping bag before I became an ice cube. All things considered, I slept okay and waited until the sun was shining on my tent before I defrosted and retreated to the lake for my not-so-favorite freeze-dried scrambled egg breakfast. I loved every second of my time at Garibaldi Lake and yearn for the day I can repeat this trip again. Taking my leisurely time and soaking up every inch I could, I finally returned to the trailhead safe and sound around 12:45pm.
My last stop before roadtripping to Alberta was Whistler, another 30-or so minutes away. Another tourist filled destination I probably could have done without, Whistler would appeal most to golfers in the summer months and skiers and snowboarders in the winter months. Me?
Well, I'm definitely not a golfer so I spent my time enjoying the drive on scenic Highway 99 and ultimately drove up to the Olympic Park and "Function Junction" before walking around Whistler's Marketplace and checking into my bunk at Hosteling International (Whistler) and taking a much needed shower. Two places to note: Elements Urban Tapas Parlour and Camp Lifestyle and Coffee Co. far exceeded my expectations. Elements offered phenomenal dinner options while Camp Lifestyle & Coffee Co. had the most perfect blend of coffee accompanied by a tranquil back patio complete with Adirondack chairs and campfire (plus some super cute souvenirs). Back at the hostel I met my bunk mate from the Eastern side of Canada who had just spent time in my next destination: Banff! She gave me some great suggestions and probably thought I was crazy for taking so many showers and leaving so early the following morning but I could not contain my excitement: I was finally going to visit the two national parks I had researched so extensively: Jasper & Banff! Consider this "To Be Continued..." post as the eight and a half hour drive that stood between me & the unparalleled mountain scenery of the Canadian Rockies!