Tag Archives: whistler

Hiking the Stawamus Chief

Oh hello!  That’s right, I am still alive, and I am still living in Canada.  After a three-month trip back home, I came back to British Columbia in March, and now live in Vancouver.

It’s very different living in the city, as opposed to Whistler where many outdoor activities are right there on your doorstep.  I’ve got very lazy and not done many hikes, I haven’t run in ages, and I don’t even have a bike anymore.  So when I was invited to a group hike of The Chief in Squamish, I jumped at the chance.  Well, not a literal jump, because I’m lazy, remember?

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I’ve wanted to hike The Chief since I first moved here (almost three years ago, what?!), but never really had the chance as I don’t have a car, and it’s pretty hard to get to on public transport.  I knew it was going to be challenging, especially as I am seriously unfit right now, but I did not anticipate just how gruelling it would be.  Brutal, that’s the word I have been using to describe it.

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This was the view about 3/4 of the way up.  We were about an hour and a half in at this point, and I was flagging big time.  Actually, to be fair, I had been flagging from ten minutes in.  I should have been drinking water right from the start, not waiting until we stopped for a break.

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Yeah, those are chains screwed into the rock face to pull yourself up with.

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That’s the view from the top.  Gorgeous, and totally worth it.

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After rehydrating and having some lunch, we began the trek back down, which was equally as difficult.  Let’s just say, going backwards down ravines is not the easiest thing for someone as uncoordinated as me.

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When we finally made it back to the car, four hours later, we headed to a lake to chill out and enjoy the sun… but when we got to the lake it suddenly became overcast

 

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Even though every single muscle in my body aches, and I can barely move today, I’m really glad I did it.  I’m also really glad that we went in the morning, before it got hot and before the trails got busy.

Maybe I’ll get back into the outdoors…

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Running.

Whistler is a very active place.  People make full use of the mountains; in winter they ski and snowboard, and in summer they bike and hike.  There are trails made specifically for walkers/runners/cyclists so that no one has to travel at the side of the motorway.
Frequently walking past all these active people started to make me feel lazy.  I wanted to start doing something.  A few years ago I started running for a brief spell, then I moved to England for university and stopped.  Since I had done it before, and it didn’t require the purchase of any expensive equipment (aside from proper shoes), I decided to take up running again, only ‘for real’ this time.

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This is the first pair of proper running shoes I’ve owned, and wow, it really makes a difference.  It’s a bit of an upfront cost, but it’s definitely worth investing in a pair of proper runners that are designed to support your feet and ankles.

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I started out with no real plan.  I just jogged/ran for as long as I could and then slowed down to a walk until I felt able to go faster again.  If you follow me on Instagram (@njmarcus), you may have noticed that a lot of my photos lately have been around Lost Lake.  This area is perfect for running because there are no vehicles, just cyclists, walkers and runners.  Plus, it’s a beautiful area.

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I have to go running first thing, otherwise I won’t go.  It’s never a good idea to head out on an empty stomach, but at the same time it’s unwise to exercise with a full stomach.  I’ve found that, for me, the perfect thing is a small glass of fresh smoothie.  I blend a banana, a handful of strawberries, some orange juice and soy milk.  Or a few slices of peach, or fresh mango, or apple, or grapes.  Or whatever I have in the fridge that morning.
I like to set off about half an hour after I’ve had my smoothie, so in that in-between time I get dressed into my running gear, and set out my clothes for the day so when I get home I can just hop in the shower then get ready.

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After about three or four weeks of just running, somewhat aimlessly, I decided I needed more structure, and maybe something to aim for.  I’ve said (mainly to myself) for quite a while that I want to run a marathon some day, but it’s gone no further than me thinking that.  To be honest, it’s something I’ve thought would be awesome to do, but at the same time I knew I could never actually do.
I read quite a few health and fitness blogs, and I read Katie’s post about surprising her sister by turning up to run a half marathon with her.  Then I flicked through some other posts on her blog, and saw all these other people posting their accomplishments and achievements, and something in me just clicked and I thought maybe I could do this.  But not on my own.

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I mulled it over while I ran by the lake that morning, and by the time I got back, I decided to look into races I could possibly enter.  The first one I found was the Whistler Half Marathon, which is happening this weekend.  Uh, yeah, I’m not quite ready for that.  I knew that for any type of race, no matter how short, I needed time to prepare and train.  So anyway, I searched and searched, and finally found a 5k in Ireland in October.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I’m going to be back home for the whole of October (to be my big sister’s Maid of Honour, woo!), and so I pitched it to my family to see if anyone would run it with me, and virtually train with me.  Turns out my family are an easily led bunch ;)  Even my dad agreed to run.

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5 kilometres may seem like nothing to some people, but to me it is huge.  I’ve never done something like this before, so while I am excited, I am pretty nervous.

Since the decision has been made, I’ve started the Couch to 5k training program, which promises to have me ready to run 5k in nine weeks.  I’m at the end of week one, so I have a long way to go, but I am so happy to be actively (excuse the pun) doing something about this dream.  Right now I feel like I am walking more than I am running, but as the saying goes, you don’t have to go fast, you just have to go.

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The Hemloft

The Hemloft is a famous, but secret egg-shaped tree house in the forest somewhere in Whistler.  Basically, the guy who built it did it over a period of a few years, entirely in secret.
A few weeks ago it was reported that he was going to take it down (mainly because it was illegal; he built it on crown land), and so we knew that if we wanted to find it we had to stop putting it off.
Because of the lengths the creator went to to keep it secret, anyone who has since found it has honoured this by not disclosing its location.  Meaning we couldn’t just Google it and set off.   A previous manager of Jay’s was actually one of the first people to find it, so we called her to ask for some help.  We still went the wrong way, but thanks to Elias and Xavier being proper fearless explorers in the wilderness, we found it.

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Walking across there was actually kind of scary.  It’s way higher up than it looks; the whole tree house hangs on a precipice.

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L-R: Rachel, Elias, Jay, Xavier and me.

The Hemloft was dismantled and relocated two days after we found it.  It was such an impressive structure, especially when you consider that all the materials and  huge pieces of timber were carried in by hand, sometimes at 3am, over some very rough terrain.
It looked so impressive, and was well worth the slippery, icy hike (which resulted in me falling into a snow ditch up to my thighs).

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Alta Lake, frozen.

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When we first got to Whistler and were staying at the hostel, we walked past this lake every day on our way to the village.  Since we moved into the house, it’s no longer on our route, so we hadn’t been back since.  When I was offered a half day at work yesterday (while I was actually at work), I decided to take it for once, and we used the afternoon to walk to the lake (on our way to our post box, the bank and post office).
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I had to get another photograph of Jay here, as I have one of her in this spot before the lake froze (in this post).  You can also see me leaning on those handles in my current blog header.

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Jay took off right into the middle of the lake, whereas I was quite tentative as the edges were slushy, and really, it doesn’t feel right to walk on a lake.  Anyway, I felt less nervous when I saw a group of teenagers playing ice hockey in the centre.

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When I first glanced at this, I thought it was a sailing boat that had been left without its moorings and had then become frozen into the lake.  Once I saw it moving it became clear that it is some kind of cool ice boat thing.  That’s as far as my knowledge on that goes.

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Aside from seeing the lake in a totally different way than it was the last time I was there, it felt pretty awesome to have my camera back out again after more than a month.

On an unrelated note, Jay broke her leg five weeks ago.  She’s doing pretty well to be walking on an icy lake, eh?

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Finding inspiration.

Somewhere along the way, I ran out of things to talk about.
Even living in a beautiful, faraway place, life falls into a routine, and I have nothing new to say.
I haven’t picked up my camera in weeks, and I struggle to read more than a chapter of a book at a time (although that’s possibly because the book I’m currently reading isn’t great).

I find myself constantly craving inspiration; I want to write, but what about?  Then I chastise myself, because it seems ridiculous to have to search for inspiration when I live at the foot of two mountains, surrounded by lakes and trails and animals I’ve never seen ‘in real life’ until now.

I love how Lisa Leonard puts it:
“Inspiration is a really fluid and natural thing for me, and I’ve learned how to nurture it more.  I used to wait for it to strike and just see what it was, but now I’ve found that if I really slow down, and expose myself to beautiful things, concrete ideas start to form.  So I’ll take notes and I’ll make sketches, and it’s so fun to see inspiration start from something very vague, and turn into an idea, and then into something concrete, and then into a mock-up, and then finally into a finished product.  That’s probably my favourite part: seeing the finished product.”

I need to work on this; seeking out and nurturing inspiration.
Of course it’s not going to just present itself to me.  I need to look for it, harness it and turn it into something.  How can I have lost this precious art?
How do I get it back, and where do I begin?

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On learning to ski.

I had hoped that as soon as I put a pair of skis on it would feel like the most natural thing, like I was born to do it, like there was some gene in my body that was finally going to get its chance to shine.
Sadly, that has not happened.  But I have not given up.

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That’s me and my wonderful friend Alice who has been helping me to ski while she snowboards (she can do both. I am so envious).

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That’s me down there, snowploughing like a champ.

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I think part (most?) of the problem is my fear.  Until November 2012 I had never been on a snowy mountain before.  Then suddenly I was on a literal slippery slope, surrounded by all this terminology that quite frankly, frightened me.  Piste, green run/blue run/black run (and let’s not talk about the double black diamond.  The name itself assures me that I will undoubtedly die if I ever find myself on one of those), powder days, bindings…
All these knowledgeable people with their fancy equipment, big words and passion for snow sports intimidated me.  Although I know what those words mean now, and I have all the equipment I need, I am still scared.  I like to stick to the same runs that I know, and to take my time.  I have had three ski lessons, and countless days practising with Jay, Alice and other people.  While I really appreciate all these people helping me, I would love to have someone to ski with who is at the same level as me.  I hate feeling like I am holding everyone else back.
Perhaps if I had a week or two where I could go up every day and just take a few solid lessons, I would improve.  Who am I kidding?  My legs could not take that.
I work five days a week so doing a ‘crash course’ isn’t possible. ( I actually work in the kids program in Whistler, so I watch as children as young as three years old go from total novices to confident mini skiers within a week.  There is definitely a lot to be said for learning skiing or snowboarding as a child.)

For now, I will keep on going, and try to shake off my fear of losing control and racing head-first into a tree before falling off the edge of a cliff.

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What about you?  When did you learn to ski or board?  Do you think it’s more difficult to learn as an adult?
I’d love to hear what you think (and any tips are always welcome).
:)

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A pictorial round up of my 2012

I was going to post one photo I took from each month in 2012, and then quickly realised that I couldn’t narrow them down.  At all.
Some months I had dozens that I love, and other months I had barely any.
So I apologise for this hodge podge post with far too many photographs that I’ve already posted this year :)

January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August (sorry, there are a lot for August)

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September

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October

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November

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December

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I hope that your 2012 was great, and your 2013 is wonderful.

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Merry Christmas

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Hope your Christmas was/is merry and bright :)

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The past few days.

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It snowed for three days straight.
I found myself in a snow bank to my waist.
I slipped on the driveway (more than once).
I skied my first real run.
I promised to make my brie and cranberry filo parcels for my work Christmas party, and then saw the price of brie here.  Not one to back out, I gritted my teeth and bought it. (Now I just have to make them)

Skyping my older sister this morning after weeks of trying to arrange a time that suited both of our schedules and time differences, was definitely worth it.  Opening an early Christmas gift and seeing her Christmas tree made me feel festive for the first time this season.
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Thanks for the goodies Suz and Dan :)

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More pictures of snow, essentially.

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It’s a slippery hike up to our front door.

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That’s me, doing what I do best: working hard.

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Jay moved over to the dark side and bought a snowboard.

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I learned my lesson about going up the mountain without covering up properly; my lips became really chapped and I got some nasty coldsores :(  This face/neck warmer is perfect because I can still breathe through it easily.

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See that chair lift on the left there?  I went on that, yeah!  It’s pretty scary to do it for the very first time (and the second, and third time actually), but I didn’t die and that was my main objective.
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Whistler Upper Village looks so festive.

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The street I live on is pretty awesome.

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I know it’s hard to make it out in this photo, but that is a bird sitting on Jay’s hand.  Outside my work there are a lot of trees and dozens of these birds live in the trees, and I guess over time they’ve become accustomed to being around a lot of people.  If you hold your hand out at arm’s length with a piece of food on it, the birds will come and eat right out of your hand.

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This is the view out of my window as I write this evening.
Beautiful.

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