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Travel

Hiking Hollyburn Mountain

Yesterday I went to another place I’ve never been. Although I had committed to this project as a weekend thing, it seems to have spilled over into the weekdays and I’m loving it. It feels great to be making the most of the summer and this amazing weather we’ve been spoiled with.

The original plan was to hike up to Lynn Peak at Lynn Valley, but due to traffic issues, we decided on a change of venue and ended up heading to hike Hollyburn Moutnain.

It was an easier hike with a few tougher bits that Roxie found to be a challenge and needed some coaxing (and lifting?) to overcome them, but she did it! (Good Doggie!)

I would definitely recommend bringing bug repellent if you plan to do this hike, the mozzies were brutal! Lucky for me, I’m never a mosquito’s first choice on the buffet when there are other people around, so my hiking companion got the brunt of it. So yes, bug spray and a long sleeved shirt for times when it becomes unbearable are recommended.

When we arrived at the top, it was nearing sunset and these were the views we were rewarded with. Simply beautiful!

More images will soon be available on Flickr.

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(These are just iPhone shots for now, stay tuned for updated images.)

 

Prepping for Sochi!

The countdown is at 206 days and I’m finding myself thinking more and more about Sochi!

I spent the weekend playing tourist in Whistler over the  past weekend, which included a little photoshoot at the 2010 Olympic sites. I figure I should collect some fun images for when I head to Russia next February to use on my social media profiles. So here are a couple of images, and I’ll be collecting more over the coming months, as the countdown continues…

Whistler Olympic Rings

 

Canada Flag

Nairn Falls

I’ve been to Whistler more times than I can count, but this weekend my aunt was visiting from the Netherlands, and I spent the weekend being a tourist in the Whistler area. So, after meeting up with my family on Friday afternoon, we headed out to the Nairn Falls provincial campground, near Pemberton.

It had been a while since I had camped, so this was a treat, especially since I had never been to Nairn Falls before. My aunt and I (and Roxie too, of course) took a walk to the falls and I was once again amazed by the beauty of nature and this amazing place we live in. Wow!

The last few times that I’ve been out for walks and hikes in the forest, I have been reminded of the beauty that surrounds me. It’s so easy to get distracted and forget while living in the city. I have been inspired to get out of the city more and get back to more hikes, walks, and trail runs in the woods. More nature. More camping. More fresh air. We are so lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and summer is the perfect time to get out and appreciated more of it!

Other local favorites: the trails and swim holes at Lynn Valley, Pacific Spirit Park, the beaches at Spanish Banks, the Grouse Grind, the Chief in Squamish, Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville.

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite places to hike, walk, camp, and reconnect with the beauty of nature. (local or otherwise) Please feel free to share them in the comments, and if I haven’t seen them yet, I may add them to my list!

Exploring New Territory

This summer I’ve been truly appreciating this beautiful place that I live in. As a result I’ve have been inspired and made the commitment to explore a new place every weekend.

This began with Canada Day long weekend. I didn’t exactly explore a new place that weekend, but rather a new craft. Per my previous post, it was a double birthday weekend extravaganza and I was on cake duty. Being more of a pie baker than a cake baker, I took on the project of creating unforgettable birthday cakes for my nephew and my dad. Here are the results:

Spider-Man Cake Dad's Cake

The second weekend in July started out with a beautiful Friday evening sunset with a new friend in Horseshoe Bay. Although I’ve been to and through Horseshoe Bay countless times to catch the ferry, actually sitting and appreciating a sunset with a glass of wine was something I had never enjoyed before.

Dad's Cake

Chilliwack Lake
Then Saturday brought me out to Chilliwack. Chilliwack has always been a place I’ve driven through, and maybe stopped for gas, on my way to camping in Manning Park or the Okanagan. I had never actually stopped and explored or appreciated that area. A friend invited me to stay at her family’s cabin on the Chilliwack River that weekend. It was so beautiful there and I had such a wonderful relaxing time walking along the river, enjoying a campfire and relaxing at Chilliwack Lake! Thank you Deanna, it was a quickie road trip to remember!

And so my summer of #ExploreBC shall continue with at least one new adventure each weekend until Labour Day and beyond!

Chilliwack Lake

 

 

 

 

Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch

With just over a year until the 2014 Winter Games (389 days), the torch was unveiled last night, as we slept here in Vancouver.

The torch has a fun, modern and elegant design, and I, personally, am loving that they used the traditional Russian red! The Olympic torch’s Paralympic counterpart is blue. You can see an image of it here.

Some information about the torch, quoted from the Sochi 2014 Facebook page:

Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch

“The concept behind the torch for the 2014 Games is based on the contrasts of Russia. It combines motifs from Russian folklore with ideas of innovation and technological breakthroughs. Its pattern is something that all Russians have been familiar with since childhood, when they first hear the fairy-tales and legends about the Firebird, or the Phoenix which rose from the ashes.

The torch design was developed by a Russian creative team, led by Vladimir Pirozhkov and Andrei Vodyanik. The designers paid particular attention to the torch’s construction and its flame-lighting system. The construction of the torch ensures that the flame burns reliably in difficult conditions, such as strong winds, heavy frosts or any surprises that a Russian winter can throw up.

The torch weighs nearly 1.8 kg, is 0.95 m tall, 0.145 m wide (at its widest part), and 0.54 m deep. Its weight and center of gravity were carefully calculated so as to make the torch as comfortable as possible to carry whilst running. The torch and its component parts have been put through numerous tests, and have been tested in the harshest of conditions. 14,000 Olympic torches will be produced.”
(Torch image source: Sochi 2014 Facebook page)

I had the opportunity to get up close and personal to both the Vancouver and London Olympic torches, and now I’m looking forward to picking up the 2014 torch in Sochi! I’m very excited to make that a reality! Less than 389 days to go!

      

For more images of the Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic torches, please visit the Sochi 2014 Flickr page.

A Personal Favorite of Roxie

Roxie at the park by mariskar
Roxie at the park, a photo by mariskar on Flickr.

It was a beautiful fall day at the park! Sunshine on one side, and dark, moody clouds on the other. Gotta love Instagram for the added effects.

Muiden, Holland

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Muiden, Holland, a set on Flickr.

A Side Trip to London and the 2012 Olympics

Earlier this summer I took a last minute, unexpected trip to the Netherlands for family reasons. It just so happened that it was timed perfectly with the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. So I thought to myself, “should I go to London?” The answer, of course, was, “hells yes, you should go to London!!” I was already most of the way there, and all that stood between me and experiencing that amazing Olympic energy again was a small puddle jump across the English Channel! I know I would have regretted it, had I not gone.

So upon a trusted recommendation, I navigated to the EasyJet website, one of Europe’s low cost airlines, and for about $200 CAD I booked my return ticket from Amsterdam to London Gatwick. From there I needed a train ticket to get into London proper. After a quick Google search I came upon the Gatwick Express site, and booked a ticket for about $45 CAD return, which went right to London’s Victoria station. Easy!

Finally, accommodations… I was very fortunate and thankful to the generosity of friends who were in London for the Games, and I was able to stay with them in the flat they had rented in Kensington. Awesome! I was set! On to London!!

As it was my first time in London, I spent a day exploring some of the well known landmarks and historical areas. I started in Hyde Park at Kensington Palace and slowly made my way, mostly on foot, to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The best part though (and thanks to James and Greg for giving me the ticket!), was the athletics event at the Olympic stadium! This was my first summer Olympics, so I was very excited about attending an official Olympic event! It was truly amazing to watch the athletic ability of the competitors! Their speed and talent was incredible to watch! I’m so grateful for having these two amazing friends who helped make it all happen for me!

I’d also like to send out a HUGE thank you to the Olympic Party Boys, James Mazur and Greg Mazur, for their generosity and hospitality that made my London adventure such an unforgettable experience! You guys are incredible and I’m so very grateful for your friendship and epic awesomeness! Big love to you both! 

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For more travel images, please visit my Flickr page.

 

A Thailand Liveaboard Adventure

I arrived in Thailand at the end of March 2011 armed with my PADI Open Water certification and a mere 7 dives under my belt. After a Scuba Review dive with terrible visibility off Koh Tao, I did the Enriched Air Nitrox specialty course and then the Advanced Open Water course at Buddha View Dive Resort, with PADI instructor, and friend, Robert Scales.

On the dive boat off Koh Tao. Diving on Koh Tao

For my PADI Advanced Open Water Course, I chose to do deep, navigation, peak buoyancy, night and, of course, photography as my adventure dives to complete the course.

Everything went smoothly, and I did not feel the effects of nitrogen narcosis during the deep dive segment. I was fairly nervous about doing the night dive. Diving in the dark, where you can see only where your light shines was hugely intimidating for me. But surprisingly, I found it to be very peaceful and even relaxing. It was probably my best dive experience off Koh Tao.

So, just like that, 3 days later, I was an Advanced Open Water Diver! Yes!!

So… The whole purpose of doing the Advanced Open Water course was to do a three day liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock with Eden Divers in Khao Lak. Our experience with Eden Divers was better than I could have imagined. Never having done a liveaboard before, I was unsure what I should expect, but this far exceeded my expectations!

 

We chose Eden Divers because of the small number of people on the boat. The Sea of Fantasy can take up to 13 liveaboard guests plus crew. We were not interested in going out on a massive boat with 30+ people, where you would constantly be running into people while diving. 13 seemed like it would be a much better and intimate experience. So, we splurged (just a tiny splurge) and booked ourselves one of the two air conditioned master cabins on the ship. Awesome!

The trip included 5 amazing meals a day, coffee, tea, drinking water, fruit and snacks, and you could also purchase soft drinks and beer on the ship, or bring your own. You could do up to four dives each day and if you were nitrox certified (which I now was), the nitrox was included at no extra cost. And to top it all off our guide, Fariborze, was amazing!

Diving courses were also available on the boat, as each guide is a certified instructor. So, for example, if you didn’t have your nitrox certification when you boarded the ship, you could upgrade your knowledge and skills while on the trip and do your dives on nitrox. We had one fellow guest who had started her Open Water course a couple of days before the trip, and she completed it on the boat and decided to also do her Advanced Open Water and Nitrox courses on the boat as well.

The crew on the boat was nothing short of awesome! Our rooms were cleaned and made up each day. The meals we ate were super tasty. The deck crew below, helping with our gear thought of everything before we even had a spark of an idea in our minds. We barely had to do anything except climb into our wetsuits, strap on our BCDs and jump in the 29 celsius water! Awesome!

So, on to the fun stuff! What did we see….??? We woke up on the first day to a tornado/water spout! Very cool! We did 11 dives over 3 days and saw all kinds of crazy creatures: lion fish, dancing shrimp, many giant moray eels and barracudas, many different nudibranchs, trigger fish, box fish (one of my favourites), black spotted puffer fish, porcupine fish, groupers, travellys, the biggest lobster I’ve EVER seen (I’m probably evil for wanting to see it on my plate…), sea horses, harlequin shrimp, ghost pipefish, trumpet fish, jans pipefish, spider crabs, leopard sharks, napoleon wrasse, bandit sea snakes (very poisonous), stone fish, scorpion fish, honeycomb moray eels, and that just scratches the surface! Of course we saw all of the more common creatures like clown fish, anemones, urchins, corals, etc. The two things I was really hoping to encounter were the manta rays and a whale shark, but they did not reveal themselves to us on this adventure. It just means I will have to keep looking and finding many other critters in the process!

So as I stepped off the ship, I now had logged 24 dives in my log book, and I feel much more confident underwater.

It’s funny… when most people look out at the ocean, they have no idea of what lies beneath. There truly is a whole other world on this planet that we share, and I have not even scratched the surface with what I have seen. I could get used to being on the water more. A different view each time you look out, and a new world to explore each time you jump overboard. Doesn’t sound half bad. I could get used to that life.

A HUGE thank you Eden Divers for an amazing experience in the Similan Islands! Thank you Fariborze for being a brilliant guide! And thank you Robert, for being my instructor and dive buddy throughout our Thailand diving adventures! The trip was truly amazing.

[miniflickr photoset_id=72157626990617591&sortby=date-posted-asc&per_page=48]

 

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park 89 by mariskar
Elephant Nature Park 89, a photo by mariskar on Flickr.

My visit to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand was one of the most amazing experiences ever! This is a photo of my favourite pachyderm at the park, Medo.