DIARY: Vancouver honeymoon

DSCF0032While Aoife is catching up on some jet-lag induced sleep, I’ll put pen to a few initial observations about Vancouver, more specifically North Vancouver, which is the site of our honeymoon.

Yours truly at Deep Cove

The readers who missed it have guessed from the introduction that I am now a “married man”. Whether it will lead to more responsible posting, time will tell (probably not!). I think the key point of my speech at the wedding was that marriage is not the end of new beginnings or the cessation of searching for new exciting shores. It just means you have someone along for the journey and, naturally, you have to ask their permission sometimes if they like the destination!

We had struggled to find a suitable spot for our honeymoon so it was a great surprise when an old friend, in the shape of Barry Tennyson, offered us to loan his apartment on the fringe of the Seymour mountain area in North Vancouver. Endless lush rain forest basically court the eye as you look out from here and the trails seem unending. In this case neither Aoife nor I needed much time to agree it was an ideal place to go for us.

Day 1 - morning run

After landing we were not up to much and relaxed befoDSCF0019re going straight to bed. We had agreed to rendezvous with Barry’s “Edgemont group”, a bunch of runner meeting 2-3 times per week at 5:45 for a one hour morning run followed by thirty minutes of gorgeous coffee in the Delaney’s coffee-store.

Aoife heading into the Old Buck trail in the grim morning rain!

With the time difference we were quite awake and it was great to meet a group of runners and be taken on an easy trot through the quiet morning streets. We spend most of the evening reading through Barry’s book “Vancouver Trail Running” to put together a bit of a plan. In addition, Barry had already preorganised maps and “running dates” for us.

Day 2 – first trail run

I tried to combine Barry’s notes with parts of two routes known as “Iron Lung” (described as “a proud tour of duty” course and the Bridle Circuit (“well-established technical trails”).

DSCF0030We decided to use the closest trail-head (“Old Buck Trail”) to gain access to the trail network and then ran upwards for 2 miles raising from 150m to 500m. What’s interesting about the Seymour mountain range is that most of the peaks are over 1500m, dwarfing Carrauntoohil, yet almost entirely covered in lush rain-forest. The peaks are still snow covered but the trail network primarily snakes through the lower slopes.

The Old Buck trail itself was extremely runnable but once we veered off it to take a different route down we got a taste for why there is a lot of hyperbole about the technicality of the Vancouver trails – the beating rain meant many paths where like streamlets and most were covered with enough rocks to make St. Kevin’s Way seem like a rubber mat. Gnarly roots are ever-present and you can run out of space real quick if you don’t stay on the ball. We ended up doing more of a run/hike through the challenging trails, enjoying every minute and staying out for a good 1 hour 50 minute run.

The plan ahead

Tomorrow we hope to meet Barry’s group for a morning trail run from Cleveland Dam around the Capilano canyon trails. In the afternoon, another running friend of Barry’s (yes, he’s a man of many friends, and understandably so!) will take us up the infamous “Grouse Grind” – an 853m climb over a mere 2.9km (a 29% ascent grade, well into the “terrible” section of the scale. The Grind is often called “Nature’s Stairmaster” locally. Barry took legendary Robbie Bryson here when he was in Vancouver to compete in the Fireman “Olympics”. You can get a card to time yourself against everyone else (there’s a screen at the top to show you the stats). Robbie duly set the second-fastest time ever recorded at the time.

Grouse Grind

For a long time a certain Jonathan Wyatt (whom regular readers will know as the one of the dominant, if not THE dominant, elite mountain runner of the recent era) held the record but local cyclist Sebastian Sales shattered it with his time of 23:48.

The summit is at 1127m and we hope to dine in the restaurant at the top afterwards before taking the gondola down (downhill running on the Grind is prohibited). The coolest feature is that you can send a text food order and expected arrival time at the top and have it ready courtesy of a “Grind Express Service”!

We don’t want to settle all our other plans yet, but hope to do the Stanley Park Seawall 10km loop (and perhaps the False Creek extension which would bring it up to 22km) as well as join another “tour-guided run” into the Lynn Valley area. To our chagrin our planned “Survival of the Fittest” run in Squamish was postponed so we are now considering doing the 13km or 18km course on our own instead on our way to Whistler on Sunday. In Whistler we expect to snowshoe and do cross-country skiing on Monday and Tuesday to take it a bit easier before seeing what other runs we may feel like fitting in next week.

DSCF0034Not all work

Now before anyone thinks we’re all work and no play, let me assure readers that we have sampled the best micro-brewed beers in the famous “Steamworx” pub (where I also bought what is allegedly the best “Choco-Stout” around), indulged in premium Italian ice-cream in the scenic Deep Cove (the dark chocolate sorbet is a keeper!) and gorged ourselves on the ever-present yam or sweet potato fries you can get as a “top-up” on most anything (they come heavily recommended, the poor old potato barely get’s a look-in!). The supermarkets also deserve a mention – they are 5-10 years ahead of poor old Europe in terms of putting together creative natural foods. This morning we managed to buy a cultured coconut milk (essentially yoghurt created by fermenting coconut milk) and there’s an almost endless supply of nut mixtures and other options that make it easy to indulge in high-nutrition foods.

As I write this I’m sipping away on a local speciality – Maple Black Tea – like many things it sounds so wrong yet is so right!