Live Out There Exclusive: “Hiking on the Sunshine Coast”

I love the Sunshine Coast.

It is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and inherently centering places I have ever been, and I am lucky enough to have very generous parents-in-law who let Marc and I spend time up at their beautiful cabin in this area of B.C.

Even better? The hiking is amazing. Over at Live Out There, I have waxed long and eloquent about how much I love this (literal) neck of the woods.

The Sunshine Coast is one of the best places to hike in British Columbia. From Sechelt to Powell River, the possibilities for exploring the outdoors are many and varied. I first ventured up this way thirteen years ago with my now husband for our first weekend getaway. Some of my favourite things I remember about those three days were the fantastic hikes we did whilst there.

The best part about this area is that there is something for everyone: easy trails for the beginner hiker, mid-length routes for the more advanced, and multi-day overnights for the truly adventurous.

Read on for more!

Nothing to fear, but fear itself. (But also dying. That too.)

Want to know a secret?

This past week I ran away.

Well, not really.

On Tuesday night, I left behind the rainy streets of Vancouver, in exchange for the rainy shores of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.

(That’s a paradox, no? A rainy Sunshine Coast?)

For the next two and a bit days, I camped out in front of a fire and wrote, ran, read (and Netflixed) my little heart out.

It was the VWOZNOW solo retreat extravaganza of 2014!

You see, at my job, (which I love), I accrue quite a bit of overtime, and I am lucky enough that I am able to bank these hours and take them as time in lieu.

Which means that before the bell strikes twelve on December 31st, I am required to use up all of this vacation, lest it all be for not.

So being that time was a-ticking, and knowing how much I love the wild woods of our province’s eerily beautiful (and desperately sodden) temperate rain forest, Marc suggested that I take a bit of this time and have an adventure or two on my own.

Sad of course that he couldn’t join me, I did quite like the idea. I mean, how often is it that you are gifted with extra days off, combined with the chance to do all of the things you love so dearly?

So, after work on Tuesday, I jumped in our little car and drove to Horseshoe Bay to catch the 5:20pm ferry.

I arrived a little early, so I bought a chai latte and walked around the village, marvelling at the strings of Christmas lights, twinkling along the darkening waterfront.

Clutching my umbrella and trying my best to dodge the many puddles freckling the almost-empty streets, I wished that I had brought a pair of gloves and that I had thought to wear better shoes.

Once back in the safety and warmth of my car, I engaged in some Twitter tomfoolery with the CBC’s As It Happens, and was for a brief moment, a social media superstar.

When I arrived at the Langdale terminal an hour or so later, I hit the road in earnest. I swore it could have been two o’clock in the morning, what with how dark the evening had fallen. It was also raining like a raining thing, which forced me to be extra careful as I drove.

I stopped briefly in Sechelt to purchase some stuff for dinner and breakfast, as well as a bottle of wine and a bag of G.H. Cretors Chicago Mix popcorn, because, alas, I am addicted to this crack-cocaine (disguised as popcorn) life-ruining snack.

ADDICTED.

Anywho, I was soon back in the driver’s seat and on my way to the cabin. I had made three mixed CDs for the trip, and in between my loud singing jags, I listened to a number of interviews on the on-going botch-up of Veteran’s Affairs here in the Great White North.

(Hence the need for the loud singing jags.)

Eventually I made it to my home-away-from-home around seven o’clock, and I set about to settling in.

Unfortunately I was met with two, how shall I say, uncomfortable and unforeseen circumstances that needed immediate attending.

The first was that both of the cabin’s fire alarms were out of batteries and they were going off at different intervals.

Now, anyone who has ever before heard a fire alarm knows that their sounds are incredibly jarring and weirdly disturbing. Plus, one of them had a voice that kept announcing the same phrases over and over again: “LOW BATTERY – DISABLE” or “CARBON MONOXIDE – MONOXIDE DE CARBON” or “FIRE – FEU”.

(You’ve got to love living in a bilingual country as it affords you the curtesy of having the crap scared out of you in both of our official languages! I look forward to thanking my parents for all of those years in French immersion come the day when I burn to death in a very unfortunate Dark Souls-related candle accident.)

Anyways, the other unfortunate factor was that when I entered the kitchen – after putting my bags into the bedroom – I noticed that the second door (the one that opens into the kitchen) was about five to six inches ajar.

Meaning, open.

To the night air.

YIKES.

I stood there, frozen, feeling my blood run cold.

“SERIAL” and “KILLER” I think were the first two words that popped into my head.

Let me tell you, the fact every thirty seconds two separate fire alarms kept going off, announcing my impending and immediate doom, was one thing I really could have dealt without (especially at what seemed like a very critical juncture of my life.)

Grabbing my phone, I texted Marc.

He didn’t understand what I was talking about, so I phoned him and explained the situation as succinctly and as quickly as I could.

As he voiced his concern, I tried to find a sharp, easily wieldable knife.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“I am going to go room by room with you on the phone. With this paring knife,” I explained.

I looked down at the small blade in my hand.

“Good luck,” I told myself.

In hindsight, really, not that brilliant of a scheme.

As the hilarious Jackie over at Ambling and Rambling put it when I afterwards told her of my cunning plan:

Oh, so, [Marc] could hear you being murdered by the man who disarmed you?

To which I replied:

EXACTLY.

Anyways, I managed to swallow all of my thoughts of Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees, and searched the entire place.

Once convinced that I was, indeed, alone, I set about to finally quieting the damned fire alarms.

An electrician, folks, I am not.

However, I did eventually manage to silence my bilingual nemesis. I then made a giant fire and turned on the first Neil Diamond record I could find.

By this point I was pretty hungry, but between my shattered nerves and ringing ear drums, every single notion I had about cooking a meal had flown right out the window.

So I just opened the bag of popcorn and poured myself a giant glass of wine.

Which, all in all, was not a bad way to kick off a relaxation retreat.

(Oh, and the popcorn and wine helped too.)

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Life. Period.

I recently wrote about the time I spent completing Camp Potlach’s “Leadership in Training” course.

Here is a short, seemingly unbelievable, (but one hundred per cent true) anecdote from my time spent as a camper.

You’ve been warned.

During the summer of 2001, myself and five other teenagers – along with our two counsellors – camped, kayaked, canoed, and hiked our way around BC’s beautiful Howe Sound.

While our group had a base location about a twenty-minute hike away from the camp’s regular cabins and common rooms, this space was rarely used, and we spent the majority of our three weeks together sleeping under the stars on the many different islands and inlets populating this stretch of provincial land.

It was a magical time, truly.

The weather has hot, but not blindingly so; our skin cooled by an ever-present breeze and the long reaching shadows of sky-high Douglas firs and willowy evergreens.

In the mornings we would hike, or complete long (and sometimes treacherous) channel crossings. In the afternoons we would swim, or write in our journals, and in the evenings we’d each take turns practicing our fire-starting skills, while others would perfect their bear-hangs.

One morning, about two-thirds of the time into our course, I started my period.

I approached my counsellor Jane and asked her if she had a tampon that I could use. Although sympathetic to my situation, she informed me that I would have to do without, seeing as though one of the central tenants of our program was to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

We were to produce minimal waste.

Smiling a smile that clearly articulated, “I’m feeling for ya girl”, Jane handed me the next best thing: one of her unused bandanas.

“For inside your shorts,” she explained.

“Oh.” I said. “Thank you.”

So for the next two days I ran about with a balled-up piece of cloth in my underwear – washing, rinsing and drying it during my afternoon dips in the Pacific Ocean.

It was the most ‘White Fang’ I’ve ever felt in my life.

The morning of the third day, we awoke at the crack of dawn in order to pick blackberries before setting off on a three hour channel crossing.

We had been eating plain instant oatmeal every morning for almost two weeks, and as such, we were eager to add anything adventurous flavour-wise to the mix, in order slow what was our rapidly deteriorating interest in this staple.

As I hastily ran off into the bushes to pee one last time before we shipped off, I noticed that I had a huge stain on the back of my shorts. However, being susceptible as we were to tide charts, and cruise ship courses, time was of the essence, and I didn’t have time to change.

If you remember from my earlier post, my canoe partner was named Christian – a Denis Leary loving, would-be paramour (in his dreams only!), who would sing me “German” opera in the morning (think Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda), pick me “wildflowers” (weeds) and regale me with an endless litany of racist, sexist, and all-around offensive jokes.

The minute I sit down in the canoe Christian noticed my spotted shorts.

Immediately he began to make fun of me, despite the fact that he’d majorly missed the point.  You see – he thought that the red stain on my clothing was, if you can believe it, blackberry juice.

His highly original, and completely obtuse commentary included gems such as:

“Jeeze Vanessa, it looks like you took a handful of blackberries and smeared them all over your ass!” and “Oh man! What did you do?  Sit in the bush for fun?”

Cue more of the same derivative, inane one-liners for three whole hours!

At one point I even turned around and told him, as icily, and as calmly as I could: “Okay, thanks Christian.  I’ll be sure to wash my shorts as soon as I can. That way, you’ll be able to go back to living your life.”

Unfortunately, this did nothing but encourage him.

Finally, we arrived at our destination.

An absolutely beautiful little moss-dotted inlet, home to the most beautiful collection of driftwood I have ever seen, and a number of different heron nests.

We all got out of our boats and either began tying them together or unpacking for lunch.

We’d planned on eating and then hiking up to a river where we would all go swimming.

I thought about how I’d be able to soak my shorts once we got there.

It was just as these thoughts were entering my mind, and as I was getting all of my gear together, that I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Christian walking over to my canoe seat.

And it was at this point, that everything seemed to start taking place in slow motion.

I turned and watched as Christian bent down and wiped his index finger along my seat.

He then brought his finger to his mouth, paused – and then he licked it.

LICKED IT.

I swore I felt the earth both rumble and sink between my feet. I don’t know if I was going to faint, or turn to stone, or explode from a tsunami of laughter.

What he said next, I will never forget.

Christian said: “Shit. That tastes like blood.”

It was at this point that I completely lost my mind.

The tsunami won out.

I started laughing, and laughing, and laughing and I could not stop.

No one in the group could figure out what was wrong with me.

Paralyzed by what I could only imagine to be the most epically insane thing ever to have been witnessed by a human being in the history of human beings, I couldn’t even eat my lunch.

My giggles came so fast, so furious.

Unfortunately, I started laughing even harder because in Christian’s completely clueless mind, he thought the blood he ate off of the seat came from a cut from a fellow camper’s finger – the one she had gotten while tying up her boat.

He actually sat down next to me and asked me: “Shit man.  Do you think Amanda has anything wrong with her blood?  Do you think it’s okay that I just ate it?”

This just made me howl even the more.

Now, the whole scenario should have just ended there, but it didn’t.  During the post-lunch hike, Christian just wouldn’t leave well enough along and instead of badgering me about my shorts, he now wanted to know why I was laughing.

“What are you laughing about Vanessa?” and “WHAT’S SO FUNNY VANESSA?”

He repeated these questions, until finally I reached my breaking point.

I turned around and faced him, and yelled, in front of the entire group:

“OKAY CHRISTIAN!  OKAY.  I have my period!  I have my period and I perioded all over my canoe seat!  My period was on my seat and you ate it! YOU ATE MY PERIOD CHRISTIAN!  IT WAS ON MY SEAT – AND YOU ATE IT!”

All I can say was that the look on his face was absolutely priceless.

Abject horror mixed with confusion, anger and amazement.  He then immediately took out his water bottle and rinsed out his mouth – as if my menstrual blood was somehow still in there – before just taking off, like a shot.

Up the trail to the river, never to be seen again.  (Just kidding of course – it was Christian after all.  He was back after about thirty minutes.)

And I just kept laughing for the entire day.

At one point Amanda came up to me as asked me, incredulously, “Aren’t you at all embarrassed?”

To which I responded, “What? No! Why? I didn’t eat period off of a dirty canoe seat.”

And I definitely never, ever, ever will.

I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away in the morning

Well folks, another day, another early morning hangout at Toronto Pearson Airport.

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Early morning hot chocolate. Also, my nails really are the worst.

I am seriously starting to think that I know this place better than I do some of my friends.

I am seriously staring to think that I like this place better than I do some of my friends.

JUST KIDDING!

Although said friends don’t have a sweet twenty-four hours David’s Tea, nor do they have sexy fluorescent lighting that give myself, and all of my fellow travellers that all-too sought after “it may be consumption” pallor.

We should all be so lucky!

But back to what I was saying – AIRPORTS.

While I’m not the biggest fan of air flight (particularly takeoffs and landings – talk about hair-raising central!) I do have a perverse like for these giant atriums of travel.

They are the perfect mish-mash of random: Tim Horton’s restaurants (restaurants, hah!), nail salons, the obligatory Hudson Bay Store (we’re talking domestic Canadian airports here, otherwise, please substitute in Duty-Free and some fancy, chain, over-priced wine bar), sit-up massage chairs, totally random shoe shine stations, and store, after store chock-a-block of Tom Clancy and Mary Higgins Clark, magazines, expensive candy, and those head-rest pillows everyone (and yet no one?) seems to buy.

I am currently heading down to Halifax for a family visit, culminating in my cousin Andrew’s wedding taking place this Saturday.

I am the queen of carry-on, and managed to cram three dresses, two pairs of pants, two skirts, six shirts, three sweaters, two pairs of shoes, two winter running outfits, my pajamas, my computer, and all other manner of lady detritus in this here bag:

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One day I’m going to get an award for this stuff!

Anyways, in completely different news, Canadian politics is totally nutters at the moment.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Toronto mayor Rob Ford finally admitted to smoking crack cocaine, and yet somehow still refuses to resign from his position.

The man plans on running again next year for re-election!

WHAT THE WHAT.

His exact words:

 “Exactly. Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. I’ve made mistakes… all I can do is apologize and move on.”

“But, no, do I? Am I an addict? No.”

“Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.

How is this man even a real human being!?

I feel like we are living in bizarre world.

If I was a journalist in Toronto right now I’d go around telling everyone that I was “one heck of a crack reporter!”

(Too much, I apologize. But it had to be said.)

Meanwhile, our national political stage is riddled with just as much madness.

Our Prime Minister doesn’t seem to have any knowledge of what has been going on with his Conservative senators, and is likely fuming over the fact that no one gives two cares about his free trade agreement with the European Union, when all anyone wants to do is talk about Mike Duffy’s cheque requisition program.

I am just waiting for Nigel Wright to show up at Question Time and pull a full-fledged Banquo.

IS THIS A DAGGER I SEE BEFORE ME?

I am mixing my Shakespeare all over the place, but I CANNOT HELP IT.

These situations mix me up!

And here in BC (or I suppose I should say “back in BC”, what with this being written in Toronto, or “The Big Smoke” if you will….there is another crack joke there, I’m sure) our premier Christy Clark has reneged on her promise not to go forward with plans to construct an oil pipeline from Alberta, and has instead met with Alison Redford (Alberta’s premier) and put together a set of points on how to go forward.

This decision just kills me.

We are going to be swimming in environmental damage, just you wait.

What drives me crazy here is that Clark keeps talking about how when she was re-elected, the electorate backed her plans to expand BC’s natural resource sector, when 1.) No one wanted this expansion to include a pipeline, and 2.) This woman wasn’t even re-elected in our last election! She lost her riding! She had to re-run in a jurisdiction where she was guaranteed to win, after the MLA-elect gave up his seat!

(Meanwhile, it’s just been revealed that he has been giving a plush position as an economic ambassador to BC’s Asian trading markets. But of course he has!)

But seriously folks, how are we supposed to have any faith in the democratic process, when so many of those involved display the utmost contempt for the entire system?

It drives me batty.

Marc has a theory that politicians should be paid very little money, in an effort to keep out those who are not invested in making the country/province/city a better place, and attract those who don’t care about bilking their travel expense claims for all that their worth.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do know that whatever we have going on right now, it really isn’t working.

Much like Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, and Pamela Wallin.

ZING!

(See what I did there?)

And now I’m off to find some overpriced food to eat with my four dollar water bottle.

I hope you all have an amazing morning.

Wherever in the world you happen to be.

The politics of the situation

Yesterday my province went to the polls to vote in a new government.

In the end, only fifty-two percent of all eligible voters cast a ballot.

FIFTY-TWO.

I feel sick to my stomach.

I cannot understand why someone, ANYONE would consciously abstain from exercising their right to vote.

I cannot, and I never will.

The importance of being politically active was instilled in me at a very early age.

I still remember the 1993 Federal election like it was yesterday – enthralled at how a Progressive Conservative majority could shrink to only two seats in the space of one day; incredulous (and nervous) that a party, whose sole raison d’etre was the Quebec secession from Canada, managed to win official opposition status.

It was the beginning of Jean Chretien’s tenure as one of Canada’s longest serving prime ministers (Mackenzie King holds top spot), and the first time I understood the utter depravity a political party will stoop to when it comes to election attack ads.

And I could not wait until I was old enough to take part.

Ten more years, I thought to myself.

Ten more years and I will help make a difference.

At only eight years of age, I understood just how important these events where – not only for Canadians as individuals, but as a country, as a collective whole.

I understood that if citizens did not take the time to 1.) understand what it was they needed from a government, and 2.) educate themselves on what candidate and/or party best represented those needs, then they were doing themselves (and their country) and tremendous disservice.

So now, twenty years later, when I look at the numbers released yesterday, I despair.

And when I am bombarded by all sorts of self-righteous excuses from those who didn’t end up voting, I rage.

–          I’m so busy.

–          I’m not interested in politics.

–          All politicians are the same.

–          All politicians are awful.

–          My vote wouldn’t even make a difference.

BLAH BLAH BLAH.

And then I laugh.

I laugh, and laugh, and laugh, because if I don’t laugh, I will cry.

Or punch a hole through my wall.

Okay.

Let’s just call a spade, a spade, shall we?

People, on the whole, don’t vote because they are apathetic, and chose to remain uniformed.

1. The world we (are privileged enough to) live in, allows individuals constant and unrestricted access to information – on the economic, political, social, and cultural climate of our province and country – and if they gave a hot damn about any of that they would take advantage of this information and educate themselves.

Seriously, it’s called Google, and it is great.

So in the end, I don’t care how busy people claim to be, because there is enough time, and an overwhelming number of resources available to help them figure this stuff out.

2. Don’t tell me all politicians are the same.

That is one of the silliest statements someone can make, particularly if they have already admitted that they consciously distance themselves from their province’s politics.

Unless you are living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Somalia, or Belarus, (or “insert country whose elections/elected officials are defined by overwhelming corruption/State sponsored fear-campaigns” here), there is most likely an individual that is more in line with your views and needs than all the other potential candidates in your riding, and that if elected could help make your life/community/city/province a slightly better place.

3. Also maybe next time remember that you are not in fact living in a country dominated by censorship, violence, oppression, and corruption, and remember how lucky you are to even have a choice when it comes to the election of your governing bodies.

And then once you remember that, remember your vote does count. Not only when it comes to the actually counting of the ballots, but because by voting have you given yourself agency.

You have given yourself a voice.

And I cannot think of anything more important than that.

Ooof.

Writing this has left me exhausted.

There are so, so many other problems I see with the BC electorate and encompassing institutions.

No proportional representation.

Elections run off of slates/political parties (which essentially makes the whole charade a two-party game.)

The futility of running a “positive” campaign.

I just…I just don’t know.

And as I sit here, I can hear little eight year-old that lives somewhere deep in my heart piping up, telling me:

“Why don’t we do it? Why don’t we run?”

And I pause.

Because I don’t know if I’ve ready. If I could hack it. Or even make it out of the starting gate.

I don’t know.

But who knows?

Either way it’s something to think about.

Before, of course, I vote on it.