Monday, October 5, 2015

Vancouver, British Columbia

I am homesick for Kentucky.

I absolutely love Long Beach. I love the thriving metropolitan feel, the hugely diverse group of people who live here, and I love the glorious natural beauty of the beach and mountains. But there are definitely days when Kentucky tugs at my heart.

Particularly right now, as the autumnal air drifts through the trees as the leaves change their color and whisper along the ground. I want to sip black coffee as the chilly air whips the steam from my cup.

But, alas, it is in the mid-80s and sunny every day in LA.
So Justin Jones and I decided to chase the fall. We chose to go here.

For the first time, I got to use my Delta flight bennies. Justin and I booked stand-by tickets from LA to Vancouver. Of course, stand-by is never reliable. Unless a flight has open seats and no one else has higher stand-by seniority, you may not make the flight. Which was exactly the case for us. The flight from LA to Vancouver left totally packed on Thursday evening with me staring desolately at the boarding screen.

It was time to improvise. Justin and I hopped on a flight to Seattle instead, with plans to drive up to Vancouver the following morning. A lovely friend leant us keys to her apartment so we could crash for the night.

Our drive north from Seattle meant we would hop onto the Sea to Sky Highway 99 in British Columbia. This gorgeous strip of tarmac laces its way from northern Vancouver along the coast, dipping behind mountains and allowing drivers to glimpse icy ocean islands glimmering through the fog. It was an epic drive. 

We had planned to hike to the Brandywine Meadows when we arrived. However, international travel always means one thing: no cellar data use. Without google maps to help us on our way we were restricted to list directions I had downloaded the previous day. With me navigating, we invariably got lost. We ended up climbing the side of a mountain on a treachorous gravel road, passing coyotes and little else for almost 10 miles. When the dips and scraping grew too alarming on the exterior of our rental car, we decided we should probably turn around. 

A little ways down the road we pulled off again to hike to the Brandywine Falls. This seemed much more legit, with a proper parking lot and loads of other hikers. 

The forests around Brandywine Falls seemed like an enchanted forest, complete with mossy boulders, icy turquoise rivers, and trees gilded in gold and amber. We dined on brie and chocolate and sipped a 12-year scotch on the side of the mountain. We had just nearly made it back to our car when the low hanging clouds surrendered, releasing a torrent of rain. The rain kept us company as we hurried to Squamish for our first Canadian night.

This jewel of a cabin was rented through Air B&B by a charming family. We had the ground floor with its own private entrance, a fire pit for roasting s'mores, and the lush grounds complete with gardens, wild mushrooms and mums. It was legitimately chilly, the warm air swirling from our lungs, and frost crunching beneath our shoes. I have been fighting a cold all week (some little kid germs finally caught up with me), but thanks to a belly full of pasta and marshmallow I slept like a baby. 

Good thing too, because the next day was our hike to Garibaldi Lake. 

Justin and I discovered that we really are the most low maintenance hikers known to mankind. He had forgotten his jacket and hiked the entire distance in a cardigan and jeans while I staved off the cold with my $2 flea market coat. We set off with sandwiches and half a bottle of power-aid, with little knowledge of what lay before us. The hike to and from the lake was about 18 kilometers. Half was up the side of a mountain, the other half was down. I may not be able to walk comfortably for the next fortnight but it was so worth it. That water. It really is crystal turquoise.

For anyone considering a holiday in British Columbia, its a must. The scenery is an unending vista of epic grandeur with excellent and kind company. Vancouver itself is a matrix of hyper-modern glass skyscrapers sitting on the edge of the ocean. It is nature and mankind in a blessed union of light and water. Go.