Hello Autumn: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway

Hello Autumn: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway

Living on the West Coast is the best. I love our mild winters, idyllic summers, and laid back style. But, one thing the Pacific Northwest is lacking in a big way is fall colours. I’ve never really understood the autumn obsession and that is likely because it’s not really a thing in my part of the world. I started to understand it better when I travelled to New England last November and got to enjoy the tale end of the beautiful red, orange, and gold.

So, this year I decided to make a return trip to the East Coast but this time to North Carolina. The main purpose of my visit was to visit my travel bestie Megan who recently relocated to Greensboro. But, the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway was a close second. We spent two days exploring the area and I was blown away by the incredible pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. Who knew North Carolina was such a stunner!

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We lucked out with picture perfect blue skies, warm but not too hot weather, and PEAK FOLIAGE! The hiking couldn’t have been better, well, except for the crowded trails. It seems like everybody else at the same idea for their Sunday afternoons. But can you blame them?

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We spent about 6 hours driving, stopping, and hiking on the parkway. The highlight was definitely our scramble up the muddy trail on Rough Ridge where we saw the best colours of the day and found many rocky summits to perch on.

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We also pulled off to enjoy the overlook of the Linn Cove Viaduct, which was built to protect the fragile slopes of Grandfather Mountain.

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And we ended our day at the Linville Falls. We hiked to several vantage points in the Gorge where we were able to get some very impressive views of the two cascading falls descending nearly 2,000 feet.

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After such a wildly successful day, we definitely weren’t done exploring. So on a much quieter Monday, we ventured out to a different, but equally majestic spot, Pilot Mountain State Park. The foliage wasn’t quite as vibrant but the views were just as epic and it often felt like we were the only two people on the trails. We viewed the big pinnacle and even got to circle under the cliffs.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I committed myself to a weekend in North Carolina but I was very impressed by the natural beauty. Nature lovers take note. This state is not to be overlooked.

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Northern Enlightenment: Exploring the Ancient Forest

Northern Enlightenment: Exploring the Ancient Forest

If I’m being honest, I’ve never had much of a desire to visit Northern BC. To say that I’m not a fan of cold weather is putting it mildly and the north has winters that would even make the characters on Game of Thrones a bit nervous. Not to mention that I am a city girl through and through – small towns just don’t really do it for me. Sorry.

But, I can also admit to being a bit ignorant when it comes to all of the advantages and opportunity that a Northern lifestyle can provide. It clearly has appeal to some and I am always willing to try new things. So, when work called me to Prince George (thankfully in September not January) I was excited to see it for myself.

Luckily for me, my friend Melanie also lives in PG and gave me a royal welcome. We had one day to see the sights, which included a delicious breakfast at Nancy O’s and a tour of the very impressive UNBC campus.

But the highlight of the day was definitely our trip outside the city limits to visit The Ancient Forest. We had to drive over an hour to reach the trail head but it was well worth the effort to see this old growth forest on such a beautiful, sunny, autumn day.

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We had our choice of three well-marked, well-groomed trails. We chose to do the Waterfall loop and end off with the wheel chair friendly boardwalk. I really enjoyed the muddy, uneven trails because it required careful footwork but was still an easy hike. From what I understand, it is quite remarkable to find such large trees this far North and this close to the Rockies. Since I have essentially grown up in a rainforest, I’m used to seeing big trees and felt right at home on the trails. Maybe the North isn’t quite as desolate as I imagined?

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I still don’t think I’m hardy enough to live up North but it definitely has more to offer than I would have guessed.

What about you? Have you ever lived in a remote location or tough climate?

Nature’s Treadmill: Skookumchuck Narrows

Nature’s Treadmill: Skookumchuck Narrows

On the last weekend of summer I continued my amazing streak of perfect weather weekend getaways with a visit (my first ever!) to the Sunshine Coast.

I’ve become rather fond of ferry travel over the past couple of years and this time was no exception. The short 40 minute trip from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale was not nearly long enough for me to savour the scenery during my favourite time of day – Golden Hour.

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So what finally got me to the Sunshine Coast after all these years? Well, my friend Kendra recently moved into an adorable cabin in Gibsons and I just couldn’t resist checking it out for myself. We didn’t spend too much time in the sleepy fishing town because we had another mission in mind – The Skookumchuck!

Gibsons, BC

Gibsons, BC

The shook-em-what you ask? Well, if you haven’t heard of this impressive natural spectacle yet, then let me endeavour to educate. At the entrance of the Sechelt Inlet is a narrowing of the waters before it connects again with the Jervis Inlet. Twice daily, as the tide changes, the flow of saltwater must pass through the rapids creating fantastic white caps sometimes exceeding 9 ft in height.

To see this phenomenon with our own eyes, we drove for 1.5 hours along the windiest road of all time (beware of motion sickness) until we reached the trail entrance. The 4km loop was a very lovely hike featuring beautiful coastal forests, lakes, and cliffside overlooks. Our entire day was planned around arriving at Roland Point at just the right time (which differs depending on the time of year) to catch the Flood Tide.

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At high tide we gathered with other spectators to watch in wonder as extreme kayakers tested out nature’s treadmill. These thrill seekers pushed off from the banks, got sucked into the rapids, and then warred against the waves until they were too tired to continue.

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I’m continually amazed by the beauty and wonder in my own backyard… I can’t wait to see what I discover next!

Diamond Head Rediscovery

Memory is a funny thing. With the passing of time you can practically rewrite history with the power of your mind. You can simply remove the boring or painful parts and choose to recall only the most exciting and enjoyable memories from the past. Of course, the opposite is also possible.

To those of you who know me well, it’s no secret that hiking has not always been my favourite pastime. However, while I was traveling in South America last year I had a complete, 180 degree change of heart. Now my new travel wish list includes trekking in Nepal near the very top. I attribute this transformation to the power of positive thinking and mental preparation. Don’t pretend that you’re going on a nature walk; be prepared for the worst but take the time to appreciate the astounding beauty of your surroundings. Hiking is a privilege and the most amazing vistas in the world often come at a price.

So, in a roundabout way, this leads me to my most recent “hike” at Diamond Head State Park in Oahu. The last time that I climbed to the top of the Diamond Head Crater was in 2004. I remembered being exhausted afterwards so this time I was prepared for a tough workout. Well, a short 30 minutes after starting our ascent we were at the lookout point on the top. We even passed ladies in high heeled shoes on the path, although they didn’t seem to think the hike was too easy. But, nevertheless, I was completely shocked and couldn’t understand how my memory had gotten it so wrong. The hike seemed more like a nature walk to me but fortunately it still had the payoff with some absolutely stunning views of Waikiki beach and the crater below. It’s definitely a must-do if you’re in Oahu, but for the avid hikers, I hear that Mariner’s Ridge in nearby Hawaii Kai is the real deal.