PHOTO ESSAY: Whale Watching (with a twist) in Vancouver

WhaleWatchingBlog (4 of 28)The seas around Vancouver are home to 81 resident killer whales (or orcas) and hundreds of transient killer whales that prowl the waters at various times of the year.  In fact, it’s not uncommon to see orcas from the decks of the BC Ferries vessels that criss-cross the Georgia Strait or even from land.

But to get an up-close view, there’s really only one option: whale watching tours. During the March-October season, multiple tour companies based in Coal Harbour, Granville Island and Steveston specialize in tracking down pods of orcas and other types of whales and giving wildlife lovers a chance to view them from a safe distance.  Options range from speedy zodiac boats that zip over the waves to larger covered cruisers for whale watching in style.

I recently rode along on a Prince of Whales boat for what they call the Ultimate Day Tour, which combines whale watching with sightseeing on Vancouver Island.  Spoiler alert: We didn’t see any orcas.  But we did see another member of the whale family, one that makes the killer whale look almost puny by comparison. Continue reading:
PHOTO ESSAY: Whale Watching (with a twist) in Vancouver

PHOTO ESSAY: Vancouver Daytrip to the “Gates of Hell”

HellsGateEssay (1 of 13)In 1808, explorer Simon Fraser – while canoeing the river that now bears his name in interior British Columbia – came upon a terrifying sight.  At one point, the massive river narrows to just 34 metres and churns through a ferocious set of rapids.  He wrote, “This was a place where no human being should venture, for surely we have encountered the gates of hell.”

Despite Fraser’s warning, I decided to venture to Hell’s Gate over the weekend.  Located about 2.5 hours northeast of Vancouver along Highway 1, the site is now home to the ever popular Hell’s Gate Airtram, which whisks passengers safely across the rapids without even having to get their feet wet.

Here are a few photos from my descent into the infernal depths of Hell’s Gate:  Continue reading:
PHOTO ESSAY: Vancouver Daytrip to the “Gates of Hell”

PHOTO ESSAY – Great Vancouver Hikes: A New Alternative to The Chief

UpperShannonFalls-67Everybody loves the Chief.  The iconic hike to the peak of the 700-metre-high granite monolith in Squamish offers some of the most astounding views in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, if not the entire province.

There’s just one problem: Everybody loves the Chief.  On weekends and sunny days, the 11-kilometre roundtrip trail can feel like one long queue, with lines of people forming at critical junctures where the trail narrows.

There is, however, a brand new alternative offering similar views with fewer crowds: the Sea to Summit trail.  The route (which partly follows an older path called the Upper Shannon Falls trail) starts at Shannon Falls at the base of the mountain, then climbs for approximately four hours (around 9 kilometres) before reaching the new Sea to Sky Gondola facility at the summit.  Along the way, it winds past raging rivers, thundering waterfalls, moss-covered forest and dizzying viewpoints.  And the best part: For $10 you can ride the new gondola back down in a brisk five minutes, skipping the long hike back.

I checked out the Sea to Summit trail over the weekend.  Here’s a quick photo essay of what you’ll see along the way.  If you’re considering doing the hike, keep in mind that the trail has an intermediate difficulty level, with some steep sections.  The entire route is well marked with bright green Sea to Sky trail blazes.  More detailed information is available on the Sea to Sky Gondola website and on Vancouver Trails. Continue reading:
PHOTO ESSAY – Great Vancouver Hikes: A New Alternative to The Chief

Trendy Veggies: Yaletown Farmers Market Returns

Photo Credit: Yaletown Business Improvement Association | Flickr

Photo Credit: Yaletown Business Improvement Association | Flickr

It’s not the first place you’d expect to find a farm stand.

The Yaletown Farmers Market – nestled amid the trendy lofts, patio restaurants and upscale boutiques of the city’s brick warehouse district – is back.  After a successful debut last year, organizers decided to bring the market back for another run, offering hungry condo dwellers access to fresh local fruits, veggies and more.

Continue reading:
Trendy Veggies: Yaletown Farmers Market Returns

Great (under-the-radar) Vancouver Hikes: Norvan Falls

NorvanFalls-26Nature lovers in the city know that Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver is beautiful … but crowded.  On weekends, visitors queue up for a chance to cross the iconic suspension bridge and busy trails feel more like city sidewalks.

But just a few kilometres north at the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park is an entirely different experience: fewer people, more trails and scenery that’s no less gorgeous.

I checked out the area over the weekend on a hike to Norvan Falls.  At 12 kilometres roundtrip (about four-five hours of moderate-paced walking), the trail is a bit long but pays off with incredible river views and a pristine waterfall at the end.

Getting to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park requires following Lynn Valley Road all the way to the end of the line, where it turns Rice Lake Road, a narrow, winding lane that traces the course of the river.  After parking, I crossed a broad wooden bridge over Lynn Creek and reached the trailhead, where a large map shows the route to Norvan Falls and other destinations.

The first part of the trail immediately plunges into thick cedar forest.   Continue reading:
Great (under-the-radar) Vancouver Hikes: Norvan Falls