Adventures in Whistler-Vancouver

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North America » Canada » British Columbia » Whistler
July 1st 2018
Published: August 7th 2018
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Sun: wow, really?!

Wow, so many things worked together to make this day so difficult. One, BART doesn’t run until 8am. So we parked the car in the long-term parking lot at the station but had to Lyft to the airport. And the Lyft guy dropped us at the international terminal, no question asked. We found good seats at the World Cup viewing area. The game went OT/PK so we had to run to the gate despite our flight getting delayed by 30min. The gate was calling our name. Got lucky with economy plus seats with our packs in the overhead compartment. This is where things started to get funky. We had to rush to Bellevue Hertz rental on Lyft cuz we weren’t going to make it to their closing time at 2pm on a bus. Just when we reached Hertz office at 1:30 pm, I get an email from camp gear rental office over in Vancouver saying that they were closing at 3pm due to Canada Day. No way. Even if we get the car now, we still have 2.5-hr drive. Luckily, the guy said he’ll wait for us. Huge line at the Hertz office. One person went, another was already 3pm when we were told that they ran out of cars. And there is nothing this guy could do except to put us on the list for tomorrow. I couldn’t believe it! What do we make reservations for?! Another pair was also in the same boat, also headed to Vancouver. We called the airport office but their price was more than double. Not much choice at this point. The other pair and we all agreed the best thing to do is to stay here. The Hertz guy was super concerned and went above and beyond to follow up with us. He got us the discount at this hotel. Whole Foods was a short walk from here and we finally had the first meal of the day.

Hoping for a smoother day tomorrow...

Mon: From no car to all-day driving

Complimentary breakfast at 6:30 am courtesy of the special rate. As we were eating, we saw the Hertz guy walk in shortly before 7. He wasn’t supposed to be here today...and 7?! Looks like he made the special appearance, aww. The efficiency can improve, though, since we didn’t officially hit the road until 8:30...

Finally. At around 11am, we reached Rent-a-tent office in Vancouver. Bang bang, load up the familiar stuff from their Banff office last year. At 11:30, we were on our way to Whistler. Since the morning was toast, we headed to the furthest destination to get the short hike out of the way. It was 2:30pm by the time we got to Joffre Lake trailhead. Kudos to V for an all-day of driving!! Even I was starting to get a headache. The trailhead and overflow parking lot were oozing out cars onto the road. Some people parked really far. I didn’t expect this crowd since this was my last-minute addition. The trail was gorgeous, snaking through the greenery via lower, middle, and upper lake. Lakes were turquoise, just like what we expected. But the upper lake was a must. The path gets rocky but the view is absolutely worth it. It has the snow-studded Mountain as a backdrop to the turquoise alpine lake! Can’t beat it!

We stopped by Pemberton on the way back to Whistler for grocery. It was already 8 pm by the time we got to eat at our campsite but it was a solid one. Crazy gnats swarming at the campsite, surrounding my head and face. with mosquitos in the mix, I was being eaten alive. Time to hit the tent.

Tue: Back on the plan

After a solid breakfast, we were out on the road at 7:10 am. We reached Rubble Creek trailhead at 7:30. There was a handful of cars there, probably the backpackers. For the first 6 miles, the trail went up steadily. Shortly after, we reached Taylor campsite. From there, we took the route toward Garibaldi Lake. After a few miles, the path goes down to the lake at its west end. The sun was in our face and it was taking away from the turquoise color of the lake. Meh. Continuing on.

Meadow and the view opened up. Panorama Ridge section was wet and muddy. Lots of stream crossing. The foot of the last climb was mostly snow. Climbing from there got just snowier. If it was up to V, he would have continued on but when I saw the continuous snow leading up, it was too daunting. I had no poles or athleticism. The snow will only get worse higher up.

It was ~1 pm. Still too early. Maybe we can hit Black Tusk instead. Both Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk have the view of Garibaldi lake but Black Tusk is supposed to be steeper. That’s why I picked Panorama Ridge in the first place but Black Tusk might be less snowy because of the direction it’s facing. There were long stretches of snow but not too steep. More wet footing than ever though. Toward the end near the top, the snow became more imminent, so much so that I was ready to give up one more time. Uphills were tough as my legs were already spent too. But, V wasn't having another let-down. Fine, fine,!! It was definitely worth every agony! The panoramic view of Garibaldi lake surrounded by snow-studded mountains in the background and Black Tusk on the other side!! Epic! So glad we made it to at least one of Garibaldi lake view spots. Thanks, V! :p

By the time we came back down to the split, my shoes were squishy wet. But it should be all downhill to the end. We jogged down here and there because the tired legs weren’t even going slower than 20min/mile on the downhill. We came this way up faster! Finally, we reached our car at 3:30pm, 8hrs later. Shoes off and apples rinsed. A quick detour to Creekside Market for the meat du jour and water. Dinner was much-awaited. V passed out before 8 and me by 9 when there is still light outside.

Wed: overachieving once again

Passing out early didn’t mean getting up early. But we needed that rest and we will be thanking ourselves later. We picked the relatively easy hike (15mile/1200ft D+) since yesterday was intense (19miles/5000ft D+). But on tired legs, it wasn’t exactly easy.

From the town in Squamish to Dead-end loop was very nice. The mossy shaded path continues all the way for like 10 miles. The ascent was very mild and we saw only a few runners. This is part of Squamish 50 mile race course. From here, in order to make a reasonable distance loop, I connected what I learned to be a network of mountain biking routes. A lot of bikers in easy to most-difficult routes. Some difficult section was so crazily gnarly it wasn’t fun to walk on.

It got warm in the afternoon and just sheer time and distance were beating us. My legs were stiff as a stick. I became depleted quickly toward the end too. By the time we got to our car at 3 pm, I was totally out of it.

So much for an "easy" hike. After another solid dinner, I made the last bathroom visit at 9pm. Just when I settled into the tent, the wind started to blow eerily hard. The rain followed and campfires were out for the neighbors.

Thu: not for a faint of heart

It was chilly from last nights rain. We got up a little early since we have to pack up. The plan was to do Wedgemount Lake and Sea to Summit before settling into Porteau Cove campground. We still managed to hit the road at 7:15 am.

At Wedgemount trailhead, there was serious construction in action. Lots of trucks and sign saying blasting. We were behind a heavy duty truck. It definitely didn’t look right. Just when we thought we’d have to turn around, we saw a sign that said “Wedge parking”. Behind the construction site was the trailhead parking, phew.

I knew this was going to be a tough hike but, man, was it hard. It's not a long hike but the elevation gain was unproportionally high. After a few mild switchbacks, the trail quickly became steep. It was a stair master on tree roots. If it weren't for the roots, I don't know if I could have climbed this slope. This continued for 2 long miles. It got more rocky. Still the same steepness. We thought we were close to the top because the mapped distance was 2.5 miles. There was a waterfall to the far right. Could we be close?? Not even close. Mapmyrun overly underestimated this one. Mosquitoes were relentlessly attacking in this humidity and my legs were already shot. No bueno.

The route became rockier and went along the stream. We were out of the woods, just literally but definitely not figuratively. After some more sections of rocks and roots, we came to the point. The point where the route opened up vertically on the wall that’s nothing but boulders...yeek!

After scrambling one step at a time, not knowing where it was going and what to expect, we were really out of the woods this time. My god, the view!! The view that opened up just made me forget about the climb. It was so breathtakingly beautiful and unreal. Air was crisp, water turquoise clear surrounded by a row of snow-studded mountains. Amazing. Forget the other hike. Let’s just make a day out of this place! We spent a good 30min or more going down to the shore, hopping onto a tiny stone island, taking it all in.

Going down was just as hard, sigh. We finally got back to the car at 2:30 pm. It was still a little too early to head to the campsite. Check out Whistler Village? Let’s see what the buzz is about. The buzz is about not being able to park without circling around the parking lot, then paying a hefty due if you were lucky. Meh. We don’t need to be here that bad. Moving on.

I made the biggest boo boo booking a site at Porteau Cove campground. I picked the most secluded-looking site on the map. It is secluded and it is not. It’s secluded from the car and shower. We had to haul everything for a few 100m on a cart. That includes food being hauled right back in the car. Our site was the furthest one in at that. There is no parking near the shower. Extra stroll was uncalled for after the crazy tough hike. Campsites are pretty close to one another here too. With a lot of kids around, it didn’t give me the seclusion I was looking for. On top of that, the main road is close enough to hear the cars zipping by 😞. But this campground isn’t popular for nothing. We were right next to Howe Sound, an amazing view right from our tent, and, most importantly, no bugs!

Fri: The thunder god waited for us to finish one last grind

Since we were pretty hiked out, we’ll do a shorter route (8.5 miles / 3000 ft D+) vs 17-mile long hike.

We woke up shortly before 6 am to a nice view of Howe Sound, then drove out to the day use area where we don’t have to haul our cooking gear in and out. This turned out to be a great call. Nobody was around and the picnic table had an amazing view of the sound. Breakfast with a view!

We got to the trailhead at ~7:30 am. Sea-to-summit trail snakes around the gondola line to the top. We ended up not seeing a soul the entire way up for 5 miles. This hike was short in distance but this was by no means an easy hike. There are lots of roots, rocks, and scrambling. Some section even had ropes. Especially on my burning quads from yesterday, these steep uphills were killing me from the get-go. The route visits Shannon Fall, a perk of not taking the gondola up.

It felt like forever on my burning quads but we made it. The gondola cafe was just opening and there were a lot of people already. You can hike around there, get on a suspension bridge, and of course, buy souvenirs. We had our snack break, refilled water bottles, and ready to hit the road back. Going down, you can get a one-way ride for $15. Round trip is whopping $44, dang! For us, $15 x 2 is going to our beer fund. Going down wasn’t as bad compared to yesterday. Except for a few sections, it was at least walkable, without slick rocks and roots.

20 min after finishing, just as we were going to set up a grill to make hot tea in the picnic area, a thick cloud that was making its way over the peak quickly zapped the electricity line. Shortly after, it started dumping hard. We got so lucky! Imagine being in the middle of the hike right now!!

Then V remembered the outer layer of our tent not been zipped up. We rushed to Porteau Cove but the rain was minimal there, phew. We managed to haul dinner gear to the covered common area in spotty but downpour rain and cook dinner with the last breath of the propane tank. It rained pretty much through the night.

Sat: City food deprivation

It had stopped raining by the time we woke up at 6:20 am but we had to pack up the wet tent. There is no gas left to cook breakfast so we’re going straight to Vancouver. It was too early to return the rented camp gear so we stopped by McDs in West Vancouver for coffee and planning. I was too busy buckling down the hiking routes that I didn’t look into where to hit in the city. At McDs, the second half of the first of two round of 16 World Cup games was on. The moment I got the WiFi connection, everything from the last 5 days got dumped into my phone. But still not ready to catch up with the world. In 30min, V and I made a pretty good list of eateries to hit. It was 9 am and the tent rental office should be open. At the office, Timo was busy dismantling the van internals and putting it all back for another party, wow.

Since the office was in south Vancouver, Richmond was a clear choice, especially since we were ready for lunch. The first stop: Xian Cuisine in Richmond public market. It was supposed to be open at 10 am on the 2nd floor of the market food court. I guess it was still early, the crowd was very spotty. In a low-key food court like this, it’s time for us to take out cash. Although some stalls were serving, the couple at Xian Cuisine was busy in the back prepping. I tried to order but he mumbled something in Chinese and went back to the kitchen… Maybe 30min later, he came out to take orders. We got the cold noodles. Very refreshing with nice and chewy noodle. Sesame oil and vinegar was nothing irritating to my morning stomach. Good start. Second stop: Excellent tofu and snacks for tofuhua. Love these. This was a very good one, with all you can squirt ginger sugar. Third stop: O’Tray Noodles. Another food court stall in President Plaza. Tianjin wrap was like Jianbing. This one was super fluffy but filling. Ok, now to the real lunch: HK BBQ master located in Royal Canadian Superstore. This brought us back to HK. My fav was the soup, tho. Soooo tasty. With that, we’ve outdone Richmond.

We checked in at our lodging near Stanley Park. Denman St was hustling and bustling on this Saturday afternoon. We picked up the waterfront footpath all the way to the steam clock via Canada Place and Olympic torch. Well, now that we’ve walked off that Richmond goodness, it’s time to grab a coffee. Revolver was raved as the best in town. We had the espresso flight. Hmmm, not my fav, too sour. Next stop: Mink for a cup of drinking choco. It was so rich, this really put me over the top, oops. By the time we got to Meat & Bread, I had zero capacity in my tummy. This is where I lost keeping up with V. He had their signature porcetta torta. Very nice, with chicharron bits.

We had our mind set about going to Richmond Night Market tonight because tomorrow will be tight. By the time we got back to the hotel after trekking back on the path, it was past 6 pm. I asked the front desk lady how early we should go. She said people go there as early as 1hr before. Ehhh, it’s already past that. Yep, cars were forming a line to get into the parking lot. Once we parked, we got to wait even longer in the entrance line. Inside was totally crazy. There are 3 long rows of food stalls. People everywhere. But the quality is nothing like your typical fair food stalls. All things Asian from satay, boba, to takoyaki! We kept it simple with grilled squid and shaved ice. We had our share by 9 pm when it was just starting to get dark. The entrance line was still going strong.

Sun: Vancouver food scene reinforcement

The morning agenda was Lynn Canyon. It’s the poor man’s Capilano suspension bridge, lol. Lynn Canyon is not too far from Stanley Park. It is embedded in the residential area. So lucky for people who live here ‘cuz this place is gorgeous! So green everywhere and water running through it. I would probably frequent this place to run. It’s got some good climbing and parking was tame. The suspension bridge is right at the beginning. This one is much sturdier than the one at the sea-to-summit gondola. We hiked a figure eight to the north then south.

We made our way south to Granville Island. There is supposed to be highly-rated donut shop here. Let’s see! The market had just opened and finding parking was a breeze. Everyone was headed there. Love the liveliness here. At one corner was Lee’s Donuts, very unassuming. Wow, surprise!! This donut is legit! Probably the softest, warmest donut ever!! V said it’s the best ever, after Blue Star in Portland, Donut Bar in San Diego, Donut Plant/Dough in NY, and the list goes on. Granville Island is a cute place to go on a nice weekend like today to stroll, window shop etc. etc.

My stomach was still irritated but that cannot stop V from eating. We went back to O’tray Noodles in Richmond. This time, we wanted to try the steamed buns and tofu soup. Buns were definitely on point and tofu soup was interesting. A big chunk of scooped soft tofu in thick dark sour soup. I could barely touch a few buns but it was delish. Tagging along with V’s eating continues. Next, for lunch, Phnom Penh Restaurant in Chinatown. This is the Chinatown I didn’t make it to years ago because it was super dodgy between Gastown and Chinatown. Chinatown has an older feel than Richmond. There were people waiting outside of the restaurant. Looking promising. The guy ended up overestimating the wait time. V got their specialties: Wings and butter beef. What in the world is butter beef?! It’s a plate of the paper-thin rare beef strip with vinegary herby dressing. Pretty refreshing. It is apparently Vietnamese but V had never heard of it. Vietnamese wings were to die for. V said it’s the best he’s ever had, which is saying a lot, after San Tung in SF and Pok Pok in Portland! Taste is very simple but the texture and just overall well done.

Now that we have the meal down, it’s time for dessert at Bella Gelato! Apparently, this guy won the gelato competition in Florence. That’s gotta be legit, right? At least the line was legit. After a good 30min, we got our golden cup. Flavor was solid. Last stop: Purebread for something for me to stomach. This place is oozing baked goods! I’m in heaven. Not just overflowing visuals of pastry galore, but also that the flavors looked interesting. It was a tough choice to limit to two items, indeed.

With that, it’s a wrap! Filled up the tank with the remaining Canadian dollars and off we went to Seattle. Whole Foods for a quick bite and back to the infamous hotel where we started. The bus stop was about a mile from there but it felt forever with the luggage. The highway bus was zipping through town and it looked really good for $6 ride for 2…until we got to the airport. Was it because of Sunday night after the holiday week?? Airport was bumper-to-bumper! Good thing we have all night, literally.

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8th August 2018

Splendid photos and amazing location.
Your blog is really good, good shots, narration and sharing of experiences in a wonderful manner. Wishing you more travel. Cheers, Ramz from India. Do visit my page..:)

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