Friday, 30 July 2010

Teddy Bear's Picnic...

Beneath the trees, where nobody sees,
They'll hide and seek as long as they please,
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic" ~ Jimmy Kennedy

My friend Matti introduced me to the song 'The Teddy Bear's Picnic" by John Walter Bratton many years ago. I instantly loved it. I loved it even more when I read a story about a mortician who was working on a fellow who had been killed by a bear. As he dealt with what was left of the poor dude, he had the song "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" playing. Personally, I love that sense of humour.

I recently moved back to my beloved British Columbia and decided to live in the part that is a rain forest. Wait, isn't most of it rain forest?? Hmmm....

But I digress. I love where I live because I'm within walking distance of a couple of trails. One trail will take me up into many various mountainous areas. The other trail, Hastings Creek Trail, is just around the corner from my street. Hastings Creek and the area actually stretches out a fair bit, but there is one portion where there is a trail.

I love this trail because I can run it as an out and back in about a half hours time, which is great for a short run. Because of how it's laid out with lots of roots, logs, branches, rocks, LOTS of stairs and an upward grade till the turnaround point, I can make the run as intense as I want. Also, I love to walk through here to get to the library, which I visit on a weekly basis. Did I mention it also leads me to two of my favourite places to obtain chai soy lattes??

Now you may be wondering what does the Teddy Bears Picnic and my trails have to do with one another. That's easy, we have bears. Two that I was told about when I moved in and most likely more I'm learning. Those two have apparantly adopted our neighborhood. With the exception of new people (yep, that'd be me), most know not to leave anything out that can be mistaken for food. We keep our garbage indoors (or we do as soon as we learn that bears can get into our sealed off backyard...yup, that was me again) and only put it out on garbage day JUST before the garabage man is to arrive.

I still haven't figured out how Mr. Bear got into the fenced backyard or how I didn't hear him knock over the garbage bin and start ripping apart the bag etc...but he visits here fairly frequently as the bear scat and witness reports tells us. Needless to say, when I'm out running the trails I do accept the fact that I may meet a bear. Or a coyote, as we have big ones here.

I don't really think about it too much, or I didn't until Jennifer, a personal trainer at the recreation centre I go to, mentioned they had just removed a 600 lb bear from the Hastings Creek area. This was after I was telling her I love to run through there. "Uh, sorry, did you say SIX HUNDRED POUNDS??"

Okay, certainly he couldn't have been hanging out in MY wee portion of Hastings Creek?? I mean, exactly how quiet is a 600 lb bear? It's not like he's going to sneak up behind me...right??? Right??!! Sigh. I think I'm going to have to review all the bear literature I have from when I lived and hiked in the Rockies. Perhaps they have a section on 'How sneaky bears are."

Needless to say I will continue to run and walk through that bit of the trail. I will just keep my ears for sounds of bears. If they make any. And perhaps I won't doddle as I sometimes do when I see a squirrel or a butterfly. I tend to stop on the trail and just watch whatever little forest creature is frolicking about. At least I do when I'm walking through.

Below are some photos of my beloved Hastings Trail. I took then when my friend Shelley and I walked through with Rex the dog. No bears that day.

Oh, and for the record, should I ever end this life at the paws of a bear...please make sure whoever is doing the autopsy is listening to "Teddy Bear's Picnic" as they piece back my remains. That way you can guarantee that wherever my spirit or energy is, I will be smiling and laughing.

Peace out my lovely teddy bear friends!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Taking One For The Team...

"Make your feet your friend." ~ J.M. Barrie

on Wednesday nights I go to the indoor climbing wall with my friend Lisa. There we meet up with some of the climbing gals and literally hang out for an hour or so. It's great fun, but the last time we went it was hot outside, which mean really hot inside.

Of course you don't notice the heat too much till you are part way up the wall and you, or rather I, start to get even more sweaty than normal, which is saying a lot as I sweat like a waterfall. This means it's even more difficult than normal to keep your hands connected to the holds. Not to mention it's rather trying when you have sweat running down your face and dangling off your nose, which tickles, but you don't want to let go to wipe it off.

And did I mention how "hummy" it gets in there. PHEW! Sometimes it takes a moment to get used to the smell. And not gasp. Or gag.

Needless to say when Lisa asked if I wanted to go climbing, I suggested that since it was so nice outside perhaps we could go for a hike instead? I was so happy when she said yes! We share the feelings about the hot hummy climbing wall.

Better yet, we were going to hike the BCMC Grouse trail, which starts off at the same place as the very famous Grouse Grind, but is less travelled. Considering it's summer and the parking lot was full, full, full, I'm glad we chose this trail instead.

A little information about the trail: It is 3.3 km of sheer UP. There is an elevation gain of 853 m (~ 0.5 mi) and the average grade is 25.8%. The trail is quite narrow in spots and one must be mindful of their footing.

Just to add to tonights adventure, I decided to wear my Vibram Five Finger toe shoes, also known as barefoot shoes, or more accurately, minimalist shoes. My friend Tina introduced me to these shoes a few years ago, and although I don't wear them year round or all the time, when I do wear them I love them!

Here is a 'before' photo of my feet inside my glorious shoes.

Figure 1: Feet/Shoes pre-hike.

We hadn't been walking long when a fellow came up beside me and started to ask me about my shoes. Needless to say, this is a normal occurrance when people see your shoes and he was the first of several on the trail to ask me about them. Afterall, you have toes in your shoes! (Remind me one day to tell the story of how a little girl was afraid of my shoes...and toes.)

As I walked I went on to explain that they are minimalist shoes, the sole is about 3 mm thick, they are made by Vibram, and I love them because I feel connected with nature. I can feel everything I walk on. Just as I finished my description, we came to the fork in the trail. To the left takes you to along The Grind, to the right, BCMC. We went right.

Figure 2: Beginning of BCMC Trail

Right away I knew I'd love this trail. There were far less people on it! You have to understand, the Grind can be back to back people in the summer and it's not a wide trail! As we started on our journey up the mountain I tried to take in the beauty that surrounded us. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep taking in the beauty and walking. I tend to look down when hiking, and for good reason. Roots, rocks, tree bits, narrow trail and sometimess drop offs where you could fall for a very long time. Until coming to an abrupt stop by hitting a tree or rock. Yeowza.

I did stop now and then to take a photo or grab a sip of water. Of course this also allowed me to catch my breath a bit. It's hard to hike up a mountain and talk at the same time!

Figure 3: Lisa setting the pace and guiding us to where we needed to go.

Thankfully Lisa was leading the way so I could focus on talking and walking. I did look up once in a while to see if I could find the tree markers, those flourescent orange diamonds that mark the trail. I'd like to hike here on a regular basis so I figured I should pay attention a wee bit. For the most part the trail is easy to follow, but there are some areas where you could go off to the left or right.

While we were hiking we could hear the birds, and the odd squirrel chirping away. This little guy decided to pose for a photo. As soon as I was done taking the photo he scampered off chirping away as he went.

Figure 4: The posing squirrel.

I'm not sure how far up we were at this point. My feet were feeling good, and my legs for the most part - despite having a good strength training workout the day before. The one thing I could feel were my calves. It was a nice time to stop for water and take another photo! See how sweaty Lisa is? I was about 5 times as bad. Did I mention how much I sweat??

Figure 5: Lisa, friend, hiker and climber extraordinnaire!

It felt wonderful being in the woods, as well as having a good friend to share the experience with and to chat with. I had been gone the previous week so we had a lot of catching up to do! Here's the thing with chatting while hiking though...sometimes we forget to look up for the trail indicators...

Lisa had mentioned that if you come out of the trail and spot the chairlift, it just means you went off track a wee bit and if you walk to the left you will get back onto the trail towards the roundhouse. Guess what we saw when we came out of the trees?

Figure 6: Ooops, I see chairlift!

We had a good giggle about this. Funny thing was that towards the end I HADbeen looking for the markers and thought we were on the right path. Oh well! Likely it was a good thing because if I ever come up here on my own, or to show someone else the trail, I'll know what to do if I see the chairlift!

At this point I was feeling my legs pretty good. And my lower back. Mental note: must do more low back and core exercises! We weren't 'out of the woods' yet though! There was still more up, albeit less steep up. We headed to the left and got back on the trail. This part is where you are parallel to some of the sewage piping. At one point Lisa said 'Don't take a breathe!' Too late, I had, and I gacked. Urgh. What happened to the glorious smell of pine trees?!

Finally we were at the top. My feet felt fine and I was happy there were no blisters and not too much in the way of rocks or dirt in my shoes. My legs were happy there was no more up of course. I think I'm going to do this hike on a regular basis to build up some strength!

My feet after the hike:

Figure 7: Post-hike tootsies - a little bit more dusty.

Figure 8: Huh, not bad. Kept the dirt out pretty well!

Before we headed down on the gondola, yes, you can take a gondola down rather than walking down, Lisa took a photo of me at the top. That's West Vancouver down below, and you can see the tip of Vancouver where UBC is. It's funny because when we started the hike it was very warm out and sunny. It had covered over a bit and there was a welcome breeze!

So you'd think that the hike was the exciting part of the trip, wouldn't you. Amazingly enough, it was the last part of the gondola trip that was the climax of the trip. As I mentioned before, the parking lot was packed full of people. Needless to say, we were packed into the 'down' gondola like sardines.

Lisa and I were near the front of it and there was a woman with her three children (under the age of 10) sitting on the seat, while we stood in front/behind them. The youngest girl, about 6 years old, looked a little afraid of the experience. Understandable. This was the first time I actually looked out the windows myself and I'd been on this thing since I was a kid!

There is a bit of a drop off when you get going, and the little girl did not take it very well. Apparantly she didn't take any of it very well because just as we arrived at the base, she looked down between her knees and hurled. EWWWWW!

Did I mention we were packed like sardines in there? I took a step back and used Lisa as a bit of a shield. What can I say, I have ninja princess like survival instinct! Lisa, being a mom, wasn't too fussed over the chunder and took it like a pro. I'd just like to mention here that she has proved herself to be a true friend! She took one for the team and, although she stepped back, calmly, she didn't push me in front of her or give me a look when she realized I had shifted myself so I was directly behind her, thereby hopefully not getting any icky stuff on my shoes and bare legs. EWWWWW!

I think the little one thought we were staring at her with disgust, when really we were concerned and sympathetic. Hey, who hasn't felt cruddy at one point in time and been sick somewhere other than in a bucket or the porcelain throne?! The same could not be said for her sister who uttered the words rather loudly, 'EEWWWWW!!', whereas I just thought that statement, while looking on with concern.

After we disembarked, the now sloshy gondola, we surveyed our legs and feet for splash back. Lisa had done a wonderful job acting as my shield, for which I will always be grateful. I was hurl-free. Unfortunately, she had a wee bit on her shoes and a couple drops on her capris. Nothing that a pro Mom like her couldn't handle with a bit of water. She also commented that she figured the little girl had milk and spaghetti for dinner. This was just too much information for me and I started to get a bit queasy myself.

And that was the finale of our hike up the BCMC Grouse trail. I would recommend it to others, just be mindful that you are not situated near queasy looking little kids on the ride down in the gondola!

Peace out my lovely friends!

Monday, 5 July 2010


The other day I was looking for something, I forget what now, and came across a sheet with a quote on it. Not sure who wrote it, but I remember reading it when I was at university and loving it, so I copied it down. Not surprisingly it's written on purple paper in purple ink, which thankfully hasn't faded.

It was the perfect thing to read when I was in university because I had taken a risk going back to school. For most of my scholastic career I thought I was dumb, so I didn't try. I figured it was best not to try and get a crap grade, then to try and risk failing and look like an idiot. (This theory of course somewhat proving that perhaps I wasn't the most brilliant.) Eventually, I realized I had a brain in this noggin and went back to school. Considering I barely made it out of high school (to be honest, I think they made a mistake because I'm sure I was short a credit, but hey, who was I to point that out??), the fact that I went into engineering was a big shocker to many. But I did it and I graduated.

I have found that the last five years have been about taking some risks, like completing a sprint triathlon, then a half Ironman, then an Ironman.

Then last year I lost a good friend of mine to cancer. She was way too friggin young and it drove the point home that LIFE IS TOO SHORT SO MAKE THE MOST OF IT! Lately I find I am taking more risks. Not in a smoking crack, screw the world kind of way, that's not my style. More the, life is too short so I want to grab it by the horns, kind of risks.

Maybe it's a result of losing Tigger, or maybe it's just a mid life crisis!! Whatever it is, I do feel more alive from taking the risks I have. In the las seven months I've challenged my fear of heights and took up indoor climbing, soon to be outdoor; I went on a mountain biking trip to Moab, a serious mecca of the sport, after not having ridden in 14 year; then I challenged myself in a moutain biking course and found myself rolling off drops that were about 2 ft high with roots and trees waiting for me to ride around after the drop. Yup, those things got the old ticker pounding out of my chest!

The latest risk is doing something I've wanted to do since I was 12 years old, which is forever ago. I finally took a course and learned how to ride a motorcycle. (I passed my road test today with flying colours!) Not only that, I bought one. My dream bike, a Harley Davidson Sporster. This did not please the parental unit I may add. Not that seeing me near death during Ironman did, or when I mentioned I was taking up rock climbing and my dad responded "Isn't that dangerous?". Hmm, perhaps all this is making my getting tattoos not look so bad in there eyes??

Anyways, I guess the point of this post is that the finding of this quote was perfect. It reminded me why I do what I do. Because taking a risk is living life rather than sitting on the couch and watching it go by.

Enjoy and peace out my lovelies!

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing setnimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To go forward in the face of overwhelming odds is to risk failure.

But risk we must.

Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they can't learn, feel, change, grow or love.
Chained by their certitudes, they are a slave. They have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.