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!


  1. Looks like you are indeed loving life in Vancouver (who wouldn't?). Your pictures were amazing. And that "chunder" story makes me want to chunder. :)

  2. I was more worried about you stubbing your toe and me having to piggy back you up to the top. I'm glad you didn't get sick as it would have been a very Monty Python-ish like scene as the rest of the gondola riders were looking quite queasy too. Anyways, now you owe me one.:o)

  3. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! And if Lisa hadn't acted as the human shield, I'm sure you would have used your warrior thumb trick you did on me that night when I tried to pay the bill......LOL!!!

    I am sooo doing that hike with you my friend! And I am thinking we are going to get completely lost with the way both of us talk! LMAO!!!

    What a great day for a hike -- and such a bonus that you literally chose the *path less traveled.* :) :) :)

  4. I think we've been there before-but can't remember because it was when I was a teenager and was too busy worrying about my unrequited love to notice the beauty of that mountain.

    Sounds like a beautiful day with your friend! LOL about the chairlift-glad you guys found your way back!