Leah Explores … Quarry Rock

There is no doubt that there are some stunning hikes around the Vancouver area. Up until this point I have never really been one to partake in such activities. But the weather has been so nice in the past few days that it just seemed like the opportune time to dive right in. I choose to do the Quarry Rock hike, which is located in the tiny town of Deep Cove, in the eastern part of North Vancouver. I’m not gonna lie, my main reason for picking Quarry Rock was that is one of the easier hikes in the area, which I thought would be perfect for little old me. Also, I have seen so many pictures from the top from when friends have done it and the view in insane.

Getting there:

I looked into the different options for getting out to Deep Cove, and decided that as I was on a bit of a tight schedule, I would hire a car, so that I wasn’t going to be dependent upon bus timetables. I booked through Enterprise, who informed me when I went to pick up the small economy car I had hired, that I would actually be driving a huge pick up truck as that was all they had available. I was driving a Ford F150 (Google it, it’s seriously HUGE!) cue my minor panic attack as I set off on my adventure.

The drive there is very straight forward from the Downtown Vancouver area, and takes roughly around thirty minutes depending on traffic. Parking however was a whole other kettle of fish. I figured that by going on a Wednesday in April, it would be pretty empty, I was wrong. The two public parking lots near the start of the trail were full, plus I was driving a beast of a car that I didn’t think I would be able to park in a space that had another car remotely close to it. Luckily, after a few minutes of driving around I found a space a bit further away from the crowds that I could easily park in.

If you are taking the bus, it takes around an hour, from Downtown, and you will need to change to a different bus once you get to the North Shore. But I am assured by friends that it’s an easy journey and I will definitely take the bus next time for the convenience of not having to find parking.

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The Hike:

As I have already said, the Quarry Rock hike is labelled as “easy”. That said, it’s not just a leisurely stroll, there are quite a few stairs involved and exposed tree roots so look out for those. For anyone feeling like they need to take a breather, I definitely did, there are plenty of places to stand off to the side and catch your breath and drink some water, as you watch sporty healthy people race by. The other great thing about the hike is that there are lots of flat parts along the way, and some stairs that go down rather than up. Another added bonus is that it is a dog friendly hike!

The views from the top of the rock are totally worth any second of doubt or pain you feel along the way.

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What to take:

Water – You’ll be surprised how thirsty you can get on the way up, especially if it is a hot day. I took 1L of water which was perfectly fine, but I kind of wish I had taken a little bit more, especially as you have to wait until you get back to Panorama Park to refill your bottle.

Snacks – Take some lunch, or at the very least some snacks to refuel once you reach the top. It’s the perfect spot to sit and snack and soak in the stunning views.

Sunscreen – Just sitting on the top of the rock for thirty minutes, I managed to catch the sun and get some tan lines. Make sure to cover yourself in sunscreen.

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Quarry Rock is a beautiful hike and I can’t recommend it enough. It was an easy enough hike that as a novice I didn’t feel overwhelmed at any point. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny day, and really soak up all the natural beauty BC has to offer.

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Top Ten … Coachella Road Trips

Whether you are going to weekend one or weekend two, why not make the most of your vacation and take a pre or post (or both) Coachella road trip to squeeze the maximum amount of fun out of your trip! The last two years, we managed to fit in a bit of a pre and post road trip, partly because there are so many great places to see and explore in that part of the world, and partly because traveling 1400 miles from Vancouver we wanted to make the journey worthwhile! I ideally like to sandwich the craziness of the festival with some relaxation either side, with the option for a crazy night if the mood should take. We typically stay in or around Palm Springs before Coachella, and then afterwards head off on another adventure, we’ve visited Scottsdale, Las Vegas and The OC in the past two years.

Here are my top ten picks for road trip destinations (some I’ve been to, some I haven’t) all within a few hours drive of the festival grounds in Indio.

  1. Grand Canyon (approx. 6hrs)
    Yes, it is a bit of a drive, but boy is it worth it! Undoubtedly one of the most amazing natural wonders, it really is something you have to see to believe. This is definitely the place to go if you are looking for a more low-key break, there are some great hikes, but if that’s not your cup of tea, just having a wander around is enough. I splurged when I visited and took a helicopter ride which I would definitely recommend doing, it is so cool to get a completely different perspective of the canyon and really helps you to grasp just how big it is. Make sure you catch a sunrise or a sunset, or both, the views are incredible.

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    The Grand Canyon
  2. Scottsdale (approx. 4hrs)
    Scottsdale was an unexpected discovery we made back in 2014 after our first Coachella, we picked it because neither of us had been before and it wasn’t too far from Indio. I absolutely loved Scottsdale, and will definitely go back and explore again at some point in the future. There is some great shopping, a taste of the old West, amazing Mexican food, and stunning sunsets on offer.

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    Stunning Scottsdale
  3. LA (approx. 2hrs)
    Los Angeles, is more than Hollywood, there are so many unique area’s to explore, from Venice Beach to Universal Studio’s. LA can offer you a relaxing pre/post Coachella vacation, or if you’re in the mood a crazy few days of partying. The great thing about LA being so big and diverse is that it means there are suitable options for all budgets, and some awesome things to see and do for free.
  4. The OC (approx. 2hrs)
    Orange County has so much more to offer than angst ridden teens like some television shows will have you believe. From stunning scenery and quaint towns there is a lot to check out. I’ve been to a couple of places; Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Anaheim (see number 9) mainly fueled by my love of said angst ridden teen shows and loved all of them. I’m a sucker for a great beach and The OC certainly delivers on those!

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    Newport Beach sunsets
  5. San Diego (approx. 2.5hrs)
    San Diego has been gradually creeping higher and higher up my travel list. I’ve always been put off by some of the bigger tourist attractions, but lately some Pintrest research has made me reconsider. Beautiful beaches, enclaves of bars and restaurants, what’s not to enjoy? I’ll certainly be visiting the next time I am in southern California.
  6. Palm Springs (approx. 30mins)
    Literally a stones throw away from the festival grounds is the desert city of Palm Springs. We usually stay in Palm Springs the few days before Coachella, last year we stayed in Rancho Mirage which is pretty close by. Beware, hotel prices hike up around festival time, so plan ahead. If you aren’t camping at the festival, there is a good chance you’re probably staying in Palm Springs already. It’s a unique place surrounded by high peaks and big blue skies. The perfect place to recharge and rest by the pool with a cocktail in the blistering sunshine.
  7. Las Vegas (approx. 4hrs)
    Not had enough partying over the weekend? Drive over to Las Vegas where the party never ends! The great thing about Vegas, in my opinion, is that it’s a destination where you can literally do everything. Want to relax by a pool and have a few spa treatments? You got it! Want to party 24/7? Sure! Want to eat amazing food, and have some fancy cocktails? You’re spoiled for choice! Want to see an amazing show? Take your pick! Want to gamble the night away? That’s what Vegas is all about!

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    Vegas baby!
  8. Santa Catalina Island (approx. 3.5hrs including boat ride)
    Catalina is one of those places I stumbled upon a while ago and have been wanting to visit ever since. A short 75minute boat ride from Newport beach, the island offers scuba and snorkeling, hikes, beaches and restaurants.
  9. Anaheim (approx. 2hrs)
    Why not head over to Anaheim where you can visit Disney and embrace being a big kid! Hang out with Mickey and explore the vast park full of fun and adventures. The area is pretty much centered around Disney, but if that is the purpose of your trip then embrace it. Downtown Disney is a wonderful place to wander around in the evening, and if you are spending a day at the park make sure you stay to check out the phenomenal fireworks display at night.

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    Just meeting Mickey Mouse, as you do!
  10. Santa Barbara (approx. 3.5hrs)
    You’ll probably be beginning to spot a recurring theme here, beautiful coastal California beaches are my weakness. Just a bit further up the coast from LA, Santa Barbara is famous for it’s beautiful beaches, fancy boutiques and nearby vineyards. Perfect for a relaxing break, soak up the sunshine and recharge your batteries.

 

So that’s it, these are just some of the many wonderful places to visit, within the vicinity of Coachella. I highly recommend planning ahead as a lot of people have the same idea and places get booked up well in advance. That said, if you are heading a bit further afield you might have a bit more luck if you’re looking for an off the cuff adventure. Most importantly, enjoy exploring this beautiful corner of America.

Leah Explores … Gibsons

Last week my mum came to visit on a spur of the moment trip. She was only here for a week, so I wanted to make sure that we made the most of her time here. She has been to visit me here in Vancouver many times before, and so is familiar with all the “tourist” things to do. It’s now a nice challenge to find new exciting adventures for when she is here, we already did a seaplane tour earlier in the week, so we chose to explore Gibsons, which is a tiny little town on the Sunshine Coast towards the end of her stay.

*disclaimer, I experienced no sunshine on the Sunshine Coast*

Gibsons isn’t somewhere people tend to flock to, even people who live in the lower mainland. It has a very small population and is a popular retirement destination. Although part of the mainland, Gibsons is not accessible by car, so after a short 45 minute ride on a BC Ferry to Langdale, from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, we jumped on the first bus which took us right to Gibsons Landing in around 10 minutes, easy peasy!

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Gibsons is pretty tiny so it is easy to have a stroll around and see the town by foot. We looked in some of the cute and quaint shops, and then wandered over to Molly’s Reach (most famous for its part in the CBC show The Beachcombers) for lunch with a view of the water. Afterwards we walked down to the marina to look around and admire the beautiful scenery before jumping back on the bus and ferry to head back to Horseshoe Bay.

We knew this wasn’t going to be a huge adventure, and  didn’t stay and explore for too long because the weather was pretty dismal, and honestly there isn’t a ton to do in Gibsons. That said, I would definitely go back, preferably in the summer when the weather is a bit nicer, and explore further, and even head up the Sunshine Coast to Sechelt. All in all it was a nice way to spend an afternoon and explore somewhere that is definitely off the beaten track. I would definitely recommend Gibsons as a day trip for those looking for something a little different to do without having to travel far.

 

Leah Explores … The Vancouver Sky

I finally did something I have wanted to do for five years … I went on a seaplane tour. Anyone who has ever visited Vancouver will have seen the small float planes landing and taking off in front of Stanley Park from Coal Harbor. My mum is here visiting and this seemed like the perfect time to do it, especially given the beautiful weather we have been experiencing so far this week.

We booked through Harbour Air who had a couple of different options for flight length and routes. Our flight time was booked for 6pm on the ‘Panorama Classic’ tour, which included a 20minute flight over the city and the North Shore mountains. However, upon arrival we were asked if we wanted to switch to the 5.30pm flight which not only meant we left sooner but also that we would be on a smaller plane, we jumped at the opportunity. Five minutes later we were boarding our tiny plane (two pilots, four passengers, tiny!) I LOVE flying, I still get excited during take off even though I have flown countless times, and this was no different. Our route took us from Coal Harbour, over the Lions Gate Bridge, along the North Shore and out to West Vancouver. From here we then looped back around and flew all along Kitsilano and English Bay, up False Creek to Olympic Village and then finally turned back over Railtown to begin our descent back into Coal Harbour.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the stunning views we saw along the way.

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Our noble steed.
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Lighthouse Park from above.
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Beautiful BC.
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Canada Place and Coal Harbour.
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Stanley Park, Lost Lagoon and Downtown.
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English Bay.
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Downtown, Stanley Park and North Vancouver.

 

I found the tour highly enjoyable, it really put into perspective how diverse the scenery is in this part of the world.  Although it is a bit on the pricey side, I would highly recommend taking a seaplane tour. It is a once in a lifetime experience, a fantastic way to see the scenery from a different perspective, and it is something that is unique to Vancouver.