Trip Report: Seattle and Vancouver

Trip Report: Seattle and Vancouver

There are a few places I would go time and time again. Zion and the Grand Canyon. The Adirondacks. And Seattle. My partner’s job frequently sends him to Seattle for conferences and I like to go along when I can.

A few weeks ago, we had the chance to go back. He was in the conference most of the day, so I got out and about. My preferred mode of travel is by foot, so I spent a lot of time walking around the waterfront and downtown area. I like to peek in shops, get a feel of neighborhoods, and just hang around a place for a while.

Things to Do in Seattle

The first day, I wanted to test out my foot. The hurt one. I walked up Queen Anne Hill and down again, and eventually found myself  in the neighborhood of Fremont, which has a bridge troll and a chocolate factory (Theo) that were totally worth seeing. It was a bit of a hike from downtown (about five miles), but a nice adventure. After Al was done with his conference, I met him near the Space Needle at KEXP which has a La Marzocco cafe. We sat and listened to the DJ while we sipped on espressos and snacked on our Chukar Cherries that I picked up earlier at Pike Place Market. I highly recommend the no-sugar Rainier and tart cherries mix.

Espresso at KEXP and Chukar Cherries make the perfect Pacific Northwest snack.

On the second day, I took a ferry. We are both knitters, so it was worth a trip to Bainbridge Island to visit Churchmouse Yarn shop and have some delicious ice cream at Mora ice cream, which is right next door. Later that day I returned to the downtown area and visited the Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library. It’s an architectural wonder filled with books.

Wine custard ice cream at Mora was to die for.
The Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library.

Seattle seems to have been taken over by dockless bike share bikes. One day I had the good idea to install the Lime Bike app and look for one to ride up to Discovery Park, which was a bit too far to walk. I wanted to try an electric one just for the fun of it, and the app told me right where to find one. Once I scanned the code into the app, the bike unlocked, and off I went. It was a little scary at first (in the future, maybe I will rent or bring a helmet) but I quickly found the trail I needed that would guide me to the park, which is on the north end of a peninsula.

At the end of the Discovery Park Peninsula.

It was also pretty well marked with signs, although at one point I was following another cyclist, missed my turn, and ended up crossing over from the north side of the peninsula to the south side, but still heading in the same direction. I biked a solid 10 miles before arriving at the park, where I happily left the bike near the entrance and continued the trails on foot. I headed out to the furthest point of the peninsula to enjoy the spectacular views, then wandered back toward the entrance of the park, where I was able to find another electric Lime Bike to take me back.

My dockless bike share bike from Lime Bike. I picked an e-bike. It was great fun.

Seattle is full of fresh sea air and beautiful long walks, but the real reason I wanted to write this post  is the trip we took after we left Seattle. In the past, we’ve rented a car and driven around the Olympic Peninsula. For this trip, we rented a car and headed north to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Leaving Seattle early on a Thursday morning, it was only a matter of hours before we arrived in Vancouver, where we had rented an Airbnb in West Vancouver.

Things to Do in Vancouver

Before checking into the Airbnb, we grabbed breakfast at a delightful bakery cafe called the Baker and Baron in West Vancouver. Clotted cream, muffins, scones, you name it, they’ve got it. And it’s delicious.

A view from the highway just north of Vancouver.

Afterward, we quickly found our Airbnb, which was a swanky mini pool house in someone’s back yard. The bed was a loft and the living space was much like a tiny house. It didn’t matter that it was small, because we were barely there. We immediately headed out for the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is a long suspension bridge over a gorge. It was expensive but worth the experience, and after we crossed the bridge, there were a few short hiking trails (some in the treetops) to take before returning. It was crowded, so a weekday visit is recommended. I can only imagine weekends are much, much worse.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in downtown Vancouver, first in the Granville Island Public Market where I was brought to sappy tears by a Turkish musician (Serkan Sogukpinar)  and a woman who felt moved to dance. After we ate cheeses, breads, and pickles at the market, we headed over to the downtown area near Canada Place, a touristy pier of sorts, and then the Gastown Steam Clock. Good luck to anyone who can figure out how it works. I watched it for a while and was still amazed by it all.

The next day I had it in my head that we were going to do the Grouse Grind. We are both hikers but a little out of practice because of my foot injury which has been holding me back for a few months.  I was somehow feeling better and decided that a 1.8 mile hike that gains 2600 feet sounded like fun. If I were a local, I could totally see myself here frequently, since it was exercise that was also beautiful and fun. In fact, there were many locals on the trail. Locals (or anyone competitive, really) can purchase a pass that works as a timing chip. Chip in at the bottom, chip in at the top, and see how you compete against the world record of 21 minutes. Yes, 21 minutes.

Heading up up up on Grouse Mountain.

It took me about an hour and 15 minutes, and I was pretty damn impressed with that. It was a wonderful hike, and it’s one way only. Going down is so steep that, for safety reasons, the hike only goes up. Everyone must take the gondola back down, and that costs about $15. Be on the lookout for banana slugs, of which I saw a few. For anyone who does not feel up to the challenge, the gondola goes both ways. At the top of the Grouse Grind is a movie theatre, a restaurant and cafe, and two grizzly bears, raised in captivity but mostly wild, living in a large (very large) enclosure. When we were there, they were just waking up from hibernation and were not completely “with it” yet.

A banana slug on the Grouse Grind.
Fun data points.
There were still thick banks of snow at the top of Grouse Mountain.
It’s easy to feel exhilarated at the top of Grouse Mountain.

After our Grouse Grind hike, we drove about 30 minutes over to Quarry Rock and did that hike too.

And after our Quarry Rock hike, we drove over to Stanley Park, rented a tandem bicycle, and rode around the perimeter of the sea wall.

North side of the Stanley Park Seawall.

See, our Airbnb host had told us that she’d had a particularly ambitious couple stay with her recently who did the Grouse Grind and Quarry Rock in ONE DAY! And we could not be outdone. Needless to say, we both slept well that night.

The Sea to Sky Gondola, on the way to Squamish, looking out over Howe Sound.

On our third and final day in Vancouver, we had the choice of going back to the downtown or seeing some more of those beautiful mountains. We chose the mountains as we drove north toward Howe Sound, stopping in towns along the way, taking the Sea to Sky Gondola, visiting Squamish, and ending in Whistler. I’m sorry to say that Whistler seemed like nothing more than a tourist destination and a ski town. Of all the things I love, skiing is not one of them, so I was glad to see it but probably won’t be back. One thing it did have was a lot of high-end outdoor stores with sales.

Whistler, BC.

Squamish, on the other hand, had a wonderful little farmers’ market. There were some really nice stalls, including locally spun yarn and vegan cheese, but my favorite by far was Craft Wilder, a stall selling specialty wild-crafted (and non-carbonated) kombucha with brews like cedar and fir.

Squamish Farmers’ Market.
I could not get enough of this stuff (Craft Wilder Kombucha, Grand Fir).
Brandywine Falls near Squamish.
Shannon Falls near Squamish.
When we had a choice of the city or the mountains, there really was no choice at all.

A short drive back with a few interesting stops along the way (Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, Shannon Falls Provincial Park) and we were back at our Airbnb pool house, forced to pack up for our flight the next day. But I would not leave Vancouver if I did not have to!

It was hard to leave this beautiful place, even with bird poop on the window.

The last day, we headed back over the border, consoling each other all the way, and stopping at a few seaside towns before arriving at the airport.

In short, a short trip to the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia was lovely. I fell head over heels for British Columbia, and especially Vancouver, and especially the Grouse Grind, which I would hike three times a week if I could and have the best leg muscles of anyone, anywhere, except, of course, for other Vancouverites.

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