Two Days in the North Cascades | Weekend Camping and Hiking Trip

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Before we packed our rental car full of cut-rate camping gear, we read that people referred to the North Cascades National Park as the “Alps of North America”. Oh, I had a laugh. First of all, I was skeptical, because any place/thing that has to use another to explain itself always seems to be grasping.

Then we went. And it does have those turquoise lakes that so enchanted me as a study-abroad-Euro-trip-kid. And it has those valleys filled with waterfalls. And it has those snow-capped peaks. It has amazing alpine meadows. I see the similarities. Still, I hesitate to call it the “Alps of North America” because we needn’t refer to everything in the “new world” according to their closest “old world” comparison. Let the North Cascades be their own thing. They merit that.

I squealed with glee a couple times during our first 7ish mile hike. (We hiked Heather-Maple Pass, which is actually located just outside the park).

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades national park trip

north cascades

north cascades

north cascades

I had an ambitious two-day hiking itinerary planned for us. We were to hike 12 miles on back to back days. An ankle roll got in the way, but we still logged about 12 on day one and another mile or so on day two. The fact that we didn’t get my top-pick hike in combined with the fact that our camera battery was not charged before we left means I’m itching to get back. Unfortunately, our fall is already filling up (I’ve now got two job schedules to balance, am heading to SoDak for some weddings, hope to make it to Wisconsin sometime, Jordan’s got his own work and school scheduling conflicts, and I am trying to weasel in a trip to Victoria when my in-laws visit). Soon there will be snow there, and frankly, our travel and weekend trip budget could probably use a bit of a recovery period after we get back from South Dakota. Alas, next late spring/summer might be our next chance to visit.

Still, we made use of our time, reading glacier-fueled riverside, visiting the Cascadian Farms organic fields for an ice cream and berry stop, shopping at the Mazama Store, and eating some less-than-healthy, but delicious barbeque in Marblemount.

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cascadian farms

ice cream at cascadian farms

This park, my friends, is free to visit and relatively un-visited compared to the likes of Yellowstone and Yosemite. Hard for me to understand when it’s this beautiful.

Until we meet again, North Cascades National Park, until we meet again.

Back in the Classroom (and super happy!)

This is how I feel today, even though it’s actually raining outside here.

lifelong learning post photo at salinas

Today I re-begin my life as an ESL teacher. After leaving Montreal, I took a Quebec camping trip, visited my family in Wisconsin and South Dakota, spent time temp-living in northern Argentina, and then settled in Vancouver. I was lucky to find work early on in my search (I actually only interviewed for one job and took it) and really enjoy the job I landed. I like the people I work with, my bosses are very willing to work around schedules and quite generous with letting us try samples and fun foodstuffs. That said, I was definitely missing the classroom (and libraries, too. Don’t think I’ll ever not miss them, even if I opt for work outside of them.).

Through a bit of luck, good timing, connections (they don’t hurt, huh?), and flexible employers, I am happily starting as an ESL teacher with the same company I worked for in Montreal. I’ve spent the last couple nights reviewing my teacher portfolio and notes, reading some of the materials my boss has sent me, and generally flip-flopping between elated and nervous.

Now, I just need to find that crochet pouch and those teacher shoes…

ESL teacher's toolkit

Happy Monday everyone! And I really mean that this Monday!

We Go Where Sister Wants to Go | A Day Trip in the Cowichan Valley

Cowichan Valley Kinsol Trestle Bridge View

Oh, man, guys. I don’t know how I let these things happen. It’s been nearly four months since my lil’ sis and I visited Vancouver Island. I’m just now getting around to posting. Sure, I’ve had other things going on, I’ve been working a schedule approximating something like full time (sometimes more, sometimes less depending upon the week), but mostly I feel like I’ve just been trying to sneak in as much biking, as many microbrewery visits, and Spanish classes as our schedules allow.

I promise, though, the fact that I let so much time pass before writing about this does not mean you shouldn’t make a point to visit this region of BC. (Alas, so much BC, so little time!)

Before visiting, Sister did some research, found some things she thought looked interesting, and told me she was leaning toward visiting Cowichan Valley. I’ll admit, I was caught unawares. I’ve heard of oodles of things to visit in BC, and this wasn’t really one of them. I even asked some Vancouverite coworkers who responded with, “Where?”

But when a visitor actually researches what she wants to do, I do not get in the way.

We hopped the Tsawwassen ferry to Victoria* and rented a car to explore the valley for the day. Sadly, just a day, but we made the most of it.

Early on we stopped a bit, so Midwest Gal #2 could meet the Douglas firs and moss of British Columbia.

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vancouver island tree

We continued north, making our way to the Kinsol Trestle. (From the parking area, hit the trail, turn left, and walk an easy mile to the bridge. It’s an impressive piece of construction and has been rehabilitated. There’s no doubt it’s safe enough for you to walk or bike across these days, but imagine loaded trains crossing these old wooden trestles years ago. Eek! The bridge really does make for a nice walk, a nice view, and a nice excuse to get out of the car.

The weather was chilly, so the sunny patches on the trestle were much appreciated.

kinsol trestle cowichan valley

kinsol trestle cowichan valley view

kinsol trestle cowichan valley

kinsol trestle

Post trestle, the hour became nearly justifiable for visiting wineries. The Cowichan Valley is home to quite a few–far too many, I assure you, for just one day. You’ll have to do a bit of research and choose those that suit your wants the most. Or, you can just go to one and ask them about the others.

The gentlemen at Enrico Winery were chatty and had some good recommendations for things to do nearby and in Victoria. They also took a good bit of time to explain some basics about BC varietals to us. The owner (too much time has passed, I forgot her name) at Cherry Point Estate Wines is full of fun stories and lovely to chat with as well. Also, be sure to stock up on Lágrimas Negras and a bottle of the Solera dessert wine (a gift that the Mister thoroughly enjoyed). Finally, we visited Averill Creek, which has a wonderful view and terrace. Really, we should have picnicked there, but we were ill-prepared. Still, a lovely visit. Still several other wineries that could be visited on a second trip.

cowichan valley

cowichan valley

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Lavender!!

cowichan valley

cowichan valley

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averill creek cowichan valley

cowichan valley averill creek

I know, I know, I said this about the Okanagan Valley as well, but Cowichan Valley really is a great place to visit wineries for people who aren’t well-versed in the lingo of wine. Asking questions was more than tolerated, it was gladly welcomed. Everyone with whom we interacted was very low-key and wasn’t concerned with whether we knew a lot about wine or if we’d end up buying a lot of it from them. It was nice. It was relaxing. It was worth  it. I’d visit again gladly.

Although winery visits took up the bulk of our Cowichan Valley time, we did manage to sneak in a lunch and flânerie time in Cowichan Bay (I recommend visiting the cheese shop and bakery for some foodie splurges) and a bit of time in Duncan (stop by the Garage–check out some used books and some delicious treats!).

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

cowichan bay

the garage duncan

There’s not much in my guide books (why, yes, we actually do have a Frommer’s Canada) about the Cowichan Valley. I hadn’t heard about it, and it’s not typically on the top of bucket lists. But there was a good tourist time to be had nonetheless. This little day trip reminded me that nearly every place, if you look just a little, has a lot to offer.

Thanks for joining me, Sister. Thanks for joining me, reader. Next time we go to the Cowichan Valley, let’s all buy sweaters.

Duncan, Cowichan Valley*Seems like we really ought to have a direct line from downtown to this ferry without hopping SkyTrain to bus. On the way back, we were stuck at the ferry terminal without a bus for nearly 2 hours. Well done, transit planners, well done.