Tofino Trails & Buffalo Cauliflower

What can I say about Tofino, BC? It’s a very special place nestled in a lush forest at the end of the earth. The setting for this beautiful playground is the most western point of Canada, where an unspoiled landscape meets the endless ocean.

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tofino

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Wild and rugged, its forests are lush and green with moss covered leaves and cavernous old growth trees. Trees that spark the imagination and look like they may have tiny fairies living inside of them.

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If you’re lucky you can see a pack of wolves walking along the mud flats early in the morning or a humpback whale jumping out of the stormy ocean in the afternoon. Stay here for a while and you can’t help but feel how connected to the earth we are.

Walk barefoot along Chesterman Beach on soft, white, powdery sand. Then stop to gaze at a sparkly ocean that is part of Tofino’s magic. I’ve never seen the ocean look so filled with diamonds as it does here.

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chesterman beach

And what should you eat to warm you up after you’re finished exploring this supernatural corner of the earth?

This:

Buffalo Cauliflower

Adapted from Thug Kitchen

  • 2 medium heads cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Hot sauce:

  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup Sriracha or similar-style hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce or tamari

Heat your oven to 450F. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet. Chop up your cauliflower into little pieces no bigger than your thumb.

Whisk together the flour and water in a big bowl until a batter forms with no chunks. Toss in the cauliflower and mix it around until all the pieces look a little coated. Spread the cauliflower out on the baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Mix the pieces around halfway through roasting so all the sides are covered.

Make the hot sauce. In a small saucepan, mix the oil, Sriracha, vinegar and soy sauce. Heat over a low heat until the sauce is warm but not bubbling. Turn off the heat and let it sit.

After 15 minutes in the oven, put the cauliflower back in a big bowl and toss it with the hot sauce mixture from the stove-top. Make sure everything is coated. Drop the cauliflower pieces back on the baking sheet, leaving the extra sauce in the bowl, and roast for another 3 minutes so everything is warm and delicious.

Serve hot.

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Beaver Lake in Stanley Park

There are so many reasons to love Vancouver and one of my main reasons this city still has my heart is that you can escape to lush, green nature so quickly and easily living here. In fact Stanley Park sits, like an emerald jewel, right in the middle of our city.

So, when I want to get away from the city by getting into the forest in the middle of the city, this is where I go…

beaver lake

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If you’re ever visiting my lovely city, you should go there too.

Stanley Park trails

Bathing in Beauty

Have you ever heard of forest bathing? And did you know that hanging out in a forest can help detoxify you, de-stress you and boost your immune system?

When we breathe in fresh, forest air, we also breathe in things called phytoncides. What exactly are phytoncides? They’re essential oils that trees give off to protect themselves from insects. They’re also full of antibacterial particles that help trees fight disease. How amazing is nature?

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Breathing in these essential oils help our bodies fight disease too. They increase the number of white blood cells called natural killer cells (NK for short). And the main job of NK is helping us to destroy unhealthy virus-infected cells in our bodies. Studies in Japan have shown that increased NK activity from a three day hiking trip lasted for more than 30 days! This stat blows me away and makes me question why exactly I’m living in a city sometimes.

So spending time around trees lowers blood pressure, stress hormones and, in a nutshell, makes you happier. People who regularly hike or walk in the forest also have decreased levels of anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue.

Amazing benefits from getting out of town and into the woods. I’m gonna go now and hug some trees.

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It’s a Grind

Love/hate relationships.

They’re powerful, exciting and endlessly dramatic. The proverbial emotional rollercoaster with dizzying highs and crushing lows. Have I mentioned that I happen to have one with the Grouse Grind? It’s been going on for years and seems to only be getting stronger as time goes by.

On the one hand, I love the forest. The scent of the trees and bright green moss growing along the side of the trail create the sweetest, freshest air to breathe into your hard-working lungs as you huff and puff your way up the mountain. Nature’s aromatherapy. The intense beauty of the forest also never ceases to amaze me. Especially on a misty, foggy afternoon when the path looks exactly like the enchanted forest of my favourite childhood fairy tale. Who wouldn’t love an enchanted forest?

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On the other hand, there’s the actual issue of the climb. I haven’t quite experienced anything like it on any other trail (thank goodness). It’s almost straight up the mountain at times and there is no reprieve. No flat stretch to catch your breathe and psych yourself up for the next punishing climb. Nope, none of that. Just full-on, straight up. Switchbacks are non-existent here. And every time I find myself back on the Grind, I question my sanity as I make my way along what seems like a never-ending vertical trail. “What is wrong with me?” my internal voice shrieks. “There are so many more beautiful, more sane hikes in BC. Why do I keep torturing myself with this one? This is it. I mean it this time. Never again!” I repeat a version of this over and over again as I crawl over rocks and roots on my journey through hell, unfortunately knowing on some level that, like a co-dependant lover, no matter what I say, I’ll probably be back for more.

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I finally emerge from the woods, panting, glistening with sweat and smeared with a good bit of dirt. I plop to the ground, gulp the last of my water, catch my breathe, wipe my brow and, finally, take a look around.

And what I see is magnificent. A beautiful Atlantis sparkles below me. The sun is starting to set and it is stunning to see from the top of Grouse. I also have a sweet sense of accomplishment. I did it. I made it to the top! And, in a flash, all of the nasty, hateful thoughts of the past 1 hour and 20 minutes are gone, and all I’m left with is love.

And the cycle begins again.

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