Squamish, BC is less than an hour from Vancouver but, in many ways, it’s a world away. At first glance you’ll see a typical Canadian small town with strip malls, fast food joints and a bustling Tim Horton’s. But then you look up and see the stunning mountain range right beside the town and Squamish no longer seems anything close to typical. This hiker, rock climber, and snowshoer’s paradise is one of my favourite mini getaways. The mountain range is called “The Chief” and now has a gondola that takes you part way up the mountain to tree lined hiking trails with breathtaking vistas.
If you love the outdoors and are planning a trip to BC, definitely put this winter wonderland destination on your list.
What makes you feel on top of the world? For me it’s overlooking stunning views like this..
St. Mark’s is a 5.5k trek up the mountain and takes about 4 hours round trip. It’s trail goes through a misty, magical forest and, as a grande finale, ends up overlooking the stunning seascape of Howe Sound.
It’s a hike that will also have you working up an appetite. So, I’ve created a yummy, vegan, apres hike dinner that features one of my all-time favorite dishes, Pan Fried Tofu Cakes. These cakes are smoky, onion-y pieces of foodie heaven and are served with a yummy spicy mayo. They are seriously one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.
Here’s the recipe:
Place tofu in colander and break apart let stand for 3 hours to completely remove water. If this isn’t done cakes will not form.
Next beat eggs, Worchester and chili oil.
In a separate bowl combine the seasoning mix, green onions and add wet ingredients with 1 cup of panko and mix by hand. The mix is ready when a ball can be formed and hold its shape like a meatball. If mix is too wet add more panko until achieved. Scoop enough to form a 3 inch diameter cake. Don’t go too big or they will be mushy. Pre-heat cast iron pan and add olive oil. Place patties in pan for a few minutes to make them crisp on each side. Finish in a 350 oven for 10 minutes. Serve hot.
Finish the meal with a big bowl of blackberries or cherries and a lovely Okanagan wine and you have all of the ingredients you need for a healthy, delicious (and sugar free) feast.
The Grind is taking up a fair amount of my spare time right now so it’s going to be the subject of another blog post. This one to be exact.
The stairmaster-esque climb, the intense sweating, the checking of the heart rate every few minutes and the unbelievably long time it takes to get to the first quarter mark can make this hike feel like a special form of torture. But, that said, it’s the best and quickest way for me to achieve my summer fitness goals. And, for this reason, in spite of all of my complaining, I kinda love it.
However, my fitness level is at a point where I definitely have to sit and take a break part way up. I stare into space for a while, gulp down some water and text a few friends the exact same message “I’m in actual hell right now”. Then I usually hear my stomach grumble angrily. The last time this happened I devoured a sugary granola bar but…no more. I’m eating clean and sugar free now. So for my grumbly, half way up the mountain hunger pains I’ve made a yummy, no-sugar alternative. I tried these snacks for the first time a few days ago and my verdict is YUM.
Disclaimer: this recipe is only delicious after you’ve been sugar free for a while and have reset your taste buds.
Here’s my easy as (sugar free) pie recipe:
2 ripe, mashed bananas
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
a dash of cinnamon
Mix all ingredients, drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
There you have it. Take these on your next trek into the woods and your body with thank you.
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?
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.
Every time I go adventuring in the forest, I am surprised at how quickly my problems and worries seem to disappear. I also notice that when I think of my life in the city, it seems less like my real life than trekking through the forest does.
“How can I get out of the city and into my happy place on a more regular basis?” I pondered this as I stood, packed like a stressed out sardine, on the bus home from the office last week.
“Start a hiking group” my inner voice whispered. It hits all of the important prerequisites for happiness: friendship, camaraderie and time spent in nature. Hiking is also a great way to stay fit. I couldn’t think of a downside to this.
That evening The Happy Hiker Club was born. Every hike we do will be chronicled in the blog this summer. Tips, highlights, things to watch out for and any inspiration nature gives me will be shared here.