A Hipster Tourist’s Guide to Seattle: An Introduction to Pike Place

Coming off my last travel rush from getting even 30minutes outside Whistler to Pemberton, I decided it was time to up my game again with a quick international excursion to Seattle. While admittedly I’d already been to the city and am not usually a fan of taking trips to a place I’ve already visited, I’m also less of a fan of saying “no” to any kind of trip at all.

With that, when a friend said, “I need to go to Seattle to renew a visa, wanna come and keep me from getting bored driving?” What I heard was, “I’m going on a sick road trip, wanna come on an adventure?” (Needless to say, I decided to come along.

Now, if there is one thing I should have learned in life by now, it’s that Google maps should not be trusted under ANY circumstance! Looking back, it’s completely laughable that they would quote the driving time from Whistler to Seattle at 4hours and 17minutes. Unless you’re driving in a post-apocalyptic scenario where there are 0 other cars on the road and no one at the border patrol, THIS IS A LIE. If you plan on making the trip, give yourself about twice that amount of time. I mean, all and all, the drive is right up along the west coast and is completely gorgeous anyways!

Once all the driving was out of the way, it was time to hit up what is now my favourite place in Seattle: Pike Place Market. Founded in 1907 as a way to help farmers connect with local buyers without having to go through over-inflated mark-ups by “The Man”, the market was the original hang out for hipsters, before doing things before they were cool was cool. Being the always-cool tourist I am, I couldn’t help but check out the sights, which you’re bombarded with as soon as you arrive at the iconic Public Market Center sign, which has been in place since 1937.

There are also about 1,000,000 post cards featuring this sign, it’s crazy

There are also about 1,000,000 post cards featuring this sign, it’s crazy

In an attempt to raise money for Seattle’s child care, food bank, medical clinic and seniors’ centre, Rachel the piggy bank was installed in 1986 in the centre of the market. Since then, she has been raising about $10,000 a year for her causes!

I wish I could make that much just hanging out in Pike Place Market all year!

I wish I could make that much just hanging out in Pike Place Market all year!

Next up was the quirky little Post Alley, home to one of the country’s most un-hygenic attractions, the Seattle gum wall. The wall was born in the 1990’s, when residents decided to create their own version of California’s bubblegum alley. Authorities tried to clean the walls up on several occasions, but eventually gave up and let the street develop into the selfie-worthy attraction it is today.

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Finally, I ended the day off with a quick stroll across the street to Seattle’s waterfront. Now, I haven’t met a waterfront I didn’t like and Seattle and its Great Wheel were certainly no exception!

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Whisky Jack-ing Joffre Lakes

The morning after my farming excursions had me waking up to a completely different adventure – hiking. This took me to Joffre Lakes, about a 30-minute drive from Hostel Sholih Works. Over the summer, I’d seen countless Facebook photos and heard endless tales about both the beauty and intensity of the hike, so I figured it was more than about time to embark on it for myself!

The hike starts out easy enough, with Lower Joffre Lake being only a few moments’ stroll from the roadway pit stop. My friends and I stopped for a brief photo-shoot, but were quickly decided to set our sights on the middle and upper lakes, located along. (Little did I know that the trail’s intensity would soon quintuple!)

2014-09-16 16.41.13             Making my way along the trail, my friends and I found ourselves clinging to each other for support during some of the near-vertical inclines as we approached Matier glacier. I was almost considering turning back when, in true Whistler spirit, we happen to run into my 65-year-old landlord and his family bounding back down the trail after already having reached the peak. We stopped for a “what a crazy coincidence to be meeting on the side of a mountain” chat before continuing on my way with a renewed sense of motivation – if my old landlord could make the hike, so could I!

Steep hillsides be damned!

Steep hillsides be damned!

With that, I bounded along the remainder of the trail and soon found myself at Upper Joffre Lake!! Having been to Lakes Minnewanka, Morrain and Louise in back when I lived in Alberta, I’d like to say I have a pretty high lake standard for lakes. With that, Joffre Lake definitely took the cake! Not only did it have that glacier-fed-crystal-blue hue to it,

(Couldn't resist jumping in, of course!)

(Couldn’t resist jumping in, of course!)

There were a ton of Whisky Jack birds flying around it that came up and ate pieces of bread straight out of our hands!

Behold! The human birdfeeder!

Behold! The human birdfeeder!

Altogether, it was one of the most memorable hikes I’d been on and would definitely recommend it to anyone willing to take on the challenge!

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Embracing the Farm Life

I last left off with my latest spontaneous decision: a last minute road trip to Hostel Shiloh Works. Obviously a journey going directly from point A to point B without making random pit stops for added adventure would not be classified as a road trip, so naturally, many detours were made.

My personal favourite was a last-second swerve off the side of the road at a “look, there’s a pick-your-own farm, we’re totally going” from the driver. This led us all to North Arm Farm, a family-run organic establishment.

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As luck would have it, we were just in time to catch the end of pick-your-own-raspberries season, so we grabbed some containers and trotted off into 60 open acres of berries, vegetables and swing sets (unable to resist the urge to partake in a full-fledged photo shoot in the process of course).

Swings ^_^

Swings ^_^

(The farm also hosts weddings and special events, can you tell?)

(The farm also hosts weddings and special events, can you tell?)

where the farmland meets the mountains <3

where the farmland meets the mountains <3

Oooo! Rust!

Oooo! Rust!

Once we finally made it to the actual raspberry bushes, I was flooded with the nostalgia of picking berries from my backyard growing up.

Having too much fun, what else is new?!

Having too much fun, what else is new?!

In the end, I found myself literally skipping through the thorny plants in euphoria.

... I eventually skipped my way over the the even happier sunflowers!

… I eventually skipped my way over the the even happier sunflowers!

Eventually, we had all picked our fill and piled back into the car. After an appropriate amount of road winding and cell phone reception losing, we finally pulled into the front yard of our hostel, past a field of horses and chickens and to the front door.

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Before we could get out of the car, a cheery older lady popped out of the house to greet us and give us a tour around. Since it was already early autumn and tourist season was drawing to a close, we were the only ones at the hostel and had our pick of rooms.

Finally made it!

Finally made it!

By the time we had unpacked and settled in, the sunset was beginning to paint its way across the sky and we were all beginning to start craving some dinner. It was also at this point that we collectively realized that other than the crate of raspberries we had picked en route, we had absolutely nothing to eat.

Since she seemed so friendly earlier, we decided to ask the owner if she knew anywhere nearby we could buy some food, unfortunately receiving a response along the lines of “aaaah, you didn’t pick up anythings in Pemberton? They are the closest places”. As much as I enjoyed road tripping up to the hostel, the idea of spending all evening driving into Pemberton (which was quite boring to begin with) and back wasn’t too appealing.

My look of displeasure must have been pretty noticeable because our host then quickly added, “we has some foods for our guests, do you all like deer meat? We shot somes just yesterday, is very fresh!” Delighted, I accepted the offer and we all prepared and dug into some delicious spaghetti and dear sauce, along with some fresh carrots from the garden.

We're saved!

We’re saved!

After dinner, we sat around the table and attempted to learn a traditional Korean game my friend had brought along. It was kind of similar to jacks in the sense that you had to throw a small object in the air, then pick other small objects off the table and catch the original object again before it hit the ground. Long story short, it required a significantly higher amount of coordination than I was ever going to have. It was soon decided that we were all pretty useless at this task and better suited to hot tubbing instead.

With that being said, I’m definitely no stranger to hot tubs, having spent most of my time in Big White in the one on my patio, so I know a good tubbing opportunity when I see it and this was probably one of the best.

One of my favourite advantages to being the middle of nowhere is the fact that the stars put on a stellar light show once the sun bows out for the night. )Not to mention the fact that a couple of stragglers from the Perseid meteor shower were still streaking their way across the sky!) Since the night breezes were starting to get a bit of a nip to them, the tub was the perfect place to keep warm while enjoying the full extent of nature’s beauty. Not a bad way to finish a day of ranching and road tripping, if I do say so myself! (Someday, I’ll get around to learning the work the “bulb” setting of my camera so I can actually photograph the magic, I promise!)

Getting Off the Grid

I will be the first to admit that living in Whistler isn’t exactly like living in the “real world”. No one really commutes through gridlocked traffic to spend 80hours a week working a corporate job that they hate. People out here still work hard, but they balance it out with an equal amount of play hard and seem to be a little bit happier all around.

Just take this jolly maple toffee making man for example!

Just take this jolly maple toffee making man for example!

Even in this little slice of mountainous paradise, I found myself sitting on the couch with some friends and one day thinking, “we all have 2 days off, we should just get out of here for a while, let’s go on a trip somewhere”. Soon enough, laptops were open and the Google gods were being summoned to find the perfect mini-vacation destination. After scouring the province and accepting the fact that 2 days was not enough time to justify a 14hour car journey to a lake in the middle of nowhere, we decided we would just get off the grid and embrace the farm life at a ranch outside of Pemberton.

Now, when I say, “ranch” I really mean, “hostel”. Hostel Shiloh Works to be specific. It was about 20 minutes outside of the nearby town of Pemberton, which invited us in to stop by (mostly because it was on the way and unavoidable).

Stopping in Pemberton was admitted kind of a mistake however. Whistler can feel a little bit small at times, but Pemberton definitely takes the too-small-to-even-be-a-cupcake cake. We saw a sign for the “downtown centre” and drove past the same two antique shops 3 times before realizing they were the summation of what the “downtown centre” actually consisted of.

Unimpressed but admittedly not really surprised (I’d heard quite a few boring rumours about the place already), we continued along our way. Learning from our civilization-based escape, the next pit stop was Nairn Fall Provincial Park. For me, this was a pretty safe bet because I’ve never seen a waterfall in my life I didn’t like (or even downright adore, they’re all just so freaking ravishing: see Exhibits A and B for further excitement).

From the entrance, a quick 20-minute gallivant (I wouldn’t quite call it a hike, the terrain was woodsy but still quite flat), got us to a viewing platform for the falls, where I happily snapped away with my camera. While the views were quite nice, the whole area was pretty well fenced off, so I couldn’t get as close to the actual falls as I really would have liked (sigh, the problems of the overly-adventurous, I know)!

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Back in the car, it was time to get back to hitting the open road!

Race to the Finish – Travvelsized: a Triathlon-Sized Odyssey: Part 2

The last time we saw our hero, she had just barely survived certain death, swimming through the freezing Pacific Ocean off the coast of Vancouver’s Stanley Park during her first triathlon. Now, she must face the bicycle and running challenges before she can claim the prestigious title of “triathlete”, but will these feats prove to be too much!? Stay tuned to this episode of “Travvelsized: a Triathlon’Sized Odyssey” to fund out!

As I approached the shore, I realized that 20mintues into the triathlon I was already dragging myself along. I knew the swim was going to be the most challenging aspect, but I didn’t expect to be completely exhausted already!

Luckily, my inner motivational coach came through and started screaming: “you’re trying to tell me you’re tired already!? Why’d you even sign up for this triathlon? If this is the attitude you’re going to have, you might as well quit now, binge on junk food and watch a documentary about REAL triathletes, because you’re not one!”

Looking back, I’ve realized 2 important things about coach-Judi: 1) she’s kind of a jerk 2) she’s also really good at getting a point across.

After my pep talk, it was into the transition area to change out of my wetsuit and into my bike gear, which I managed to do in under 4 minutes, which had already moved me ahead of about 20 people who were struggling out of soggy suits. (I guess my ability to wake up up 10 minutes before I was supposed to start a shift at work and still make it in on time was infinitely useful in more than one way!)

From there, it was on to the longest stretch of the triathlon: the biking. Right out of the gate, about 20 of the top Olympic-length men’s racers zoomed past me in their aerodynamic helmets and trisuits, all going twice my speed and sweating half as much. It took all my strength to ignore them, realizing that they had all probably been training for this for years, instead of the few feeble months I had put in.

Soon enough, I had fallen into pace with another sprint-length racer in a bright red top. She was a bit faster than me on flat terrain, but luckily, Stanley Park also had a bit of an incline to it. Coming from the mountain resort of Whistler, I didn’t even notice the elevation gain until I realized I was passing a ton of people (including the girl in the bright red top), who appeared to be struggling to move forward. Bright-red-top and I passed each other several times throughout the bike leg, exchanging friendly banter, but once we had gotten back to the transition area, my speedy changing skills had put me ahead once more.

Now it was onto the final sprint. I knew the running portion was going to be my strong suit and I really fell into the groove of things as I felt my excitement build. As I ran, I got closer and closer to realizing that: 1) I might actually going to make it to the finish of this thing and 2) I was passing a crap-ton of people in the process! For someone who had been training by running about 3x the distance of the actual triathlon run, 5km felt like a breeze!

Before I knew it, the finish line was in sight and I was sprinting towards it! In the end, I finished 30/76 in the women’s sprint length triathlon (not a bad feat for a 21 year old who had only been training for a summer, instead of the lifetime all the 30-something racers had seemed to put in!

Far too happy for someone who's not going to be able to feel her legs for the next week!

Far too happy for someone who’s not going to be able to feel her legs for the next week!

I had once thought Tough Mudder was the accomplishment of a lifetime, but that paled out to ghost-white in comparison to finishing a triathlon. Not only had I set a new bar for myself and accomplished more than I ever thought possible, I had now opened up a whole new world of competitions, from improving my sprint time, to moving on to Olympic and Iron – length races!

Sprinting Into A Triathlon – Travvelsized: a Triathlon-Sized Odyssey: Part 1

So about a week after I conquered Tough Mudder, I could start to feel my workout routine falling into a bit of a slump. For a little while, I just kept telling myself “completing Tough Mudder is the fitness accomplishment of a lifetime! You’ve reached your peak, congratulations!” Unfortunately, none of my runs or workouts seemed to carry the same passion and drive if I wasn’t training for something ridiculous and I quickly realized that I needed a new insane goal to work towards.

For a while, I tried looking at more obstacle course-style races, but even those that claimed to be harder and longer still seemed to lack the prestige and name recognition of Tough Mudder. Next, I looked into marathon-ing, but eventually had to come to terms with the fact that I usually hit the wall around 15km into a run simply because I start to get bored.

Wow! MORE gorgeous trees and lakes!? That's SOOO Exciting and TOTALLY different from what I've been staring at for the past 3 hours (not)

Wow! MORE gorgeous trees and lakes!? That’s SOOO Exciting and TOTALLY different from what I’ve been staring at for the past 3 hours (not) (Photo Credit: David Ohmer)

Eventually, I found the perfect compromise: triathlon. It had three different activities for me to switch between to keep from getting bore, plus, I knew I would feel amazing once I was able to say: “yeah, I’m a triathlete, no big deal or anything.” Within a day of this realization, I was signed up for the sprint length Vancouver Triathlon (750m swimming, 20km biking and 5km running) and was back in the training regime.

Before I knew it, I had somehow managed to acquire a wetsuit, rent a professional level road bike, reserve a hotel room in Vancouver near Stanley Park (where the Triathlon was held) and find myself standing in the ocean, ready to begin the race before 8am (a time I hadn’t been consciously awake for in months, since I’d been working in a bar all summer).

Frontin' like I have a clue what I'm about to get into..!

Frontin’ like I have a clue what I’m about to get into..!

I was jolted out of my numbed excitement/nervousness by race’s signal gunshot and dove into the ocean. Over the course of the summer, I’d done most of my swim training in Whistler’s warm Lost and Alta Lakes in my bikini. The triathlon itself was during early autumn however, so I decided to wear my wetsuit, which I thought I was comfortable in after all the rafting and kayaking I’d done in it. This was a mistake. The extra weight I had to float while swimming was not something I was used to and I could feel my front-stroke beginning to sink from the surface. For several long and terrifying moments, I was certain I was going to have to seek refuge in one of the rescue kayaks surveying the race and forfeit.

In a desperate attempt to stay alive, I flipped onto my back and inhaled a giant breath of air. Miraculously, I regained my surface buoyancy and began to swim backstroke. Now, I’m notoriously terrible at swimming in a straight line when I’m on my back (you can’t see where you’re going), but the time I lost for this was more than worth not having to admit defeat. By the time I made it back to shore, I was near the back of the pack, but still alive (which at that point, was all that really mattered).

(Author’s note, please read in a dramatic narrator voice:)

… Will Judi redeem herself in the rest of the triathlon, or will she continue to face uncertain death by bike? Stay tuned for the next edition of “Travvelsized: a Triathlon-Sized Odyssey” to find out!

Advanced Bike Riding 202: Downhilling It

Picking up from where I left off, I had just re-learned how to ride a downhill bike (something I had never forgotten per say, just never realized was different from road biking). From there, my ladies night group and I were on to our first run – Easy Out (I would have rolled my eyes at this on skis in the winter, but for now, I was grateful the run itself seemed to know it wasn’t going to throw anything crazy and death-defying at me).

Things started off with a gentle descend, but I could already feel a lump building in my throat just looking at all the horrible, terrifying rocks and pebbles along the route. (My road bike had been overthrown by far less on many an occasion.) I sucked it up and found the courage to grit through my terror (since there was a whole line up of girls behind me and I didn’t really have much of a choice), and started off anyways. From the entire experience, the number one thing I took away was that what downhill bikes lacked in extra gears, they more than made up for in handling and suspensions – the rocky and mountainous terrain felt smoother than tarmac!

Soon enough, I was at the front of the pack, whizzing down steeper hills and around tighter turns than I would ever dream of attempting on my road bike (not to say that the turns or slopes were sharp or steep by downhill standards though). Once I had let go of my fears and allowed myself to open up to the world of downhill mountain biking, I fell into that freeing, adrenaline-pumping sensation I love and finally began to understand the appeal of the sport.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get into the sport seriously (the cost of getting set up with a new armoured set of gear and bike rivals taking out a mortgage on a house), but I would never regret trying it out for the experience of it!