An Ode to the Galapagos Seal Lion (AKA my Spirit Animal)

Along my worldly travels, I’ve found that one thing people tend to get pretty passionate about is making sure you know the difference between certain types of animals. If you’re in northern Canada, don’t call the massive horned creatures Buffalo, they’re Bison. If you’re in the amazon, don’t scream “Leopard!!”, it’s a jaguar. If you’re in the Galapagos and lounging on the beach with a huge pinniped, it’s not a seal, it’s a sea lion.

I accidentally called this guy a seal and he RAAAAWR-ed at me..!

I accidentally called this guy a seal and he RAAAAWR-ed at me..!

Now, I’ve always thought both seals and sea lions were pretty freaking cute, but then again, I’d always kind of clumped them together as being kind of the same animal. I quickly learned however, that sea lions are far superior for several reasons:

  • Their hind-flippers are configured in a way that helps them maneuver on land so they can join you for a tanning session (seals are stuck just kind of flailing around)
  • They have full earflaps (instead of just holes), so you can whisper sweat little nothings back and forth
  • They swim the water with power and majesty using their strong front fins (seals front fins are weak and can only be used for steering)
  • They’re the LIONS of the sea! Were the other points really even necessary!?
Lounging like a BAWSE!

Lounging like a BAWSE!

I got to visit a number of beaches around the islands, and each of them seemed to be popular hangout spots for local sea lions. While they seemed pretty chilled out and relaxed on land, as soon as you hopped in the water with them, their energy levels seemed to burst into overdrive and I found myself being given ocean tours by big groups of them, bopping around and swimming circles around me.

Altogether, it seemed like a pretty sweet life and I decided that if I should ever get re-incarnated as an animal, a Galapagan sea lion seemed like a pretty solid way to go!

I'm basically one already!

I’m basically one already!

The Art and Science of the Middle of Nowhere (AKA The Galapagos Islands)

From Quito and the mainland, the Galapagos Islands are about 1,00km due west (or directly toward middle-of-nowhere, the Pacific Ocean). As some of the youngest landmasses on Earth, they were formed by a tectonic hot spot on the Earth’s Nazca plate. The hot spot stays in one place relative to the Earth’s core, but as the Nazca plate is slowing shifting southeast, new areas of surface ocean are always occupying the area over the hot spot, which resulted in the archipelago of islands the Galapagos is today (if you’re really keen you can check out some more info here: http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/galsite/research/projects/leonard/Geospot.htm).

The beginning of my trip brought me to one of the oldest islands of the bunch, San Cristobal (the patron saint of seafarers).

Each of the islands is home to some of the most unique collections of wildlife inhabitants on the face of the planet.

Where else would you find flying boobies!? (Seriously though, the birds are called red-footed boobies)

Where else would you find flying boobies!? (Seriously though, the birds are called red-footed boobies)

Since the islands were never connected to the main land at any point in history, all of the animals that currently reside there needed to have made the long 1000km on their own.

After the long 1000km journey, the animals are ready to just mess around apparently :P

After the long 1000km journey, the animals are ready to just mess around apparently :P

Birds flew and fish swam, but land animals like tortoises and iguanas has to put their hardy natures to creative use and float their way over (both tortoises and iguanas can survive for months on end without food and tortoises have enough air in their shells to keep them afloat).

The Art 7

(Not all of them may have made it)

(Not all of them may have made it, though this is likely to just be a skin shedding, don’t worry)

Since only a select few species of animals could pass the migration test required to call the Galapagos home, very few animals on the islands face threats from natural predators.

So basically all the animals except for this guy are pretty happy all the time!

So basically all the animals except for this guy are pretty happy all the time!

The Astro-Tourist’s Guide to Seattle: Cruising the Space Needle

As much as I loved being a hipster in Seattle, it was time to take my tourist-ing to an out-of-this-world level and visit the Space Needle.

I thought that after living in Toronto for years under the shadow of the CN tower would have taken away from the novelty of tall buildings that were tall just for the sake of being tall. However, I still found the Space Needle endlessly exciting.

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The walkway leading up to the tower was filled with blown glass art at the Chihuly Garden and Glass

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Just chillin in a glass garden, ya know!

 

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And then there was a whole “underwater” gallery!

 

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The work was an awesome explosion of life, inspired by Seattle’s Puget Sound

 

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Pretty colours ^_^

 

Oh yeah, there was also this cool tall building

Oh yeah, there was also this cool tall building

...with spiffy binoculars!

…with spiffy binoculars!

...binoculars that looked a little bit like the robot Wall-E to be honest

…binoculars that looked a little bit like the robot Wall-E to be honest

Loving the view!

Loving the view!

Also loving the Space Needle app that inserted animations into photos you took on your smartphone!

Also loving (maybe a bit too much) the Space Needle app that inserted animations into photos you took on your smartphone!

 

A Hungry Hipster’s Guide to Pike Place Market

All of my tourist-ing was working up quite an appetite, but luckily, if there’s one thing Pike Place has a never ending supply of, it’s good food!

My first stop was Beechers Handmade Cheese. As an authentically artisanal cheese shop, Beechers’ cheeses are handcrafted using all-natural local ingredients. The milk is antibiotic-free (no hormones or additives) and is delivered to the shop within hours of milking. As all of the cheese is made directly on sight

...In plain sight, might I add

…In plain sight, might I add

To turn the milk into cheese, it’s first pasturized by being heated to 73C for 24 seconds in order to eliminate harmful bacteria. Then, it is cooled back down to 32C and placed in a Make Vat, where it forms into clumps (“curds”) that when cut and sized spit out gooey liquids (“whey”).

From here, the curds are stacked, squeezed and placed in hoops to get more and more whey out of the way as it ages.

Ending in a delicious result Little Miss Muffet would approve of!

Ending in a delicious result Little Miss Muffet would approve of!

I was now moving on to the birthplace of hipster-ism: the first ever Starbucks! This place got it’s start in 1971, so I’m actually quite impressed it took off so well, considering this was before wifi was a service it could offer its customers!

It might just have had something to do with the delicious drip coffee (I tried my best not to laugh at the employees using a watering can on my coffee)

It might just have had something to do with the delicious drip coffee (I tried my best not to laugh at the employees using a watering can on my coffee)

Personally though, I think the popularity came at least in part from the risk-y logo ;)

Personally though, I think the popularity came at least in part from the risk-y logo ;)

From there, it was time to hit the arcade!

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Because “arcades” are what the market areas are called

 

I literally cried tears of happiness sampling some spicy peppers

I literally cried tears of happiness sampling some spicy peppers

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With a Scoville Heat Unit of 1,001,304, I could feel the ghost pepper extract burning a hole through my tongue. It was AWESOME!!

 

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The guys at Pike Place Fish Co. were having way too much fun throwing their products around!

 

After what seemed like an endless deliberation of consulting every single person I passed that seemed like a Seattle local, I finally decided on lunch at the 3 Sisters.

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Just because there are very few things I love more in life than a restaurant with a funky design

 

…Other than a good sandwich, of course!!

…Other than a good sandwich, of course!!

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!)