Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Bike Ride in Tuscany, a Visit to Siena.

The temperature felt cooler when we set out for a bike ride this morning - it didn't take long for the air to warm up and so did we with all the hills we set out to conquer! The bikes had quite heavy tires which made the hills a little more challenging. We managed fine and did not have to get off to push although when we were going down a large hill section I had little faith that I could ride back up. Amazing how if you use the gears in a timely way you can get to the top! It was so peaceful and the scenery spectacular to ride a bike here in Tuscany. It was hard work and very hot but well worth the effort!

We showered up and then drove to the city of Siena. We had a few challenges finding a place to park the car and almost went in on the "Exit" in a parkade which provided some entertainmnet for the locals! First stop, Piazzo Del Campo for a cold drink. It was spectacular to sit and watch the lively Piazzo filled with people and activity. It is a fan shaped sloping wide open space that is home to the biannual Palio horse race. Next stop the Duomo, passing many nice shops along the way. The Duomo is a massive Gothic cathedral which has many pieces of art. It was hot so our inside visit was brief. The rest of the time was spent enjoying walking the streets of Sienna. We bought local bread, cheese, olives and wine for a simple but venerable feast back at San Felice where we discussed plans for tomorrow's Tuscan adventure!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good to be Back Under the Tuscan Sun!

Some of the Grapes here at San Felice.

Running the road here in Tuscany - nice!

Grapes ripening!

The view from our room at San Felice.

The Notting Hill Carnival.

Yesterday in London we took in the Notting Hill Carnival. We put our packs on and ran in the direction of Notting Hill, as we approached it became apparent that the police were plentiful and perhaps we should stop running through the crowds. There were thousands of police officers and the crowd was fairly well behaved despite the open street drinking of alcohol and the popularity of the Rum Punch and Red Stripe beer! The roar of the police helicopter overhead played a heavy presence on the crowds. We didn't sty long but it was interesting to experience the street party. We then went on to enjoy dinner at "Jamie's Italian" in Covent Garden. Both the food and the atmosphere were great. Today, it was an early rise to catch our flight to Florence. We have 5 days at an incredible winery/hotel in Tuscany. We picked up a car at the Florence Airport - the drive was crazy despite the GPS trying to tell us the way! We went wrong at some point but eventually arrived at our destination. It was a warm day in Tuscany 33 degrees when we arrived. After becoming acquainted with the property we set out for a drive to pick up the essentials for the room. Prior to dinner, we went for a run on the road passing the burgeoning grape vines that are loaded with deep purple grapes as the approaches. Olive trees compete for space amongest the vineyards and they too bear a heavy crop of delightful promise! Nice challenging hill to run back to the hotel and then onto dinner at the hotel. Outdoor dining - very posh, nice food, great service and lovely setting. Tomorrow we plan to go to Siena - hopefully the drive and parking the car will be OK!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

20 Miles in London


It's amazing what jet lag will do for you! We woke quite early in London and were ready to head out for the day. We had pre-planned a 20 mile running route while we were here. There was no hesitation - we filled our hydration packs, put our packs on and were out the door. The route took us through Hyde Park, Holland Park, down Earl's Court Road, over to Battersea Bridge, Battersea Park (nice park!), over the Chelsea Bridge, along Grosvenor Road to the Vauxhall Bridge, back to the South Side and the Albert Enbankment. We followed the South Bank all the way to Tower Bridge passing the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Tower of London and lots of tourists. Over Tower Bridge to the Victoria Embankment walkway to the Houses of Parliament where we picked up Bird Cage Walk, passed Buckingham Palace to Grosvenor Place to Wellington Arch where we started 20 miles before. The body is feeling like this road and concrete is going to hurt tomorrow!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

So Much Snow!

It's mid August and the snow is very abundant on the mountains here in Vancouver. It looks like the snow is not going away this season. Today we met in the Cypress Bowl parking lot to climb Hollyburn Mountain and Mount Strachan. It was cold to start and we put on a few layers. It didn't take long for us to warm up - hills will do that to you!

I like the climb up Hollyburn - challenging but nothing too crazy for technicality. Once on the top of Hollyburn you can take a steep trail down that leads over to Strachan. It took a bit of route finding in the snow but we did well. This trail is very technical and steep and especially tricky when it is covered in snow and water. Slippery! I pulled up the rear and occasionally heard Neil shout from ahead "are you gals OK?" I think I even got "do you still love me?" There was a silent pause before I replied "I think so!" We had plenty of good laughs out there today. The funniest moment was when Wendy startled me when I was crouched behind a bush. We laughed so hard we were both shedding tears. I can still hear Wendy laughing and I'm sure it is an image she won't forget! ;-)

Going up Strachan we popped out onto the ski run near the top. The flies were bad in this area but seemed to only be bad here today. I have had a bad reaction to these flies before so coat myself in bug spray to hopefully deter them to a bagger companion.

Once on top we had a visit from a Whisky Jack. Dave very kindly share his food from his hand and the top of his head! That bird will have some food stored for winter - it took us a few tries before we captured the perfect photos!

We came down the ski runs which transitioned from snow to rocky slippery ground. I've come down this slope 3 times now and must admit it is not my favourite surface to run on. Once down we headed to the Black Bear for a bite to eat. That's 2 more bags completed!

At the top of Hollyburn - misty and snowy!

Dave perfecting the feeding of the Whisky Jack!

Nice one!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Visit to the Plane Crash on Grouse Mountain

Tonight we did a mid week outing to Grouse Mountain. Neil has often talked about going to the site of the plane crash on Grouse. We met up with Dave, Liza and Craig and were on our way by 6:15. In 1954 a US Air Force pilot flying an F86 Sabre crashed his jet into the side of Grouse Mountain. The F86 was fully armed with 24 rockets. There is lots of speculation of what went wrong. The jet was flying with an estimated velocity exceeding 760 mph when it plowed into the trees and mountain at the 2700 foot elevation near a cabin located a few hundred feet from the chair lift. A 1000 foot swath was cut through the trees and the wreckage was strewn over a wide area. The crash killed the pilot who was still strapped in his seat.(Sources: Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province and Tacoma News Tribune archives)

There is a nice memorial plaque on a tree with the remains of the jet engine. The family has created a log book for visitors to sign and information about the crash is displayed under plastic laminate.

It was a 2 hour outing tonight - well worth the visit!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

STORMY Route Revisited and Three Bags (Fromme, Dam and Little Goat)

This weekend we had 2 good days of outings. Saturday - Dave, Liza, Neil and I drove to Squamish to revisit the STORMY course. This was an Ultra event that we have enjoyed participating in the last few years. I have completed the 50 mile event 3 times and the 67 km distance twice. Unfortunately the event did not happen this year. It was nice to go back to the route and do a portion of the course (27km). Sunday we bagged 3 peaks in the Grouse Range - Fromme, Dam and Little Goat. I couldn't believe the amount of snow remaining. There is so much snow it probably won't all melt this year. There were a few frightening moments in the snow. I was glad to hit the bare trail when we were down.

Grinder the Grizzly Bear in the habitat on Grouse.

The top of Mt. Fromme. Me, Wendy and Dave.

A view over to Grouse Mtn from Mt. Fromme.

Coming off the top of Dam Mountain - steep and slippery! We put our Yak Traks on and they really helped.

The top of Little Goat

Going down from the top of Little Goat. Nice views of Crown Mountain and Camel Mountain. We climbed Crown last year - perhaps a bit too much snow right now to get there.

Lots of snow! Note the trail marker.

Wendy and I getting close to the top of Dam (retracing our steps)the other route was too dangerous.

I Made it!

We noticed this sign on our way back. We missed it on the way out!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Howe Sound Islands

Liza and Craig on the Water Taxi from Horseshoe Bay to Anvil Island

Neil and Dave on the First Water Taxi of the Day!

The Start of the Trail up Artaban from the Bible Camp on Anvil

An Artists Sign Directing Hikers to the Peak - what a nice surprise!

Me coming through the dense forest - very humid!

Dave, Myself and Craig making our way around the peak to get to the top!

Almost there! Another sign pointing us to the Peak!

Arrived! Helicopter Pad at the Top of Leading Peak

Awesome Views!

Neil and I at the Top of Leading Peak, Anvil Island

Dave heading down.

Craig descending a nasty section.

Leading Peak - where we were!

Team Gambier now - Craig's taking the photo!

Travelling through an extensive forest of ferns on the Artaban trail.

A Reflective Moment for the Group at the Top of Artaban.

Mission Accomplished!

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay - waiting for the Water Taxi!

The Mercury XIV Arrives!

Plenty of Snow Remains on the North Shore Mountains.

A View of Anvil Island and Leading Peak - our first climb of the day.

I was a bit out of the loop with the bagging plans for the weekend but did know the big picture details of an 8 AM Water Taxi from Horseshoe Bay and that Leading Peak on Anvil Island was the destination, so I was told! I noticed Neil packing what appeared to be more than what was required for the one peak on Anvil Island. He finally confessed that we may also go to Gambier Island - that was the email/texting chat that I missed! Last year we had a very, very long day on Gambier Island (17hrs). I had flash backs to dehydration, bonking, wasp stings, puking, getting lost and of course not having enough head lamps for the heads on the trip. I barely recall the late night water taxi ride as I passed out once I was on board. Were we heading out for a repeat??

Craig, Liza, Dave, Neil and I carpooled from Craig's to Horseshoe Bay. We located the red shed where the water taxi was to pick us up. A few minutes passed 8AM and we were on board. The crossing was really calm over to Anvil Island. The hum of the water taxi and being on the water almost rocked me to sleep.

We docked at the Daybreak Point Bible Camp which was a hub of activity for that time of day! We agreed to meet the water taxi in 4 hours - same place. The smell of bacon cooking for breakfast filled the air as we walked through the camp. Lucky kids! The area was full of big black Ravens and Craig saw an Eagle fly out of a tree. I missed the eagle's take off but did hear the sound of the wings swooshing.

The trail went straight up (don't they all!) It was quite wet, rocky and slippery. Going up was fine but it did cross my mind that it could be a bit tricky coming down. It was very humid and misty after the previous nights rain. We came upon what appeared to be a false summit (or is it another Peak to be added?)- the trail continued on but with different coloured markers! Were we on the right trail we asked ourselves!? We lost quite a bit of elevation and then began to climb again quite steeply, passing through rock canyons and hugging sheer granite walls along the way. There were a couple of tricky scrambling sections near the top but nothing that couldn't be overcome with a little help from fellow baggers - a good push and a strong pull!

The clouds cleared when we reached the top to provide beautiful 360 degree views over Howe Sound and surrounding mountains. The decision was made as we were descending that we had plenty of time to carry on to Gambier Island. Once down, we were greeted and then reprimanded by a counsellor at the camp saying that we were actually required to seek prior permission to walk through the camp...oops! We hadn't done that! I kept on running to the dock, we all jumped on the water taxi and we were off to Gambier Island.

It was a short journey over to Gambier - same driver who was there waiting for us. He was quite amused with our sense of adventure! Once we arrived on Gambier we headed up the road looking for the Artaban trail head. It looked a bit more over grown from last year. We were now approaching Artaban in a reverse direction from last year. We stopped at a creek and had a splash to cool down. It took aprox 1 hour to get to the peak. There was a bit of human traffic at the top but once we left it was all quiet again to the base at Fircom Bay.

Neil called the water taxi to let him know we were down. We were told it would be 30 minutes and they were just around the point - now that was 30 minutes Gambier time. 75 minutes later a larger water taxi appears with several passengers from up the coast. It was a stunning ride back to Horseshoe Bay with awesome views of the peaks we had just climbed. We enjoyed some refreshments once back on the mainland and then went our separate ways to home. Great day out Baggers!