Posted on November 23, 2015
The concept behind floating is nothing new – floatation therapy has been practiced for more than 40 years – but until this week it was certainly new to me. I was recently invited by Float Sense to experience it for myself, and can say it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Float Sense, located in central Burnaby, is one of the newest floatation therapy clinics to open up in Greater Vancouver. Their concept is based on the notion of Relax, Recover, and Recharge. Float Sense prides itself on providing its clients with the opportunity to take part in what’s known as Floatation REST. REST is an acronym for Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of floating, it involves lying in an enclosed tank designed to deprive the floater of his or her senses. The tank is filled with 11 inches of precisely warmed water filled with about 800 pounds of epsom salts, creating enough buoyancy to allow the user to float without any effort whatsoever. It’s designed to create a state of total relaxation while providing countless health benefits that have been scientifically proven over the last several decades.
I had two initial hesitations about floating: first, despite not being claustrophobic, I still wasn’t sure about sealing myself in a sensory deprivation tank. Secondly, I was skeptical that I would get anything out of the experience at all. My session at Float Sense proved me wrong on both.
The tanks are located in private, serene rooms with low lights. They’re also much larger than they look, and once inside, I was able to completely starfish in the water, stretching as much as I needed to in order to get comfortable. Another added comfort was knowing that there’s actually very little water inside the tank and they cannot lock from the outside.
My 90-minute session seemed to pass in phases and went by much more quickly than I expected it to. Once I was able to get myself comfortable (hands resting behind my head seemed best), I started to feel like I was drifting. Not off into sleep, but drifting along on a stream. Other times I was so in tune with what I was doing, that I couldn’t remember if I briefly fell asleep or mentally zoned out entirely. By the end I felt both re-energized and relaxed.
I look forward to my next floating session, and if you’re curious about it, I want to offer these tips:
- Moisturizer – Though showers are provided to rinse off after, the 800 pounds of salt in the tank certainly took its toll on my face, leaving it feeling a bit parched. I’ll bring a smudge of coconut oil with me next time for afterwards.
- Bring a Hairbrush – The fact that I’d be submerged in water seemed to escape my mind and my hair was a mess when I left without anything to comb through it!
- Dress Comfortably – Feeling the post-float glow is great, and keeping it going will be a lot easier if you don’t have to squeeze into skinny jeans and boots afterwards.
The team behind Float Sense want to give one of my blog readers the opportunity to experience floating for themselves and have agreed to give away a 90-minute float session to one lucky winner! ($70 value)
1. Post the following on Twitter:
2. Leave a comment below, telling me why you’d like to try floating. (1 bonus entry)
I will draw the winner at noon on Tuesday, December 1st! Good luck!
To learn more about Floatation REST and to visit Float Sense, Burnaby’s newest floatation centre, visit them online, follow the centre on Twitter, check out their pics on Instagram, or like them on Facebook. They’d love to meet you!
Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post though my float session was complimentary. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
Posted on November 17, 2015
Helping others is never a waste of one’s time, and ever since I adopted my own rescue dog, Jordy, I’ve felt compelled to help other homeless dogs in BC. I am proud to volunteer for Pommy Country Pomeranian and Small Dog Rescue.
For those of you in Vancouver, I’ve organized a beer & burger fundraiser with all of the profits benefiting Pommy Country (and their growing vet bills). Here are the details you need to know:
- Who: Benefiting Pommy Country Small Dog Rescue
What: Beer & Burger Fundraiser Benefit
Where: The Coppertank Grill in Kitsilano (3135 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC)
When: Thursday, November 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Why: It’s a guaranteed fun night out with friends and you’re doing something for a great cause!
The evening will feature a 50/50 draw and a raffle with some fantastic prizes! We’ve got the following enviable prizes up for grabs:
- Primp ‘n’ Go beauty bag from La Bisothetique Canada
- Yoga Wellness Kit from Saje Wellness
- $50 gift certificate from the Glowbal Restaurant Group
- Gift pack from Barktholomews Pet Edibles + Supplies
- Handmade organic beauty and wellness gift bag from Shamrock Farm
- Seasonal offering from BC Liquor Stores
About Pommy Country: From Poms to Pit Bull breeds, big or small, Pommy Country doesn’t turn down any dog in need. At any given time, their network of volunteers and foster families across southern BC is taking care of upwards of two dozen dogs – and sometimes more! Most of the dogs simply need a new home and are sweet, kind, and loving. Some of the dogs come from traumatic or health-compromised experiences, so they need a bit of extra TLC. As you can imagine, taking care of so many dogs with diverse needs can get costly. Pommy Country relies on donations for 100% of its funding.
Posted on November 10, 2015
Part of me truly believes I was meant to live in California. I know it’s a common expression, but if so many people believe it, there must be some truth to it. Near the end of our six-week road trip, we spent four days in San Francisco and got a healthy dose of Northern California culture.
One of my most favourite – if not my absolute favourite – film of all-time was filmed in San Francisco: Big Trouble In Little China. And ever since I first saw Kurt Russell drive his big rig over the Golden Gate Bridge in the pouring rain, I knew it was a city I needed to visit. Because we planned to return to Canada via Highway 101, it only made sense to make a long stop in the Bay Area and experience Northern California for ourselves.
In researching our visit, I found that hotels were generally very expensive in San Francisco. Instead I found us a garden suite vacation rental in the Inner Sunset neighbourhood. This suited me just fine because my travel style is more “blend in with the locals” rather than “stand out like an obvious tourist.”
We were a short streetcar ride away from the downtown core, but far enough away that the streets were quiet at night and the neighbourhood felt extremely local-centric. We’d start each day by walking a block or two to the local coffee shop before grabbing the streetcar downtown. Peasant Pies was a noteworthy neighbourhood favourite. (Tip: with a single cable car ride setting you back $7, pick up a 3-day unlimited transit pass for only $26. It’ll pay for itself in no time!)
When friends of ours, Ashley and Mike, discovered that we planned on being in San Francisco at the end of July, they booked tickets and flew down from Calgary to join us. On our first day in the city, we met up with them at Mama’s restaurant at Washington Square. San Francisco was unusually hot that day, and after a long, long, long wait on the street, we were finally treated to one of the city’s most famous breakfast experiences.
San Francisco is a city of hills, so from there we trekked east (and up!) to the Coit Tower overlooking the city. Sweeping views in almost every direction gave us a sense of direction, so we continued east (but this time down!) to the Embarcadero. This lively stretch along the city’s waterfront eventually led us to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, ground zero for tourist activity.
We visited with lazy sea lions, chowed down on world famous sourdough bread from the Boudin Bakery, wove in and out of souvenir shops and soaked in the delicious California sunshine. It’s amazing how quickly a day can go by when you’re not doing much in particular at all. Before we knew it, it was time to part ways with Mike and Ashley and say goodbye. They had more they wanted to see and do in California, so we were on our own from then on.
Instead of heading back to our rental, we popped into the Blue Mermaid Chowder House for a bowl of their award-winning Corn & Crab Chowder. It’s a must!
The following morning, a thick fog permeated our vacation rental’s backyard. It was an eerily perfect morning to visit Alcatraz Island and explore San Francisco’s most infamous landmark. (Tip: book your tickets weeks, if not months, in advance. The tours fill up in the summertime.) Alcatraz can fill a blog post all on its own, so look for that within the next week.
By the time we returned downtown from Alcatraz Island, the day was barely half over and we had a lot more exploring to do. J and I grabbed a cable car and made our way south to Chinatown. The largest Chinatown in North America, San Francisco’s was established in 1848 and has most certainly stood the test of time (and seismic activity).
It was an exciting opportunity for me to scout all the locations where Big Trouble In Little China was filmed while soaking in the charismatic and colourful sights. We wandered north to south and darted in and out of interesting shops. I was lured by different scents and fabrics and sounds coming from all directions. San Francisco’s Chinatown is very unlike its counterpart at my home in Vancouver in that it feels as if it has a life of its own separate from the city.
Like most days on our trip, we spent a great deal of time walking that day. We were grateful for a sweet treat at La Boulange (now known as La Boulangerie) before ducking into an air conditioned movie theatre. Sitting in front of the big screen caused us to work up an appetite, so we returned to Chinatown that evening and sought out House of Nanking on Tony‘s recommendation. In a word: “Wow!” This restaurant blew us away with its inventive and fresh dishes with a totally unique take on traditional Chinese cuisine. In fact, I’m salivating just recalling it for you!
With only one more day left in the city, we wanted to see San Francisco in a big way. Arriving in the Haight-Ashbury district, we found a reputable bike rental shop – Golden Gate Park Bike Rental – that would let us return our bikes later in the day at Fisherman’s Wharf. The plan was to ride across the bridge to Sausalito, but I couldn’t do it before seeing The Painted Ladies for myself. After our brief detour, we rode west through Golden Gate Park and past a paddock of bison (yes, really!) until we reached the Great Highway.
A bit of winding, weaving, and wheezing finally found us at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Not surprisingly, the bridge was largely congested with pedestrians and other cyclists, but the pathways are clear enough that a ride over the bridge is simple. Within less than 20 minutes we were coasting into the seaside town of Sausalito, just in time to enjoy some late afternoon sun before taking the ferry back across the bay.
By that point, we had already put close to 20 miles on our bikes, and were so glad to be able to drop them off at the waterfront. Our appetites were understandably huge and I wanted desperately to carb load for our last night in San Francisco. Little did I know, the city is home to a Little Italy neighbourhood. My husband and I grabbed a bistro table on the sidewalk outside Michelangelo Caffe and scarfed down on Margarita pizza (my favourite!) and house wine. Not yet satiated, we walked up the street for some gelato. “When in Rome,” right? Or is that “When in Little Italy?”
A beacon on the ocean that is rich with history, saturated with culture, and abundant in incredible food, San Francisco is one of those can’t-miss travel experiences. I wouldn’t know where to begin to choose my favourite memory of this city. I was so thankful that we had the time we did, and can’t wait to return again. There’s so much more I want to explore and a few places I definitely need to go back to. I’m looking at you, House of Nanking.
Posted on November 2, 2015
Something about the way the sunlight touches the coast of California makes it seem a little more golden than the rest of the Pacific coastline. There’s no better way to see it than by driving the 101 in either direction, and letting your sense of adventure guide you.
We left the Los Angeles area by way of Malibu in the early afternoon, hoping to arrive near San Luis Obispo before nightfall. To do so meant breezing by quaint surf towns and colourful Santa Barbara. After a night of camping in Morro Bay (more about that in a future blog post), we had hoped to visit the famed Hearst Castle. However, a series of unfortunate events meant we had to skip the castle (again, more about that in a future blog post).
The following day we set out as early as we could and found the only Starbucks in Morro Bay before continuing on the 101. I’ve long heard stories about the beauty of driving California’s coastline and exploring Big Sur, known for its craggy cliffs and thrashing sea. I envisioned a sun-soaked highway stretched before us with a cerulean sky overhead. The reality was that Big Sur and the surrounding area was shrouded in cloud.
When we reached the village of Big Sur, a light rain started to fall and we were feeling unprepared for any kind of outdoor adventure. And, in truth, following our previous night, I couldn’t wait to get to Carmel-by-the-Sea, check into our hotel, and take a luxuriously hot shower.
By a stroke of luck, the sun triumphed by the time we arrived in Carmel. I had booked us into the Clint Eastwood-owned Mission Ranch Hotel. Operating as a dairy farm, the stunning property was set to be turned into condos. In the ’80s, when Dirty Harry was mayor around those parts, he purchased the farm and turned it into a quaint and charming hotel. Guests can stay in former barns, lofts, and out buildings that have been beautifully transformed into havens of slumber.
After a quick check-in and time to freshen up, we set out to explore the town of Carmel. Friends of ours visited a few summers before and couldn’t stop raving about its old-world beauty and unique character. Carmel proved to be a really fun town to take a walking tour through, but it wasn’t long before our appetites got the better of us. We stopped in at A. W. Shucks Oyster Bar for dinner. I wanted to indulge in something coastal and my husband had never before tried oysters. I’m still waiting for him to get back to me about what he thought.
Once we finished, we followed the crowds and found an ice cream parlour – the perfect treat on a sunny California evening. Deciding it was still a little bit too soon to return to our hotel, we walked down to Carmel Beach. We arrived just before sunset and dug our toes into the sand. The beach and its waves glittered around us in a way that was almost ethereal.
By the time the sun ducked below the horizon, we found ourselves back at Mission Ranch for a nightcap on the patio overlooking the sheep pasture. I can’t think of a more classic way to spend a night in the Carmel area than exactly how we did. It was the perfect “night off” from our road trip to refuel for the final push up the 101 to San Francisco…
Accommodation: Mission Ranch Hotel located in the town of Carmel
Facilities: Tennis court, fitness centre, free pastries and coffee, complimentary wifi
Privacy: Spread over 22 acres, it’s easy to find some privacy away from town.
Cost: USD$135-335 per night
Would I Stay Again?: Absolutely! I can’t imagine staying elsewhere in Carmel, but next time I’d shell out extra for one of the more private and quiet detached suites. We were staying in the farmhouse – an older building with paper-thin walls. Our room was situated next to a large, young family, so it made for a very noisy stay.
Disclaimer: I was not paid or asked to write this post. My thoughts, views, and opinions are entirely my own.
Posted on October 27, 2015
Palm trees. Celebrities. Fast cars. Sandy beaches. A glittering cornucopia of globally recognized symbols, Los Angeles epitomizes Southern California’s iconic culture in each and every way.
Though I’d never before been, LA was a key player in my pop culture-laden adolescence. I grew up watching Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Pretty Woman while listening to Sheryl Crow reminisce about “Santa Monica Boulevard” and 2Pac extol his love for California. For a place I’d never been, LA had a big influence on my formative years. To this day, I still sing “It’s Cookie Time” to myself when I bake.
True to form, I’ve created yet another video. Sadly, I didn’t have as much footage to choose from as I’d hoped, but it’s always fun for me to look back on the adventures that we had. And to have visited Hollywood without making my own motion picture seems like all kinds of wrong.
After J and I left Disneyland, we rolled an hour northwest and found ourselves in the heart of Hollywood. I had found a vacation rental cottage just steps from Sunset Boulevard (and right down the street from In ‘N’ Out Burger). I wanted to experience all of the sizzle and scintillation that the City of Angels had to offer, so I turned to the one man who arguably knows the city best.
On our first night in LA, Tony was more than happy to give us a personalized guided tour of the city. We visited stops in Hollywood and the adjacent hills, an out-of-the-way park building that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and finally downtown Los Angeles. The man is a wealth of knowledge of LA history, scandals, architecture, and the best spots to nosh on tacos.
Day Two found us down for the count. After four weeks of being on-the-go – plus a late, late evening at the Good Luck Bar in Los Feliz the night before – J and I were exhausted. We fuelled up on pancakes at the IHOP up the street before ascending into the hills to check out the Griffith Observatory. From there we scored killer views of the Los Angeles skyline and the infamous Hollywood sign.
Not wanting to waste valuable time, we soon found ourselves in Beverly Hills. I scooped up a map to the stars’ homes (it’s cliche but someone’s got to do it) and we wove up and down pristine streets with palatial homes. Whether or not the map is accurate is anyone’s guess, but if it is, then we managed to locate the LA abodes of Brad and Angelina, Diane Keaton, Steve Martin and the one and only Jack Nicholson. The day’s true highlight for me was locating Vivian Ward‘s apartment on North Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood.
Following a good night’s sleep, we started early in true Los Angeles style by hiking through Runyon Canyon. This hot spot is a favourite of locals and I was fortunate enough to score a bonafide celebrity sighting. Just as we were getting started, Johnny Knoxville walked right past us as he finished his hike.
That afternoon we headed west towards the Pacific Ocean. Before long we were kicking sand between our toes on the beach in Santa Monica and chowing down on corn dogs. I’m a diehard beach girl and part-time mermaid, so I was extremely excited to finally visit a Southern California beach. What struck me was just how frenetic the beach and boardwalk were – far busier than I expected – and I surprised myself by wanting to get back to Hollywood because, to me, Hollywood didn’t “feel as busy at Santa Monica.” Crazy, I know.
It’s hard to avoid the tourist traps in a place like Los Angeles, so instead of resisting, we often went with the flow. On our last day we walked to the Red Line subway station and made our way to Universal Studios. I was so excited to finally come face-to-teeth with Jaws, explore Jurassic Park, and get animated on The Simpsons Ride.
Sadly, Universal Studios was the one place on our entire six-week vacation that didn’t live up to its hype: I could count the number of rides on one hand, the cost was shockingly prohibitive, and Jaws didn’t look at all real (yes, I expected him to). Two Krusty burgers with fries and two Duff beers at Moe’s Taven set us back a whopping USD$55 – and that was on top of what we paid to enter the park.
J and I were both pretty excited to get out of there, but instead of returning home, we stopped at the Ghirardelli Soda Foundation & Chocolate Shop and dug into a decadent cookie sundae. Luckily, I finally got to hang out with Mickey Mouse! We started our L.A. visit by hanging with Tony and finished it that night by having dinner with him at Home – an eclectic and quaint eatery with the kind of healthy cuisine you’d expect in Los Angeles.
As quickly as traffic moves on L.A. freeways, our stay in the city was over just as fast. For every California dream I ever had, Los Angeles rose to the occasion and showed me all she had. And for the record, the freeway traffic isn’t that scary. I handled it like a pro.
Posted on October 15, 2015
There are a few things I simply cannot do without in the month of October: Thanksgiving dinner with my family, pumpkin spice lattes (no shame), Billie Holiday on rainy days, and an annual trip to the pumpkin patch.
Some things are worth going the distance – like visiting Shamrock Farm in the Comox Valley. In fact, I’d be lying if I said my husband and I didn’t drive our truck over from Vancouver simply so we could stock up on ghoulish gourds at my favourite family farm.
Since she was only a year old, we’ve been bringing my niece to Shamrock Farm and each year it seems our pumpkin haul gets bigger and bigger. Between all of us, we purchased 15 or 16 large pumpkins plus a handful of smaller, decorative minis. With over 20 varieties sprouting up in the pumpkin patch, it’s impossible to choose just one.
The reason for my family’s annual visit is more than just pumpkins – it’s the entire experience. Shannon and Mike, the devilishly clever duo behind this family-run farm, put a lot of heart into what they do each year. There’s a haunted barn, corn maze, hay rides, farm animals to visit with, and loads of fresh seasonal treats like pumpkin tarts and apple cider (made with their own organic apples). Even after all these years, my niece is still enchanted by all the little details that make Shamrock Farm so special.
Over the years, I’m honoured to say that Shannon and Mike have become friends, so I’m really proud of all that they’ve achieved. While the October festivities take a lot of preparation, and their Halloween display is certainly spectacular, running the farm is a year-round effort. When the gates are closed, the Shamrock Farm roadside stand features everything from Shannon’s homemade goat milk soap and lavender oil to fresh garlic, organic corn, and flowers by the fistful.
During the spooky season, Shamrock Farm is open seven days a week until October 31st from 10am – 5pm. You can pick your pumpkin in the Comox Valley’s original pumpkin patch or select your jack-o-lantern from the barn. Hang out, feed the chickens, pet the goats, and make sure to pack your sturdiest gum boots because this place is a blast even on rainy days (though I’d argue that it’s especially fun on rainy days). And, as always, admission is FREE for pumpkin hunters of all ages!
I was not paid or asked to write this post. My thoughts, views, and opinions are entirely my own.
Posted on October 13, 2015
For most kids I grew up with, a family vacation to Disneyland was a rite of passage (or ride of passage, if you will). I was not one of those kids.
When J and I started planning our road trip, I insisted on spending time in Southern California. In fact, apart from airport layovers, I’d never even been to California! We allotted two full days to explore Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (DCA), and I wore my “1st Visit!” badge with honor as we set out to explore the Magic Kingdom.
J tried to take as much video as he could while we explored the side-by-side theme parks, and I stitched those clips together in this quick highlight reel of our two days at the Happiest Place on Earth.
While I wish I could regale you with stories and wow you with thoughtfully-snapped photos, the truth is that I was so giddy, excited, and overwhelmed that my focus was on being in the moment. That said, let’s let the photos I did take do the talking.
I conducted a lot (and I mean a lot) of research before our arrival, and the top tip I kept coming across was to not only use the FastPass system, but specifically to grab FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers in DCA. We did just that when the gates opened on our first day, and then trekked back to Disneyland to grab FastPasses for Indiana Jones Adventure. Luckily there was no line-up, so we jumped right on.
In fact, our timing was so impeccable that we played connect the dots, zig-zagging from Indiana Jones Adventure to Pirates of the Caribbean, from there to the Haunted Mansion, on to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and finally Space Mountain. Knocking out six of the key attractions at Disneyland with minimal waits and all before 11am felt like somewhat of an unheard-of accomplishment.
A freak rainstorm closed the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party on the first day, so I dragged J to it almost immediately on the second day before my parade was rained on once again. My husband, the good man that he is, even obliged my desire to fly high on Dumbo the Flying Elephant. I was adamant at making up for lost childhood experiences!
We almost didn’t purchase Park Hopper tickets and were set to strike DCA from the itinerary, but my friend Rebecca insisted, claiming that we needed to go “even if only for Radiator Springs Racers.” She was right – and not just for the sake of journeying into Cars Land.
After facing a huge fear two days earlier in Zion National Park, I wanted to tick The Hollywood Tower Hotel off my list but couldn’t deny that I was still terrified. However, after mustering up what courage I had left (and overhearing a five-year-old in an Elsa t-shirt insist that it was her favourite ride), I decided I had to cross into The Twilight Zone. It was entirely worth it and not nearly as frightening as I made it to be in my mind.
When we weren’t spinning, climbing, dropping, or screaming, we were stuffing our faces. The Mickey Mouse-shaped beignets in New Orleans Square were a memorable favorite. On the second day, we lunched at Wine Country Trattoria in DCA and daydreamed about how many more times we’d plummet over the drenched drops on the Grizzly River Run. That ride was a scream in the pouring rain!
You didn’t think I’d get away without meeting at least one of the classic Disney characters, did you? Pluto and I were totally digging’ each other.
For every wish I ever made and every dream I ever had, Disneyland made them all come true. I walked through those gates, clutching my ticket in one hand and my inner child with the other. I brought with me a sense of adventure and and unleashed my excitement. There were no regrets and no missed opportunities.
Walt Disney dreamed of a place where people could come together, have fun, and leave behind the world they live in – even if just temporarily. 60 years later, Walt’s vision is still very much alive, breathing magic into those who seek it.
Disneyland is celebrating its 60th anniversary and is honoring the occasion with its Diamond Anniversary Celebration. Prepare to be dazzled with a number of exciting and unique events being held in Disneyland and at Disney California Adventure this year. I was not paid or asked to write this post. My thoughts, views, and opinions are entirely my own.
Accommodation: Hilton Anaheim located one mile from Disneyland Resort
Facilities: Spacious rooms, pool, hot tub, food court, wifi, fitness center
Privacy: Its sprawling design allows for quiet hallways and even quieter rooms
Cost: USD$129 per night (an incredible deal!)
Would I Stay Again?: Definitely! One caveat: we booked the Hilton because it isn’t on the Disneyland Resort property and is attached to the Anaheim Convention Center. Because of that, and because we were traveling without children, we assumed would be in a mostly adults-only hotel, but that was not the case. The hotel was terrific but I only wish we’d been more prepared for the “delightful chaos” of kids running around everywhere. Using the pool and hot tub area for down time at the end of the day was impossible because it was jam-packed with families until closing at 10pm every night.
Posted on October 7, 2015
“If it scares you, then it be a good thing to try.” – Seth Godin
The more miles we put on the truck, the more apparent my personal theme of this road trip became. To overcome one’s fear is not the same as embracing one’s fear. As the weeks passed and our visit to Zion National Park inched closer and closer, the more nervous I felt. More than anything, I badly wanted to hike to the summit of Angels Landing – arguably the park’s pièce de resistance – but its reputation certainly preceded it.
Nestled within the behemoth walls of Zion Canyon, the park is famed for its dizzying views, strenuous hiking and indescribable experiences. Brilliant blue skies dominate the landscape and the raw beauty of Zion National Park has drawn visitors for nearly 100 years. It’s a sanctuary for some, a potentially dangerous thrill for others.*
As we approached the park entrance from the east, my anticipation mixed with my fears to create a potent elixir at my core. We had traveled more than 2,000 miles to experience Zion and I wasn’t about to waste what could have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Much like our adventure to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, we once again woke while the rest of the campground was still fast asleep. An expanse of stars stretched above our tent and, in the silence of the early morning, we laced on our shoes and headlamps before making our way to the Zion National Park tram.
The first tram of the day left the Visitors’ Center at 6:00 a.m. and we were the first ones on board. 20 minutes and several stops later, the bus driver pulled over at The Grotto to drop us and a dozen others off in the shadow of Angels Landing. Stretching over 1,400 feet into the sky, a 2.5-mile trail snakes from its base to its apex.
Steep and winding, the trail is strenuous at best and at times downright terrifying for some. The formation itself is eerily shaped like a tombstone with a rounded crown and drop-offs of more than 1,000 feet on either side. In some places the trail is merely three or four feet wide with nothing but carved footholds and bolted chains to hang on to. Angels Landing earned its name because it was said that the peak is so high and isolated that only angels dare to land there.
All the fears, the nagging worries, and the unknown expectations that plagued me before arriving simply disappeared as I ascended the trail. It took us a little over an hour to summit Angels Landing, an effort that was handsomely rewarded at the top. I felt excited and thrilled and accomplished. Sitting at the top, gazing across Zion Canyon, is something I will always remember as one of my proudest moments.
By the time we found ourselves back at the base, it was the right time for a belly-busting breakfast, so we hopped on the tram back to Zion Lodge for hot coffee and eggs Benedict on the upper deck. It was the perfect refueling we needed for a quick jaunt to Emerald Pools before our final adventure of the day.
There are two reasons most people visit Zion National Park: one is Angels Landing and the other is The Narrows. A 16-mile gorge at the north end of Zion Canyon, The Narrows curves back and forth between three-storey sandstone cliffs beyond the Temple of Sinawava. While at times the Virgin River rushes through it, it’s normally a calm stream usually no more than knee-deep.
It’s a popular spot for many visitors to Zion National Park, and those tackling The Narrows should be prepared to wade through both water and people to find some solace within the canyon walls. Many rent water shoes and hiking sticks, but we didn’t hesitate to head out in our cross-trainers while forgoing walking sticks altogether.
As we made our way through the first couple of miles, we spent a lot of time dodging people and repeatedly emptying our shoes of sand. Because the gorge is so long, you can spend as little or as much time as you’d like exploring, and there’s only one way out so it’s very difficult to get lost. Once we reached three or four miles in, other people became more sparse and we finally felt like we had a bit of privacy.
Despite the shadowed walls and cool water that rushed around our ankles, the intense heat of a July day in Utah ensured that we stayed warm. In all, we spent close to four hours exploring The Narrows. I traced my fingers along the sandstone walls, splashed water onto my face and around my neck, and breathed in the sweetness of every moment we spent within that canyon.
If we are lucky, in our lives we get a handful of opportunities that have the ability to change who we are at our very core. It’s up to each of us whether or not we want to seize those chances or let them slip out of our fingertips. American author Edward Abbey said “Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.” I believe this wholeheartedly. Within Zion National Park, I found that luxury, that necessity to my human spirit. It revived me, it ignited my heart, it breathed new life into my very essence.
*Zion National Park, while stunning, is home to many hidden hazards. Flash floods, steep drops, heat stroke, sun stroke, and even hypothermia are very real dangers. It’s vital to pay attention to all posted signs and instructions from park rangers. While hiking, exercise extreme caution, carry a minimum of 2L of water per person, and be prepared for all weather conditions. For more information, please refer to Zion’s Safety Information page.
Accommodation: Watchman Campground located within Zion National Park
Facilities: Flush toilets, running water
Privacy: Exposed campsites (few with trees), quiet campground
Nearest amenities: Springdale, Utah – walking distance from the campground (paid hot showers, gas, food, lodging, dining, gift shop, movie theatre)
Cost: USD$16 per night
Would I Stay Again?: Possibly – only if there was no other option. By the time we booked, only walk-in sites were left and they are all exposed and in the direct sunlight. Summertime in Utah is no doubt excruciatingly hot, and our tent baked all day. Night time offered no relief from the heat.
The National Park Service is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the park service in 2016. To commemorate the occasion, the NPS has started the Find Your Park movement, encouraging people to explore amazing places and share incredible stories. I was not paid or asked to write this post. My thoughts, views and opinions are entirely my own.
Posted on September 29, 2015
Sleeping under the stars, stretched out inside of a mummy bag, is one of the best parts of any true road trip. At the same time, slipping in a night of luxury here and there is equally delightful.
What surprised me most about being on the road for six weeks this summer was how at home I felt living out of a backpack, washing my clothes in random laundromats, and wandering the Western U.S. like a nomad. However, even the comfiest of sleeping bags doesn’t compare to a huge, heavenly bed.
After hearing my friend Rebecca rave about Kimpton Hotels again and again, I decided it was time to try one for ourselves. Passing through Salt Lake City seemed like the perfect opportunity, so we booked a night at the Hotel Monaco. Housed in a former bank, this boutique hotel impressed us from the moment we set foot on the property.
We were greeted by friendly staff, who promptly whisked our truck into the valet parkade while ushering us into their stylish, art deco-inspired lobby. A seamless check-in process had us quickly in our spacious and stunningly appointed room, complete with a welcoming bottle of chilled bubbly and an antlered “buddy” on the bed. We arrived just in time for the hotel’s daily complimentary happy hour, featuring a selection of specially-chosen wines.
Hotel Monaco is located directly in the midst of the hustle and bustle of downtown Salt Lake City, so everything we wanted to see and do was literally at our fingertips. We were able to stroll the sidewalks, explore nearby Temple Square, and grab a memorable Vietnamese fusion meal at Pleiku.
Our Kimpton experience was, in a word, outstanding. What kicked it up a notch for us was becoming Kimpton Karma Rewards members: it’s free and offers you complimentary wifi and a $10 mini bar credit. Mini bars in Utah don’t feature alcoholic beverages, so I was only more than happy to spend my $10 on Pringles potato chips and peanut M&M’s! And my favourite feature? Kimpton hotels are genuinely pooch-friendly, so I’m happy to know that, next time we stay, Jordy can come with us!
Posted on September 28, 2015
Utah is home to five national parks, each spectacular for their own reasons. While we were only able to tackle three of those five, none of those three disappointed and Bryce Canyon National Park was no exception.
After leaving Page, we drove straight through and arrived in the mid-afternoon. A day of Utah heat and endless highway proved to be too much for us, so instead of heading into the park, we checked into our hotel to relax.
After an evening of down time and a solid night’s sleep, we woke early the next day to enjoy the park before it got too busy – or too hot! Our time was limited so we picked one rave-worthy route and set out. We combined the Queens Garden trail with the Navajo Trail to see some of the best that Bryce Canyon has to offer. Craggy spires and unearthly hoodoos dotted the landscape that was awash in crimson tones. Everything was so beautifully lit with the morning sunlight.
We entered Bryce Canyon without knowing what to expect and left it wishing we’d planned more time for this park. The views, the hidden nooks, and the incredible scenery were all awe-inspiring, and Bryce Canyon holds some of the most unique topography I’ve ever seen.
On our drive to the area the day before, I’d spotted signs for Best Friends Animal Society near the town of Kanab. Made famous by the National Geographic show Dog Town, Best Friends is a sprawling animal sanctuary nestled inside Angel Canyon.
I’ve always been passionate about animal rescue and, as much as I wanted to stop, we didn’t have time. However, as we made our way back towards the junction to Zion National Park, the signs started popping up on the highway once again and I couldn’t ignore them any longer.
Gracious as he was, my husband agreed to accompany me on a tour of the sanctuary, giving us the opportunity to meet some of the hundreds of animals that call it home. Best Friends started in the 1980s, a vision amongst a group of compassionate friends that had a goal of saving every abandoned or neglected animal. The sanctuary houses horses, cows, pigs, dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, and even animals with special needs.
Our tour took us around the property before giving us some one-on-one time with the dogs of Dog Town as well as a group of quarantined felines with a form of cat cancer. These creatures are all wonderfully taken care of and deeply loved. The work that this team continues to do today is inspiring and I felt privileged that we were able to spend some time with the animals. A stop at Best Friends was just the kind of “break” we needed and well worth the time spent.
Accommodation: Ruby’s Inn Best Western Plus Hotel located at 26 South Main Street in Bryce Canyon City, Utah.
Facilities: Large rooms, pool, hot tub, dining facilities, laundromat, store
Privacy: Busy hotel with people coming and going at all hours; noisy room with little sound filtering
Nearest amenities: Bryce Canyon City features gas, food, lodging, dining, camping and more
Cost: USD$145 per night
Would I Stay Again?: Never again! We booked this hotel because it had decent reviews and we wanted a real bed to sleep in for one night. However, the rooms were dated and noisy and we could hear neighbours on all sides. The food in the adjacent dining facility was lacklustre at best and the pool/hot tub area was heavily chlorinated and full of unsupervised children.
The National Park Service is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the park service in 2016. To commemorate the occasion, the NPS has started the Find Your Park movement, encouraging people to explore amazing places and share incredible stories. I was not paid or asked to write this post. My thoughts, views and opinions are entirely my own.