North Cascades, Vancouver, Squamish & Whistler

August 23 - August 28, 2017

   The timing of our grand move out west aligned pretty perfectly with our one year anniversary, allowing us some time & freedom to really celebrate. Our original idea for our honeymoon was to flee to the misty shores of Tofino Bay and explore the surrounding Vancouver islands, which we were only a good 7 hour drive out from now that we were in Portland. It also just so happened that our best friends were along the way! So we packed up the pup, got our tenting gear in order, left our house in shambles after only 3 days - and headed North.

   Our first stop was near the North Casacades, which if you just google images of this place you will see why. The pointy peaks of the granite mountains plunging to the fluorescent blue of the lakes below are a perfect example of the kind of nature we wanted to get ourselves into. Just breathing in the fresh chill of the mountain air and the crisp smell of the mossy evergreens is reason enough, but also our bestest friends who'd been exploring the country by van were there, ready & waiting! We arrived down a loooong gravel road around 10 PM, set up camp in the dark, and cracked some beers. Made friends with our neighbors from the island in Washington where the Ring was filmed (not creepy at all), and blazed a big bonfire. We quickly caught up on each other's journeys and decided to get some shut eye before our 7.5 mile hike the next day up to Park Butte Lookout.

   Our hike was a non-stop mixture of chatting, laughing, and musing at the nature, and Buffy girl did an excellent job on her first big hike! The Park Butte Trail took us winding through a forest, over a rushing river, back into the forest and then up to an elevation where the trees faded away into a rocky, earthy, flowering tundra. The summit of the hike took us climbing up rocks onto the peak where a tiny cabin with a wrap-around deck rests. Hikers can actually inhabit this cabin on a first come first served basis. I got a quick flutter of fear from the heights, but you just can't look down! Looking out, the view is dominated by Koma Kulshan or Mount Baker, which was slightly hiding behind some clouds floating through. To the west you could see all the way through the valley to the Puget Sound, and to the east were the jagged North Cascades - 360 degree views of the amazingness that is Washington. It felt so good to be in such beautiful nature with our best friends, the best pup, and on the brink of a major shift & point of growth in all our lives. Talk about feeling on top of the world!!!

Park Butte Trail

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   When we returned to the campsite - called Lower Sandy, which was beautiful and FREE - our lovely chatty neighbors were waiting for us. They were gearing up for a huge rager of a weekend they had every year with their friends. Amanda & Ash cooked up their deliciously special Thai soup, Buffy promptly hit the floor and remained a furry heap at our feet, and we drank sour beers into the night. A quick 48 hours with our dear friends, but so refreshing to see them and inspiring to hear about all their experiences and adventures on the road.

Lower Sandy Campground at Baker Lake, WA

   The next day we were all planning to head up into Canada. We were a bit nervous about getting into the country with the dog & weren't sure what to expect but it was a surprisingly smooth process - they literally didn't acknowledge her other than a pat on the head. (Coming home was just as smooth - in case you were wondering . . .)

   Our first stop was beautiful Vancouver! I'd been here once as a kid but Brad had never visited. We spent the afternoon cruising through the city on the hunt for all the cool murals I'd read about, and eventually made our way into Stanley Park. Vancouver is like the NYC of Canada, or at least that's the way it felt. The skyline is so modern and futuristic with all the funky glass sculptures of buildings. Surrounding the city were countless marinas, beautiful inlets and bays, skylines of smaller sub sections of the city, and to the North, an impressive display of the Canadian Coastal Mountains. We LOVED Stanley Park and spent much of our time there, having lunch and perusing the different trails, but honestly could not wait to get up into the nature.

Vancouver & Stanley Park

   I'd traveled the Sea to Sky highway once as a kid. My Dad took the whole family after a golf trip he'd taken when he was younger, and deemed it the most beautiful place he'd ever been. I'd forever been telling Brad of the beauty of Canada and alas, here we were about to experience it!! We spent our first evening tenting along the inlet, and watched a 2+ hour sunset over a bottle of wine atop a cliff. The sky was completely clear and as the sun made it's descent, the sky transitioned through every color from a bright blue day to a dark, starry night. It was beautiful and romantic and the perfect way to end the day.

somewhere between the sea & the sky

   The next day we ventured up into Squamish, an artsy, hippie little town in the valley amidst the biggest mountains you ever saw - the halfway point on the Sea to Sky highway. We had breakfast at a little diner on the main strip and a lady walking by thought my pancakes looked so good, she asked if she could take a picture of them - I kid you not!! They were almost completely eaten? They really were amazing pancakes. We also hit up the local farmer's market for some goodies - a bottle of wine and fresh baked bread - for later.

A sleepy quiet morning in Squamish

   From there we ventured up to Whistler and explored Whistler village, which is a madhouse of a place even during the summer! Whistler is home to some world class winter sports, and hosted the Olympics in 2010. I'd come here in 2002 and things had definitely escalated and grown since then - it was completely different than what I remembered. Every athletic and outdoor shop you could imagine, restaurants for any and every palette, fun bars and lounges to just sit back and people watch the day away, and at the end of the grand path are the slopes - which turn into mountain biking trails during the summer. We posted up with some nachos and beer and watched the bikers make their way down the mountain. We came really close to renting a few bikes ourselves and just diving in, but figured we should probably start easy and do some trails in Oregon and come back in a year. ;)

whistler village ~ Manifesting things to come

   We came home and fixed up a fancy dinner at our AirBnB, which looked over the surrounding landscape from a private deck with a hot tub, hammocks, and adirondacks for days (Good job Bradley!!!). We enjoyed our salmon dinner by candlelight, and discussed our adventures for our anniversary the next day. We'd picked up some info pamphlets at Whistler Village when we were so inspired to see the mountain bikers - and decided to rent ATV's! A little more accessible and ALSO VERY badass! Only problem is we called too late and they were completely booked. .....That is until 9 AM the next morning when they called us and told us there was an opening if we were still interested. We jumped out of bed - literally, jumped around on the bed then off the bed - grabbed some coffee on our way out and headed up into the mountains. Turns out the tour was just the two of us along with two tour guides (???) and we spent the next 4 hours cruising through the beautiful nature of Canada. Personally, I felt like a badass to be on the intermediate to advanced tour, and the tour guides even asked us our experience and complimented our skills. I did my best not to slow everyone down too much or drive off the road because our surroundings were just out of this world. And the flowers - the flowers!!!!!!!

  We finished the day at Backcountry Brewery where my bangs took on a life of their own, and enjoyed an elaborate sushi dinner - so cozy and memorable and such fresh fish!!! 

   Later that evening when we returned and were lying in bed, I spent the evening going through all the photos from the same day a year before, reliving the special moments, shedding a few happy tears, remembering all the love and excitement, and realizing how much had changed in just one year. Living this life we manifested for ourselves after years and months of dreaming and planning, a life which seemed so far away back then. And now here we were, at the beginning . . . Can't wait to see where our adventures take us next!

xoxo, Mrs. Karlene Baskind

TravelKarlene Baskind