Vancouver and the Sea to Sky Highway: Pacific Northwest Spring Adventure Part 3

Posted on July 11, 2015 by Mickey

This is the continuation of our Vancouver and Vancouver Island adventures. You can read about those in the first part, traveling around the Seattle area, and the second part which was an amazing experience on Vancouver Island! After arriving at West Vancouver, we started our drive up the coast towards Squamish where we would be staying. We stopped to shoot the sunset at Porteau Cove. The Howe Sound was extremely calm and beautiful, as seen below!

Porteau Cove Sunset
Porteau Cove SunsetPrints Available
Calm waters and no wind made for a beautiful sunset at Porteau Cove on the Sea to Sky Highway

After finishing up at Porteau Cove, we drove the rest of the way up to Squamish to our hotel, Squamish Mountain Retreat Hotel. After asking the hotel clerk and doing a little Google searching for a restaurant with good ratings, we ended up settling on the Timberwolf Restaurant that was inside the hotel. We picked up a West Coast pizza (an amazing smoked salmon pizza) and took it back to the room to eat and then crash! Definitely a great choice and the leftovers provided a good snack the next day! The hotel was great, and looked like it had a nice swimming pool with a fun slide, but we were too tired to take advantage on this trip.

The next morning, my wife got an extra hour or two of sleep while I drove back to Porteau Cove Huge difference from the night before, which was much colder and windy. Waves were crashing in from Howe Sound, so I shot with a little slower shutter speed to try and capture a silkier texture on the water as they poured over the rocks.

Porteau Cove Sunrise
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A windy and cold sunrise over the choppy waters at Porteau Cove Provincial Park

After sunrise, I went back to help pack up and be on our way. We planned to hit up a few waterfalls in the mountains. We grabbed Tim Horton’s for breakfast, and drove up to Brandywine Falls. The sun was out in full force for the first time on this trip. That made shooting the waterfalls a bit more difficult during the day, but as you can see, Brandywine Falls was a beautiful and powerful famous waterfall between Squamish and Whistler. Brandywine Falls are roughly 230 feet from top to bottom.

Brandywine Falls
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Beautiful Brandywine Falls between Squamish and Whistler

After visiting Brandywine Falls, we stopped in Whistler for a restroom break. We had hoped to go up to Nairn Falls, but were already running late for seeing everything else. So we decided to check out Alexander Falls. Alexander Falls are situated in Callaghan Valley, just below the Olympic Park, where many events from the 2010 Winter Olympics were held. Alexander Falls get a lot more visitors since the Olympic Park was built. They are one of many impressive falls on the Sea to Sky highway and drop a good 140 feet or so.

Alexander Falls
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Alexander Falls in the Callaghan Valley

After Alexander Falls, our third waterfall visit would be Shannon Falls. By this time, it was late morning, and you could tell Vancouverites were out enjoying the sun after days of cold, cloudy weather. Not the best for photography, but a beautiful day for sure! The parking lot at Shannon Falls was PACKED. We braved the crowds to visit these beautiful falls.

Shannon Falls
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Shannon Falls near Squamish, British Columbia

After the waterfalls, we needed to spend a couple more hours doing something before we could check into our hotel. Decided to try the Lynne Canyon park instead of Capilano because it was free. As we got closer, we realized everyone else had the same idea. There was no parking within a few miles of it. At that point, we decided to check into hotel a little early and take a quick nap before heading back out to see more of the city. My wife had booked the amazing Pinnacle Pier Hotel at an exceptional rate. It lived up to it’s reputation and was a great place to stay! We took a quick nap, got settled in, and decided to get some sushi for dinner! Just down the street was Sushi Bella, which had great ratings. We walked to the restaurant, arriving just before it opened back up for dinner. The thing about sushi on the west coast that’s so much than sushi from our hometown of Wichita, Kansas, is that it’s not only fresher, but much cheaper! Between that and the favorable US dollar to Canadian dollar exchange rate, we got four large sushi rolls for the same price as two would have costed us in Wichita. And it was so much better!

After our amazing sushi dinner date, we hoped back in the car to go check out Atkinson Lighthouse. We joked that we visited Shannon Falls, which had my last name, and then visited Atkinson Lighthouse, which had my wife’s maiden name. We hiked around until we found a great view of the lighthouse with part of Vancouver in the background. Not only was it one of my favorite photos of the trip, it was a nice place to just relax and watch the ships head into Vancouver Harbour as the waves rolled in. On our hike back, I encountered something I had never seen before in my years of hiking! While Atkinson Lighthouse is technically in West Vancouver, the entire Lighthouse Park is covered in beautiful virgin rainforest! I’ve hiked everywhere from the Swiss Alps to the Colorado Rockies to part of Kauai’s famed Kalalau Trail. I’ve met many people on my hikes. I’ve encountered everything from people training to climb Mount Everest to a 70 year old man dominating 20 year olds on the Kalalau Trail. But never before have I come across a group of people carrying huge boom boxes on their shoulders blaring hip hop music throughout an otherwise tranquil forest looking like they’re shooting a hip hop video. But in Vancouver, at the Lighthouse Park, my wife and I did just that. Definitely a new one!

Atkinson Lighthouse
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The beautiful Atkinson Lighthouse in West Vancouver

After the Atkinson Lighthouse, we decided to watch the sunset on the pulloff above Vancouver on Cypress Mountain. It’s an awesome view that looks over all of Vancouver. On a clear day you can see a number of volcanoes in Washington, along with the many islands, including Vancouver Island, out in the sea.

Vancouver Sunset
Vancouver SunsetPrints Available
Sunset over Vancouver from the pull-off on the way up Cypress Mountain

After sunset, we drove through Stanley Park and into downtown Vancouver. One photograph I really wanted to get was a night shot of the famed Gastown Steam Clock. We arrived by complete accident right before 9PM when the steam clock let out a lot of steam. We were exhausted, so we didn’t stay long, but it was cool to experience the steam clock when it was letting out it’s hourly steam!

Gastown Steam Clock
Gastown Steam ClockPrints Available
The famous Steam Clock of Gastown in Vancouver

Before crashing for the evening, I took advantage of the amazing balcony view over the North Vancouver Harbour back towards downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver Night
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The night time cityscape view from North Vancouver towards downtown Vancouver

While I had planned to get up and shoot a sunrise, three days of getting up before sunrise with little sleep caught up to me. I got up and shot a quick sunrise out the balcony window and slept in a little bit with my wife.

Morning in Vancouver
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Morning in Vancouver, British Columbia from my hotel balcony in North Vancouver

Our flight in Seattle left around 5 that afternoon, so we knew we needed to get a move on. We grabbed Tim Horton’s for breakfast again on our way out of North Vancouver, and spent an hour checking out Stanley Park for a bit. While we wanted more time to explore one of the most famous city parks in the world, we at least got to spend a little time walking through some of the gardens, as seen below.

Stanley Park
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Exploring famous Stanley Park in Vancouver
Stanley Park Gardens
Stanley Park GardensPrints Available
The beautiful gardens of Stanley Park

As we didn’t know what the border crossing would be like in terms of time, we knew we should probably leave a little early. So we made for the border, stopping one last time at Tim Horton’s to pick up some snacks for the rest of the day. Thankfully the border crossing took little time, and left us with an extra hour or so that we spent very well. We knew that April was tulip season in Washington, and one of the most famous tulip festivals in the world is situated in Skagit Valley. We decided to take a little detour and drove around the amazing tilup fields at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Looking back, we really wish we had more time to devote to checking this out! Many of the tulip fields were ridiculous crowded and cost money to park. As we had less than an hour to spare (and less if traffic was bad in Seattle), we really didn’t have time to pay to park and walk into one of the fields. But as we were nearing the southern area of Skagit Valley, there was a place where we could park right next to one of the fields and get out for a few minutes! We spent 10-15 minutes walking around the red and yellow fields of tulips. The color in these fields is extremely vivid, and we felt blessed to be able to finish off our trip in such a beautiful place!

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Skagit Valley Tulip FestivalPrints Available
The vivid tulip fields of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

We finished our drive back to airport in Seattle, knowing we would have to return to the Pacific Northwest again!

Posted under: Canada, Washington

Seattle and Snoqualmie Falls: Pacific Northwest Spring Adventure Part 1

Posted on May 14, 2015 by Mickey

Earlier this year, my job gave me the opportunity to go to a one-day web design conference called An Event Apart in Seattle, WA at the beginning of April. The conference was great, and as I have always loved the Pacific Northwest, there was no way I wasn’t going to add some vacation days to the trip and visit a place I’ve always wanted to see: Vancouver Island! The conference was scheduled for April 1, so my wife and I booked plane tickets for March 31st through April 6th to Seattle. I spent two months pouring over places on Vancouver Island and area’s near Vancouver. I had driven through Vancouver once before back in the summer of 2012. But that was at the end of a VERY long day, of which I wrote about recently in my Canadian Rockies travel blog article.

After researching for many hours, our trip was settled. The first two nights were in Seattle, as I had the conference on Wednesday, April 1st. We would arrive around 10AM on Tuesday and explore Olympic National Park on a long day trip to the Olympic peninsula and then head back to crash. My wife would explore Seattle while I was at my conference. On Thursday, we would leave Seattle for Vancouver Island. We found a great BC Ferries Vacations package that included round trip ferry transportation from Vancouver to Vancouver Island and two nights at Water’s Edge in Ucluelet. Afterwards, we would make our way back to the mainland, spend a night in Squamish to explore the Sea to Sky Highway a little bit, then stay in Vancouver the final night before driving back to Seattle on Monday morning to fly home that evening.

The night before our flights, I received an Email from United Airlines asking to call for a special offer. I had a feeling of what it was, so I gave them a call. We were offered $250 each (minus the cost of a required upgrade to Economy Plus) to alter our flight plans. Instead of flying out at 6:30, we would leave Wichita around 7:30 and have a stop-over in Chicago rather than Denver. We would arrive in Seattle 4 hours later than we originally planned, effectively ending the Olympic National Park daytrip (which was honestly pretty ambitious to do in a day). The only catch was that economy from Chicago to Seattle was full, so we’d have to take a economy plus seat and pay for it out of the $500. All in all, we received about $380 in flights to use later in the year to show up four hours later in Seattle.

We took it. The next morning, we were off for the Pacific Northwest and my wife’s first trip out of the country! The flights were uneventful, and we arrived at Seattle on time. We jumped in our rental car and decided to hit up Snoqualmie Falls. After grabbing some Jack-In-Box for a late lunch, we arrived at Snoqualmie Falls, excited to see these beautiful waterfalls! After admiring their power and beauty, I pulled the camera out to attach to my tripod and realized something dreadful. I had left my tripod to camera connector at home. I had taken it off to have the camera cleaned a few days before and never put it back on.

Spring at Snoqualmie Falls
Spring at Snoqualmie FallsPrints Available
Snoqualmie Falls flows heavily at spring

The plan was to head back to the hotel and call some camera stores and see who carried it. I tried Glazer’s Camera and Tall’s Camera, among a few others. They were all helpful, but all of them said my tripod model required a specific connector mount that I would probably have to order online. I was dejected. We were about to check out some of the most amazing scenery in the world, and I had no tripod to work with. I tried one more camera store called Omega Photo & Camera store and got dumb lucky. They carried it! They were closing in a few minutes, so the plan was to go get it after my conference the next day, and then continue on so I could photograph Snoqualmie Falls, as the camera store was halfway back out to the falls. My wife had a headache and had been resting in bed at the hotel, so I drove to find the conference center for the next morning, and picked up a White Album pizza at Zeek’s Pizza which was one of the best decisions I could have made. I love white sauce pizzas, and the mozzarella, parmesan, fresh oregano on alfredo sauce was a delicious combination! I was starving and that was some good pizza. My wife woke up to eat some and then we crashed for the night.

The next day, the conference was great. It was held in the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, which was right on the harbor in a beautiful location. This post isn’t really about the conference, even though it was great. But I will say it was refreshing to sit outside at lunch and admire the scenery out over the harbor during one of the few times that it wasn’t cloudy and rainy. After the conference, I picked my wife up, who had been shopping in downtown Seattle. We drove to get the tripod connector for my camera, picked up dinner and different places to take to Snoqualmie Falls. It was mostly cloudy and drizzling at times when we got there. But the drizzle was overpowered by the spray of the falls as I shot. You can see that water was pouring over the falls pretty good in the shots above and below.

Snoqualmie Falls
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The powerfall waterfalls at Snoqualmie Falls

After we had our fill at Snoqualmie Falls, I took my wife to where my conference had been earlier in the day, so we could walk around the area down near the harbor for a little bit. The view from the top of the Bell Harbor International Conference Center is one many others have captured before. I love night shots and so I captured the image from the top of the conference center, and also from a walkway above Alaska Way with car lights below.

Streets of Seattle
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The rainy night-time streets of Seattle are lit up by a timelapse of cars below a walkway over the Bell Harbor International Conference Center
Seattle at Night
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The lights of Seattle at night

We crashed at the hotel again. At this point, I regretted trying to go the cheap route and staying 20 minutes away from the Bell Harbor Conference Center at a Best Western that wasn’t really the best hotel. The hotel next to the Conference Center that most people stayed out would be have been a great location to base from to see some of the cool Seattle sights. It would have also been helpful for my wife to walk everywhere when I had been at the conference.

Morning in Seattle
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A beautiful sunrise in Seattle atop the Bell Harbor International Conference Center

I awoke the next morning and drove back to the Conference Center area to shoot a sunrise in Seattle that can be found above. After eating out continental breakfast, we were off. Our real adventure was about to start! Off to rugged west coast of Vancouver Island and the Pacific Rim National Park! Read about that in the Vancouver Island blog post!

Posted under: Washington