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Harrison Hot Springs: favourite getaway for locals and tourists

“Country roads take me home…” this song by John Denver could have been inspired by the route to Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. Just substitute Lillooet Ranges for Blue Ridge Mountains and the mighty Fraser for Shenandoah River. There could be no more appropriate song running through my head while driving to Agassiz, a small community located in the Upper Fraser Valley region. With picturesque mountain views, wide open vistas of farmlands with rolling hills and the smell of country fresh air, it was almost heaven, and the serenity reminded me of growing up on a hobby farm in the Eastern Townships, in Richmond, Quebec.

Outdoor Activities: Agassiz, B.C.

About 5km outside Harrison Hot Springs we made a couple of stops, firstly at Farm House Natural Cheeses. Featuring a country style store with seemingly every kind of exotic cheeses you could desire, including hand made artisan cheese produced on site. My partner and I enjoyed the company of goats and dairy cows at some of the large and tidy barns. At our next mini tour, we visited the Back Porch Coffee Roastery, where the owners, Dan and Lynda welcomed us into their studio. We noticed an antique coffee roaster dating back to 1919, as well as other collectibles and antiques. Their expansive property was immaculately kept, with manicured lawns surrounding heritage buildings loaded with character, to go with a million dollar view.

Both the Farmhouse Natural Cheeses and the Back Porch Coffee Roastery are ideal tourist stops for the whole family. It was a chance to unwind before heading to Harrison Hot Springs, which was our ultimate destination.

We were excited to visit Harrison Hot Springs, as we always enjoy running the trails or the lakeside pathway and then soaking in the hot springs pool after a workout. Harrison Hot Springs is a small, friendly resort community of about 1,500 people. There are so many outdoors activities, from boating, fishing, golfing, kayaking, etc. It is THE place for a runner’s getaway or just a gorgeous destination to escape from the city, about a 130km drive from Vancouver. Harrison Hot Springs is at the Southern end of Harrison Lake in the Fraser Valley and is world famous for its natural healing hot springs, which attracts tourists and locals alike year round.

Photo by John Moe.

Spirit Mask Trail:

We walked the Spirit Mask Trail, which is a circuitous 1km route through pristine forest lands just a few minutes from the village, though it seemed longer as it was enjoyable not just for the walk through the woods, but because many trees are decorated with carved masks from local artists. Each mask depicts a different mood, creating a thought-provoking setting. The walk is fun for the whole family and is a wonderful photo opportunity.

Spirit Mask Trail. Photo by John Moe.

Health/Wellness – Muddy Waters Café:

After our workout it was time to refuel with some healthy eats at Muddy Waters Café, which is family owned and located in the heart of the village. We could feel a sense of community spirit upon entering the room. Located on the main strip with spectacular mountain and lake views, we were greeted by manager, Richard Fife, who recommended the yogurt plate served with an assortment of fruit along with homemade jam and healthy grain bread, while my partner, John had salmon over scrambled eggs with fresh fruit. Richard says proudly, “we source all of our food locally,” which includes an extensive menu for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. We enjoyed our breakfast in this charming café that also offers specialty coffees, which we couldn’t refuse. Overall, if you are a foodie you will want to try out this place.

 

Black Forest Restaurant:

You can virtually enjoy a slice of Germany – right in the village since 1975 – at the Black Forest Restaurant where naturally, you will find the most delicious black forest cake. This family-run business offers authentic German food, with all spices coming directly from Germany. If you like beer with your bratwurst, the restaurant offers the Krombacher Pilsner, which is an exquisite German brew, served in B.C. exclusively at Black Forest restaurants in Harrison Hot Springs and New Westminster. We enjoyed our meal, which was recommended by owner and chef, Vic Singh. His wife Kamal says, “we also offer vegetarian plates.” The restaurant is in the heart of the village, offering delicious German cuisine, along with breathtaking views from its upstairs patio deck.

Harrison Beach Hotel:

A better view will not be found at Harrison Hot Springs than from our suite at the Harrison Beach Hotel. Stepping onto the huge balcony from the front room, I knew instantly this was what the doctor had ordered. It not only offered stunning vistas of the lakeshore and beyond, closer inspection revealed kitchenette with fridge, separate bedroom, two TVs and coffee. If you thought you’d seen it all when it comes to towel art and design, you’d best make the trip. The design art towels for the bathroom made me feel almost guilty for actually using them. Importantly, the coffee maker, together with Starbucks coffee, was a much-appreciated convenience for runners and writers like us.

Harrison Hot Springs offers something for everyone, from a stroll through the village, to soaking in the hot springs, to running the lakeshore pathway and much more. At just a stone throw from Vancouver, it’s the perfect getaway where you are limited only by your imagination.

Looking for more getaways? Check out Christine Blanchette’s adventure in Abbotsford B.C.

 

By Christine Blanchette and John Moe

Instagram: runwithit_christineblanchette
Twitter @christineruns
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Summer activities and culinary delights in Abbotsford, B.C.

Summer is a great time to explore British Columbia, with her many outdoors activities and festivals. While some will make the drive straight to Vancouver, the more enlightened traveler will stop and visit Abbotsford, the largest city in the Fraser Valley. According to Destination B.C., Abbotsford is known as the “City in the Country” for its agriculture, hospitality, and outdoors activities.

Abbotsford is nestled on flatlands between the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges. With a burgeoning population of approximately 143,000, Abbottsford lies in the heart of the Fraser Valley, 68km east of Vancouver and just 5km from the US border. While Hwy 1 connects the community east and west, its airport has put Abbotsford on the international map. Abbotsford is an alternate arrival/departure point to Vancouver’s International Airport.

It’s a great place to stretch your legs walking, hiking or running one of Abbottsford’s numerous scenic trails or have a bite at some of the best eateries you’ll find anywhere, and perhaps spend a night. Enjoy the panoramic view at 300 meters after hiking the Abby Grind or run the Mill Lake trail, for a perfect sample of what Abbottsford offers outdoors enthusiasts. My partner, John and I checked out both trails recently in perfect mid-spring conditions. Read on for our detailed analysis:

Outdoors – Abby Grind

The Abby Grind is like the little sister to North Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. This was our first time hiking the steep Glen Ryder Trail. It has a viewpoint that can be reached in about 45 minutes. The 4km trek can be a challenge if you’re not wearing the proper shoes, though on this sunny day runners and walkers with their dogs enjoyed the trail as much as we did. The Abby Grind has been around since 2013 and offers a great workout. Steep though it is, there are sections that level off, allowing one to rest.

View from the top of Abby Grind. Photo by John Moe.

Outdoors – Mill Lake

We started out walking around the paved pathway and boardwalk that encircles beautiful Mill Lake Park in central Abbottsford, but ended up running parts of the two kilometre path. Mill Lake is a popular trail that attracts everyone, with picnic tables, a playground, and water park. Prepare for photo ops abound with spectacular views of Washington State’s Mount Baker. A fun fact: did you know that Mill Lake Park is the Jewel of Abbotsford because of its rich history? The first saw mill was built there in 1903 and  remained active until 1934.

Wellness/Health

After our workout we were welcomed to lunch by friendly staff at the Harvest Grill n Greens in downtown Abbotsford. It’s a one-of-a-kind eatery in which owner/chef Dion Brisson presents a varied menu of all healthy choices for the vegan and meat lover alike. It’s comfortable, bright, and super clean, built in part with 100-year-old cedar beams that were discovered under the original building by Dion’s friend and carpenter. The wood benches and foot rests are brought back to life from barns that once occupied the site.

Dion says he’s always been passionate about healthy eating from being an athlete himself as a hockey player, wrestler and an avid Abby Grinder. His passion for healthy eating led him to create custom meals from soups, salads to entries. Dion says the food is local and all fresh, as we tried his recommendation – salad served with local produce and sausage. Dion says, “it is the new Kits,” in reference to Vancouver’s trendy Kitsilano district, in offering a gluten-free menu to a knowledgeable clientele.

Brodeur’s Bistro carb loading!

Brodeur’s made me feel like I was home in Quebec with their Montreal style menu. It’s a great place for carb-loading before a hike or a long run. I couldn’t resist ordering my favourite Quebec dish, poutine, along with Pierre’s Cuban sandwich. Their specialty is Montreal smoked meat, which is served in large portions. John had a half rack of ribs with Brodeur’s barbecue sauce, which he devoured. Chef Jay Baker has about 20 years experience and the food dishes are a fusion blend of New Orleans and Montreal cuisine.

Brookside Abby

En route to our overnight stay at the Brookside Abby, we drove by pristine farmlands that seemed to stretch for miles. It’s a charming boutique inn on Chardonnay Lane that is close to local vineyards. The Brookside Abby was voted best small hotel in Canada by TripAdvisor for 2017 and their award list goes on. We stayed in the “Midnight in Paris” suite, which is themed after the romantic comedy about a writer, directed by Woody Allen. Each suite has a movie theme and is decorated with items based on the movie, such as an Underwood typewriter from the late 1920’s in our suite, as well as other fascinating artifacts and paintings. Chris and Sandi, the owners told us, “the items were to remind people of the movie theme. The movie is the central theme. All of that is Sandi’s idea. She thought of which movie themes: Thomas Crowne Affair, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We are not aware of any other hotel like this in the world.” We were treated the following morning to a homemade gourmet breakfast, which was included in the stay. As a rather muscular action movie star might say, “We’ll be back.”

If you have a passion for living a healthy lifestyle, your visit to Abbotsford will be fulfilling. The city is a gem of a place with healthy eateries, lots of outdoors activities, beautiful vineyards, parks, mountain views and lots more.

Look for next week’s feature as we explore Harrison Hot Springs……

 

www.runwithit.ca

Twitter: @christineruns

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How to teach kids to care for planet earth

The future of the earth ultimately lies in the hands of our children, which is why teaching them to love and respect nature is so critical.

This type of education helps foster a connection between our urban environment and the natural one that surrounds us. However, for a lot of young children, they just don’t want to hear it. Talking about nature can get boring pretty quickly. However, there are some fun and interactive ways to transform kids into little environmentalists.

First of all, take your kids out into nature. This isn’t something you can teach while indoors. Going outside for a nature walk or hike will show kids that the outdoors is beautiful and irreplaceable. Most Canadian cities are replete with natural destinations and parks (one of the best parts of living in the Great White North), and it is easy to include a walk in your weekend activities. Make sure to bring snacks and a re-usable bag to collect any nature items you may find. When you get home, make a collage with what you collected. To make the nature walk more exciting, turn it into a simple nature scavenger hunt. There are easy pdf print-offs or simply write a few items down for them to check off as you walk. Can your child spot a bird? How about a birch tree or a pinecone?

Another fun idea is to get kids to do a quick litter clean-up while doing a nature walk. Kids might not like this idea right away, but turning it into a game will make it fantastically fun. ‘Race to Recycle’ is a game where you separate kids into two groups and get them to race to see how many litter items they can collect on their nature walk. Whichever group has more pieces of recycling by the end of the walk wins. A picnic to celebrate is always an enjoyable past-time as well.

Environmental crafts are another teaching tool that can be used to help kids learn about the planet and how significant it is to care about green initiatives. An easy art project is to collect as many recyclables as possible and place them into a pile for kids to use for an art project of their choice. The kids could also work together and build a statue out of the recyclables to make something beautiful. After the project is complete, explain how up-cycling recycled items can create new and fun projects and it isn’t necessary to buy new things when you can re-use the old.

Don’t have access to a lot of recyclable materials? Try this simple project! Take a paper plate (made out of recyclables) and paint it blue. Glue pieces of green construction paper to it and make the planet earth. Get the kids to write their favourite things about nature along the edges of the paper plate, which will get the children talking about everything they love about the outdoors. Place the plates on the floor and get the children to take pieces of recycling and dump it on top of the ‘earth’ plates. Explain to the children that by covering the earth in garbage, it can ruin it. Then, take out labelled containers with cardboard-metals-plastics and get the kids to put their recycling into them. Now that their ‘earth’ plates are uncovered, get the kids to talk about how important recycling is to save the planet.

Lastly, gardening and composting with kids teaches them how to dig in the dirt and understand how special it feels when things grow. Throughout the wintertime, you can grow pea shoots and other easy-to-care-for plants in used orange juice cartons and then plant them outside in the spring. Starting a compost when the weather warms also helps create amazing soil quality and shows kids how food is not garbage and can also be re-used.

Making nature fun for kids will help them love it as they grow up. Some of the best memories children can make are outside hiking in the forest with their families or learning how to pull weeds in the garden. By using informative games to teach kids that they have the ability to change the world and care, it will help them go green and hopefully save the planet for future generations to come.

Fun fall activities to enjoy with your kids

The weather will soon be changing (sadly) — this weekend may be your last chance to play outdoors without freezing, so get outside with your kids and enjoy!

The best part about the fall is that there are so many ways to celebrate it. Harvest, Halloween, there are so many activities to take part in. Here are a few ideas that will have you putting away the computer and phone, and spend quality time with the little stinkers.

Door Decorating

Decorating the door for Halloween or plastering it with fall colours is an easy and fun way to celebrate the month of October. It is also considerably cheaper than buying Halloween decorations that will only be used for a few days before being stuffed in a box. Simply purchase coloured paper and black or white electric tape and go to town. You can make a ghost, a mummy, a skeleton or a monster easily on the door. The rectangular frame of the door lends itself to making a face on the door quite easily. The kids will love designing it and can then enjoy the decoration going in and out of the house every day.

Painting using acorns

Instead of using store-bought painting supplies, why not collect a few acorns and use them instead. Find acorns and chop them in half to create elaborate stamps that can be dipped into the paint. You can also glue the acorns onto the page, and paint and decorate them if you want to make a fun fall craft. Grab a few leaves while looking for the acorns as well to use as stamps and decorations. The designs these fall nature items will create on paper will astound kids, and the scavenger hunt for supplies gets the little ones out in the backyard breathing that fresh fall air. That is a win-win in my books.

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Bake Apple Chips

Apple picking is one of my favourite childhood memories. It is so enjoyable to fill a basket, and to see how big the apples can grow on the trees. The taste of locally grown apples can’t be compared to any other as well, they are delicious! If you collect too many apples, there are many fun recipes that include this delectable fruit. Baked apple chips are a healthy chip and are easy to make. Simply slice the apples into thin strips and bake them on low heat for about 45 minutes. They can be seasoned with a variety of tastes, but are still sweet if left untouched. Between crunching down on a fresh apple and munching on apple chips, you simply can’t go wrong.

Nature Walk

Taking fall nature walks is almost more relaxing than hiking in the summer. The weather is much cooler, which makes for a more enjoyable walking experience in comparison to a trucking through the woods on a blazing hot day. Collecting leaves and enjoying the beautiful fall colours is an experience within itself as well. Bring along a bag to collect fall nature items that the kids find along the way to make a collage later. This helps kids understand and absorb the transitions between seasons and gives a fun objective to a meander in the woods. Bring a thermos of apple cider to make your fall walk run perfectly.

leaves

Leaf Wars

If you want a more interactive fall experience with the kids, launch yourself into the well-known leaf war. The leaf war is the little brother of the snowball fight, and hurts a lot less. It involves throwing leaves at each other and basically ganging up on dad and knocking him over. It is also fun to pile leaves into competing camps and to play-wrestle each other into them. A little bit of pretend playtime with mom and dad is a kid’s dream, so dig in and enjoy. Disclaimer: take a moment to explain it is all in good fun, and shouldn’t make kids think violence is okay. We are all very kind to each other when we engage in leaf wars.

The popular saying, ‘winter is coming’, from TV show Game of Thrones, really sums it up. Before the cold winds and snowy days hits the city, enjoy the last rays of sunshine and tolerable outdoor weather. Get outside with the kids and dig into some enjoyable fall activities. Engaging in fall crafts teaches kids the importance of the changing seasons and most importantly, you are spending quality time with the little people who matter most in this ever-changing world.

What are your favourite fall activities with the kids? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Escaping the city to Mont Tremblant

Do you want to know about a secret get-away spot in the mountains with great french beers and fresh air?

I recommend heading to Mont Tremblant National Park in Quebec to find your wild soul within. I felt I needed to get out of the big city and find some peace and quiet, and this French destination was the perfect place.

I rented a car, packed up clothes and snacks for my family, and hit the road. I stopped over in Ottawa to visit Parliament Hill  and to eat a beaver tail before heading further east to the Laurentian Mountains. Mont Tremblant is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding in the winter and rock climbing, canoeing, and hiking in the spring and summer.

This string of mountains is located approximately two hours east of Ottawa, six hours from Toronto and one hour from Montreal by car. The Laurentian mountain range is one of the oldest in the world and there are over 9000 lakes in the area. An abandoned railway line, la P-tit Train du Nord runs 230km from St. Jerome to Mont-Laurier and is one of Canada’s longest linear parks used for cycling, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

Mont Tremblant Village
Mont Tremblant Village

We drove into Mont Tremblant wearing our city attire and quickly changed into warmer clothes and shoes. Initially, the town seemed unimpressive until we drove up the hill and witnessed the lake and mountains at sunset. The Mont Tremblant village resembles a fantasyland with cute cottages surrounded by the mountains. The village was impressive from afar, but the businesses were mostly corporate, which was disappointing. I had hoped for authentic Quebecois shops that reflected the history of the area, but it was more of a commercialized resort.

We quickly moved on to the National Park, located 30 minutes to the east of the town, and headed to the Discovery Centre. It was a building that had friendly bilingual staff, trail maps and information, filtered water and coffee, and washrooms. We set off on an 11 km hike and reached the viewpoint called La Roche in about two hours. The path was well set and there wasn’t too much foot traffic.

Mont Tremblant National Park path
Mont Tremblant National Park path

We enjoyed the top of the climb by eating dark chocolate and trail mix while looking at the Laurentian Mountains for miles down the valley. The view as incredible and it was peaceful being away from the noises of city traffic and sirens. There was still snow on the ground and I recommend wearing boots and winter gear if hiking in April or early May. On the way down the hill, my cousin and I took both hands of my five-year-old and we slid all the way down on the snow. It was an enjoyable experience and my daughter laughed the whole way down.

Mont Tremblant is an easy getaway for nature lovers and in its peak months, is full of activities to do. Though I visited off-season, it was calm and quiet, which is exactly the escape I was craving. It is important to show children the value of natural excursions and I got to witness how happy my daughter was when she is in the outdoors. I will definitely be back to camp, hike, and rock climb in the warmer weather and I hope to see you there with your family and friends.

Do you have a favourite getaway spot within six hours of Toronto? Let us know in the comments below.

 

10 great ways to enjoy a snow day

When a snow day hits and the sun is shining, why not take advantage and get outside? If you bundle up and wear all the necessary winter gear, outdoor fun can be a great way to defeat the cold weather and revel in nature’s beauty. Here are some great ways to get outside and beat those winter blues.

1. Snowboarding/Skiing

Though only parts of Canada are truly worth skiing or snowboarding in, it is a worthwhile sport to learn and participate in. People always join one camp or the other but both sports have their merits. On a snowboard, you are typically able to do more tricks and technical play. With skiing, it is all about speed. Skis are very mobile and adaptable on the hill. Just try not to lose them because trekking across the hill to grab a lost ski is a laborious process. Snowboarding and skiing can be an expensive sport but is worthwhile to invest in.

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2. Sledding

Sledding is a great way to enjoy a snow day for kids and adults. The equipment is cheap, ranging from a saucer to an old fashioned sled. Most places will have at least one good sledding hill. Though it is a pain to drag the sled up the hill, the thrill of riding it back down makes it all worthwhile. Get out there and remember what it is like to be a kid again.

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3. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is another great outdoor winter sport and has existed since Aboriginals used them before Europeans arrived in Canada. The custom was passed onto settlers as a mode of travel. Previously, they used animal skin to make the shoes which evolved into plastic and titanium which is used today. There are three types of snowshoes available. Recreational hiking snowshoes are good for beginners, aerobic/fitness snowshoes are best for active snowshoe partakers who enjoy moving quickly. These snowshoes are generally sleeker and lighter. The third type is a hiking/backpack snowshoe which is made for people who love powder and are experienced at snowshoeing. Snowshoes range from $100 to $300.

 

 

4. Snowskating

I fondly remember my friends ripping down the hills on a snowskate and loving every minute of it. The snowskate is a combination of a snowboard and a skateboard. It is a hybrid urban sport that is good for city boarding, and can be used with as little as an inch of snow on the ground. The boards are almost the same size as a skateboard but without the wheels. They are difficult to ride because of the size but once you master it, the speed and fun to be had is unbeatable. Snowskates are affordable, ranging from $50 to $200.

Ice Skating

5. Ice Skating

If you do not know how to skate, you simply are not a Canadian. I remember when I was three years old and hitting the rink for the first time. My brother brought me, tied my skates, brought me onto the ice and pushed. Not the most eloquent way to learn skating but I became pretty good on my skates in no time. Ice skating is great solo, with a friend or on a date. It is relaxing and a great workout. Can’t beat that! Skates can be as cheap as $40 and rentals are available at most larger rinks.

6. Playing pick-up hockey

Playing hockey is definitely a must on sunny winter days. A great Canadian custom, rinks in most cities will be full of people ready to come together and play pick-up. The gear for hockey is pricey but if it’s just pick-up, people are often willing to share or rent gear at local hockey rinks. Pick-up hockey is a great way to make new friends, learn how to be a part of a team and pick-up a cute hockey player as well.

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7.Building a Snowman

No one is ever too old to build a snowman. It is a great activity that also happens to be free and outdoors. Rolling balls of snow is strangely relaxing and people can get very creative with their snowman projects. In college, a few friends made a giant Buddha on a sunny snow day in the yard of the dorm that was nearly the size of a small car. It was an epic creation and brought smiles to many people’s faces. Building a snowman with a child is also another way to have a great snow day.

8. Winter Hiking

Winter hiking is a great pastime and is relatively easy to do. All it requires are warm clothes and shoes, and some snacks. No hike is satisfying without delicious snacks like trail mix or dried fruit. Winter hiking can be a lot of fun because if one falls, it is into a cloud of snow which provides padding from the hard ground. It is important to stay safe and on routes when hiking because it is easy to get lost while in the backwoods. That being said, the winter wonderland outside is always worth seeing in the beautiful natural world we live in.

By Kevin K.
By Kevin K.

9. Ice climbing

Ice climbing is a more adventurous sport of choice for a snow day but is well worthwhile. It is best to try ice climbing with an expert in tow and there are many certified teachers that provide lessons to people willing to give it a go. Ice climbing requires crampons, axes, harnesses, boots and other gear. It can be expensive but it’s worthwhile to try and then once you fall in love with the sport (which you will), then you can start learning the ropes with a partner.

10. Kick it in a hot tub at the end of the snow day

There is nothing nicer than relaxing in a hot tub when it is cold outside with a glass of red wine. A hot soak soothes your muscles after any winter sport. It is especially nice if you are in the hot tub with a great view of the winter mountains, and the hockey player you picked up, or Ryan Gosling.

Enjoy your snow day and remember, the cold shouldn’t mean we stay indoors and fret. Get out there and enjoy the snow.