Yesterday, British Columbia announced new restrictions intended to ease the spread of the Omicron variant. The closures of bars and nightclubs, prohibition on indoor organized gatherings like New Year’s Eve parties, and warnings to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada have thrown many people’s holiday plans (and life in general) into disarray. It’s frustrating and stressful, but I support these restrictions. During yet another COVID holiday, I want to share some recent local excursions that have filled me with wonder and joy.
VanDusen Festival of Lights
For about six weeks, coinciding with Hanukkah, Christmas and the Gregorian calendar new year, Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Gardens is transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Over one million lights decorate 15 acres of the gardens. Mike and I visited on a crisp, dry evening. We wandered along snaking paths and beside illuminated ponds, all decorated in an astonishing variety of light displays. It put us in such good moods—joy is the perfect descriptor.
If you’re local and want to check it out, the Festival of Lights is on until January 3. You need to book tickets and a time slot in advance and show proof of vaccination on entry. Dress warmly.
Winter hiking in Mount Seymour and Cypress provincial parks
Many of you know that I get great pleasure from hiking and being in nature. A special bonus for me this time of year is seeing our Vancouver North Shore mountains blanketed in snow. I’ve never experienced a winter without spending time “playing” in the snow, and it never fails to delight me.
My first of two wonderful winter hikes over the last few weeks was on Mount Seymour on a beautiful sunny day. I was with my friends Cheryl and Greg (the Wednesday Warriors). We strapped on our spikes (crampons) and hiked up to Tim Jones Peak (Second Peak) and toasted the stunning winter scene with cookies and a thermos of hot tea.
Mount Seymour has three peaks, but we decided to play it safe and stop at Second Peak— the terrain gets progressively more difficult beyond and we only saw one set of footprints. On our way up, we also took a short detour to the top of First Peak—a must-do for the amazing views but it’s often too wind blown to hang around for long. In winter, most people turn around at First Peak. You can read about all three peaks in my recent post fall hiking on Mount Seymour.
Sometimes you just have to seize the day. In a month where overcast skies are the norm, the forecast called for a clear day. I texted Cheryl and Greg. We were all busy but eager to squeeze in another December hike. We headed up to Cypress Provincial Park for a quick jaunt to Hollyburn Peak in time for sunset. Arriving just a wee bit late at the parking lot, we got our cardio in, racing up the 3.5 km / 2.2 mi trail to catch the 4:14 p.m. sunset. We made it with a minute to spare. It was glorious. The sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the full moon was rising over the mountains on the opposite side.
After spiked hot chocolate and more cookies (a staple in our backpacks…the cookies, that is) we turned on our headlamps and headed down the mountain, this time with views to the twinkling lights of downtown Vancouver.
A toast to my readers as the year draws to a close. Thank you for taking the time to read, like and comment on my posts. To all those celebrating, Merry Christmas and a very belated Happy Hanukkah. I wish you all happiness and health in the new year, and I hope you will find some joy and wonder.
A lovely finish to last year. Wishing you and yours a very wonderful 2022 filled with love and care.
Oh my gosh, what fantastic photos!! I can’t get enough of your snowy trees and gorgeous mountaintop views! Also, Vancouver puts on a killer light display – I would have loved to see it.
Hope you all stay well and healthy in these challenging times.
Caroline, this is such a beautiful way to wrap up 2021. The lights at VanDusen Park are gorgeous, but I think it’s the snowy scenes in the mountains that really had my jaw dropping to the floor. It brings back fond memories of the deep spring snow Bama and I encountered in the mountains of Lebanon three years ago, when we were treated to a orange-pink sunset over the Mediterranean. Hope you had a fantastic white Christmas with the family – wishing you and Mike a joyous year ahead with good health, more wilderness hikes and perhaps even a few trips out of BC!
I always marvel at your gorgeous snow photos, Caroline. Perhaps because I’ve never experienced anything like that myself, and so it always looks a bit like a fairy tale to me. How lucky that your hiking partners could join you to celebrate a sunset and moonrise in such a gorgeous setting. I love how you are prepared to fully grab the moment. Wishing you many more hikes in 2022. Oh, and those lights. Spectacular.
as beautiful as the lights are, the beauty of the snow is unparalleled in these wonderful photos! hope you had a good christmas and happy new year!
Hi. The Hollyburn Peak experience was something else. Sunset in one direction, a rising moon in another. An incredible show. Here’s to many more great sights in 2022.
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