Finding wonder and joy in the city and in the mountains

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.

Categories: British Columbia, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , | 51 Comments

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51 thoughts on “Finding wonder and joy in the city and in the mountains

  1. A lovely finish to last year. Wishing you and yours a very wonderful 2022 filled with love and care.

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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!

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  4. 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.

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  5. 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!

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  6. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Isn’t VanDusen spectacular this year! We went before our trip to Montreal. I didn’t take my camera – silly me – so have only some pretty awful phone photos.
    I’m so looking forward to getting back up to Cypress this year. We’ll be snowshoeing again for sure. We just got back late last night so we’re not quite here yet. Also I need to get new hiking poles, but I’m sure there’s be more clear days ahead.
    Your photos are gorgeous!
    Happy new Year to you and Mike.
    Alison 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • We probably have more snow here than Montreal for a change. I’m loving this weather and have been out “playing” with Mike and Alex everyday. It’s such a beautiful clear day today…hope you’re getting out with your camera.
      VanDusen was spectacular and it was so nice and uncrowded. I was a bit reluctant to go because I had memories of huge crowds pre-COVID. I think it helped that we went a few weeks before Christmas and got there by 5 pm.
      Hope you get up to Cypress soon…you’ll need those poles.
      All the best to you and Don in the new year!
      Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh Caroline, the moon peeking through the snow-draped trees stole my heart. How lovely. And as for the formation in the top of the tree – the one on the left reminds me of a happy character from Whoville in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. 🙂
    I hope you had a wonderful holiday. James and I want to wish you all the very best in the New Year. ~Terri

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, it looks more like an orca than a dolphin 😛 There are two branches at the top of the right tree. The left one resembles the head and the fin. The right one looks like a tail. Anyway, fantastic photos!

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  10. Wow… beautiful!! Amazing views from the Tim Jones Peak, loved it!

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  11. Snow covered mountains and a bright blue sky is my absolute favorite type of scenery. Absolutely lovely photos, especially the sunset and moonrise ones. I saw a dancing elf on the top of that tree.

    Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    • A dancing elf…I love it! I’m in total agreement with you about snowy mountains against a deep blue sky. It doesn’t get much better. Best to you and your family this holiday season and wishing you happiness, health and lots of hiking in the new year!

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  12. This is beautiful, lights and snow the same! Best wishes of happy and safe Holidays!

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  13. Your winter hike looks AMAZING. The difference in photos going up and coming down, what a wonder. I also have an urge now to get somewhere with a holiday lights display. There is one at the zoo about 45 minutes from me, but I don’t love going to the zoo. Happy Holidays to you. Stay safe.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed my winter hike. It is still making me happy just thinking about it. I know what you mean about the zoo, but hopefully you’ll get to see some other holiday lights. Happy holidays and all the best to you in the new year!

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  14. This brings warmth to my heart, Caroline. While those night lights are nice, I’m glad you put the best in the second half of this post. I mean look at that photo of snow-decorated tree below First Peak, as well as that shot of the moon from Hollyburn Peak! Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and Mike!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad it brought warmth to your heart Bama; it’s pretty darn chilly outside here right now, but very pretty to look at. I am obsessed with snow-decorated trees; I have thousands of photos and continue taking more. Every year, I make Christmas cards using photos of my favourite snowy trees…the ones you mentioned will be in the running for next year’s card. Thanks for your wishes. All the best to you and James.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow, look at those snowy peaks – these are one of the most staggering mountain views I’ve seen lately, Caroline. There are few things as wonderful and quiet as a snowfall outside. It’s a hush that is fully immersing! Best wishes to you and your family this Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Aiva 🙂 xx

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    • Thank you Aiva! We are enjoying a chilly, wintery Christmas. I love that we have snow in the city this year and not just in the mountains. I hope you and your family are enjoying the Christmas holidays. All the best to you in 2022!

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  16. Merry Christmas, Caroline! I wish you and your loved one a happy and healthy holiday!
    Well… I see a turkey spreading wings (left tree) and a dolphin (right tree) in the last photo 🙂 All your photos of sunset/sunrise on the snowy peak are just magnificent. I love to see the sun rising from a sea of clouds. The light festival at VanDusen is also remarkable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Len! I like your creative observations. I can totally see the turkey but am having trouble with the dolphin. I hadn’t previously seen an image in the tree on the right but now I’m picturing a man in a hat with a big nose and a duck’s body (Ok…perhaps a bit too much Christmas cheer for me yesterday).I hope you and your family are as well as possible during these continued difficult times.

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  17. The lights at the gardens are just wonderful! My daughter would love to see this, and snow! It’s 43c for our Christmas today here in Perth. Beach for us! X

    Liked by 1 person

    • 43c…hard to imagine as I’m sitting here with the snow and wind banging my window. I wouldn’t mind trading places with you guys for a couple of days. Happy holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I definitely want to experience a white Christmas one year! Hasn’t happened yet but I have to do it while my kid is still young and wants to hang out with her parents!

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  18. Wonderful scenery. Your toasting and smiles are addictive! Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Beautiful lights at the VanDusen festival, although it does look funny to me to see Christmas lights above green grass 🙂 And even more beautiful pictures from your winter hikes, especially the sunset. We’ve had an amazing snow year here already, but the cold snap is coming. Merry Christmas! Maggie

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    • No snow a few weeks ago but plenty in town now. Yippee, I love a white Christmas. It’s really cold for Vancouver standards so I imagine it’s crazy cold where you are. Hope you’re having a great holiday. Wishing you and Richard happiness, health and more adventures (maybe even internationally?) in 2022!

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  20. All I can say is that we are both sooo lucky to live in places with wide open spaces. The SNOW is amazing!!! I have hardly seen a flake here. Are you sure cookies aren’t the only staple in you pack? 🤔 Happy holidays to you all!

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    • Pam, I can’t imagine how many times I’ve been on local hikes, like the two in my post, where my friends and I have pinched ourselves. Yes, we are sooo lucky! I blame my friend Cheryl for the cookies…she’s a great baker and started the trend of bringing cookies (doesn’t need to coincide with a holiday). It’s a good thing we do a lot of uphill. Happy holidays and all the best in what will be an exciting change of scenery for you in 2022!

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  21. Lovely collection of festive photos to get you in holiday spirit. The light displays in the botanical garden are so colourful and beautiful. I’m amazed at the level of creativity to design something like that. Those winter hikes look stunning with all that snow. How magical to hike Hollyburn Peak to watch the sunset. Enjoy the holidays. Hope next year is filled with many more memories and adventures. Cheers. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carol, you’re so right about the creativity at the light display. As Mike and I were walking around we were commenting about how much thought and time it must have taken to create all the displays. It makes me want to step up our very mediocre home Christmas light display next year…we’ll see what happens! Hope you’re enjoying the holidays. Wishing you happiness, health and lots more exploring in 2022!

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  22. Beautiful winter images all round, Caroline. The Botanical Gardens look fantastic decked out with colourful festive displays and lights. Amazing the trees were illuminated too. Lovely you got hike twice over the last few weeks on Mount Seymour and the Cypress Provincial Park. They look stunning in the winter, and what a treat to see both the sunset and moon rise. Cookies sound like the perfect staple for hiking. Happy holiday season to you and may it be a safe one 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mabel. I’m really fortunate that I got to do these fun activities. They put me in such a good mood and were great stress-busters. With Omicron growing exponentially, I’m so happy that I can get a safe dose of nature and exercise near my home. The sunset and moon rise on top of Hollyburn Peak was an amazing scene…makes me feel good just thinking about it. Wishing you happiness and health in 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Brian Foster

    Some really beautiful visuals, both natural and man created, captured creatively. Enjoy the season as much as you can with that damn Omicron.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Brian. Hope you and Barb are enjoying the holidays as well as you can these crazy days. Wishing you both all the best in 2022!

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    • Brian Foster

      You all may not know but Caroline and Mike were taken away from us and importantly their son Alex, last Sunday in the midst of their sleep. A tree fell upon their house in the middle of the night and took them away. I can only imagine that they were dreaming at that time of travels and sharing them with us all. The world will not be the same without them but we are better people for having them influence us. Love you bro’. B

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  24. AndyG

    You may have just convinced me to go to Van Dusen – those lights look great! That sunset and moonrise from Hollyburn is just glorious – we were up there on Sunday and it put me in the best mood I’ve been in for weeks. Nature is absolutely the best therapy! Hope you have a wonderful festive season and may 2022 bring more awesome adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Andy. I’m glad you also had a great day at Hollyburn. Amazing, isn’t it, how a dose of nature can make one feel so good! I’m looking forward to a few less busy days over the holidays to catch up on your Chilcotin posts. Our hiking group is eager to learn more about other parts of the park. Hope you’re enjoying the holidays. All the very best to you and your family in 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

      • AndyG

        Definitely! We managed to get out a couple more times to keep that feeling going for as long as possible.

        I’ve been writing up my annual summary and if course it’s got me thinking about the South Chilcotins again… We’re planning to go back again this summer. Here’s to a better year!

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  25. CK Grasset

    Such exquisite winter scenes! Your photos remind me why I miss BC so much. Merry Christmas🌲

    Liked by 1 person

    • BC is pretty special. We’re having a cold, snowy period right now. It’s not that common to have a White Christmas in Vancouver…I’m loving it! Happy holidays and best in the new year.

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  26. Wow, what a beautiful winter wonderland! The Christmas lights in the park creates such a festive mood – how original are those flower lights 😊. And as for your hiking in the mountains … the sunset on the one side and the rising moon on the other side … that is postcard pretty!
    Merry Christmas 🎄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! My excursions to the botanical gardens and up into the mountains were very different but they both put me in a wonderful mood. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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