The older I get, the more sneakily the seasons seem to creep up on me. It seems that I’m just a little more dumbfounded every year to discover that it’s Thanksgiving already and that I somehow still haven’t glued the sole back onto my left rain boot, because didn’t summer just start?
September, in Vancouver, has been beautiful, but it’s October now, which means that shoulder season is fast approaching. Shoulder season can mean different things to different people, but for people like me, who came of age on VOC Hut trips (These inevitably involve piling 6 people and their gear into someone’s questionable automobile and driving somewhere to meet about 50 other people who may or may not know what they’re doing in order to ski into some spot in terrible conditions, during which slog at least one party will get lost and have to bivvy somewhere, but everyone manages, somehow, to have a great time. Sing-alongs mask the quiet sobs of the first-timers.), shoulder season refers to that period when it’s too cold/wet to climb anything, but not cold/wet enough for there to be any good snow to ski. “What are we to do?” Cry the outdoor-enthusiast masses.
Well, I have a few suggestions. Behold, masses: stuff to do! Or, 5 Adventures to Have Before Christmas.
1. Go to Tofino. Now.
I went last weekend, because of Birthday shenanigans, but this weekend is Surf Sister’s Queen of the Peak. Tofino is beautiful enough on its own, but add a bunch of ripped surfer women, and it doesn’t get much better. Barring awesome surf competitions, the waves are better this time of year than they are in the summer, so if you’re into surfing, or storm watching, fall and winter are actually better times to visit.
2. Go hiking while you still can.
The snow hasn’t started to fall in the mountains, and there are still some beautiful sunny days to be had. Now is the perfect time to get those hikes in that you missed in the summer. The days are shorter, so take that into account when you’re deciding when to head out and how far to go. Pull out your copy of “103 Hikes in Southwestern British Columbia” and pick a “Best season: July through September” hike -once the snow comes down there, it won’t melt away until well into next summer. I’m heading up to Garibaldi Lake tomorrow.
I completely missed out on hotsprings tripping last year, but I’m all over it this year. Avoid places like Harrison, which are just pools that you pay to use, and head instead to Keyhole, Sloquet or Meagre Creek, where you can camp, and spend your whole weekend soaking in a hot pool in the woods, with a bunch of drunk-but-friendly people from Abbotsford, the atmosphere enhanced by candles left behind by some hopeless romantic and the first snowfall of the year turning your earlobes pleasantly to ice. Insider tip: go to Keyhole before it’s ruined by a run-of-the-river hydro project.
4. Go climbing/biking/wine tasting/fruit buying in Skaha
Some of my friends have gotten into mountain biking lately. I haven’t been that interested in the sport since a string of half-completed cross-country races in high school. But I’ve heard there’s some good mountain biking in Skaha. I know for a fact there’s some great climbing there -some of my favourite, actually. And it’s dry. I spent a day in a tank top there last Thanksgiving. Take an afternoon off to get in the last of the wine tastings for the season (I recommend Elephant Island -love me some fruit wine), and buy a car load of apples in Keremeos on your way home, which you’ll plan on dehydrating, baking into pies and cooking into applesauce, but which will, instead, slowly rot in that corner under your neglected baking supplies.
Ok, this isn’t so much an adventure as watching films about other peoples’ adventures. But it can be pretty inspirational. Nothing like watching pro skiers hurl themselves down impossible couloirs to make me think maybe I can try a black run this year. Or to contemplate my own mortality, depending on my mood. Inevitably, the show is nearly sold out because I wait until the last minute to buy tickets -so get yours early. Also inevitably, it’s rainy and miserable outside, and so extra cozy inside. Especially since half the audience will consist of people you half-recognize from your VOC days or the climbing gym (or that hut trip that time).