2023 Running Trip – Day 6 – Vancouver, British Columbia


After a picture-perfect weather day on Thursday, we woke up to Vancouver rain on Friday morning. Rain comes with the territory up here. Usually, it can be very unwelcoming on a trip like this, but it actually worked out nicely in this case. When I schedule two days in a city, I generally spend one of those days exploring the downtown section of the city. Then, I spend the other day popping around to outskirts that may not easily connect to each other. It results in more car time in transit from one area to the next, which in this case, would give us frequent reprieves from the rain. Rain would also provide for the true Vancouver experience, especially as we headed into the terrain.

We checked out of the Sylvia Hotel and drove to our first area of exploration near the University of British Columbia, southwest of downtown. Our first stop was Jericho Beach Park. The area has a number of beaches on its edges, and Jericho is a popular one offering views of large ships and downtown. Of course, those views begin to disappear in the rain. I thanked Allan Williams for his donation. Allan is a Phi Delta Theta volunteer, is based in Columbus, Ohio, works at The Ohio State University, and has the best laugh in the business. I need to add Columbus to a future running trip agenda. Love that city.

Next up was the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) on the campus of the University of British Columbia. We quickly learned that the MOA was closed for renovations and much of the of the perimeter (aka good photo taking spots) were blocked off to the public. Sooooo, I was left with taking a picture with my friend below. Pants would have been welcomed, but who am I to mess with anthropology? I thanked Scott Mietchen, a past president of Phi Delta Theta, who has been a great advocate of all things Iron Phi at the University of Utah. His chapter has raised $148,000+ through the program over the years. Brett Zimmerman and I finished our Utah trip in 2019 with a stop at the Phi Delt house in Salt Lake with the men of Utah Alpha, celebrating their success. Also, Scott recently did something that has been added to my travel bucket list – Ride the Amtrak across the country.

The University of British Columbia is huge, so we had plenty to explore. We stopped at Thunderbird Stadium, the home of the UBC football team. Great nickname, eh? The Thunderbirds! The stadium and its surrounding area reminded me of running in Flagstaff, Arizona with my lifelong pal Travis Griffith, so I thanked the Griffiths here. Travis and I had one heck of a running trip through Arizona back in 2018.

Also on campus is a peaceful rose garden with a view. I’ve always appreciated campuses that have gardens. A great touch! I thanked my colleague Jesse Moyer and his family for his donation. Jesse and I go way back with Phi Delt, and I’m very excited to visit his home campus (University of South Dakota) for the first time in a few weeks when our executive team meets in Vermillion, South Dakota. Cal and I spent an awesome weekend with Jesse and his son Bentley at the University of Oregon in Eugene in February. P.S., Jesse, this photo was supposed to be in front of the UBC Phi Delt house, but I couldn’t locate the darn thing. Fail on my end.

The University of British Columbia is a prominent Canadian school boasting eight Nobel Prize winners, three Canadian prime ministers, and 71 Rhoads Scholars. UBC even has a quidditch team that competes throughout North America. The UBC campus is the ninth most popular filming location on earth. ON EARTH! Vancouver is basically the Hollywood of Canada. Not surprisingly, we ran into our second Vancouver film crew of the trip in front of one of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. I thanked my Iowa State fraternity brother, proud Minnesotan, cool dad, and long-time 3M’r Ryan Boatman for his donation.

Now, when you are in Canada, there is an institution that is a must-visit for the true Canadian experience. I’m talking about the legendary Tim Hortons. I’m going to make a bold statement right now – Tim Horton’s coffee is my favorite in the world. Forget all of the bitter craft stuff, fancy whipped cream designs that only bring up the price, and nonsense flavoring. Just give me a large double-double and delightful pastry, and I’ll be happy as a Canadian goose in a warm body of water. I fell in love with Tim Hortons during my early days at Phi Delt traveling Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.

I thanked my Iowa State fraternity brother Brian Woods and his family for their donation. Living in Ames, you get to see many of your college friends as many come back to visit. Tillie and I were out for a walk one random morning on campus (which we rarely do anymore), and we ran into the Woods family touring campus and pulling out of Dunkin’ Donuts, the Tim Horton’s of the U.S. How about that for a Runner’s Choice story tie-in? Thanks Brian!

Our next stop was Pacific Spirit Regional Park, a 2,100-acre park that is filled with much beauty and great hikes. Really, the park seems to integrate itself into the whole area. Very Vancouvery of it. Tillie and I scaled the park’s step on our way to Wreck Beach. On the way, I thanked the Loonsfoot family again for their donation.

We made it down to Wreck Beach, an amazing beach with huge logs laid out everywhere. How great would it be to have a beach like this across the street from your campus? Tillie seemed to think that Wreck Beach is a nude beach, which I have since confirmed. Fortunately, or unfortunately is you were a big fan of the Museum of Anthropology photo, the weather kept away the nudies. I thanked Dean & Carla Breneman again for their donation before we turned around and took on hundreds of stairs again.

Searching for unique things to do in Vancouver, I kept reading about the Cambie Climbing Tree, a secretive spot with a cult following. Somewhere south of King Edward Station on Cambie Street we would spot a big tree that could be climbed. They say you’re special if you successfully climb the tree. I have no idea whether or not the tree below is the correct tree, nor did I need to feel special by climbing a monster tree in the rain, but nonetheless, it was a great place to thank my Iowa State fraternity brother Andrew Nurse. Andrew would totally climb that tree. I actually pictured him taking a hammock nap up top.

Tillie got in on the fun.

Back in the car, we drove through downtown Vancouver, into Stanley Park, and to Prospect Point for the best view of Lions Gate Bridge. Wow! What a bridge. The 1,552-meter (~ 1 mile) bridge that connects Stanley Park to North Vancouver is as impressive as they get. Even in the rain, we enjoyed admiring the vastness of the bridge’s footprint and its importance to traffic flow in Vancouver. I thanked Josh Ehlen again for his donation.

Tillie and I had to commemorate the amazing view with a selfie.

Back through Stanley Park, because of the one ways and maze to actually get onto Lions Gate Bridge, we drove past another fun landmark where I thanked the Vonsak family again. I read that Stanley Park has more than a half million trees within it. Included in that number is this hollow tree which draws the crowds.

After crossing the Lions Gate Bridge, we entered North Vancouver for our next stop, the Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you’re afraid of heights, or for some reason pictures of heights, this might be your time to scroll down. A major tourist attraction, the suspension bridge is definitely commercialized with an admissions price tag to go with it, but it is worth a visit.

I met some new friends along the path to the suspension bridge.

Battling foot traffic on the bridge, I quickly walked over to the other side to get my bearings. One of my favorite tourist attractions of all time is Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany that has a similar suspension bridge view. I must say that I felt much safer on this one!

A few views of the bridge from the far side.

Before walking back over, I thanked Andy Tu again for his donation.

Back on the main side, I took another picture for perspective of the bridge.

I then took on the cliffwalk. Hovering as high as 30 stories above the Capilano River Canyon, the cliffwalk is a series of narrow walkways, stairs, and viewing platforms anchored to the sheer cliff face with suspended cantilevers. This time, the walkway was much more narrow. Not for the faint of heart.

Sometimes I take random pictures of other people taking selfies. I thought this one was a particularly good one.

From the Capilano Suspension Bridge, we went up the road to the Capilano Salmon Hatchery. I love a good fish hatchery. One of the more underrated family activities in my opinion. Lots of salmon up here folks. The site features an interpretive center that has a self-guided tour where you can learn about and see fish develop from eggs to the juvenile stage when they are released to the river in spring. I thanked Cory and Jennifer Hanson and their boys at the hatchery. Cory is my fishing buddy, and this area is one that he would adore exploring. The Hansons are great friends of ours, living just down the way from us in Ames. We enjoyed an amazing trip to the Oregon Coast with the Hansons in October, and we look forward to what is next with them.

Besides the hatchery, the site has miles of amazing trails, filled with rushing river water, bridges, and scenic terrain. I could have stayed here all day.

We continued up the hill to Grouse Mountain, the Peak of Vancouver, and a lively ski mountain and resort with activities year-round. We showed up wanting to climb the Grouse Grind, a 2.5 km hike up the mountain. Unfortunately, it was closed, and the weather was not cooperating. We opted for our best option, taking the Skyride to the top of the mountain. We didn’t see a thing due to the fog which was a bummer.

At the top, we were surrounded by winter. We probably should have thought through our clothing a bit more, saturated in rain and sweat in the snow. I thanked Kyle & Ashley Schilling at the top of the mountain by the Skyride. I really wanted to make the Schillings proud with a tough hike, because they’re amazing athletes themselves who continue to take on athletic challenges as working parents. It’s fun to watch them support each other in doing it.

We saw a sign that said, “Grizzly Bear Habitat This Way.” How do you not go? We trudged through the snow with hopes of getting a glimpse of a grizzly. Definitely didn’t see this happening on our agenda today.

We reached the habitat, but Grinder and Coola proved the sign to be correct. We caught a short glimpse of one of them, and he definitely looked like he had just woken up from a long nap. We then realized that we needed to walk back in the snow.

Our final stop in Vancouver would be Horseshoe Bay, a port town with travelers coming and going. Being a Friday afternoon, we couldn’t believe the transit traffic leading up to the port. So many cars in line to drive onto the ferry. This small little town really caters to travelers, with a small downtown filled with the services one may need before getting on a ferry. The BC Ferries services from Horseshoe Bay include three destinations, including Vancouver Island.

We walked out to one of the docks to thank my Uncle Randy and Aunt Lori. By this time, we were drenched, cold, and had walked, jogged, hiked, climbed, trudged 10 miles. We were hungry and ready for a good meal before driving 3.5 hours back to Seattle.

We found that good meal at Troll’s. AMAZING shrimp and fish and chips to fill the belly. I thanked my father-in-law Tim Bell with my meal. Grandpa Timmy is known for loading up our family (and others) with food, much of it homemade, so it made sense to feature him here.

Our timing was poor, having to navigate Vancouver’s Friday afternoon rush hour traffic as we ventured south towards Seattle. We finally got through, crossed into the United States, and took a quick drive through Bellingham, Washington, another great Washington town on the water. I spotted these structures from a ways away, and we had stumbled upon a Friday evening concert on the lawn. We were too tired to hang around and still had a few hours to drive, but I thanked Chris Shrader for his donation. I should have coerced a friendly dog to join me for the picture, as Chris and I are both dog lovers.

We arrived at our airport area around 9pm, repacked, and went to bed. Prior to flying home the next morning, I had one last donor to thank. Rich Hansen donated a few days ago and basically said not to worry about a thank you sign. Hogwash. You know I carry extra blank signs and a Sharpie on me just in case! Thanks Rich, and you allowed me to feature Seattle’s role as the global leader in aerospace today. You’ve heard of Boeing right?

The 2023 running trip has come to an end, and as I type this final piece at my kitchen table in Ames, I’m grateful. Tired, yes, but motivated. I had forgotten how much I loved this week, and it came back pretty quickly. A special thanks is due to Moe Stephens, Sean & Michelle Wagner, and my wife Tillie for making the trip so enjoyable. I’m only getting started for the year, with much more to come, and another 60+ donors to thank. Thanks for reading.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Love this
    Great to see you making the most of a rainy day in Vancouver and exploring all the different areas, from beaches to parks to suspension bridges. Your positive outlook on the weather and willingness to adapt your plans made for a wonderful day of exploration. Good job!
    Eamon O’Keeffe
    Easy Landscape Gardening

  2. Anonymous says:

    You’re amazing.

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