“Go out and walk. That is the glory of life.” – Maria Kalman via Brainpickings
It was the first time on vacation that I packed my sneakers for the purpose of running. It was summer in the Pacific Northwest, and I was excited to be outside. Alongside my list of restaurants and cafes, I also noted down places to enjoy the scenery of each city. Traveling each of the cities by foot, whether walking, running, or taking public transportation, allowed J and I to get lost and immerse ourselves in the local scene. We wanted to run in every city.
Portland has several different bridges that cross the Willamette River. Across the Burnside Bridge, we stayed in an Airbnb loft in Southeast Portland. We discovered Laurelhurst Park, a lovely, woodsy green gem in our quiet neighborhood. The park had paved paths for running, walking, or biking, and tall trees that kept us cool during the city’s heatwave. We ran there twice during our stay.
We also took a peaceful riverboat cruise on the Portland Spirit. The boat glided us along the Willamette River where we got to see rows of picturesque Portland homes along the water’s edge. Can you imagine a river and paddle boat in your backyard? So fun! By 9pm, we watched the sun set over the city and water.
Our place in Seattle rested on a high hill in Queen Anne, and boasted a postcard view of the city and Space Needle. During one afternoon, J & I ran up and down the steep hills to Kerry Park, merely blocks from our stay. Our legs burned from running the incline, but we were able to soak in the city view while we rested.
From the top of the hill, we ran to Lake Union Park and circled around the edge of Westlake. We were already out, so we just continued running into downtown. Among the tech company commuters donned in their business wear and backpacks, we joined them on the bus to take us into Pike Place Market for dinner.
Downtown Vancouver is surrounded by water. From the Waterfront station, we took the sea bus out to Lonsdale Quay. It was a fun way to admire the Vancouver skyline while riding among the commuters between the shores. It’s incredible to see all of the different modes of transportation that this city provides – bikes, sea bus and ferries, local bus, train, and sea planes.
J and I were staying in Vancouver for 9 days, a lengthy amount of time to soak in the sun, water, and trees. I fell in love with Stanley Park. We ran and biked along the seawall, a 6 mile perimeter around the park and water. The park also has two designated pathways – one for walkers and joggers and a second one for bikers.
One of the top excursions of Vancouver is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, even though I have an incredible fear of heights. At about 250 feet up in the air, the height of the Statue of Liberty’s shoulder, it’s pretty damn high. The wooden bridge, originally built in the 1880s, is thankfully sturdy. But it sways. A lot. I fought against every irrational fear and trekked across the bridge. It was worth the scare because on the other side was a magical nestle of forest and treetop bridges. We could reach out our hands and touch the top of rainforest trees – 250 year old Douglas-firs.
We saved the Grouse Grind for the end of our stay. By that point of our trip, our legs had worked up the muscles from all of the daily activities. We mostly used the car to travel between the major cities, so we walked and took the bus for the duration of our 2 1/2 week trip. We easily walked between 2 – 4 miles each day. Our waitress at the sushi restaurant had recommended the Grouse Grind, a popular workout trail among the locals. The hike is also affectionately called “Mother Nature’s Stair Master” so that tells you something. When we read about the intense, steep, rocky climb – 1.8 miles and 2380 steps up the peak of Grouse Mountain – we decided to go for it.
The scenery was beautiful, but I was too fixated on finding my footing on the tree roots or rocks to linger on the view. The path was fairly narrow, so you have to pull over to the side to let others pass. Many of the athletic climbers regularly hiked the Grind and timed themselves. After two hours of grinding up the mountain, my legs were about to collapse. I grabbed onto anything – the rope, a tree trunk, a big rock – to pull myself up.
Out in the Pacific Northwest trip, I discovered how far I could go, how brave I could be, and how freeing it is to turn off my mind and just move. Now that we’re home, I want to continue feeding my spirit of adventure and pushing myself physically. The Bay Area thrives with possibilities to be outside and to be active. There are beautiful trails to hike and run, cities along the Peninsula and coast to explore, gym and studio classes to try. Among the many experiences of my trip, I especially love my renewed appreciation for my body and my health. Sometimes it takes traveling somewhere new to fully realize what I’ve always had.