Industry expert: Early-morning hikes in Metro Vancouver help clear the mind

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      Two years ago, Julian DeSchutter and Gordon Swenson decided to wake up at 4:30 in the morning every day for 21 days in a bid to pull themselves out of rigid routines. They focused on the things that truly mattered to them, which provided a much-needed escape from their normal lives. On Day 22, the two young men decided to climb Mount Seymour to catch the sunrise—and that’s how their hiking community, Chasing Sunrise, was born.

      “We climbed it at 4 o’clock in the morning,” DeSchutter, cofounder of Chasing Sunrise, told the Straight in a phone interview. “It was a cool and simple experience, something that we’ve chased all around the world. And here it was, kind of right in our own backyard.”

      Since its inception in 2015, the hiking-and-adventuring community has grown exponentially. Its outdoor events can range from a few dozen to a few hundred participants who scale mountains together year-round. Its popular Canada Day sunrise hike this year included thousands of people across 10 Canadian cities.

      DeSchutter is a nature lover at heart but doesn’t claim to be a seasoned hiker. However, he has learned enough about embarking on trails the past few years to share some insight into hiking. Here are some of his insider tips for those who also love to explore Vancouver’s beautiful backyard.


      Joining a hiking group like Chasing Sunrise can bring people together.
      Ivan Calderon/Chasing Sunrise

      Best thing about joining a hiking group in Vancouver

      “For me, it always comes down to the people. It’s the stories you share; it’s the memories; it’s getting a chance to look back on what you’ve done and the people around you that you’ve done it with. That would be, hands down, my favourite thing. You just never know who you’re going to meet, and Vancouver has a ton of really good people in there. Chasing Sunrise is literally designed to bring people out and get them to get to know each other.”


      Best experience that you’ve had with Chasing Sunrise

      “Canada Day 2017. It was just watching so many different people from so many different backgrounds just come together and all experience and share the same thing. And we just realized how much we have in common, no matter what we look like, where we come from, where we’ve been, what we’ve been through.”


      Getting up at 3 in the morning can flip your normal routine.
      Wendy Shepherd/Chasing Sunrise

      Best thing about waking up at 3 a.m.

      “Getting up early [makes you notice] how much it flips the routine of everyday life. If you’re forced to get up at 3 in the morning, you have to kind of scramble what you normally do. It brings me to the place where it feels almost like I’m travelling, but I’m never really leaving my city.”


      Best foods to eat before a hike

      “It would be something high-calorie and healthy. Generally, quinoa and chicken are probably my go-to. It’s a good, healthy source of protein and a bunch of carbs that keep you fuelled.”


      Why not bring tacos as hiking snacks?
      Amy Ho

      Best snack to bring on a hike

      “That’s a tough one. Tacos. We’ve had people bring tacos once in a while, and it’s amazing. But my go-to is probably homemade protein balls. Coconut and chocolate, and they can just melt into one big ball and it would taste just as good.”


      Best essential items to bring on a hike

      “The big thing is to always overprepare for the worst-case scenario. It’s just a safety background, because the last thing you’d want is to be stuck out there without the essentials. It’s basically: enough food for an overnight, more layers than you think you need, a flashlight, some kind of phone signalling device, and more. It’s never a big deal until it’s a big deal, in which case you definitely want the right stuff.”


      Joffre Lakes is one of the best hikes to do in the summer.
      Regina Kwan

      Best hikes to do in the summer

      Joffre Lakes

      Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

      Wedgemount Lake

      Garibaldi Provincial Park

      St. Mark’s Summit

      Cypress Provincial Park

      “There’s Joffre Lakes for the lake view and the glaciers, Wedgemount Lake for the beautiful turquoise lake and the glacier-ripped-up walls that literally make you feel like you’re on Mars, and St. Mark’s Summit for sunsets. They’re just all so beautiful.”


      St. Mark's Summit is a great hike for the winter time.
      Wendy Shepherd/Chasing Sunrise

      Best hike to do in the winter

      St. Mark’s Summit

      Cypress Provincial Park

      “It’s amazing and it’s pretty easy to do in the winter. It offers unbeatable sunsets that overlooks the entire Howe Sound and Squamish Valley.”


      Best way to prepare for a long hike

      “The first thing would be to do your research, know what you’re getting yourself into, and have a trip plan, a safety plan, and an emergency plan. If you’re going to start getting into longer hikes, making sure that you know what to do is always what we recommend. Keeping hikes in your comfort zone relative to what you’ve hiked before is also recommended.”


      Mount Seymour's first peak has a great view.
      Wendy Shepherd/Chasing Sunrise

      Best places to hike that offer amazing views

      Tunnel Bluffs

      Sea to Sky Highway

      Bowen Lookout

      Cypress Provincial Park

      St. Mark’s Summit

      Cypress Provincial Park

      Mount Seymour’s first peak

      Mount Seymour Provincial Park

      “Time of day dependent, but Tunnel Bluffs is amazing, Bowen Lookout, and St. Mark’s. Mount Seymour’s first peak is always just a go-to. It’s safe, it’s easy to get to, it’s relatively easy for any fitness level, and it overlooks beautiful mountains to the east, the city, and everything to the west.”


      A couple hundred people participated in this year's Canada Day hike at Mount Seymour.
      Wendy Shepherd/Chasing Sunrise

      Best thing you’ve learned about hiking with a big group of people

      “It’s how much people are capable of and how much people care. We’ve been pretty blown away by things like Canada Day, where people say that we can never take that many people up in a place like that because it’s going to get destroyed. [But] they see us leaving it better than we found it, so it just goes to show that people care a ton, and as long as they are given the right circumstance, they’re going to prove that.”


      Why not take a dip in the lake, even in the winter?
      Wendy Shepherd/Chasing Sunrise

      Best way to celebrate after a successful day of hiking

      “Always a float session in the lake. Even in the winter, like a quick dip and a quick swim.”

      Follow Tammy Kwan on Twitter @ch0c0tam and Instagram @ch0c0tam.