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Newcomer to Vancouver: Completed the Grouse Grind? You're one step closer to Vancouverite status

In this regular column, North Shore News reporter Mina Kerr-Lazenby shares the ups and downs of moving to Metro Vancouver, and all it entails.
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Reporter Mina Kerr-Lazenby hiked The Grouse Grind, known as 'Mother Nature's Stairmaster,' in her latest attempt to become a Vancouverite. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

In my 10 months of living in this city, I have come to learn that true Vancouverites are not the ones who were born here, but the ones who have built enough experiences and quirks over time to claim the title.

Owning an Aritzia puffer jacket, for example, amps Vancouverite status by 20 per cent. Waxing lyrical to visitors about the plethora of fine restaurants but eating the same crispy chicken sandwich at Cactus Club weekly - 25 per cent. Running the Stanley Park Seawall in Lululemon garms - 45 per cent. Leaving the house no matter the season with both sunglasses and an umbrella in tow - 18 per cent. Hiking the Grouse Grind and smugly alerting all social media followers of achievement immediately after - 40 per cent.

Given I have no interest in owning any type of outerwear that will have me resembling the Michelin Man, I don’t eat meat and refuse to buy overpriced athleisure wear, it seemed the easiest way to earn Vancouverite credibility before my one-year anniversary would be to hike the face of Grouse Mountain. 

I consider myself pretty fit. I run a few times a week, hike (moderate) trails often. How hard could it be?

Very hard, it turns out. Hiking 2,830 steps feels an awful lot like hiking 2,830 steps, it turns out. This is no breezy run along the Centennial Seawalk.

At the foot of the Grind there had been a sign warning of a recent bear sighting and, still yet to encounter my first bear, it had brought on a pang of nerves. Less than 70 steps into the hike and I had begun wishing I’d stitched smoked salmon into the pockets of my shorts so a bruin would come and relieve me from my misery.

There had been points where I’d considered giving North Shore Rescue a call, so some strapping hunk could come and hoist me out, wrap me in tin foil, feed me granola bars and tell me that everything was going to be OK.

The Grouse Grind is not your average trail hike. I like walks through the woods where I can stop for the views, pet some dogs, say "good morning’" to fellow hikers in that strangely informal way that would be considered lunacy anywhere but a hiking trail.

This is not that. The views comprise trees and stairs, and trees, and stairs. There are no pleasantries or chit-chat.

Hikers schlep the trail in single file, like mules shuffling along the rim of the Grand Canyon. Eye contact with others is rarely made, and when it is, you’d rather it wasn’t: there’s something deeply demoralizing about looking into the eyes of another human being when you’re both beetroot-faced, drenched in sweat and dry heaving in tandem.

Luckily there are places where you can stop to wheeze along along the way, and it’s true what they say about the first bit being the hardest. I’m not sure whether it was endorphins or delirium, but once I’d passed the point of no return (literally, the trail is so steep and narrow that downhill travel is not permitted past the quarter mark) and knew that I had no choice but to carry on until the bitter end, the struggle seemed to lessen.

I even managed to overtake a few people, the ages and apparent fitness levels of whom I am unwilling to disclose.

And finally, when I did reach the summit of the 2.5-kilometre trail, my stomach in knots and my clothes drenched, I was met with a strange feeling. It bubbled in my stomach and made its way up my body. Was it… vomit? No. It was a feeling of pride, of accomplishment.

I had hiked the Grouse Grind! I was an athlete. A master of stairs. A wilderness expert. A true Vancouverite! In my euphoria, all the memories of the pain and the struggle melted away. I could do this all over again, I thought. Is this how women feel after childbirth? 

I posted it to my Instagram story and the praise gushed in. “Wow, well done! How was it?” Asked a friend. “Ah, child's play!" I replied. "I'm considering running it next time!" 

I felt as though I was deserving of a prize and, in some way, I had been given one. The top of Grouse Mountain offers the finest views of the city. The lumberjack show is fantastic if you're into that cheesy, gag-riddled pantomime stuff (I am), the skyride is fun, and the on-site grizzlies and birdlife quench all thirst for wildlife encounters. 

This is probably the narrative arc you were expecting — woman thinks she can’t conquer hike, woman conquers hike, woman feels she can now conquer anything — and I apologize for not offering something juicier. 

For your sake, I wish I had been mauled by a bear or winched out by Prince Charming, but instead I just hiked the Grouse Grind, and felt all the better for it. 

The Grouse Grind, a 2.5-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, is open all summer. For more information, visit the Grouse Mountain website

MKerrLazenby@nsnews.com
twitter.com/MinaKerrLazenby