The year 2020 was challenging and the covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented change. However, 2021 offers renewed optimism and a fresh start. I can officially state I’ve had my 2 doses of Moderna now! Thank you Canada! There will be new ways to explore, have adventures, stretch comfort zone levels, and develop new insights. My blog is my chosen venue to share my story.
Background information is provided by clicking on the Menu (upper right). The Search feature assists quick location of previous blog posts including travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern B.C., Vancouver Island, Canada, and Mexico. You are welcome to join my journey. Virtual Hugs Sandy.
After the second heat wave hit Nanaimo, we craved much lower temperatures and a cool, windy location…Even for a day!
Our choices were to drive 4 + hours (350 + km) northwest up Vancouver Island to seek temperature refuge in much cooler Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Port Alice or other tiny northern communities. Or, we could head due west 201 km to Tofino. The estimated time for this trip, according to several online sources, was about 3 hours. Today, Tofino won out as the destination of choice!
Temperatures in Nanaimo had been hitting 32-38 degrees C most days for a second stretch this summer. In some areas of the globe, this is normal or possibly mild, but for us in Canada, this is quite extreme and people were getting hospitalized with heat stroke and trying to cope by staying indoors or swimming in the cool ocean. In contrast, the weather forecast in Tofino was listed at 19-20degreesC! We packed a cooler with picnic supplies, beach mat, hiking and swimming gear, and headed off to Highway B.C. 4 W.
There are so many amazing natural wonders and tourist attractions along this journey, so you need to decide whether to take a leisurely trip and investigate locations, or to push through directly to Pacific Rim National Park and Tofino. The choice is yours!
Thirty-five minutes (44 km) after departing from Nanaimo, you drive past Coombs. It is difficult to miss the line ups of parked cars near the Old Country Market. Look up and you will usually spot the goats eating grass on the roof of the market.
Coombs is a fun and funky place to spend time sauntering, eating, shopping, and exploring. Coombs Old Country Market is usually open every day from March to December.
If you enjoy hiking and exploring the beautiful natural coastal rainforest, check out Little Qualicum Falls, and the famous Old Growth Douglas Fir Trees and giant Cedars in MacMillan Provincial Park at Cathedral Grove.
The largest trees in this protected park are over 800 years old, 9 metres (29.6 feet) in circumference, and 75 meters (246 feet) tall. Bring your camera….The old growth trees along the trails are impressive and majestic! Here is a link to a practical guide for the Cathedral Grove Trail Area.
Once you arrive in Port Alberni make certain you have fuel and food as the next section of the road is twisty and services are limited until you arrive at Ucluelet or Tofino.
23 km from Port Alberni the road curves around the edges of gorgeous Sproat Lake. This 25 km long, deep, fresh water lake is known as Kleecoot by the Indigenous peoples. It is a local favorite location for swimming, fishing, waterskiing, kayaking, windsurfing, picnics, hiking or camping. https://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/sproat_lk/
Continue about 30 km from Sproat Lake and you will discover another natural treasure at the junction of Wally Creek and Kennedy River.
Check out the natural “Potholes“, climb boulders, or relax on the rocks adjacent to the creek.
This is such a fascinating area to explore and appreciate. Natural erosion at its most intricate, exposes crystal clear turquoise waters and orange, green veins of color within rock layers.
This pristine area needs to be appreciated and preserved. If visiting here, please be respectful of the area and take any trash with you when you depart.
While my husband and I took a break from driving and explored this natural wonder, a friendly local also exploring the boulders with his family, questioned whether we were heading to Tofino. He informed us about the daily road closure between 11 am and 3 pm weekdays at Kennedy Hill due to major road construction! As it was after 11:30 am, we had missed the opening and now faced a road closure for another 3 + hours!
We always check DriveBC.ca road status and conditions prior to any travel. But, for some unexplained reason, today we had not checked ahead! Murphy’s Law!
As we had several hours to wait, we delved into our picnic from the car cooler, then explored the boulders and rugged creek area.
Cars continued to arrive as people joined us exploring Wally Creek, relaxing on the rocks, or swimming in the eroded “Potholes“. We wondered how many of these new arrivals were aware of the Kennedy Hill road closure?
At 2:30 p.m. we departed and drove to Kennedy Hill. We joined the incredibly lengthy line of vehicles waiting in the cue. There were “Black Bear in Area” warning signs posted.
Most people remained in their vehicles with windows down. But the heat, boredom, and enticement of huckleberries on the side of the road drew me outside. I started picking wild Huckleberries and some Thimbleberries. Before long, I had taught 3 young men from the car ahead of us about wild berries, and they were also having a berry feast.
The time passed, the road opened, and soon we were meandering through construction zone areas.
It is a 14 km drive from Kennedy Hill to the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway 4Junction. Before planning a trip to Tofino or Ucluelet check road conditions. Here is a useful link created by Tofino Tourism. https://tourismtofino.com/
Later than planned, at 4pm (and 19 degrees) we were finally enjoying the beautiful main street of Tofino. We observed tourists, decked in matching life jackets, returning rental kayaks and gear; while another group (possibly exiting a whale watching tour) chugging up the hill at Jamie’s Whaling Station.
Directly across Campbell Street, we relaxed with beers and delicious meals at the popular Shelter Restaurant. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his burger and I was very impressed with the delectable gluten free Surf Bowl. This experience was so welcomed and appreciated after the unexpected, lengthy road closure. We will definitely return to Shelter Restaurant.
Finally, we were off to explore Tofino! During a previous trip here we visited with the famous Indigenous Artist, Roy Henry Vickers, at his Big House Gallery. We were lucky enough to catch Roy creating art and even listened to his story telling session. Later that evening while walking on Chesterman Beach we also caught Roy carrying his surf board emerging from the waves. I purchased his print entitled “The two of us” which is reflective of stunning Chesterman Beach.
We were not successful sighting many kayakers at the downtown seaside park and Tofino Air location this afternoon.
We drove to Tonquin Beach for a little wander through local nature trails leading to one of the many beaches around Tofino.
Warning signs remind locals and visitors that waves can appear unexpectedly and the weather/ocean conditions are tumultuous in Tofino. Today was calm and both the trails and ocean were pristine and stunning.
Tonquin beach is quite small, but very pretty and appears to be a bit sheltered.
By 6:30 pm the sun had disappeared and the fog was rolling into Tofino. The temperature was dropping quite quickly and was now sitting at 16 degrees C. Tofino has many quirky shops and unique features. There were hundreds of shoes (mainly runners) draped over cable lines around a downtown skatepark.
After a quick tour around town, we decided to drive to Pacific Rim Park and walk along stunning Chesterman Beach. We noticed that Parking lots were emptying as surfers, in full neoprene suits, loaded their surf boards on their vehicles and departed for the day. Two of the favorite cold water surf beaches in this area are Cox Bay and Chesterman Beach.
I found the enthusiasm of the surfers a bit surprising as huge signs lit up messages near the beach trails indicating the water temperature was “Very Cold”. Hmmm? What does this mean?
After researching, I discovered that the ocean water temperature at Tofino does not rise above 20 degrees Celsius. Apparently in winter the average water temperature in Tofino hits about 8 degrees C, while in summer the average temperature is about 13 degrees C. Brrr…. Those are dedicated cold water surfers!
By 7 p.m. we had arrived at Chesterman Beach. The fog had really rolled in making the trees and landscapes quite mystical and eerie. In addition, the winds had increased and the gusts were getting powerful.
We walked toward Frank Island along the tombolo which is a sandy isthmus connecting Frank Island to Chesterman beaches during low tides.
We battled the winds as we observed a handful of keen surfers still playing in the frigid waves. Without toques and warm weather clothing, we were unprepared for this. When we departed from Nanaimo this morning it was 28 degrees. When we started the vehicle, it was a balmy 13.5 degrees C in Tofino.
Our goals of having an adventure and locating cool temperatures were achieved.
It was time to commence the 3 hour trip home to Nanaimo. Hopefully there would be no construction hold ups during the homeward trip.
What did we learn? Always check the weather forecast and road conditions prior to any trip. Be grateful for new experiences.
Keep safe and have fun my friends. The next blog post will be about the B.C. Ferry trip up the Inside Passage from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.
Let me introduce my mom, Patti. Mom is 88 years young and still gets up during the night to watch tennis. She can name most NHL Hockey teams and list how they are placing in the hockey league. Mom interacts with friends and family using social media. She likes to stay up to date with global news and loves the Olympics. Her only conflict is whether to cheer for Australia or Canada.
Patti travelled the globe quite extensively when she was in her 20’s. She is a social butterfly, assists with the Woman’s Auxiliary, and attends the local Senior’s Center where she lives on Vancouver Island. Her name, Patricia, couldn’t be better suited for her as she was born on St. Patrick’s Day!
Patti caught Scarlet Fever when she was a child and had to fight to build her leg strength again. As a crucial part of her recovery, her mother enrolled her in multiple types of Dance where she eventually made quite a name for herself as both a Dancer and Dance Teacher. Patti became an Elementary School teacher in Tasmania when she was still a teen. She also had an extensive Dancing school and tells fascinating stories about riding in the milk truck overnight travelling between her Studio and School when she was under 18 years of age!
In her 60’s Patti had additional physical challenges which led to the closure of her Dancing School and once again, she had to learn to walk. This did not stop my mom. We can all learn from her tenacity!
So, when Patti got up to dance at my brother’s Surprise 60th party…. I wasn’t surprised at all. “Shake your Booty” mom!
The following day my brother got out 3 motorcycles and offered rides on the back of his cruiser.
I responded with a jubilant, “Yes Please! I would love to ride on the back!” Then mom started working to convince Marilyn to also ride the motorcycle with my brother driving. I did not expect mom to participate in this activity. But….
Marilyn agreed to ride after mom insisted she was going to try too. (Thanks for also sharing photos Marilyn and Mark.) So we helped my 88 year old mom get ready for her first motorcycle ride.
Here is a video of my mom riding on the back of my brother’s motorcycle. My Motorcycle Momma!
Begona and her BFF’s returned from their day shopping. Mark shot some baskets with lovely neighbors. We celebrated one final dinner together as tomorrow we would depart from northern B.C. and return home avoiding highway routes effected by provincial wildfires or mudslides.
Here are some Motorcycle Mommas and Poppas highlights… Please click the video to check them out!
Thanks for the hospitality Mark and Begona and love to all our wonderful friends up north. This blog post is dedicated to our amazing mom, Patti! Your style, and youthful social playfulness at age 88 is a hard act to follow. You inspire me.
During early August 2021, British Columbia experienced a loosening in Covid restrictions resulting from over 80% of our provincial population (aged 12 +) having received one or both of the Covid vaccines. This offered the perfect window of time to co-plan a 60th Birthday/Retirement surprise celebration for my brother, Mark.
The date, time, and location were determined for this outdoor event up in northern B.C.
Mark’s beautiful partner, Begona, and I started the planning committee. So many caring people ended up being involved and assisting with the surprise celebration. My brother is truly blessed and clearly well loved by so many!
This blog post is dedicated to my incredible and talented brother Mark, his partner, Begona; our 88 year old mom Patti who made the long trip; and all the beautiful people who were part of this amazing day.
There was certainly boundless amounts of enthusiasm, happiness, and love experienced on August 14th in Mark’s backyard in northern B.C.! To protect identities, I will not be using people’s surnames. Special thanks to my husband Mark, Marilyn, and Blanca for contributing photos or video clips shared in this post.
After months of initial planning, communication, and redirection based on Covid updates, the final days played out something like this.
My husband Mark, mom (Patti), and I travelled by ferry and vehicle departing August 10th from Port Hardy up to Prince Rupert then headed East. (A blog post of our trip through areas of B.C. will follow this post). Other dear friends flew north from the lower mainland (Vancouver area).
On August 14th, three of Mark’s neighbors took him out golfing for over 4 hours.
While he was away the yard was transformed by family, friends, and incredible neighbors!
There were display tables with highlights and awards from his career with B.C. Hydro…
Also a myriad of highlights from Mark’s childhood, family, and hobbies.
In spite of a sampling of rain and a few gusts of wind, the outdoor event was a huge surprise and success. This video shows some of the highlights from Mark’s arrival and the speeches prior to the BBQ, cake and activities time.
Special thanks to Kathy, Chad, Charlotte, Lennie, Doug, and Marie for sending emails to share with Mark. Thanks to Kate, Bill, Andi, Blanca, and my wonderful hubby Mark for reading these messages. I read your message of love Lennie! Thanks to Harry for reading touching email messages from Mark’s adult children in Ontario. Special thanks to Alex and Tom for the personal, and often humorous, stories about Mark!
The speeches were personal, informative, touching, inspiring, and sometimes comical, but the final presentation was the most emotional.
I had located an ancient cassette tape from the mid 1980’s of our precious Dad (Alex) singing one of his favorite travelling songs. Growing up in isolated northern Vancouver Island meant that each family trip or journey in the car was lengthy. Dad started singing when we departed from our home and Dad, Mom, Mark, and I sang nearly non-stop each entire journey! We lost our Dad in 2007 and we miss him from the depths of our souls.
I knew Dad would be so proud to hear all these touching stories and tributes about Mark. My husband and I created a CD for Mark including songs Mark sang in grade 8, a couple of my classical conservatory piano numbers, and our Dad singing.
Upon hearing Dad’s melodic, beautiful voice singing one of our favorite travelling songs from our childhood Mark, mom, and I all were overcome with the deepest emotion and intense need to bond together. It was extremely personal, so I will only share a snippet of this family experience.
This is for you Dad with love forever and always.
I relinquished the MC role as Mark and Begona shared their thanks and appreciation. It was time to eat, socialize and prepare for more upcoming surprises!
Matt, Andi, and their gorgeous daughters had created a surprise for Mark! Since they were toddlers Mark had an endless stash of Kinder-surprise eggs as a treat for them. They decided to create a Kinder-Surprise piñata for his enjoyment! Here are a few pictures… there are more in the next video…
Next was the incredible trick cake created by Sierra. We were all in shock and awe as 60 photos were pulled out of the center of the cake!!! Very cool Sierra!
While the DJ played his tunes we took turns relaxing, dancing, and visiting. However there was one other special item needing attention….
Last month my handsome nephew Shelby and his beautiful bride Kiersten were married in Blind River, Ontario.
Due to covid restrictions and Patti’s health my husband Mark, mom, and I were unable to attend the wedding. Shelby’s wish was that he dance with his nana to the song “Knock 3 Times” by Tony Orlando and Dawn.
So…. In honor of Shelby, his dad (my brother) Mark and his 88 year old nana (Patti) danced “Knock 3 Times” together. This is for you Shelby!
There were so many beautiful moments to capture from this wonderful event! Thanks to all who attended my brother, Mark’s, surprise 60th birthday/Retirement party. This next video covers some more of the fun from the piñata to hanging out in Marks garage!
This blog post adventure is dedicated to my one and only brother. 🥰 Love you Mark! Begona… You’re a charismatic, loving, and charming future sister! Thanks for the memories!
The next post will be about our travels around British Columbia during August. Cheers. Keep safe!
If you enjoy fresh air, exercise, and experiencing nature through lush Vancouver Island rainforest adjacent to rivers and waterfalls, then Englishman River Falls Park is a mystical place to explore.
The British ColumbiaProvincial Park even offers seasonal camping and the trails are utilized for hiking, running, biking, and nature exploration. Check the BC Parks website for updates about any trail closures or campfire bans.
Englishman River is located 35 km northwest of Nanaimo or 13 km southwest of Parksville. It takes about 30 minutes to drive to the park and conservation area from Nanaimo.
The main trail is a 1.3 kilometer loop with a minimal elevation gain of only 52 meters mainly adjacent to the meandering river.
There is a suspension bridge which overlooks a popular swimming area.
Many additional trails, of varying levels of difficulty, are fun to explore too. The previous photos were taken during the summer month of August.
The following photos illustrate the richness in green growth, increased levels of water, and presence of mushrooms and fungi during autumn (October) on the Englishman River Falls trails.
In addition to hikers, people walking leashed dogs, and trail bike enthusiasts, you may even encounter the odd horse and rider traversing the outer, less used trails.
The Vancouver Islandrainforest is abundant with vegetation and bird species. Watch for old growth and second growth evergreens interspersed in the forests of the park lands.
Englishman River waterfalls flow with the greatest volume and vigor after rainy seasons. However, this is also the season when trails can experience windfall (trees and branches down) and water erosion on the trails.
We are so thankful to reside on gorgeous Vancouver Island, Canada. During Covid 19 lockdowns non-essential travel was not permitted to our amazing island paradise. As our province currently has over 82% of all residents aged 12 + with at least 1 dose of covid vaccine and over 60% of all people in B.C. fully vaccinated against Covid 19, restrictions are carefully being lifted and travel has resumed once again.
This blog post shares a few fun ways to explore nature and relax around the Nanaimo area. Piper’s lagoon area with its long spit and choices of swimming in the lagoon or the Pacific Ocean is always a favorite of ours. Whether you are swimming, relaxing, climbing rocks, checking out the trails, or embracing nature and recreation water activities this location has it all!
The Pacific ocean surrounds Vancouver Island and is our highway to connect Vancouver Island with the mainland of western Canada. There are 200 Gulf Islands located in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland. Water vessels are common sights from kayaks and SUPs, to sailboats and pleasure crafts, or ferries and freighters.
During the heat waves and sunny summer days, the refreshing Pacific Ocean is a popular location for swimming, kayaking, and playing in the refreshing salt water.
Sometimes curious river otters or harbor seals entertain or pop up nearby in the ocean to visit. When the Herring or Pilcher fish are running you can also see sealions and sometimes a magnificent whale, or a small pod, make appearances.
If you prefer a busier, more urban seaside location then downtown Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton park area might be more suited to your taste. There are lovely flat walking areas along the seawall and around the park to the marina area.
Music and Art events occur on a regular basis throughout the summer. The Dragon Boating competitions are held in this location. You can also locate the small walk-on ferry transport vessel which commutes between downtown Nanaimo and Newcastle (Saysutshun) Island and Marine Provincial Park. Another tiny commuter ferry departs from the marina area to the famous floating restaurant Dingy Dock Pub on Protection Island.
The park embraces the Arts and there are dozens of interesting sculptures and statues reflecting historical figures and events scattered throughout the grounds.
For the sand loving individuals, there are several sandy beaches located just beyond the Nanaimo area. One option is to drive 34 km to Parksville and relax on Rathtrevor beach. Check the tide schedule as low tide requires a lengthy walk to the edge of the ocean!
If you prefer to swim and relax on a fresh water lake, there are many options for this too! Long Lake is popular for water sports, swimming, and picnics. Motorized vessels (Sea-Doos, water skiing) must keep to the middle of the lake. Non motorized vessels (kayaks, SUP, big floats stay around the outside of the lake. The Nanaimo Rowing Club has their clubhouse here so it is also common to see rowers practicing. There is a swimming zone by the beach/picnic location.
For people who prefer more shade and trails through woods or marsh areas, there are extensive opportunities to explore this type of habitat too. One example is the marsh and pond around Oliver Woods park.
Multiple species of ducks and birdlife can be viewed here as well as amphibians, wild berries, wildflowers, and occasionally a beaver is visible.
My goal was to expose a taste of a few of the beautiful and diverse locations around my home of Nanaimo. In future blog posts I will concentrate on specific hikes or nature explorations in our rainforest or oceans of Vancouver Island.
Meanwhile, I conclude this blog post with another option for relaxation. Let me suggest… reading a wonderful book from a hammock under majestic 120 Foot + evergreen trees.
In our province of British Columbia, Canada we currently have over 70% of all people having received at least one dose of Covid vaccine and our freedom to interact is increasing steadily!
The 15 months of lockdowns and Covid 19 safety restrictions in British Columbia were indeed challenging, but necessary. Like many others, we utilized this period of lockdown to reflect and enhance our sustainability independence.
As fresh produce was increasingly difficult to obtain, and we were avoiding shopping line ups whenever possible, we decided to join so many others who were establishing vegetable gardens. Until now, our gardens were the flower and shrub variety. Priorities were changing…
Initially, we researched by watching youtube videos, contacting experienced gardeners, reading about most successful plants to produce in our growing zone area, and talking to experts at local garden stores. Then we observed the areas of our yard which produced the most direct sun for varying periods of time each day and season.
My husband measured the selected location while Sophia (our rescue cat) observed. We decided to use 3 raised beds for this initial garden creation. After establishing level bases, the support beams were placed. Next the 3 beds were framed and built.
Mark designed the raised boxes and built them mainly utilizing recycled materials. I learned about companion plants and the most successful vegetables to use for newbies first attempts at growing vegetables.
Next stop, was Gogo’s sawmill to purchase some local rough edge cedar planks to beautify the exterior of the beds. The Gogo family has been involved in local logging for a few generations.
The office displays amazing photos of old growth timber from past eras. Sadly, the number of these majestic trees still standing has dwindled substantially.
Green Thumb, our local nursery, sells local organic mixed soil.
We needed to consider drainage and mixes of soils. This project was more complicated than we anticipated!
Once the raised beds were lined and completed on the outside, then we commenced the process of mixing all the soil types and compost together and carefully planting the seeds being cognizant of companion planting.
Everything seemed to make perfect sense. But, there was much learning yet to come. The water irrigation system was set up. The trellis for the peas was up. Patiently we awaited the signs of growth.
Meanwhile, Sophia played with the neighborhood fawns. My husband and I constantly appreciate the diversity of beautiful flowers popping up around the yard.
Then finally, our vegetable gardenstarted to establish itself. Selecting fresh vegetables and herbs as you create your meals each day really is inspiring and so gratifyingly.
From this experience we learned to deeply appreciate local organic farmer market producers as we battled slugs, earwigs, cabbage worms, mildew, overcrowding, and wilting from excessive heat. There truly is a lot of thought and effort involved in producing fresh produce.
Our learning curve was steep last year, but this year we have returned with more optimism and ideas. The tomato plants are separated in their own caged pots on the sundeck.
We have given up on iceberg lettuce (earwigs love it) and Gai Lan (cabbage worms love it). Planting occurred a month earlier than last year (early May) with extra radishes in place. We also added raspberries and strawberries this year in addition to all of our fruit trees.
Each morning there is such satisfaction checking the garden’s progress. We wait with inspired anticipation to see what bounty we are offered this season.
Keep smiling! Upcoming blog posts reflect hiking, kayaking, and outdoor exploration on Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island located off the western coast of British Columbia, Canada is a delight to explore. Today’s blog post shares another gorgeous seaside trail around Nanaimo. In keeping with the emphasis on nature and outdoors, I have added some cheery flowering plants found during June around Nanaimo as an extra bonus in this post.
The B.C. Ferries arrive multiple times every day from Vancouver area to dock at one of 3 major terminals on Vancouver Island. The major terminals are Swartz Bay (Victoria), or Departure Bay, or Duke Point (both in the Nanaimo area).
Today’s seaside hiking trail runs along one side of Duke Point. Biggs Point is the name of the 32 acre park which leads to Jack Point. Jack Point is a 5.1 km seaside trail. The elevation gain is only 65 m and the first section along the river is wheelchair accessible.
The trail is quite easy and used for walking, light hiking, and trail running year round. Keep your eyes open for interesting art and sculptures.
Beautiful views of Nanaimo River estuary, downtown Nanaimo, Protection Island, and Gabriola Island can be observed from the trail. Freighters, sailboats, and pleasure craft are common sights.
During our previous two hikes at this location, there were over a dozen Great Blue Herons feeding in the initial estuary area in addition to a variety of birds: ducks, shorebirds, cormorants, songbirds, eagles. In spite of all the birdlife, there are still quite a few insects in sections, so arrive prepared.
As you approach Jack Point you will discover wooden stairs and boardwalks over the bluffs. The rock erosion is quite interesting and the bluffs provide wildlife viewing opportunities.
Bald eagles, sea-lions, seals, and harbour porpoises like to frequent this area. Humpback whales were even sighted breeching in this area recently!
After reaching the Jack Point lookout area (look for the marker in the ocean), you return by retracing your route along the trail through the beautiful trees and along the edge of the ocean which eventually turns into the estuary trail. Watch for the Great Blue Herons feeding at the rock bluffs and in the estuary.
Bonus….As promised, here is a collage of a few of the diverse and beautiful flowers you could see while exploring the Nanaimo area on Vancouver Island during June.
Keep positive my friends…The world is carefully returning to the new “normal”. My next blog posts will be sharing more outdoor exploration around Vancouver Island.
Presenting Sophia–our Rescue Kitten from Port McNeill area on northern Vancouver Island.
After speaking with the family who had located Sophia, her mother, and her sisters and brothers; we drove the 350 km distance north west up island to adopt this little waif. The kittens had been rescued from the woods of rural Port McNeill, where sadly they had been dumped!
Reflecting back now, we really knew such a minimal amount about Sophia’s background and the initial weeks after her birth. Sophia won my heart immediately and I wanted to protect her! We named her after Sofia (Sophia) Loren. This tiny kitten was so attractive and had markings similar to eye liner near her eyes reminding me of this beautiful Italian actress who wore a trademark of ample eye liner.
Travel was challenging because Sophia was very anxious and meowed pitifully. Once we arrived at her new home she explored, burrowed under things and eventually fell asleep.
The first few months were a transition for Sophia and us! We saw several different vets as Sophia had quite severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from her short life experiences prior to us. We sure wished we had more information to assist her transition and help her feel less anxious.
Sophia was prescribed daily anti anxiety medication as well as using a Feliway Diffuser to assist keeping her more calm. Sophia was extremely dependent on me and would get very fearful if I departed from her sight.
Luckily, I had recently retired so I could focus my attention on Sophia’s emotional development. She was slowly expanding her circle of adults she trusted, but was still angrily scratching and meowing to escape outdoors. More vet consultations determined that Sophia was NOT intended to be solely an indoor cat. She was spayed early at 4 months, with the goal that by 4 1/2 months she could be introduced to the outdoors.
Her first taste of freedom was sweet!
I was worried that Sophia might run away, but she did not! She raced around the yard in ecstasy leaping, smelling, racing up trees, and experiencing her new freedom!
From 4 1/2 months of age, Sophia officially became an indoor/outdoor cat. During rainy, windy weather she tends to stay indoors more. During late Spring, Summer, and early Autumn, Sophia spends more time outdoors. We reside in an area with lots of forest, and our immediate neighbors love Sophia!
Sophia checks in with us multiple times a day and usually comes when she is called. Initially she was fearful of other cats and animals, but her curiosity generally wins out. Sophia loves to watch Mark work and is always very curious and helpful!
She is also learning to trust more people and her affectionate side is developing. Sophia clearly trusts and adores my son Alexander.
Sophia’s curiosity is endless and her antics keep us entertained ! After 6-7 months of age her anxiety started reducing and we were able to slowly withdraw all medical supports. She continues to be fearful of more than about 5-6 people at a time, loud noises, and unknown or unfamiliar things. We love her and she is definitely a much loved member of our household. Even her excessive scratching is ever so slowly decreasing!
Sophia was truly fascinated by snow and had a fabulous time tunneling and high stepping through it on our deck and in the yard. But she was also quick to run back inside to get warm and dry!
This video highlights the second half of Sophia’s first year with us!
Happy 1st Birthday Sophia! You have come a long, long way baby!
The next blog posts will focus on hiking and kayaking adventures around mid Vancouver Island. Stay safe and keep smiling my friends.
One of the many advantages of living on beautiful Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada, is its endless and diverse selection of beaches. Vancouver Island is the largest island on the West Coast of North America stretching about 460 km long and 50-120 km in width. The Pacific Ocean surrounds us creating endless sandy and rocky beaches. Some are famous and well known internationally–Rathrevor Beach and Long Beach (Pacific Rim National Park).
However, there are a multitude of other stunning, less known beaches if you are ready to explore our Island. This blog post will present a few other beach options at Port Hardy and Campbell River at Northern Vancouver Island.
Commencing in my home town of Port Hardy located on the northern end of Vancouver Island.
If you plan to depart on B.C. Ferries heading north to Bella Bella (and area) or Prince Rupert you will be departing from the Port Hardy Bear Cove terminal. There is also a small airport. Port Hardy is the gateway to outdoor adventures: like kayaking, scuba diving, God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park, fishing, whale watching, exploring First Nations culture, exploring the beaches, caving, or hiking to Cape Scott or the North Coast trail.
There is much to see and explore in Port Hardy and the small communities on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. This informative website is packed with ideas and nature information. https://www.visitporthardy.com/
If you prefer sandybeaches; kayaking around the nearby islands; and possibly seeing sea mammals (Seals, Sea lions, Pacific white sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback whales, or Orca whales then Storey’s Beach is an amazing place to experience.
Storey’s Beach and the Tex Lyon trail hike are also favorite locations for north island locals.
If you prefer Rocky shorelines abundant with fascinating sea life and beautiful views of mountains and down town activities, then the Port Hardy sea walk and beacon area is where you should explore.
There is an abundance of sea life around Port Hardy … from Moon Snail collars (egg casings), rock weed and tidal pools, chitons, shells, and whelk snail eggs. These are only a few of the fascinating things you could discover.
If you are lucky enough to discover a zero low tide, don’t miss the opportunity to explore! We discovered ghost shrimp, shells, barnacles, crabs, sea stars, sea anemones, whelks, limpets, and so much more.
If you are ambitious and hit the lowest tides of the year… you can cross from the sand spit over to the beacon. We just missed the opportunity this year, as the tide was not quite low enough and we could not quite pass from the spit to the beacon. The ocean water was over our boot level.
The sea life species are incredible at the beacon. These photos were taken by my friend Dana Rufus who managed to hit the lowest tide and cross to the beacon for a limited time. Thanks Dana
Bat stars, bull kelp, sea squirts, crabs, sea anemones… even gumboot chitons can be discovered there! For decades I took my students across to the beacon on the zero tide each year. It truly is a remarkable experience!
One last look view of some of the scenic areas around my home town PortHardy, as tomorrow we head southeast down Vancouver island.
Taking highway 19 down island from Port Hardy to Campbell River takes about 2 1/2 hours (230 km). The trip can be quite challenging in rainy, foggy winter weather; but glorious and majestic otherwise.
Fuel up prior to departure as there are only fuel stations in Port McNeill, Woss, and Sayward during the trip. Watch for nature and wild animals–particularly in May–as bears are often more visible eating fresh grass.
Campbell River is a lovely community with great fishing, and lots of beautiful walking trails. Instead of heading south on the inland highway, try the old highway which follows the ocean.
We love stopping at Foggdukkers Coffee stop on the Campbell River Seawalk at Simms Creek. It is a favorite location for locals and a funky fun place to take a break and enjoy some great coffee!
Another favorite location in Campbell River, is the Baikie Island Nature Preserve and Campbell River Estuary. It is a beautiful location to walk or kayak and peacefully while enjoying the sounds and antics of ducks and birdlife. Float planes land periodically and Tyee boat history is displayed. Seals and even the odd beaver can be viewed here too.
There are so many pristine beaches and wilderness options to explore on Vancouver Island. In this blog post I shared a few less travelled locations which truly are stunning.
My next blog posts will cover Sophia’s 1st year (our rescue kitten), and more gorgeous areas for nature walks/hikes/kayaking adventures around Vancouver Island.
Our province of British Columbia just moved into Stage 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan after Covid. The future looks so optimistic!
Despite Covid health regulations and restrictions enforcing citizens to remain in their health regions of British Columbia, Canada; the beauty of Spring blossoms, sunshine, and diverse nature opportunities from hiking to beach walking around beautiful Vancouver Island brought daily smiles and optimism.
Our neighborhood is surrounded by an abundance of huge evergreen trees particularly Cedar and Douglas Fir interspersed with Arbutus and a smattering of other varieties including: Spruce, Pine, and Dogwood. The trees vary in height, but many stand 60–120 feet tall! Bird songs and calls are constant entertainment and wild deer and rabbits visit regularly.
We adore nature and embrace the beauty and sounds around us. But…As the trees increase in stature, our views decrease. So…When we hear chainsaws and see Tree Falling companies arriving to remove an unsafe tree, the people in the neighborhood come out to witness the event!
Even the neighborhood deer family came to check out the event!
Spring fever and sunny days gave me incentive to stain the fence in the backyard! As our new roof and gutters are slate/granite colored, I decided to stain the back corner fence to match. As always, Sophia assisted and was by my side to encourage me.
When the sun is shining, our choice is to spend as much time as possible outdoors during lockdown. When the weather shifts to rainy, gusty days…this time is a gift for working indoors organizing, sorting photos and revisiting memorabilia. May I present 3 generations of Alex? My beloved dad, Alex, passed away in 2007. As a globetrotter, he reminisced of his trips and informed me that when in Scotland he was called “Sandy”. My only son, Alexander, also follows the name tradition.
More rainy days brought more blogging and reminiscing. Many years ago….my son and I won a zodiac whale watching adventure out of Tofino. It was stormy and a bit rough travelling by zodiac. We got totally drenched! The highlights were Humpbacks and Grey whales sleeping and some sea lions playing in the surf.
It was fun…but we are spoiled coming from northern Vancouver Island where Orca pods, Seals, Sea Lions, Pacific white sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoise, and Humpback whales roam on a regular basis.
Dedicated to my family….Here is a short video showing some flashbacks from the 1950’s onward.
Birds are plentiful around our home, but the Juncos are particularly bold and don’t seem to mind the rainy days.
In mid May 2020, during lockdown, my 87 year old mom (in excruciating pain) was transported by ambulance from her home to the hospital in isolated Port Hardy. Although I was not permitted to be with her due to Covid lockdown, it was discovered that she was passing several large kidney stones!
After several days, they transferred mom via ambulance from Port Hardy to the Campbell River Hospital 230 km south for further tests and to see a specialist. It was on the parking lot outside the hospital that we were finally permitted to see one another. This was a very emotional and stressful reality of Covid lockdown. In spite of mom’s suffering and fear, it is evident by her smile that having family support means the world.
I was not permitted to see my mom for hours after I first arrived north in Campbell River from Nanaimo 155 km south. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and I walked along the Campbell River shoreline trying to gather a more peaceful, calm perspective.
After the hospital allowed a quick outdoor visit with mom, I was sent away again and asked to remain in the Campbell River area. The Campbell River Estuary is a favorite location of ours to go for an easy walk, or kayak paddle around the estuary and into the ocean.
The weather was changing as storm cloud formations and lighting portrayed stunning art in the sky.
The seals entertained between float plane landings while I waited for an update from the hospital. The sunset at the Estuary was sublime.
At 7:30 p.m. I received a call that mom (dressed in her pajamas and robe) was being discharged from the hospital. The ambulance was gone and there were no buses north to Port Hardy until the following day! That meant that my 87 year old physically challenged mom was released on her own, without support, 230 km from her home during Covid lockdown!
Thankfully, I was able to pick mom up and drive her back to her home in Port Hardy. Keep in mind, this was a 230 km road trip, during the dark of night, through lengthy sections of isolation without any (or extremely limited) cell coverage, little possibility of any gas stations open en route, no medical support if the kidney stones flared again, my mom is 87 years old–and it is Covid lockdown! Mom was quite stressed and I was not impressed that this could truly be a plausible option!???
It was a stressful 230 km trip during the dark of night and we were incredibly grateful to arrive safely in Port Hardy. Mom is now a huge advocate of drinking lots of water and taking apple cider pills! We are both Kidney Stones’ survivors and do not wish this pain on anybody!!
The next blog post will explore the nature and beautiful beaches around Port Hardy, heading south down Vancouver Island through Campbell River, and around Parksville and Nanaimo.
In addition on May 28th our beautiful rescue kitten, Sophia, will turn 1 year old! Keep Optimistic and Safe. The world is opening up again soon…
This blog post is a collage of life events and activities, and Canadian Flora and Fauna, during April (Springtime). From kayaking and wildlife (Beavers, Bears, Elk) to Spring flowers and blossoms on our beautiful Vancouver Island. To round it out, there are a few antics from our 11 month old kitten Sophia and a few Covid Sanity Strategies.
April 2020 commenced with my husband quarantined in our cabana and the backyard for the first 2 weeks. He had flown home to Nanaimo, B.C. from Toronto, Ontario. It was a peculiar life experience to be physically separated and distanced during the quarantine juration and wear masks and gloves while I delivered and removed food, etc. But….We were successful and healthy, and now have new stories to share about Covid Adaptations.
Meanwhile, Sophia (our 11 month old rescue kitten) and I snuggled and awaited the end of Mark’s two week quarantine.
Sophia still suffers from anxiety and likes to tunnel or hide under mats, pillows, or blankets to feel more secure when she is frightened. However, she now realizes she gets attention from this behavior and often makes the hiding into a game. I call this one her “turtle” game.
Sometimes, she is just plan curious! She likes to explore anything new from all angles!
Finally, Mark’s quarantine period concluded, and it was time to venture out together and ‘safely’ explore our “Covid lockdown health region” on Vancouver Island.
My son, Alexander, is an Engineer working in Victoria. Due to Covid rules and restrictions, the construction completion of his new apartment was delayed. We assisted (from 2m) by renting a UHaul and bringing his belongings down to Victoria when he finally obtained the keys–April 15th–which also happened to be his birthday!
Spring is a stunning time of the year embracing new growth and reemergence of wildlife after winter hibernation. It is also pollen season. Locate your nearest local honey producer and consume lots of local honey to increase your pollen resistance! It works!
The Crocuses, Daffodils, Tulips, Primroses, Snowdrops, and Heather are some of the early flowers to come into bloom here. The Dogwood, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Cherry and Apple trees, and a multitude of species are popping blossoms sharing an abundance of delectable hues and scents.
Spring is also a wonderful time to observe and possibly encounter some of the beautiful wildlife on Vancouver Island. The Columbia Black-tailed deer are the deer species located on our island. The life cycle of a Blacktail is 9-10 years in the wild, but only 3-6 years for bucks as they are the target of hunters each fall.
Due to increased Forestry clear-cuts and growing urban areas, these deer are now common in many residential areas. We observe a family visiting our yard to graze nearly every day, so deer resistance plant species, like Forest Flame bushes, Rhododendrons, Heather, and Daffodils are good plants for your gardens.
Out of approximately 3,200 Roosevelt Elk in the Province of British Columbia, roughly 3,000 Roosevelt Elk reside on Vancouver Island. They are quite massive animals and often seen in herds. Approximately 20 elk tags are given out each hunting season. Beyond that, our beautiful creatures are respected and revered. The toll free number if you witness any illegal activity effecting our wildlife is 1-877-952-7277.
Black bears are also spotted around the island, especially when they are eating spring shoots or scavenging on rocky beaches to fatten up after their light hibernation period. Estimates indicate there are about 7,000 black bears on Vancouver Island. In the spring sows over aged 5 years are usually seen with 1-4 cubs. Three or four cubs are quite rare, twins are the most common.
Although Grizzly Bears were unheard of on Vancouver Island a few decades ago, there have been a few sightings in recent years. It is suspected that some Grizzlies were successful swimming across from the mainland by island hopping en route. There are many talented professional wildlife photographers on Vancouver Island and tours to view our beautiful wildlife are available. Remember, if you see any illegal hunting please phone the toll free line to protect our wildlife from poachers!
The third Canadian animal I am sharing this post is our national symbol of Canada–the Beaver! The Beaver is the symbol on our 5 centcoin and was once nearly eradicated during the Fur Trade era. They are making a come back and although these photos were taken by a friend in northern B.C. (notice the snow), we have Beavers thriving here too usually hiding out in small lakes or marshy ponds. Watch for the chewed tree trunks, piles of small fallen trees, lodges and dams.
Our rescue kitten was discovered in the woods too…but her habitat and survival is slightly different from the elk, bears, and beavers!
The final topic in this blog about April, is Covid Survival Strategies:
Appreciating your neighborhood. Working in your yard. Observing nature and being grateful for what you have. We were so grateful that the Fire Department efficiently and effectively put out the chimney fire for our neighbors.
2) Dr. Bonnie Henry establishing Covid Safety rules and protocols for the province of British Columbia to help us flatten the curve and keep safer.
3) Learning New Skills and Adapting to Change. After much coercion from my husband, I started cutting his hair! We found that meditation and yoga each morning really helped bring a calmer, healthier perspective to each new day.
4) Using extra lockdown time to sort, organize and downsizeor share. We saved money taking the last of our belongings out of our rented storage locker and seriously analyzed whether we really needed these belongings. We discovered some treasures we had forgotten about, some items ready for recycling or garbage, and I gave away boxes of free educational resources to new upcoming teachers.
5) Our final Covid Strategy is get outdoors and experience nature while exercising! Often, this can be walking, hiking, riding your bike, or playing; but in this post I will feature going kayaking in the Pacific Ocean!
Here is a short video of some highlights from 2 consecutive days of kayaking around the gorgeous Pacific ocean surrounding Vancouver Island. We did not see whales or sea lions on these excursions, but seals and river otters are quite common companions.
Thank you for joining my journey throughout the month of April. The next blog post will include more trips and adventures exploring hiking trails, beaches, and natural beauty around Vancouver Island during May. Also, Sophia turns 1 year old!
Keep Safe. The world continues to brighten each week.
As Covid 19 vaccines become more accessible globally, and magic totals for ‘herd’ immunity become more of a reality than a dream; there is a new optimism about interacting with loved ones after a lengthy hug drought of over 15 months!
I selected a photo of Sophia (our rescue kitten) looking anxiously through the door and wondering what is happening, to introduce this blog post as it seems an accurate portrayal of Covid life during lockdowns.
Sophia is extremely expressive and her antics generate laughs and discussions which truly brightened our days during lockdown periods.
In Canada, we are carefully observing the new freedoms we see exhibited via media in Australia, the United States and U.K. We are not there yet. In British Columbia, Dr. Bonnie Henry continues to be our amazing leader throughout this pandemic. My husband and I gratefully received our first Moderna ‘jab’ on April 28th, 2021 and are currently awaiting the notification that it is our time to receive the second dose.
Last week, with huge excitement and relief, we commenced stage 1 of a 4 stage Restart plan in B.C. with hopeful anticipation that we will experience a new “norm” and freedom by September, 2021.
The Covid 19 Pandemic has shaken the world and changed all sense of what we experience as “normal”. This blog post is driven by a grateful optimism towards the future, while remembering life and adaptations we faced in March 2020 when our lives suddenly changed…. Covid 19 arrived!
Prior to the March Lockdown….
My husband accepted a job as part of a team working in Hamilton, Ontario for a few months departing from Nanaimo in mid February 2020. I joined the Harbour City Newcomers Club in Nanaimo excited to meet new people and explore activities in this new location. My son, Alexander, had recently moved back home to Canada after working at Western Digital in Bangkok, Thailand for the past 6 years. He was hired just prior to Covid as a Manufacturing Engineer at StarFish Medical Consultants in Victoria, B.C.
In Early March 2020 Sophia enjoyed the many facets of being a kitten–from sleeping anywhere and everywhere, to discovering her world. She was particularly fond of munching fresh grass every morning before exploring outdoors.
As a member of the Harbour City Newcomers Club (HCNC), I was enjoying meeting new people, attending art workshops, and being creative using new paint techniques.
In mid March 2020 we even participated in an Artisan tour checking out nearby galleries including a glass blowing studio. We car pooled together in vehicles and nobody wore masks! The following day, new lock down rules were implemented in B.C. It was the end of carpools, group meetings and indoor activities. This was the official beginning of masks and Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!
Who would have anticipated that this hair appointment would be the last one I would have for nearly a year and this would possibly be the last time I would see my hairdresser without both of us wearing protective face masks?
In mid March 2020 the world as we knew it drastically changed! The unprecedented Covid 19 Pandemic arrived and people started to horde toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, masks, gloves, and canned food. Suddenly, there was a frenzy of uncertainty!
Covid Coping Strategies:
Thankfully, we live in a single detached home with a large yard near to lots of hiking trails and ocean access. Nature and Spring beauty bring peace and inner grounding during this unsettled and scary time.
Another of my favorite locations is Buttertubs Marsh. There is always a plethora of bird songs and diverse species to observe. If you are lucky, you might see turtles or Great Blue Herons.
My dad passed away in 2007. His favorite bird was the Great Blue Heron and it is always a thrill and comfort when they grace my day. This Heron at Buttertubs was very close to the trail.
While I was active exploring nature and outdoor trails on Vancouver Island, my husband in Ontario visited Niagara Falls. Due to Covid lockdown… the highly popular tourist location was nearly devoid of visitors in late March 2020. What a strange and unusual experience!
By late March 2020 we were starting to adapt to this initial Covid 19 lockdown. Sophia taught me to chill, reflect and sleep a lot. Puzzles and books were becoming a popular option to aid the passing of time spent alone. Stores were crazy places to avoid whenever possible. Masks were not mandated yet, but long lines and empty shelves were troubling realities. Schools and most businesses were closed during the first lockdown. There were constant disturbing news updates about areas hardest hit by Covid 19. North America seemed to fair pretty well initially, but that was to change as the Global Pandemic progressed.
While we embraced early signs of Spring on Vancouver Island, other areas of B.C. and Canada were still in the midst of late Winter.
Daily walks and hikes outdoors were a welcome release. There are so many wooded areas, trails, lakes, rivers, and marshes to explore around Vancouver Island.
More nearby early signs of Spring to help a person feel grounded and grateful.
When the schools and playgrounds closed and people were confined to their homes, the hearts and messages of hope became more plentiful around our community.
As March drew to an end, it was clear that my husband’s job in Hamilton, Ontario would be terminating soon due to lockdown occurring in Ontario. Mark’s flight home to B.C. was booked for the first week of April. We were anxiously awaiting his arrival home.
Suddenly, domestic and international flights were all getting cancelled due to the Pandemic. Mark needed to get home IMMEDIATELY before all the provincial borders were closed between British Columbia and Ontario!
So after hours on hold with reservation centers, my husband managed to obtain a seat on an earlier flight departing the following day. Airport safety and protocols were pretty sketchy and the flight was completely full on March 31st 2020. Safety protocols certainly intensified prior to vaccines, as pandemic specialists learned more about this new Covid 19 virus.
There was no physical spacing in the airports or on the planes, so Mark wore a face mask and we mutually agreed he would go into voluntary quarantine for 2 weeks after he returned home. After our 2 week self imposed quarantine, we were both healthy and ready to tackle lockdown and Covid 19 life as a team together.
The future is optimistic and exciting, but let’s not forget the confines and struggles of this Covid 19 journey as we move forward and Carefully Conquer Covid.
The next blog posts will include more Nature, Canadian Animals, Exploration around Vancouver Island, Covid Wellness Strategies, Antics by Sophia, and Gardening. Stay safe and Keep on Smiling.