Covid lockdowns may be challenging and you may feel confined both by your face masks and need to remain physical distanced. However, there are so many wonderful places to safely explore outdoors which can improve your mental health by promoting some much needed exercise, and connecting you to nature.
Today’s blog post will explore one small section of the Trans Canada Trail!
The section of the Trans Canada Trail we are exploring today is located in the Regional District of Nanaimo (Vancouver Island) which includes Extension Trail and the mysterious Abyss and spiritual Labyrinth.
The photos on this blog post reflect two separate hiking excursions–both occurring during autumn (October 8th and November 5th). This is a lovely time of the year to go hiking around Vancouver Island as the weather is a bit cool, there are usually very few annoying flying insects, and snow and ice have not yet arrived.
The deciduous trees have started dropping leaves which provides colorful surrounding foliage. Sometimes it can be a bit wet or muddy in sections; but if you wear good hiking boots and use walking poles (optional), this is a fun way to connect with nature, breathe fresh air and get some exercise!
In addition to coniferous trees (Cedar, Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Pine), there are great quantities of Arbutus often shedding their reddish bark along this trail.
There are extensive trail options to explore. It is a fascinating geological area as the Nanaimo region has an extensive history of coal mining and is also in an earthquake zone.
The “Abyss” is a famous natural landmark on this trail. The origin of this substantial deep crack is attributed to a combination of underground coal mining and more recent earthquake activity. In spite of its obvious safety hazard, nearly every year rescue personnel are called to try and save dogs that have fallen down into the deep crevice!
This following blog post from Tourism Nanaimo offers additional information about these trails and their history.
Continuing along the Extension Ridge Trail past the Abyss, you will encounter more Arbutus forests and stunning views of the ocean and surrounding islands. There is a lookout spot with two large stumps which the locals call “The Thrones”.
When you arrive at the “Fairy Circle” junction you can select your next path choice. If you head left, you will discover “The Labyrinth” where you can quietly walk through the maze and meditate or contemplate life.
This interesting moderate level hike takes about 3-4 hours to explore. There are lots of adjourning trails so your adventure could easily continue much longer if you wished.
Future blog posts will share more beautiful hiking locations around Nanaimo and trips exploring southern Vancouver Island.
Introducing Harewood Colliery Dam Park–officially recognized as one of Canada’s Historic Places. This blog post is dedicated to explaining some of Harewood Colliery Dam’shistorical significance while illustrating the beauty and features related to my theme of Hiking trails around Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.
The Colliery Dam Park, at 635 Wakesiah Avenue, is a popular destination in Nanaimo for a multitude of reasons. Parking is available in several locations around the park. There is wheelchair access to the first lake which is a popular picnic spot during summer. Fresh water swimming (no lifeguards) and fishing is permitted in the lakes. Although dogs must be on leash on the majority of the trails, there is an off leash area with lake access on the upper dam. The trails offer a variety of fitness options from easy to fairly steep climbs.
In addition, Colliery Dam has historical significance to the Nanaimo area. The Dams were built in 1910-11 by the Western Fuel Company. Originally the water was necessary in coal mining to wash coal, and be utilized by miners, mules and horses. Many of the homes in the historic area of South Harewood eventually gained access to, and benefitted from, this fresh water supply.
The photos I am sharing of Colliery Dam Park were taken on several walks and hikes in the park during mid May, September, and October. We avoided the summer months, as this popular park gets too busy for our Covid safety comfort level.
The following photos were taken during autumn (September and October) on some more challenging trails around the park and surrounding areas.
The deciduous trees are dropping their leaves — particularly the giant Maples. It’s a harvest feast of colour and lush undergrowth. Note the cedar stripped off the trunk of the cedar tree. Aboriginal People traditionally used cedar to create art, baskets, regale, and hats. Cedar bark is stripped in a lengthy narrow section, then the chosen tree will be left to heal and continue growing.
Feeling the richness of the woods around us…
Time for our photo shoot beside Granny Falls (also known as Chase River Falls).
Compare Granny Falls a month later…
Another interesting site to explore is the tunnel of graffiti! It’s a fun art experience for all.
Since Covid 19 surfaced, a covid face mask mysteriously appeared inside the tunnel protecting Marilyn Monroe’s stunning face.
There are many trails to explore around the Colliery Dam Park. I will return again soon! In the meantime, there are other hiking locations to explore and Sophia’s (our cat) antics to share.
One of the many joys of living on Vancouver Island, B.C. is that nearly all communities are near, or adjacent to, the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Living in Nanaimo (population over 100,000), there are so many diverse ways to explore nature and the outdoors. This blog post focuses on one of the favorite kayaking areas to explore in Nanaimo. Newcastle Island, is also known as Saysutshun by the local Snuneymuxw people.
The following excellent website thoroughly explores Newcastle Island (Saysutshun) from Ferry Schedules, to Camping, Moorage, Maps of Trails, and Explanation about the Culture and History of the Marine Provincial Park. http://newcastleisland.ca
Newcastle Island is less than a kilometer’s paddle across the water from several launching locations in Nanaimo. It is about 8.5 km to circumnavigate the island by water. These aerial views of Newcastle and Protection Island were taken from a float plane while flying in/out of the Nanaimo harbour.
Newcastle and Protection Islands are popular locations, so expect to see other kayaks, sailboats, pleasure craft, even B.C. Ferries sharing the water with you!
There are several FREE locations available to launch your kayaks. The size of your kayaks and ease of parking influences your selection. Some locations have free parking. Other locations require pay parking. You can launch from the following locations: Nanaimo Harbour Marina (downtown);
Maffeo Sutton Park has access for smaller kayaks to launch;
More launching sites include: Brechin boat ramp; Queen Elizabeth Promenade (near the Yacht Club); Departure Bay Beach; and Stephenson Point.
We own touring ocean kayaks which are longer than most day trip recreational kayaks.
Our boats are very seaworthy, designed for multi day trips with 2 hatches, but are over 16 feet in length! Our usual launching location is Brechin Boat Ramp.
Let’s get kayaking! The following kayak adventure photos were taken during 3 different adventures while kayaking around Newcastle (Saysutshun) Island. One trip occurred during April (Spring), the other 2 trips occurred during August (summer).
April: Needing to take a break from Covid masks and restrictions? Kayaking on a sunny day in Spring is such a pleasant remedy to any feelings of confinement. We departed from Brechin boat ramp and headed along Newcastle, toward downtown Nanaimo, then continued across the water to Protection Island.
My husband and I paddled past a log sort boom and continued towards a beacon. From this location, there is a fabulous view of the cliffs on Gabriola Island.
Dingy Dock floating pub was open with limited capacity due to Covid. A pleasure craft arrived before we could maneuver our kayaks to the back dock, so there was no space in the floating pub for us today!
Returning to Newcastle Island, we explored the spit area adjacent to the park picnic area.
As we continued to explore the craggy notches between the island and the water, we observed a few raccoons feasting on low tidal delicacies.
It is common to observe raccoons on Newcastle Island, but today we glimpsed a couple of the more rare, albino raccoons.
Albino raccoon scavenging along the tidal rocks at Newcastle.
Time to head back…
Summer (August) kayak highlights from our paddle circumnavigatingNewcastle Island.
The 8.5 km trip around Saysutshun is lovely and there are many gorgeous hidden gems to discover. Expect a few larger waves when you round the corner and head towards the more open strait on the outside of the island.
Here is a video highlighting our kayak adventure around Newcastle island in mid August.
The sunny weather and beauty of this location drew us back for an additional kayak the very next day! This time we went out for an evening kayak and swim in the ocean at Newcastle.
August Kayak adventures and swimming at Newcastle…Part 2. The evening sunset glows were magical.
No wonder Newcastle Island is such a popular kayaking destination in Nanaimo. Meanwhile…Switching sports, I have hikingadventures around Nanaimo to blog about next. Keep Safe and Keep Smiling! S
During the summer of 2021, British Columbia set temperature records in various geographical areas of our Canadian province. Heat waves caused drought conditions in some locations; melting mountain snowfall created flood conditions in other areas; and drought combined with lightning ignited raging wildfires.
Safety protocols and lock downs due to Covid, made this an especially challenging time to travel around our vast and majestic province. Due to a combination of these factors, we decided to make our trip back to Vancouver Island from Prince George as direct as possible!
Departing from Prince George, all highway routes southbound journeyed adjacent to one or several wildfire zones. Mom did not want to fly without our support, so “Goodbye Mr. P.G.” we commenced the southbound trip together.
The first stage of our trip was 335 km (about 4 hours) from Prince George to 94 Mile Motel south along Highway 97. We drove south past Quesnel, Australian, and McLeese Lake to Williams Lake. This route looks so totally different in summer than when it’s covered in snowmobile paths crisscrossing the deep snow banks during winter months. One summer we plan to stop, camp, and explore lovely McLeese lake.
As you approach Williams Lake, be prepared to observe an increase in loaded logging trucks on the surrounding highways. Representations of the importance of the Logging/Forestry resourceindustry is very evident here.
The lake area looked enticing, so we took a quick detour through this hub center of the Cariboo District. Williams Lake’s population is about 11,000 and it is the service center for surrounding communities.
Continuing 15 km southeast along highway 97 we approached historic 150 Mile House. This tiny community was an important stop on the Cariboo Wagon Road during the Gold Rush. The name marks the distance from Lillooet via the Old Cariboo Road. There are lots of fascinating historical antiques and structural remnants to explore in this area. The rural landscape is pretty; displaying a diversity of small lakes, marshes, farms, ranches and tiny communities.
Six miles south of 100 Mile House off highway 97, you will locate Mile 94 Motel.
Why would we stop overnight at tiny 94 Mile House you may wonder?
On previous trips to northern B.C. we discovered this delightful motel…updated modern rooms, meticulously clean, family run and very reasonably priced. There are kitchenettes in the rooms, but no food/pubs within walking distance. It is a lovely location to stop, sleep, then continue travelling the next day.
The proposed time to cover the 460ish km distance from 94 Mile to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in Vancouver was estimated at approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes (of uninterrupted driving)! Our trip was going to prove that time allotment was impossible today!
After a hearty breakfast in Clinton (while waiting for updates about highway closures), we headed south on Highway 97 to the Cache Creek junction exit.
Highway 99 was the only highway open to southbound travel on August 17th, 2021 due to wildfires and mud slides. We started the trip early in the morning hoping to avoid the anticipated bottleneck in traffic heading towards the only available route. It did not take long before traffic usage increased as people channeled onto this route.
We headed west driving past the evidence of mining rock erosion around Pavilion. My best educated guess after researching, is this was a limestone quarry mine. Pavilion, B.C. is a fascinating area to research. Sadly, there are few structural artifacts left around Pavilion establishing its previous historical settlement as a Cariboo Gold Rush boom town.
Currently ranches are the major focus of this area which is mostly the land of the Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nations reserve. Colorful, clear Pavilion Lake is a popular recreation site too with a fascinating secret to discover beneath its waters.
As we approached Lillooet the vegetation changed reflective of a hotter climate, rugged Coastal mountains, and proximity to the powerful Fraser river.
These majestic geographical features became dominant travel companions throughout the next stage of our journey. The mighty Fraser River is the longest river in B.C. stretching 1,375 km.
The population of Lillooet is approximately 2,300 people. The major industries in Lillooet are: hydroelectricity, the railway, forestry, agriculture and tourism. The summer sun, irrigation from the nearby rivers, and fertile soil produce lush fruits, vegetables, and vineyards.
After a quick morning coffee break in Lillooet we continued southwest on highway 99 fully embracing the stunning scenery along this route.
The Duffey Lake Road heading toward popular Duffey Lake Provincial Park truly is gorgeous.
It is no wonder lower mainland citizens escape to Duffey Lake in flocks! The parking lots were filled and people clad in various levels of hiking attire maneuvered around trailheads. Mom was very excited, and appreciative, by the beauty along the highway 99 route.
This short video shares some of the beautiful scenery we witnessed along Duffey Lake Road (Highway 99).
The morning was beautiful and we were so thankful we had selected to travel this route on Highway 99 away from the delays due to forest fires, and mud slides… when suddenly we encountered traffic stoppage along the highway at D’Arcy.
What had happened? Luckily our wait time was only 30 minutes. We had allowed extra time for travel when making our B.C. Ferry Reservation to Vancouver Island. You never know what lies ahead when you are travelling–especially during the busy summer months. As we slowly and carefully crept along, we discovered the cause of this highway closure.
Our travel continued along Duffey Lake Road (Highway 99) through the Garibaldi Range. Mount Currie, known as Ts’zil in the St’at’imcets (Lillooet) language has an elevation of 2,591 m (8,501 feet).
This enormous mountain soars above the village of Pemberton, B.C.
Famous Whistler, B.C is only 33 km (about 30 minutes) drive from Pemberton along Highway 99S. This tourist destination is extremely popular year round for wilderness adventure sports.
During the summer you can participate in sports, such as: mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, and league sports. During the winter reserve early to participate in sports, such as: skiing, snowboarding, backcountry splitboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, bobsleigh, skeleton, ice-climbing, ice-fishing, and even dog sledding!
Whistler is a tourist haven and an extremely busy location to drive through when you are travelling. Today, was not a day to stop and explore.
Onward southward we drove along the busy Sea-to-Sky Highway B.C. 99S. The distance between Whistler and Squamish is 60 km and the travel time varies dependent on the speed of the traffic. Estimate about 50 minutes.
This is another hub for wilderness adventures and extreme sports. Watch for kitesurfing or windsurfing in Squamish Harbour and rock climbers ascending/descending the Chief Rock face.
Just 12 km (about 15 minutes) southwest of Squamish along the Sea-to Sky highway 99S you will discover the aqua ocean at Darrell Bay and historical Britannia Beach, B.C. Mom was animated with excitement as she recalled the multiple times our family drove here from Vancouver in the early 1960‘s to picnic on the beach and tour the Britannia Mine. I was under 6 years old during this period and honestly can not remember the experiences; but it was heart warming to hear my 88 year old mom’s memories of these special family adventures.
We could smell the salty, clear Pacific Ocean air and the familiar scent of cedar and various other coastal evergreen trees. The final 33 km from Britannia Beach to Horseshoe Bay (B.C. Ferry Terminal) was home stretch for us!
The sun ricocheted off the water as we passed Lions Bay. We arrived at the B.C. Ferry terminal in West Vancouver several hours ahead of our reserved ferry.
During the busy summer months lengthy ferry waits are common between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, so reservations for particular ferry sailings are recommended. However, we had selected to travel on a Tuesday (mid week) and due to the wildfire and mudslide closures on B.C. highways many people were missing their reserved sailings. As a result, luck was with us today and we managed to get aboard with only 1 sailing wait! Our reserved sailing was actually for much later in the evening!
The 3 of us had journeyed around British Columbia for nearly 2 weeks and certainly appreciated the opening for travel after the lengthy Covid19 lockdown. We utilized our time to visit family and see fascinating new sites. But as Dorothy quoted in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!”
Future blog posts will be exploring hiking trails and having adventures around our beautiful Vancouver Island. Keep Safe and Keep Smiling. S
Welcome2022! The years 2020 and 2021 have been challenging and the covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented global change. However, 2022 has arrived and according to the Chinese calendar this is the year of the Water Tiger! From my research I have discovered that the Tiger sign is a symbol of Strength, Exorcising Evils, and Braveness.
Interesting? I continue to approach each new year as a commencement for renewed optimism and fresh starts. International borders are carefully beginning to re-open in some countries. I can officially state I’ve had my 2 doses of Moderna and 3rd booster. My provincial Covid Vaccine Passport is ready for scanning! Thank you Canada!
Regardless of covid lockdowns, we must strive to be creative–finding new ways to explore, have adventures 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: Prior to Covid travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Mexico. Since Covid lockdowns, exploration has focused around beautiful Western Canada–particularly Vancouver Island. You are welcome to join my journey.
Ever contemplated taking a cruise up through the Inside Passage from Vancouver Island north along the British Columbia pristine coastline to Haida Gwaii or even Alaska?
Well, did you know that B.C. Ferries Northern Coast route from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert covers a similar geographical route?
This blog post explores our experience on the Northern ExpeditionB.C. Ferry in mid August, 2021.
My husband and I were travelling with my mom, who requires mobility support, so our experience will also be beneficial if a member of your group requires wheelchair accessibility.
This ferry trip is lengthy (about 15-16 hours) but the pristine coastline offers a scenic mode of transportation up the British Columbia coast from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. The majority of the trip occurs during daylight during the summer and during the night during the winter months.
The cost for this experience depends on the ‘extras’ you add, and the season you select to travel in. Check the B.C. Ferries website for more thorough information. https://www.bcferries.com/ We travelled one way during the summer (peak season).
Our reservation included: 2 adults and 1 senior over 65, plus 1 vehicle. We added 1 inside cabin as mom requires lying down periodically (only cabin choice available when we reserved) $100.
Plus we purchased 2 reserved seating spots in the Aurora Lounge for $40 each. Our total cost was over $1,000 CA for the 1 way trip.
The Northern Expedition Ferry has a maximum capacity of just over 600 passengers and crew and 115 vehicles. Our experience in August was a partially full ferry with plentiful physical spacing. Perhaps this was due to Covid lockdowns severely limiting international visitors permitted in Canada?
After making our way from the car deck to the wheelchair accessible elevator, we headed up to the passenger decks. First stop was the Purser’s Office to pick up a route map, and receive the pass key for our assigned cabin and reserved recliner seats in the Aurora lounge.
The walkway areas were wide, modern and attractive. It was easy to maneuver mom’s wheelchair in most areas.
However, we quickly discovered that some of the Northern Expedition areas were now closed to passenger use.
The lovely Vista Restaurant was closed. We wondered if it was related to Covid safety restrictions? The Gift Shop was closed too. It only opened once, for about an hour, during the entire trip. This is a shame because B.C. Ferry Gift Shops usually have a varied and quality selection of clothing, books, souvenirs, First Nation’s art and designs, and miscellaneous items.
Food was only available from the Canoe Cafe. This cafe was open 3 times during the trip during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Lunch and Dinner menus were nearly identical–with very limited choices.
This was a surprise to us and quite different than our previous experience on the B.C. Ferry Northern Expedition prior to Covid lockdowns in March of 2019. If we travelled on this ferry again in the near future, we would definitely bring food items with us for the journey.
During the trip there were 2 different movie/documentaries shown in the Raven Lounge. The movies portrayed characters unfolding stories about the local history and culture of the small isolated communities along the coastline of B.C. It was really powerful that the settings in the movies were reflective of the coastline just outside the ferry windows! We found the stories entertaining and educational.
In addition to walking around on the decks, we spent the majority of time during this trip through the Inside Passage relaxing in the Aurora Lounge. It is a comfortable location, with ceiling to floor windows, which encourage full advantage of the pristine beauty seen along the British Columbia coastline, coastal mountains, and surrounding islands.
The high point of the trip up the Inside Passage for us was the beauty of the coastal scenery and the whales! Yes. We saw whales at #4 Boat Bluff on the Points of Interest Map shown above.
After leaving Port Hardy on northeast Vancouver Island we journeyed north through Fitz Hugh Sound passing Egg Island, Calvert Island, and Namu. Namu is a tiny community about 3 1/2 hours from Port Hardy.
The name Namu is a Heiltsuk First Nation’s word meaning ‘place of high winds“. It is claimed to be the oldest settlement on the coast. (More information is found on #8 of the Points of Interest map). The population statistics there vary, but there seems to be 50-100 people living in the area at present.
I have read 2 books including: Namu Quest for the Killer Whale by Ted Griffin, that recount Orcasbeing captured at this location and sold to aquariums for exhibition and performances in the mid 1960’s and 1970’s. Gratefully, this is no longer permitted or practiced in Canada.
Continuing north maneuvering through channels and sounds we passed King Island, and Fishing Resort areas, such as, Shearwater prior to stopping briefly at Bella Bella, on Campbell Island. (5 hours from Port Hardy).
Bella Bella, also known as Waglisla, is the home of the HeiltsukFirst Nations people. The population of this remote community is approximately 1,600 people.
As we wove around beautiful islands in channels off the Great Bear Rainforest of B.C. we observed a few tiny logging/fishing camps and 2 regent historical lighthouses. The water was very interesting in this area creating color changes and unique rippling effects.
Just over 8 hours from our departure at Port Hardy we were informed to glance outside the windows and observe picturesque Boat Bluff. This famous and scenic lighthouse complex, established in 1907, is about one-half way between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert. The light is visible for approximately 32 km and marks the entry into Tolmie Channel when heading northward.
My husband and I raced outdoors to take photos of scenic Boat Bluff lighthouse and were further blessed with the sound of expiration and sight of ‘seasmoke‘. Whales!!! There were 2–3 whales near us.
The low curved dorsal fins indicated they were not Orcas, but probably a baleen whale species. They did not breech or spy hop as they passed by so the type of whale was difficult to determine. My best educated guess from living in northern Vancouver Island for 50 + years, combined with their approximate size, was Humpback, (maybe too small?), Grey, or Minkewhales.
Whichever species we had the good luck to share the channel with, whales always bring excitement and awe as they journey near by.
This video depicts the beauty and fog we experienced during the second half of the journey from Boat Bluff to Prince Rupert.
Passing through narrow Grenville Channel during thick fog with fog horns blaring is quite an adventure!
One final collage illustrates highlights as the fog thickened, before night darkness blocked our views.
The Northern Expedition arrived in Prince Rupert after 10:30 pm. It was dark as we all disembarked and headed to our respective accommodations.
The next blog post will illustrate our exploration from Prince Rupert heading northeast to Smithers, British Columbia.
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.
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.
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.
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…