The years 2020 and 2021 have been challenging and the covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented global change. However, as 2022 draws ever closer there is renewed optimism and International borders are carefully beginning to re-open in some countries. I can officially state I’ve had my 2 doses of Moderna and have my Covid Vaccine Passport. 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: 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. Virtual Hugs Sandy.
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…
Vancouver Island, BC, Canada truly is diverse in landscape, nature, culture, and recreation. This blog post reflects February activities on Vancouver Island. Some of the events occurred prior to Covid facemask expectations and while indoor events were still permitted. From powder skiing up at Mount Washington to exploring fascinating sea life, we have it all.
The photo above highlights stunning Mount Washington and a live Moonsnail with its enormous ‘foot’ extended.
Here is a quick journey around some of our beautiful and diverse areas of Vancouver Island, Canada in February “winter”. Let’s commence in Campbell River as it is close to the middle of the Island. Heading north from Campbell River to Port Hardy takes close to 2 1/2 hours most trips.
The distance from Campbell River to Port Hardy is 230 km on highway 19 N. Bus service has stopped at present, so you will require a vehicle. There are few fuel stations between Campbell River and Port Hardy so be prepared and have a full tank. You can obtain gas at Sayward, Woss, and Port McNeill.
There are a growing number of electric car charging stations north of Campbell River, but check carefully before you head north as phone service is sporadic on this highway. The scenery is pristine with mountains, lakes, rivers, and rainforest surrounding you.
It is always wonderful to visit with my mom and a few friends while up in Port Hardy.
When phenomenal low tides occur on the north island, it is well worth the effort to explore and experience the expanse of sea life available on the northern beaches. Both sandy and rocky types of beaches are well represented.
Unlike more populated areas, there is extensive space to roam in solitude while appreciating the wonder of nature. Two of my favorite types of sea life to discover during low tides are: moonsnails and sea urchins.
Upon returning home to Nanaimo (just over 4 hours and 385 km southeast) from Port Hardy our kitten Sophia was so excited to see us. She continues to develop her trust with people and other animals since her arrival last summer as an anxious, wild, tiny 7-8 week old rescue kitten. Sophia has learned to interact with us and is so curious about everything.
Sophia helping Mark do repairs in the bathroom. Whatever is happening, Sophia is right there checking out the action!
What is a perfect way to spend a day or two when there is fresh powder snow and blue skies? Time to head up to another treasure on Vancouver Island–Mount Washington!
We packed our downhill ski gear and headed off in the truck. The drive to Mount Washington takes just under 2 hours (134 km) from Nanaimo providing the road conditions are clear and good. There are shuttles and buses available if needed.
https://www.mountwashington.ca/ Mount Washington offers rentals, ski packages, downhill/alpine trails, multiple chair lifts accommodating all levels of skiers, and varieties of accommodation up on the mountain or down at the nearby community of Courtney. The website is very handy to assist you when planning your day or vacation. There are outdoor adventure activities offered during both winter and summer seasons.
My husband prefers black diamond and powder skiing. I prefer groomed blue intermediate level runs. There are choices for all levels available here and the views from the mountain are quite breathtaking!
A different trip up to Mt. Washington brought more beautiful conditions and an intriguing fog bank looming at lower levels. There is an interesting character we have seen a few times who calls to the Ravens while snowboarding or from the chair lifts. This man sits on the snow signaling the birds with various whistles. The ravens recognize him and gather around to visit with him.
The fog bank seemed to be encroaching along the lower sections. It was beautiful… yet somewhat eerie in its intensity!
After a day’s exercise on the mountain… good healthy food called our name! I’ve recently discovered beet lattes. They are quite unexpectedly yummy!
Have you ever been to a Maple Sugar Festival? Perhaps you might have attended one if you visited Quebec, but it was a new experience for me in beautiful British Columbia. The French Immersion schools and French community organized this event just prior to Covid lockdown in B.C.
There were ice carving and sculpture displays, various Francophone bands, popular French food, a giant bear mascot, lots of maple sugar sweet treats to taste, and enthusiastic French conversation.
Here is a short video reflecting highlights from the Nanaimo Maple Sugar Festival.
Vancouver Island truly is a diverse and exciting place to live or visit.
The next blog posts will depict keeping busy during covid lockdown–from art to nature walks/hikes, and spring wildlife around Vancouver Island. Keep safe. Things are improving and the future looks so promising.
Time to welcome in a new year! (I’m a bit behind!) Do you enjoy hiking through lush rainforests, or walking adjacent to the ocean where kayaks explore and seals and shorebirds are common? This is our paradise living on Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia is a unique island paradise off the west coast of Canada. The “Island” is 460 kilometres (290 miles) in length, 80+ kilometres (50+ miles) in width at the widest point, and 32,134 km2 (12,407 square miles) in area.
Vancouver Island is roughly the same size as Belgium (30,688 km²)or Taiwan (36,193 km²), and much bigger than Israel (20,770 km²), Kuwait (17,818km²) and Jamaica (10,991 km²).
Most of our forest areas are rainforest; however, our coastal climate is much more temperate than most of the rest of Canada. This blog post represents some of the beautiful outdoor locations around our home in Nanaimo. Keep in mind, all these adventures occurred during January–Winter in Canada.
My husband and I love hiking, kayaking, exploring nature, skiing, and so forth. My son does not always share our adventurous ways. Sophia (our rescue kitten) has mixed feelings about outdoor adventures. She is incredibly curious, but likes the comforts of home too. Sophia loves to burrow and sometimes surprises us by hiding under blankets, rugs, cloth, coats, pillows, etc.
Another January day, another opportunity to explore beaches and beautiful decorated clouds adorning the blue skies.
Nature offers beauty everywhere and there is lots of physical space to explore…
There are dozens and dozens of trails to hike and explore around our home. This short video represents a hike through one of our rainforest trails in winter. You will see a vast array of flora (plant life) from Arbutus to moss and lichen wrapped nurse trees growing fungus between ferns.
Try to use your imagination to hear and see all the bird species who make their homes in our rain forests.
More blog posts of nature and wildlife on Vancouver Island will be coming, but the next post will be “Sophia’s introduction to Snow!”.
Today we depart from our resort in Playa del Carmen for a 1/2 day Snorkel experience with “Go native” tour company. For $79 CA plus $10 USD National Park preservation fee each person, we will “dive into the greatest coal reef in America”. We love snorkeling and interacting with marine life.
Our last coral reef exploration was The Great Barrier Reef off Eastern Australia. This stunning reef is a tough act to follow, but serious coral damage at the Great Barrier Reef was clearly visible compared to our snorkeling experience 10 years previously. Research points to the damage at the reef being the result of a combination of factors including: global warming, an increased rise in ocean temperature and pollution.
We are curious to see how the marine life of the largest coral reef in America, Puerto Morelos National Park, is fairing. Benito Juarez here we come!
This was our meeting location where we picked up flippers, masks, and life jackets. There were about 10-12 in our snorkel group including delightful identical triplet athletes from Memphis, USA. We boarded our little vessel heading off to 3 different dive locations on the reef.
Finally, we got to jump overboard! The water was warm and inviting. The visibility was quite good. It is always a delight to snorkel around reefs searching for interesting fish, coral, and unique marine life. Our snorkel guides were very careful about protocol around the reefs and confirmed the real concerns that global warming is negatively effecting reef life. Marine life is precious and fragile. We must protect it.
Here is a short video with highlights from our snorkel excursion.
It was inspiring to see racks of new coral being grown to supplement the reef population. While snorkeling we spotted some fish, a small nurse shark, and a variety of coral. There was limited diversity of life compared to the abundance of the Great Barrier Reef or cold ocean diving around northern Vancouver Island, Canada. However, it was a fun morning exploring in the warm ocean of beautiful Mexico.
After returning to our Sandos Playacar Beach Resort at Playa del Carmen we relaxed on the beach until a lively, full of fun, couple approached us. My husband’s close friends from decades past had arrived from Alabama.
This dynamo couple were totally entrancing and our bond was immediate! Terry and Lynda are a delight and made the rest of our vacation in Mexico full of fun and laughter. Tomorrow is my birthday…The next blog post will be Birthdays Mexican style!
What a day we have planned! As our visit to Yucatan, Mexico is brief and opportunities to learn exist in each new geographical location; we decided to immerse ourselves in cultural experiences with the local company Living Dreams Mexico and a private local tour guide. We selected the Chichen Itza Private tour with Sacred Cenote and Authentic Lunch“.
Although this tour was priced at over $300 CA each everything was included and our private guide was knowledgeable, adaptable, passionate and well respected by locals. We even had a surprising experience at the end of our Mexican buffet as servers broke into birthday song and we discovered it was our guide, Angela Rojas, Birthday! Here are highlights of our 7+ hour cultural tour around Yucatan with our amazing guide, Angela.
In order to minimize the rush of tourists at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza, Angela arrived at our resort in Playa del Carmen bright and early at 6:30 a.m. We stopped to grab a coffee and tasty morning treat while Angela explained the day’s agenda, showing us maps and sharing about the Mayan history and culture. Angela was a wealth of knowledge and bilingual in English and Mexican-Spanish.
During the 181.5 km drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza we took highways 305D and 180D passing through a toll station en route. The roads were not busy early in the morning and we arrived at our destination at 8:20 a.m. before the crowds of tourists and while parking spaces were plentiful.
It was educational watching the vendors pulling their wares along the sandy paths and setting up around the grounds at San Felipe Nuevo. Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan-Toltec ruins centrally located on the northern half of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
A little background information:
Chichen Itza was listed in 1988 as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. My research reflects several meanings to the name Chichen Itza: “the mouth at the well of Itza” or “at the edge of the well of the Itzaes“. These meanings tie to the water located in natural cavities (cenotes) found throughout this location. (Which we will explore later in this blog post). Itza meaning ‘water magicians’ translated from Mayan Itz meaning ‘magic’ and a meaning ‘water’.
The sacred cenotes have further intrigue as scientists have theorized that the cenotes are located in a ring pattern across the Yucatan Peninsula and were created by the impact of a massive asteroid–probably also ending the existence of dinosaurs. Search “Chicxulub impactor“.
In ancient, pre-Columbian times Chichen Itza was a thriving civilization of Mayan- Toltec peoples. Archaeology records estimate the city at over 1,000 years old. The complex was conquered by the Spanish in the mid 16th century. Art and cultural influences are mainly from Mayan-Toltec (earlier) and Spanish (after conquest).
Please click the following video to experience highlights from our amazing guided tour around the Chichen Itzaruins.
The tallest structure in Chichen Itza is the ancient pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, which is 98 feet or 29.87 metres in height. In order to protect the archaeological pyramid from erosion, tourists are no longer permitted to climb the stairways. Other buildings at the heritage site which have survived include: the Warriors’ Temple, Circular observatory, Great Ball Court, Jaguar Temple, Group of Thousand Columns, and Tomb of the High Priest.
A reliable, educational source to check for further information, history and photos (available in several languages) is the UNESCO World Heritage website at http://whc.unesco.org Search: Chichen-Itza
After collecting souvenirs, we were off to explore a sacred cenote! The 40 km drive on highway 180 to Cenote Saamal near Valladolid took about 35 minutes. Our 2 hour visit at Cenote Saamal flew by so quickly!
The beautiful, soothing swim in the cenote was complete with catfish, dripping waterfalls, and a dive platform.
Despite your swimming ability, showers and lifejackets are requirements here.
After our refreshing swim, we had the good fortune of meeting a current athlete from the national Great Ball team. I can only imagine the damage those stone ‘balls’ would make on your body! Lunchtime! The Mexican buffet was extensive and delicious. We would love to return here. Plus….we had a surprise in store as we discovered it was our tour guide’s birthday!
Our final stop prior to the homebound journey, was to visit the city of Valladolid. This pretty city was very colorful and filled with flowers and gardens. Points to note include: the colonial buildings, the cathedrals and plazas, and definitely the Chocolate shops!
Thank you for the fabulous tour Angela Rojas! Our porthole into the history, culture, and customs of the Mayan people and the Yucatan peninsula has definitely expanded. We arrived back at Playa del Carmen Beach Resort in time for a relaxing sunset and dinner. What an inspiring day!
Tomorrow morning we head off to Benito Juarez to snorkel in the National Park reefs of this area. What will we discover?