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.
Covid lockdown periods offer an opportunity to focus on projects near and dear to your heart. This blog post illustrates a renovation project to update the interior stairwell area of our house.
I assisted with color selection, design, holding levels and boards during measurement and installation, and was the official photographer. My husband was the driving force, remodeling expert, and leader of this renovation project!
Our goal was to update the stairs area and add more natural light into the stairwell.
After researching ideas on multiple home renovation sites; then determining what was actually possible to alter and update in our 1970’s house; we commenced the project.
The current carpet and underlay were removed. All the nails and staples were pulled out. That’s a tedious job!
The wood and painted plexiglass panels were removed from the pass-through opening. I must confess, I was never fond of that retro design!
As usual, our cat was involved checking out the progress and “assisting” with the changes.
The old handrails were removed. Imperfections in the walls were repaired and fresh paint was applied.
At “Finishing” stores we selected the wood for the stair skirts, new handrails, and trim around the pass-through opening. Wrought iron balusters were selected for inside the opening. The black balusters were a new design featured in the 2021 catalogue. We really liked how the shapes of the balusters complimented the shape of our pass-through opening.
The carpet and underlay were picked to compliment and transition between our foyer tile and upstairs flooring.
Measurements, painting, cutting, placement, routing, and more measurements ensued.
The custom designed stair skirts made a huge difference brightening up the stairwell area and were first to be attached in place.
Updating the pass-through area came next. It was really exciting to see how this change encouraged more natural light and made the space look so much more modern and enticing.
The new espresso stained solid wood handrails are both functional and tie in with our color scheme.
The installation of the new thick, comfy carpet was the final stage of our Covid Project Stairwell Renovation.
We are really thrilled with this update to our home. Awesome job, Mark!
What’s next? Time to return to hiking and exploring once the snow recedes and the roads are accessible once again.
“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas“…The lyrics incite such a romantic vision of a Winter Wonderland. It truly is magical when snow arrives for Christmas…
After shoveling snow several times a day for over a week straight (Thanks hon!); and being basically snowed in during the entire time my 88 year old mother and son, Alexander, were visiting over Christmas; I must confess visions of sun and warm beaches have been slipping into my thoughts lately!
However, it is with gratitude, I embrace the beautiful snowy scenes and Winter Wonderland our family experienced during 2021 Christmas.
In preparation of the Festive Season, we attended a George Canyon Christmas concert, set out the nutcracker collection, decorated the tree, and Sophia our cat set out to explore after the first snowfall.
Gifts were created and shared. From Santa on a motorcycle playing “Born to be Wild” to homemade pumpkin pies for each of our neighbors. I even managed to get my hair cut and styled!
My husband and I headed up for a day of downhill skiing at Mount Washington prior to the influx of participation when school breaks for the Holidays.
By December 22nd my 88 year old mom and son, Alexander, arrived at our home on Vancouver Island. Alexander had spent the previous week in Toronto working at the StarFish Medical office in Toronto. Luckily his Covid test was negative after returning back to our province, so he was able to join us at Christmas. Sadly, his long time girlfriend, Benz, remains in Thailand due to Covid global restrictions. We all really miss her optimistic ways and quick smiles! Sophia, our rescue cat was thrilled to have Alexander home!
When Alexander arrived my modest, reserved son quietly informed us that he had just received an award at his work place. We were all so proud when we learned that Alexander had been selected to receive the StarFish Medical “Reach For the Stars” award.
His grandad (Alex) would have certainly been beaming with pride! Alexander is the 3rd generation of exceptional Engineers. My dad whom Alexander is named after, was a Marine and Machine Engineer. His Uncle Mark was an Electrical Engineer. Alexander is a Design and Manufacturing Engineer. All three generations are incredible divergent thinkers, innovative problem solvers, and hard working leaders in their fields. Alexander is very humble, but he is allowing his proud mom to share this recent recognition. I am so proud of you hon!
So how do you entertain when snow is steadily increasing outside day by day?
Well….The 4 of us (mainly Alexander) worked together to complete a 1,000 piece puzzle entitled “Wish you were here” sent by a lovely friend in Burns Lake. Thanks Wendy! Our one outing in the snow was Alexander’s gift to his nana. Mom selected a movie she would like to see and we all attended “West Side Story” together! It was mom’s first time attending a movie theatre in years and she was thrilled watching from recliner chairs!
Eating….Meal planning was done ahead of time. Here are a few of the meals we shared together.
Christmas is not quite the same without small children present and our day was pretty quiet with only 4 family members present together. Covid times have changed our celebrations, but we embraced our time and had fun together!
The Fifth member of our home is our rescue cat, Sophia. Although she loves to spend time outdoors….We discovered that Sophia is not fond of deep snow and temperatures below 0! She is curious and likes to check in with us (especially me), but during a Winter Wonderland experience she is happy to hang indoors!
It is a lot of hard physical work keeping snow under control–including keeping the vehicles accessible and driveways/paths cleared. But sometimes…..you just need to have a bit of fun and make snow angels!
Sophia demonstrated how to create paths in the snow and play with the snow. She was not successful creating snowballs….but she tried hard!
We definitely had a “White Christmas” this year and as we approach the New Year of 2022, I can say honestly that we will have a “White New Year” too!
The snow seems to be very content resting here and weather forecasts do not indicate that it will be disappearing in the near future. So….Here are some highlights showing the beauty of a Winter Wonderland in our city.
Alexander assists nana through the path in the snow to my husband’s truck. Mark drove her up the cul de sac hill to get into the vehicle which would be taking her back home up island.
Christmas is over for 2021….The Winter Wonderland remains in our city on Vancouver Island.
2020 and 2021 have had their challenges with Covid global pandemic lockdowns. A new year is inspiring and offers new opportunities and hope. Happy New Year 2022! From Canada to your home!
So, how old is your cat in human years? Well….There certainly is a wide discrepancy on this answer dependent on the age of the research source, the expertise of the source, and whether your kitten/cat is indoor only or a combination of indoor/outdoor.
Older sources typically tended to be more generalized stated a cat/human equivalent would be about 1 cat year to 7 human years. Newer sources typically list a 1 year old cat as about 15 years old in human years, a 2 year old cat is about 24 years old; then the age accumulation reduces dramatically to about 4 human years gain for each additional cat year.
These numbers generally refer to indoor only cats. Sophia is definitely an indoor/outdoor cat. As she grows older, research sites agree that Sophia will age somewhat more quickly than indoor only cats. But for now, she enjoys the freedom and excitement of both worlds.
This blog post reflects the crazy, entertaining antics of Sophia aged 1-2 human years or 15-24 in cat years. She definitely lived her teenage years to the fullest…and we have the grey hairs to prove it! Introducing Sophia our rescue kitten aged 1-2 years of age.
On the day Sophia turned 1 years old, she determined that she was not using an indoor kitty litter box anymore. She has never had an “accident” in the house and she only relieves herself outdoors now. She also suddenly became mainly nocturnal! She tends to sleep and nap most of the day and becomes very vocal and anxious if she can not go outside in the night.
As a result of her sleeping pattern, we have captured many cute and interesting sleeping poses and positions. This video illustrates our shining star, Sophia!
The Anxiety and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Sophia suffered when we first accepted this small rescue kitten into our home, has really decreased now. Sophia trusts us and interacts with each one of us. She is quite popular in our neighborhood cul de sac and has even started walking over to greet many of our neighbors.
However, the necessity of her comfort pillow is undeniable. Sophia continues to use her kneading pillow every day. She likes to knead the red heart pillow before she takes a nap. Sleeping beside the pillow or partially under it continues to be one of her favorite pastimes.
Sophia interacts with us, but definitely has a special bond with me. I spent the majority of time with her when this tiny rescue kitten first arrived working through her anxiety and PTSD. She loves to jump up on my lap and make sure she is noticed when I am reading or trying to complete a Sudoku!
An expert at hiding, Sophia is quick to stake her claim inside boxes, bins, tubs, egg cartons? or under mats, blankets, or anything she finds!
We have been successful at calming many behaviors and even teaching Sophia to reach up and ring bellson the door handle when she wants to go outside.
But in order to reduce the inappropriate scratching, we have had to make many changes in our home. Most of the living room furniture is covered with blankets. We switched from leather and faux leather to microsuede and cloth fabrics. Certain doors are closed when she is in a playful mood. There are scratching posts throughout the house! Hopefully, these adaptations will reduce as Sophia ages and possibly becomes a more passive cat. But in the meantime…..
Festive Season is always fun with Sophia as she likes to be involved in everything! There is the wrapping of the presents…Actually, she prefers the unwrapping or shredding of the paper and ribbon! She also is fond of inspecting Mark’s efforts clearing off snow on the deck and stairs.
Sophia also likes to be included when we decorate the house or when we are getting ready to create a fire. Basically, she is incessantly curious about life.
Sophia can be possessive of me at times. It is not uncommon for her to sit on my lap and put her arm over mine so I won’t get up or move. Also sometimes she sneaks under the covers on my side of the bed and we discover her napping there!
We bought a robotic vacuum (Deebot) and Sophia is quite intrigued by it. She wants to observe where it is located and will follow its travels provided Deebot is at a “safe” distance. We have noticed that it’s actually entertaining for Sophia when she appears to need stimulation and also effective as a type of alarm clock when we want her to wake up from lengthy naps!
Sophia is absolutely part of our family. She still tests our patience at times–especially when she scratches inappropriate places or wakes us up during the night! She does not travel well at all, so our freedom to explore is limited at the moment. However, with Covid travel restrictions, this has worked out too.
My next blog posts will be exploring more hiking trails around mid Vancouver Island area. Keep Safe and Keep Optimistic. Cheers S
During the lockdown periods caused by the global Covid 19 pandemic, you may feel confined but you have choices. As a Life Long Learner, I decided to use the extra time to try something completely new to me–refinishing a piano!
My DohertyCanadianpiano was created in late 1936. It has lived a challenging life being bumped and moved many times. I purchased this piano (well used) in the 1980’s when I was studying classical music, then my son also learned to play using this instrument.
Since the last move in 2017, the piano had been sitting in our garage. Boards were stained with water spots and there were multiple grooves and dents in the wood finish. Yet, when I removed the plastic cover and opened the keyboard lid, the sound was still quite reasonable and keys were not sticking! It was time to rejuvenate this amazing instrument and welcome it into our new home.
My husband has experience with refinishing and agreed to assist me if I required help. I hoped to complete this project as independently as possible.
Step One ….Watch YouTube videos about refinishing furniture including hints from piano specialists. I discovered there are so many opinions and diverse thoughts about the refinishing process. It appeared more research was necessary! Hardware stores and paint/stain sections, were visited and information was requested from “experts“. (Or at least most felt they were experts). More videos were observed. I discussed my thoughts and plans with my husband.
Step Two… Prepare your working space in a well ventilated location and purchase the necessary supplies for the refinishing job. (Be prepared for many future trips to stores to obtain more supplies as necessary). If you do not own the necessary tools …purchase what you require or borrow from your very supportive husband!
Step Three…Remove as many boards as possible without damaging the workings of the piano. The boards are much easier to clean, sand, strip, prepare, condition, stain, and top coat when they are horizontal! Remove the hinged metal strips from the boards. Select the finishing color you wish to achieve–stain or paint. I selected Espresso stain.
Step Four…Prepare to get dirty and look like a version of Darth Vader. P.S. I worked on this project nearly every day for close to 6 weeks. I consumed a bag of clean rags, 2 boxes of steel wool, sand paper, paper towels, several pairs of paint gloves, brushes, wood filler, putty knives, and containers of stripping solvent, wood conditioner, stain, and poly finish. Refinishing a piano is a labor of love and it is not cheap!
Step Five…Removing the old existing stain/color off the wood boards was a fascinating process. Some boards had terrible water stains from plants which had been sitting on the top of the piano. After stripping the previous finish off the boards, I was shocked at how new the boards looked. Strip and sand. Strip and Sand. It took 3 or more attempts at stripping/sanding each board to achieve a clean new wood surface.
Step Six…Fixing the grooves and imperfections in the wood. It is really hard to make the areas where filler is used match the wood color when it is stained, so we sanded out some imperfections and only used filler where it was really needed. My husband assisted with this. I found this part a bit tricky.
Step Seven…Adding colour to the wood. Don your Darth Vader attire because the process of adding wood conditioner and stain was very stinky! Without good respiration support, you might feel light headed and probably have quite a bad headache. Drying time for each application is specific and I needed to repeat the process 4times. Each application made the stain finish a bit darker in color. I was aiming for Espresso, but could not get quite as dark a shade as I had originally hoped for.
Step Eight...Protective coating time! I chose to use the Poly Wipe On Protective coating on the wood. This process also required several coats.
Step Nine…Now comes the fun part! (I say in jest!). You return to the piano and start the entire process from the beginning on all the vertical surfaces/boards on the piano!
Step Ten…As all the liquids tend to run on vertical surfaces…Make certain you carefully mask any sensitive areas (such as the keyboard) with plastic protection and cover your floor area with sheets to catch the dripping mess! We actually used large cardboard boxes from our appliances on the floor below the piano. They worked well and I preferred the cardboard to slippery drop sheets or plastic on the floor.
Step Eleven +… Repeat steps 5 to 8 on all vertical boards on the piano. My working area moved from outside to inside the garage during this time. I required additional lighting and needed to open the garage door for ventilation. Occasionally, our cat Sophia would sneak inside to check on the piano refinishing progress.
Step Twelve…Moving the piano from the garage inside the house to its new location in our foyer on the first floor. This was such an exciting event! Finally, we reattached all the finished boards in their correct locations and I reattached the 2 hinge pieces for the keyboard cover and top section of the piano. Here is a short video about this stage of the project!
I must confess I felt pretty proud of myfirst attempt at refinishing a piece of furniture. Many people have been shocked that my first project was so complex. I honestly had no preconceived ideas about refinishing, so I just naively jumped into it. I learned a great deal. Made mistakes. Tried different methods. Asked for assistance when I required help. Thanks Mark!
This project kept me busy and engaged during the Covid pandemic lockdown. Now when I look at the piano, or tinkle its ivories, I feel a special attachment to this instrument. We spent a great deal of time getting to know each other!
So….Why not try something new? Perhaps you might enjoy refinishing something in your home? Stay safe and keep optimistic. Cheers
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.
Vancouver Island is a nature lovers’ paradise. If you love to be outdoors and explore nature, there are endless possibilities around our beautiful Canadian island. This blog post discusses day hiking options around NanooseBay, British Columbia.
If you commence your hiking trips from Nanaimo, NanooseBay is approximately 30 km or about 30 minutes drive northwest via the Island Highway 19 N (North).
Popular hiking trails at NanooseBay include: Enos Lake Trail, Notch HillPark, Notch Hill Loop Trail and Bonnell Creek Falls. It is easy to search for information about hiking trails in this area, but a source recommended by many local hikers is https://www.alltrails.com/canada/british-columbia/nanoose
Due to reaching herd immunity (over 85% of people over 12 are now fully vaccinated against Covid 19 in my Canadian province of British Columbia), hiking groups are now allowed to explore once again! We are all covid careful and everyone has to show their covid vaccine QRCode passport in order to join the group.
Let’s go hiking!!!!
This is Enos Lake hike in September. The weather was sunny and warm. The deciduous trees were only starting to change colours. This is a gorgeous lake hike with many trails to explore.
We stopped to have a break and eat a snack on a grassy spot up the hillside above the lake.
A week later, our hiking group explored trails closer to the Lantzville side of NanooseBay. It was another sunny September day. We did not require jackets or toques yet.
The trees along the trails were regal and the rainforest undergrowth was so thick in places that we had to create new paths!
As the weather started changing into normal Autumn patterns, the winds and rains increased causing more trail obstruction damage from tree windfalls and slippery trails. The water levels in the creeks and rivers also increased.
Our hiking rain jackets and pants were getting used more regularly now as were 1 or both hiking poles during our adventures. This next hike occurred at Bonnell Creek Falls in mid October.
Another great hike in the Nanoose Bay area is “Big Trees” trail. This hike occurred in late October.
We discovered some enormous Arbutus and an enormous Evergreen.
There truly were “Big Trees” to discover!
The rains and winds had assisted in dislodging most of the Maple tree leaves around the trails. Although the deciduous trees looked rather bare, the colorful leaves and variety of fungi were enchanting.
A musical Canadian experience in Autumn, is the sound of leaves rustling around your feet as you walk or hike along through the abundant variety of nature trails.
Last year on November 11th, our group explored around Enos lake and upward to the “Notch“.
At 11:00 a.m. we stopped in a quiet location in the forest beside a river. We all respected 2 minutes of silence to reflect on our freedom in Canada, our goal for peace, and our gratitude for those soldiers and personnel who fought to ensure our freedom. Following the silence, we had an opportunity to share a personal vignette of how Remembrance Day is significant to our families. It was an extremely powerful and sentimental experience.
Here is a video presentation of our November 11th (Remembrance Day) Hike at Enos Lake and up to the “Notch”.
Remembrance Day 2021 will soon be here. I will be wearing my poppy and reflecting with deepest gratitude on the past; embracing the freedom we have living in Canada; and hoping for global compassion and peace.
My next blog posts will be about more amazing hiking experiences on Vancouver Island and possibly an update on our Rescue Cat Sophia and our neighborhood deer families.
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.