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Adventure British Columbia Canada Summer wildfires Travel

Wildfires, Mudslides, Road Blocks! Oh Boy! Our trip from Prince George to Vancouver

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.

South of Prince George. Nechako River. Lots of highway improvement stops.

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 resource industry is very evident here.

Williams Lake. Summer 2021

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.

Driving around Williams Lake

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.

100 Mile House Area

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.

94 Mile Motel
The only route open was highway 99

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.

Clinton and Cache Creek areas

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.

Pavilion… I had to include at least one photo illustrating a photo bomb road sign!

As we approached Lillooet the vegetation changed reflective of a hotter climate, rugged Coastal mountains, and proximity to the powerful Fraser river.

Approaching Lillooet. Mighty 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.

Challenging Highway Improvements cutting through mountains adjacent to steep cliffs dropping to the Fraser River Valley.

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.

Views around Lillooet , B.C.

After a quick morning coffee break in Lillooet we continued southwest on highway 99 fully embracing the stunning scenery along this route.

Lillooet, B.C. August 2021

The Duffey Lake Road heading toward popular Duffey Lake Provincial Park truly is gorgeous.

Stunning Duffey Lake Area

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).

Views of Duffey Lake Area

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.

Near D’Arcy. A truck with trailer in the ditch!

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).

Mount Currie near Pemberton

This enormous mountain soars above the village of Pemberton, B.C.

Rural beauty at Pemberton

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!

Driving past Whistler in summer

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.

Rock Climbing at Squamish

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.

Britannia Beach and Mine museum. Favorite family location in early 1960’s

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.

Lions Bay & Line Ups at B.C. Ferries Horseshoe Bay Terminal

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!

Heading back home to Vancouver Island!

The 3 of us had journeyed around British Columbia for nearly 2 weeks and certainly appreciated the opening for travel after the lengthy Covid 19 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

Categories
British Columbia Burns Lake Canadian Animals Exploring Canada Skiing Smithers Travel Wheelchair Accessible

Scenic Smithers and Nechako Lakes District! Travel Northern B.C.

Northern British Columbia is larger than California and extends from Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert on the west coast east along highway16 through Stunning Smithers and Nechako Lakes District to Prince George. Northern B.C. area continues north defined by the B.C./Alberta provincial border extending up to the Yukon/Alaska border!

The dark green is massive Northern British Columbia, Canada

It truly is a massive area to explore. This blog post will focus on the towns of Smithers, east along highway 16 to Burns Lake in Nechako Lakes District, and ending in the city of Prince George.

This blog post will start at Smithers and end at Prince George, B.C.

Smithers is a cozy community which has maintained a steady population of around 5,500 people over the past decade. The town is located about one-half way between Prince Rupert and Prince George on Highway 16. The total estimated distance driving from Prince Rupert straight through to Prince George is about 8 hours (719 km) providing there are no stops for road work, moose, snow plow clearing, etc.

Smithers embraces parallels to the Swiss Alps from its much photographed Alphorn (also known as alpenhorn or alpine horn) to its Hudson Bay Mountain peak.

Smithers Alphorn in August and in March

The community prides itself on its “world class skiing and fishing” (particularly steelhead). We stayed at Smithers twice during the past few years. Once during March (before covid) and again in August 2021.

This video depicts our March 2019 (Spring skiing and Moose encountering) experience in Little Switzerland Smithers before Covid.

Stunning Smithers, skiing Hudson Bay Mountain, and “Oh! Hello?”

Despite its tiny population, Smithers has produced multiple NHL (National Hockey League) ice hockey players including: Joe and Jimmy Watson, Ron and Rob Flockhart, Alan Kerr, Dan Hamhuis and Michael Wall. Famous poets, musicians, authors, rowers, chefs, etc. also abound from this talented little town. For further information about Smithers, here is the local tourism link. http://tourismsmithers.com

Meanwhile…. Let’s check out some more Moose!!!!

Moose are generally pretty shy and not easy to locate… so we were incredibly grateful to experience these from a safe distance! The Moose mural was actually located at Prince Rupert.

This collage illustrates some of the beautiful wintery conditions around Smithers during our March visit. The center photo is the marsh area where my husband encountered a moose while out on an evening stroll.

Winter conditions around Smithers in early March.

There are many natural attractions to explore around Smithers; such as, Hudson Bay Mountain, Moricetown Canyon, or Twin Falls. In addition, you can view the museum, art gallery, or brewery; or participate in a multitude of extreme sports.

When a member of your travel group has mobility issues, sometimes a driving tour is the most effective option. We tried to explore the main street of Smithers using a wheelchair, but many stores had raised doorways which were very hard to maneuver using a wheelchair. Hopefully, the town will improve access for wheelchairs in the near future. There were several funky boutique shops that looked really interesting, but sadly they were non accessible to those individuals using a wheelchair.

The Stork Inn has a wheel chair room! Finally!!!

However, there was 1 motel in the town which had a limited mobility room with a walk in/wheelchair shower! The family run Stork Nest Inn offers a quiet location with full breakfast, wifi, and 1 room that is suitable for physical mobility. Warning: it is located at the end of a lengthy hallway!

There are many choices of eateries in Smithers. Several locals all recommended Telly’s Grill on 4th Ave. We were so glad we heeded their advice because the Greek/Mediterranean cuisine was superb! We enjoyed the menu so much we returned 2 nights in a row!

Delicious meals at Telly’s Grill. Make a reservation! This eatery is popular!

The Alpenhorn Bistro & Bar on Main St. has unique décor especially the antler chandelier and the snow shoes/archives on the walls. If you feel like a lighter, healthy lunch or smoothie Two Sisters Cafe on 4th Ave. is well worth investigating!

Two sisters Cafe

The one store that enticed mom to brave her cane and explore was Heartstrings Home Decor & Gifts! It truly is a diversified gem of amazing quality merchandise! No wonder nearly everyone we observed departed with teeming bags! It is easy to locate Heartstrings in Smithers. Just look for the Moose statue!

Heartstrings and the Smithers Moose statue!

Driving around Smithers on a beautiful sunny day in August was peaceful and tranquil. There are so many pastoral fields and beautiful river spots to explore and appreciate.

Scenic Smithers!

Prior to departing eastbound on Highway 16 here is a short video highlighting some of our August 2021 experience in Smithers, B.C.

Touring Around Smithers

64 km southeast from Smithers is Houston, B.C. (Not Texas!). No visit to Houston is complete without checking the incredible stylish, affordable inventory at Chia’s Dream Closet.

Chia’s Dream Closet in Houston, B.C.

As expected, both mom and I departed with lovely new additions to our wardrobes. Ironically while researching about Chia’s Dream Closet, (for this blog post), I discovered a google reference to a previous post I had written about a trip to Houston in 2019. If you would like more information about this area, you can check this previous blog post too.

Beautiful friends shopping at Chias in 2019 (prior to Covid).

Returning to highway 16, we drove another 71 km past quiet Topley to Decker Lake area where we stopped in to say hello to a dear friend. Thanks for the lovely lunch Wendy.

Lunch break … Beautiful friends

This is one of the two schools I taught at as Teacher-Librarian during the 2018-2019 school year. Ahhh memories at Decker Elementary School! I’m so, so grateful I retired before Covid 19 changed our world.

The students made the most incredible natural structures in the surrounding woods.

Ten minutes along hectic highway 16 and we entered the town of Burns Lake. When it’s -30 or colder in the winters and the snow and ice are piled over a metre high everywhere, this highway is brutal to drive!

The second school I taught at in Burns Lake was William Konkin Elementary. I lived in this home during the school year. (Photos taken in August!).

Beware of loaded logging trucks, huge semi trailers, massive oversized road and mine equipment, trucks, and a few cars on the road. Highway 16 is the major transportation link connecting the port of Prince Rupert (on the coast) to Prince George and Alberta. Did I mention the highway runs right through the downtown area?

Or… that the CN (Canadian National Railway) and VIA Rail train line also run parallel to the highway with phenomenally lengthy trailers multiple times a day? Train safety is taught at schools in this area as trains sometimes pass every hour! I contemplated taking a train trip from Burns Lake to Prince George during my year up north, but never was able to discover a depot location? Burns Lake is one hectic and very busy transportation junction!

Burns Lake. Pick up wonderful coffee and incredible European baking at the Old and Bold Espresso Bar.

As we were passing through Burns Lake en route to Prince George, we only had time for a quick tour of some of my favorite locations around this hub village of about 2,000 people. I have written multiple posts about this area during my year teaching up north. Please use the search feature in my blog to obtain extensive additional information and photos of the beautiful Burns Lake area.

One of my favorite locations directly off highway 16 in downtown Burns Lake is the Old and Bold Espresso Bar. Say hello to Mattias for me! He’s such a delightful man whose jubilance fills his Backerei with warmth and curiosity. Plus he bakes amazing European breads and desserts!

Mattias serving in his Old and Bold Espresso Bar (prior time covid)

The inside of Old and Bold Espresso Bar has been adjusted according to covid restrictions, but the lattes and baking remain incredible!

We drove down to the Lakeside Multiplex area and had a quick view of Burns Lake, the camping area, Spirit Park, skateboard park, tennis courts, and new water park.

Burns Lake from Spirit Park August 2021

Continuing along Highway 16E meandering around Nechako Lakes we drove the final 227 km to our destination of Prince George, British Columbia. This section took about 2 1/2 hours to drive passing by the communities of Fraser Lake and Fort Fraser.

Mouse mountain at Fraser Lake. The CN train park at Fort Fraser.

I always planned to hike tiny Mouse Mountain! Oh well… I guess I’ll need to add that to my list for our next trip up north!

Continuing east on highway 16, as we neared Vanderhoof evidence of wildfire smoke started to stain the skies.

Highway 16 from Vanderhoof to Prince George! Wildfire smoke!

We were all grateful to spot the Prince George iconic statue of Mr PG. Time to relax. It was a lengthy day of travel for mom!

Returning home would be an adventure due to highway closures (wildfires, mudslides). The next blog posts will highlight our return adventure through British Columbia from Prince George back to Vancouver Island.

Keep safe and Optimistic. Cheers

Categories
British Columbia Exploring Canada Life during Covid 19 Prince Rupert Smithers Travel

Prince Rupert to Smithers, B.C. Heading East along Highway 16.

The previous blog post reflected our journey on the B.C. Ferry, Northern Expedition, from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert during August 2021. My husband, my mother, and I were taking advantage of an opening of travel restrictions within our own province of British Columbia, Canada thanks to over 80% of our citizens (including us) being fully vaccinated against Covid 19.

Prince Rupert (near #11) is the hub for travel to Haida Gwaii, Alaska, Port Hardy, or northeast B.C.

As darkness engulfed our 10:30 p.m. August 2021 ferry arrival in Prince Rupert, I have included some photos of the ferry terminal and surrounding harbour taken during the daylight on our 2019 trip.

The Prince Rupert terminal is the hub for travel to Haida Gwaii, Port Hardy, and Alaska!

These photos were taken during a previous trip on March 31st 2019 when we reversed route directions and departed from Prince Rupert heading south to Port Hardy.

Prince Rupert harbour is a busy working harbour!

The Prince Rupert harbour is a hectic location. As we departed from the Ferry Terminal we could observe the active CN freight train line, Coast Guard vessels, Commercial Fish Packing plants, Float planes, and stacks of containers being loaded and unloaded onto International freighters that were waiting their turn in the bay.

There are totem poles in several locations near the terminal. The dock connecting the B.C. Ferry is fairly lengthy and the way the ferry connects and departs from this dock is worth watching! (From our 2019 trip).

Totem poles and “We’re off!”

Time to explore Prince Rupert… This coastal community is a hub on the northwest coast of British Columbia. At present it boasts a population of 12,220 people. Wikipedia calls Prince RupertThe City of Rainbows” and claims it is Canada’s wettest city with 2,620 mm (103 inches) of average annual precipitation.

The following photos were taken while exploring Prince Rupert in late March 2019. Note the snow on the surrounding mountains and frozen icicles hanging off the rocks beside the walking trails.

March 31st 2019 exploring Prince Rupert.

Cow Bay is a really colorful and historically interesting area to explore. You will have located Cow Bay when you discover the “Pride”rainbow sidewalk.

I must confess that as we explored Prince Rupert in mid August 2021 we were stunned by the green, lush plants and grass compared to the dry heat wave yard conditions on Vancouver Island and around much of the province this summer.

Around Prince Rupert August 2021. No evidence of a heat wave here!

https://www.travel-british-columbia.com/northern-british-columbia/yellowhead-highway-16/prince-rupert/ For additional information about Prince Rupert this is a practical website to view.

Another fascinating aspect of Prince Rupert is that it’s actually located on Kaien Island in the territory of the Tsimshan First Nations.

Prince Rupert — Kaien Island. August 2021

Prince Rupert is only 48 km (30 miles) south of Alaska, USA! It’s closest main Canadian City is Terrace, B.C. located 145 km (90 miles) west along Yellowhead highway 16.

Leaving Kaien Island Yellowhead highway along the Skeena River

The majestic Skeena River, in its full glory, is a regal companion as you travel from Prince Rupert to Terrace. The highway runs adjacent to the river for most of the trip and its beauty is stunning!

Skeena River Yellowhead highway 16

Periodically you may lose sight of the Skeena as incredibly lengthy CN (Canadian National) freight trains pull cargo multiple times each day. Bill Gates owns over 10% shares of this Canadian company!

Sharing the view with trains!

VIA rail also runs passenger trains which travel between Jasper and Prince Rupert, B.C. A good percentage of the train transportation route tends to run between the highway and the river.

Just prior to Terrace we encountered several interesting bridges. People were swimming and fishing in the rivers or enjoying sunbathing on the smoother banks.

Kitsumkalum Near Terrace. Note the Spirit bear statue.

Onward to Terrace which is a city of similar size to Prince Rupert—just over 12,000 population. It is located on unceded Tsimshian First Nations territory. Terrace is the largest city in the Kitimat-Stikine district. For more information about Terrace check out this website. https://www.terrace.ca/discover-terrace/about

More fascinating highway and railroad bridges near Terrace

While exploring Terrace keep a look out for Kermode or Spirit bears! They have many Spirit bear statues scattered around the city. Each one is unique and beautiful. Here is a sample of 2 Spirit bears we discovered.

Kermode or Spirit bears at Terrace, BC.

Continuing on the highway, we headed northeast towards Hazelton area on highway 16.

This truck from Alberta had an interesting metal attachment on the back. Hmmmm…. We rarely see these on Vancouver Island. But as my brother lives in Prince George and has one for his truck…. I am familiar with its purpose. Snowmobiles or ATV’s! During much of the year there is deep snow up here!

Ready to haul heavy snowmobiles or ATV’s.

The landscape started to change as we continued travelling away from the coast towards the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena rivers at Hazelton.

Nearing the 2 Hazeltons

There are several communities that make up the “Hazeltons” area. There is much rich history here in the historical heartland of northwest B.C. European Pioneer settlement started in the 1860’s. But the Gitzsan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations settled here over 8,000 years ago.

Mom was not keen to stop and explore during this trip. So I’ve included some photos from our March 2019 visit. The first collage depicts the Old Town Hazelton pioneer community 1880’s.

March 2019. Pioneer Hazelton area. Lots of interesting artifacts and little shops.

If you are fascinated by First Nations culture and history I highly recommend visiting the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum. Learn about Gitxsan history and if you are lucky, you may be invited to assist with carving a majestic totem pole.

‘Ksan Historical Village March 2019

We were invited to learn to carve at ‘Ksan! What an honour!

‘Ksan Historical Village. Carving lesson.

For more information about the diverse history and experiences available at the Hazeltons, check out their local website. http://www.hazeltonstourism.ca/ksan-historical-village-and-museum.html

Our final destination during this journey was Smithers, British Columbia. Smithers is located about one-half way between Prince Rupert and Prince George along Highway 16. It is 74 km (46 miles) by car from Hazelton to Smithers.

Welcome to Smithers, B.C.

Smithers is a stunning alpine type town in northwestern B.C. famous for its world class skiing and fishing. Its population of about 5,400 people has remained remarkably consistent for the last decade. If you love outdoor recreation, this community has much to offer.

The next blog post will explore Smithers and the Nechako Lakes District area of north central B.C. Keep smiling and stay safe. Cheers.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Canada Life during Covid 19 Pacific Ocean Travel

Cruising the Inside Passage on B.C. Ferries Northern Expedition. Canada

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?

B.C. Ferries Northern Expedition docked at Port Hardy, B.C.

Well, did you know that B.C. Ferries Northern Coast route from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert covers a similar geographical route?

BC Ferries Routes off western Canada

This blog post explores our experience on the Northern Expedition B.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.

Driving aboard the Northern Expedition at Port Hardy, B.C.

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.

7:00 a.m. Early Departure… outside in the wind near God’s Pocket.

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.

Inside cabin… There was a small TV and a complete bathroom with shower and towels.

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.

Aurora Lounge Reserved Seats (Recliners)

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.

Points of interest along the route.

The walkway areas were wide, modern and attractive. It was easy to maneuver mom’s wheelchair in most areas.

The hall in one of the staterooms/cabins sections.

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.

Canoe Cafe

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.

Inside Passage

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.

Lovely Aurora Lounge on Northern Expedition

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.

Namu … old cannery and fishing base

I have read 2 books including: Namu Quest for the Killer Whale by Ted Griffin, that recount Orcas being 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.

Fitz Hugh Sound… near Namu

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 area. Salmon were jumping like crazy in the bay!

Bella Bella, also known as Waglisla, is the home of the Heiltsuk First Nations people. The population of this remote community is approximately 1,600 people.

Shearwater Dryad Point area

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.

Fascinating ocean 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.

Scenic Boat Bluff

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.

Whales passing at Boat Bluff

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 Minke whales.

Hmmmm… what type of whale am I?

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.

Video of highlights from Boat Bluff to south of Prince Rupert.

Passing through narrow Grenville Channel during thick fog with fog horns blaring is quite an adventure!

Foggy Grenville Channel

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.

Keep safe and optimistic my friends.

Categories
Canada Exploring Outdoors Family Motorcycles

Motorcycle Mommas (and Poppas)

Let me introduce my mom, Patti. Mom is 88 years young and still gets up during the night to watch tennis. She can name most NHL Hockey teams and list how they are placing in the hockey league. Mom interacts with friends and family using social media. She likes to stay up to date with global news and loves the Olympics. Her only conflict is whether to cheer for Australia or Canada.

My mom, Patti is 88 years old.

Patti travelled the globe quite extensively when she was in her 20’s. She is a social butterfly, assists with the Woman’s Auxiliary, and attends the local Senior’s Center where she lives on Vancouver Island. Her name, Patricia, couldn’t be better suited for her as she was born on St. Patrick’s Day!

Mom and I on St Patrick’s Day

Patti caught Scarlet Fever when she was a child and had to fight to build her leg strength again. As a crucial part of her recovery, her mother enrolled her in multiple types of Dance where she eventually made quite a name for herself as both a Dancer and Dance Teacher. Patti became an Elementary School teacher in Tasmania when she was still a teen. She also had an extensive Dancing school and tells fascinating stories about riding in the milk truck overnight travelling between her Studio and School when she was under 18 years of age!

Patti pushing her wheelchair at the Cancer Survivor lap of Relay for Life

In her 60’s Patti had additional physical challenges which led to the closure of her Dancing School and once again, she had to learn to walk. This did not stop my mom. We can all learn from her tenacity!

So, when Patti got up to dance at my brother’s Surprise 60th party…. I wasn’t surprised at all. “Shake your Booty” mom!

Show them how to Boogie Patti and Angela!

The following day my brother got out 3 motorcycles and offered rides on the back of his cruiser.

Checking out motorcycles

I responded with a jubilant, “Yes Please! I would love to ride on the back!” Then mom started working to convince Marilyn to also ride the motorcycle with my brother driving. I did not expect mom to participate in this activity. But….

Hmmm? Maybe I don’t really want to ride the motorcycle?

Marilyn agreed to ride after mom insisted she was going to try too. (Thanks for also sharing photos Marilyn and Mark.) So we helped my 88 year old mom get ready for her first motorcycle ride.

You can do this mom!

Here is a video of my mom riding on the back of my brother’s motorcycle. My Motorcycle Momma!

Patti on her first Motorcycle Ride

Begona and her BFF’s returned from their day shopping. Mark shot some baskets with lovely neighbors. We celebrated one final dinner together as tomorrow we would depart from northern B.C. and return home avoiding highway routes effected by provincial wildfires or mudslides.

Fun August visit together

Here are some Motorcycle Mommas and Poppas highlights… Please click the video to check them out!

Thanks for the hospitality Mark and Begona and love to all our wonderful friends up north. This blog post is dedicated to our amazing mom, Patti! Your style, and youthful social playfulness at age 88 is a hard act to follow. You inspire me.

Categories
Birthday Canada Family Life during Covid 19

Surprise Bro! My brother’s surprise 60th/Retirement Celebration in B.C.

During early August 2021, British Columbia experienced a loosening in Covid restrictions resulting from over 80% of our provincial population (aged 12 +) having received one or both of the Covid vaccines. This offered the perfect window of time to co-plan a 60th Birthday/Retirement surprise celebration for my brother, Mark.

The date, time, and location were determined for this outdoor event up in northern B.C.

Mark’s beautiful partner, Begona, and I started the planning committee. So many caring people ended up being involved and assisting with the surprise celebration. My brother is truly blessed and clearly well loved by so many!

My beautiful family

This blog post is dedicated to my incredible and talented brother Mark, his partner, Begona; our 88 year old mom Patti who made the long trip; and all the beautiful people who were part of this amazing day.

There was certainly boundless amounts of enthusiasm, happiness, and love experienced on August 14th in Mark’s backyard in northern B.C.! To protect identities, I will not be using people’s surnames. Special thanks to my husband Mark, Marilyn, and Blanca for contributing photos or video clips shared in this post.

After months of initial planning, communication, and redirection based on Covid updates, the final days played out something like this.

Begona, Blanca, and Angela were quick to assist and have fun!

My husband Mark, mom (Patti), and I travelled by ferry and vehicle departing August 10th from Port Hardy up to Prince Rupert then headed East. (A blog post of our trip through areas of B.C. will follow this post). Other dear friends flew north from the lower mainland (Vancouver area).

Mark was thrilled to see school BFF Alex and his lovely wife Marilyn who also flew in for the event!

On August 14th, three of Mark’s neighbors took him out golfing for over 4 hours.

The night before….

While he was away the yard was transformed by family, friends, and incredible neighbors!

Setting up the yard… Some worked inside on photos … Some organized food preparation…

There were display tables with highlights and awards from his career with B.C. Hydro…

Also a myriad of highlights from Mark’s childhood, family, and hobbies.

Family displays

In spite of a sampling of rain and a few gusts of wind, the outdoor event was a huge surprise and success. This video shows some of the highlights from Mark’s arrival and the speeches prior to the BBQ, cake and activities time.

Mark’s surprise celebration!

Special thanks to Kathy, Chad, Charlotte, Lennie, Doug, and Marie for sending emails to share with Mark. Thanks to Kate, Bill, Andi, Blanca, and my wonderful hubby Mark for reading these messages. I read your message of love Lennie! Thanks to Harry for reading touching email messages from Mark’s adult children in Ontario. Special thanks to Alex and Tom for the personal, and often humorous, stories about Mark!

The speeches were personal, informative, touching, inspiring, and sometimes comical, but the final presentation was the most emotional.

I had located an ancient cassette tape from the mid 1980’s of our precious Dad (Alex) singing one of his favorite travelling songs. Growing up in isolated northern Vancouver Island meant that each family trip or journey in the car was lengthy. Dad started singing when we departed from our home and Dad, Mom, Mark, and I sang nearly non-stop each entire journey! We lost our Dad in 2007 and we miss him from the depths of our souls.

I knew Dad would be so proud to hear all these touching stories and tributes about Mark. My husband and I created a CD for Mark including songs Mark sang in grade 8, a couple of my classical conservatory piano numbers, and our Dad singing.

Upon hearing Dad’s melodic, beautiful voice singing one of our favorite travelling songs from our childhood Mark, mom, and I all were overcome with the deepest emotion and intense need to bond together. It was extremely personal, so I will only share a snippet of this family experience.

Dad’s travelling song…

This is for you Dad with love forever and always.

I relinquished the MC role as Mark and Begona shared their thanks and appreciation. It was time to eat, socialize and prepare for more upcoming surprises!

Rain? What rain?
Bring on the food!

Matt, Andi, and their gorgeous daughters had created a surprise for Mark! Since they were toddlers Mark had an endless stash of Kinder-surprise eggs as a treat for them. They decided to create a Kinder-Surprise piñata for his enjoyment! Here are a few pictures… there are more in the next video…

Kinder-Surprise piñata!

Next was the incredible trick cake created by Sierra. We were all in shock and awe as 60 photos were pulled out of the center of the cake!!! Very cool Sierra!

Sierra’s amazing Photo Surprise Carrot Cake!

While the DJ played his tunes we took turns relaxing, dancing, and visiting. However there was one other special item needing attention….

Last month my handsome nephew Shelby and his beautiful bride Kiersten were married in Blind River, Ontario.

Due to covid restrictions and Patti’s health my husband Mark, mom, and I were unable to attend the wedding. Shelby’s wish was that he dance with his nana to the song “Knock 3 Times” by Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Knock 3 Times — This is dedicated to you Shelby! Starring nana aged 88 years!

So…. In honor of Shelby, his dad (my brother) Mark and his 88 year old nana (Patti) danced “Knock 3 Times” together. This is for you Shelby!

There were so many beautiful moments to capture from this wonderful event! Thanks to all who attended my brother, Mark’s, surprise 60th birthday/Retirement party. This next video covers some more of the fun from the piñata to hanging out in Marks garage!

More fun from Mark’s party!

This blog post adventure is dedicated to my one and only brother. 🥰 Love you Mark! Begona… You’re a charismatic, loving, and charming future sister! Thanks for the memories!

The next post will be about our travels around British Columbia during August. Cheers. Keep safe!

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Pacific Ocean Seashore Travel

Beach Exploration around Northern 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).

Evening at Rathtrevor Beach

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 sandy beaches; 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.

Photo Credit to my friend, Dana Rufus, for these lovely photos of Storey’s Beach.

Storey’s Beach and the Tex Lyon trail hike are also favorite locations for north island locals.

Mid tide…During low tide the sand extends far out into the bay.

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.

Exploring Hardy rocky beach area… May

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.

Check the tide schedules… this was a low tide in May.

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.

Moon snail collars and moon snails, sea cucumbers, sea stars. Photos by Dana Rufus.

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

Sea life at the beacon in Port Hardy. Photos by Dana Rufus.

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 Port Hardy, as tomorrow we head southeast down Vancouver island.

Beach views around Port Hardy, BC in May

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.

Highway 19 between Port McNeill and Sayward

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.

To get acquainted with some of the tourist options available in Campbell River, check out the informative website. https://www.campbellriver.travel/

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!

Foggdukkers Coffee Stop at Campbell River

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.

Campbell River Estuary in the evening —May

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!

Categories
Canada Travel

Historic Cariboo — Soda Creek and Xat’sull Heritage Village.

I have been taking a hiatus from writing. However, travelling through B.C.’s Caribou country this past summer was so noteworthy, that I find myself drawn back to my laptop to share the historical beauty and intrigue we witnessed this past July.  Commencing in lovely Quesnel, then progressing through the B.C. Cariboo country to Historic Soda Creek and the Aboriginal Settlement at Xatśūll Heritage Village. Both communities at Soda Creek are located adjacent to the majestic Fraser River. Lunch at Williams Lake, then the day’s adventure concludes at quaint Clinton, B.C.

Quesnel is a city in the Cariboo Regional District of British Columbia located nearly evenly between the cities of Prince George and Williams Lake on the main highway to northern B.C. and the Yukon at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers. It is a pretty community to walk through and have a coffee or meal.

About an hour past Quesnel exploring gravel roads meadering beside the Fraser River, we discovered the historic community of Soda Creek, B.C. There seem to be 2 distinct areas and histories in this area.

The first area we discovered had signage, a well kept cemetery and historic monument, and evidence of past homesteads and buildings.

There are even some families currently living beside the river. This area was developed during the mid 1800’s when a Cariboo Road was built connecting Lillooet to Alexandria for access during the gold rush period. Construction was completed to Soda Creek in 1863. The location was also deemed perfect as a sternwheeler terminus on the Fraser River. Steamers named the Entreprise, and the  Victoria were based here to transport miners and supplies during the Omineca and Cariboo Gold Rushes.

In the early 1900’s, this area was also a thriving base during the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Additional sternwheelers, stage coaches, and automobiles were utilized during this busy second stage of Soda Creek history.

Upon further investigation and exploring, we discovered another historical site at Soda Creek called the Xat’sull Heritage Village. Xat’sull /ˈhæəl/ means “on the cliff where the bubbling water comes out”. (Wikipedia). The website created to promote this fascinating Heritage Village indicates the proper pronunciation is hat-sull.

We arrived at the Heritage Village; Unfortunately, there was nobody around to direct us or explain the spiritual, cultural, and traditional history. However, the grounds were spacious and fascinating to explore. There were several types of realistic sized dwellings displayed and it would be a fascinating tour with knowledgeable elders. One word of advice though…Bring insect repellent! The mosquitoes were brutal especially around the wigwams.

Onward to Williams Lake where we stopped to have lunch with my close friend, Julia.

Our final stop of the day was quaint Clinton which is located 40 km northwest of Cache Creek and 30 km south of 70 Mile House. For antique enthusiasts, there are several shops displaying stagecoach wheels and historic homestead supplies in this sleepy little town.

The remainder of the journey home to Vancouver Island includes heading south through the Thompson River area, Lillooet, Squamish, and finally the ferry over to gorgeous Vancouver Island.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Burns Lake Canada Teaching Travel

Final days at Burns Lake—Sun, Kayaking, Lakes, School, Friends, Goodbyes.

June 24th—June 28th 2019

Lakes District in mid northern British Columbia has won a piece of my heart!

         Photos taken from Gerow Island near Burns Lake–June 2019

The Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position with School District 91 started as a 6 month contract and ended as a 7 1/2 month contract during the 2018-2019 school year.  I experienced a “true Canadian winter” in northern B.C. unlike the milder winters we experience on temperate Vancouver Island.

The amount of sunshine in snow country, and variety of year round sports opportunities, were bonuses I had not anticipated. I was also so grateful for the friendliness of the people thriving up here, diversity of cultures, and vast range of arts available.

        Out exploring on ATV’s with new friends–Burns Lake, B.C. 

It is no wonder there are so many young adults starting careers in the Burns Lake area. This blog post reflects my final few days as a member of the school staff and community of beautiful Burns Lake, British Columbia.

During the final days at Burns Lake my husband and I booked a lovely Airbnb “Lakeside Hideaway” on Gerow Island 2 minutes from Burns Lake. Each morning we awoke to birds singing, geese honking, sun reflecting off the lake, and tranquility of this peaceful, beautiful area.

Kayaking around Gerow Island

The courtesy kayaks called our names and we enjoyed a paddle or two most days. Sunsets were a kaleidoscope of red and yellow hues dancing above the hilltops each evening.

Lakefront Hideaway Airbnb Burns Lake

Inside, the suite was modern and well equipped. Even in late June we enjoyed the mesmerizing flames from the fireplace on the cooler nights. We will definitely return to this lovely accommodation on a future trip to northern Burns Lake.

Lakeside Hideaway Airbnb late June 2019

Meanwhile at school, the bustle of year end events was in full swing. Sports Day was very relaxed and it was wonderful to see so many parents in attendance. Triple Jump is normally my specialty, but at Decker Elementary I was assigned Standing Long Jump! I hadn’t seen this event in decades, but was pleasantly surprised at the distance some children achieved.

Sports Day at Decker

The new Aboriginal school blanket was unveiled at a school assembly by the Top All Around Grade 7 students from 2018 and 2019.

Several Learning Commons Leaders students created a QR code and riddle type scavenger hunt designed to introduce younger students to new areas of the library collection.

In the Library/Learning Commons we were busy with year end book collection, weeding of old books, Library collection inventory using Destiny, and QR Code scavenger hunts for the younger students.

Helping in the Learning Commons

Over one-half of the students in grades 5-7 were members of my Learning Commons Leaders’ club at Decker Elementary. These amazing students were quick to assist me deleting old/outdated/damaged books which we then displayed for all students and staff to take home Free!

Learning Commons Leaders sundae treats!

As a special treat for these incredible, dedicated, energetic students we had an ice-cream sundae treat day.The sweet treats were a sticky hit!

Happy students enjoying ice cream

On the final day of school with students in attendance we had the usual Award’s Day celebration. Although some students had departed on an early vacation, these photos give a glimpse into the number of grade 5-7 students involved as Learning Commons Leaders with me.

Learning Commons Leaders at Awards Day

It was exciting to see the growth in attendance of boys as initially all leaders were girls.

The P.A.C. (Parents Advisory Committee) showed their appreciation to the staff by preparing a delicious hot lunch on the final day of the school year. The wonderful menu included pulled pork buns, stuffed baked potatoes, corn on the cob, salads, corn bread, and desserts. We emerged satiated and extremely grateful.

Final Day of School PAC Appreciation Luncheon

After school I was invited to the year end staff party of my other school–William Konkin Elementary School. As you may observe…This school has a larger population and there is a substantially larger staff. The party was hosted by the husband/wife team Richard and Judy at their home in downtown Burns Lake.

WKE Staff Year End Party 2019

Under familiar blue skies, surrounded by lush green trees, we had a lovely time chatting and laughing together. From surprise mystery gifts and free summer time novels to read, to giant games and ‘be creative’ paint stations. Prior to the potluck dinner, two of our young female teachers made their grand entrance by driving up to the party area in their muddy side by side ATV.

WKE Year End Party!

This staff knows how to connect, laugh, and have fun. I made so many friends and will miss these caring, dedicated individuals very much as I return to Vancouver Island.

The final day of the school year was an administrative day at school.  While teachers packed up their classrooms and filed all paperwork; in the Learning Commons my husband worked tirelessly beside me as I endeavored to complete the first ever automated inventory of the Decker Lake Elementary library collection.

Scanning over 18,000 barcodes while teaching and completing year end procedures is no easy feat! I was working late into the evenings and during weekends determined to get the library collection inventory accomplished prior to my departure from sd91. At 3:19 p.m. on the final day of the school year we finally achieved 100% completion!

The staff had all departed for summer holidays except Dylan, the principal, who informed me he planned to set the school alarm at 4:00 p.m. My husband and I hurriedly threw my personal teaching belongings into several bins and we exited the front door from Decker Lake Elementary school at 3:59 pm.

Goodbye School District 91 and Burns Lake. Feeling immensely proud to have completed the dreaded library inventory, it was officially time to switch to summer vacation and commence retirement for the second time!

Highlights from the final days in Burns Lake

Prior to departing to Prince George, we stopped in to view two local stores I had not seen yet off Highway 16–Woods ‘N Water and the adjourning sewing store Yarn and Sew On. Both stores were filled with fascinating merchandise as shown on the accompanying video which highlights the last few days in Burns Lake.

Burns lake stores

Saying goodbye to the family I stayed with and lovely Brat the cat was emotional and difficult. Loretta, Joe, and Brat have become dear friends whom I will sincerely miss.

Loretta, Joe, Brat and I

Thanks for the memories Burns Lake and School District 91.

Typical Downtown Burns Lake—Highway 16

Tomorrow the next chapter of my adventure commences.

Categories
Uncategorized

Diversity in Northern B.C.–Aboriginal Day, Backyard Fun in P.G. and Exploring Tranquil Burns Lake.

June 20th to 24th 2019

Late June is a paradox for teachers as energies are pulled between completing a multitude of school year end activities and an increasing desire for summer exploration and relaxation. This blog post reflects this contradiction. In addition, June 21st is celebrated in Canada as National Aboriginal Day (also known as National Indigenous Peoples Day). Burns Lake area celebrates June 21st with pride, inclusion, and style!  Another experience represented during this post is a neighborhood backyard party in Prince George complete with a obstacle course driven on lawnmowers while blindfolded!

June is such a hectic time at schools as teachers work hard to complete themes and course work, assess individuals, and write report cards. In conjunction with these year end expectations, extra curricular events such as, track and field, Grade 7 graduation dinners, Kindergarten ceremonies, Art nights, Sports/Fun days, Awards ceremonies, and School Wide Field Trips are also being planned and executed.

Celebrating the transition of Grade 6 or 7 students from Elementary School to Secondary school varies at each school and geographical location in Canada. At Decker Elementary they host a pot luck dinner for students, staff, and parents followed by a volleyball game where students verse adults. It was a relaxing and fun evening. Instead of dressing up in fancy clothes many of the girls decided to make a statement and arrived in onsies!

June 21st, National Aboriginal Day, is recognized as a national statutory holiday in the North West Territories and Yukon Territory. The date was established due to the First Peoples’ spiritual connection to summer solstice. Very few Aboriginal students attended school on June 21st as most of the Lakes District families were involved in the parade and cultural activities located throughout the community.

I was grateful to assist supervising students while our school attended the parade. The Aboriginal Day Parade was lengthy and ran through downtown Burns Lake stopping all traffic from using Highway 16.  Multiple surrounding bands were proudly represented. Regale was worn and some singing and dancing occurred. Participants varied in age from toddlers to elders.

Aboriginal students graduating in Grade 12 were honored and lifestyles promoting healthy sports and activities were featured. The parade was inclusive involving local pony and cycling clubs, Fall Fair promotion and square dancers, First Responders Emergency Vehicles, B.C. Transit Bus, a 3 trailer long B.C. Logging truck, and led by a marching Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) in full red serge.

Gifts were presented to the onlookers from candy to tree samplings, red roses, packed food, and toys. The parade participants and floats were diverse, yet there was such a unified feeling of happiness, pride, and community spirit.

June 22nd brought another 2 1/2 hour drive east to the big city (nearly 80,000) of Prince George. P.G. is a popular shopping area for people from the Lakes District as it is the largest city up in the mid northern area of British Columbia.

During the drive I felt ecstatic because my husband flew up to join me for the final week of my teaching contract in Burns Lake then will assist driving the 1,000 km back home to Vancouver Island.

My brother enjoys planning backyard parties with a twist and this weekend proved no exception! My brother, Mark, had a full house in Prince George as my husband Mark and I, my mother, two of his adult children, and his grandson were all out visiting.  Add fabulous neighbors and long time friends, and this backyard party would be complete!

The two Marks invented a creative obstacle course for adults utilizing a lawnmower pulling a little cart, pylons, a basketball, basketball hoop, noodle, and a blindfold.

The children had access to a trampoline, super soaker water guns, water balloons, and an electric mini bike.

Six year old Jack idolizes NHL Hockey Player Brett Connolly and was wearing one of his number 10 Connolly jerseys at the B.B.Q. Jack’s bedroom was filled with Connolly memorabilia as he has followed Brett faithfully for most of his 6 years. I showed Jack photos of Brett in my Kindergarten and Grade 2 class. Jack and his mom have since met Brett’s parents and Jack’s room is now adorned with more precious Connolly keepsakes.

B.B.Q lunch, good conversation, sunshine, and laughter made this Backyard Fun day in Prince George complete. Thanks bro!

After a few photos of my mom, brother and I and the sweetest little girls next door, Mark and I were back on Highway 16 heading west to Lake District area.

A special treat awaited our return as I had booked 3 nights at beautiful Lakefront Hideaway Airbnb on Gerow Island, 2 minutes from Burns Lake.

Descending the stairs to our suite, warmed by the sun, admiring the rays as they glistened on the water; we felt enveloped by beauty and tranquility.

This was the perfect location to embrace the beauty of Lakes District and celebrate the final week and completion of my 7 1/2 month contract as Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist in sd91.

The next blog post will cover our final days in beautiful Lakes District.

 

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Motorized Vehicles Northern British Columbia Style!

Mid June 2019

When in Northern B.C. why not take the opportunity to try new adventures and experience northern B.C. lifestyle? I had the opportunity to go off roading in ATV’s with a colleague and her family around Burns Lake.

The following day after driving 2 1/2 hours to Prince George, I would join family to celebrate Father’s Day–my brother’s style.  All experiences this weekend involved wheels, motors, fun, and varying levels of noise!

Exiting school soon after bus duty is very rare for me, but there were adventures in store this Friday afternoon. Not knowing the proper wardrobe for riding on ATV’s I donned jeans, a long sleeved top, and runners. Luckily, I had been given a mosquito net for my head and thought to throw it in.

After arriving at my friend’s place, Sara located extra old bush shirts and a fancy looking helmet for me to borrow. As a newbie to this sport, I had no idea I would return with mud covered jeans and runners that would require multiple washings prior to identifying their original colors. It’s all part of the fun and charm of trying new experiences.

Sara, her mother, and her daughter were all joining us as we explored the back roads and bush searching for the elusive yellow Arnica Montana flowers. Arnica flowers from June to September and have multiple medicinal properties. Sara and I departed on one ATV, her mom and daughter explored on another ATV, and later in the evening Sara’s father arrived on a side by side vehicle.

Roads varied from dirt, wooden planks, grassy areas, mud, deeper mud puddles, to straight through the bush! While in motion the scenery was varied, lush, and very pretty. Each time we stopped to explore and search for Arnica the mosquitos gathered and fought for first blood! I had never worn a mosquito net covering my head before, but it did help!

Lynn has a background in botany and shared her knowledge about local flora. We did not see any animals this trip, but did locate footprints and scat during our walks. Near the end of our adventure Sara drove under a fallen tree and had a bit of a challenge getting back on the path. It is handy exploring in a group!

I am so grateful for outdoorsy, adventurous friends. Thanks for introducing me to more areas of Beautiful Burns Lake Sara!

Saturday morning I drove the 228 km 2 1/2 hours southeast to Prince George on hectic Highway 16. It is always amazing how many fully loaded logging trucks, semi trailers, massive mining equipment, over-sized sections of homes, over-sized equipment, and tractors you encounter on this well used, narrow highway. Thankfully, during June you are unlikely to encounter snow or ice and road conditions felt relatively safe this trip.

My brother was unable to travel to Burns Lake during my teaching contract there, so I have become quite familiar with the commute to his home in Prince George. This weekend was Father’s Day so my mother, and niece and nephew, were flying up to visit.

Our family is spread across Canada; my son lives in Thailand; and most of our relatives reside in Australia. So it is fortuitous to make the effort to attend family reunions.  My brother loves entertaining–and his motorized toys are plentiful and quick to appear.

My brother, Mark, is in his element when he is driving his grandson and neighborhood children around the yard on his lawn mover/trailer. The rest of us had the opportunity to enjoy the lovely P.G. sunshine and chat. Mark is blessed with a warm and caring neighborhood and lovely neighbors that truly are like family. Tomorrow on Father’s Day Mark has chosen to attend the huge Prince George Show and Shine event.

After a lovely brunch we all headed off to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park for the 45th Annual Crusin’ Classics Show ‘n’ Shine. The estimate was that 15,000 people were in attendance.

Mom’s legs can not support her walking far, so my nephew Brody offered to push his nana throughout the grassy hills in a wheelchair. My niece, Kiersten pushed the stroller as Elijah ogled the trains and multitude of vehicles.

Mark chatted with car owners and was clearly in his “happy” place while we all walked around the grounds. There were cars, trucks, hearses, motorcycles, VW campers and beetles of nearly every hue and vintage imaginable.

Mom was ecstatic when she discovered a Model T Ford and told us stories about riding in the Rumble Seat with her brother when she was a child in Tasmania.

The weekend was filled with vehicles, engines, wheels, and exhaust. Unfortunately, I had to partake in more of the same for another 2 1/2 hours as I said good-bye to some of my family (missing dad RIP, my husband Mark, and son Alexander) and drove solo back to Burns Lake.

The final 2 weeks of the school year in Burns Lake would be packed with activities– including the hugely popular Aboriginal Day.  The next blog post will cover the remainder of my time and experiences in Beautiful Burns Lake.

 

 

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Uncategorized

Burns Lake–Beauty, Blue skies, Books, Educational Bonding, and Brat (the cat).

June 2019

Returning 1,000 km north to Burns Lake to complete the final 5 weeks of the school year was an opportunity to continue working with a fabulous staff and engaging students; and experience the delights of this beautiful area during early summer. This blog post summarizes the first 3 weeks of my adventure up here.

Burns Lake is located 226 km (2 1/2 hours) drive west from Prince George on highway 16 (otherwise known as the Highway of Tears). There are billboards erected to remind drivers of some of the people (mostly aboriginal women) who have mysteriously disappeared along this highway. It’s an oppressive and sad history tied to this area which directly affects families and students we are teaching.

However, there are so many dedicated and energizing people and organizations making the heartbeat of the community pulse with activity and optimism.

A walk down to Spirit Square to observe people walking their dogs, children swimming in the lake, people chatting with a coffee, or teens playing in the skateboard park always brightens my day. The square was busy last summer due to the horrendous forest fires burning out of control in the Southside. These same grounds were converted into an evacuation area during that difficult period.  

The population of the village of Burns Lake is listed as just under 2,000 but this does not include numbers from any of the surrounding reservations. Burns Lake is a central hub, known as the heart of the Lakes District, with highway 16 passing directly through the downtown core en route to Prince Rupert and is a junction for highway 35 to Francois Lake and the Southside.

Arts, culture, outdoor recreation, and alternate life styles thrive here. One weekend while walking downtown to my favorite organic coffee shop There was a painting workshop occurring outside right beside the highway! These photos are of lovely Lorne Street and the downtown main highway. 

On the edge of the village is Omineca cross country ski club and 10 minutes away at Boar Mountain you can experience world class Mountain Biking. Forestry claims to be the main industry; however, ranching and tourism directed to outdoor recreation, are equally important to village economics.

My home bases during these 5 weeks are at Decker Elementary school and with Loretta, Joe and Brat on Lorne Street. Brat was a rescue kitten and is now a totally lovable and affectionate cat.

My colleagues and friends from William Konkin Elementary did not forget me while I was absent traveling around Asia. Days after my return to Burns Lake, we had a ladies adventure 80 km northwest (about 50 mins) to Houston to check out a funky women’s dress shop Chia’s Dream Closet and Happy Jack’s local bar for dinner. Social bonding is so much fun and important!

At Decker Elementary the staff led by Monica (the quilter), Brenda (First nation’s home support) and several other staff created a quilt with FN symbols on it. The wolf was the icon selected to represent Decker. Some of the students who attend Decker are from Cheslatta Carrier background, some from Lake Babine, but the majority of our FN students are Wet’suwet’en.

This small school has a population of 125 students from Kindergarten to Grade 7. Prior to my departure in early March I had a Learning Commons Leaders’ club for students in grades 5-7. Over 30 students (girls and boys) attended regularly. I had a lovely card waiting on my Library desk when I returned. Teaching is such a rewarding occupation.

During the winter, students are expected to remain outside during breaks unless the temperature drops below -20 degrees Celsius. When the sun shines…shorts are quick to appear! I found the mosquitoes nasty and I wore bug repellent when I was on duty outside. But biting insects did not seem to phase these students! Many were covered in bites from camping excursions, but they did not complain or cover up.

Beauty in nature and artistic expression are embraced at Decker Elementary. Many colorful flowers adorned the school gardens and seasonal art displays outside classrooms were highly innovative and changed regularly to the delight of parents and definitely appreciated by me. Each student had an art portfolio and near the end of the school year students displayed their favorite artistic endeavors during an Art Open House at the school. 

It was very impressive to see the effort and pride students put into their displays.

Arts B.C. concerts in schools are varied and usually enjoyable for students, but this group, Tiny Islands, was particularly entertaining and engaging. It is rare to capture the attention of all students from Kindergarten to Grade 7, but Tiny Islands jazz group was interactive, funny, talented, energetic and musically educational.

A local high school musical rendition of Aladdin was well attended and a fun field trip for the students.

Part of my Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position was to analyze, weed, and update the library collection appropriate to the needs of the staff and students and locate resources to tie to the new B.C. curriculum.

In addition, a TL works collaboratively with teachers developing units of study which promote inquiry learning and reinforce engaging S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) problem solving skills.

This collage depicts a variety of learning and activity in the Learning Commons during June. These lessons included: S.T.E.A.M. investigation related to simple machines; Learning Commons Leaders assisting to review non-fiction subject areas and shelf books; Grade 1/2 Literacy Centers word practice; Grade 5/6 Book Speed Dating Activity; Introduction to High Interest/Low Vocabulary Novels; and Buddy Reading.

Miscellaneous wonderful programs are happening at Decker in June including the Breakfast program led by Ms. Zettergreen where students assist making toast for others while Ms. Zettergreen creates smoothies.

The school wide Jump Rope for Heart event raises money to support Heart and Stroke research and is lots of fun. The loud music, watermelon, and obstacle course created by the grade 6/7 class were hugely popular. Well done organizers!

One day in June the blue skies appeared to be shedding snow! There were masses of white cloud like substances blowing everywhere outside. When these items fell to the ground they piled up similar to hail. This was a new experience for me. I learned these were seeds from Cottonwood trees–a type of Poplar.

So many options are available for weekend adventures around the Lakes District. A walk is always pleasant. After grabbing a drink at one of the 3 awesome coffee shops on the main road, you can walk down by the lake at Spirit Square. The arena, curling rink, climbing wall, dance rooms, weight room, racquetball court, skateboard park, and tennis courts are all also located there.

If you are lucky, you might be invited out for dinner with some of the friendly folk from Burns Lake. The kimono from Vietnam looks great on you! Thanks Sara!

Or you can tour one of the local greenhouses and learn about the most deer resistant plants available for this geographical area. After admiring the photo of the Atlantic Giant Pumpkins, you might feel inspired to start growing some for the next Lakes District Fall Fair.

My next blog post will be dedicated to weekend activities which utilize motors in this northern B.C. area!