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
Adventure Canada Exploring Canada Exploring Outdoors Maple Sugar Festival Moonsnails Mount Washington Seashore Skiing Vancouver Island

Mt. Washington, Moonsnails and Maple Sugar Festivals. Diverse Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island, BC, Canada truly is diverse in landscape, nature, culture, and recreation. This blog post reflects February activities on Vancouver Island. Some of the events occurred prior to Covid facemask expectations and while indoor events were still permitted. From powder skiing up at Mount Washington to exploring fascinating sea life, we have it all.

The photo above highlights stunning Mount Washington and a live Moonsnail with its enormous ‘foot’ extended.

Here is a quick journey around some of our beautiful and diverse areas of Vancouver Island, Canada in February “winter”. Let’s commence in Campbell River as it is close to the middle of the Island. Heading north from Campbell River to Port Hardy takes close to 2 1/2 hours most trips.

The distance from Campbell River to Port Hardy is 230 km on highway 19 N. Bus service has stopped at present, so you will require a vehicle. There are few fuel stations between Campbell River and Port Hardy so be prepared and have a full tank. You can obtain gas at Sayward, Woss, and Port McNeill.

There are a growing number of electric car charging stations north of Campbell River, but check carefully before you head north as phone service is sporadic on this highway. The scenery is pristine with mountains, lakes, rivers, and rainforest surrounding you.

North Vancouver Island highway

If you are lucky you might sight deer, elk, black bears, and occasionally a cougar. https://vancouverislandnorth.ca/get-lost-with-wildlife/ Check out the beautiful wildlife photography on this local website.

https://myvancouverislandnorth.ca/our-communities/port-hardy/ There are many fabulous websites which contain valuable information about the communities on northern Vancouver Island.

It is always wonderful to visit with my mom and a few friends while up in Port Hardy.

When phenomenal low tides occur on the north island, it is well worth the effort to explore and experience the expanse of sea life available on the northern beaches. Both sandy and rocky types of beaches are well represented.

Unlike more populated areas, there is extensive space to roam in solitude while appreciating the wonder of nature. Two of my favorite types of sea life to discover during low tides are: moonsnails and sea urchins.

Moon snails and red/green sea urchins. Back home (Sophia and bird feeder)

Upon returning home to Nanaimo (just over 4 hours and 385 km southeast) from Port Hardy our kitten Sophia was so excited to see us. She continues to develop her trust with people and other animals since her arrival last summer as an anxious, wild, tiny 7-8 week old rescue kitten. Sophia has learned to interact with us and is so curious about everything.

Mark and Sophia watching the birds at the feeder, deer in the yard, and snow falling. So darn cute!!!

Sophia helping Mark do repairs in the bathroom. Whatever is happening, Sophia is right there checking out the action!

Sophia assisting Mark

What is a perfect way to spend a day or two when there is fresh powder snow and blue skies? Time to head up to another treasure on Vancouver Island–Mount Washington!

Mount Washington, Vancouver Island

We packed our downhill ski gear and headed off in the truck. The drive to Mount Washington takes just under 2 hours (134 km) from Nanaimo providing the road conditions are clear and good. There are shuttles and buses available if needed.

https://www.mountwashington.ca/ Mount Washington offers rentals, ski packages, downhill/alpine trails, multiple chair lifts accommodating all levels of skiers, and varieties of accommodation up on the mountain or down at the nearby community of Courtney. The website is very handy to assist you when planning your day or vacation. There are outdoor adventure activities offered during both winter and summer seasons.

My husband prefers black diamond and powder skiing. I prefer groomed blue intermediate level runs. There are choices for all levels available here and the views from the mountain are quite breathtaking!

Mount Washington

A different trip up to Mt. Washington brought more beautiful conditions and an intriguing fog bank looming at lower levels. There is an interesting character we have seen a few times who calls to the Ravens while snowboarding or from the chair lifts. This man sits on the snow signaling the birds with various whistles. The ravens recognize him and gather around to visit with him.

Snowboarder calling Ravens. Fog bank at Mt Washington.

The fog bank seemed to be encroaching along the lower sections. It was beautiful… yet somewhat eerie in its intensity!

After a day’s exercise on the mountain… good healthy food called our name! I’ve recently discovered beet lattes. They are quite unexpectedly yummy!

Delicious healthy food at The Realm cafe in Parksville

Have you ever been to a Maple Sugar Festival? Perhaps you might have attended one if you visited Quebec, but it was a new experience for me in beautiful British Columbia. The French Immersion schools and French community organized this event just prior to Covid lockdown in B.C.

Maple Sugar Festival in Nanaimo

There were ice carving and sculpture displays, various Francophone bands, popular French food, a giant bear mascot, lots of maple sugar sweet treats to taste, and enthusiastic French conversation.

Here is a short video reflecting highlights from the Nanaimo Maple Sugar Festival.

Maple Sugar Festival

Vancouver Island truly is a diverse and exciting place to live or visit.

The next blog posts will depict keeping busy during covid lockdown–from art to nature walks/hikes, and spring wildlife around Vancouver Island. Keep safe. Things are improving and the future looks so promising.