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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 Introduction Travel

Adventures and Contemplations from Sandy’s Perspective

The years 2020 and 2021 have been challenging and the covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented global change. However, as 2022 draws ever closer there is renewed optimism and International borders are carefully beginning to re-open in some countries. I can officially state I’ve had my 2 doses of Moderna and have my Covid Vaccine Passport. Thank you Canada! There will be new ways to explore, have adventures, stretch comfort zone levels, and develop new insights. My blog is my chosen venue to share my story.

Background information is provided by clicking on the Menu (upper right). The Search feature assists quick location of previous blog posts including: Prior to Covid travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Mexico. Since Covid lockdowns, exploration has focused around beautiful Western Canada–particularly Vancouver Island. You are welcome to join my journey. Virtual Hugs Sandy.

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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
Adventure Beaches Canada Exploring Vancouver Island Nature Pacific Ocean Seaside trails Stormy Surfing Travel

Tumultuous Tofino! Check Drive B.C. First!

Summer 2021

After the second heat wave hit Nanaimo, we craved much lower temperatures and a cool, windy location…Even for a day!

Our choices were to drive 4 + hours (350 + km) northwest up Vancouver Island to seek temperature refuge in much cooler Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Port Alice or other tiny northern communities. Or, we could head due west 201 km to Tofino. The estimated time for this trip, according to several online sources, was about 3 hours. Today, Tofino won out as the destination of choice!

Tofino, B.C.

Temperatures in Nanaimo had been hitting 32-38 degrees C most days for a second stretch this summer. In some areas of the globe, this is normal or possibly mild, but for us in Canada, this is quite extreme and people were getting hospitalized with heat stroke and trying to cope by staying indoors or swimming in the cool ocean. In contrast, the weather forecast in Tofino was listed at 19-20 degrees C! We packed a cooler with picnic supplies, beach mat, hiking and swimming gear, and headed off to Highway B.C. 4 W.

There are so many amazing natural wonders and tourist attractions along this journey, so you need to decide whether to take a leisurely trip and investigate locations, or to push through directly to Pacific Rim National Park and Tofino. The choice is yours!

Thirty-five minutes (44 km) after departing from Nanaimo, you drive past Coombs. It is difficult to miss the line ups of parked cars near the Old Country Market. Look up and you will usually spot the goats eating grass on the roof of the market.

Coombs Goats on the Roof

Coombs is a fun and funky place to spend time sauntering, eating, shopping, and exploring. Coombs Old Country Market is usually open every day from March to December.

If you enjoy hiking and exploring the beautiful natural coastal rainforest, check out Little Qualicum Falls, and the famous Old Growth Douglas Fir Trees and giant Cedars in MacMillan Provincial Park at Cathedral Grove.

Old Growth at Cathedral Grove

The largest trees in this protected park are over 800 years old, 9 metres (29.6 feet) in circumference, and 75 meters (246 feet) tall. Bring your camera….The old growth trees along the trails are impressive and majestic! Here is a link to a practical guide for the Cathedral Grove Trail Area.

https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/british-columbia/old-growth-and-living-forest-trail-loop

Once you arrive in Port Alberni make certain you have fuel and food as the next section of the road is twisty and services are limited until you arrive at Ucluelet or Tofino.

23 km from Port Alberni the road curves around the edges of gorgeous Sproat Lake. This 25 km long, deep, fresh water lake is known as Kleecoot by the Indigenous peoples. It is a local favorite location for swimming, fishing, waterskiing, kayaking, windsurfing, picnics, hiking or camping. https://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/sproat_lk/

Wally Creek

Continue about 30 km from Sproat Lake and you will discover another natural treasure at the junction of Wally Creek and Kennedy River.

Check out the natural “Potholes“, climb boulders, or relax on the rocks adjacent to the creek.

Wally Creek/ Kennedy River

This is such a fascinating area to explore and appreciate. Natural erosion at its most intricate, exposes crystal clear turquoise waters and orange, green veins of color within rock layers.

This pristine area needs to be appreciated and preserved. If visiting here, please be respectful of the area and take any trash with you when you depart.

Climbing Boulders and Exploring

While my husband and I took a break from driving and explored this natural wonder, a friendly local also exploring the boulders with his family, questioned whether we were heading to Tofino. He informed us about the daily road closure between 11 am and 3 pm weekdays at Kennedy Hill due to major road construction! As it was after 11:30 am, we had missed the opening and now faced a road closure for another 3 + hours!

Lots of time to appreciate the beauty

We always check DriveBC.ca road status and conditions prior to any travel. But, for some unexplained reason, today we had not checked ahead! Murphy’s Law!

As we had several hours to wait, we delved into our picnic from the car cooler, then explored the boulders and rugged creek area.

Amazing potholes from erosion and orange/green coloured formations

Cars continued to arrive as people joined us exploring Wally Creek, relaxing on the rocks, or swimming in the eroded “Potholes“. We wondered how many of these new arrivals were aware of the Kennedy Hill road closure?

At 2:30 p.m. we departed and drove to Kennedy Hill. We joined the incredibly lengthy line of vehicles waiting in the cue. There were “Black Bear in Area” warning signs posted.

Picking Huckleberries and Thimbleberries while waiting at the Road Block.

Most people remained in their vehicles with windows down. But the heat, boredom, and enticement of huckleberries on the side of the road drew me outside. I started picking wild Huckleberries and some Thimbleberries. Before long, I had taught 3 young men from the car ahead of us about wild berries, and they were also having a berry feast.

The time passed, the road opened, and soon we were meandering through construction zone areas.

Video of Kennedy Hill Construction

It is a 14 km drive from Kennedy Hill to the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway 4 Junction. Before planning a trip to Tofino or Ucluelet check road conditions. Here is a useful link created by Tofino Tourism. https://tourismtofino.com/

Later than planned, at 4pm (and 19 degrees) we were finally enjoying the beautiful main street of Tofino. We observed tourists, decked in matching life jackets, returning rental kayaks and gear; while another group (possibly exiting a whale watching tour) chugging up the hill at Jamie’s Whaling Station.

Tofino Campbell Street— Delicious late lunch at Shelter Restaurant

Directly across Campbell Street, we relaxed with beers and delicious meals at the popular Shelter Restaurant. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his burger and I was very impressed with the delectable gluten free Surf Bowl. This experience was so welcomed and appreciated after the unexpected, lengthy road closure. We will definitely return to Shelter Restaurant.

Finally, we were off to explore Tofino! During a previous trip here we visited with the famous Indigenous Artist, Roy Henry Vickers, at his Big House Gallery. We were lucky enough to catch Roy creating art and even listened to his story telling session. Later that evening while walking on Chesterman Beach we also caught Roy carrying his surf board emerging from the waves. I purchased his print entitled “The two of us” which is reflective of stunning Chesterman Beach.

Roy Henry Vickers Gallery & Downtown Seaside Park area.

We were not successful sighting many kayakers at the downtown seaside park and Tofino Air location this afternoon.

We drove to Tonquin Beach for a little wander through local nature trails leading to one of the many beaches around Tofino.

Tofino Weather/Ocean Warnings

Warning signs remind locals and visitors that waves can appear unexpectedly and the weather/ocean conditions are tumultuous in Tofino. Today was calm and both the trails and ocean were pristine and stunning.

Tonquin Beach trails

Tonquin beach is quite small, but very pretty and appears to be a bit sheltered.

Tonquin Beach, Tofino

By 6:30 pm the sun had disappeared and the fog was rolling into Tofino. The temperature was dropping quite quickly and was now sitting at 16 degrees C. Tofino has many quirky shops and unique features. There were hundreds of shoes (mainly runners) draped over cable lines around a downtown skatepark.

Tofino skateboard park decorations

After a quick tour around town, we decided to drive to Pacific Rim Park and walk along stunning Chesterman Beach. We noticed that Parking lots were emptying as surfers, in full neoprene suits, loaded their surf boards on their vehicles and departed for the day. Two of the favorite cold water surf beaches in this area are Cox Bay and Chesterman Beach.

Map and Rules for Chesterman Beach, Tofino

I found the enthusiasm of the surfers a bit surprising as huge signs lit up messages near the beach trails indicating the water temperature was “Very Cold”. Hmmm? What does this mean?

After researching, I discovered that the ocean water temperature at Tofino does not rise above 20 degrees Celsius. Apparently in winter the average water temperature in Tofino hits about 8 degrees C, while in summer the average temperature is about 13 degrees C. Brrr…. Those are dedicated cold water surfers!

Foggy Chesterman Beach

By 7 p.m. we had arrived at Chesterman Beach. The fog had really rolled in making the trees and landscapes quite mystical and eerie. In addition, the winds had increased and the gusts were getting powerful.

Fog and Gusty Winds at Chesterman

We walked toward Frank Island along the tombolo which is a sandy isthmus connecting Frank Island to Chesterman beaches during low tides.

Frank Island No Trespassing—located between the 2 beaches at Chesterman

We battled the winds as we observed a handful of keen surfers still playing in the frigid waves. Without toques and warm weather clothing, we were unprepared for this. When we departed from Nanaimo this morning it was 28 degrees. When we started the vehicle, it was a balmy 13.5 degrees C in Tofino.

13.5 degrees Celsius. We actually turned on the heat for the first time in months!

Our goals of having an adventure and locating cool temperatures were achieved.

It was time to commence the 3 hour trip home to Nanaimo. Hopefully there would be no construction hold ups during the homeward trip.

On the road again…Homeward bound

What did we learn? Always check the weather forecast and road conditions prior to any trip. Be grateful for new experiences.

Keep safe and have fun my friends. The next blog post will be about the B.C. Ferry trip up the Inside Passage from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Seaside trails Travel

Nature Fun in Sunny Nanaimo!

August 2021

We are so thankful to reside on gorgeous Vancouver Island, Canada. During Covid 19 lockdowns non-essential travel was not permitted to our amazing island paradise. As our province currently has over 82% of all residents aged 12 + with at least 1 dose of covid vaccine and over 60% of all people in B.C. fully vaccinated against Covid 19, restrictions are carefully being lifted and travel has resumed once again.

Pipers Lagoon is fun during the day and gorgeous during sunset time.

This blog post shares a few fun ways to explore nature and relax around the Nanaimo area. Piper’s lagoon area with its long spit and choices of swimming in the lagoon or the Pacific Ocean is always a favorite of ours. Whether you are swimming, relaxing, climbing rocks, checking out the trails, or embracing nature and recreation water activities this location has it all!

Practicing safe kayak rolls while the BC ferries pass in the background!

The Pacific ocean surrounds Vancouver Island and is our highway to connect Vancouver Island with the mainland of western Canada. There are 200 Gulf Islands located in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland. Water vessels are common sights from kayaks and SUPs, to sailboats and pleasure crafts, or ferries and freighters.

There are so many beautiful sights when Kayaking around Vancouver Island

If interested in exploring the nearby Gulf Islands, here is a great website to check out. https://www.hellobc.com/places-to-go/gulf-islands/

During the heat waves and sunny summer days, the refreshing Pacific Ocean is a popular location for swimming, kayaking, and playing in the refreshing salt water.

More photos of beautiful Pipers lagoon

Sometimes curious river otters or harbor seals entertain or pop up nearby in the ocean to visit. When the Herring or Pilcher fish are running you can also see sealions and sometimes a magnificent whale, or a small pod, make appearances.

If you prefer a busier, more urban seaside location then downtown Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton park area might be more suited to your taste. There are lovely flat walking areas along the seawall and around the park to the marina area.

Maffeo Sutton park in Nanaimo

Music and Art events occur on a regular basis throughout the summer. The Dragon Boating competitions are held in this location. You can also locate the small walk-on ferry transport vessel which commutes between downtown Nanaimo and Newcastle (Saysutshun) Island and Marine Provincial Park. Another tiny commuter ferry departs from the marina area to the famous floating restaurant Dingy Dock Pub on Protection Island.

Maffeo Sutton Park sculptures and history.

The park embraces the Arts and there are dozens of interesting sculptures and statues reflecting historical figures and events scattered throughout the grounds.

For the sand loving individuals, there are several sandy beaches located just beyond the Nanaimo area. One option is to drive 34 km to Parksville and relax on Rathtrevor beach. Check the tide schedule as low tide requires a lengthy walk to the edge of the ocean!

Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville.

If you prefer to swim and relax on a fresh water lake, there are many options for this too! Long Lake is popular for water sports, swimming, and picnics. Motorized vessels (Sea-Doos, water skiing) must keep to the middle of the lake. Non motorized vessels (kayaks, SUP, big floats stay around the outside of the lake. The Nanaimo Rowing Club has their clubhouse here so it is also common to see rowers practicing. There is a swimming zone by the beach/picnic location.

Relaxing at Long Lake, Nanaimo

For people who prefer more shade and trails through woods or marsh areas, there are extensive opportunities to explore this type of habitat too. One example is the marsh and pond around Oliver Woods park.

Oliver Woods pond and marsh area, Nanaimo

Multiple species of ducks and birdlife can be viewed here as well as amphibians, wild berries, wildflowers, and occasionally a beaver is visible.

Abundant floral displays mainly wild….

My goal was to expose a taste of a few of the beautiful and diverse locations around my home of Nanaimo. In future blog posts I will concentrate on specific hikes or nature explorations in our rainforest or oceans of Vancouver Island.

Meanwhile, I conclude this blog post with another option for relaxation. Let me suggest… reading a wonderful book from a hammock under majestic 120 Foot + evergreen trees.

Cheers! Have a wonderful day!

Stay safe everybody. Cheers from Nanaimo, Canada.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Hiking trails Nature Seaside trails

Seaside Trails. Jack Point/ Biggs Park in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island located off the western coast of British Columbia, Canada is a delight to explore. Today’s blog post shares another gorgeous seaside trail around Nanaimo. In keeping with the emphasis on nature and outdoors, I have added some cheery flowering plants found during June around Nanaimo as an extra bonus in this post.

Jack Point Trail in June

The B.C. Ferries arrive multiple times every day from Vancouver area to dock at one of 3 major terminals on Vancouver Island. The major terminals are Swartz Bay (Victoria), or Departure Bay, or Duke Point (both in the Nanaimo area).

Today’s seaside hiking trail runs along one side of Duke Point. Biggs Point is the name of the 32 acre park which leads to Jack Point. Jack Point is a 5.1 km seaside trail. The elevation gain is only 65 m and the first section along the river is wheelchair accessible.

Scientists were busy studying ocean samples

The trail is quite easy and used for walking, light hiking, and trail running year round. Keep your eyes open for interesting art and sculptures.

Jack Point Trail

Beautiful views of Nanaimo River estuary, downtown Nanaimo, Protection Island, and Gabriola Island can be observed from the trail. Freighters, sailboats, and pleasure craft are common sights.

Nanaimo River estuary

During our previous two hikes at this location, there were over a dozen Great Blue Herons feeding in the initial estuary area in addition to a variety of birds: ducks, shorebirds, cormorants, songbirds, eagles. In spite of all the birdlife, there are still quite a few insects in sections, so arrive prepared.

As you approach Jack Point you will discover wooden stairs and boardwalks over the bluffs. The rock erosion is quite interesting and the bluffs provide wildlife viewing opportunities.

Jack Point… This is where the Humpback whales were active

Bald eagles, sea-lions, seals, and harbour porpoises like to frequent this area. Humpback whales were even sighted breeching in this area recently!

After reaching the Jack Point lookout area (look for the marker in the ocean), you return by retracing your route along the trail through the beautiful trees and along the edge of the ocean which eventually turns into the estuary trail. Watch for the Great Blue Herons feeding at the rock bluffs and in the estuary.

Beautiful Nanaimo seaside trail at Jack Point

Bonus….As promised, here is a collage of a few of the diverse and beautiful flowers you could see while exploring the Nanaimo area on Vancouver Island during June.

A selection of a few flowers found in June in Nanaimo.

Keep positive my friends…The world is carefully returning to the new “normal”. My next blog posts will be sharing more outdoor exploration around Vancouver Island.

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
Beavers Canada Canadian Animals Cats Elk Kayaking Nature Vancouver Island

Beavers, Bears, Beautiful British Columbia!

This blog post is a collage of life events and activities, and Canadian Flora and Fauna, during April (Springtime). From kayaking and wildlife (Beavers, Bears, Elk) to Spring flowers and blossoms on our beautiful Vancouver Island. To round it out, there are a few antics from our 11 month old kitten Sophia and a few Covid Sanity Strategies.

2 week quarantine time for my husband after returning home from working in Ontario.

April 2020 commenced with my husband quarantined in our cabana and the backyard for the first 2 weeks. He had flown home to Nanaimo, B.C. from Toronto, Ontario. It was a peculiar life experience to be physically separated and distanced during the quarantine juration and wear masks and gloves while I delivered and removed food, etc. But….We were successful and healthy, and now have new stories to share about Covid Adaptations.

Meanwhile, Sophia (our 11 month old rescue kitten) and I snuggled and awaited the end of Mark’s two week quarantine.

Sophia our rescue kitten aged 11 months…has learned to snuggle.

Sophia still suffers from anxiety and likes to tunnel or hide under mats, pillows, or blankets to feel more secure when she is frightened. However, she now realizes she gets attention from this behavior and often makes the hiding into a game. I call this one her “turtle” game.

Sophia’s turtle hiding game.

Sometimes, she is just plan curious! She likes to explore anything new from all angles!

Sophia exploring a new collapsible step.

Finally, Mark’s quarantine period concluded, and it was time to venture out together and ‘safely’ explore our “Covid lockdown health region” on Vancouver Island.

Mark and Sandy outside together–April 2020

My son, Alexander, is an Engineer working in Victoria. Due to Covid rules and restrictions, the construction completion of his new apartment was delayed. We assisted (from 2m) by renting a UHaul and bringing his belongings down to Victoria when he finally obtained the keys–April 15th–which also happened to be his birthday!

Alexander’s new digs in Victoria

Spring is a stunning time of the year embracing new growth and reemergence of wildlife after winter hibernation. It is also pollen season. Locate your nearest local honey producer and consume lots of local honey to increase your pollen resistance! It works!

The Crocuses, Daffodils, Tulips, Primroses, Snowdrops, and Heather are some of the early flowers to come into bloom here. The Dogwood, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Cherry and Apple trees, and a multitude of species are popping blossoms sharing an abundance of delectable hues and scents.

April flowers and blossoms galore!

Spring is also a wonderful time to observe and possibly encounter some of the beautiful wildlife on Vancouver Island. The Columbia Black-tailed deer are the deer species located on our island. The life cycle of a Blacktail is 9-10 years in the wild, but only 3-6 years for bucks as they are the target of hunters each fall.

Due to increased Forestry clear-cuts and growing urban areas, these deer are now common in many residential areas. We observe a family visiting our yard to graze nearly every day, so deer resistance plant species, like Forest Flame bushes, Rhododendrons, Heather, and Daffodils are good plants for your gardens.

Out of approximately 3,200 Roosevelt Elk in the Province of British Columbia, roughly 3,000 Roosevelt Elk reside on Vancouver Island. They are quite massive animals and often seen in herds. Approximately 20 elk tags are given out each hunting season. Beyond that, our beautiful creatures are respected and revered. The toll free number if you witness any illegal activity effecting our wildlife is 1-877-952-7277.

Roosevelt Elk herds are majestic creatures.

Black bears are also spotted around the island, especially when they are eating spring shoots or scavenging on rocky beaches to fatten up after their light hibernation period. Estimates indicate there are about 7,000 black bears on Vancouver Island. In the spring sows over aged 5 years are usually seen with 1-4 cubs. Three or four cubs are quite rare, twins are the most common.

Black bears looking for food in Spring time

Watch for bear scat when you are out hiking and be Bear Aware. I have attached a link titled Safety Guide to Bears. https://vancouverisland.com/about/facts-and-information/safety-guide-to-bears/

Although Grizzly Bears were unheard of on Vancouver Island a few decades ago, there have been a few sightings in recent years. It is suspected that some Grizzlies were successful swimming across from the mainland by island hopping en route. There are many talented professional wildlife photographers on Vancouver Island and tours to view our beautiful wildlife are available. Remember, if you see any illegal hunting please phone the toll free line to protect our wildlife from poachers!

The third Canadian animal I am sharing this post is our national symbol of Canada–the Beaver! The Beaver is the symbol on our 5 cent coin and was once nearly eradicated during the Fur Trade era. They are making a come back and although these photos were taken by a friend in northern B.C. (notice the snow), we have Beavers thriving here too usually hiding out in small lakes or marshy ponds. Watch for the chewed tree trunks, piles of small fallen trees, lodges and dams.

The Canadian Beaver…Famous for its amazing flat tail. These photos were from northern B.C.

Our rescue kitten was discovered in the woods too…but her habitat and survival is slightly different from the elk, bears, and beavers!

It’s a tough life for Sophia! lol

The final topic in this blog about April, is Covid Survival Strategies:

  1. Appreciating your neighborhood. Working in your yard. Observing nature and being grateful for what you have. We were so grateful that the Fire Department efficiently and effectively put out the chimney fire for our neighbors.
Fire Department was quick to solve this problem across the street.

2) Dr. Bonnie Henry establishing Covid Safety rules and protocols for the province of British Columbia to help us flatten the curve and keep safer.

Covid physical distancing, rules and protocols. April 2020

3) Learning New Skills and Adapting to Change. After much coercion from my husband, I started cutting his hair! We found that meditation and yoga each morning really helped bring a calmer, healthier perspective to each new day.

Adapting to change during Covid.

4) Using extra lockdown time to sort, organize and downsize or share. We saved money taking the last of our belongings out of our rented storage locker and seriously analyzed whether we really needed these belongings. We discovered some treasures we had forgotten about, some items ready for recycling or garbage, and I gave away boxes of free educational resources to new upcoming teachers.

Getting outdoors to kayak around Nanaimo area.

5) Our final Covid Strategy is get outdoors and experience nature while exercising! Often, this can be walking, hiking, riding your bike, or playing; but in this post I will feature going kayaking in the Pacific Ocean!

Here is a short video of some highlights from 2 consecutive days of kayaking around the gorgeous Pacific ocean surrounding Vancouver Island. We did not see whales or sea lions on these excursions, but seals and river otters are quite common companions.

Video of kayaking around Nanaimo

Thank you for joining my journey throughout the month of April. The next blog post will include more trips and adventures exploring hiking trails, beaches, and natural beauty around Vancouver Island during May. Also, Sophia turns 1 year old!

Keep Safe. The world continues to brighten each week.

Categories
Before Covid 19 Mexican culture Mexican Food Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Reflections–Fun and Sun. Mexico prior to Covid

Reflections and flash backs from our last International trip abroad prior to Covid 19. Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Dec. 2019. Fun in the sun!

Mexican love at our Playa del Carmen resort.

As Covid continues to affect us all globally, and we are increasingly familiar with our homes and yards; it is soothing and peaceful to reflect upon fun and adventure from prior to the global lockdown. This blog post reflects the laughter, sun, and fun from our most recent trip abroad to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I invite you to travel virtually with me to sunny Mexico.

Home base— Sandos Playacar Beach Resort. Playa del Carmen. Mexico

Mark, Lynda and I decided to take a taxi and explore the nearby community of Playa del Carmen. This coastal town is located along the Yucatan Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline. The resort community is located in the Quintana Roo state. Quinta Avenida pedestrian area is a shoppers’ souvenir haven where blocks of shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars are located near the beach.

Lynda had fun posing with the men in cultural bird regalia. We appreciated the colorful street graffiti and I was intrigued with all the beaded art creations for sale.

Quinta Avenida

It was time to catch a taxi and return to the resort as tonight was “Mexican Cultural Extravaganza Night!”. The Sandos provided quite a cultural experience for us–from food, to costumes, dancing (including the traditional Mexican Hat dance), and Mariachi bands. We were immersed and felt the energy, pride and vibrancy from this beautiful country. An added surprise was when they called up visitors celebrating a birthday as I was one! We danced. We laughed. We made lots of noise!

Here is a short video depicting highlights from the Mexican Extravaganza Night at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort.

Mexican Extravaganza at Sando

Within this brief 9 day trip to Playa del Carmen my husband and I have explored the famous ruins of Chichen Itza, swam with catfish in cenotes, explored “Xcaret by Mexico” during the day and evening, and snorkeled at Puerto Morelos Reef National Park.

We have laughed each day while getting reacquainted with dear friends from Orange Beach, Alabama, and definitely celebrated my 60th birthday in style! The warm enticing oceans and pools were appreciated each day as were the endless aspects of staying in an ‘all inclusive resort’. These Mexican adventures have been recorded and celebrated in 5 previous blog posts.

Fun activities around the resort.—Aquafit, yes. Pool table tennis, no.

Our final day was spent relaxing around the resort with our dear friends Terry and Lynda.

Enjoying the lovely resort

Who knew this would be our final gathering in close quarters for an unknown duration due to covid?

Beautiful friends and beautiful meals!

These were days of relaxing in the sun without accompanying face masks and bottles of sanitizer. There were no signs reminding us of 2 meters physical distancing or washing hands with soap regularly while singing the Happy Birthday song two times.

A couple from Canada, a couple from USA, loving being together in beautiful Mexico!

I am grateful to my caring, loving husband who surprised me with this birthday trip to Mexico to celebrate my 60th year. We are appreciative that we reunited with delightful friends, Terry and Lynda. We are thankful that Mexico embraced us and shared their beautiful festive cultures, sun, and history. We are hopeful that once again our world will be free to explore and share with beautiful people from all countries around our magnificent globe.

Our return trip home to Vancouver Island, Canada.

My husband and I returned back to Canada tanned and relaxed. There was no premonition that this would be our last International adventure for an unknown period of time…

Future blog posts will be dedicated to creative ways to keep optimistic and active during covid times… Keep safe my friends!

Categories
Before Covid 19 Mexican culture Mexico Travel Xcaret

Parque Xcaret. “Mexico’s Majestic Paradise”.

December 2019. Our last International trip prior to Covid 19. Is Xcaret Mexico truly the cultural Disneyland of Mexico? This blog post explores the park during the day then includes the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular night performance.

Today we are exploring the multi award winning Xcaret Mexico theme park culminating with the famous evening cultural performance entitled “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” After breakfast we departed from Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort

The distance from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret Park is only 7-8 km. Many resorts promote tours and we booked a few ‘tours’ on the day we arrived in Mexico. If you are looking for a cheaper option, there are buses available (March 2021) for only $1-$10 CA depending on your route and bus company. Taxis are also available for $12-15 CA and take about 10 minutes each way. There are multiple websites to assist your research including: https://www.rome2rio.com

Photo opportunities galore at Xcaret

Once the tour bus drops you at the entrance parking lot and you pick up your Admission package, you are given a 14 page directory/map in the language of your choice and you’re off to explore the park. http://www.xcaret.com

$124.72 CAD per adult (March 2021 price quote) bought us the Xcaret day admission to the park including Xcaret Mexico Espectacular evening performance. Our goal was to focus on areas depicting live animals and wildlife from Mexico prior to attending the evening cultural show.

Xcaret Aviary. So many gorgeous birds including Flamingos, macaws, and quetzal.

For additional $ there were many other tourist based options available including: special dinners, encounters and photo ops with (stingrays, sharks, dolphins, manatees), snorkeling tours, adrenaline fun, massages, etc. In addition, there were photo areas scattered around the park where your photo was taken and you could choose to purchase these photos later in the day.

Various areas of Xcaret

Xcaret is a family fun park which includes a large children’s activity area, cultural presentations around the grounds, beach areas, and man made underground rivers which meander throughout the park. People can be observed maneuvering small kayaks, tubes, or swimming in the narrow rivers as you explore around the park areas.

2 types of Jaguars, Tapir, and Manatees

Xcaret truly is a beehive of activity and offers options to suit various tastes and interests. The grounds of the park are vast and we certainly were not able to experience everything in only one day. Our preference is live fauna and flora from this lovely country of Mexico as well as cultural displays. Our photos are representative of this.

This video highlights our day tour around Xcaret

But the highlight of our experience at Xcaret was yet to come… We were advised to queue in line as soon as the doors opened for the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. Prior to entering the huge auditorium each person was presented with a small cardboard figure and a candle.

The forum reminded me of a Canadian hockey arena after the ice is taken out. We followed the early crowd who immediately claimed seats near the main entrance doors. It turned out to be a prize location to view the elaborate show.

Our view from beside the main entrance doors!

More than 300 artists performed 18 acts prior to an electrifying Grand Finale. The dancing, costumes, singing, bands, horses, massive props, colours, sounds, energy and vibrancy continued non-stop throughout the entire show.

In addition, we witnessed the history of Mexico. The journey took the audience from historical dances and rituals, through Mayan and Aztec culture, to Spanish conquest and the Mexican revolution.

Mesoamerican Ball game and Ball of Fire Game

From the physically rough Mesoamerican ball game and Ball of Fire game to the Volodores (Flying Men) and the traditional Mexican Hat Dance; the entertainment was expansive and expressive.

Of course, the Mariachi bands blared, the shoes stamped, and the skirts swooshed!

Click the video below to see highlights from the evening Xcaret Mexico performance.

An incredible Mexican journey!

The Grand Finale was stunning and the song “Mexico en la Piel” translated means “Mexico on Your Skin“. It is such an appropriate title because as we departed from the Xcaret by Mexico Concert, we felt as though we had been embraced by the the people and culture of Mexico.

I won’t give away any more secrets because in my opinion, this is a show you definitely should see if you are travelling near this area of Mexico! (Playa del Carmen, Cancun).

Categories
Before Covid 19 Birthday Howler Monkeys Mexican Food Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Howler Monkeys Sing at Mexican Birthday!

Before Covid 19. (December 2019) Our last International Trip

My husband surprised me with a trip to sunny, gorgeous Playa del Carmen, Mexico to celebrate my 60th Birthday. We had no idea this would be our final International destination due to the pandemic.

A few highlights from my 60th birthday.

Gratefully, we had a fabulous experience and it was such a memorable way to announce my 6th decade milestone! From relaxing beaches and sunshine to walking snowmen, iguanas, howler monkeys, Mexican hats, food, friends, towels cakes, music and dance. Mexican birthdays are so much fun!!

After an emotional start opening birthday cards and gifts from family back in Canada, we departed from our room at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen to head off for a lovely outdoor brunch in the sun. En route we had quite a surprise when a troupe of Howler monkeys made an appearance outside our suite and the alpha male put on quite a vocalization performance for us.

Howler monkeys sing Happy Birthday! Lol

For fun, I chose to interpret the deep, guttural vocalizations as an attempt to sing Happy Birthday. 🙂 It was the only time we saw and heard the howlers so close during our stay at the resort.

Howlers and Mexican Agouti

After a lovely brunch we explored the grounds and enjoyed the beach with our friends Lynda and Terry. A lady with a snowman passed by….Sure that’s believable? lol . Resort personnel were setting up domes on the beach for an upcoming wedding ceremony while people played beach volleyball or attended a beach aerobics class.

Birthday events

Today…We were fully participating in the relax mode. Besides…We had a birthday dinner reservation tonight!

When Lynda, Terry, Mark and I arrived at the Mexican restaurant, our table was colorfully decorated and we experienced spicy, delightful Mexican cuisine. Our waiter was a friend of Terry and Lynda’s and he made certain everything was extra special for us. Lynda and I donned traditional Mexican hats and a multitude of photos were taken of inebriated tourists!

After dinner we attended the nightly concert entitled Divas which included a talented Celine Dion impersonator. Upon returning to our room, we discovered a birthday fairy had visited! Wow! What a fantastic way to celebrate a 60th birthday. Thanks to my fabulous husband for making this possible!

May I repeat my birthday tomorrow? Just kidding. I highly recommend a Mexican birthday! Here is a short movie showing highlights from our day.

Happy birthday Mexican style!

Tomorrow we have another full day of exciting exploration and discovery. We are heading to Xcaret Mexico for a day of fun followed by the superb cultural night show. Watch for the next blog post!