Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Geocaching in the Comox Valley, Vancouver Island

by Keith and Heather Nicol
   Geocaching  started 18 years ago in Oregon and refers to the hiding of a “cache” whose geographic
Eric finding his first cache at Kye Bay
coordinates are listed on the internet. The idea is for other people to try to find the “cache” which may vary in size from a large mayonnaise jar to small containers the size of a dime. In a large cache there may be a log book to sign and small trinkets to exchange like a marbles or other small toys. Obviously in a cache the size of a dime there may be just a small roll of paper for you to sign. Many of these caches are found in parks or along trails and they are a fun way to add variety to a walk or hike. We like to use it when we are new to an area to learn about different places to explore.
Heather with a large cache near Nymph Falls
 We have always used GPS units to find geocaches but with the advent of smart phones you can now get apps to for your phone to allow you geocache without the expense of getting a GPS unit. Since we like using handheld GPS units we still geocache with those. The Comox Valley has literally 100’s of geocaches and information about their location , what size they etc can be found on the following web site: https://www.geocaching.com/.  You need to register and you can use the free membership or if you want extras you can become a premium member. Over the May long weekend we found caches at Nymph Falls and Kin Beach. On the Mother’s Day weekend our kids were visiting and our daughter’s boyfriend Eric got to try his hand at finding caches when we walked along the Kye Bay beach.  So try geocaching if you want practice navigating with a GPS and exploring new areas.
The water was rushing at Nymph Falls on the weekend

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Butchart Gardens is a perfect choice for Mother’s Day

Our favourites were the fringed tulips

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      Butchart Gardens has a well deserved reputation for its colourful and varied gardens and receives an amazing 1,000,000 visits a year! The gardens have been running for over 100 years and started when Jennie Butchart decided to rehabilitate a limestone quarry which had been used to supply her husband’s cement plant! And a perfect time to take in the gardens is for Mother’s Day which is coming up this weekend. The tulips are in full bloom and are a highlight of the gardens at the present time. They come in some many colours and shapes—and keep an eye out for our favourite – the colourful fringed tulips. Also in bloom are a variety of cherry and other trees as well as rhododendrons. 
More tulips grace the foreground of the fountain viewpoint
 The temperatures when we visited on Sunday, May 6th were ideal. Just warm enough to enjoy the sunshine while walking through the colourful display of flowers spread over 55 acres. We were visiting with my brother and his wife Mary Ellen and they enjoy coming to the gardens since they can also take their dog, Keita. One of the staff we spoke to said they thought the gardens were about 2 weeks behind this year due to cool weather which might be an advantage since it means that the tulips are still in good shape.  We have visited the gardens on a few occasions and are always impressed with the work that has gone into the magnificent flower displays. We go away inspired to make our own home garden abit more colourful. We finished our garden tour with a gelato cone which we enjoyed at a shady table in the Italian garden.  There are special Mother’s Day events planned at Butchart Gardens for May 13 so check out: https://www.butchartgardens.com/ for details. 
We enjoyed a gelato in the Italian Garden

Tulips are currently featured in many of the flower beds

Monday, 30 April 2018

The 36th Royal Lepage Snow to Surf Race was a blast to compete in

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Just before the start of my cross country ski leg
      The annual Snow to Surf Race was a bunch of fun and a great way to meet people. It is also the longest running multi-stage event in Canada and this year celebrated its 36th anniversary. We had watched this event a couple of years ago but other commitments (including buying a house with a closing date on the same weekend as the event) had prevented us from entering it in the past. But this year I was contacted by a team from Parksville who needed a cross country skier and jumped at the chance to join a team. Island Cycle has been competing for a several years and team organizer Doug Herchmer told me that they had made the podium in the 40 plus age category (Grand Masters Men) in the some years but had come in 4th last year out of 6 teams. “We are hoping to get back on the podium this year” he told me. 
The road bike route is about 25 km and the longest leg
      For readers that aren’t familiar with the event it starts at Mt Washington Alpine Ski area with an alpine skier , who then touches cross country skier. The next 2 legs are run legs followed by a mountain biker who passes to a sea kayaker. The final legs are a taken over by a road biker, followed by a short run which connects to the final stage- canoeing down the Puntledge River to the Comox Marina. This year there were 117 teams and so in all there are close to 1000 athletes involved. And they come from all over Vancouver Island with some teams coming from the mainland. This year the fastest teams came across the finish line in just 3:16.02!!  Our team came in 43rd overall and we were over an hour behind the winners. Our time of 4:32.52 was good enough for 5th in our age class out of 9 teams so no podium this year. In “justifying” our overall time Doug did point out that we were one of the oldest teams in the event so perhaps 43rd out of 117 wasn’t too bad.  
Canoers coming into the finish line at Comox Marina
      The whole event finishes with an awards ceremony and social/beer garden in the Comox Marina Park which was a perfect way to rehash the event and chat to other teams.  If you can do one of these activities listed above and have not been in this event, think about putting in a team for next year. Or if you can’t create a team, teams are often looking for specific people to fill in for certain spots so you can join a team like I did. For more information on this event check out this web site: http://www.snowtosurf.com/

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Snowbirds here for just a couple more days

 by Keith and Heather Nicol
The Snowbirds are back practicing in Comox but will be here just a couple more days. We saw them
for their Sunday morning show under clear blue skies and the grassy fields at Air Force Beach were packed with on lookers. The setting is spectacular overlooking the Strait of Georgia with the snow capped mountains of Coast Range behind. Here is one schedule we found on line-

Mon-Fri: 9:40am – 10:25am & 12:45pm – 1:30pm
The  planes can leave some impressive jet trails

Sat: 9:10am – 9:55am & 12:45pm – 1:30pm
Sun: 9:45am – 10:30am & 1:00pm – 1:45pm
CF-18 Hornet
Mon-Sat 12:05pm – 12:34pm & 3:45pm – 4:15pm
Sun: 12:15pm – 12:45pm & 3:45pm – 4:15pm
and don’t forget to bring your camera and lawn chair. You don’t need a fancy camera to capture the action since you have a front row seat for the performance.One person we spoke to said that tomorrow's show may be their last depending on weather so don't delay.
The setting is perfect with the mountain and ocean view- The Powell River ferry can be seen at the bottom of picture
We loved the spiraling action sequences

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Using shadows to improve your cross country skiing

by Keith and Heather Nicol
  In the ski lessons that I teach I like to give students a way of checking their ski improvement through the season.  Of course one way to do this is to take more lessons (which is great for ski instructors) but for skiers that don’t have instructors close by or can’t find an instructor at the last minute here are is an idea that may help you improve- watch your shadow.
Watching your shadow can improve your skiing
      Shadows can help you see what arm position you have or how flexed your ankles and knees are. At the early season Supercamps at Silver Star – Sovereign Lake B.C.  I used this with many of my classes. I told my students that cross country skiing is a lifelong learning process and the only way to really get better is to aim for perfect practice. The old saying that “practice makes perfect” really should be adjusted to “perfect practice makes perfect”.  We used video tape feedback frequently in the  Supercamp classes but I mentioned to my students that a quick way to get immediate feedback while you ski is to look at your shadow when the sun is behind you.  Shadows can’t tell you everything but I find that they are particularly useful for checking arm (are my arms at 90 degrees at the initiation of poling?) and torso position (do I crunch my upper body to start the poling cycle in double poling or 1 skate?).  In the photo above I am checking my arm swing in free skate.  For a you tube video on this topic see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xy62ShlWBQ&t=3s