Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Exploring Lazo Marsh and the Goose Spit "stairmaster" in Comox

by Keith and Heather Nicol
We saw lots of red winged blackbirds
      With great weather in the forecast we decided to check out some hiking trails in the Comox Valley area. First on our list was a trail along Lazo March which is easily accessed on Lazo Road in Comox. The parking lot is at coordinates 10 U0363587E and 55052298N and there is a large trail head sign titled Northeast Woods-Lazo Marsh Conservation Area which shows a map with numerous trails in the area. We opted for a 1 km loop that traversed through large second growth forest and led to a boardwalked lookout over the marsh. When we visited on Monday, February 23rd the place was full of a variety of birds from ducks to red winged blackbirds and many song birds.  We even saw a red headed wood pecker and a pileated wood pecker!  This trail is suited to a wide range of walkers and we saw many people on this trail enjoying the sun, warm temperatures and abundant bird life.
Heather looking over part of Lazo Marsh
  From there we backtracked to the Nob Hill Greenway trail which is located at the base of Goose Spit. Goose Spit is a popular place to walk, beach comb and sea kayak and we did numerous sea kayaking trips in this area last November. Our choice this time was to climb the Nob Hill Greenway trail which is very short but is full of stairs (coordinates: 10 U 0362916E and 5503358N). On this day we saw many people using it as an outdoor stairmaster since they would run up the stairs and then back down the stairs only to repeat the whole thing again and again. The first set of stairs is only about 150 meters long and has about 170 stairs in total.  This first section exits at Yates Road and some people walk or run back along it to the start of the trail. The second section continues on uphill to Moore/Butchers Road and it has fewer stairs and is about the same length. From there the route back to the start is much further and it seems that few people do this option. The views from the trail back over Goose Spit are superb so bring a camera on this trail. 
We saw lots of people running up and down the Nob Hill Greenway trail

The view of Goose Spit in Comox harbour from the top of trail

Monday, 16 February 2015

Walking the trails at Miracle Beach and the Oyster River Nature Park

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather and Christine walking along a Miracle Beach trail
     On Saturday, February 14 we decided to take advantage of the sunny, warm day to try some of the short hiking trails in the Miracle Beach – Oyster River area of  eastern Vancouver Island. This area is just north of Comox and we met Christine Gorvall at her beach front house near Miracle Beach Provincial Park who offered to be our guide for the afternoon.  We parked near Black Creek at coordinates 10 U 03449017E 5523999N and Christine lead us down a trail along the creek to the broad sandy beach. There were lots of other people out enjoying the exceptionally nice winter weather. We heard sea lions barking in the distance and saw ducks dabbled along the shore. The trail that we took was just 650 meters long (1 way) and although we returned along the same route there were many other trail options and overall there are about 2 km of trail in the park.  Christine mentioned that in the summer this is a very popular place to walk, swim and camp. For more information see: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/miracle_bch/ 
Miracle Beach looks out on to Georgia Strait and the mountains of the B.C. Coast
From Miracle Beach we headed to Oyster River Nature Park where we parked at the trail head  at coordinates 10 U 0347154E 5526427N. Here we did a looped trail which wound through tall second growth forest. Along the way we could see huge stumps which showed just how large the original trees in this area must have been. Even though we have just come off several days of rain the trail was generally quite dry except for the occasional wet spots. We ended up at the ocean where the Oyster River spills into the sea. There were lots of wave washed trees along the shore and several people sat in the sun on some of the south facing logs. We returned along a trail that paralleled the river. Over all the trail was about 2.8 km return. For more information see: http://csd.nic.bc.ca/~g112/oyster.html.  Both of these areas are suited to a wide variety of walkers and we look forward to coming back to explore them more in the future. 
A foot bridge along one of the Oyster River Nature Park trails

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Be sure to see the World Community Film Festival when it comes to town

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    On Friday evening, February 6th we headed down to the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay, B.C.  to check out the first night of the 24th World Community Film Festival. There was a huge turnout for the films “Becoming Bulletproof” and “Reaching Blue” that opened the festival.  Like many of the films in this festival these two films focused on social and environmental issues.  On Saturday, February 7th the festival organizers showed 19 other films in four venues that dealt with a wide variety of social, environmental and economic consequences of human activity at both local and international levels. They also showed nine films as part of a family programme.  Overall we saw several films and enjoyed them all. We thought “The man who stopped the desert”, “American Revolutionary-The evolution of Grace Lee Boggs”, ”Bulletproof” and “Damnation” were particularly good. We hope to see the many films we missed through the World Community lending library. 
There were several venues for the festival including the Native Sons Hall shown here
     World Community which is headquartered in the Comox Valley is to be commended for organizing this event. And a great aspect of this event is that it travels to a variety of B.C. and other Canadian locations over the coming months. We have already told some of our friends in Kamloops, Duncan and Vancouver the dates that it will be in their communities. In addition to the films,  World Community also organized a Saturday Bazaar and evening banquet for the event. Overall we were very impressed with the festival and the organizers must feel encouraged by the large turnouts for the films. For more information on World Community and the travelling film festival see: http://www.worldcommunity.ca/  
Heather (right) chats to Lucas Schuller with the Cumberland Museum at the bazaar

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A quick winter visit to Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park

by Keith and Heather Nicol
View near the Amphitrite Lighthouse
     We decided to take advantage of a good weather forecast on Friday, January 16th to head to the Tofino area on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island. Although Thursday was rainy and windy, Friday’s forecast was for sunny skies and highs of 10 C and so we quickly arranged some accommodation and set out from Courtenay around noon. We arrived about 3 hours later and checked in. The forecast was pretty much bang on and although the wind buffeted our Ucluelet guesthouse that night, it did dawn sunny with light winds the next morning. First we hiked a portion of the Wild Pacific trail in Ucluelet which we loved. The huge waves rolled in smashing on rocks and tossing spray many meters into the air. Be sure to see the Amphitrite Lighthouse which is on the upper end of the 8 km trail. From there we checked out the Ancient Cedars trail which passes by some monstrous trees and we highly recommend this 1 km loop which is located near the lower end of the Wild Pacific trail. 
Keith along the well named Wild Pacific Trail
     We then worked our way north toward Tofino stopping at Florencia Beach and Long Beach. Close to 40 years ago we had visited Long Beach and at that time you could camp on the beach and the entire area was much less developed. You can’t camp on the beach now but there were lots of people beach walking , taking advantage of a fine mid winter day. We also took a drive up Radar Hill but by now the clouds had begun to roll in so our views were truncated. That evening we checked into the Tofino Travellers Guesthouse which we suggest for anyone looking for great value while staying in this area (see blog below for more details). 

Heather walking along Florencia Beach
 Saturday, January 17th we visited the Eagle Aerie Gallery in Tofino which features  the amazing work of  artist, Roy Vickers. We also visited North Chesterman Beach and the surfers were out in force. This area has certainly become a surfer’s destination and it showed by the dozens of people out playing in the big waves that were rolling in. By mid afternoon the showers returned in earnest so we decided to head back to Courtenay realizing that we had just touched the surface of what this area has to offer. We can’t wait to return!  For more information check out Ucluelet (http://ucluelet.ca/ ) and Tofino tourism (http://www.tourismtofino.com/) . 
Surfing is alive and well at Chesterman Beach

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Tofino Travellers Guesthouse is a great find

by Keith and Heather Nicol
The Tofino Travellers Guesthouse is a gem.
      In mid January we visited Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island’s west coast and we stayed at the Tofino Travellers Guesthouse. If you are looking for great value you can’t do much better than this cozy house in downtown Tofino. Its central location means that you can walk to get groceries and other necessities but its real charm is the host, Nick Jacquet . Nick goes out of his way to make you feel at home and has created a warm and welcoming place to stay. We had seen reference to how helpful Nick was in “Trip Advisor” and it is all true in our experience. “Trip Advisor’s”  4.5 star rating is well deserved. 
We stayed in a private room with 2 double beds and an attached bath
     There is a well stocked kitchen with a long table produced out of local cedar which makes for great communal meals. You can stay in dorm type rooms but we opted for a private room with very comfortable beds and an attached bathroom. In the common room Nick has installed a wood stove that he regularly stoked up throughout the evening.  Most of the people staying there were 20-30 year olds from Germany, Spain and Australia and in no time people were swapping stories and travel experiences. Nick told us that he gets a huge cross section of ages staying there from families with young children to 80 year olds.  
The well stocked kitchen is a great for those that want to make their own meals
    And another bonus is the delicious waffles he serves for breakfast which is included in the price! You can’t go wrong with staying at the Tofino Travellers Guesthouse but be sure to book ahead since Nick told us he fills up quickly and has lots of repeat customers. For more information see: http://www.tofinotravellersguesthouse.com/ .     
Nick serving Heather a fluffy waffle for breakfast