Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Sea kayaking and swimming at Comox Lake

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     On July 16, with wind warnings for Georgia Strait we decided to head to Comox Lake for some sea kayaking and swimming. We hadn’t been there since November 23, 2014 and this time around the lake had a completely different activity level. Back in late November we were the only people at the launch point and virtually the only people on the lake and now it was congestion city at the boat launch. 
There was lots of activity at the boat launch
      We shared the broad launch area with a canoe, 2 other kayaks and a power boat that were either landing or heading out. Actually everything ran smoothly and soon we were out on the lake with lots of other paddleboarders, power boats and even a couple of sail boats. We decided to head across to the other side to check out the beaches near the bridge.  It took us just 20 minutes to paddle over to the gravelly beaches and we had a stellar view of Comox Glacier and the surrounding mountains. Winds were light on the lake and the water was very warm so we paddled in our swim suits so that we could swim once we landed.  On our next trip to this area we plan to head further down the lake but given the great swimming we decided to linger on the shore instead. 
The Comox Glacier and surrounding mountains form a scenic backdrop to Comox Lake
    We recommend checking out Comox Lake when the ocean around Courtenay- Comox is windy since this area may not be affected. Of course another bonus is that you don’t have to consider the tide and the water is great for swimming during the summer. For anyone not familiar with this launch point - drive through the town of Cumberland and follow the Comox Lake signs. The boat launch is at Cumberland Lake Park (GPS coordinates - 10 U 0349475 E 5449247 N).  There is also a large beach area near the boat launch for swimming which is very popular in the summer. Be aware that Comox Lake is not always so placid, it can blow up so watch the weather and plan your route accordingly.
The beach at Cumberland Lake Park is also a great place to swim

Try Comox Lake when winds are strong on the ocean.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Exploring the new suspension bridge at Elk Falls Provincial Park

by Keith and Heather Nicol  
New suspension bridge
 On Tuesday, July 14 we decided to check out Elk Falls near Campbell River and the new suspension bridge that has been built there.  Keith’s brother Bruce and his wife Mary Ellen were visiting from Victoria and they were also keen to see this area. The new suspension bridge spans Campbell River in Elk Falls Provincial Park and offers stellar views of the river as it plunges 25 meters over a picturesque waterfall.  The new suspension bridge opened in mid May, 2015 and by the looks of number of people that were walking the roughly 1 km trail from the parking lot to the bridge, it has been very successful in attracting visitors. 

Elk Falls as seen from the new suspension bridge
     We also walked an 800 meter side trail to get down to the river where it rushes over over sloping bedrock.  The water was very turbulent and all you can see is white water before the river drops over the falls. 
Heather sits on the rock overlooking the river before it descends over the falls
   There are also other hiking trails in the area but we recommend the 800 meter Old Growth Loop which passes by some huge trees that have never been logged. These trees also managed to avoid a devastating fire in 1938 which burned much of the timber in the surrounding area. Evidently 1938 was the driest summer in 64 years and the forest was tinder dry. The fire was evidently set off by a logger who accidently dropped a pick on a rock and a spark set off the dry grass near his feet.  For more information on the park see: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/elk_falls/  

Check out the Old Growth trail while you are in the park

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Swimming and tubing in Courtenay’s Puntledge River – Part 2.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     The summer of 2015 is proving to be hot and dry on Vancouver Island and keeping cool is the name of the game. Courtenay’s Puntledge River certainly has lots of appeal since it flows from clean  Comox Lake and there are several places to swim in the river as well as sections that are perfect for tubing. Tubing seems to be an institution in Courtenay and a previous post: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2015/06/tubing-and-swimming-in-puntledge-river.html  describes a couple of places to swim and tube. Since then we have tubed  from the fish hatchery on Powerhouse Road to Lewis Park and have discovered Nymph Falls which is amazing for swimming. The section from Powerhouse Road to Puntledge Park is abit faster and rockier than the lower section from Puntledge Park to either the Condensory Bridge or Lewis Park. First timers or those with younger children may want to do just the lower section from Puntledge Park and we suggest the pull out at Condensory Bridge since the last part is very slow, especially if there is a high tide. For the upper section on Powerhouse Road drive to the fish hatchery gate and park your car along the road. Walk around the gate and down the road and part way down you will see a sign pointing to “Tubers Trail” and take that to the put in. This trail is abit steep in places and there is a rope to help you down the last section.  We have used a kayak paddle to help steer and manoeuvre but most people don’t use one and we also use kayak booties since you may need to push off a rock or get out of your tube and this footware makes it easier to walk on the rocky river bed. Also remember “bums up” in the rapids since the river is low at this time.  

Kristie riding the waves 
     Nymph Falls Nature Park is a gem of spot for walking, biking and especially swimming this summer. It is located just out of Courtenay on the Forbidden Plateau Road and a short 500 meter trail takes you from the parking  lot to scenic Nymph Falls. Here there are exposed flattish rocks which are popular places to layout a towel and lots of pools to swim in. We took our daughter Kristie who was there on a recent visit in early July and it is a great spot to bring a lunch or a book and relax by the sound of rapidly flowing water.
Heather swimming in one of the pools at Nymph Falls
Kristie and Heather under a small water fall at Nymph Falls

Friday, 3 July 2015

Hiking Linton`s Trail to the top of Mt Washington Alpine Ski Resort

by Keith and Heather Nicol      
      To celebrate July 1 we decided to head up to Mt. Washington and hike to the top of the mountain with our daughter Kristie who was visiting from Vancouver. We had taken the chairlift ride early in June and were blown away by the view (see post:  http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2015/06/ride-mt-washingtons-summer-chairlift.html) . Since Kristie likes to hike we decided to take the Linton’s trail to the top of the mountain. This trail starts right from the base and is flagged with red markers so the trail is easy to follow. It is just over 2 km long which makes it accessible for many hikers but be aware this trail does climb to the top of the Eagle Chair (vertical rise of 1650 feet) so bring water and hike it in the morning before it gets too hot. Courtenay is in the midst of a heat wave at the present time but we had a nice breeze and the trail winds through the trees in places which is appreciated in terms of keeping cool. Allow about an hour to hike the trail. 

Kristie taking some pictures from the lookout platform

     There is a great lookout platform near the top and once we reached the summit we took the Top of the World trail to get spectacular views in all directions. There are other trails that reach to summit and we plan to check those out in cooler conditions. A great bonus is that once you reach the top you can ride the lift down (last ride is at 5:00 pm) which is a fine way to end a hike. For more information on summer activities at Mt Washington see: https://www.mountwashington.ca/

Kristie looking toward Quadra Island and Campbell River

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Tubing and swimming in the Puntledge River in Courtenay- Part 1

by Keith and Heather Nicol    

On Friday, June 26 we decided to check out the swimming and tubing on Puntledge River which flows through Courtenay. With the start of a weeklong hot spell of weather with forecasted temperatures in the high 20C and low 30C we thought we better get acquainted with swimming options available locally. In Newfoundland we would normally have to wait until late July or early August to get fresh water warm enough to swim in so June swimming is definitely a novelty.

Puntledge Park has some great swimming areas
     We had also seen lots of people tubing down the Puntledge River so we thought we should definitely do that as well. We thought for our first time we would put in at Puntledge Park and tube down to Lewis Park. We borrowed some old truck inner tubes from some friends and used our sea kayak paddles to help steer. The low flow meant that you definitely had to be “bums up” through the rapids and we fortunately chose the right channels so didn’t end up having to walk through the shallow areas. The kayak paddle seemed to help with steering and propulsion especially in the slower near Lewis Park. Next time our plan is to pull out at the Condensory Bridge which will avoid the slower section at the lower end of the river. We also want to try the upper section from the Fish Hatchery off of Powerhouse Road for a longer and more exciting run.See blog post -http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2015/07/swimming-and-tubing-in-courtenays.html for more information on tubing the Puntledge River in Courtenay. 
Keith tubing the Puntledge using a kayak paddle to help steer
Heather tackling the waves