Thursday, 20 July 2017

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

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      Mt Washington Alpine Ski Resort is a great place to see alpine wild flowers and so far this
Enjoy the wildflowers in bloom along the trail
summer we had not been up to check them out. So when my brother, Bruce and his wife, Mary Ellen (who were here for MusicFest) wanted to head up we jumped at the chance. They had never been to the top of the mountain and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Mt Washington Ski Resort is just 30 minutes for the Courtenay-Comox area and offers great views of the Salish Sea as well as the Mt Albert Edward and the Comox Glacier. There are several hiking trails to the top of the mountain but the only one open at this time was the Linton’s Trail which is about 2.1 km to the top. Although you gain 1650 feet the trail is generally not too steep and is suited to a wide range of hikers. We wore either running shoes or light hikers but bring a wind shell since temperatures and wind can make it cooler at the top. Allow anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes to do the hike depending on often you stop to take pictures. 
View toward Campbell River and Quadra Island
     We were not disappointed with the large variety of wildflowers in bloom and the views were very
The jays are ``friendly``
impressive. Both Bruce and Mary Ellen said the vistas were much better than they expected `` I had no idea they mountains up here are so rugged`` Mary Ellen said. We had lunch at a picnic table on top of the mountain and even fed the pesky jays. You can look back to the Courtenay- Comox area, north to Campbell River and Quadra Island but the most impressive views are to the southwest of Mt. Washington.  Here you can see Mt Albert Edward and the Comox Glacier as well as many other rugged peaks. Be sure to bring your camera since the vistas are spectacular. 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:
View to the south toward the Comox Glacier and Strathcona Park

Sea kayaking around Goose Spit in Comox, B.C.

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather launching from the sandy beach
     Goose Spit is a popular walking, campfire, standup paddle board and sea kayak destination in the Comox Valley of Vancouver Island. The sandy – gravelly spit stretches over 2 km into Comox Harbour and we usually launch on the lagoon side since the carry to the water is relatively short especially on a high tide. My brother and sister in law were visiting for MusicFest and had brought their kayaks with them from Victoria. They had not paddled in this area before so since high tide was in the middle of the day on July 18 we decided to pack a lunch and go for a paddle.  A real bonus of this area is that it is protected on the lagoon side so on days when it is abit windy and wavy on the outside this provides a good place to kayak. Also the views of the Comox Glacier are outstanding.  

Mary Ellen paddling past sailboats with the Comox Glacier in the background
  We paddled around the end of the spit and part way along the south side of the spit before turning around and heading back to the sandy section near the tip of the spit where we pulled out and had lunch. The view of the Comox Glacier is directly ahead and it was a popular place to come into shore and we saw 2 other groups of kayakers doing the same thing. Goose Spit is the perfect place to go if you are just getting into kayaking since there are lots of places to pull in and the water is generally quite flat. To get to Goose Spit take Hawkins Road and there is lots of parking along the lagoon side. 
The end of the spit provides many places to pull in and have lunch

Monday, 17 July 2017

MusicFest 2017 ends with another great day of music

By Keith and Heather Nicol
We like the smaller venues like the Grassy Knoll- Maria Dunn
     Courtenay's Vancouver Island MusicFest came to a close on Sunday, July 16 and we wished we could have cloned ourselves to be in several places at once. We were constantly torn about which venue to head to. It started with a great opening on the main concert bowl with an amazing Gospel – Spiritual set with a group of fine musicians joining forces. Then it was off to the Grassy Bowl to catch our one of our favourite bands of the day – 3Tir. We love Celtic music and these guys put on a memorable show. Then Maria Dunn came on stage with her music with a social conscience.  She and her group were another special find. 
The "Remembering Chuck Berry" session included many of his best known songs
       Back to main concert bowl to hear another group jam titled “Remembering Chuck Berry”. This energetic set got the crowd up and dancing. At 2:15 it was off to the another group session called “Voices from the Blood and the Mud” which also featured lots of dancing music. We then took a break but returned to hear another Celtic group called Tillers Folly in the Barn. Although they are from the west coast they did play “Sonny’s Dream”- one of our favourite songs from Newfoundland legend Ron Hynes.
The crowd at Sunday's Main Concert Bowl event
It was Estonian Eev Talsi's first visit to Canada
     We finished the day at the Concert Bowl where we heard a mix of music ranging from the award  
winning Curly Strings from Estonia. They were followed by the Bare Naked Ladies who had the huge crowd up and singing along. The night ended with another one of our new favourite Celtic bands- Enter the Haggis which put on an energetic finish to the day. Congrats to all who put on an amazing 3 days of music. If you missed this year's event, we won't rub it in. Just get your tickets early for next year. For more info:

The Bare Naked Ladies were another headliner group

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Vancouver Island MusicFest sold out again

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Dancing up a storm at MusicFest
     Although there were tickets available on Friday July 14 for MusicFest, they disappeared quickly on Saturday and MusicFest is now sold out once again. And you can see why with the strong line up of musicians for Saturday and Sunday. Headliners include Bruce Cockburn, Rita Coolidge for Saturday and the Bare Naked Ladies for Sunday. But just as important are all the other acts that come from all over North America and Europe and some of these musicians produced some of the most memorable performances of the day.
The Grierson Stage is popular for getting lots of musicians on stage at once
David Vest played the Woodland Stage
    We love the Grierson Stage since it often brings together a wide range of musicians with a  common theme or instrument.  In fact on Saturday we spent much of the day there listening to sessions titled “ Grooves in Orbit”, “The violin lives here” and “The writer is the witness”.One of the treats of the day from our perspective was hearing David Vest play on the Woodland Stage which is well suited to smaller audiences. David is a great piano player and fine story teller and we made a note to see more of him. We also liked Daoiri Farrell who hails from Ireland and brings with him classic Irish humour and an arresting voice.

Rita Coolidge has had a stellar musical career

   Later in the main Concert Bowl, Rita Coolidge and Bruce Cockburn wowed the crowd with their  legendary music which has spanned decades.They each sang old favourites as well as material from their new recordings. The weather couldn’t have been better on this day and the Vancouver Island MusicFest lived up to its crowd pleasing ways.  For more information see:
Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada's best known musicians

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Vancouver Island MusicFest is just getting going

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Checking out some hats at one of many booths
     The weather was perfect for the first acts of the Vancouver Island MusicFest (VIMF) held in Courtenay on Friday July 14. The main stage grounds were lined with booths selling clothing and crafts as well as all sorts of food and when we arrived at 4:00 pm it was packed with concert goers. On the first afternoon and evening the organizers have 2 stages going-the main concert bowl and the “barn”.  We opted for the sun and open field of the main concert bowl and were looking forward to hearing Quetzal and Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert before supper.  There must have been some scheduling issues since instead of the Chicano Rock sound of Quetzal (the hail from Los Angeles) we heard Rachelle Van Zanten singing about the Canadian North. But that is part of the fun of the VIMF there are always great surprises just around the corner. Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert put on a fine show playing their rock and roll/country mix.  These guys have been around for decades and have played with many of the greats like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.  Later on Friday evening in the main concert bowl there would be a wide range of musicians playing everything from classically music to the energetic reggae and blues of Ilam who hails originally from Senegal in Africa. Friday evening was headlined by country music legend Emmylou Harris.
The Centre Bowl was already lines with chairs at 4;00 pm on Friday
  We are looking forward to a catching the wide range of performers on Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16 and are especially looking forward to hearing some of the musicians playing celtic music. There is such a wide range of music on the programme that we are sure we will get our eyes and ears opened to some performers and styles of music that we never knew existed. And of course there are some big names to see like the Bare Naked Ladies, Rita Coolidge and Bruce Cockburn.  There are still day tickets available so drop on down to the Exhibition Grounds in Courtenay to catch some memorable music. More info at
Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert in the Concert Bowl