Thursday, 18 January 2018

Views of the Salish Sea presents an interesting history of the Salish Sea

   by Keith and Heather Nicol
Add this new book to your bookcase
     Views of the Salish Sea by Howard MacDonald Stewart is a new book that will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in the Salish Sea. With roughly 2/3rds of British Columbia’s population living near Georgia Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca (the Salish Sea) it is now one of the fastest growing places in Canada.  Historically it was also an attractive place to live and this has meant that there have been many changes that have occurred related to resources, interactions with first nations people, recreation and water pollution. The book focuses on a mix of these topics spanning the changes that have occurred in the last 150 years. Chapter headings include the sea as a barrier and highway, interactions with native peoples and early settlement, on shore activities like mining and forestry, fishing and aquaculture, the sea as a waste dump, and recreation on and along the Salish Sea. The final chapter deals with what the future might hold for this important body of water.

 The book will appeal to anyone interested in a history of this area from a variety of viewpoints. As newcomers to this area (we moved to Courtenay 3 years ago) we enjoyed seeing how local aspects of history fit into the larger narrative. For instance we like hiking and exploring the area around Union Bay (just south of Courtenay) and enjoyed seeing old photos of some of the coal washing infrastructure that was built in the late 1880’s on Baynes Sound.  Coal was mined in Cumberland and shipped out at Union Bay. Views of the Salish Sea links this activity at Union Bay to some of the other coal mining operations owned by the Dunsmuir’s in Nanaimo.

Heather at the old coal washing area at Union Bay

   We also enjoyed reading about Mack Laing (whose old house we have walked past many times near Brooklyn Creek in Comox) and how he promoted an appreciation of natural history. Evidently he was one of several naturalists and artists who were attracted to the Comox Valley for its beauty and wildlife. The book is also critical of how we managed resource extraction issues of over fishing or overharvesting of timber and how we have mismanaged municipal sewage and pulp mill effluent . The author reminds us that this attitude must change and “it is our duty to care for this place with the care it deserves”. Views of the Salish Sea is published by Harbour Publishing and is a worthy addition to your bookcase. For more information see:
Mack Laing historic house along the Comox waterfront

Monday, 15 January 2018

Cross country skiing at Mount Washington was spring like on January 14th

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Sunny above with cloud below
     Initially we were not sure if we were going to go cross country skiing on Sunday, January 14th at Mount Washington but when we saw the thick fog in Courtenay and the sunny skies on the MW web cams we couldn’t resist. One down side of weekend cross country skiing at MW is that it gets crowded and the parking lot can fill up quickly so we opted to arrive early. This proved to be a good bet since when we left in the mid afternoon we saw cars parked along the side of road almost to the Hawk Chair!

      But even if you had a bit of walk the skiing and the skiing and views would have been worth it. We mainly skied the trails Strathcona Park but the views from “Far East” were superb of the valley cloud/fog covering Georgia Strait while we were in the bright sun.  That trail is many people’s favourite and you can see why given the open skiing and expansive views. We joined up with one of our ski buddies Doug Rose and decided that with the soft conditions that classic skiing was the way to go. 

Doug Rose skiing along the Ponds Trail
   Another bonus is having lunch on the sunny deck of Raven Lodge with the views of Mt Albert Edward and the surrounding range in the distance. Temperatures reached 10 C on Sunday afternoon and seemed even warmer on the deck.There were lots of families up there sliding, skiing and snowshoeing and everyone was wearing a big grin. And you don’t have to ski or snowshoe to enjoy Raven Lodge- you can simply drive out the cloud and fog in the valley and have a meal in the sun! But be sure to check the web cams since it is not like this everyday.  The cams can be viewed at: at the top of the page and click on the Nordic cam to get views of the area around Raven Lodge area. 

The sunny deck and Raven Lodge was packed on Sunday, Jan 14

Keith skiing along "Far East" with the mountains of the BC mainland behind

Monday, 1 January 2018

Try the Coffee Cup drill to improve your classic and skate skiing

By Keith and Heather Nicol

Skiing with no weightshift
We just returned from teaching in the early season Supercamps that are held every year at Silver Star and Sovereign Lake located near Vernon in B.C.’s Interior. Supercamp offers cross country skiers a chance to get on snow early in the season and learn from some of the best instructors and coaches in North America (  As an instructor at the most recent Supercamp I asked my participants what drill they thought improved their skiing the most and they frequently said the “Coffee Cup drill”. 

     We used this drill for skiers who had incomplete weight shift in both classic and skate skiing. By incomplete weight shift I mean that both skis stay in the snow as the skier pushes back. When applied to classic skiing the idea is to get skiers to hold the glide over one ski at a time as shown in the photo below. Bringing your hand up to our mouth as if you are drinking a cup of coffee really helps bring the body over the glide ski.  Once the feeling of solid weight shift is established you can try skiing without bringing your hand to your face. 
The Coffee Cup drill helps improve your weight shift and get over the glide ski
 The beauty of this drill is that it can also be applied to skate skiers who fail to get their body weight over the glide ski as shown here.  If you apply the coffee cup drill to skating you can now commit to each ski much more easily which really improves how long you can glide on each ski. Once the skier has the feeling of committing their body weight to each ski their glide improves immensely. So try the coffee cup drill if you have weak weight shift and it will do wonders for both your classic and skate skiing. Be sure to click on this link for a video which illustrates this drill-   For more cross country ski technique improvement videos see:
The Coffee Cup drill can also be used for improving your skating


Monday, 18 December 2017

The early season Silver Star – Sovereign Lake X-C ski Supercamps attract large numbers

by Keith and Heather Nicol

 We just returned from teaching in the early season Supercamps that are held every year at Silver Star and Sovereign Lake located near Vernon in B.C.’s Interior. This year this area had early snow and conditions for the camps were close to perfect. In fact, the last week featured classic Okanagan sunny skies with day time temperatures around -4C- ideal for both classic and skate skiing. These camps have been running for many years but seem to be getting more popular and this year was the largest in some time with well over 300 participants.
A group practicing poling at Sovereign Lake Nordic ski area

   The camps are broken down into 3 day and 5 day camps and this year ran from November 20 to December 10. Classes involve instruction by some of Canada’s top cross country ski instructors and coaches and a chance to ski on the 105 km trail network which includes trails at Silver Star and Sovereign Lake Nordic ski areas.  The camps offer video analysis of your skiing plus late afternoon lectures on nutrition, yoga, how to prepare for skiing a loppet and much more. There are a variety of specialized programmes including biathlon, a pro camp for aspiring masters racers and new this year is “Wild Women” programme which involves enjoying the nordic ski experience in a fun, friendly, female-focused environment. Spend your mornings on skis improving your technique, and then relax in the afternoons with wine & yoga, a strength and conditioning session, and other exciting extras. Like many of the sessions this year this programme sold out early. Class size varies but is usually between 5-6 participants per instructor which makes for personalized instruction. 
The views from the trails are spectacular
 For those that missed the early season camps you can still take part in Supercamp with 2 more sessions coming up on January 12-14, 2018 and February 16-18, 2018. For more information email : or check out:
We love being able to ski right from our door at Silver Star

The Marine Conservation Atlas for Hornby Island would make a fine Christmas gift

  by Keith and Heather Nicol  
If you are looking for a useful last minute Christmas gift for that person that loves to visit Hornby Island then have a look at the Marine Conservation Atlas that has just been produced by the Hornby Island Conservancy. This colourful 30 page atlas presents information of a variety of topics from seabirds to herring to marine mammals and where they might be seen in the waters or coastal areas of Hornby Island.  The Atlas costs just $20 each and add $3 for postage if you are wanting to order it. Copies can be obtained by contacting : For more information on the Hornby Island Conservancy see the following web site: 
This spiral bound Atlas is a perfect gift for anyone that loves Hornby Island

Heather kayaking along the low cliffs at Helliwell Park
   We have spent many days on Hornby Island since we moved to the Comox Valley 3 years ago  and the Marine Conservation Atlas is one way to learn more about it. Be sure to check it out. Hornby Island is a special place
and we love sea kayaking around its shores and walking the scenic Helliwell Park trail along the shore. That is a trail you can do over and over again and never tire of the amazing views and interesting and varied vegetation. While sea kayaking we have seen orcas up close as well as seals and sea birds. There is more information about sea kayak launch points in some of our previous posts- just type “Hornby Island sea kayaking” in the search bar at the top left of this page.
Orcas off of Flora Island