Saturday, 27 June 2015

Tubing and swimming in the Puntledge River in Courtenay.



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.
Keith tubing the Puntledge using a kayak paddle to help steer
Heather tackling the waves

    


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Ride Mt. Washington's Summer Chairlift for Spectacular Views



by Keith and Heather Nicol
The Heather was in full bloom along the trails
      On Saturday, June 13 we decided to check out the summer chairlift rides at Mt. Washington near Courtenay, B.C. They had just opened for the season the previous weekend and they will operate the summer chairlift on weekends only until June 27th when they will be open daily through the summer. Mt. Washington operates the Eagle Express chair lift and in less than 15 minutes it takes you right to the summit.  Be sure to walk the easy 1 km Top of the World trail which provides amazing vistas in all directions. You can look back to the Courtenay – Comox area (you can even see Goose Spit and Tree Island), north to Campbell River and Quadra Island but the most impressive views are those of the mountains that lay to the south west 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 views are spectacular. 
Keith on the Top of the World Trail
  Just be aware that temperatures are quite a bit cooler up at the summit at close to 1600 meters than down at sea level in Courtenay. We were glad we brought our fleeces and long pants for the trip up the chairlift. There are lots of other trails that wind around various parts of the mountain and we plan to hike these in the coming weeks. For more information on Mt. Washington and what it offers the summer visitor check out the following web page: https://www.mountwashington.ca/
Heather with Courtenay and Comox in the distance

The ride down is very scenic with mountains and lakes in view
   


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre offers great sea kayaking on Vancouver's doorstep



    by Keith and Heather Nicol
On Sunday, June 7 we headed to Deep Cove where we planned to go sea kayaking and have a picnic lunch in a sea side park with our daughter Kristie and her boyfriend Eric.  It was Kristie’s birthday and this was one of the activities she wanted to do to celebrate. We had sampled kayaking here in May 2014 with Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre (DCCKC) and we were keen to head back and do some more exploring. This area is just a 30-45 minute drive from downtown Vancouver but seems more remote since Indian Arm is a steep walled fjord. And there are several islands and beaches which make for interesting destinations from DCCKC’s launch point in Deep Cove. 
Eric and Kristie paddling in scenic Indian Arm
  Despite our relatively early start time of 9:30 am Sunday morning there was lots of activity on the beach from paddler boarders, to rowing shells and canoes as well as sea kayaks being launched.  We opted for 2 double kayaks from DCCKC and in no time we were out of the harbour heading for Jug Island for our 2 hour self guided tour. There was also quite abit of other boating activity from sailboats to powerboats which you need to keep an eye on but the flat calm sea conditions made for easy paddling. We paddled along the opposite shore and then past Jug Island which is about 2.5 km from our launch point. We noted a nice beach opposite Jug Island but decided to paddle around the corner and into Bedwell Cove. We stopped for a short break on the beach we had passed by earlier and then paddled back into Deep Cove spotting our first eagle of the trip. Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre  offers a variety of rental options and we wished we had booked a longer trip since Raccoon Island beckoned as did the more rugged shoreline further into Indian Arm. That will have to wait until next time! If you are interested in paddling in scenic area on Vancouver’s doorstep, then check out Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre.  They offer a full service programme of rentals, sales, tours and rentals and you can check them out at http://www.deepcovekayak.com/    
Paddling out of Bedwell Cove

The beach at Deep Cove is a happening spot!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Sea to Sky Gondola offers many reasons to visit



by Keith and Heather Nicol      
     On June 5 we headed to one of our favourite new visitor attractions in the Vancouver area- the Sea
The Sea to Sky Gondola whisks you to the top in 10 minutes
to Sky Gondola which is located near Squamish, just north of Vancouver. Our first visit was just over a year ago when they first opened the Sea to Sky Gondola and we were immediately impressed amazing views from the large viewing platform at 885 meters. The Sea to Sky Gondola is easily accessed from Highway 99 and is just past the turnoff to Shannon Falls. In just 10 minutes you are whisked from the base station to the Summit Lodge which has a restaurant, washrooms, gift shop as well as an immense viewing deck. Several short trails leading for the lodge provide other views of Squamish, Howe Sound as well as the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Heather and Kristie look at one of the many interpretative panels
One of the many viewing platforms with Howe Sound in the distance
  On our most recent visit we had our daughter Kristie in tow and we did the short 400 meters Spirit trail which includes a suspension bridge as well as exploring the 1.6 km Panorama trail. Both of these trails are suited to a wide range of hikers since the grades are slight and the crushed stone makes for easy walking. The Panorama trail has several lookouts which make this trail particularly appealing. We also decided to check out the newish Wonderland Lake trail which is also 1.6 km. This trail is narrow and more rugged but gives good views of Sky Pilot Mountain as well as passes by Wonderland Lake. At Wonderland Lake we saw a small garter snake skipping across the water from lily pad to lily pad! There are also other trails that lead further up and down the mountain but for many people these 3 trails will be a great introduction to this area. We think the Sea to Sky Gondola is a great destination since appeals to such a broad range of people from those that want to have a coffee and relax on the deck to those that want to rock climb at Wrinkle rock. And we were told that they have already matched last season’s busiest day and the main tourism season hasn’t even started yet. For more information check out: http://www.seatoskygondola.com/


 Kristie hiking on the Wonderland Lake trail with Sky Pilot in the distance


  

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sea kayaking to Chrome Island Lighthouse on Denman Island



by Keith and Heather Nicol
   On Saturday, May 30 with the good weather continuing we decided to head south from Courtenay and do a sea kayak trip from Deep Bay to Chrome Island Lighthouse which is just off the southern tip of Denman Island. It is about at 40 minute drive to Deep Bay and we put in at the end of Burne Road (10 U 0374280E 5480721N) where there is a small parking lot at the end of Mapleguard Point. We hauled our sea kayaks for about 40-50 meters or so along a sandy trail to the sand beach on the inside of a spit of land that extends out into Deep Bay. Another option is to put in at the boat launch at Deep Bay. We headed out around 2:30 pm with a tide of around 2.9 meters and the finished about 5:15 pm close to high tide (4.1 meters). The weather was sunny with light-moderate south east which turned out to be just the opposite of the marine forecast which had called for light NW winds. 
Chrome Island Lighthouse is a great destination
 We paddled about 2.5 km across to Denman Island and paddled along the shore toward the lighthouse. This part of Denman Island is quite rugged with a steep slope descending to the water and a mix of cobbly – bouldery beaches with some possible landing areas where the cobbles are abit smaller. We headed out and around Chrome Island Lighthouse which is on a scenic island just off shore. It is a classic lighthouse with bright red roofs and bright white paint on the buildings. It was started in 1891 so it has been around for a long time. We were surprised to see little wildlife like seals or sea lions on this trip but we did see a colony of cormorants on the north side of the island. From there we headed along the eastern side of Denman Island to Eagle Rock (a small offshore island) where we landed on a small beach to stretch and have a snack before backtracking to our put in at Deep Bay. Overall the trip was about 11.5 km according to our GPS so this is a good morning or afternoon trip. Since there is an open water crossing, keep an eye to the weather and the tides as well as the general boat traffic. There are other full day paddling options here which could involve heading to Hornby Island or further along the Denman Island shore. 
Heather paddling past the end of Eagle Rock with Hornby Island behind

Landing at Deep Bay where we ended (and started) our trip