Saturday, 23 July 2016

Tubing the Puntledge River in Courtenay, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol

What a difference a year makes. The summer of 2015 was hot and dry and keeping cool was the name of the game. We discovered lots of places to swim and took up tubing since it seems to be an institution in Courtenay. Posts from last year describe some of the places to swim and tube along the Puntledge River  . The summer of 2016 however has been a whole new experience with cool temperatures and much cloudier conditions so the urge to swim and tube has not been as great. But we did get tubing on first hot day in quite awhile on Thursday July 21 and we had Heather’s sister Lisa visiting and she was keen to try it out. We put in just below the fish hatchery and pulled out at the Condensory Bridge. The water is certainly cooler than last year but on a hot day is a great way to spend a couple of hours.

Lisa paddling through the rapids
    Here is some information on the river for those wanting to try tubing and may not know what to expect. 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 starting at 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 use a kayak paddle to help steer and manoeuvre but most people don’t use one.  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. We also use tubes with a mesh bottom and put a life jacket in the bottom. This gives a good amount of paddling since you will inevitably hit bottom a few times and this will save your bum and lower back from striking rocks in the river.
Lisa relaxing on the lower section just before the Condensory Bridge

Monday, 18 July 2016

Alpine Hiking at Mt Washington Ski Resort near Courtenay, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol

On Friday July 15 we looked out our living room window toward Mt Washington and noted clear
Check out the wildflowers enroute
skies to the top. June and July in the Comox Valley has been cloudy with lots of cloud forming over the mountains. Often the day would start out sunny but by 9-10 am the cumulus clouds would start to form so when this day looked clear we decided to head up to Mt. Washington Ski Resort and hike to the top of the mountain. Last summer we did the trail with our daughter Kristie who was visiting from Vancouver and on that occasion we followed the Linton’s Trail (2.1 km) to the top. This time we opted for the Seaview Trail which is abit steeper. This trail starts right from the base of the alpine ski area and is flagged with blue markers so the trail is easy to follow. It is around 1.3 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 a light jacket depending on the weather. Allow about an hour to hike the trail depending on how many pictures you take of the views of the wild flowers and mountains. The views toward Mt Albert Edward and the surrounding mountains were great although the pesky clouds did start to form again around noon.
The alpine hiking at Mt Washington is scenic with mountain and lake views
 Near the top we decided to take the Linton’s Trail since it passes by a great lookout platform and once we reached the summit we took the short Top of the World trail to get spectacular views in all directions. 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:
Looking out over the Salish Sea with the Comox Valley below

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Hike the "Pub to Pub" trail along the Oyster River

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      On July 11, 2016 we decided to check out the “Pub to Pub” trail which starts along the Oyster River, roughly half way between Courtenay and Campbell River on Vancouver Island. It a scenic trail with both river and ocean/beach views and if you like you can drop into a pub at the start or at the end of your hike. Since the trail is just 3.5 km (1 way) it is suited to a variety of options. If you have young children or walkers that would find 7 km too long a hike, you could park a car at each end and just make the 1 way trip. 
Mary Ellen has a look at the tall trees near the start of the trail
     We started in Courtenay with my brother Bruce and his wife Mary Ellen in tow and we drove north along highway 19 A. Keep an eye out for the Oyster River bridge since you want to turn right on the next road (Glenmore Road).  Then travel one roughly 1 block and then turn left on Regent and almost immediately park in the parking lot with a sign Oyster River Nature Park. The parking lot coordinates are 10 U 0347166E 5526405N. Then follow the Ferguson Trail which is well signed and easy to walk on. After about 1 km you reach the ocean and from there you follow the Jack Hames Trail to Salmon Point.
Heather walks along the ocean trail
   From there the trail winds along the upper part of the beach and through the trees giving fine views of Georgia Strait and mountains beyond. There are even some picnic tables along the way for anyone wanting a scenic place to have lunch. Sometimes the trail separates into 2 trails and there seemed to be some new cedar shavings placed down on part of the trail just above the beach. After about 1 hour we came out to Salmon Point Resort RV Park and Restaurant and the trail’s end.  Our GPS showed that we had walked about 3.5 km. We fully recommend this trail since it offers scenic ocean views and can be walked by a wide variety of people. Check it out on your next trip to this area.

Friday, 8 July 2016

A Boat Trip to Friendly Cove aboard the Uchuck III makes for a Great Day

By Keith and Heather Nicol
The back deck is a fine place to view the scenery
    On Wednesday July 6 we took a trip to see Nootka Island on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Nootka Island is steeped in history and when we found out that Captain Cook had visited here in 1778 we knew we had to check it out. You see between 1762 and 1767 Cap’t Cook had refined his map making skills in Newfoundland and produced the first accurate maps of the Corner Brook-Bay of Islands area in Western Newfoundland where we had lived for 33 years. Access to Nootka Island and more specifically Friendly Cove is provided by the Uckuck III which makes a twice weekly trip seasonally from June 29 to August 31. The Uchuck III is a working vessel that doubles as a “cruise ship” in the summer and is based out of Gold River on Vancouver Island’s west coast. We drove from the Comox area in the morning to board the Uchuck III for its 10:00 am departure. 

The Uchuck III in Friendly Cove with the lighthouse on the right
    On our trip there were roughly 50 passengers aboard (the Uchuck can carry double that) and we also  took on some fuel drums to drop off enroute. We steamed down Muchalat Inlet, a deep ice carved fjord, which provides access to the open Pacific Ocean roughly 40 km to the west. We passed by a variety of islands, rugged mountains, several salmon farms and part way along dropped off fuel to Nootka Island Lodge which is a remote fishing lodge along the way. At 12:45 we docked at Friendly Cove on Nootka Island and our Captain Spencer Larsen told us he would sound the horn at 2:05pm for a 2:15 departure. It turns out that Friendly Cove has a photogenic lighthouse and it has been the home of first nation’s people for over 4000 years.  Margaret James, a first nation’s welcomer, asked us to go to the church where she would talk briefly about the church and native life on the island. “Friendly Cove was centre of our nation for many years and despite the fact that much is made of this area being the first European contact in B.C.’s in the 1770’s, our people have lived here continuously for 4300 years according to archeological data.” she told us. 

Be sure to see the church with its elaborate carvings and poles
       While at Friendly Cove we had time to visit the graveyard, walk on the beach, take photographs of the lighthouse and we even tracked down a fallen totem pole that was toppled in a wind storm in 1994. Then all too soon the ship’s whistle sounded and we headed back for the 2 hour trip back to Gold River. On the way back we stopped briefly at Resolution Cove where Captain Cook first landed and made repairs to his vessels.  We recommend a trip to Friendly Cove but next time may bring our kayaks since the Uchuck III offers a unique wet launch procedure which means they can drop and pick up kayakers at many places along the coast. The Uckuck III also offers other adventure tours which are certainly on our list of trips to check out. For instance, the trip to Kyuquot certainly looks interesting and is a popular location for kayaking. For more information see:
A fallen totem can be found just off a main trail