Saturday, 31 December 2016

Winter at Grouse Mountain offers snowshoeing, ice skating and much more!

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Keith and Kristie at the start of the Light Trail
    On Wednesday, December 29 we headed to Grouse Mountain with our daughter Kristie and her boyfriend Eric to try out the snowshoeing on their Light trail. We were not sure about what kind of crowds we might encounter so thought if we arrived around 6:00 pm we would arrive while many people would be having dinner. It proved to be a good plan and we arrived to light rain at the base but we were soon being whisked into to the snow by the large Grouse Mountain gondola. We arrived on top to falling snow and a winter wonderland. There were people skating on the outdoor pond, many people skiing and snowboarding in powdery snow and lots of people trying out the lighted snowshoe trail.

It was snowing heavily while we snowshoed along the Light Trail
      Although we had snowshoes many people were simply walking in hiking shoes or snowboots and the trail was delightful with the hanging lights and Christmas music playing along the route.  With the heavily falling snow we found snowshoes to be the preferred choice but we certainly saw many people who weren’t using them. The trail is just 500 meters long so is attainable by a wide variety of people. We finished the Light trail at the start of a sleigh ride so we opted to do that while Kristie and Eric tried the 1 km Blue Grouse snowshoe trail. The large sleigh is pulled by a snowcat and winds for 10-15 minutes across some of the flatter terrain near the Peak Lodge. In the lodge you can have a quick snack or elaborate dinner and it is a perfect place to come inside and warm up.  We warmed up with a hot chocolate while Kristie and Eric finished their showshoe jaunt. Grouse Mountain is much more than skiing and we fully recommend heading there to try the snowshoeing, take a sleigh ride and go ice skating.  Kids can also enjoy sliding on their dedicated sliding hill. It is all included in the cost of the Alpine Experience pass (except skiing and riding). Next time we head up we are planning a day time visit so we can check out more of their 12 km of snowshoe trails and we would like to explore their ski runs as well.  For more information see:

The Peak Lodge is a perfect place to warm up, meet friends or have a meal

Monday, 5 December 2016

Supercamps are an ideal way to start the cross country ski season.


By Keith and Heather Nicol
At Silver Star you can ski down Main street
      We just returned from a great Supercamp experience at Canada’s largest cross country ski trail network at the Sovereign Lake-Silver Star Nordic facility located near Vernon, B.C. The main Supercamps ran from November 21 to December 4, 2016 and they included 2 weekend camps and two 5 day mid week camps. These camps are worth looking at for many reasons including: early season snow, well qualified CANSI instructors and coaches and a 105 km long trail system that is well groomed for both classic and skate technique. Add to this, presentations by waxing experts, access to a well -equipped weight room, optional yoga and core workout sessions.... what more could you ask for? And did I mention that many cross country ski teams use this area for their early season training camps so you are sharing the trails with some of the continent’s best cross country skiers. Shane Landreville who organizes the Supercamps told us that the number of skiers taking part keeps increasing and many skiers come back year after year. This year there were over 300 skiers who took part and they came from all over North America and even several from England and even Australia!! 
A Supercamp group enjoying the snowy trails
    These camps are geared to everyone from first timers to advanced skiers wanting to improve their technique and get in cross country skiing on a huge variety of trails. If you want a mid season tune up on your skiing you can still take in 2 more weekend camps which are scheduled for January 13-15, 2017 and February 17-19, 2017. For more information see:

At Supercamps skiers get to try the trails at both Silver Star and Sovereign Lake (shown above)


Monday, 24 October 2016

Nanaimo’s Wild Play Elements Park is a perfect “fall” adventure

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Kids of all ages will have fun at WildPlay
        We are a big fan of adventure parks and zip lines and over the last number of years have sampled  these activities in many places across Canada from Newfoundland , Quebec, Ontario  and  Vancouver Island. But certainly one of the most varied parks we have visited is the WildPlay Elements Park in Nanaimo, B.C. We headed there from Courtenay on Saturday, October 22 and couldn’t have had a better experience. For one thing, in the fall the crowds have gone so you can pretty much go from Element to Element with minimal waiting. As well, the autumn leaves really add even more colour to the forest. And we can’t say enough good things about the staff – they were exceptionally friendly and very helpful.

Heather zipping 100 feet over the Nanaimo River

   One of the big attractions of the Nanaimo WildPlay Park is that it has 5 different activities for you to try. “We are best known for our 2 adrenaline charged elements- the Bungy Jump and Primal Swing” said Jessica Twiss the park’s guest services agent. “We have the only New Zealand style Bungy Jump in North America which uses a very stretchy cord which minimizes the impact of the jump on your body. We sometimes get 150 people per day in the summer coming from all over just to do this activity!  And the Primal Swing couldn’t have a better setting over the Nanaimo River“ she told us. We were after a bit tamer activities so we opted to do the DragonFly ziplines, the heart stopping Primal Swing and the Monkido Adventure Park.  
Keith on the Monkido Course negotiating a log obstacle

     We started with the ziplines and they have a beautiful setting over Nanaimo River. One zip is 300 feet long and the other is 600 feet and we loved the elevated view over the river. From there we headed to the Monkido Adventure Park with its wobbly logs, cable crossings, and many other obstacles. There are over 50 “games” in all (if you do all 4 courses) but we stopped at after the third course since we had booked the Primal Swing to finish our day. The Monkido Adventure Park starts off easy which is great for kids and others just getting a feel of it. The staff makes sure that you know the safety routine of clipping in and out of the safety cables that run along the entire course. This Saturday the Adventure Park was getting an impressive variety of people from an 11 year old girl’s birthday party to groups of teenagers to small groups of adults. The fact that you can go at your own pace is great and our most memorable obstacle was the swinging into the cargo net from a rope swing and then climbing up the net to the platform.  Our final adventure was the Primal Swing which starts from a bridge located 150 feet above the river. The launching process involves lots of harnesses and safety clips and then you push off arcing through the air at 140 km/hour toward the river only to swing up again. Even the unloading process is  exciting as you are gradually lowered down into the boat and taken to shore. Perhaps this isn't as tame as we thought!!
For the Primal Swing you launch off the bridge 150 feet above the Nanaimo River
  The Nanaimo WildPlay Elements Park has 2 adventures we didn’t try- the Bungy Jump and the “What’s to Fear” Jump  but we are saving those until next time. Thanks to all of the staff – Jessica, Alyssa, Jake, Edward, Erin, Ariel and Steve—you did a great job. This park is open for a few more weeks this year so go and check it out. For more information see:



Friday, 14 October 2016

Sampling the fall hiking in the Waterloo, Ontario area

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Autumn colours along the Mill Race trail
      Over the Thanksgiving weekend we visited the Waterloo area where Heather’s sister Barb Ryan hosted a Family Reunion. It was a great way to catch up Heather’s brothers and sisters and we also had a chance to do some hiking on some of the trails in the area. We thought the fall colours might be more advanced but it seems like the peak is still 10 days away. On one afternoon we headed to historic St Jacobs which is just on the outskirts of Waterloo. It also has popular trail along the Conestoga River called the Mill Race trail which was heavily used on Monday, October 10. The ideal fall weather really helped bring out the families and since this trail is 1.5 km one way it is suited to a wide range of walkers. We even saw a couple of cyclists using the smooth gravel trail and dogs are welcome on the pathway as well. See for more information. 

Walking along the Mill Race trail in St Jacobs

    The next day we explored one of the perimeter trails on the Laurel Creek Conservation Area. This trail is also a multi use trail and we saw cyclists as well as walkers using it on the day we went out. It had nicer fall colours than the Mill Race Trail and you also get glimpses of the reservoir within the Laurel Creek Conservation Area. This trail is just abit less than 1 km long and we parked near the trail on Laurel Gates Drive. The Waterloo area has many other hiking trails and over the next couple of weeks as the leaves begin to change they should make ideal destinations for anyone wanting to get some exercise. For more information see:

The Laurel Creek trail had nice fall colours when we recently walked the trail

Friday, 7 October 2016

Exploring Vancouver’s Stanley Park on foot, bicycle and horse drawn carriage

by Keith and Heather Nicol
The seawall is an scenic place to walk
         Vancouver’s Stanley Park is one of the world’s great urban parks.  It is larger than Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London, England. The 400 hectare park sits on its own peninsula surrounded in large part by the ocean.  One of Stanley Park’s biggest attractions is it’s 9 km seawall trail which winds around the perimeter of the park. The seawall has one lane for bicycles and in line skaters and another for runners and walkers. We started out on Monday, October 3 renting a tandem bike from Bayshore Bike Rentals which is located near the park entrance at 705 Denman Street. We were given a map of the park and told by the manager Barry Potts that if we had a flat tire or any other issues with the bike then just phone them and they would get another bike to us. “The easiest way to get to the park is to head to the side street and follow the bike lanes to the underpass. This will keep you out of the main traffic areas on Georgia Street” he told us. I took us about 90 minutes to do the 9 km loop since we stopped several times for pictures of Vancouver’s busy harbour, the Lion’s Gate Bridge and iconic Siwash Rock. The convention is to ride in a counter clockwise fashion around the park which is important since the trail is narrow with blind corners in some areas.  Bayshore Bike Rentals rents a variety of bicycles and they can be contacted:
Cycling past Siwash Rock

After returning our bicycle we decided to check out the horse drawn carriage tours which we had seen on our bike ride. We walked along the seawall to the start of the tour which is just past the Vancouver Rowing Club. Each carriage holds 26 people and we were even supplied with blankets to keep you warm on the cooler days of fall. The narrated tour lasts for 1 hour and our guide was very knowledgeable about the sites and scenes that we saw along the way. She pointed out Discovery Island which was once a first nations burial ground and she even recognized well known B.C. businessman’s Jim Pattison’s huge yacht as it cruised past us in Burrard Inlet. We had one stop to see several  totem poles and we enjoyed seeing the tall trees that make up much of the central part of Stanley Park.  The route also passed by park’s famous rose gardens. For more information see: 

The horse drawn carriage tours are another way to see Stanley Park