Friday, October 2, 2009

Fly! Sunshine Coast - September 30, 2009

I had the most amazing experience this week with my new friends Greg & Dana who own Fly!, a local air service. They are based at the Sechelt Airport and available for scenic tours, taxi service, and flight instruction. We had a beautiful sunny day and had a fabulous tour of the Sunshine Coast.

We flew north over Sechelt and over Sechelt Inlet, Salmon Inlet, and crossed the mountains to Jervis Inlet. We then came down over the Skookumchuck Narrows, Pender Harbour, and down the Georgia Strait coastline over Secret Cove, Halfmoon Bay and back to Sechelt.

This 2nd picture was the highlight of the day. This lake is about 2,500' completely surrounded by forest. At the near end of the lake, there is an amazing waterfall that tumbles into Jervis Inlet below.

Sechlet really is the "land between 2 waters". The Georgia Strait is in the foreground and Sechelt Inlet lies behind the town.

4 of us went up in a 4 passenger Cessna. It was very interesting to be able to see all the dials and gauges while we flew.

It is amazing the different perspective you get once up in the air. I know I live in the forest, but you tend to forget the immensity of this forest until you get above and see the vastness. There are just so many trees!

Fresh new snow on the mountains!

Safe approach back to the Sechelt Airport.
What a great trip! I would highly recommend a trip with Fly! the next time you visit the Sunshine Coast.

To see these areas on a map, click here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Princess Louisa Inlet - September 13, 2009

Wow! Where did the summer go? I am very happy to say that Arcturus Retreat B&B has been very busy hosting guests from around the world. So many guests means no time to blog and not much time to hike. Now that autumn has arrived, I hope to get back in the swing of things.

My best adventure of late was while hosting a friend as B&B guest. We got to play tour guide showing off our favourite Sunshine Coast places, and I tagged along for a real treat, Princess Louisa Inlet. Bryce Christie of Sunshine Coast Tours is a wonderful tour guide. He really knows the history and the geography of the area, and is able to share information in an interesting way. Tours sail daily during the summer and less frequently in other months.

I highly recommend this trip to everyone. My pictures can't begin to do justice to the amazing scenery. The only place I have ever been that approaches the natural beauty is Milford Sound in New Zealand. I would love to see the fjords of Norway someday to compare.

The peaks are just over 8,000 feet and the water is another 1,000 feet deep. The granite rock face is amazing. The sheer mountains go straight down, so boats can navigate incredibly close to shore.

We travelled 2 hours by boat out of Egmont on the Sunshine Coast up through Jervis Inlet and then into Princess Louisa Inlet. It is hard to believe that all this natural beauty is so close to my home. This is one of the many areas of BC coastline that are only accessible by water. Very difficult mountainous terrain keeps people away and leaves nature in all its glory.

Princess Louisa Provincial Park includes Chatterbox Falls and a bit of parkland around it. We were able to take a short hike to the base of the falls and have a picnic lunch. It really was an amazing day.

Soda Pop Falls

Albert Glacier

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wildlife Up Close - August 6, 2009

This was the view from my window when I first woke up this morning. Deer have been visiting regularly as the plums have ripened, but this morning was a special treet. A doe and her fawn were enjoying plums and leaves for breakfast. If you look closely, you can see the white spots on the fawn. I just had time to admire and find the camera before they were on their way. Luckily one of our guests was up early enough to see the show as well.

We had picked a handful of plums before today...just enough for a quick snack and to make the first plum-blueberry cobbler of the season. YUM! With deer arriving daily to snack and wanting to avoid the black bear, we started picking for real tonight. Over 50 lbs of yellow plums are now in and that is only the beginning. We didn't even have the ladder out except for about 5 minutes. I will definitely be at the Fiddlehead Farmers Market on Saturday with fresh plums, plum muffins, and maybe plum galettes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Commotion by the Ocean - August 1, 2009

Monday is BC Day so we celebrated the long weekend by making a trip to Gambier Island for Commotion by the Ocean. Gambier is the island I see out my window every day, but in 3 years I had never visited.

Commotion by the Ocean is an annual event with food, family fun and great music to raise money for community activites on Gamier Island. The weather was absolutely wonderful today and they had a great turnout. Burgers and beer on a summer evening with fabulous local bands surrounded by the forest. What could be better? This picture is looking back from Gambier Island to our home at the base of Mt Elphinstone. Note the 7km/h speed limit....ahhhh island life.

Sibling Rivals was fantastic, and boy can this gal play tenor sax. The crowd was up dancing the entire time for both sets. Nearly Neil is a great cover band with terrific energy. Bobby Bruce can totally do Neil's amazing. I could have listened to these groups all night. Unfortunately, the official gig wraps up at 9pm so that all of us mainlanders can catch the last ferry off the island. However, I am sure that the locals are still going strong even now. We thank them for starting mid-afternoon so that we can enjoy many hours of great music.
I am looking forward to a return trip next year.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rainbows - July 25, 2009

Mother Nature is just amazing. Tonight we were treated to a fabulous display of lightning and beautiful rainbows. Now for many people, this is a common occurance. However, on the south coast of British Columbia we don't see lightning very often....and especially not over an hour of both cloud to cloud and cloud to ground snake lightning.

Things got started about 9pm which is 45 minutes before sunset. The storms were to the east over the North Shore Mountains so while watching lightning displays in 1 direction, the sun was shining with clear skies to the west. The result was this fabulous rainbow which the pictures just don't show the real effect. I could only get a shot of the rainbow was a full arc with the entire shape in sight out over Howe Sound. At times it was a double rainbow in full grandeur. As the sun set, the sky became a wild shade of red as the storm built.

Once the sun was down, the storm really kicked in. Major lightning display across the entire horizen for a full hour. While it was only sprinkling here, the rain was so heavy over the water that I could no longer see the mountains. Eventually it poured here as well which was wonderful after months of unseasonal dry weather.

I only hope the lightning didn't spark any wildfires. The forest is extremely dry and there are major fires in other parts of the province.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oceanbeach Esplanade - July 22, 2009

Another absolutely beautiful day on BC's Sunshine Coast. I took time today to head out to the beach for the first time in weeks. Oceanbeach Esplanade aka Bonniebrook Beach is on the southern tip of the Sunshine Coast just outside of Gibsons. This protected beach stretches on for about 5km. It is mostly rocky, but there are a few stretches of sand depending on the tide levels.

People walk and bike this stretch of beach 365 days a year. Today, on a somewhat hot day, (25C) it was warm enough to swim, stroll, or just about anything. There are multiple park benches along the route that I found perfect for relaxing in the shade and feeling the refreshing ocean breeze. A very pleasant place to meditate and enjoy the rhythmic pounding of the waves along with any number of birds.

In the background of the first photo, you can see Vancouver Island and, if you look really close, the ferry that travels from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo.

In the second photo you can see Canada geese swimming along the shore.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Music in the Landing - July 11, 2009

One of my favourite summer activities is Music in the Landing. Gibsons Landing puts on free concerts in various parks every weekend all summer long. Kick off the weekend on Friday nights at the Gazebo, Saturday afternoon by the Visitor's Centre, Saturday night by the marina, and Sunday afternoon at the artisan's market. Every concert features fabulous local talent and the series covers a wide range of musical genres.

Saturday nights are my favourite, as they are a great way to wrap up a long day following the Fiddlehead Farmers' Market. Tonight's show (sorry, forgot the camera) featured Chelsea Crawford and Verna Chan each playing 1 hour sets. Winegarden park is next to the marina. You'll have to imagine sitting by the ocean, watching the boats come in for the evening, with picturesque mountains in the background listening to light jazz. Some people spread out the blanket and have a picnic. Others stroll by with gelato from down the street. Everyone greets their friends and neighbours who have come out for the evening. Kids run freely in the back with plenty of space for tag and other games. By evening, temperatures slip into the 60's and with a light ocean breeze a jacket or a blanket is required.

What a fabulous way to spend a Saturday night! I can't wait for next week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strawberry Season - June 22, 2009

I love strawberries and local strawberries are now in season!

Monday, I travelled to Aldergrove which is in the Fraser Valley just east of metro Vancouver. Travelling by ferry means that this is a once a season adventure, so you have to make the trip count. My partner and I managed to pick 38 lbs of berries which will be come pie, shortcake, stawberry-banana bread, smoothies, and my favourite...fresh berries in a bowl. I'll freeze enough to last all winter for breakfast smoothies and french toast and/or crepes topping.

It was a perfect day for picking with clouds and cool temps in the morning. Krause Berry Farms is my favourite farm to visit. It is just off highway 1 and has built facilities to make for a pleasant tourist experience as well. You can buy pre-picked flats or you can get out in the fields like I did and pick your own berries.

There is a market for fresh veggies as well as delicious looking strawberry pies. There is a concession stand where I treated myself to a fresh strawberry milkshake for lunch.

It is fun to see the 3-5 year olds being so excited to see fresh berries and learn how food grows. They chatter endlessly showing each other the delicious bright red berries they've found.

This farm will have raspberries available by mid-July and blueberries at the end of the July. For more u-pick farms in the Vancouver area, visit the BC Strawberry Grower's Association.

By afternoon, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day to sail home to the Sunshine Coast.
This picture is taken near the end of the trip looking back over Bowen Island and the Coast Mountains. We spent the entire trip outside on the very top deck enjoying the sunshine and the amazing views. The photo just doesn't do the scenery justice. Every shade of blue and green surround you with forested islands on all sides and mountains stretching off to the north. A sight to behold....


Monday, June 15, 2009

Gibsons Landing Jazz Fest - June 13-14, 2009

Gibsons Landing Jazz Fest is my favourite festival of the year, and there are a lot of community festivals to choose from. Every genre of jazz is covered and there is a mix of great local talent and big names. Jazz week is 7 nights of live jazz in most of Gibsons's restaurants. Excellent entertainment for the price of a meal.

The official 14th annual Jazz Fest kicked off Friday with Sibel Thrasher backed up by 4 excellent local musicians. Sibel really knows how to entertain and leaves the audience wanting more. A true professional and an inspiring spirit.

Saturday we were blessed with sunshine and 25C for our main event in the park...5 groups and 5 hours of music. Easily the most entertaining of the day was East Vancouver's Carnival Band.

Endless energy fills this group playing Dixieland Jazz. Not to be limited to the stage, they marched through the park around the audience getting everyone out of there chairs and dancing. In true carnival style, clowns and ringmasters filled their ranks.

Sunday afternoon features free jazz in Winegarden Park for everyone to enjoy. Three hours of jazz from very talented local performers.
Definitely Divas always puts on a great show. Great harmony and energy help them cover a wide variety of tunes, from Bugle Boy of Company B to Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics.

The final act of the festival was the Elphinstone Jazz Band, from our local high school. This is a very talented group of kids, many of whom have a future in music if they choose.

Winegarden Park is the perfect setting for an outdoor concert. The hill makes for a natural amphitheatre to sit an enjoy the sunshine. And then there is the view....great music with a picture perfect backdrop as we watch boats come and go in the marina.

I can't wait until next year!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fiddlehead Farmers' Market - June 13, 2009

My favourite Saturday summer activity....the Fiddlehead Farmers' Market in Gibsons.

Today was the first market of the season and there was a record turnout of produce vendors. This is the Fiddlehead's 3rd season and it has grown and improved so much since the first market. There is a core of faithful farmers and vendors who attend every week with tasty salad greens, herbs, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and fresh berries.

This week there were also turnips, fresh flowers, potatos and rhubarb. A few new members were welcomed this week and the consignment table was huge.

The consignment table is where backyard gardeners are encouraged to bring in some of their garden extras, even if they don't have enough for a whole stand. Market volunteers take care of the selling and you get paid for your extra produce. Everyone wins and it is always a surprise as to what will be available each week.
Live music is also a part of the market featuring local talents. Our park setting mixed with music creates a fabulous atmosphere. Children run about with plenty of room, music fills the air, and customers visit with vendors over how the food is grown and other community topics.
I have a baking stand at the market most weeks. Rhubarb from my garden was the feature this week: rhubarb pie, rhubarb bread, rhubarb cakes and pineapple-rhubarb muffins. A successful day with only 2 items brought of which was perfect for a Sunday picnic.
The Fiddlehead Farmers' Market continues every Saturday until Thanksgiving from 9-1 behind the curling club in Gibsons BC. Come check it out!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gibsons Marina - June 3, 2009

Today was clean air day. To celebrate, we rode free transit into Gibsons after dinner for a leisurly stroll around the marina. A marina full of boats is a sure sign summer has arrived. It is always an interesting stroll to see all the new boats that have arrived and all the different styles. The fishing and prawn boats are always around, but the pleasure craft just get bigger and more numerous.

Note the houseboat in the front of this picture. Yes, the entire house floats year-round and is a regular residence for some lucky person.

Gibsons Marina is a center of activity. Outdoor dining is available at Smitty's Oyster House, Molly's Reach and Sita's Italian. Gramma's Pub and the Waterfront Restaurant overlook the area as well. Music in the Landing begins in July and offers free concerts in the park on Friday and Saturday nights all summer long.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Arcturus Retreat Garden - April 25, 2009

Spring has fully arrived and the gardens are full of colour. This is our yellow plum tree that last year produced over 1,000 plums. Just a few bags left in the freezer to use between now and August when we'll have fresh plums again. Excellent for breakfast smoothies!

It is hard to seet he mountains in the background. The clouds are hovering to hide the peaks. Snow is melting, but there is still a lot at the top and on the north faces. My friend who owns Natural Trekking has still been taking clients out on snowshoe treks.

The maple tree is full of new red leaves. I with I could identify the tree next to it. It has beautiful pink blossoms and will soon be full of green leaves. In front of the maple tree is a red currant bush. It has tiny little blossoms that will hopefully be many delicious red currants come July.

In the foreground, you can see we got the hummingbird feeder out last weekend. They are back and we've seen a number hovering around it and visiting all the blooming flowers. Hummingbirds are so interesting to watch for this kid raised on the prairies.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Earls Cove - April 15, 2009

Much too long since my last post. Today I took the opportunity to join the Sunshine Coast Bed & Breakfast, Cottage Owners Association on their annual Spring Tours. We visited 9 B&Bs and cottages in the Egmont and Pender Harbour area.

This is a beautiful view from Earl's Cove over the Agamemnon channel. In the distance is Nelson Island which lies between the Upper and Lower Sunshine Coast. Absolutely beautiful and peaceful! This is as far as a person can travel from Arcturus Retreat B&B without getting on a boat or ferry. 1km from here is the Earls Cove BC Ferry terminal where you can sail to Saltery Bay and the Powell River/Lund area.

This is Ravenscove Cottage which is a classic waterfront cottage. I am out on their private dock looking back to the shore. Talk about getting away from it all..... No one else in site.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hopkins Landing - Feb 19, 2009

After a string of beautiful sunny days, I finally made it out with the camera. Hopkins Landing is a short walk from my house and a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon.

There is a bench out on the dock which stretches far enough out into Howe Sound, that you get the feeling you are actually out on the water. You can gaze back at the public beach that stretches 5km all the way into Gibsons. You can sit, relax, listen to the birds and the constant ebb and flow of the tide.

In the summer, this is a popular swimming spot and dock for both recreational purposes and for those who live on the nearby islands. It is a very walkable stretch of beach with lots of driftwood for a campfire.

Then of course, you can look the other direction and simply enjoy the North Shore Mountains. Grace Island is the very small island in the front of the picture. Gambier Island is just behind that, and then the mountains.

Snow levels are fairly low for February, a sign of the warm weather we have had of late. It is interesting to watch the white make its way lower down the mountain after a storm system, only to recede to higher elevations after a few sunny days.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dakota Ridge - Feb 2, 2009

How to escape winter gray of the Pacific Northwest? Some head south in search of sun and tropics, but I like it right here. We spent a wonderful Sunday up on the mountain where rain was replaced with beautiful snowfall the entire day. There is something magical about trees covered in a white blanket.

Dakota Ridge is a recreational area near Wilson Creek on the Sunshine Coast. It is run mostly by volunteers who absolutley love the outdoors. A big thank you to Alpha Adventures - Outdoor Adventure Store who hosted their annual equipment demo day. We took their shuttle to the top of the mountain and tried out snowshoes and cross country skis. It was our first time to try these winter sports and Alpha's guides were fantastic.

This is me finishing up my first cross country ski session. Note the fact there is no one else in sight. This is skiing in nature...not with thousands of people jockeying for a spot on the slopes. There were a about 20 cars in the upper parking lot, but once out on the trails we were on our own. There is a warming hut and a washroom which make for a nice break in the day.
I can't wait to get back up on the mountain and do it all again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ucluelet & Tofino - Jan 11-12, 2009

I've been living on the west coast for a couple of year's now, and I never get tired of looking at the ocean. However, I know that it isn't the direct ocean...I usually see Howe Sound or the Georgia Strait. Sure, they are salt water and sure they are part of the Pacific Ocean, but they aren't really "open ocean waters". Vancouver Island protects the Sunshine Coast and provides a natural buffer to the waves, winds, and storms that move across the Pacific Ocean. This weekend, I visited the true west coast and saw the wild Pacific Ocean up close.

The first picture is Long Beach which is between Tofino and Ucluelet. The sand is smooth and easy to walk on. The waves crash onto the shore and are mesmorizing in their rhythm. Surfers were out enjoying the day.

Tofino and Ucluelet are on the west coast of Vancouver Island. At this latitude, there is nothing except open ocean between us and the west coast of Russia. Winter is storm watching season, although everything was calm during this visit. These photos are both in Ucluelet. Huge black boulders line this part of coastline. I'm not sure if they are lava from and old volcano or just boulders from ice age retreating glaciers. Either way, they are a spectacular sight. It becomes an adventure weaving around and over the rocks to get to the water. Waves crash as the floor of the coastline changes over the contour of the rocks.

On other rocky outcrops, mature trees find bits of soil on which to grow. What you can't see is that just behind me is a forest. Sorry...the ocean seems to have gotten all the camera attention. This area receives over 3.2 meters or 10 feet of rain each year. It is a rain forest and the mix of plant life is amazing. Be sure to hike the Pacific Rim Trail to see old growth forest and amazing views of the Pacific Ocean.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Langdale Trail - Jan 2, 2009

Holiday travels have kept me away from hiking the Sunshine Coast. Over the past 2 weeks, we have received a meter of snow which is very, very abnormal for this area. Usually you have to hike up into the mountains to see that much snow. Just when we were getting a bit of melting and transportation was starting to get back to normal, we received another 4" on New Year's Day. Sunshine filled the sky today and beckoned me out for a much needed hike.

I am lucky to live 1 block from a wonderful trail. The Langdale Trail starts at the end of Wharf Road and heads into the forest. Just as I was starting in, a teenage mountain biker came riding out so I was pretty sure the trail would be passable. This was the only person I saw for the whole trek...a great time to get away by myself.

The sounds of the forest are always different and always amazing. Today water was the key sound. The tall trees dripped both water and snow as the sun reached the upper branches. It was a good day to wear a hat! Interestingly, snow covered the ground completely at the lowest elevations. As I hiked higher, melting snow flowed into streams covering the entire path. The sound of fresh, clean water making its way over rocks, leaves and branches is always refreshing and pure.

It was a great day to be out and I definitely won't wait so long for my next trek.