Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hopkins Landing - December 20, 2011

So what do you do for fun the week of Christmas? Go to the beach, of course! I couldn't resist today when the sun made a grand appearance. I postponed the baking and the paperwork and headed outside.

The closest beach to Arcturus Retreat is Hopkins Landing. I love this trip as a quick 1 hour workout. It is a lovely walk, and the scenery is amazing. There is even a bench on which to rest for a mid-trek break. Check out the snow-capped Mount Elphinstone which received another 5" yesterday. Even the seagulls were basking in the sun.

Looking forward to many more sunny winter days on the beach.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunshine Coast Art Crawl - October 23, 2011

What a fantastic weekend! Too much to take in, but so much fun and perfect fall weather. Three all encompassing days of the 2nd Annual Sunshine Coast Art Crawl. 108 studios and galleries participating representing over 175 artists literally from Langdale to Lund.

Now I really don't know anything about art. But I do know when I think something is beautiful...amazing....and sometimes a little weird. I know when something speaks to me and I know when I wish I could have something to look at every day.

The best thing about the art crawl is getting to see where artists work...where they draw their inspiration and learn just a little bit about their process. It is also about all different kinds of art: paintings, jewelry, sculpture, pottery, metalworks, furniture design, carving, glass blowing, leather, perfume...you name it...it was here. What is really amazing is the high level of quality in some of these artists I am lucky enough to call neighbors.

This is Tien showing off his silver jewelry creations and his perfumes and lotions.

Friday night we mixed in a bit of live music at the Gumboot Cafe...one of my favourite jazz groups: Mimosa. Three amazing women who write much of their own music and perform in at least 3 languages. Don't miss an opportunity to hear these talented ladies perform. Lively music makes you want to get up and dance.

OK, back to the crawl... I managed to take in 23 studios this weekend and came home with a small painting that looks like it could have been inspired by the beach just down from our house.

23 studios may seem like scratching the surface with 108 studios participating. However, it isn't about quantity....its about enjoying art and listening to the artist talk about what it means to him/her. It is about talking to other crawlers and hearing their stories of the day. I went to a similar number last year. This year I was able to see many new artists and return to a few of my favourites. There will be plenty more to enjoy in 2012. Mark your calendars now for an October weekend visit to the Sunshine Coast.

Besides, it was a beautiful weekend. I started my crawl today in Davis Bay where there was a cluster of studios. I parked the car and got a nice walk in between visiting 7 studios. On the walk back to the car, I got this lovely view of the ocean. A perfect day for a little family time playing on the beach...and some feathered family feeding time as the tide started to inch its way back out.

Nope...not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Smugglers Cove - Oct 16, 2011

Today was a beautiful day....lots of sunshine, no wind, and temps in the teens (50's F). One of those few days where I am almost happy not to have guests....so I can get out and experience the best the Sunshine Coast has to offer myself. Today I chose a new hiking adventure...Smugglers Cove Provincial Park.

Smugglers Cove is located in Halfmoon Bay...about 45 minutes from Arcturus Retreat B&B. It is a marine park with anchorage for boats and a 4km trail system from the land access point. Signs inside the park explain that it gets its name first from being a point to smuggle Chinese labor into Canada at the time of the transcontinental railroad, and second from American prohibition. Alcohol was smuggled from nearby Texada Island and eventually across the border to the US.

The first part of the trail is super easy hiking. I wasn't paying close enough attention to note if it was completely wheelchair accessible...but it is definitely baby stroller ready. Long boardwalks like this take visitors past marshy areas. This area is not home to massive trees, but instead many many young deciduous trees. I hadn't noticed how many leaves have already fallen until I saw this stretch of empty trees. The season is definitely changing as overnight lows are now into the single digits...upper 40's F.

About 1/2 of the way down the trail, this even ground ends and the trail becomes narrower and rocky. It is still relatively easy hiking with small elevation changes, but there are stairs and lots of rocks. Hiking books and/or walking poles come in handy protecting ankles and assisting with balance.

The trail loop at the end is completely worth the reward. One easy climb up a bluff and "Hello Pacific Ocean". Imagine being the passengers on this lone boat at anchor in the cove. Nothing but stars and a full moon tonight to enjoy. Summer is a more popular time for boats, but crowds are still unlikely.

This is my favourite spot. I must have sat out on the huge boulder for 30 minutes with no other human in sight. A sailboat off in the distance and the sound of gently lapping waves and a few birds...nothing to spoil the moment. An excellent inspiration spot...perfect for reading, painting, writing, or just dreaming. I'll definitely be back to enjoy this view. The southern tip of Texada Island is off in the distance and Thormanby Island is closer just out of camera sight to my left.

Arbutus trees line the shoreline. The tree best suited for craggly rocky outcrops. It is the coolest tree that calls the BC coastline and areas of the Mediterranean home. It doesn't loose its leaves, but instead sheds its bark each summer. This leaves the trees smooth and a unique orange hue.

I am going to have to find time for more hikes in Smugglers Cove.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mt. Elphinstone - September 27, 2011

Fall has arrived on the Sunshine Coast. Yesterday we had our first major storm which left me and my neighbours without electricity for many hours while hydro crews collected tree branches from the power lines. Today the sun returned, so I decided to celebrate the afternoon with a hike on Mt. Elphinstone

Is this the coolest looking tree or what? Spiral bark pattern with remnants of the forest fire 80+ years ago. Take a look at the boardwalk at the base of the tree. I've really started paying attention to the actual trails. Who builds wooden platforms like this in the middle of the forest? Nature loving, hard working volunteers who have great passion for mountain biking, that's who. Great work and kudos for sharing it with us hikers.

I was very impressed with the forest today. We've had over 2" of rain the past couple of days, so I was a bit worried the trails would be muddy. Not a bit! There were small branches and pine needles scattered everywhere from the high winds but the trails were in fine shape. The forest floor soaks in moisture like you wouldn't believe.

Recent rains mean the forest is exceptionally green this time of year. Moss is growing on fallen logs, ferns are sprucing up, and everything has new life with slightly cooler temperatures and plenty of moisture. I need to have someone teach me about the edible mushrooms.

This picture doesn't really do it justice. You have to get out there and see for yourself. Sunshine was streaming in through the towering branches, birds were singing, and I was the only human in sight. It's magical to take an hour in the middle of the afternoon to be quiet, get a good cardio workout, and be immersed in the natural environment...less than 5 minutes from my front door.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SUP Porpoise Bay - Sept 14, 2011

What a night! Huge thanks to my friends at Alpha Adventures and super guide Annie. I've been dying to get back out and try standup paddleboarding for a second time. Every Wednesday this summer, Alpha Adventures takes out a group of 10 lucky people for a group paddle. I just haven't been able to make the schedule work, or they have been sold out by the time I phoned. Tonight we launched from Porpoise Bay Provincial Park.

Tonight was beautiful! It was cloudy so the deep clear water of Sechelt Inlet looked black once you were away from the shore. Smooth as glass and as quiet as can be. It was so cool paddling along behind ducks, seagulls and Canada geese who were coming in for the night.

OK, this picture isn't from tonight...but I can't have a post without pics...and I'm not good enough to take a camera out on the water. This is my friend Laurie's photo of my first SUP trip back in July. Thanks Laurie! 90 minutes of paddling and I didn't go for a swim! Which I was very happy about as the water is ok for a quick walk but a bit chilly for a swim.

There were a couple of ambitious teenagers in our group who decided we should paddle around Poise Island. I am glad they did...it gave us a goal and a target and it is gorgeous. Steep cliffs and a mass of rock. How do trees grow directly out of rock? One thing about being new at paddleboarding...you pretty much just look straight ahead. Too much looking around messes with balance which means taking a swim. When we came around finishing the circle of the island, I got my first view at just how far we were from shore. Wow! "How am I going to ever get back?" is what I was thinking. Never fear...slow and steady...but it doesn't even feel like work while you're at it. Too much focus on just how beautiful the area is and how different your perspective is from the water.

I hope the temperatures hold in for a couple more weeks so that I can get back out on the water soon.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Davis Bay Sandcastles - July 30, 2011

It was a super sunny day for today's annual Davis Bay Sandcastle Competition. This is an annual event put on by our local Rotary organizations. Boy, did they pick the day for a long very low tide!

Some very creative minds went to work this morning designing all elements of creatures. Here are a few of our favourites:

Amazing likeness!

Love those toenails! Purple clam shells

Seaweed for the thong.

Mr Tortoise soaking up some sun

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SUP - July 24, 2011

Today was an amazing day. Summer has finally arrived in earnest here on the Sunshine Coast and we were looking for some fun in the sun. Our good friends at Alpha Adventures hosted the 1st Annual SUP Festival in Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. I've been wanting to try this hot new sport out for a while now, but everything finally came together today.

What is SUP? Stand Up Paddleboarding! I am so sorry not to have pictures...I didn't want to worry about the camera on the beach and in the water. I'll try to get some from a friend to add to this post tomorrow.

Picture standing on a surfboard in fairly calm water and using a single paddle...something like a canoe paddle, but really long. How hard would it be? Balance of surfing but advertised as easy as kayaking? It was awesome!

Thanks to Jamie Mani, Alpha Adventure co-owner, for hooking us up with equipment and a quick 5 minute lesson. Yes, a whole 5 minutes to get a pfd, learn how to measure for the appropriate paddle length, learn to carry the board into the water. Next, you get on the board in a kneeling position on all fours and center yourself on the board. I like to think of it as yoga prep...do a few cat/cow to get comfortable on the board. When you've got the feel of it, roll back onto your toes and into somewhere between downward dog and forward fold. Get your balance and roll yourself up to a standing position. You're up!

This is where the work begins. This isn't just standing on a board and paddling. This is balance! Core muscles working, knees bent, thighs engaged, arms & abs pulling through the water. This was a perfect day to learn...sunny and warm so not a big deal if you fall into the water. We were out at high tide on Sechelt Inlet, so fairly calm water and a very long stretch of shallow (3') water. Just a little windy to cause some waves to give you something to pay attention to. Now you learn to paddle and steer and see how brave you are to venture to deeper water.

So much fun, but high concentration necessary to not fall into the water. (only once!) After a break to warm up & dry off in the sun, I took a second try at it. Amazing improvement 2nd time out and able to enjoy and look around a bit more. What a gorgeous day! Shallow enough water to feel very safe, but so clear you could see the bottom. Lots of families out enjoying a day at the beach and trying out the equipment. I am looking forward to upcoming Wednesday evenings when Alpha Adventures does regular SUP nights in Davis Bay. Yes, come out after work and try paddleboarding in the Salish Sea. Can't wait to try this again!

To watch a video of the day, check out http://vimeo.com/2688035. Thanks to Laurie at Bigpacific.com for the photo & video!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

BC Bike Race - July 7, 2011

This week's highlight was BC Bike Race's annual appearance on the Sunshine Coast. This is a premier mountain bike race with over 400 riders from all around the world competing for 7 days. The Sunshine Coast is proud to be home for 3 days of the race.

Today, riders made the trip from Sechelt to Langdale...38km with 1,400m of elevation climbing. Serious stuff, but they all love the 7km downhill decent at the end. These are the same trails that I hike regularly on Mt Elphinstone. The last kilometer comes down through our neighborhood with the finish line at the ferry terminal.

The fastest riders made the trip in 2 hours. A good number were in by 3 hours and some made a day of it. There is obvious relief & joy when they hit the finish line.

The first rider I spoke to was from Belgium and the next pair was from the UK. Love to see people come from around the world to ride in my backyard. The brits loved the course, but were disappointed that they hadn't seen a bear yet. I told them that was probably a good thing.

One rider said, "The most fun you can have on your bike."

After the race, there is still much work to be done. The support team for the event is as least as big as the riders themselves.

Each day there are celebrations and awards for top finishers. Teams of 2, individuals, and two race categories. There are a number of women racing, and the best are right up there with the guys. These women rock.

What better after 3 hours of gruelling riding than a massage by this caring crew?

The first task after the race is food & drinks. Tables are layed out for the riders with fruit & drinks to rehydrate. The second task is to give the bikes a quick shower and get them loaded up on the truck for easy transport on the ferry.

Once the bike is taken care of...its time for the riders to have a shower, too. Yes, there is a mobile truck for that, too.

Then its time to hit tent city a have a good long sleep. Afterall, there is more singletrack waiting the next morning.

Good luck to all the riders in stage 6 & 7!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Days - July 4, 2011

Immigrating to a new country means many changes & new experiences. I can't imagine what it must be like for those who move half-way round the world. I may have moved a couple of thousand miles, but it is still the same hemisphere, the same language and many similar customs.

Some of my American friends ask, "Do you have the 4th of July?" I say, "Yes, its just like July 3rd and 5th."

Today, I had errands in Sechelt, so I decided to make some time for me and enjoyed a quiet hour break on the beach. Unfortunately, my favourite Sechelt lunch stop was closed (Monday), so I chose the 2nd best thing and picked up sushi to go for a picnic on Sechelt beach. As you can see, I pretty much had the place to myself. The kids were out swimming and jumping off the pier. It may be summer, but it's not warm enough for me to actually be in the ocean just yet. Such a nice time to sit and reflect.

Canadians celebrate the nation's birthday on July 1 - Canada Day. In fact, celebrations are very similar to American Independence Day events. Parades, honour to military & to country, bbq, concerts in the park, and a general day of outdoor fun. It's just that Canada didn't have a revolutionary war. Everything happened peacefully and orderly, so the emphasis on fireworks just isn't there. Sure, some celebrations include them...but it isn't the headline item like in the States.

Canada Day is a birthday party...an opening to summer to be spent with family and friends. The first of many long relaxing weekends by the ocean, camping, or just entertaining on the deck.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Music in the Landing - June 26, 2011

How does a month go by so fast? I download a bunch of pictures today...that I meant to write about when I took them... Oh well, I am writing now and that is what counts.

Today was a treat of Gibsons in the summer: Music in the Landing. Today was the first performance of the year. Free concerts in the park in Gibsons Landing on weekends all summer long.

First up were the Knotty Dotters. These ladies are a 7 piece marimba bank playing music inspired by Zimbabwe. Always lively, they just make you smile and want to dance.

I have tried to attach a video that I shot during the performance. There may not be sound, but you can still see the energy that these fabulous ladies play with. One of these days, I'll upgrade my old camera and then maybe I'll have full video capabilities.

Music in the Landing takes place Friday evenings in the Gazebo down by the government dock. Saturday during the day there is music near the Visitor Information Centre and/or in the space by Sweetwater Bistro. Saturday evening are full concerts in Winegarden Park...perfect for friends & families to bring the chairs/blankets and enjoy. Sunday afternoon concerts are part of the Gibsons Landing Sunday Market.

Don't miss! Great concerts all summer long...all local performers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Soames Hill - May 20, 2011

Spring has truly arrived...just in time for Victoria Day weekend. Three weeks since my last real hike and I can feel it...mentally and physically. Why do I let time slip by without getting outside? I couldn't pass up the sunny and warm afternoon, so I headed for one of my favourite spots: Soames Hill.

A big THANK YOU to the SCRD parks staff for the installation of the new trail signs. Made of wood, they look completely natural along the trail and are a great resource for hikers. There is no getting lost in this park.

Since today was a bright sunny day, I headed directly for the green trail...the 250m summit. Since I haven't been hiking regularly of late, I was feeling the cardio workout. My quads gave a cheery "Hello!" at about step 150..(there are 206 stairs). But this hike is completely worth the effort. The view from the top is simply amazing.

I could sit up there for hours. It is a great place to think, to relax, and soak in the sun. The rockface at the summit shows the power of the mountains and the ocean is such a deep blue. It was low tide today...you can see the sandy beach ringing the land. This is Gibsons Harbour...a few more boats popping up as summer approaches. Vancouver Island is in the distance with a few snowcapped mountains still in view. My photo skills don't do it justice. It's an amazing 240 degree view.

This is the view to the southeast. Keats Island is in front with the Paisley Islands in the back. We can't see these from town...only up this high can we see over Keats. Look at all the boats who have already arrived in Plumper's Cove for the holiday weekend. It was just a little hazy. On a crystal clear day, you can see to Richmond and YVR.

Paradise....just 5 minutes from home. One of the best places in the world to simply escape for a while.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Skookumchuck Narrows - May 2, 2011

Monday was an adventure day. We are entertaining guests from the U.S. so we took the day to explore the Sunshine Coast. The highlight was an evening cruise with Bryce of Sunshine Coast Tours to explore Skookumchuck Narrows in Egmont BC. Bryce is an excellent tour guide who freely shares stories and information about the area. Monday was an extra large current day and we happened to find some avid kayakers taking advantage of the rapids. Even though it had been a rainy day, the skies cleared for our afternoon cruise and we had a wonderful time on the water.

I highly recommend this tour. The hike in through the forest is an easy trail through the provincial park...baby strollers are often seen...and is 45min each direction. Huge ferns and endless Douglass firs, hemlocks & pine trees line the route past Brown Lake on your way to 2 viewing points for the Sechelt Rapids. The boat trip into Skookumchuck Narrows is a special treat, especially if some in your party aren't ready for the hike. From land, it is hard to feel the full power of the rapids. From the boat, you can hear how hard the motor runs just to keep still against the fast current.

The Sechelt Rapids are a natural phenomenon that occur at least twice each day. Tide changes move millions of liters of water from the Pacific Ocean into a narrow spot at the top of Sechelt Inlet and then back again. A shallow section of the inlet bordered by narrow granite cliffs creates either fast moving salt water rapids or amazing whirlpools depending on the direction of the current. Skookumchuck Narrows is home to the fastest tidal currents in the world.

This was an experienced group of kayakers and we enjoyed the show. Surfers are sometimes seen here, too. In between tides, this is also a wonderful place to dive. Underwater reefs and bountiful sealife make for an exciting underwater experience.

Wildlife is plentiful. We saw many types of ducks and various migrating birds on their spring travels north. Bald eagles nest high in the trees and we were happy to see one looking for its dinner.

Altogether a great day experience.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring - May 1, 2011

Well it took a while, but spring has fully arrived on BC's Sunshine Coast. April went by so fast with a bit too much rain and cool temps. But here we are with gorgeous sunshine.

I can't believe 2 full weeks went by without a good hike. You can tell I'm out of practice...I forgot the camera! I managed to get out Friday with some good friendly encouragement and took to the trails on Mt Elphinstone. We came across some significant trail development. A whole new trail appeared in the last 2 weeks since I've been on the mountain! We decided to follow it down...serious work was done! So many cutbacks and some serious built up curves for the mountain bikes. This new trail (still unnamed) will be a great ride, but it's not a trail for a leisurely hike. Lots of up and down for jumps and some serious curves.

When we reached the bottom, we ran into a student and his dad headed up for a ride. We mentioned the new trail, and the student had been involved in building it. Turns out it was the final project for the Capilano University Mountain Bike Program students. They built the entire trail in the last couple of weeks. A rock feature, a water crossing, wooden jumps, and serious reinforced turns belonged to each group of students. Great to see students gaining practical skills and leaving a great gift to our trail system.

There is also a new sign at the entrance to the park announcing "Sprockids Bike Park". So much to explore....grab you bike (or your hiking boots) and get outside! It won't be so long till I get back on the trails.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gibsons Creek - April 8, 2011

Spring has arrived! The first hike of the year with no jacket and fantastic sunshine. From the first moment of sun streaming on your face while you lay in bed, you know its going to be one of those fantastic Sunshine Coast days. Everything looks better and springs to life in the sun. That amazing deep blue water was back. No gray, no fog, no rain.....just wonderful sunshine. After a morning full of appointments and errands, I hastily made my way to meet the girls for an afternoon on Mount Elphinstone. I haven't made the group hike for about 2 weeks now, and the excitement of returning was evident. We chatted away the entire time...the sun giving everyone a burst of energy. We chose a familiar path today, Technical Ecstacy to Sidewinder and up to Gibsons Creek. Today wasn't so much about taking in the wonderful scenery (although it was certainly there). Today was about catching up, being glad to see each other, and getting a good cardio workout. Before we knew it, we were up the the bridge that crosses Gibsons Creek. Two months ago there were huge icicles hanging on these falls. Today the snowmelt and recent rains made for a great show as the creek swells with water. One of these days, I'll find out what is on the other side of that bridge. It is a landmark that makes for about a 1 hour roundtrip hike, so it is always our turnaround spot. As the days grow noticeably...sunset is almost 8pm already...I'll just have to find time for a longer hike and see where this trail goes. Sometimes I look at the bridges and the bike ramps on the trails and wonder about the diehard volunteers who built them. Think about the effort that it takes to hike in with the equipment...let alone the effort and the vision that it takes to build something like this. How did they decide that this is the spot to cross the creek? The ridge leading up to it is quite steep and offers a great view of the valley below. I'll just keep admiring their work and seeking out new trails on the mountain. Here is a THANK YOU and a hug to those who build great trails!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dakota Ridge - March 23, 2011

I had the most incredible day...a perfect day of sunshine up on Dakota Ridge. Warm temperatures, clear skies, and views that you just can't beat. Oh, and did I mention 285cm of snow? That's almost 10 feet!

I know I've posted about Dakota before, but this was what it is all about. Clear skies, sunny and warm. My friend Kelly and I set out on the western snowshoe trail first. The live view is better than the pics, but this is looking west across the Salish Sea to Vancouver Island and its snow covered peaks in the distance.

We hiked for 2 hours and didn't see a soul. Just incredible views and a completely peaceful forest. We headed back to the warming hut, but chose to enjoy the sun and have lunch out on the picnic table. It was a popular spot, suddenly there were people everywhere...even a bbq in the parking lot. So many families enjoying the last taste of winter during spring break.

Rested and fed (with sandwiches & wraps from Strait Coffee), we headed off on the eastern trail. This picture is part of 13km of groomed XC ski trails with the Salish Sea in the distance.

Along this trail, I soon found a familiar sight. I am lucky enough to look at the North Shore Mountains every day from my deck. Here in the distance, is the same view...just from a vantage point 1,200 meters higher. A bit further up the trail, you could see all the way to Mt Baker in Washington.

No time to waste if you want to see Dakota Ridge for yourself this year. The area is set to officially close for the season on April 3. Get out there and have some winter fun!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gibsons Landing - March 19, 2011

Happy Spring! It may not be official just yet, but today was a lovely spring afternoon to stroll Gibsons Landing. Nothing better than taking a short rest in Winegarden Park gazing out at the marina and the snowcapped North Shore Mountains in the distance.

New this week in the Landing is Feastro the Rolling Bistro. Delicious fresh food from the purple truck. Today I had my favourite treat...halibut tacos which feature organic greens from Henry Reed Farm just down the road. There is a full menu of yummy treats...plenty of seafood options including bonzai prawns, pulled pork, and chicken. My partner tried out the poutine today and thoroughly enjoyed. I think my next trip will be to sample the sockeye salmon taco.

Winegarden Park...the perfect spot to walk the dog, pull up a seat on a bench, and in summer...the place to be on weekends for Music in the Landing. A scoop of locally made gelato from Mike's Place, an organic smoothie from Liquid Living Room, and a treat from Feastro's purple truck. So many sweet treats.

Catch Feastro and the Sunshine Coast featured on the Food Network's "Eat Street" on April 27.