Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Langdale Falls - Jan 26, 2011

Today was absolutely beautiful with sunny skies that demanded I go outside. We've had a bit of rain and gray the past few days, so the sun is always refreshing.

I decided to hike on Mt. Elphinstone again. Lucky for me, I ran into my good friend Tony at the trailhead. He was excited to have a hiking buddy, and I was looking forward to what he would teach me about the forest. So we headed in for my first (of I'm sure will be many) trip to Langdale Falls.

I've seen the sign before, but had been told there were some steep sections on the way. Follow the pink and blue trail symbols and they lead you right to the waterfall.

This is a very good time of year to visit. We have had 200mm of rain this month and temps are warm this week so there is snowmelt feeding the streams as well. It is about a 40 minute hike in to the falls. Not too hard, but there are some good climbs and some narrow paths where you really don't want to fall.

The waterfall is impressive. You can hear it well before you arrive. It must be at least a 50m drop. Tony says it is a great place for a swim & shower in the summer. Great to cool off after a day's hike.

The forest on Mt Elphinstone is amazing. Tony taught me to identify a Douglas fir, a red cedar, and a hemlock. Having grown up in the prairies, I don't know my west coast trees. He also pointed out salmonberry and different kinds of ferns. The ecosystem is amazing and I hope to learn much more on many more walks through the forest. All this within 2km of my house.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cliff Gilker Park - Jan 14, 2011

Today was supposed to be my long awaited ladies snowshoe day on Dakota Ridge. Mother Nature thought otherwise. Temperatures of 10C/50F and rain do not fit with was 3C already at 10am on the mountain and raining. So, we postponed our snowshoe plans and went for coffee.

By the time we finished chatting, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Fully dressed in outdoor gear, we decided we might as well get a workout, so we headed for nearby Cliff Gilker Park. What a great decision!

All the recent rain and warm temperatures have created amazing waterfall conditions. Unfortunately, I passed up the photo op at the large waterfall but these are pretty good. I have never seen so much water in the stream here.

The forest is lush and full and green everywhere you look. The sun was just peeking in through the trees with a few lingering drops falling onto our heads. This is one of many bridges in the park. I am always amazed at the work that goes into creating such wonderful trails.

Cliff Gilker park is part of the Sunshine Coast Regional District Park System. As such, the trails are wide and well maintained with good signage. You can't get lost in this park. There were muddy spots, but we have had a lot of rain lately.

With more experienced hikers than myself in the group, I got to see a whole new area of the park. We hiked for over an hour with fairly small elevation changes. We peeked into the neighboring Sunshine Coast Golf & Country Club course a few times, but no players due to the heavy early morning rain. This is a hike that any mobile person can handle. The best feature of the park is that the front large waterfall is wheelchair accessible, too. A short wide trail leads to a wooden viewing deck that literally everyone can enjoy.

Fingers crossed that my next post will be photos of Dakota Ridge and our snowshoe trek.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Soames Hill - Jan 8, 2011

Another gorgeous sunny day on BC's Sunshine Coast. I just had to get outside to make up for missing yesterday's group hike. So I headed to one of my favourite sunny day spots...Soames Hill.

Now if you came across these stairs in the middle of the forest, wouldn't you head upward? Of course! 65 steps to the first bridge and rest point gets you ready. A little heavy breathing and your heart starts beating. 206 total winding stairs in addition to a bit of natural slope gets you to the first mini-summit. It's those last 35 steps that really get the heart rate up.

But so worth it! The views here are just amazing. Soames Hill is the highest point around Gibsons without climbing Mt Elphinstone. It is 200m to the first viewpoint and 250m to the highest viewpoint.

This shot is looking eastnortheast over Howe Sound to the Coast Mountains. The edge of Keats Island is on the right.

This is the second viewpoint...standing on solid rock. Keats Island is in the front and the Paisley Islands on the far side. There was a single sailboat out in the harbour today...gorgeous day for a sail.

It is hard to see from the picture, but there is a solid rockface behind these trees. This is the otherside of the hilltop...south of the stairs. I was just standing up on top of those rocks a few minutes earlier. Taking this shot, I am on fairly level ground in thick forest.

If you follow this particular trail, you decend all the way down to Marine Drive. Someday I'll make that part of the hike. The trick is...not wanting to hike up from there. It's a serious uphill climb. So you park at Shirley Macy to access the main trails and stairs to the summit. If you hike down to Marine Drive and the do you get your car back? Some day...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hiking on Mt Elphinstone - Jan 2, 2011

A bright sunny wintery day is the perfect time to explore the forest. This is one of the lower trails on Mt Elphinstone, which is the dominating landscape feature as you arrive on the Langdale ferry from West Vancouver. Lucky for me, the trailheads are only 2km from Arcturus Retreat B&B.

Most of these lower trails are built by avid mountain bikers and neighbor Sprockids Mountain Bike Park. It's not an official park, so signage isn't much more than a few reflectors and an occasional arrow for riders.

Nevertheless, there are some amazing trees in this forest. Note the vibrant colour on this none of its neighbours. That is Stan in front to show you just how large this tree is. So happy to have Stan join me for this hike! I don't know this area well enough yet to head in alone.
A tree with character like this just makes you wonder at what it has been witness to over the years. It has clearly seen all of the 20th century and I wonder how much more. This forest was logged in the early 1900's when Europeans first arrived. Port Mellon is only 10km away and was home to the first paper mill in the area.

We came across a trail called "Technical Ecstacy" which we just had to follow. Clearly a mountain bikers dream...lots of cutbacks, bridges, jumps, ramps, twists and turns. It is an easy walk, but you need to pay attention as this was clearly not built with the hiker in mind. A rider could come up quickly and definitely deserves the right of way.

It is hard to see in this picture, but you can see out to the Georgia Straight. It can be a bit dark in the forest, but light flows in at the top of the trees and is really quite a view when you come to an opening.
After travelling over the Christmas holiday, I am very aware of how green the forest is here. Other parts of North America are so brown this time of year with every plant in hibernation waiting for spring. Here on the Sunshine Coast, we are very luck to have green life everywhere all year long. Not only the trees, but the ferns and groundcover and moss all bring life to the forest floor.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Happy New Year and welcome 2011! It is a gorgeous sunny day looking out over snow-capped mountains here in Gibsons BC. No wind, not too cold with positive temps, and an all-around pleasant way to start the new year.

The New Year tradition in Gibsons is the Polar Boar Plunge on Armours Beach. Yes, most communities have a Polar Bear Plunge, but in Gibsons it is sponsored by the local rugby club known as the Pigs. Therefore, we have a Polar Boar instead of a Polar Bear.

Lots of brave souls made it out today to enjoy the sunshine and dip their toes in the ocean. Look at the energy of the front runners as they dive into the water.

I always admire the variety of characters who take part in this event. Little kids, teenagers, adults, and seniors gather together and dive in. Everyone is welcome and equal as they line up on the beach for the challenge. Family and friends cheer them on from the safety of the beach and dock. After the swim, the participants gather for soup and hot chocolate while the onlookers take a stroll down the beach.

Maybe some day I will take on this challenge. For now, I prefer to watch and cheer on everyone else.
Here's to a great year ahead. I don't usually make new year's resolutions, but this year I want to do a better job of taking time to value the natural world around me. I want to share all the great hikes, the great days at the beach, and the never ending supply of local festivals. It can all go by so fast if you don't take time to think about all that has happened.

Best of luck and welcome 2011.