Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dakota Ridge Snowshoe Day - March 31, 2012

What a day! This is the last official weekend of the season at Dakota Ridge, so I made the most of it. Peace and phones, no email, no human contact for a couple of hours.

Thanks to my friends at Alpha Adventures for worry free transportation & equipment. No need for my own 4x4 or chains...just let Trevor do the driving. It is even better at the end of the day...when you've had a full workout and just want to relax....just let Trevor do the driving. : )

Conditions were fabulous when we arrived: 45cm (1.5ft) new snow in the last 2 days and the sun was trying to peak through the clouds. I took off for the Eastern Trail where views of the North Shore Mountains can be seen. Unfortunately it was too cloudy. I could see the ocean, but no views of the neighboring mountains.

In previous trips, I had always been with small groups. I usually just followed the group without thinking about where we were going. Today I was on my own. It is incredible how quiet a snow covered forest is. But when you stop and really listen, there are birds and the sound of fresh snow falling from the trees. I was very happy with how well the trails are marked. Just as I passed a marker, I could always see the next trail marker in the distance. Even though I was walking in fresh powder and "breaking trail" through much of the hike, I never felt at risk of being lost.

Dakota Ridge has 8km of marked snowshoe trails. I hiked the Eastern Loop and then the far Northern Loop. 2 full hours of pure peacefulness. About halfway in, it started to snow. Very light flurries that seemed perfectly appropriate given all the fresh powder. Then it really started snowing. Anyone heading out tomorrow will have an excellent fresh snow experience.

At sea level, it was another of those grey days with long periods of drizzle. 1,200 meters up the mountain, it was a winter wonderland. Even though there were a number of people skiing, snowshoeing & tobogganing, I saw only 2 people on my entire 2 hour hike. 1 at the very beginning and 1 at the very end. The rest of the time I had the place to myself...alone with my thoughts and with nature. Back at the warming hut I caught up with friends who had been skiing, and we shared stories of the day. So sad to have another winter season end, but I will sleep well tonight and enjoy the memories until next season.

Alpha Adventures will continue guided treks as long as the snow lasts, but officially the season ends tomorrow. Get up there if you have the chance!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mt Elphinstone Snow - March 23, 2012

Today we really turned the corner into spring. Sunshine and warmer temperatures were enough to get just about anyone outside. Daylight hours are extending with every passing day giving us even more opportunities. Not only was the fabulous weather calling me outside, but this was catch up time with my good friend and motivator Char. Our schedules haven't allowed us to spend much time together lately, so I was excited to have time 1 on 1 to chat.

Of course, hiking with a fitness coach and personal trainer means you are going to get a good workout. We attempted to hike Torrent up to The Ridge which is both aggressive cardio and a fabulous reward of unique terrain at the top. Unfortunately, I missed a turn somewhere so we just kept going up the yellow trail. This trail eventually reaches the summit, but that means 4 hours in each direction. Too much time for an average Friday for these two busy women.

This was our turnaround point. I figured that if we had hiked high enough to find snow on a 10 degree (that's 50F) day, we had done our climbing for the day. I'm not in fitness trainer shape, but just knowing that I was able to have a consistent conversation during a fairly aggressive climb means I have improved a lot over a couple of years. I know I will sleep well tonight and hopefully dream of the grand cedars & firs that accompanied our journey.

Here is to more Friday afternoons with good friends.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Langdale Falls - March 16, 2012

You know what it's like when you have a week filled with meetings, presentations and stress? I hadn't been able to hike all week, part bad weather and part too full a schedule. Friday was a day reserved for rejuvenating and getting out in nature. I looked forward with excitement to meeting the ladies for a hike.

It seems we all needed a bit of sunshine and fresh air, so we took a longer route and headed for Langdale Falls...up and over the falls and around to the powerlines before circling back up "Nuts" to our starting point. All together a great workout and just over 1.5 hours. "Nuts" is a short little trail segment, but it is a quad burner that is all uphill at the end of the hike. It's a very pretty area, and that makes it a little easier. It's a good measure of progress...a trail that you do a little faster each time...a little less winded each time.

There were many tree limbs down from the recent windstorm, but the forest is incredibly green. This spot is near Langdale Creek and is just full of moss. So many shades of green between the moss, ferns, and trees. Hello Middle Earth?

We have received a lot of rain the past couple of weeks so the creeks are all running full. There were stretches along Langdale Creek where we were stepping along rocks because the creek was higher than normal. It's loud & powerful and pure. Just wait until the snow starts melting. There is a lot of fresh snow on Mt Elphinstone right now.

Just after this point in the hike is the most challenging. You need gloves as you back your way down a steep set of rocks only then to have to hike back up a steep section. Kudos to the team that attached ropes to this section. Having something else to hold on to while you climb this steep part is just the security blanket one needs to safely conquer this section of trail.

Langdale Falls up close.

Let's hope there aren't so many days before the next trip to the forest.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Winterfest 2012 - Dakota Ridge - March 10, 2012

Today was "fun in the snow" day ... Winterfest 2012 on Dakota Ridge. Look at all the snow! The ridge is up to a 2 meter base with 15cm just last night. It snowed off and on throughout the day and you can bet there is more falling tonight.

It still seems a little strange to live in Canada and yet hardly ever see snow. We've only had 1 little snow all winter this year and that was only a dusting that didn't last more than few hours. I swept the shovels necessary. So when I get the chance, I make the short 1 hour trip from Arcturus Retreat up to Dakota Ridge.

Today there were plenty of extra demos, training clinics, and races all in support of our local Jackrabbits program (cross country ski instruction for kids). These are the brave souls awaiting the starting gun for the 5km snowshoe race.

Meanwhile, I was trying skate skiing for the first time. Our group had a very good instructor, Tyrone, who made everything look effortless. I didn't go very far, but every once in a while I felt I was actually doing it correctly. It takes a lot of concentration to break yourself of downhill ski habits. Skate skis are only 2" wide and only as tall as I am. Much lighter and more mobile, but good balance is very important. Your whole body is moving, whereas with downhill it is more about shifting your weight and keeping center of gravity.

My real joy is found on snowshoes. Hiking, but with really big shoes. Posing among the trees is my awesome guide, Annie. Dakota Ridge has 8km of marked snowshoe trails, but the real fun comes in breaking fresh powder. Note in the picture, there is no trail out front...just the path that we've created. There is something special about being the first person to walk across completely perfect, untouched snow. It is like no one has ever been in that spot because each snowfall wipes the slate clean. If you don't have a lot of experience, it is best to have a guide like Annie who knows the terrain and watches out for tree wells, creek crossings & other danger spots. Besides, you can just stare at the gorgeous scenery instead of worrying about getting lost in the forest.

Thanks for a great day to my friends at Alpha Adventures who organized the event. Can't wait for more fun in the snow. Just 3 more weeks to enjoy for this season!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cruising Pender Harbour - March 6, 2012

Today was one of those perfect "spring is almost here" days. Bright sunshine without a cloud in sight makes you feel so good after you've finished a wet & gray west coast winter. It is hard to explain having grown up in the prairies where a big sky is available most of the time. Sunshine Coasters are just happier and ready to give the sun a big hug when it returns to the sky.

I had the pleasure of escorting visitors on an afternoon exploration of Pender Harbour. After a lovely lunch of potato & corn soup & ham & cheese quiche & checking out the fabulous nature inspired art on display at Copper Sky, we took a short walk over to the docks. There we met up with Bryce Christie of Sunshine Coast Tours who had the boat ready and waiting.

I joked with Bryce as we headed out that we were hoping for a little wildlife adventure. I never dreamed what we would see. Soon we were cruising up to this small rocky island and something was moving. Isn't this photo amazing! This sea lion was massive! Easily 1,000 pounds and he was just basking in the glory of the sunshine. Bryce cut the engines and carefully guided us quietly in for photos and stunning amazement & appreciation. We could have watched for hours, but this male sea lion would have none of it and waddled his way back into the ocean where he quickly disappeared. Bryce explained the sea lions visit the Sunshine Coast this time of year as they migrate along the Pacific Coast. We also saw 2 seals during the trip who were out for a swim. After seeing the massive sea lion, the resident harbour seals just seamed tiny.

It is often said that the way to truly experience Pender Harbour is to do so in a boat. This is so true. The beautiful harbour, well protected from the large waves of the ocean has drawn people for centuries. This was once the winter home for large numbers of the Sechelt (shishalh) Nation. What a beautiful place to gather, fish, and support each other in community through the winter. We viewed two different sites along the cliff faces where pictographs documenting the original residents could be seen.

This photo is as we first left the dock with Mount Daniel to the left and snow covered mountains in the background. The sharp contrast of the deep blue water, the green forest covered landscape, the bright orange trunks of the arbutus trees, and the snow covered peaks is just heaven to me. We explored Pender Harbour itself and then headed into the Agamemnon Channel which separates the Sechelt Peninsula from Nelson Island. We could see snow covered Churchill Peak and others that line Jervis Inlet on the way to Princess Louisa Inlet to the north. It is hard to put into words. I just sit in awe of this absolute gem...nature at its best, full of life and striking contrasts. Even the pictures can't compare to the 360 view up close and personal. (Thank goodness Bryce shared these photos with me, as I managed to leave my camera at home!) I must remember to take more days to get out and appreciate the sights rather than work too hard in front of the computer.