Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hornby Island is Paradise!

(view of Lasqueti Island from Sandpiper Bay)

We recently went up to Hornby Island for the weekend. I've been going to Hornby since I was about four years old, and have so many fond memories from our summers there.

We used to stay right in Tribune Bay, which some might say is the ideal waterfront location on Hornby. It is the expansive, beautiful white sand beach that they call "Little Hawaii".

Just up the road from Tribune Bay is The Co-op, the main grocery store, and a small outdoor market of shops, restaurants and and an ice cream store. The restaurants are Jan's Fresh Food Cafe and Vorizo (the postal code for Hornby is V0R 1Z0).

Jan makes excellent hand-made food and everything there is so delicious. I especially love the scones!

Vorizo makes some decent Mexican fare and is a fun people watching spot, especially later on when Jan's has closed for the evening.

Both Vorizo and Jan's are closed for the winter, but Jan's re-opens in the early Spring.

At the Co-op, there is also a Bike Shop where you can rent bikes. Hornby is known for it's excellent mountain biking trails on Mount Geoffrey. If you pop into the shop, they will most likely have a map of all the trails, and they are well marked as well.

Mt. Geoffrey trails also make for an excellent hike up to the top. If you reach the "Cliff Trail" and follow it up (roughly South) you will reach a clearing with a beautiful view of Denman Island, Vancouver Island, and Lambert Channel. It makes a nice little picnic spot.

Hornby Island has a unique ecosystem in BC, supporting more than 90 at-risk species. Part of the island's beauty is due to the picturesque Garry Oak Groves that exist there. To read more about Hornby's unique eco-system, visit Hornby Island Geography.

You will, no doubt, hear about Helliwell Park if you visit Hornby Island. This is one of the places where you will find the Garry Oak trees, as well as magnificent bluffs plunging into the ocean.

From the most South Eastern point of Helliwell, you will look out and see an island called Flora Island where sea lions often rest. You'll hear them barking before you see them!

Hornby also had amazing and unique sandstone beaches that almost look like their from another planet (see the photo at the top of this post for an example). If you are at Ford's Cove Marina, go down to the sandstone beach behind the store and walk South to get a sample of the sandstone landscape. They have inspired many local Hornby artists and painters.

If you are in the mood for a gourmet meal, you can reserve for just a dinner at the Seabreeze Lodge. It is of course also a fantastic place to stay, but with a lot of return visitors, be prepared to reserve well in advance for one of their all inclusive cabin accommodations.

The Seabreeze has a rotating weekly menu and my favourite nights include Curry Buffet and Greek night. And of course, their scrumptious homemade soda bread is available on a few nights. You can find a link to the Seabreeze menu from this page.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Two nights in Tetrahedron Provincial Park

For proper directions and maps to Tetrahedron and info visit BC Parks info on Tetrahedron or the Tetrahedron Outdoor Club site

A quick summary is that Tetrahedron Provincial Park has beautiful scenery, pristine lakes, wild blueberries everywhere and the cabins are such a treat... like little chateaux waiting with firewood, wood stoves, two levels and decks on each level, outhouses, and rushing streams nearby to get water (mind you we still boiled to be safe). This park is a gem!

Please be aware that you need to pay to stay in the cabins. The cabins are such a great asset to the park so do your part and donate--in envelopes on site or by PayPal on the Tet Outdoor Club site. So easy and so cheap for what you get!!!

We set out for Tetrahedron up the logging road and found that there was no way our Toyota Corona would make it through the deep run-off ditches that cut through the road.

Fortunately our friend had a l'il Suzuki Samurai kicker and had no troubles diving in and out of the ditches. We got up to the trail head, parked and left a note on the dash that said we would be returning Monday night.

We started up the rocky logging road and when we hit the first sign we headed off in the direction of Edwards Lake cabin. This was around 3km away and ended up taking us about two hours with stops along the way.

It was a fairly easy hike and we reached the wooded trail after about 45min walking through the clearcut area.

It was a nice trail; cushy and soft under the feet with lots rolling ups and downs. The most exciting part was that wild blueberries were growing in abundance along the trail and we feasted quite a bit. Very tasty for mid October!

One of my favorite points of our weekend was when we stopped beside Edwards Lake. It was such beautiful sunny and warm weather for October and the scene was so picturesque. I think we were all really happy at that point.

The trail continued on for about another half hour or so when we spotted the roof of the first cabin. We shouted with glee but were then disappointed to be greeted by an old mountain man saying there were twenty teens staying at the cabin.

This was somewhat bad news for us as it was already 5pm and we were looking forward to just settling down and relaxing. We talked with him for a few minutes and he convinced us that the next hike to summit of Mt. Steele really wasn't that bad... "just through the saddle and up the rock face"...

The other lady with him was nice enough and offered us floor space on the main floor but ultimately we were looking forward to having a cabin to ourselves... or at least one without twenty teenagers in it. So we set out hoping we would make it before sunset.

It was a very challenging hike for some of us... Quite steep in some places but ultimately not that long. It took us about two hours of mostly uphill climbing. But it was so worth it and it feels good to challenge yourself like that.

The summit of Mt Steele is amazing with 360 degree views and so quiet and peaceful... at least in the perfect weather that we were having.

We were quick to get into the cabin and get the wood stove started. The cabin was clean and beyond what we had imagined it would be. There was a small rushing stream a few hundred feet away so we felt like we had everything we needed.

That night we had a great time, first cooking a hot meal, talking and relaxing and then playing quite a few rounds of very instense Jenga! What a nice surprise that our friend had brought.

Our sleep that night was actually too hot as the wood stove was still raging when we went to bed and it was not very cold outside.

The next morning we woke up leisurely, made instant oatmeal with cranberries and nuts, hot chocolate and all that good stuff. We got dressed and went for a hike to the peak of the mountain. It was a short, fairly easy walk up and so beautiful!

At the highest peak, there is a little chair on top of the world... a little dead tree that has formed a 90 degree angle and a perfect little place to sit and look out at Texada and Vancouver Islands. Ravens were flying around in a pack, making their peaceful wilderness sounds.

We saw some tracks that looked either like wolves or perhaps a dog? There are no dogs allowed but we saw one this trip and I saw one the last time I was here.

After the hike we cleaned up the cabin, packed up and headed down the hill to Edwards again. The walk down actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be... not as slippery or snowy, although we did have a few falls. The worst part was when we were off the summit and back in the saddle. A number of trees had fallen and it was a bit difficult to go over and under them all with the big packs on.

I think it took us about 1.5 hours to get from Steele back to the Edwards cabin. This cabin was pretty much the same as Steele, but with some garbage left over from the 20 brats that were there the night before.

We rested a little and then went out to hit the lake for some fishing. Our friends decided to take the quick route to the lake so we bush-wacked through once we could see the lake through the trees. Interestingly, they led us the right away I guess as there were old decommissioned bridges over the stream that meandered down to the lake. It made walking through the marshy areas a little easier.

And when we reached the lake there was a perfect little island for us to sit on while our friends fished. No activitiy, but it was so peaceful and beautiful. I yearned to have a little boat to row around in.

That evening we had beautiful weather again but were so tired that we just ate and went to bed at around 10pm... this time with much less wood on the fire!

In the night we had to bring our perishables in from the top deck as there were some little animals getting into them. We hadn't had this problem up on Steele as there was much less life and vegetation up there... but here I would recommend actually hanging your food instead of leaving it on the top deck.

Next morning we high-tailed it outta there and it took 1.5 hours to get from Edwards back to the trailhead where the car was parked.

Overall a tiring, but very satisfying and worthwhile weekend! Will definitely go back and check out the Chapman and other cabins... maybe in the winter on showshoes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A weekend trip to Saltspring Island

At the end of last summer we took a short trip to Saltspring with friends. We had a bit of difficulty figuring out which ferry to take to get there, and I thought I would clarify things here in case anyone has a similar problem.

There are two routes on BC Ferries that can get you to Saltspring. We assumed that since we were in Vancouver, it would be best to get the ferry from Tsawwassen to Long Harbour. However this route has very infrequent sailings and stops at a few other Gulf Islands along the way. According to the schedule, it would take 3 hours and stop at 3 other islands along the way. Plus on the weekend it only left at 6:15am and 3:30pm. Yikes!

We realized that it would be faster to take the ferry to Victoria, which leaves every hour, and then transfer onto the ferry to Saltspring's Fulford Harbour. The trip would take the same amount of time, but at least there were many more sailings so that we could arrive at a reasonable time.

Here is the map that shows the different routes.

If the Long Harbour times happen to be more convenient for the traveller, then perhaps the Long Harbour route would be a good option. However it also depends on where your destination on Saltspring Island is.

If you don't even want to worry about these kind of details, try checking out the Salt Spring booked vacations with Gulf Escapes. The tour company will book all of your accomodation, a rental car and will give you suggested driving itineraries. Click Gulf Islands BC to go to their home page.

Very convenient!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Vancouver in the summer!

Hot time, Summer in the City! Vancouver is at it's best right now!

The summer weather is finally here with temperatures from about 22 to 28 celcius and we finally have the summer vibe going on!

Last weekend (June 24-25) made me remember how much I love Vancouver and how great it can be. There was so much going on: Free Jazz Fest Concerts at Pigeon Park, Kits Days happening with sales and food kiosks on the street, and Greek Day on Broadway which I didn't attend but witnessed the sea of people in the closed off streets.

That weekend brought back a rush of nostalgic feelings for me. I remembered the excitement of getting out for summer vacation and how long the 2 months ahead seemed.

Who knew Vancouver could come alive like this? It's so easy to forget when the rains quiet the city, but with the comfortable temperatures and absolutely stunning scenery here, Vancouver is really the place to be in June!

Other must sees / dos for summer in Vancouver are:
- Going out to Wreck Beach for the day
- Creating a lantern and joining the Illuminares Lantern Festival
- Hitting Jericho Beach for windsurfing or beers at the Sailing Centre.
- Watching the Celebration of Light fireworks in English Bay, or from Kits Beach.

And many more things I can't remember right now but will come back to update!


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Our trip to Tofino

Made a trip up to Tofino for the weekend last summer. It was totally fantastic!

The scenery there is totally amazing. It's lush and green, quiet and very remote feeling and there is wild life everywhere, including lots of bald eagles, seals and sea lions, whales, whales and more whales.

Tofino is located in BC, of course, on Vancouver Island near Pacific Rim National Park. The drive up was totally beautiful and we stopped for a look in Cathedral Grove along the way, where there are walking paths built through the old growth forest there.

One of the best parts of our stay was our accommodation. It was a bed and breakfast called Meare's Retreat and we totally lucked out and stumbled upon it. I got a good tip from another bed and breakfast owner who said that the easiest way to find accommodation in Tofino is to email their chamber of commerce who will then send out a message to all of the bed and breakfast owners who are members. Those b and bs with availability will then email you back. It was perfect!

So Charlie at Meare's Retreat was one of the places to email us back. He has a spectacular room with a private hot tub on a deck. It sounded great but we didn't even realize until we got there.

The photo is of our view from the deck... It was absolutely breathtaking! Each morning we ate our freshly baked breakfast and watched eagles dive down to catch fish in the water. As you can see we were up on a cliff and had an incredible, did I already say breathtaking, view.

Charlie was so kind too. He lent us his boogie board to go to Long Beach and was great with directions, maps and all of that. And the hot tub was all to ourselves... perfect!

We also took the boat ride to Hot Springs Cove, where there are natural hot springs, right on the waters edge. The hot springs are among the rocks and there are natural pools and little waterfalls to sit under. I braved a trip into the ocean to cool down, but the waves were huge and powerful and the museel covered rocks gave me a few scrapes, but it was fun anyway.

The boat ride to and from the Hot Springs was basically a whale watching and wildlife tour as well. On the way there we saw the bald eagles nest, some seals and sea lions, a few whale spouts, and our driver even stopped to try and catch a salmon! I couldn't believe how action packed a tour it was.

On the way back in the open water we were in huge swells that went higher than the boat itself. We saw quite a few humpback and a few gray whales. The fright of our life was when we were still in the open water and one of the whales that was 50 feet away suddenly appeared right in front of us, bringing it's tail right out of the water and almost hitting us. We all screamed and I think the driver thanked the spirits that we didn't hit it.

The two fine dining restaurants that we went to were excellent, but please do make reservations! We had to eat outside and a German woman at another table who wasn't happy about that yelled "How can I eat?!? It's like we are camping!!" We had a good laugh about that.

There were lots of other highlights and great photos but I'll have to update that next time.

If you want someone to handle all of the details of your vacation to Tofino, and you want a package that comes with rental car, accommodation, driving itinerary, and ferry rides, see Tofino Vacations and Tofino Accommodations.

Monday, January 30, 2006

I Love BC!

Travelling around the world has made me realize how beautiful our province is and how much of it I have to see!

This will be updated with lots of photos, stories and hints for travelling in BC.