Torrent – Mount Elphinstone

New Trail Day! I love exploring new trails and getting to know a trail network better. Today started as one of those days where I just couldn’t get motivated to work so instead headed for a workout & re-energizing trip to the forest. I needed something challenging to get the energy flowing. I first hiked Torrent a few years ago with a much fitter friend and I remembered how exhausting yet exhilarating it was. It was a whole new part of Mount Elphinstone that I hadn’t seen before. Now that I’ve explored many more trails in the area, I decided to try and find it again.

Torrent is a black diamond downhill mountain bike trail. This is a steep cardio climb, but it was also very exciting to see how much fitter I am now than the first time a couple of years ago. Before, I never would have made it without my competitive spirit to try and keep up with my friend. Today I made it up in one hour and felt great at the top. One major rule needs to be observed when hiking a trail like this…this was made for mountain bikers and they love flying down it. If you’re hiking, you must be alert to give way to an oncoming bike. There is nowhere for them to swerve to miss you without crashing…you must get out of the way. Today, though, I had the entire trail to myself.
Torrent 710For hikers, the bottom of Torrent is within Sprockids Mountain Bike Park and is accessed from Sidewinder very near where Sidewinder breaks off from the yellow/orange trail. It heads off outside the park, but you’d never know that. When you reach the top (where mountain bikers start the trail), you’re at the intersection of Pressure Drop, Ridge, Sidewinder, and the yellow trail that becomes the Summit Trail at this point. Talk about choices!

Torrent 716

I am all about hikes with rewards at the end. There is no major viewpoint to the ocean on Torrent. The forest is much to thick. However, as you near the top you will find significant rewards. These are the trees that literally will have you saying “WOW” while you hike. I see trees like this and I can’t imagine how massive these west coast forests must have looked when European settlers arrived 150 years ago. I love these spiral trees! This one is so tall, I couldn’t get it in the camera frame. It’s huge! Spiral trees were left behind when the rest of the area was logged as they didn’t have ‘any value’. Boy do I value them today.
Torrent 712Check out this massive tree that fell years ago.  There is an entire forest sprouting up out of its massive trunk. The entire length of the tree has new trees growing from it.

Torrent 707Rather than building trail around it, this massive tree became the trail when it fell. You literally walk/ride the length of the tree. So cool!

So I started this post with ‘new trail day’. At the top of Torrent I saw this piece of art. (can’t believe the photo turned out fuzzy). How do you resist a trail marked by a painting?

Ridge 711Ridge is another black diamond downhill mountain bike trail that runs just west of Torrent. Luckily, I was hiking down to explore this because an hour of steep climbing is enough for one day. Gorgeous hiking..and sure enough…it lived up to its name and I found myself on a ridge with drop offs on either side where I could here rushing water from a creek. Ridge intersects Sidewinder again and I realized I’d been at this part of the trail lots of times, but never realized that it went up at this point. It’s another major trail junction of Sidewinder, Fuzzy Hugs and Ridge…just a short distance from the bridge over Gibsons Creek. I took Ridge further down and realized I had hiked this section many times. It’s fairly easy hiking in the lower section and connects to a lot of fun biking trails…Technical Ecstacy, Rock-n-Root, Skoolz Out. Nice easy hiking and the reward of knowing that I’m really getting to know my way around this fabulous park. One of these days I’m going to set aside the time to hike the Summit Trail. I’m told the views are spectacular.





Francis Point Provincial Park

What a beautiful day! The sun beckoned this morning so I forgot about any paperwork and headed outside to enjoy. You just can’t pass up sunny January days sitting inside. I decided to follow Sunshine Coast Tourism‘s suggestion for #52weeksoftrails by heading to week #1 Francis Point Provincial Park.

Francis Pt 598 Francis Point is located in Pender Harbour…about 45 minutes from Arcturus Retreat. Well worth the drive! I’ve never taken the time to hike here before and I was pleasantly surprised. A perfect way to spend 15 minutes or an hour. A place for clearing your head and just taking in the view.

Francis Point Provincial Park

Francis Point Provincial Park

The entire park is along the Malaspina Strait in the Pacific Ocean and the sound of waves crashing on the ancient granite rocks is a soothing constant. This is easy hiking (not a cardio day) although hiking on the rocks makes for an uneven surface in places. There are 2 trails in the park. Either way, you start your journey here in front of a beautiful bay. Waves were crashing in the distance and I thought, “Love to see that up close”. Sure enough, the trail hugs the coastline and before I knew it I was getting a great view of crashing waves on huge granite boulders. Choosing to start left takes you down the longer trail that probably took 20 minutes to the surprise lighthouse at the end. Hard to say on time though…I just kept taking pictures and enjoying the view.

Francis Pt 605

Arbutus Trees

Arbutus Trees

Rocky Pacific coastline is a sure sign to find arbutus trees. These are the coolest trees. They keep their leaves all year and shed their bark instead. It leaves a perfectly smooth orange texture that you won’t find anywhere else. These trees grow right out of the boulders where it is hard to imagine how any tree could take root.

Circling back to my original starting point, I found the short trail that goes right. Just when I thought I wasn’t going to get any cardio for the day, I found the 50 or so steps that lead to an amazing viewpoint. So worth the burst of energy! I’ll definitely be back to enjoy these views. It would be very interesting to see it in different seasons…but I imagine it is always picture perfect when the sun shines bright.

Hello Pacific Ocean

Hello Pacific Ocean

Basking in the Sun

It’s been a very cold week here on the Sunshine Coast with daytime temperatures at or below freezing. OK, so that is still better than most of Canada, but it’s chilly for us. However, it has brought sunny crisp days that are perfect for getting outside. Today a friend and I ventured out to my happy place…the top of Soames Hill.

Hike with a reward

Hike with a reward

There are 434 steps to the top so it is a bit more of a stair climber than a true forest hike, but I love it. Five minutes from Arcturus Retreat, 20 minutes of cardio and then a magical view looking down over Gibsons Landing. The granite rocks were warm in the afternoon sun and we took some time to chat and enjoy. Daily tensions disappear from this spot. What is really special is that I always feel great the rest of the day. Cardio burn over and I’m left with endorphins and a full dose of Vitamin D that carry on for hours.

Soames 563

Here is to many more sunny winter days to get out and explore the Sunshine Coast.

Smuggler Cove

What’s a girl to do with a free Saturday afternoon? By all means, go hiking! This time of year I am always looking for hikes with big rewards at the end. The skies are blue, the sun is shining and being outside is the best way to spend the day. Last weekend I took the opportunity to visit Smuggler Cove Provincial Park…40 minutes from my doorstep.

Smuggler Cove Provincial Park

Smuggler Cove Provincial Park

Smuggler Cove is an easy hike with big rewards. It is very well signed…no one is going to get lost here. The first half of the park has a number of boardwalks that wind through a marsh. Very interesting to see ducks and frogs and various creatures in this quiet wetland.



To me, the real enjoyment begins when you pass the sign that says “organized trail ends here”. Don’t let this stop you…the best is yet to come. The next part of the trail is still very well marked…but there are some stairs and a bit of elevation change. It’s not strenuous at all, just some uneven ground. The real reward comes when you reach the ocean…
Smuggler Cove 468
Does it get any better than this?
Smuggler Cove 473
Have a seat on the warm granite boulders or the memorial bench and soak up the sun and the view. I could sit and think here quietly for hours. Thormanby Island is just offshore and the southern tip of Texada Island (the largest Gulf Island) is in the distance. It is a perfect spot for dreaming….
Smuggler Cove 469

Skookumchuck Narrows

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park is a force of nature. Unfortunately for me, it is as far from Arcturus Retreat on the Sunshine Coast as you can go without getting on a ferry. [Map] It seems the only time we go is when we have family & friends from far away.  I really enjoy this hike. It is easy terrain, the forest is abundant with life and there is an excellent reward at the end of the hike.

Skookumchuck 391

Today was a misty/rainy morning, but we decided to make the best of it. The forest canopy is thick enough to protect you from light rain and it stopped altogether midway into the trek. This trail showcases life in the BC rainforest. Ferns are found everywhere, and many are quite large. When it is dry, kids would love a game of hide & seek. Moss grows thick on trees and there were a number of large mushrooms along the trail.

Skookumchuck 386

Most of this area was logged at the beginning of the 20th century, but the 2nd growth forest is vibrant and healthy.  A few very large stumps remind you of what these trees can become if left to grow for hundreds of years.

Skookumchuck 385

Skookumchuck is from a First Nation’s phrase meaning “strong water”, a fitting name for the home of the fastest tidal rapids in North America. Skookumchuck Narrows is a narrow space at the opening of Sechelt Inlet where it meets Jervis Inlet and the Pacific Ocean. As the tide comes in, the ocean is forced through the narrow opening at high speed.  A very high tide will create current of more than 15 knots and result in standing waves for whitewater kayaking or even surfing. These are known as the Sechelt Rapids. As the tide goes out, the ocean is forced back out of the inlet to the ocean creating whirlpools strong enough to sink a boat.  In between tide changes, the water can be as calm as glass. Always consult the tide schedule to time your visit.

Today we caught a medium current. Not enough to bring out the daredevil kayakers, but still pretty amazing to watch. There are two viewing points at the end of the trail and a fork in the trail with about 10 minutes left in the hike. Roland Point is where you want to watch the incoming tide for rapids. North Point is where you want to watch whirlpools at ebb tide. There is a large rocky outcrop at Roland Point…the perfect spot to rest after your 4km hike. Bring a light lunch, drink some water and take some photos of this natural wonder. Enjoy the show.

Skookumchuck 388If this isn’t reward enough after a great hike, take a few minutes to stop by the Egmont Heritage Centre across the road from the entrance. My favourite post-hike activity is a delicious meal overlooking the inlet at either Backeddy Pub or West Coast Wilderness Lodge…both only 5 minutes away.


Homesite Creek

Today was a perfect day for exploring.  The rain seemed to be holding off and I had 4 hours and no obligations. I decided to visit a new area where I had never hiked before…Homesite Creek near Secret Cove.

Homesite Creek 376Homesite Creek 368There are actually two separate hiking areas along Homesite Creek. The first area I tried was the Homesite Creek Campground. Shiny new highway signs recently installed make it easy to find. Leaving Highway 101 takes you to a gravel forestry road. Not far in, you find the entrance to the Suncoaster Trail…a 37km trail stretching all the way to Egmont Road. I’m saving that for another day.  Follow the forestry road about 2km and you come to the next sign. You can park here along the road, or drive another .5 km and reach the campsite entrance.

The area is hiking only and relatively easy in that there is limited elevation change. There is some very uneven ground and a few fallen trees to climb over.

Homesite Creek 369

Homesite Creek 371There is no signage along the trail except at the entrance, but I figured anything that looked this inviting was worth a try. Sure enough, about 5-10 minutes into the forest I came upon an amazing giant. Clearly bigger than everything around it. This is when I wish I had a hiking partner so there would be a person in the photo to show just how big this tree was. It would have taken 4 people with outstretched arms to encircle it.

The area felt like a flat river bed, but clearly this tree has been there for a very long time. Soon I came to a creek and a small waterfall. A week of 20C temperatures have greatly increased spring snow melt and 30mm of overnight rain had the creek running high. Follow the creek and you’ll come to the campground area. It looked like a nice spot for a summer day. Each campsite was level, surrounded by trees, and complete with picnic table. All convenient to the trail, but enough space to not feel crowded. The entire hike roundtrip was about 45 minutes. I suspect there were trails on the other side of the creek, but I couldn’t find a safe place to cross the cold rushing water.

With available time and energy, I decided to stop at the Homesite Creek Park on the other side of Highway 101.

Homesite Creek 377Homesite Creek Park is basically right across the highway from the Homesite Creek Falls 400m sign above. There is a small parking area right along the highway and these signs mark the entrance. This area is very well marked with signage and maps. There are two trail loops to try, one on either side of the creek. It doesn’t show on the map, but I managed to cross from one to the other above the largest waterfall. This takes a bit of climbing, so wouldn’t be an option for everyone. If you stay on the main trails, it is fairly easy hiking. Only small elevation changes and a wide path in some areas. I tried the southern loop, so I’ll have to come back and try the northern loop another day. Other than the two loops, you can also connect down to Brooks Road which I assume takes you near Smuggler Cove. Good to know there is plenty of adventure waiting for another opportunity.

Homesite Creek 379Even if you are only up for a short hike, follow the southern loop as far as the waterfalls.

Homesite Creek 380I thought this would be a fantastic summer spot. It is shallow enough to wade in for a cold waterfall shower, though I wonder if there would be as much water flowing in the dry season. Perfectly placed next to the waterfall is a commemorative bench welcoming you to sit and watch for a while.

All in all, a very good day in the forest with more area exploration opportunities for another day.



Sprockids Mountain Bike Park

It has been a gorgeous week for getting outside. Wednesday, Sprockids Mountain Bike Park was home to the North Shore League Mountain Bike Series. Some friends were helping to organize the race, so I stopped by to give a hand (and enjoy the sunshine).
Entrance to Sprockids Park

Over 100 students were on the Coast to test themselves. I have to say that it was a pretty cool event to watch.  Like cross country running, you really can’t watch the entire race.  The course was set up on some of the easier trails near the bottom of the park, but older students had to ride additional laps of the course. Some students were very series and focused…immediately wanting to know where they placed. Some students fist-pumped as they finished, proud of their ride. For others, just finishing the course was an achievement and even though they were exhausted for a few minutes, the pride of conquering the course was clear on their faces.

High School Students preparing to ride

Today with all the students gone, I decided to hike much of the race course.  The first leg went down Ankle Biter and over to Stinger on the south edge of the park.  I must have never gone all the way along this trail, because look what I found. Isn’t this the cutest picnic spot?

Picnic area with a live tree in the center

The birds were singing on such a nice spring day.  This picture is along Stinger.

Love the “faces” in the trees
It was nice to hike along trails I haven’t done in a while: Rock n Root, Skoolz Out, Technical Ecstacy.  It was also fun to see all the new signs throughout the trails that were installed last month. They don’t all have their “you are here” dots installed, but it really helps when navigating this extensive trail network. Can’t wait to find the new trail being created right now by the Capilano University Mountain Bike Program students. They’ve been working hard this month and if previous projects are any indication, this new trail will be great.

Sprockids Mountain Bike Park – March 24, 2013

Today was a day to celebrate community volunteers. Sprockids Mountain Bike Park is a place I’ve written about a lot. Last year it celebrated its 20th anniversary sharing our amazing forests with kids through the love of mountain biking. Teaching kids to ride safely with family and friends in a sanctioned park with educational components. This system is now used across Canada.  Here it is 2km from my front door and I place where I love to hike.


Sprockids Mountain Bike Park – shovels ready
Capilano University’s Mountain Bike Operations students organized the day to install over 30 signs throughout the park. Students, families and some diehard trail fairies spent the morning digging and carrying signs. Never get lost again! I’ve often been hesitant to direct guests to this park because of limited signage and maps in a complex system of trails making it an easy place to become disoriented. This is a great addition and will be very helpful to hikers and bikers alike.

I decided to try it out with a short hike in an area I haven’t been to for a while. These pictures are all from Skoolz Out which is just above the Skills Park. The question isn’t “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?”…the question is “If a tree falls in the forest, what can we make with it?”
I would love to see someone bank on this.

Some very fun bridges
Yes, that long “bridge” is one tall tree…rootball still in tact at the end

That boulder at the end of the jump is taller than me!

 As I hiked, I could here some bikers above me. I decided to wait and see what is was like to jump off this. I expected someone to just launch over it and fly down the trail. Turns out, all these jumps and bridges are great teachers and confidence builders. Three young teenagers rode down and all came to a stop either beside or on top of this jump. They studied it…rode past it to check the landing…and discussed. Three different times one of them would ride up to jump it and stop at the last minute…not ready for the leap…talking to themselves that it was about being there mentally.  Finally one of them did it, and they all celebrated for a minute. A brief pause before taking off together to find the next challenge.

I finished my hike just in time for the skills demonstration. After a morning of digging holes to install signs, the kids were treated to a free lunch from the Lions Club burger trailer. Then they hit the skills park for some serious jumps from Coastal Crew and friends. They were flying…25 feet off the ground. Sorry, no good pictures, but they were impressive. The really fun part was after one of the older kids would jump, an eager 4-8 year old would ride from the same starting point and off to the next small run with a couple of junior size berms. The little guys were just as thrilled to show off in front of the audience and just as proud to ride successfully. The older guys cheered them on as much as they did for their friends making the huge jumps. What a great day.

Hidden Groves – March 20, 2013

Hello Spring!  To celebrate, I managed to take time for my first hike in the forest in a month.  Boy did it feel good!  Holiday, March rains, and a cold have kept me off the trails.  I made time to explore Hidden Groves on Sechelt Inlet. I’ve only hiked here a couple of times and it seemed like a good day to explore.

Massive old growth tree…500+ years old

The volunteers who have developed this park have done an enormous amount of work to create not only trails, but informational maps and signage.  No worries about getting lost here…maps can be found throughout the trail system. They’ve even marked and named the largest, oldest trees to be sure you don’t miss them. 
Too bad I didn’t have a friend along so that you could see just how big this Lonely Giant is. The young trees are as skinny as a man’s arm.  Lonely Giant towers over the others and would take a group with arms outstretched to reach around it.
Lonely Giant

I covered most of the southern half of the park in about an hour.  These are easy trails with no serious climbing.  The ground can be uneven in places, but the terrain is mostly flat with only gradual elevation changes.  I look forward to my next trip where I’ll explore the north side where there the maps show some steep climbs up to an amazing view of Vancouver Island.

You can’t get lost here
The trail builders have been busy. The official grand opening of the second wheelchair accessible trail is Sunday April 7.  It is a special celebration for dogs and people of all capabilities.
Monty’s Way

Ferry Trail – January 30, 2013

A break in the rain today, so I headed for the forest.  There is a trailhead right at the end of the street which I have written about before, but it has been a while since I hiked here. Every sunny day possible…a treat in January…I’ve chosen to walk at the beach. Today was more of a warm and foggy winter day, so I headed to the forest.

To my surprise, the amazing trail fairies have been very busy. I often avoid this trail in the rainy season as part of it becomes a stream. Someone has been adding gravel improving some of the muddier parts in a big way. I was very surprised to see signage and trail markings to greet me…in hot pink. The trail was really in good shape, thanks to some unknown but special volunteers.

once mighty giant

 I know it’s hard to tell without a frame of reference, but this was once a huge forest giant.  See the skinny trees on the right edge of the photo?  This moss covered stump is easily 3 people’s outstretched arms around.

 Most of the lower part of this area are young alders, but this stately giant stretches wide and proud.

This trail connects Sprockids Mountain Bike Park to the Langdale Ferry Terminal and is the final stretch of day 5 of BC Bike Race. All downhill and a great finish for 500 lucky riders.  For me…its just the trail closest to home.

busy precious trail fairies

 You just don’t see many hot pink trail markers……

This is the sign under the hydro lines clearly showing both the way down to Langdale or the way over to the Elphinstone Trails and Sprockids Park.  This is also the break between mostly young alder psuedo forest and the firs and cedars of the real forest further up the mountain. I love how green it is even in the middle of winter.  Ferns are huge and everything is moist and full of life. I won’t wait so long for my next visit to the Ferry Trail just beyond my doorstep.