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.

Polar Bear Swim – January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!  I’ve come to enjoy a New Year’s tradition…sleeping in (one of my favourite pastimes) and making our way to a Polar Bear Swim.  I haven’t felt the need to actually be the person in the water, but I love to cheer on the brave souls who start the year with a splash.   This year, we cheered on the polar bears at Armour’s Beach in Gibsons.

It was a beautiful crisp, clear morning and temperatures just above freezing.  Plenty of sunshine and a fresh dusting of snow on the mountains…just low enough to touch the highest point on Bowen Island.  A large group that included all ages plunged into the water.  I love to watch the kids…they are very excited about the prospect of swimming.  Then there is this point once they are in the water when they realize, “Hey, this is really cold!”

After the plunge of excitement we took a nice stroll along the beach in Gibsons Landing.  It’s a good start to the year when you can take a refreshing walk along the ocean.  Thank you to those who organize the Polar Bear Swim…a festive and energetic way to start the year.

Dakota Ridge – December 14, 2012

It may be another week until the official start of winter, but today we enjoyed our first day of fun in the snow.    Saturday, December 15 is the official season opening for Dakota Ridge Winter Recreation Area.  Our good friends at Alpha Adventures took us out for a sneak peak & guided snowshoe tour.
15km Nordic ski trails
All trails have been named this year
It was an AMAZING day!  You couldn’t ask for better weather conditions.  It is early in the season, but new snowfall was 50cm (that’s 20 inches) in the past 24 hours. The clouds broke overnight and the sun was shining this morning. Temps were just around the freezing level.  We were warm after a bit of hiking and the snow on the trees was just melting a bit in direct sunshine. A perfect bluebird day.
Knee deep in fresh powder!

Dakota Ridge has almost 4km of groomed snowshoe trails and another 3km of wilderness trails. With our expert guides, we were able to get off the beaten path (though in all that powder…not so beaten) and break fresh tracks through the forest. The forest is magical….so very quiet. Snow makes the most interesting shapes covering varied terrain, small trees, and moved by the wind. It was a bit like a Dr Seuss picture with rounded magical shapes.

Our expert guides Jamie & Lauren

Alpha Adventures offers guided trips and lessons for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing. They also operate a convenient shuttle from Wilson Creek up the mountain roads to Dakota Ridge. The access road is much improved this year thanks to a provincial grant.  The road is wider and has more pullouts, but it still requires chains or 4×4.  My little VW isn’t making that trip, so I am more than happy to ride in Alpha’s comfortable shuttle.  The parking lot has doubled in size, so there is more room for everyone making the trip.

We hiked quite a distance without seeing another sole…partly because this was the day before opening day, but these trails are never crowded.  Plenty of room to get away from it all and just enjoy exploring on your own.  Coming down over the Eastern trails, we found the most amazing view. We could see the North Shore Mountains, including Cypress and The Lions. There were low level clouds & fog blocking the view of the ocean, but we were so far above the thick clouds that they looked like a big fluffy ocean.

What a view! Mt Elphinstone in the background

It was the perfect spot to stop, take a few pictures and have a snack. Just an amazing 360 degree view.

After a full day of snowshoeing we stopped in the warming hut for lunch and hot chocolate. A much needed rest at the end of a great day. I can’t wait to get back up on Dakota Ridge…thinking a great way to spend Christmas Day.

Chapman Creek Trail – Oct 21, 2012

Today was an exciting day.  In between visiting numerous studios & galleries during the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl, I took some time to attend the official opening of the Chapman Creek Trail. This new trail is a very important connection in what will be the Suncoaster Trail connecting Langdale to Earl’s Cove…80km by highway and much longer by trail.  What is important about this trail is the new bridge that crosses Chapman Creek…the only non-highway crossing of the main watershed here on the Sechelt Peninsula.
The trail was actually christened in July during BC Bike Race.  Volunteers raced to have the bridge installed just days before 500 riders hit the Coast for the prestigious race.  Today was a beautiful fall day to dedicate the trail and to honour the many, many volunteer hours that went into building the trail.

The forest is watching

This section of trail runs from the Sechelt Airport near Wilson Creek to Selma Park.  Today I only hiked the first section which is about 20 minutes from the airport to the bridge.  It is a beautiful, fairly easy hike…just some uneven ground and a bit of a hill at the very end as you return to the airport.  From the airport, it is a short distance to the B&K Road network of trails which is a prime mountain bike area.

downstream from the bridge
the highlight – the bridge itself

We’ve had a bit of rain the last two weeks, so everything was a deep rich green.  Lots of ferns, moss, and thick vegetation.  Pine needles rained down and covered the trail.  There are some very large old stumps from the original grand forest that I am guessing was logged 70-100 years ago.

upstream from the bridge

Chapman Creek is also home to the Chapman Creek Hatchery which is a bit downstream from the bridge.  Here, millions of salmon are released each year and are now returning to spawn.  Here is a short video clip to try and share the power of the water.

BC Bike Race – July 5, 2012

BC Bike Race is an amazing 7 day adventure bringing 500 mountain bike riders in search of some of the world’s best singletrack.  Every year there are a combination of world class racers, international adventurers, and weekend warriors who tackle the course.  Three of the seven days are spent right here on BC’s Sunshine Coast.  I caught part of Wednesday’s action…the longest course of the tour at 63km and 2,100m of elevation change…when they hit the finish line in Sechelt.  Have you ever seen 500 identical tents in a row in one field?  Assembled & disassembled daily?
Today was my favourite part of the race, though,…and for many of the riders as well.  It’s a ‘short’ course at 40km, but a serious climb from Sechelt up and over Roberts Creek and Mt. Elphinstone to finish with 7km of straight downhill into Langdale.  This last section of riding is the part of Mt. Elphinstone that I often hike…around Sprockids Mountain Bike Park.  The riders emerge from the rainforest a block from my house and cruise down our steep hill to the ferry terminal.
Yes! – thrilled to emerge from the forest toward the finish line

Neighbourhood kids came out to watch and cheer along the street.  Many of the riders waved and appreciated the young fans.  One man even stopped to chat with the kids while he waited for his teammate to emerge from the forest.  Pretty cool…and inspiring for the kids.

As one rider popped over the hill, all I heard was “Wow..look at that!”.  The view opens into the deep blue water of Howe Sound, heavily forested Gambier Island, and the Coast Mountains in the backdrop.  Yes, this is the view I’m lucky enough to see every day when I leave the house.

2 person team excited to cross the finish line

The finish line buzzes with activity as the racers shower…bike shower first of course…then personal shower, food, new clothes, medical tent if necessary and off to catch the ferry to the campsite in Squamish.

In line for the bike showers – lots of mud!

SUP in Davis Bay – July 4, 2012

The sun returned and it was finally warm enough to really get outside.  I took advantage of the blue skies and celebrated some WOW – Wednesdays on Water with my friend and guide Sarah at Alpha Adventures.  This was my first time out on the water this year…it finally felt warm enough.

It was high tide and the water was so smooth.  Hard to believe this is the ocean, sometimes.  A quick reminder of some basics from Sarah and I was off.  This was only my 3rd time paddle boarding and the first time out since last fall.  Yes, just like riding a bike, it all comes back.  In no time I was up on the board and cruising down the beach.

Davis Bay w/ Vancouver Island in the background

WOW takes place every Wednesday.  It’s a social paddle…anyone can join and its about practicing skills, making friends and having fun.  My fellow WOW group members were all from out of town. John is visiting from the other Sunshine Coast in Australia. He chose the wet suit because we don’t have the tropical waters from Down Under, but he was sweating up a storm after the good workout that paddling provides. I was happy to not have ‘taken a swim’…a.k.a. falling in. Every once in a while a wave would run across the top of my board and my feet and remind me that the water is still cool. Two sisters from Canmore Alberta were in town for BC Bike Race (more about that tomorrow) and decided to have a little ocean adventure.

So much fun.  You know how the sun shines and creates a trail over the water as it gets lower in the sky?  I just let myself line up with that trail and paddled along.  Not a care in the world…just me and the ocean.  It’s a real sense of freedom.  When I looked back toward the beach, I couldn’t believe how far from shore I had gone.

These shots are from the beach after a good workout.  I can really feel my abs tonight!  A couple days of rest and then I hope to be back on the water for Sunday’s 2nd annual SUP Festival in Porpoise Bay.  Come out and try paddle boarding for yourself!

2 kayaks – 2 Alaskan cruise ships
smooth water with Vancouver Island in the distance

Canada Day – July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day!  This afternoon turned out to be a wonderful sunny Canada Day.  We enjoyed taking some time off to enjoy the day with our friends and neighbours in Gibsons Landing.  One of the special activities was the Gibsons Paddling Club giving trial paddle experiences to anyone who wanted to give it a try.  Two outrigger boats spent most of the afternoon taking adults and children alike for a short trip around Gibsons Harbour.

Gibsons Paddling Club – Gibsons Landing

The main attraction was live music in the amphitheater in Winegarden Park.  The Song Butchers…complete with white butcher coats…were the headline act and did a great job with 2 hours of Canadian music covers.  Live music, farmers market, family & friends, Rotary hot dogs and the Mayor and Council serving up birthday cake…small town fun to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

Winegarden Park

Langdale Trail – June 23, 2012

I can’t believe a nearly a month has gone by since I have had a good hike in the forest.  We’ve had lots of rain and I’ve let work and meetings take too much priority.  I had a sunny afternoon to myself and made the most of it.  I decided to go exploring in my own backyard.
Langdale Trail – easy & level hike
Our street ends a block from the house and is the beginning of a trail through the forest.  This is the first trail I ever explored on the Sunshine Coast.  My neighbour, Jo, took the ladies of our cul-de-sac on a guided tour to share an easy trail we could all hike.  Jo passed away last fall, and I was thinking of her today and thankful that she shared this trail with me and starting my hiking trips.

The trees here are fairly young…new growth I’m sure after logging.  These are skinny, fast growing trees…maybe alder.  Almost all deciduous…the mighty Douglas fir and yellow cedar are further up the mountain.  Looking straight up at the sky the leaves rustled in the slight breeze.  The walk was very peaceful with birds singing and enjoying the sunshine.

Salmon berries are ready to eat

 The trail is lined with what I believe are salmon berries.  They are orange and turn red when ripe.  A delicious snack along the way.

Ten days from now this trail will be the end of stage 5 of the BC Bike Race.  500 riders from around the world will fly down the trail descending from much higher on Mt. Elphinstone as they race to the finish line at the ferry terminal below.  I look forward to cheering them on.

Oak Street Trail – May 25, 2012

Today was absolutely beautiful with full sunshine.  Summer weather has arrived.  After dinner, we decided to take a stroll along the beach and watch the sunset.  Bonniebrook Beach is just outside of Gibsons and is a wonderful place for watching sunsets over Vancouver Island in the distance.  Ocean Beach Esplanade is 2-3km long and only local traffic, so there are more walkers and bikers than cars most of the time.  We had just started walking when I noticed a new trail sign, so we took a detour and look what we found.
Oak Street Trail – look at the size of that stump!
 What an entrance!  Imagine how tall that tree was to leave a stump that big.  I had no idea there was a hiking trail here…I’ve always just walked along the beach.  It isn’t even on the SCRD’s trail maps yet.  We decided to explore and see where it led.  What a great trail for an evening hike!  The whole trail couldn’t have taken more than 10-15 minutes and connects to the end of a neighborhood road.  If you follow the trail up the road, you end up in Whispering Firs Park along the Sunshine Coast Highway.
Birds and frogs were singing and large ferns covered the forest floor.  Rushing water from a creek could be heard in the distance.  There were other trees as large as the entrance stump that had fallen and were creating a hotbed of regrowth.  The first part of the trail is a bit steep.  You are hiking up the bank from the ocean, afterall.  Not terribly difficult, but not accessible to everyone.
Educational display & map of the area
 As you come back down the path, there are glimpses of the ocean in the distance.  You can hear the pounding waves more than you can see them from the forest.  As we came out to the clearing, we imagined what is was like for pioneers and explorers to cut through think forest only to find the Pacific Ocean before them.  Absolutely incredible.  We finished the evening with a stroll along the beach to watch the sunset.  So simple, yet so special.
Bonniebrook Beach

 

Hidden Groves – May 12, 2012

Today felt like summer had arrived.  Everyone was so happy to see sunshine and warm temperatures that it was a must to spend as much time outside as possible.  So after stocking up at the Sechelt Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market, I headed for Sechelt’s Hidden Groves along Sechelt Inlet.  It was the grand opening & ribbon cutting for the new fully accessible trail.  “Take It Easy” or “ayat-tsut” (in shíshálh ) is about 500m of level meandering trail through the forest open to anyone.  Wheelchairs, scooters and strollers joined the group today for the opening hike.
Take It Easy / ayat-tsut

This is another one of our fabulous Sunshine Coast trail systems that is only possible because of extremely dedicated volunteers.  This single trail was built over the past few months and required over 600 hours of volunteer sweat & hard work.  Many local companies and the District of Sechelt came together with materials and equipment, and a number of important grants were earned from various foundations to create a financial base.

The area has a large network of trails that include a number of old growth giants estimated to be 750 years old.  This was my first trip to the area, but the sights from this short trek were fantastic.  Look at this old beauty standing, but at an amazing angle.

new shelter at the trail entrance

I look forward to my next hiking trip to Hidden Groves when I have time to explore all of the trails….and many more days of warm sunshine like today.  If you’re not tempted enough…have a look at the Hidden Groves brochure.