Posts Tagged With: explore

Kayaking Sechelt Inlet

In the last year, along side all our other hobbies, Seth and I decided to start kayaking. We went on our first trip last year over the Canada Day weekend to Sechelt Inlet, and we’re planning a trip to Pender Island for the upcoming Labour Day weekend. I actually wrote this post last year after our trip to Sechelt, but for some reason I never actually got around to posting it (I admit, it takes me a really long time to upload photos and that’s what usually holds up my posts, not the writing). So here’s the post I wrote last year about that trip – hoping to follow it up with a post about our upcoming trip!

I don’t mind carrying a big backpack, but Seth hates it. He likes day hiking and camping, but as soon as you strap a pack on him he loses all interest. So we decided to try a kayaking trip so that we could get into the wilderness without Seth having to lug all his gear with him. I’ve heard Indian Arm is a great place for kayak trips, and it’s right next to Vancouver, but we decided to go a little farther away and started with a 2 night trip in Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast.

Before I tell you about the trip though, I have to recommend taking the beginner kayaking course from Paddle Canada before you attempt any kayak adventures. Seth and I have both been kayaking before, but I’m so glad we took the introductory course because we were going deep into the wilderness and I’m really glad we learned some basic paddling skills and how to save ourselves in an emergency. We did a 2 day course with West Beach Paddle in White Rock and I would highly recommend them. We’re thinking of going back next year to do the next level because they were so fabulous. We learned a ton of skills and how to rescue each other in the event that we tipped our kayaks. Safety first everyone!

Our first take-away from the course was that we wanted single kayaks. Doubles are so much cheaper, but they also involve a lot of coordination. Me and Seth are really different people and I have a bit of a control complex, so I’m glad we each had our own boat. I think it made for a much more enjoyable trip.

We took the ferry over to the Sunshine Coast early on Saturday morning and drove straight to Sechelt to get our kayak rentals. I was a little concerned about getting all our gear in the kayak, but those things are surprisingly large and we even had extra space in the compartments. It did take a little bit of coordination and jigsaw skills to make everything fit though, I’d recommend many small bags, instead of few big ones. The hardest thing to fit in was our 20L water jug because we brought all our water with us (although we didn’t even use half of the water we brought).

It was overcast and a little rainy when we started, but fortunately the wind was at our backs so we didn’t have too hard a go. Sechelt Inlet is really interesting because it’s only connected to the ocean through one small channel, so you’d think it would be pretty calm in there, but they can actually get some pretty strong headwinds up the channel. There’s also a ton of campsites in the inlet, but we didn’t want to push ourselves too far on our first trip, so we chose Nine Mile Beach as our camping destination since it was only about a 2 hour paddle.

We had a pretty leisurely trip out and stopped at Oyster Beach for our lunch. Nine Mile Beach is the biggest campsite I believe, which is why we picked it, but everyone else seemed to have the same idea and it was quite busy, so I’d maybe even recommend going for one of the smaller ones. I assumed they’d be full since they were so small, but they were actually empty. Halfway Beach is across the inlet from Nine Mile Beach and it is about the same size, but there were definitely less people staying there because it can be a lot of work crossing the inlet depending on the weather.

No fear though, we managed to get a great site at Nine Mile Beach! Most of the campsites are back in the woods, but we went down to the far end of the beach where there were less crowds and managed to find a small site at the very end just big enough for our tent and gear, with a great view of the beach. So we hauled our kayaks up above the high water line and set up camp.

The sun never really managed to come out on Saturday, but it did stop raining before we got to the beach and we spent the rest of the day chilling. I read about half a book and Seth (the biologist) had a great time exploring the low tide and flipping over rocks. I expected to see wildlife while we were out there, but I was surprised by just how much wildlife we saw! It was like a nature zoo! While we were eating dinner the birds gave us a great show. There were two seagulls that were hanging around digging up shellfish (cockles according to Seth) and they kept digging them out of the sand and then flying up high to drop them on the rocks to get to the meat inside. Plus, two black oyster catchers also showed up looking for mussels for supper, which thrilled Seth because they are the birds he is studying for his Masters and he doesn’t get that many opportunities to see them in the wild.

The highlight though didn’t come until nighttime. We heard some rumours you could see bio-luminescence in the water in Sechelt Inlet and our neighbour gave us a tip that you have to actually move to water to see it (we never would have figured this out ourselves). So we got up at 2am and fortunately the wind had totally died off and the water was very still, so we moved our paddles through the water and sure enough it totally lit up with glowing organisms! It was very cool! I was tempted to go swimming in it, but it was just too cold.

The weather cleared up a lot for us on Day 2 and the sun came out! There was still quite a bit of wind when we took off in the morning, but again, it was at our backs. Sechelt inlet has 2 side channels, Salmon Inlet and Narrows Inlet. Our main goal of the trip was to cross Salmon Inlet and visit Kunechin Islets and Kunechin Point. On a map it doesn’t look that intense, but it actually is a fair paddle to cross any of the inlets. It wasn’t bad on the way over with the wind at our backs, but I was a little nervous about coming back.

We wanted to visit Kunechin Islets because they are a protected seabird sanctuary and Seth wanted to see some seabirds. There weren’t actually that many birds around, but we definitely weren’t disappointed. We saw several eagles in and around the islet, as well as a half dozen oyster catchers (and lots of seagulls). We’re probably a bit partial to oyster catchers since Seth’s been studying them for years, but they really are precious! They sound like squeak toys and we enjoyed watching them.

The highlight for me though was the seal colony! Seth counted about 65 seals sunbathing on the rock when we approached. We tried to stay far enough away from the seals to not bother them, but most of them abandoned the rock into the water as soon as they saw us approaching (do feel a bit bad about this, but we really didn’t get that close). They were funny though because they all just watched us from the water with their little heads poking up. It was hilarious, but also a little foreboding because of the sheer number of them!

We had lunch on Kunechin point, which in my opinion had the best view and campsite. It’s located a little bit up on a hill and looks up both Salmon Inlet and Sechelt Inlet. It was empty when we were there, but there’s only 2 campsites there and some kayakers who were departing when we arrived informed us it had been totally full the previous night. I kind of wish we’d stayed there, but there’s very little beach at this campsite, so Seth preferred Nine Mile Beach.

Luckily for us, the wind dropped down entirely after lunch and we decided to paddle across Sechelt Inlet and visit Halfway Beach. The map of Sechelt Inlet is definitely deceiving and the crossing is a lot farther than it looks, but with the wind dropped down, it wasn’t a hard paddle. I really liked Halfway Beach – it has a lot of campsites and it’s brighter than the wooded campsites at Nine Mile Beach (and less busy), but again, Seth still thought that Nine Mile Beach was the best for wildlife. We collected some windfall branches in the forest to take back with us for a campfire (pre-fireban!) because Nine Mile Beach has pretty much been picked dry.

By the time we kayaked back across the inlet one more time it was about 3:30pm and we decided to take it easy for the rest of the evening. I had a really quick dip in the ocean, but I mostly just relaxed and did some reading while Seth did some more beachcombing. We were surprised just before dinner though by a mountain storm.

I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more experience with mountain storms this year. They kind of swing in out of nowhere and they don’t really last very long, but they can dump some pretty intense rain on you. We tried to wait it out in the tent, but we were pretty hungry, so we set up a tarp shelter and cooked our dinner while watching the rain clouds move up and down the inlet. We were concerned we weren’t going to get to have our campfire afterall, but the rain finally stopped after about 2 hours and Seth got a lovely campfire going for us while I watched one of the most intense sunsets over the mountains. It was so red it honestly kind of looked like the trees were on fire!

We finished the trip on Monday with a pretty leisurely paddle back to rental company. We got lucky again in that the water was dead calm when we started our kayak back. The wind did start to pick up a little in some sections on the way though and it was a great lesson in how much harder a little headwind can make a paddle. Overall though, nothing too strenuous.

So our first kayak trip was a huge success and I think it’s something we’ll definitely start doing a least once a year. Personally I’m still more of a fan of backpacking, but I really enjoyed getting on the water and trying something new! We definitely saw a lot more wildlife in the kayak and the bio-luminescence was one of the highlights for me!

 

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Categories: Life in British Columbia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elfin Lakes Snow Camping Trip

Last year I had my first experience with snow camping. Carolyn and I spent a night outside in -10 degrees celsius to test out skills and our gear. We ended up having a lot of fun and knew we wanted to try something a little more adventurous this year. Elfin Lakes is a really popular place for snowshoeing because there’s a heated hut located at the end, so people snowshoe in and stay overnight in the hut. We thought this was a good place to try for our second trip because we’d still have the hut nearby in the event that we got really cold in the middle of the night.

This year our friend Brandon joined us, who also has a great love of the outdoors and had conveniently just purchased a 3-person winter tent. We also improved on some of our gear; my parents gifted me a proper winter sleeping pad for Christmas and Carolyn bought a ton a merino wool layers to help keep warm and a new down jacket. However, we were definitely put to the test this year because the weekend that we went happened to coincide with the polar vortex sending all the really cold air across Canada and it was calling for -20 degrees celsius the night we went.

I was tracking the weather all week leading up to the trip and I was super apprehensive about it. We survived last year, but we’d definitely been on the threshold of almost cold and I was worried about adding an extra -10 degrees to the temperature. Carolyn was pretty confident though and it was calling for sun and clear skies despite the freezing temperature, so I was never able to build up the desire to actually call the trip off. We made winter camping blankets this year to add some more warmth to our bags and we packed a lot smarter, but I lost my nerve at the last minute and ending up stuffing two sleeping bags into my pack instead of my liner and blanket. I was only really able to do this though because my new sleeping pad is so small and Brandon was carrying the tent, so I had a bit of extra space.

There are mixed reviews on doubling up on sleeping bags, so you do have to be careful about it. The sleeping bag on the outside should be a bit bigger than the one of the inside and it’s better to avoid down sleeping bags because if you compress them inside each other, they lose their “loft” and won’t keep you as warm. Fortunately, my bags were both synthetic and the second one actually belongs to my Seth, so it was bigger than mine and it worked really well nesting them together.

Anyways, enough about gear. You can always spot a camping enthusiast because they just love talking about gear. This was my third time hiking up to Elfin Lakes, so I’m really familiar with the trail, but it was my first time doing it in winter and in snowshoes. It’s not a difficult trail, as a day hike I can power through it in a few hours, but it is 11km to the lakes, so it can be a bit lengthy. The first 5kms are pretty straight forward, you just hike up an old forestry road until you reach the Heather Hut. I knew Elfin Lakes was a popular winter trail, but I was shocked by how many people were on the trail on a freezing saturday morning. It’s pretty easily accessible as it’s located just out of Squamish and is plowed most of the way because there are homes located along the road. Word of warning though, chains are required for the last 2km stretch and if you don’t have them the ranger will kindly ask you to park your car there and walk the extra 2km.

But it turns out the Heather Hut area is extremely popular among backcountry skiers. Once you reach the hut, the terrain opens right up and there’s a large hill to walk up to get to the ridge. I’m no expert, but it seemed like a lot of day skiers were just hiking up the ridge and skiing down through the powder, creating their own little human-powered ski lift and ski hill. The Heather Hut was also being used a lunch spot for pretty much everyone on the mountain, so it was hopping and we pretty much scarfed down our sandwiches and moved on.

The trail gets a lot more interesting after the Heather Hut. After the hut, the winter trail diverges from the summer trail and takes a slightly different route to the lake. Even though it was my third time up there, it felt like a totally different trail in the winter. You start by climbing up a pretty large hill, but then you hit the ridge and its undulating slopes the rest of the way. We were thrilled when we finally reached the ridge because it was a perfectly sunny and cloudless day, but it was also very windy and we really got beat on along the ridge.

It wasn’t snowing at all, but it was so windy along the ridge it felt like it was because the wind picked up any loose powder and blew it all across the ridge. It was rough going. The biggest mistake I made was that I only brought sunglasses, not my ski goggles, and I really wished I had the goggles. Carolyn had hers and she had a much easier time crossing the ridge than me and Brandon. So that was definitely a lesson learned for next time.

The trail was really interesting along the ridge though because, while you could see the reflective trail marker poles, you couldn’t see any discernible path through the snow. Usually the path becomes very obvious and beaten down with so many snowshoers using it, but because of the wind, it was blowing snow across the trail constantly hiding it. I had a brought a pole with me, which was extremely useful, because even though the snow filled in the path, you could still tell when you were on it because the snow was all compacted underneath. However if you stepped off the path at all, you would quickly be about knee deep in powder. So I went first along most of the ridge and used my pole to keep testing where the path went.

We made really good time though and did the 11km route in about 4 hours, including lunch, arriving at the hut around 2pm. The hut is heated and we didn’t want to warm up right away just to have to go back out in the cold, so we immediately started working on our campsite. It was hard to find a good sheltered place to set up camp with the wind blowing, so we mostly had to rely on the walls of our hole to protect us. We dug down to almost the height of our tent and then set it up in the hole. It’s usually not necessary to peg tents in BC because we rarely get wind, but we definitely had to peg it on this trip and piled some snow up around the edges to weigh it down. The key with pegging tents in the winter is to have rope attached to all of the pegs because otherwise it will be very hard to retrieve them. Once the snow hardens and freezes, it’s really hard to get the pegs out and having rope attached to them will make it a lot easier.

We’d been planning to more or less ignore the hut, but it was so windy and we were pretty beat, so we decided to abandon the snow kitchen idea for the trip. I do think this was the right idea because it was just so cold and it allowed up to warm up properly before bed, which I think really helped in us staying warm throughout the night.

We finished our campsite around 4pm and headed into the hut to start melting snow and making supper. I think we were definitely better at melting snow this time around and we just heated the snow as we melted it and then boiled it all at the end. One of our nighttime tricks to keep warm is filling a nalgene bottle with hot water to take into your sleeping bag with you. It works like a charm! I purchased an insulator for my bottle as well and it really helped to lengthen the life of my hot water bottle and keep my drinking water from freezing (a real challenge in -20 degree temperatures! Leave your water bladders at home for winter camping trips, they will freeze and be useless to you. My favourite piece of gear for winter camping though is my thermos. I just bought a $20 standard “thermos” brand thermos at MEC last year and it is the most impressive thing ever! I filled it with boiling water before bed, added a teabag in the morning, and it was still hot to drink by lunch the next day!! So impressive, would highly recommend because drinking hot water is a great way to warm yourself up and stay hydrated.

I’ve gotten into night photography in the last year. I’m not great at it, but I learned some the basics and I’ve been having a lot of fun testing out some night shots when I get clear skies. It was calling for clear skies at Elfin Lakes while we were there, but I really didn’t think I’d get any shots because it would be too cold and I wouldn’t want to get out of bed in the middle of the night. But the wonderful thing about night photography in the winter is that you don’t have to wait until 2 in the morning for it to get fully dark! We watched a beautiful sunset over the mountains before supper, loving the pink alpen glow, and then by the time we ate and melted our snow, it was fully dark with the stars out by 8pm! Because I was toasty warm from hanging out in the hut, I spent about a half hour outside trying to get a few night shots before going to bed. I think the next thing I need to invest in is a lightweight tripod though, because that was my biggest struggle with night shooting. You need to open up the shutter for a long time to get night shots, so you cant hold the camera in your hand. I rested mine on my pot on top of the snow, which actually worked a lot better than you’d think, but a tripod would go a long way in getting the angles and perspectives I wanted.

Anyways, I ended up having a lot of fun and thanks to the hut, we were all nice and toasty warm when we finally crawled into the tent. I’m always learning on these trips and our big take-away from this trip was that merino wool is king. In the summer, I mostly wear tech tees and always change out of my sweaty shirt when I get to camp to prevent myself from getting cold. That’s a lot harder to do when you’re snow camping because you don’t want to basically have to get naked in the freezing cold to change out your sweaty layers. The better option is to basically just wear a base layer you never have to change out of (ie. wool). Wool keeps you warm, even when wet, so it really doesn’t make a really big difference to your ability to stay warm. I did not change my base layer on this trip, except to remove my bra to go to sleep. Carolyn and I decided that merino wool bras might have to be our next investment because while our base layer was wool, our bras were not and they didn’t stay as warm. (TMI? It’s so practical though, so I’m sharing anyways!)

We were smart about going to sleep this time around as well. We were warm from staying in the hut, but if there hadn’t been a heated hut, we’d be planning to exercise before bed to warm up our cores. I’m not talking exercise enough that you start to sweat, but enough so that your core warms up a little. When you get into bed already warm, you trap all that heat in your sleeping bag with you. Another tip is to take any clothes you plan to wear the next day into your bag with you. Anything not touching you gets cold and it’s no fun putting on freezing clothes in the morning!

We both wore several wool and fleece layers and had planned to sleep in our small down jackets. Carolyn did, but mine actually ended up being overkill with my double sleeping bags, so I never ended up wearing it. My other favourite purchase was that I bought little insulated booties this year! They’re basically just really warm slippers, but I slept with them on inside my bag and put foot warmers in them, and my feet felt like toasty little furnaces! They sell them at MEC for a pretty penny, but I got mine at Costco for $15 and they worked fantastic! I’ve also seen them at Walmart, but they were a little heavier. I’d recommend keeping an eye out for them at Costco.

So the double sleeping bags definitely worked for me, as did my new winter mat. Having a proper winter tent made a huge difference too. My face was cold when we first went to bed from being exposed to the cold, but we trapped so much heat in the tent that by the time I woke up to pee in the middle of the night, the tent had heated up enough that my face wasn’t even cold. Another lesson learned though would be that it is worth opening up the vents in a winter tent. There’s no mesh in a 4 season tent and it’s based on a double wall system. Brandon wanted to open the vents to keep the tent from getting condensation on the inside, but me and Carolyn outvoted him because we wanted to keep the inside as toasty as possible. But all our body heat did create condensation on the inside of the tent, which then froze and would fall down onto us as little ice flakes whenever we would move around in the tent. It also made us need to be a lot more careful about accidentally brushing the sides of the tent, so next time we will open the vent.

The one benefit to camping in such cold temperatures though is that even though snow gets everywhere, it never gets anything wet. I’m used to the wet snow in Vancouver where if you get it on your mittens, it gets everything wet. But the snow was so fluffy and cold in the mountains that you could totally cover yourself in it and you’d never get wet. It just never melts because the temperatures are too cold. Honestly, my gear would get the wettest in the hut because if you brought any snow inside with you on your gear, the heated hut would cause it to melt and then it would be cold when you went back outside. We brought extra hats, mitts, and wool layers in case anything was compromised, but mostly we didn’t need them because things never really got wet, just cold.

Fortunately the wind died down before we went to bed, so that never really caused us any grief after digging our campsite, and it was a gorgeous cloudless morning when we got up. It started to cloud in a bit on our walk back, but the wind never came back up, so it was a much more enjoyable hike on the way out. It did start to snow just before we reached the Heather Hut and after lunch we all decided to layer up again for the walk down. I always try not to wear too many layers on the way up to avoid sweating too much or into too many layers. Ideally you should be a little cold when you start hiking up. But on the way down I pretty much threw on every layer because I knew I probably wouldn’t be sweating any more and we were almost out anyways.

Considering how apprehensive I’d been about the trip, I’m super glad we went. I had a great time and loved getting all the gorgeous mountain views in Garibaldi Park in the winter time. Now that I’ve done it in every season, I don’t feel a huge desire to go back for a while, but who knows, I still haven’t made it all the way out to Mamquam Lake, so there still might be another Elfin trip in my future. Overall I think we were really smart about this trip and about our contingency planning.

Carolyn and I haven’t yet done the avalanche training course (though we’re both planning to), so we’re very careful about where we choose to go snowshoeing. The avalanche rating when we went was low in the forest and moderate in the alpine. Brandon has done the training, so he did bring a probe and beacon with him on the trip. If you’re thinking about attempting any kind of trip like this, be safe about it and take the proper precautions. Always check the avalanche rating and don’t go anywhere risky without proper training. We all had our ten essentials with us and I registered our trip with AdventureSmart before going and sent the information to our partners with instructions on what to do if we didn’t return by the specified time. The backcountry is awesome, but you have to respect it and always be prepared. Also, always practice leave no trace camping! We have a beautiful wilderness here and we need to protect it.

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Categories: Life in British Columbia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Next Adventure

Hi Friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a trip out of country. My last trip outside of Canada/US was in 2016 when me and Emily travelled to Costa Rica and Panama for 2.5 weeks. I’ve been spending a lot of my spare time hiking over the past few years, so last year I decided to stay local for a year and did some traveling around BC and Newfoundland instead.

But I’ve been itching to visit Asia since I moved to BC 4 years ago and I decided to finally make it happen this year! Seth and I have decided to visit Vietnam as a bit of celebration of him finishing up with his thesis. Vietnam has been on my bucket list for a long time and I’m really excited to explore part of the country.

We’re going for just under 3 weeks, and while we are traveling the whole length of the country and doing lots of really awesome stuff, I still feel like we have to skip so much.

We’re flying into Hanoi and spending some time in the north. We’re going to visit the rice terraces in Sapa and go on a cruise of Bai Tu Long Bay. It’s a little ironic because the main reason I wanted to go to Vietnam was to visit Ha Long Bay, but I’ve since learned it’s super overcrowded and polluted, so we’ve decided to visit nearby Bai Tu Long Bay instead in hopes of escaping the crowds. I do have a bit of trepidation about skipping Ha Long Bay, but Bai Tu Long Bay looks pretty gorgeous as well. (They’re both part of a series of islands whose towering cliffs extending up out of the water makes for a dramatic landscape).

After that we’re starting our journey south with an overnight train ride to Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park. Phong Nha is known for it’s karst topography and intricate caving system. It has some of the largest caves in the world, and while we’re not visiting these, we will be doing a lot of caving and boating in the river!

Next we’re planning to see some cultural attractions with stops in both HuĂ© and Hoi An, with a little bit of birding for Seth in between. We haven’t totally nailed down our itinerary for this part of the trip, but we’ll probably be visiting some pagodas and touring the historical centres of both cities. I’m hoping to fit in a trip to the beach in Hoi An and cooking class or food tour.

For the last leg of the trip, we’ll be flying to Ho Chi Minh City as a home base and doing some other trips from there. We’re planning to do a 2 day tour of Cat Tien National Park, which looks to have some really cool wildlife, and a day trip out to the MeKong Delta.

As usual, I’m going to try and do some travel blogging along the way, which I’m really excited about since I haven’t done it in ages. I may try and get in the habit of blogging more about my hiking adventures, because I do get a lot of joy out them, but we’ll have to see whether that’s manageable on top of the book blogging. In any case, I got a fancy new camera last year with bluetooth and I’m pumped to not have to use crappy hostel computers to upload photos anymore. I hope you’ll come along with me for the journey! Here’s a photo of me and Seth in Peru circa 2013, back when I still wore glasses and he still had hair (shhh)!

Categories: Adventures in Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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