Kayaking Keats Island

Following up on my post about kayaking the Sooke Basin, the other day kayaking trip I want to write about is the time Seth and I rented kayaks from Gibsons and paddled over to Keats Island. We were over on the Sunshine Coast for my beautiful friend’s wedding and we decided to stick around for a day afterwards to explore in Gibsons and go for a little paddle. I’ve been over to the Sunshine Coast a few times, but I’ve only spent limited time in Gibsons, so we had a blast exploring around the town centre.

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We had a yummy breakfast at Molly’s Reach, which some of you might know from the popular TV show, Beachcombers, which ran through most of the 70’s and 80’s. My parents were incredibly enthusiastic about it the one time I took them to the Sunshine Coast, so it was remarkably my second time eating in the diner. We spent some time strolling along main street window shopping, before heading over to Alpha Adventures to rent 2 kayaks for a couple hours.

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We’d been partying it up at the wedding the previous evening, so we weren’t looking to do anything too strenuous. It was a bit windy, but nothing too worrisome. Alpha Adventures have some really nice kayaks and it didn’t take us too long to get going. We decided to head straight across the channel and paddle along the edge of Keats Island to the Shelter Islets. Little islands are always a great place for wildlife watching and we were hoping to see some seals.

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I feel a little bit like I’m cheating to call this post “Kayaking Keats Island”, because we only paddled a very small portion of the island, but we did see several seals hanging around the islets and we decided to stop on the beach in Plumper Cove Marine Park for a snack break. it was pretty sheltered paddling along the shore of Keats, but it did feel like the wind was starting to pick up, so we decided to head off again and cross the channel to get it out of the way.

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It wasn’t too bad paddling back across the channel because the wind was hitting us sideways, but it was a bit of work paddling along the Gibson’s coast to get back to the Marina. In my opinion this stretch is better seen from Gibson’s town, so in retrospect, I likely would have preferred to go the same way back along Keats Island. Oh well, we got a nice arm workout on the way back and were thrilled to end the trip with a visit to the Tapworks Brewing Company for a flight! Tapworks is located right along the main road and has an upstairs balcony, so it’s a great place to hang out and we really enjoyed it!

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Minnekhada Regional Park

The pandemic has obviously been draining and awful for everyone, but it’s definitely given me an appreciation for all the trails that are still within close driving distance to the city. I love getting away from the city and out into the wilderness, but there’s still a lot of wilderness right at our doorstep.

Metro Vancouver is lucky to have so many regional parks scattered throughout the lower mainland. Minnekhada is one I’ve spent a fair bit of time in over the past year, so I decided to write about it because it has definitely become one of my favourite local parks.

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Minnekhada is wedged in the mountains between Coquitlam and PoCo and offers a nice escape from the city. It’s not that large of a park, but the reason I like it so much is for the diversity that you’ll find along the trails. The trail network consists of a figure 8 trail loop around two ponds that are just bursting with wildlife! There are several beaver lodges scattered throughout the ponds and it’s a great place for birdwatching. Metro Vancouver has a lodge at the south end of the park that used to run events pre-covid and has a bird-blind for watching the pond.

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You can customize your trail length by either doing one or both of the pond loops. The trail crosses in the middle providing beautiful views of both ponds and the surrounding mountains (actually in reality this is one pond with a dam/causeway trail going across the middle). It seems like most people just do the southern loop, which is shorter, so we often take Sadie dog-walking around the northern loop because she’s still pretty nervous around dogs and strangers and we rarely see anyone there.

The highlight of the trail network though is the hike up to Low Knoll and High Knoll. Low knoll is a small branch off the southern loop to a forested viewpoint looking out over the ponds. High Knoll is known as the “Quarry Rock of Coquitlam” because it’s a steep hike to get up to the rocky outcrop that provides a scenic view of the tri-cities and Pitt-Addington Marsh. The view isn’t quite as stunning as Deep Cove, but in my opinion it’s a shorter and easier trail to the top.

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The first time I did High Knoll was a few years ago when I took my parents up there, but more recently I went up on a foggy morning in early December and stumbled upon some of the best views I’ve seen in the park. It was a sunny day, but the fog from the Fraser River was hanging low and had drifted into Coquitlam. It made for some stunning foggy views around the lake, with the sun streaming through the trees in sunbeams. But when we got up to High Knoll, we were treated to the most beautiful inversion. We’d hiked up above the clouds and could see the fog hanging over the city with the skyscrapers just poking up through. Steve treated us to some hot tea while we enjoyed the views.

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The shorter loop trail clocks in at around 3.5km, while doing both loops with High and Low Knoll side trails clocks in at around 8km. So you can really customize the trip however you want. However, Minnekhada is also well known for bears, so you should always practice bear safety when walking in the area. We went on an unfortunate hike in October where we ran into either 2 bears, or the same bear twice (we’re not sure). We first encountered it near the Low Knoll trail and it wondered off when we started making noise, but as we continued around the north loop trail, we encountered it again, but this time it did not leave us alone. It didn’t seem like an aggressive bear, but it was definitely curious about us and did not move on when we started making noise (nor was it deterred by our pre-emptive bear calls, which we’d been doing since the first encounter). We ended up abandoning the loop and backtracking and it didn’t follow us, but it did make me really nervous and I’d been arming myself with rocks in case in pursued us. There are bears all throughout the park, but we felt more vulnerable on the North loop because there are less people.

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Anyways, don’t be deterred by the bears, just hike with a friend and bring a horn with you, especially in late fall when the bears are bulking up for hibernation. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen them and I’ve been there a half dozen times. Overall, I think it’s a beautiful, under-rated park and I’d definitely recommend checking it out!