Posts Tagged With: summer

Kayaking the Abel Tasman

It was a long drive to Abel Tasman after our stressful day on the glacier, but we split the driving between us and finally pulled into our accommodations around 9pm. We did some rearranging of our packs to make sure all our gear was in waterproof bags and then hit the sack to catch up on sleep for the next busy day ahead of us.

Abel Tasman National Park is well known for its gorgeous golden sand beaches, which you can visit either on foot, by kayak, or by water taxi. When I’d initially started researching Abel Tasman, I’d intended for us to just chill out in some kind of beach lodge for 3 days, but there’s actually no roads in the park, so we decided to make a pretty forgiving (read, slow) itinerary to see the park by kayak. Kayaking has been our newest hobby in Vancouver, so we were excited to try it out in New Zealand.

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You can kayak the park either on a guided tour or you can self-explore in rented kayaks. We’ve gotten pretty comfortable on the water and it’s a lot cheaper to rent, so we opted for the self-guided option. We rented from Abel Tasman Kayaks and they run a pretty smooth operation, starting with 2 hours of classroom/on water kayak training before letting you embark on your own. Then they loaded us into a water taxi with our kayak and shuttled us up to the end of the park so that we could spend the next 3 days kayaking back to base at our leisure.

We always rent single kayaks in BC and we weren’t too impressed when they forced us to rent a double kayak for “safety” reasons. I was pretty skeptical because everything I’ve learned about kayaking in Canada has reinforced that it’s a lot easier to rescue someone when you have two boats. But ATK insisted that because of the wind in the area, its safer in one kayak – after having now completed the trip, I’ve decided I agree with them. Our kayak was called the “Packhorse Express” and with good reason. It was a BIG kayak. A lot wider than I was used to and extremely heavy. We struggled to lift it with 2 people even when it was empty, but more on that later!

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Our shuttle dropped us a Onetahuti Beach, which is a gorgeous golden sand beach that stretches in a long half moon around the coast. It was noon by the time we landed on the beach and got our kayak packed, so we just had our lunch right there before setting out. Like I said, we planned for easy paddling days, so we decided to kayak up the coast in the opposite direction for a little while to visit Shag Harbour (Cormorants are known as Shags in NZ and NL people!). We’d heard it was really nice during high tide because you can paddle back into this river/tidal lagoon, which was really neat. It was a bit of a slow paddle up because we had a bit of a headwind, but it just made for a quicker paddle back down after! We stopped at another beach to go for a swim and then visited the Tonga Arches before paddling around the headland to Mosquito Bay, our campsite for the night.

Despite its name, Mosquito bay didn’t have any mosquitoes. It was still close to high tide when we landed, which was good because the beach is very shallow and there is a huge difference between the length of the beach at either tide and we didn’t want to have to carry our kayak up to high tide. The Heaphy Track, which is another of NZ’s Great Walks, runs along the coastline through the park as well, so a lot of the beaches and campsites are shared with hikers. But we picked Mosquito Bay because the track doesn’t run by the beach and you can only access it by boat, so we figured it would be less crowded.

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That was a good idea in theory, but it was also still summer holidays for the locals and we discovered that a popular activity is beaching your boat on the shore at high tide and then camping in it overnight. So there was a whole line of tiny sailboats that had sailed into the tidal lagoon and were now beached up on the shore. But it was a beautiful campsite and the water was really warm, so I had a great swim. After some really questionable weather on the Milford Track and Fox Glacier, Abel Tasman rewarded us with sunny, hot days!

The weka’s were a lot more rampant in the Abel Tasman though and were real pests around the campsites. Seth loved it of course, but they were constantly pecking around waiting for you to let down your guard so they could swipe your food. We actually misplaced one of our little ziploc garbage bags on the second night and all we can figure is that a weka climbed into our tent vestibule overnight and swiped it out of our bag (just a reusable shopping bag). We felt really bad about it and searched the woods all around the campsite to see if we could find any garbage, but there was no sign of it.

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We had a lazy evening at Mosquito Beach and I convinced Seth to sleep with the fly off the tent so that we could watch the stars overnight. I don’t think Seth really did any stargazing, but I had a great time and I did see a ton of stars and the milky way. It was interesting sleeping conditions though, probably because it was so warm, and I woke up with a layer of dew right over my sleeping bag, which has never happened to me in BC mountains when I sleep with the fly off.

Day 2 was my favourite day of the trip. We had a lazy start, but unfortunately this time we did have to drag the kayaks all the way down the beach to put out at a much lower tide. High tide is really better in the Abel Tasman because you can access the tidal lagoons when the tide is up, so we had a lazy paddle to Bark Bay and Sandfly Beach and did a little exploring on the beaches since we couldn’t get into the lagoons.

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We had a little setback when we tried to go to one of the islands to look for seals, it was just too windy out there and after a lot of splashing around we gave up and navigated back to the shore. We had lunch in Frenchman’s Bay and then kayaked over to Torrent Bay, which was one of my favourite beaches. Torrent Beach juts right out into the bay with a massive tidal lagoon behind it. I think the lagoon always has some water in it, but how far back into the lagoon you can go is dictated by how high the tide is. 2 hours before and after high tide is the best time, so we decided to go for a swim on the lagoon side of Torrent Beach to kill some time. The water was so warm and as someone who loves swimming, I was so content swimming around in the bay.

2 hours before high tide we started to make our way in to the bay and landed our kayaks at the end. ATK had recommended checking out part of the Heaphy Track and hiking up to a little swimming hole called Cleopatra’s Pool. Unfortunately, we got the wrong landing point for the trail, so our walk was a few kms longer then it had to be, but it was neat to explore another one of the great walks. Between backpackers and hikers, there were a lot of people on the beach. There’s a big hut at nearby Anchorage Beach, so I think the trail draws a lot of day traffic from there. The pool was pretty nice – colder than the ocean, but not as cold as the glacial rivers. There were several little waterfalls, so we explored around a bit before heading back to our kayaks.

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It was around 4pm when we finished, so we decided it was time to make our way to our next campsite at Te Pukatea Bay while we still had the high tide working for us. Te Pukatea Bay is located just on the other side of the headland, separating it from Anchorage. It’s only about a 10-15 minute walk between them, but a bit more of a challenging paddle going around the headland. We had a headwind and it was windy, but still manageable. I was happy when we finally pulled up to the beach though.

Te Pukatea Bay ended up being my favourite beach! There were no boats or yachts along the beach and surprisingly few people camping there. It seems the facilities at Anchorage draw most of the crowds. We went for our third and final swim of the day and then took it easy and enjoyed the views. We went on a short walk around sunset and found a lookout gazing out towards anchorage and were rewarded with the most gorgeous pink sunset! Then on our way back to the campsite, we finally found the elusive morepork, a little owl that Seth had been trying to see since the start of the trip. They have a distinctive call and we’d heard them several times, but one almost dived bombed Seth’s head and we finally got a good look at it sitting in the tree at dusk – it was very cute!

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Our last day was a bit of a challenge. Keeping with the theme of the rest of the trip, Abel Tasman was experiencing “abnormal summer weather”. The first section after Te Pukatea Beach is known as the “Mad Mile”, so we knew it was going to be a rough paddle, but figured at least our arms would be fresh after a day of rest.

It was really windy and by far the hardest part of the trip. At first it seemed manageable and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, but the further we went around the headland, the less it seemed we were moving forward. We had a headwind coming at us from the front, but there was also a swell on – so we had to keep away from the shelter of the land because the swell kept crashing against the rocks. So we had the wind against us in front and a side swell to battle at the same time. I think I may be prone to anxiety because I had a bit of a freak-out in the middle of the paddle because I felt we were going nowhere and the waves made me really nervous. But Seth was super calm; he knew we were making progress and that we just had to push through.

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That one mile is why I changed my mind about the double kayak. Single kayaks seems to be the way to go in BC, but our Packhorse Express was definitely made for big waves and at no point during the paddle did I feel at any risk of tipping the boat. I’ll also appreciated being in the same boat as Seth in that moment because he is a stronger paddler than me and I think we would have become separated if we’d been in two boats, which would definitely have stressed me out a lot more.

But we finally made it to the next beach and hauled the kayak up on shore for a well deserved break. It was still windy, but the paddling was easier so we had a nice time exploring a few more beaches on the way back. We decided to aim for Appletree Beach for lunch, which is the last stopping point before you head back to the rental. The map told us that they run water taxis from Appletree Beach because sometimes the wind gets too strong going back and to wait there if you didn’t think you could make it around the headland.

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I think we could have gone all the way back, but the weather got noticeably windier the closer we got to Appletree Beach and we had a hard time landing the kayak on the beach. I decided it was time to call it quits and figured we could just wait for a water taxi while we ate our lunch. We got super lucky though and ATK went by in their boat just after we landed on the beach (we were still bailing the water out of the kayak from our awkward landing). I flagged them down right away and he didn’t hesitate in loading our boat on board and bringing us straight to the end. He said it was not good conditions at all and I think he was pretty much just running around retrieving people.

We only skipped about an hour of paddling, but I definitely think it was worth it. We were thrilled to have a hot shower back at the base camp and eat our lunch there. It was a challenging last day, but overall I had so much fun kayaking around the Abel Tasman. It was hot, sunny, and had amazing views, which is really all you can ask for!

Categories: Exploring New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

The Rest of my BC Summer

I shared an earlier post about the first half of my summer in BC, so here’s one for the second half of what has truly been an awesome summer!

Seth and I did a lot of camping in July in August. In hindsight, we probably would have preferred to do a little less camping and a little more hiking, but we still had a good time. Unfortunately, we got rained out on our first two camping trips. It only rained about 2-3 times during the entire month of July and it just happened to coincide with our camping trips! We were able to salvage some of our camping trip to Cultus Lake with an early morning hike of Teapot Hill. It’s named for an old teapot that was found at the top of the hill and if you hike there now, people have hidden dozens of teapots all along the trail, which makes for a fun scavenger hunt on the way up.

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We had better luck in August and spent a weekend camping at Alice Lake Provincial Park near Squamish. We bought a rubber dinghy earlier this year and we finally got to take it out for a spin at Alice Lake. Alice Lake was much smaller compared to the other lakes we’ve camped at, but it was one of my favourites because it’s too small for motorized boats, so there’s no boat traffic at all. Our main motivation for staying at Alice Lake though was to cut off some of the drive to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, which is a hike that has been recommended to me by pretty much every avid hiker I talked to throughout the summer.

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Joffre Lakes is located outside Pemberton, which is a three hour drive from Vancouver, and features three alpine lakes nestled under Matier Glacier. It’s an 11km roundtrip hike up into the mountains, which seemed like a walk in the park compared to our 20km hike to Garibaldi Lake. We both loved Garibaldi Lake, which ends at a beautiful glacial lake, but has a long 7km trek up continuous switchbacks to get to the view. I loved Joffre Lakes because the entire hike is incredibly scenic, not just at the end.

The hike starts at the first lake and then hikes through a boulder field up to the middle lake. The middle lake provides a great view of the Matier Glacier and there’s a beautiful waterfall flowing down from the upper lake. When you reach the upper lake, you can look straight across to the glacier. If you continue around the lake, you can actually camp on a huge rock located right under the glacier and you get a great view of the rest of the mountain range. It was a great hike, but it’s definitely worth it to get there early in the day, because everybody else loves this hike too. Parking was insane off the side of the highway and the crowds of people on the trail were at times a little overwhelming. Otherwise, I would highly recommend this hike!

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Some of other highlights of my summer included a Vancouver Canadians baseball game, the annual Celebration of Light, and of course, more hiking. The Vancouver Canadians are the Toronto Blue Jays affiliate team for the Northwest Minor League. We found a great groupon and both attended a game for just $14! They play in Nat Bailey Stadium, which is just a bunch of bleachers behind home base, but it felt very old school and we had a blast.

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The Celebration of Light is an annual fireworks competition that takes place over English Bay in late July. Every year two other countries compete with Canada to put off the best fireworks show. We decided to go watch Brazil’s fireworks display, which consisted of a 30 minute show choreographed to music. There were all kinds of activities beforehand and we had fun watching some Brazilian samba dancing, Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), and the SkyHawks, an awesome Canadian parachute stunt team. The fireworks display was amazing and next year we’ll have to try and catch Canada’s contribution.

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I did a few shorter hikes during the summer as well. I joined Karen and Grant on the North Shore for a day hike up to Dog Mountain, which had a great view of the city. And I made a trip out to Squamish and hiked along Brohm Lake, which also had a great view of the some of the snow capped and glacier covered mountains.

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We ended off the summer with a trip to Vancouver Island for the first time since we’ve moved to Vancouver (and embarrassingly, my first time ever). The main purpose of the trip was to visit Victoria, but we camped outside the city in Goldstream Provincial Park to save money on a hotel. We didn’t spend too much time at the campsite, except to sleep, but we did do a nice roundtrip hike of the park. Goldstream River is named for the gold that was panned from the river during the gold rush and over the weekend we learned more than I thought there was to know about the gold rush.

The Goldstream hike takes you past an old goldmine cave that you can crawl into and up to an old railway trestle that crosses a huge gorge. It’s abandoned now, so you can walk along to the middle of trestle, which offers a pretty terrifying view down to the river at the bottom. We stopped at a few waterfalls along the way, the most notable of which is the very tall Niagara Falls. It’s a thin stream of water that flows down from the mountains, but it’s so named because the waterfall is actually taller than Niagara Falls! We finished the hike with a walk along the river which is very popular in the fall when thousands of salmon crowd the river to spawn.

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Victoria was a very nice city. It reminded me a little bit of St. John’s because everything in Victoria is much older than in Vancouver and many of the buildings were built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. We spent the morning at the Royal BC Museum, which had a great exhibit on about the gold rush, as well as their permanent exhibits about BC’s European and First Nations history, as well as BC’s natural history. My knowledge about BC’s history is a little lacking, so I definitely learned a lot.

We continued our education in the afternoon with a walking tour of Victoria. Our tour guide was excellent and we learned all about Victoria’s story – the many people that have passed through the city and the history of many of the buildings around the inner harbour. We always knew that New Westminster was the former capital of BC and that Victoria was the former capital of Vancouver Island, but our favourite story was when we learned how Victoria stole the title of BC’s capital from New Westminster.

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On the day of the vote for the capital, the Victoria delegation took the man who was going to give an impassioned speech in favour of New Westminster out for breakfast. They knew he had a weakness for gin, so they graciously supplied him with gin throughout breakfast until he was so drunk that when we got up to give his speech, he ended up stumbling through the first page 3 times before being taken away for drunkenness. Without his strong plea for New Westminster, Victoria was able to steal the vote and secure itself as the BC capital! Seth loved the story because it seems like the kind of half-brained plot you’d see fail in a movie, not actually succeed in real life.

Victoria has so many attractions that we had a hard time fitting them all in. We spent an evening at beautiful Butchart Gardens and a morning at the Butterfly Gardens. We drove to the top of Mount Douglas for a great view of the gulf islands and did a little hike up Bear Mountain for a nice view of Vancouver Island. We finished the trip with a stop at Sea Ciderhouse to sample some local made cider and go on a tour of the ciderhouse. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed a flight of cider outside on the deck before catching the ferry back to Vancouver. Even the ferry was a thrill and we saw an orca mama and baby duo swimming in front of the ferry on the way back!

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After a long, hot, and dry summer, fall is finally catching up with us. It was still quite warm in September, but there’s definitely a chill in the air and we finally got some rain to fill up our reservoirs. Apparently it’s a super el-nino year, so we’re expecting another mild winter. I’d love to have snow to go skiing, but if we don’t get any, we’ll probably just continue our tour of BC’s wilderness by hiking!

Much love,
Maria

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

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