Thursday, July 2, 2015

Galloping Goose Gals

Ernest Hemingway once said,

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

We just got back from our third bike tour in British Columbia and I've come to the realization that I totally agree with Hemmingway's statement... there really isn't a better way to experience your environment than on a bicycle. One website I visited called it 'slow tourism.' I think that slow tourism is my new favourite thing.

So in keeping with this theme my friends and I decided to visit Vancouver Island and bike the Galloping Goose Trail. Like the Kettle Valley Railway, "the Goose" as it is affectionately called, is an old railway bed that has been reborn as a multi-use regional trail. This 55km trail has is it all, showcasing all that makes the west coast so spectacular... from lush rain forest to our province's capital city of Victoria.... there's something for everyone along the Goose... even a Castle!

We spent 4 days exploring the Galloping Goose, these are just a few of our highlights.

The Inner Harbour
While technically not on the trail, the Inner Harbour is so close by that you really shouldn't miss the chance to experience this bustling tourist magnet**. The Empress Hotel, the Royal Museum and of course our Parliament Buildings surround this beautiful harbour. After touring the Legislature we went to Red Fish, Blue Fish for supper on the wharf. Don't let the long line-up deter you... it's worth the wait! Personally I recommend their deep fried dill pickle. Yum.
Red Fish, Blue Fish

**This is a very popular tourist area, especially in the summer, so we walked our bikes on the sidewalk instead of attempting to ride on the busy road.  After crossing the Johnson Street Bridge it's just another kilometre south on Wharf Street. 

Hatley Castle (km 14)
This incredible 40 bedroom mansion was built in 1906 by the Lieutenant Governor at that time, James Dunsmuir. You could spend all day exploring this 586 acre estate (which is now a university) but if you don't have all day, you could take the hour long Castle Tour. You'll hear about the eccentric Dunsmuir family (talk about drama!), why their home was designed to look like it a Tudor castle and even about their very own ghost!

Sooke Potholes (km 46)
The potholes are a series of deep, polished rock pools and potholes carved naturally into the bedrock of the Sooke River. The Potholes Provincial Park is right beside the Goose (km 46) and is a great place to stop, have some lunch and check out these geological oddities.

Todd Trestle (km 47)
Giant old growth Douglas firs were used to build this imposing trestle bridge. It is one of the few original examples left of a timber bridge on the west coast.

Leechtown (km 55)

When we were preparing for this trip we had read that the section between Todd Trestle and Leechtown was narrow and difficult to navigate. Don't believe it. This is a beautiful part of the trail with many breath-taking views of the Sooke River below. When you get to km 55 you will see a small trail leading into the forest and taking you to what's left of an old house. It's hard to imagine that this area was once was a thriving lumber town.

Of course, what's a biking trip without stopping for geocaches along the way? Fortunately the Goose does not disappoint as there are hundreds of caches in the vicinity. We found about 25 along the trail which was just perfect. Here's a few that we really enjoyed. 
Hope you have as much fun exploring the Goose as we did.

Helpful websites:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Don't Worry. I'll be Fine. Nothing is Going to Happen to Me.

The day was blistering hot. We were on a gravel road that was full of twists & turns and, in many places, only wide enough for one vehicle. On one side of the road the mountain was rugged and steep and on the other side, it was straight down to the Fraser River. As Tony navigated our 4x4, sometimes through spaces that seemed smaller than our beast of a truck, I reminded myself that we were doing this for fun.

This particular trip was our annual Anniversary trip and we decided to attempt a back-roads loop that had been on our "to-do" list for a long time. This road trip takes you past some of the most amazing views of the Fraser River but it is not a trip for an inexperienced driver or, for that matter, anyone with a fear of heights! The entire loop is about 125 kilometres...from Clinton to the Big Bar Reaction Ferry, south along the High Bar Road that parallels the Fraser River, east through Edge Hills Provincial Park and then back up to Clinton. The last leg of this loop is the most treacherous part. Six switchbacks up a 23% grade. They've put a sign at the beginning of the switchbacks. It pretty much sums up this road trip for me.

We were just starting up the mountain when we saw something ahead, glinting in the sun. "Oh no." Tony said. "This is not good." A few moments later we saw a man walking down the road. When he saw our truck he began to wave his arms, frantically imploring us to stop. It was his car that we saw, broken down in the middle of this desolate spot. You have to understand... this place is remote. We had been driving for over three hours and we never passed another vehicle. When we arrived, the look of utter relief on Chris' face was very apparent. We were his only hope to get out of a very bad situation.

Tony and Chris worked on his Volvo for over an hour. It was 38 degrees, the sun was relentless and so were the flies. To his credit Tony worked hard, trying to reattach the radiator hose that had been ripped to shreds. When it was apparent that it couldn't be fixed we took our new friend to Clinton where he found a motel and a tow truck driver that was willing to go back and rescue the poor car. Chris sent me an email a few days later and thanked us again for rescuing him. If we hadn't come along I'm not sure what he would have done.

Don't Worry. I'll be Fine. Nothing is Going to Happen to Me.

Fast forward to this last weekend. We were anticipating a quick little get away to Merritt. Some hunting and geo-caching. Doing what we love to do.

That Sunday night Tony was driving in the mountains above Merritt when, suddenly, he saw a young girl coming down the mountainside, running towards the truck. "Oh no." he said. "This is not good." "Please," she said to Tony, "I left my friend up on the mountain. She broke her foot and couldn't go any further. I was going for help."

They drove back up the mountain and found the injured girl sitting, waiting for someone to come rescue her. When she saw her friend climb out of our truck she was overwhelmed with relief. She was expecting to wait for hours for her friend to come back with help and was getting pretty worried about spending a very cold night alone, high up in the Merritt grasslands.

After Tony helped her into the truck and they started to make their way down the mountain he decided to say what was on his mind. "Look" he said. "I have three daughters about your age and I'm going to tell you what I would say to them right now. I'm looking at what you have and all I see is a couple of little fanny packs and two bottles of water. You have no emergency equipment. Nothing that would help keep you safe during a night alone in the elements. What would you have done if I hadn't come along?" The drive to their car took about 45 minutes and he gave them a lecture the entire way. I'm sure that they are words they will never forget. At least I hope so.

Don't Worry. I'll be Fine. Nothing is Going to Happen to Me.

Unfortunately these aren't isolated incidents. It seems that you can't turn on the news without hearing about another outdoor enthusiast that has been lost to the wilderness. Some are rescued and some, tragically, are still lost.

So this post is for all of you who love to be out there like we do. It's for you who love this great and gorgeous wilderness that we are lucky enough to call home. And it's for you who come to visit. Don't take this land for granted. Go out there and have a great time but please, be prepared for whatever may happen because...

We do worry. You might not be fine. And it could happen to you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway - take TWO

As far as I'm concerned, one of the best ways to experience British Columbia is while riding on a bicycle. The sights, the smells and the sounds that you can experience in nature are so much easier to enjoy when you aren't racing by at 100 clicks/hour! Fortunately for all us who love our bikes, British Columbia is a mecca for trail riders. Whether you are a hard core mountain biker, risking all your limbs for that adrenaline rush... or you have a cruising bike that belongs in a Mary Poppins movie...BC has the bike trail for you!

Our latest adventure into BC involved my friends, me and, once again, our bikes! Last year we experienced a small portion of the Kettle Valley Railway between Princeton and Tulameen. Because we enjoyed that experience so much we decided to go back and explore more of this historic trail.

The first day of our trip we reserved for cycling in Myra Canyon. Myra Canyon, just east of Kelowna, is one of the most astonishing sections of the KVR. Tourists come from all over the world to experience this place (honestly, we heard more German spoken than English). Eighteen trestles cling to the canyon walls and can only be described as an incredible feat of engineering. It would be hard to accomplish this with today's modern equipment, I can't imagine what it would have been like to build this almost a century ago.

Myra Canyon

Today we reap the fruits of all that hard labour. You can enjoy the incredible vistas of Myra Canyon with ease since most of the KVR is no more than a 2.2% grade. We suggest that you park at the Myra Canyon FSR parking lot. If you don't own a bike or you're not able to bring it with you, you can rent a bike in the parking lot. Just make sure to book it ahead of time since they don't do last minute rentals. The round trip from Myra Station to Ruth Station and back again is 12km. For those of you who want to bike and cache there are at least 20 caches for you to search for. This cache was our favourite.

The next day of our trip we decided to tackle another section of the KVR...Okanagan Falls to Penticton. This section is not near as spectacular or as famous as Myra Canyon but I enjoyed it almost as much. I just loved traversing through the ponderosa pines with cliff walls on one side of me and lake on the other. The trail is definitely not as well maintained as other sections of the KVR but it is still doable.We started at OK Falls, home of the must-visit Tickleberries, and after cycling about 6 kms we stopped for lunch at the Frog City Cafe in Naramata. After a terrific lunch on the outside patio we continued on, about another 7 kms to Penticton. Beautiful picturesque ride.

Wine Glass GeoArt
Our last day took us to Naramata. One of my caching partners, Lillooet Lady, and I noticed that there was this geo-art in the middle of Okanagan Lake. Hmmmm... wine and geocaching together? Count us in! Since the final for each cache is listed on its corresponding cache page, it's no spoiler to tell you that this series of caches starts at Naramata and ends at Hillside Winery....all you have to do is enter the correct coords into your GPS. This was a great series that took us through vineyards and orchards and past the most amazing views. After the last cache of the series we parked our bikes at the Hillside Winery and had lunch on their outdoor patio Bistro. I've never been to Tuscany before but I can imagine that it is a lot like this. Just Perfect.
Hillside Winery
Here's to good friends!
We spent five days enjoying so much of what the Okanagan has to offer. We found about 50 caches and biked about 50km but we know we've only scratched the surface, exploring this incredible place. Pretty sure we need to go back!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Most Epic of Road Trips - Vancouver Island

I have to admit that when I'm blogging about British Columbia I tend to go overboard with my use of superlatives. Words like incredible, amazing and awesome just seem to type themselves. Every time we go on a BC road trip I am in awe of this place that I am privileged to call home.

But this time I will use a word that I've never used before. Epic. The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines it like this...ep·ic adjective\╦łe-pik\ - extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope.

Yes...epic is the perfect word to describe my latest foray into beautiful BC.

I have a very long bucket list of places and things I want to see in my home province and I have been able to check quite a few things off that list. Beachcombing on Haida Gwaii? check. Climb to the top of Mount Cheam? check. Soak in the hotsprings at Sloquet? check. But there was one thing I hadn't done yet and, being a west coast girl, I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't accomplished this task yet. I had never been whale watching.

So when my friend, Laurie Anne, said she was coming to BC (from Saskatchewan) and we were deciding on what we should do...well, it was a no-brainer. Let's take a road trip to Vancouver Island and go whale watching.

About four days before our trip I got a message from my friend. She was wondering...Did I want to go on a helicopter ride too? Are you kidding? I think my exact words were "Yeehaw!" Let the epic-ness begin!

Monday morning we caught the 10:15am ferry from Tsawwassen to Duke Point and then started heading towards the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Before hitting Campbell River we decided to take a little side trip to Coombs and Cathedral Grove.

COOMBS was originally built as a small farmer's market with a sod roof and hamburger stand, serving tourists heading west to Tofino and Long Beach. About 30 years ago they joked that maybe they should put some goats on the roof to "mow" the grass. The rest, as they say, is history. If you are a foodie and you love a unique shopping experience then you really shouldn't miss Coombs.

CATHEDRAL GROVE is one of those places that will take your breath away. This small park within MacMillan Provincial Park contains one of the most impressive stands of giant Douglas Firs on the west coast - some are over 800 years old! The stroll through the park is easy and worth every minute.

After spending the night in Campbell River we continued on to Port McNeill and our first adventure. Our helicopter ride! I had never been in a helicopter before and now I know why people love it. It was the most incredible feeling to soar just above the treeline and so near to valley walls. We toured the area northwest of the Broughton Archipelago, traveled up the Wakeman River and landed by some unknown lake. I wondered if anyone had ever been there before, it was so remote. Our ride ended with cookies on a snowy mountaintop to celebrate my birthday. Later, as I stood on the granite peak, I just couldn't believe how lucky I was to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. What a birthday!

Epic Birthday

The next day was our whale watching tour. I had never been to Telegraph Cove before and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I don't know what I was expecting but it sure wasn't this quaint and pretty fishing village. Telegraph Cove is the last boardwalk community left in British Columbia. The boardwalk is lined with colourful little cottages, built on stilts above the ocean. There is a well appointed Whale Museum and great little gift shop. The steamed mussels at the Old Saltery Pub were delicious along with the Killer Whale Pale Ale. We just couldn't resist the name! It doesn't get more west coast than this.

Telegraph Cove

We booked our tour** through Stubbs Island Whale Watching Tours and we were not disappointed. The staff was very professional and the boats very comfortable and roomy. We saw four humpback whales and a pod of orcas. One of the large male orcas came right up to our boat and checked us out! It was amazing to be so close to such an enormous creature. Our captain navigated the ship through narrow channels bringing us up close and personal with bald eagles and stellar sea lions. The tour was three and half hours long but it felt like 20 minutes! I couldn't believe how quickly the time passed. **Tip: If you can, book the afternoon tour since there is a good chance that there will be fog during the morning tour.

Northern Vancouver Island is incredibly beautiful and rugged. If you're an outdoor enthusiast I would venture to say that this might be one of the best destinations in the world for you. Whale and grizzly tours, salmon fishing, camping, hiking, geocaches everywhere, kayak tours, helipcopter tours.. the list is endless. With so many things to choose from you'll have lots to add to your bucket list.

I hope all your adventures are as EPIC as ours was!

Thanks for joining me on this adventure LA!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kamloops - Can't get 'Knouff Caching!

Last May (2013) we went to Knouff Lake with our friends. We had such a great time caching and the guys
had such a great time fishing that we decided that we would go back again this year. We knew there were many more caches to find and apparently many more fish to fry!

Our cabin on Knouff Lake - perfect
Knouff Lake, aka Sullivan Lake, is situated between the North Thompson River and Sun Peaks Ski Resort. The area near Knouff Lake is simply gorgeous and perfect for the outdoor enthusiast. Whether you are into hiking or skiing, geocaching or fishing... there is something for everyone.

We decided to spend our first day finishing up the caches near Lyons Lake. There are nearly 100 caches near this picturesque lake and we just couldn't get to them all last year. This year we decided to save time and park a vehicle at both ends of the trail. We parked one truck near GC3DZBG (yellow star on map) and the other near GC42GH2 (blue star on map). I need to interject a "Note to Self" here: Remember to ALWAYS check the elevation of a trail before you start a hike! We would have saved ourselves so much pain if we would have hiked in the opposite direction...downhill! Unfortunately we figured this out as we were climbing the hill that seemed to go on forever! But I digress.

hiking beside Lyons Lake
The hike along Lyons Lake is amazing and if you're a birder then this is THE place for you. The lake and the shoreline are just teeming with birds! There are 8 caches that are hidden along the lake. They are all pretty easy finds except for the last cache which we DNFd which was too bad. We had lunch at the end of the trail and then we started the climb to our other truck. There is a cache hidden at least every 300 metres along this trail. Thanks to womantracker and T-Kam (who hid almost every cache on this mountain) we always had an excuse to stop and catch our breath!! But the views were amazing and the caches were (for the most part) pretty easy to find.

At the top! Not...
Once we got to the top it was all downhill from there. Not! We were so tired by this time but for some strange reason I got my second wind, so while Lillooet Lady and Nurse Hatchett hiked (very slowly I might add) I managed to get every cache from the fork in the trail to our truck. I was pretty proud of myself! At the end of the day we had found about 27 caches. Time to head back to the cabin for appys and a glass of wine. We sure deserved it!

On our second day we decided that we deserved a day of Park & Grab caches so we headed north west to the small town of Barriere. In 2003 one of the largest forest fires in BC history ravaged this area... lasting 75 days and in the end burning 26,420 hectares. Today, 11 years later, the devastating aftermath is still very visible. If you'd like more information on this historic event then make sure to stop at GC1EYXY - a great cache hidden in honour of all the heroes of the Maclure/Barriere forest fire.

warning... spoiler photo!
After caching around Barriere we made our way east to Heffley Louis Creek Road to finish a series called Country Road. I can't tell you how much we enjoyed this series. Each of the 38 hides were unique and well thought out and the hints were very helpful. Names like Meander, John Deere and Sunday Best added to the fun and the hides often made us laugh. Kudos to canuckdog for an exceptional series in a gorgeous valley. If you're in the area make sure to put this at the top of your to-do list.

And before we knew it, it was time to go home. Why do these good days have to go by so quickly? Good friends and good times. Lots of caches and lots of fish. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway

It's called McCulloch's Wonder. A railway engineering marvel that took nearly 20 years to build. It traverses incredible canyons, mountains & rivers, winding its way through some of the most breathtaking vistas and views on the planet.

In 1910 Andrew McCulloch was hired as the Chief Engineer of the Kettle Valley Railway. It would be the project that would forever define his career. He was an avid reader of Shakespeare and to this day you can still see that influence... Juliet Creek, Othello Tunnels, Iago Mountain. They all are names inspired by this passionate man. After the KVR opened, it was a main route for moving goods from the interior of the province to the coast and the railway thrived for many years. But then declining demands for moving ore, fruit from the Okanagan and other goods forced the inevitable closure of the line and, sadly, the last section of the railway was closed in 1990.

But fortunately for us the KVR has been reborn into a remarkable trail for hikers, walkers, cyclists and explorers. Tens of thousands of tourists, from all over the world, come to experience the wonder of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. And since this 'wonder' is basically in our back yard we thought it was about time we did too. Together with four of my wonderful friends we started to plan our first biking/geocaching trip.

The KVR is approximately 600 km long so obviously we weren't going to tackle it in just one trip! The most
popular section of the trail is the Myra Canyon route but we decided to save that for another time. On this trip we decided to visit Tulameen.

Tulameen? Where is that you say? Well let me tell you that Tulameen, British Columbia is one of my favourite places in BC. It is a quiet little "cabin town" just north of Princeton and about 3 hours from Vancouver. Once upon a time this land was the hopeful destination for thousands of gold miners, searching for their fortune. Today the air is heavy with the echoes of their past. Ghost towns like Granite Creek and Blakeburn are waiting to be rediscovered and lovely little Coalmont lingers on still. If you're a history lover, there is no better place to explore in BC than Tulameen.

We rented a gorgeous little house right in Tulameen called The Front Porch. This adorable little cottage went way beyond our expectations. It was clean & well stocked, beautifully decorated and just a few metres away from the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. If you're planning a visit to this area we highly recommend the Front Porch as your home base.

On our first day, after a hardy breakfast, we got on our bikes and got started biking up the KVR. There are about 70 geocaches between Tulameen and Brookmere. We cycled along beautiful Otter Lake, water on one side and mountain on the other. It was just breathtaking. Most of the caches along the KVR series are pretty easy finds. They aren't meant to be difficult, they are meant to get you out there. And we were sure loving being out there.

Signing the logbook

We were starting to think, well this is nice. Nice bike ride, nice easy caches and then we came to SITC#5 Thank You Kris and Jordy - GC2ZEJD. Once we read the cache page we knew that one of us would be "up a tree" - literally. At this point I have to digress a bit and explain that we are a group of "mature" women. Now we don't consider
ourselves old, in fact we act like teenagers most of the time, but the reality is that 3 of us are already grandmothers! Tree climbing isn't something we do very often any more. But you know, there is something to be said for pushing your boundaries and stepping out of your comfort zone. After a lot of encouragement from my fellow cachers I was the one who made the climb. I haven't been that excited to sign a logbook for a long time!
The next day we took our bikes to Princeton and then biked the KVR from Princeton to as far as the HooDoos cache. This gorgeous section of the KVR includes one of the many tunnels along the trail. This tunnel travels underneath the Hope-Princeton highway and is about 300 metres long. At first we thought, "piece of cake!" but then, when we got about half way through, we were very happy that we brought our flashlights along! It was so dark we couldn't even see the bikes we were sitting on! After the tunnel we crossed the Tulameen River and rode along some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. Our main goal today was to reach an earthcache called "The Red Wall" and we were so glad we did. This unique and historically significant site is not to be missed. Wow.

Before we knew it our first biking adventure was over. Fortunately we had no mishaps or flat tires.... just some aching, under-used muscles and some sore backsides! And it was all worth it...we collected a lot more "smileys" to log, spent time with dear friends and gained a hundred more memories to cherish.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Caching in the Nahatlatch Valley

signing the logbook
 OK... I have to admit, I've always been jealous of cachers whose significant other is also into caching but today was my birthday and Tony, my husband, knows that this is the one day I will say... "I want to go geocaching all day with you and I don't want to hear any complaining." He gives me a major sigh and then goes out to pack the truck.
love our truck
Fortunately for me, he's totally at home in the woods, he loves exploring logging roads and he also owns a great big Ford F250 4x4. When I need to get up to the top of a mountain, he is my hero.

So today, on my birthday, we decided to head up to Boston Bar. The plan? Getting up to the Nahatlatch Forestry Lookout Tower and grab all the geocaches along the way.

See the tower?
We left Aldergrove at about 8am and were in Boston Bar by 10. Crossing the bridge into North Bend, we turned onto Chaumox Road and soon arrived at our first cache of the day...NV Series - The Fairy Ring Field (GC3PQQH). The NV Series (NV is short for Nahatlatch Valley) is an awesome bunch of caches put out by the Hannilake-Harrisons. I was very impressed with each cache we found in this series... the hides were inventive & creative, they were clean and filled with interesting swag and they were all hidden at safe pullouts along the road. One hide (GC3PRX7) was especially well done but that's all I'm saying! You just have to see that one for yourself!! Then, surprise, surprise I even got a FTF! (GC4E5JE) How cool is it to be first to find on your birthday? Only a true geocacher can appreciate how special that was for me.

Amazing view from the top!
So it was all smooth sailing, finding cache after cache, until we tried to find the road up to the forestry lookout. We had read some previous logs that mentioned that the road up had been a bit hard to find but we thought "we have our mapbook... we'll be fine." NOT. Turns out that the BC Backroads Mapbook is not quite accurate in this area and we ended up taking the wrong road for a while. DO NOT take the road to Keefers... take the road to "Wilderness Ranch" and you'll be good. In hindsight I should have printed the satellite map from which would have been very helpful at the time.

Tony and the tower
Once we found the right road I was so excited and I was also very glad I wasn't driving! This is definitely a 4x4ers dream road and takes some skill to navigate. There are some serious hairpin turns, some major boulders to navigate around and quite a bit of deadfall after the tower. If you have a big truck we would recommend that you park at the tower and then walk to the last three caches in the series. We just made it through the deadfall with only inches to spare. There is nowhere to turn around at the last cache so you will have to back up for quite a while unless you continue forward about another 800 metres down the road. We found a grassy spot there that was big enough for our truck.

The Nahatlatch Forest Fire Lookout was rebuilt by the Four Wheel Drive Association, SWATT, some geocachers and BC Rec Sites & Trails. What a project to undertake! Wow.
The "Rebuild" geocaching series was created by Trixnbun in honour of the rebuilding of the Lookout Tower and the entire series is such a great tribute. The hides are not difficult and I love that the hints are good so that there is no unnecessary wear & tear on the environment. Every once in a while we'd get a glimpse of the view of the Fraser Canyon and it would just take our breath away. Finally we arrived at the lookout and we were so excited to see the brand new rebuilt tower. The view from this spot is truly amazing. I'm sorry to say the pictures just don't do it justice. You have to see it in real life. Spectacular.

Making lunch inside the tower
After a great lunch (with birthday cake of course) inside the tower we finally decided it was time to head back home. 26 caches later we are a lot more tired, a little more bruised and I was, apparently, another year older!

And it was SO worth it.