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!