Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Comox Lake is a perfect place for a sea kayaking-swimming excursion

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather swimming at our lunch spot
    With a forecast high of 32C in Comox (the warmest day of the summer so far) we decided to do a kayak – swim excursion on Friday, August 19 and we thought that nearby Comox Lake would be an ideal place to explore. A previous days` swim in the Puntledge River suggested that the water was warming up nicely so we thought that Comox Lake would also likely be perfect place to combine a dip and kayak trip. Our 2 previous sea kayak trips to Comox Lake had involved launching at Cumberland Lake Park  but for this trip we opted to try a launch on the other side of the lake. We knew that the northern shore of the lake had many more beaches than the steep walled south side and this was a priority if we wanted to swim. We drove up a combination of Lake Trail Road and Comox Logging Road to the bridge which crosses the Puntledge River just above the dam. We parked at 10 U 0348645E 5500980N which is just past the bridge on your left. Here we found a reasonable trail for wheeling our kayaks to the lake. There are a few roots along the way and it is quite steep as the trail drops toward the lake but the 100 meter trail is quite manageable. 
Comox Lake has fine views of the Comox Glacier

    Once we were set up we dove in for our first swim of the day and swam in a protected bay just off the main lake for a few minutes. Then soaking wet we paddled west along the shore encountering many beaches with small groups of people at many of them. The terrain changed dramatically after a km or so and dry grassy bluffs spotted with arbutus trees came into view. These bluffs were perfect launch point for people doing some cliff jumping into the lake and we were struck by how clear the water was.  Throughout this section we had a good view of the Comox Glacier in the distance. We found a very small beach amongst the bluffs where we had lunch and a swim  (coordinates 10 U 0346651E 5500216N). We paddled for another 30 minutes to another beach where the cliffs were ending and had a final dip in the water before heading back to our launch point. There was still much of the Comox Lake ahead of us but given the very warm temperatures and lack of a
breeze we decided that return and save the remainder of the lake for a cooler day. Overall we paddled about 8 km in total and had a final swim at our exit point. Comox Lake has amazingly clear water and a spectacular setting and shouldn`t be overlooked as s kayak destination. And pack your bathing suit for if you have a warm day.
Heather with the dry grassy bluffs behind

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Sea kayaking with Bonaparte Gulls at Point Holmes near Comox, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    On Thursday, August 18 we decided to head to Point Holmes which one of our favorite launch points in Comox Valley. We like this spot since it offers a boat launch so tides are not that much of an issue and an on shore bathroom which was built last summer. It also seems to be a good place for a variety of bird and marine life. We usually paddle toward Cape Lazo and around toward Kye Bay depending on wind and weather. Once you head around the headland you are no longer protected from NW winds but if winds are light this is not a problem. On this day we were treated to a large number of Bonaparte Gulls which must be returning from breeding in the boreal forest or taiga. We were not familiar with these gulls in Newfoundland and saw our first ones earlier in the spring in their breeding plumage. They are a small graceful gull and almost look tern like at first glance. 

There was a large flock of Bonaparte Gulls at the launch point
Gull diving for food
   On this day a large flock of Bonaparte Gulls were along the sandy beach near the launch site.   Some were displaying an interesting feeding behaviour where they flew off the water to a height of just 30-60 cm and then dove head first in the shallow water.  We spent 20 minutes watching them do their short take off and diving routine before heading toward Cape Lazo. The tide was just 1.0 meter so there were many exposed rocks and shoals.  Many of the rocks had seals draped over them and we set our sites for an offshore collection of rocks that had some gently sloping bedrock amidst the rocks. This proved to be a perfect place to haul out and have lunch.  Our lunch spot even had its own blue heron foraging for food and we saw many sea stars in the tidal pools. But the tide was rising and after 30 minutes our flattish lunch spot was in danger of being flooded so packed up and headed back to Pt Holmes.  Sea kayaking in this area is good at any tide but we seem to see the most wildlife at low tide.
just off shore.
Seals were draped on many rocks

Monday, 15 August 2016

Ocean River Sports has fine kayaking at Oak Bay Marina in Victoria, B.C.

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather paddling past a Blue Heron near the marina
     On Sunday, August 14 we decided to see the scenic Oak Bay area of Victoria from the seat of a kayak. This area is has lots of small rocky islands with sand beaches and even amazing views of Mt Baker on a clear day. Ocean River Sports has a small operation out of the Oak Bay Marina but it is perfect for exploring this area by SUP or sea kayak. The dock area was busy with kayaks coming and going but Ben Johnson, the dock staff for Ocean River Sports got us out on the water as quickly as he could. He gave us a map showing the best areas for kayaking for our 2 hour rental. We paddled our 2 singles out of the marina and around a small island. Here a blue heron was perched on the rocks along with some shore birds including several greater yellow legs. We always like seeing shore birds scampering along the water’s edge and sea kayaks are ideal vehicles for viewing them.  
Seals looking on with snow capped Mt Baker in the distance
     From there we headed to Mary Tod Island and out to Emily Islets – 2 small rocky islands. The smaller of these was covered in seals and with 3286 meter Mt Baker rising out of the fog in the distance it made for a special siting. After getting some pictures we headed north to Cattle Point.  Ben Johnson had told us not to head out to the outer islands in this area because of strong currents. Cattle Point serves an entrance to Cadboro Bay and we paddled along this rocky shoreline lined with large houses. We kayaked well into Cadboro Bay before we checked our watches and decided to head back. On the way back we paddle along Willows Beach which was lined with people enjoying the sunny warm weather. This beach would be an ideal place to pull in if you needed to stretch. Then all too soon we were back at our launch point. We recommend checking out this area for its variety of scenic coastlines and wildlife. Thanks Ben for doing a great job. For more information see: http://oceanriver.com/adventures/  
Heather paddling past Emily Islets

Victoria's Butchart Gardens offers great summer music and amazing flowers

by Keith and Heather Nicol
The colourful Begonias were very photogenic
      Butchart Gardens has a well deserved reputation for its colourful and varied gardens and receives an amazing 1,000,000 visits a year! The gardens have been running for over 100 years and started when Jennie Butchart decided to rehabilitate a limestone quarry which had been used to supply her husband’s cement plant.  We have visited the 22 acre garden in spring and summer in previous years (we still haven’t seen the elaborate displays for Christmas ) but a real highlight in the summer is the chance to combine flowers with music with the Butchart Gardens summer concert series. From July 2 until September 3, Butchart Gardens plays host to a variety of musical events including groups like the Victoria Symphony to cover bands like “The Sutcliffes” who play Beatles’ hits. There are even fireworks on Saturdays and entry to the concerts is free with your Butchart Gardens day or annual pass. 
The gardens also feature First Nations totems

Canna lined the part of the walkway to the concert bowl
   On Friday August 12, “Black Angus” was in concert and we had heard members of that group playing  celtic music (one of our favourite genres) earlier this year so we thought they would be a good choice.  We arrived around 6:00 pm so that we could see some of the gardens before the 8:00 pm concert.  Like many people we also packed a picnic lunch to eat on the grass in front of the band stand. The rose garden is a special treat in the summer and is the only part of the garden where the plants are named. Unfortunately the Sunken Garden was in shade when we arrived but was still spectacular with its 21 meter Ross Fountain at the end. One disadvantage of arriving later in the afternoon is that some of the garden is now in shade so if you want to see the gardens in their best light plan to get there by mid afternoon at the latest. We also appreciated the Italian Garden and the entry walkway to the Concert Stage and Lawn with its nicely spaced trees surrounded by rings of flowers. The Gardens also offers summer boat tours of Butchart Cove which we haven’t taken advantage of. Next time! 
"Black Angus" put on a memorable show

    We thoroughly enjoyed the “Black Angus”. They played a variety of celtic based music but also featured folk music from other countries which we also liked. Although there are chairs for the evening concerts although some people bring their own camp chairs. Music and Flowers ...a great combination. For the summer concert schedule and other information see: http://www.butchartgardens.com/

Friday, 12 August 2016

Enjoying the Picasso Exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery

By Keith and Heather Nicol
The Picasso exhibit runs until Oct. 2
     On Tuesday August 9 we decided to see what was on at the Vancouver Art Gallery and were
pleased to see a major exhibit dealing with Pablo Picasso. In fact is the largest Picasso exhibit ever presented in Western Canada and focuses on the significance of 6 women who influenced his artistic development. There is detailed information about relationship that Picasso had with these women and how they inspired different stages in his career. There was also an interesting film showing Picasso painting on a piece of glass. The camera was placed behind the glass so you could see Picasso’s expression as he painted bold brush strokes. This exhibit will be on until October 2, 2016.
The Picasso exhibit was very popular
   On the second floor we also enjoyed the large scale photographs of Stephen Waddell of different caverns in Canada, the US and Lebanon. Caves have unique geological structures which are nicely captured in these pictures. On the same floor is an exhibit of 140 images by Harry Callahan of street scenes from Chicago, Atlanta, Cairo and many other cities. These exhibits close September 5. On the third floor New Delhi artist Bharti Kher first North American display which includes paintings and photographs but it was her detailed sculptures that impressed us the most. This exhibit runs until October 10. Lastly on the 4th floor were paintings by well known B.C. artist Emily Carr and French artist Wolfgang Paalen.  We always appreciate seeing Emily Carr’s work and this showing runs until November 13. For more information see: http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/
We always appreciate Emily Carr`s paintings of B.C.