Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A quick winter visit to Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park



by Keith and Heather Nicol
View near the Amphitrite Lighthouse
     We decided to take advantage of a good weather forecast on Friday, January 16th to head to the Tofino area on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island. Although Thursday was rainy and windy, Friday’s forecast was for sunny skies and highs of 10 C and so we quickly arranged some accommodation and set out from Courtenay around noon. We arrived about 3 hours later and checked in. The forecast was pretty much bang on and although the wind buffeted our Ucluelet guesthouse that night, it did dawn sunny with light winds the next morning. First we hiked a portion of the Wild Pacific trail in Ucluelet which we loved. The huge waves rolled in smashing on rocks and tossing spray many meters into the air. Be sure to see the Amphitrite Lighthouse which is on the upper end of the 8 km trail. From there we checked out the Ancient Cedars trail which passes by some monstrous trees and we highly recommend this 1 km loop which is located near the lower end of the Wild Pacific trail. 
Keith along the well named Wild Pacific Trail
     We then worked our way north toward Tofino stopping at Florencia Beach and Long Beach. Close to 40 years ago we had visited Long Beach and at that time you could camp on the beach and the entire area was much less developed. You can’t camp on the beach now but there were lots of people beach walking , taking advantage of a fine mid winter day. We also took a drive up Radar Hill but by now the clouds had begun to roll in so our views were truncated. That evening we checked into the Tofino Travellers Guesthouse which we suggest for anyone looking for great value while staying in this area (see blog below for more details). 

Heather walking along Florencia Beach
 Saturday, January 17th we visited the Eagle Aerie Gallery in Tofino which features  the amazing work of  artist, Roy Vickers. We also visited North Chesterman Beach and the surfers were out in force. This area has certainly become a surfer’s destination and it showed by the dozens of people out playing in the big waves that were rolling in. By mid afternoon the showers returned in earnest so we decided to head back to Courtenay realizing that we had just touched the surface of what this area has to offer. We can’t wait to return!  For more information check out Ucluelet (http://ucluelet.ca/ ) and Tofino tourism (http://www.tourismtofino.com/) . 
Surfing is alive and well at Chesterman Beach


Monday, 19 January 2015

The Tofino Travellers Guesthouse is a great find



by Keith and Heather Nicol
The Tofino Travellers Guesthouse is a gem.
      In mid January we visited Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island’s west coast and we stayed at the Tofino Travellers Guesthouse. If you are looking for great value you can’t do much better than this cozy house in downtown Tofino. Its central location means that you can walk to get groceries and other necessities but its real charm is the host, Nick Jacquet . Nick goes out of his way to make you feel at home and has created a warm and welcoming place to stay. We had seen reference to how helpful Nick was in “Trip Advisor” and it is all true in our experience. “Trip Advisor’s”  4.5 star rating is well deserved. 
We stayed in a private room with 2 double beds and an attached bath
     There is a well stocked kitchen with a long table produced out of local cedar which makes for great communal meals. You can stay in dorm type rooms but we opted for a private room with very comfortable beds and an attached bathroom. In the common room Nick has installed a wood stove that he regularly stoked up throughout the evening.  Most of the people staying there were 20-30 year olds from Germany, Spain and Australia and in no time people were swapping stories and travel experiences. Nick told us that he gets a huge cross section of ages staying there from families with young children to 80 year olds.  
The well stocked kitchen is a great for those that want to make their own meals
    And another bonus is the delicious waffles he serves for breakfast which is included in the price! You can’t go wrong with staying at the Tofino Travellers Guesthouse but be sure to book ahead since Nick told us he fills up quickly and has lots of repeat customers. For more information see: http://www.tofinotravellersguesthouse.com/ .     
Nick serving Heather a fluffy waffle for breakfast

Sampling the cross country skiing at Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island


Raven Lodge is an impressive facility

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     Although winter has gotten off to a slow start at Mt Washington, the cross country skiing has been very good based on the days we have been skiing. We have been impressed with grooming which has made the most of the snow and we have been blown away by the great views from Raven Lodge and the trails. And we have been told that some of the nicest skiing is in Strathcona Provincial Park which we haven’t sampled yet since those trails need a bit more snow cover to fully open. We can’t wait to try Paradise Meadows and the Lake Trail when they open up. Overall Mt Washington has developed 55 kilometers of cross country ski trails and another 22 kilometers of snowshoe trails. Another bonus which we are looking forward to trying is taking the Hawk Chairlift which allows you to access some cross country trails higher up on the mountain. There aren’t many places where your cross country ticket lets you ride a lift! Raven Lodge is a full service facility where you can rent gear, register for a lesson, have a meal, relax in front of the fire and even have a sauna! For more information see: http://www.mountwashington.ca/
Trails are groomed for skating and classic skiing

The mountain vistas from the lodge and trails are very scenic

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Check out Vancouver Lookout for great city views



by Keith and Heather Nicol
Bring a tripod to capture the city lights
      We recently headed up Vancouver Lookout on December 30, 2014 since Vancouver was under a stretch of clear sunny weather. Vancouver Lookout  gives visitors views of the harbour, the north shore mountains, Stanley Park and many of the highrise buildings of downtown Vancouver. On the day we were there we could also see Mt. Baker looming in the distance. The 360 degree observation deck is 550 feet in the air and an outside elevator whisks you to the top in less than a minute. We recommend arriving before the sun sets and then plan to stay for an hour or more to get some pictures of Vancouver as the lights come on. From our experience it makes sense to bring a tripod if you want to get some time exposures at night. If you don’t have a tripod you can use some soft clothing or a bean bag to rest the camera against the frame of the windows to get time exposures as well.  You can enjoy a self guided tour or there are helpful guides that will provide information about the buildings and landscapes that you are viewing. This is a must see attraction and your daily admission ticket is good all day. For more information see: http://www.vancouverlookout.com/   
Looking southwest toward the tall buildings of Vancouver
 
Looking toward Stanley Park and the North Shore Mountains

Friday, 26 December 2014

Vancouver's VanDusen Gardens and Capilano Suspension Bridge" light" up for the holidays

by Keith and Heather Nicol


    Vancouver has some fine displays of lights for the holiday season and if you have never been to the Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens then you are in for a big treat. This year is the 30 th anniversary for this seasonal event which runs until January 4, 2015. There are over 1,000,000 lights on display and you need a programme for all of the other performances that are taking place as well. We took in a few and we really enjoyed  the dancing lights show on Livingstone Lake . Strolling along many of the themed walks like the Gingerbread Wood and Candy Cane Lane make this truly a family event which is suited to people of all ages. Our suggestions are to bring a tripod so that you can do some time exposures of the lights and print the progamme ahead of time so that you know in advance when and where the various performances are taking place. For more information see: http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/festival-of-lights.aspx

The lights at the VanDusen Gardens are amazing!
  The  next night we headed  to the Capilano Suspension bridge to see their Canyon Lights display. They have decorated the world’s tallest Christmas tree at over 150 feet and lit up the suspension bridge as well as many of their other adventures like the Cliffwalk and Tree Top Adventures. We also enjoyed listening and singing along with the carols at the Trading Post. Again we suggest that you bring along a tripod to capture the lights. Although we went around 6:00 pm if you want to actually see the Capilano River and see  how high above the ground you are on the Cliffwalk you might want to head over just before sunset.  That way you can see both the dramatic views and the lights. The Canyon Lights display continues until January 3, 2015. Since the weather forecast is looking good for the next week or so there are still many nights left to enjoy it. For more information see: http://www.capbridge.com/ 

You can join in singing some holiday music at the Capilano Suspension Brdige