Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Hiking to St Mark’s Summit on the Howe Sound Crest Trail



by Keith and Heather Nicol
Kristie and Eric hiking through the forest
    On Sunday, August 16 we decided to hike to St. Mark’s summit which is on the Howe Sound Crest trail near Vancouver.  Our daughter Kristie had suggested the hike and we were joined by her boyfriend Eric .  Our last hike in this area was on March 1, 2015 when we hiked to Eagle Bluffs (see our post: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2015/03/hiking-to-eagle-bluffs-at-cypress.html for more information on that scenic trail). Like the hike to Eagle Bluffs, the hike to St. Mark’s Summit begins by driving to the Cypress Bowl Alpine Ski Area parking lot and walking past the main lodge. Then for the St Mark’s summit route you need to head to the right to the trailhead at:  N 49.395863, W 123.203891. The first part of the trek starts in Cypress Provincial Park and is easy walking on a broad gravel trail. The trail winds mostly through the trees with the occasional open area near stream crossings. Trail upgrading work is ongoing and about half way along we came to the original trail which is much rougher and involves hiking over roots and rocks. The track to St. Mark’s Summit is about 5.5 km and it took us about 2 hours of steady hiking. We saw lots of people on the trail and it seems to be a very popular route. Many people also had their dogs along for the hike (dogs are welcome on a leash).

Eric and Kristie at the St Mark's Summit viewpoint overlooking Howe Sound
  The views from St. Mark’s Summit are impressive and include spectacular vistas of Howe Sound, Bowen Island as well as many other islands which dot Howe Sound. You can also get fine views of the Lions which in our case were partially obscured in cloud. We lingered for about 30 minutes at the summit where we had a snack and enjoyed the views. On our return trip we took a side trail to the Bowen Island Lookout which is well worth it and this could make a shorter hiking destination all on its own. This side trip added about kilometer to the trip and so our total length was about 12 km. Because of this extra length our return time was also 2 hours. Overall there is about 460 meters of elevation gain from the parking lot at Cypress Bowl and summit elevation is 1370 meters. Be aware though that the trail does wind up and down hill so the actual amount of elevation gain is quite abit more. We recommend this hike for the fine views and it will make an even better hike once the trail upgrades have been done. For more info see: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/cypress/

The Bowen Lookout is another scenic viewpoint accessible from this trail

  

Friday, 14 August 2015

Cumberland ‘s Chinatown walking tour is well worth a visit



by Keith and Heather Nicol
Plaque 10 is a photo of a store and restaurant that stood here from 1918-1960
     On Tuesday, August 11 with some very warm temperatures forecast we decided to head to Comox Lake for a swim. Comox Lake is just outside of Cumberland and we had Linda Brown, a friend from Victoria in tow and she had never visited this part of the Comox Valley. Before our swim we decided to check out a walking trail that takes you through Cumberland’s historic Chinatown which lasted for 80 years from 1888 to 1968. Not much remains today but at one time this area was apparently the second largest Chinatown outside of San Francisco! The Chinese travelled  here because of the work associated with the Cumberland coal mine and nearby railroad. 


The picnic pavilion adds to the site
  The walking tour passes by 15 plaques which have a photo of what buildings used to stand in that area. The trail can easily be walked by a variety of ages and abilities since it is just a few 100 meters long along smooth gravel trails or roads. The variety of buildings that once stood here is impressive from a bakery to general store to a restaurant that once served 10 course meals and was a ticket outlet for steamship travel to China! There is even a picnic pavilion so that you can enjoy your lunch here as well. After spending about 45 minutes at the site we headed on the down the road and had a refreshing dip in Comox Lake at  Cumberland Lake Park.  For more information on Cumberland’s Chinatown see: https://cumberland.ca/coal-creek-historic-park/ 
Linda and Heather looking at one of the plaques along what was once Upper Street



      

Friday, 7 August 2015

For fun and value try Mulligans Golf Course in Courtenay , B.C.



by Keith and Heather Nicol
The practice putting green is popular
     Golf is popular in the Comox Valley with many courses to test your skills but if you want to try a fine little course that allows you to play 9 holes for less than $10 then check out Mulligans Golf Course. They offer an executive course which means there are mostly par 3’s with some par 4’s and the longest hole is 337 yards. Total length from the blue tees is 1763 yards which is about a mile so it is also easy to walk for many people from younger children to older adults. But just because it is short doesn’t mean it is easy. There is some water on the course and also sand traps so depending on where the pin is placed making par can be a real challenge. The course also gives scenic views of the Beaufort Range of Mountains and has been landscaped to create undulations and mounds which add to the layout of the course. Of course with the lack of rain this summer the fairways were looking a bit brown but the greens were in great shape when we played the course on August 7.
Heather teeing off on the first hole with mountain views in the background

  In addition to a small clubhouse there is a driving range and a putting green. The driving range is another bargain since a bucket of balls is just $1.50! Regular green fees are $11 but before 8 am and after 4 pm it is just $8.00 to play 9 holes! Mulligans is located right outside of Courtenay and it took us about 90 minutes to play 9 holes. For more information see: http://mulligansgolfcourse.com/  or phone 250-338-2440. This course is ideal for families or friends wanting to meet for a couple of hours of golf. 
There are several small ponds which add difficulty to the course 



   

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Highlights of the Filberg Festival- Saturday, August 1



by Keith and Heather Nicol   
With a partially new line up including an old favourite Valdy, we decided to head down to the Filberg Festival again on Saturday, August 1. Filberg Park is a perfect venue with lots of shade trees and an ocean setting so despite the forecast of 29 C and sun we felt that we could easily keep cool while watching the performers. We started with Eric Harper on the Garden Stage (right by the ocean) and he played a good mix of guitar pieces  with a flamenco flavour. Next up was Valdy on the main Rotary Stage and it was standing room only for this well known folk singer. He sang lots of his newer material but also included some of the songs he is best known for like- “Rock and Roll Song” and “Passin’ Through”.  Valdy is well known as a fine song writer and he seems to be able to write about a song about just about anything. 
Valdy was certainly a crowd favourite  

      The last performance we saw was John Mann who is another great song writer. John Mann is the well known as the front man for the popular band Spirit of the West. He put on a powerful performance with songs about his recent medical issues as well as songs about his wife and daughter. Also a reminder that the money raised for from the Filberg Festival goes to restoring and improving Filberg Park and Lodge so come out and take in the great music and arts and crafts displays.  For more information on the Sunday , August 2 and Monday, August 3 line up of artists and performers at the Filberg Festival see: http://filbergfestival.com/  
John Mann gave an energetic performance at the Filberg Festival



Friday, 31 July 2015

Be sure to take in the Filberg Festival in Comox - July 31- August 3.



by Keith and Heather Nicol    
 On Friday, July 31 we decided to see the first day of the Filberg Festival which we had been told by many local Comox Valley residents is a must see event. The festival grounds were perfect for a hot summer day since there are lots of large shade trees and it is also located along the ocean. The festival, now in its 33rd year, is an amazing melding of crafts and music and is one of the largest juried craft fairs in Western Canada with over 100 exhibitors. The featured craft person was Gordon Hutchens, a potter extraordinaire from Denman Island. Be sure to see his work! 
Be sure to see the impressive pottery of Gordon Hutchens
    We were also very interested in seeing some of the musicians which included a varied mix of performers from across North America. We were especially looking forward to hearing  “The Fortunate Ones” who we had last seen in Newfoundland. This duo of Catherine Allen and Andrew O’Brien have great voices and we recommend seeing them on Saturday, August 1 at the festival if you missed them today.  We also really enjoyed the Celtic music of the “Nolan Schryer Dobres Trio” and the “Dungarees” from Edmonton had people up dancing with their brand of country-rock.  The day finished on the Rotary Stage with “Matuto” from New York who play what they call Brazilian Bluegrass. Overall a fine mix of music and some of these performers will  be back on Saturday and new artists will play on Sunday and Monday so check out the schedule and be sure to take in at least one day. Featured musicians include John Mann, Ken Lavigne, Valdy, and Matthew Barber and Jill Barber. 
We loved the music of The Fortunate Ones from Newfoundland
 The day pass must be one of the best deals around at just $15 or you can also get a full 4 day pass. This festival is a major fundraiser for Filberg Park and Lodge so that is added incentive to attend.  See http://filbergfestival.com/   for more information. 
Pierre Schryer plays a toe tapping  fiddle in the Celtic group- Nolan Schryer Dobres Trio