Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Coastal Walking Trails in the Comox Valley- Salmon Pt to Oyster River



By Keith and Heather Nicol
   With the good hiking weather getting more sporadic we took advantage of the good weather on
There is lots of driftwood along the shore
Tuesday, October 17 to walk between Salmon Point and the Oyster River. This ocean walk is one of our favourites and is located roughly ½ between Comox and Campbell River. This hike is sometimes known as the “Pub to Pub” walk since it happens to connect 2 nearby pubs. We like this walk since it offers scenic views across Georgia Strait and to the mountains beyond. Also the backshore consists of open fields with some trees which is also aesthetically pleasing. We usually do the walk from the Oyster River Nature Park but this time opted to start at the Salmon Point RV park (watch for signs off the highway 19A). There is a prominent sign that points to the nature trail and there is a small parking area nearby at 49 53.307N, 125 07.565W.

Heather checking out the Harlequin Ducks near the shore
    We saw many people on the trail (many with dogs) and it is easy to follow. It winds through shore line trees and in some places you can get down to the stony shoreline if you want. There are large amounts of drift wood and we brought our binoculars along to see what ducks were in the area. We saw many colourful harlequin ducks as well as mallards closer to Oyster River. The trail is about 3.5 km one way so you can either drop a car at each end or return via the way you walked to return to your car. We opted for the later. Once you reach the Oyster River estuary the trail leaves the ocean and winds through the trees to the Oyster River Nature Park parking lot. Please respect the private land which the trail crosses. 
The trail is broad and easy to follow


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Storey Creek Golf Club in Campbell River deserves its high rankings



By Keith and Heather Nicol
Michael teeing off on the first tee
    On Friday, October 13 we took fate into our hands and decided to play golf at the Storey Creek Golf Club hoping that no black cats would cross our path.  It was a sunny warm day (getting rarer this time of year) and we arrived with our son Michael at noon for our 12:30 tee time. We had heard great comments about Storey Creek from friends and relatives but this was our first visit to the course. It is located just south of Campbell River and it took us just 30 minutes from Courtenay to get there.  Its by line is “A Course in Nature” which aptly describes this course. It is at the end of McGimpsey Road and what makes the course unique of the courses we have played over the summer in Courtenay is that each hole is pretty much on its own. You don’t usually see other golfers since the tall trees block your view. 


Michael checking out the deer on the 10th fairway
 Although the course isn’t that long off the whites (5881 yds), it is very challenging due to the abundance of fairway sandtraps and water hazards on many holes.  As well the course seems to narrow down on many holes just around where your tee shot would end up.  Drives that aren’t straight are costly. As well most holes had several traps surrounding the green with a small opening in the front again challenging you to hit a straight approach. The course was nice and green and is mostly flat with a few slightly uphill and downhill holes on the back nine.  We liked the large greens and the overall course was in very good shape.  We used a cart but there were many groups walking but be aware that since each hole is separated from the others there is abit of a distance to walk to get to the next hole. 

Tall trees line the course
      Since the course has been carved out of the tall douglas fir forest it does have more than its share of wildlife. In fact there was a note on the pro shop door about a black bear that had been seen throughout the summer and we saw several deer on the 10th hole.  Storey Creek has won many awards including the #1 B.C. public course for best value and #5 public course in Canada for the best value in 2017!!  See their web site for a more extensive listing of the awards this course has received.  The course is a full service course with pro shop, lessons, 2 putting greens, a chipping green, driving range and club house.  The course is open all year and gets most of its clients from the Campbell River area as well as the Comox Valley.  But the head professional Steven MacPherson told us that through the summer they get many people from Alberta and the rest of B.C. as well as Washington and Oregon state.  There is still some good golfing left this fall so check out this award winning course.See: http://storeycreek.bc.ca/ for more information. We definitely want to try this course again.
Many water hazards like this one on the 18th hole force you hit to straight shots



     

Visiting the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Vancouver, B.C.



by Keith and Heather Nicol
Kristie feeding a duck
    On Monday, October 9 we were visiting our son and daughter, Michael and Kristie for the Thanksgiving Long weekend and decided to check out the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Vancouver, B.C. Both Kristie and Michael live in Vancouver but had not been to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary so given the good weather forecast we decided to see what birds were there. The Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located in Ladner and is about is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. The sanctuary is family friendly and we saw many people with their small children out enjoying the fine fall weather. One popular activity at the Reifel Sanctuary is feeding the birds and the ducks , red wing blackbirds and black capped chickadees were getting their version of a thanksgiving feed on this day.
Wood ducks are one of our favourite ducks
   There are many treed pathways through the 300 acres of land that comprises the bird sanctuary as well as ponds and intertidal marshes and it is perfect habitat for many different birds. In fact close to 300 bird species have been recorded in this area. Our highlight was a great horned owl located high up in a tree as well as the colourful wood ducks. There were lots of people with big telephoto lenses since  this area is known as a good place to photograph many different species. Although mallard ducks seemed to be the most common birds we also saw many shorebirds including one large congregation of long billed dowitchers.  The Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is open year around and is a real bargain to visit since adults are just $5 to enter. They also have a large picnic area and we had lunch in the sun after our visit. For more information on this special area see: http://www.reifelbirdsanctuary.com/

There were many families out to experience the bird life

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Getting started with skating on roller skis



By Keith and Heather Nicol
Trying balancing on grass to start
     Roller skiing is a perfect way to get ready for the cross country ski season but for the newbie trying it for the first time there are several things to consider. The main concern is safety since pavement is much harder than snow and you don`t an injury to put you out of the ski season.  Also you can quickly pick up speed on roller skis so you want to choose flat smooth pavement with little traffic. We suggest trying roller skis on grass to start so that you can get a feeling of balance and stability before you `hit` the pavement. Try balancing on a single ski and then hopping to get a sense of balance of roller skis.  
 
Look for smooth pavement to practice
Once you feel comfortable try the same drills on pavement. You will likely find that roller skis are tricky to balance on compared to skis since a rounded wheel is harder to feel steady on compared to a flat ski on snow.  Remember to wear a helmet and gloves while roller skiing and some people use knee and elbow pads. Next try skating on roller skis remembering to bring your feet under your body as well as swinging your arms for propulsion. Some roller skis have brakes which allow you to slow the speed of the roller ski until you feel more comfortable. We recommend Jenex roller skis since their braking system is easy to use (http://www.jenex.com/).  The following video illustrates some of these concepts that will get you roller skiing with confidence.  This will make the transition to skating on snow much easier! 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Gulls feeding by stomping in shallow water - Comox, B.C.


 
Heather paddling near Pt Holmes
By Keith and Heather Nicol
    While sea kayaking near Pt Holmes near Comox on September 14, we came across some interesting feeding behavior of gulls. They were stomping their feet to churn up some sort of food. They would move their feet up and down quickly as people might do running on the spot and then the gulls would peck down into the shallow water.  Evidently they also do this on grass as well to get worms to come to the surface. It is thought that the stomping simulates rain falling and the worms come to the surface to avoid drowning where they become food for the gulls. We had not seen this behavior before but found it fascinating. Local bird expert Art Martell has identified the birds as Mew Gulls.Since video quality is not that great, it is best viewed at full screen to see the gulls stomping the sand in the shallow water.