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   for more information. 
Pierre Schryer plays a toe tapping  fiddle in the Celtic group- Nolan Schryer Dobres Trio


Be sure to see the evening concerts at Victoria's Butchart Gardens

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      Butchart Gardens has long been a favourite when we have been visiting Victoria but we have never taken in their summer evening concerts. What could be better- enjoying some fine music in a fabulous setting surrounded by gardens and flowers.  And with this summer having many warm and sunny evenings this is the year to check this out if you haven’t already done so. On Wednesday, July 29 we were in for a special treat since the Victoria Symphony Orchestra was playing and it certainly brought out a huge crowd. Many people brought picnics and had spread out their blankets in front of the stage and we plan to do this the next time we attend since it looked like a lot of fun.   
Many people brought picnic suppers and ate before the concert

 We arrived about 6:45pm for the 8:00 pm concert and that gave us a chance to set up our chairs ahead of time so we could walk around the gardens unencumbered. Even at that time most of the bleacher type seats were taken so if you want to sit up close you might want to get there even earlier.  We attended this event with my brother Bruce and his wife Mary Ellen who were the ones to suggest this since it is one of their favourite activities through the summer.  We walked through many of the gardens with camera in hand but the rose garden and sunken garden are always favourites Then before we knew it was time for the concert and so we rushed back to our seats only to find that the crowd had mushroomed which meant finding our chairs took some searching.
The rose garden is a favourite through the summer
  The Victoria Symphony Orchestra put on a beautiful  performance of music from a variety of Russian composers.  Their choice was perfect for a summer evening since although some the music was somber, much of it was light and joyful. They even featured the playing of a local 13 year old cellist who joined the symphony for one piece. Conductor Tania Miller did an outstanding job of introducing the pieces which we really appreciated. The summer concert series features the music of a wide variety of artists and it is free with admission to the gardens with the exception of a couple of big name artists like Jann Arden and the group Spirit of the West. For more information about Butchart Gardens and the summer concert series see:

The Victoria Symphony Orchestra drew a huge crowd


Try Adrena Line Ziplines for an adventure tour

by Keith and Heather Nicol       
With the good weather holding we decided to try the Adrena Line Zipline Adventure Tours on Wednesday, July 29. Adrena Line Zip Tours are located in Sooke which is about a 40 minute drive from Victoria.  We had booked for the noon zip tour and were joined by a family of 4 from Alberta and 3 women who went to the same grade school together in Victoria. These tours are very popular and you need to book ahead if you hope to go on the day and time you want to. For instance, we booked the day before and we had only 2 options – noon and 1:30 pm. After the mandatory waiver signing, we got into our harnesses and helmets. Unlike Wild Play which we had done 2 days prior where we were self guided, at Adrena Line Zip Tours you must let the guides clip and unclip you. This is in large part because the zip lines are much longer and faster and you are up to 100 feet above the forest floor.
Adrena Ziplines zips you between the trees
 The tour starts with a test zip on a short zip line that is close to the ground so that everyone knows what to do and then we boarded a large ATV type vehicle that brought us to the top of the course. Overall they have 7 more zip lines that range in length from 200 to 1000 feet long and you travel at speeds up to 65 kilometers per hour! The ziplines are generally in the trees and Jeremy Wilson the owner told us that they are the only zip line operation on Vancouver Island that uses the trees themselves for the platforms. So you get to see what life is like 90 feet above the forest floor. Jeremy also told us that this facility was one of the first in Canada and that they have been operating and growing for the last 9 years.  He told us that where as 9 years ago many people thought of zip lines as something only for daring risk takers, now most people see it as a fun, exciting way to spend time with friends and family. 
Heather on the suspension bridge
     Our guides, Susan and Terran really added to the tour by providing some interpretative information about the area and the vegetation as well as demonstrating some of the more interesting ways to zip—upside down, spread eagle and so forth. In addition to views of the tall trees we also had impressive vistas of the snow capped mountains of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington from some platforms. Adrena Line Zipline Adventure Tours offers an exhilarating product and it is a fine way to spend a couple of hours on a sunny summer afternoon. For more information see:
Ziplining is a fun activity to do with family and friends

Thursday, 30 July 2015

WildPlay Elements Park in Victoria is a great family outing!

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    When my sister Jan and her son Zander came to Victoria, B.C. to visit we asked them if they had ever been to an adventure park with cable bridges and ziplines. When they told us they had not we decided to check out WildPlay Elements Park on Monday, July 27. It turns out that Wild Play has locations in many cities in B.C. as well as outside the province. The facility in Victoria has 2 components- a Monkido adventure course which has various levels of difficulty and includes various aerial obstacle games  and ziplines which are suspended between tall rainforest trees. We opted to do the classic Monkido course and the What’s to Fear jump (WTF) from an elevated 40 foot platform. They also have an extreme course and a course designed for younger children which seemed to be very popular the day we were there. 
Zander on the "green" Monkido course
    After signing waivers and being outfitted with harnesses we were taken through a short test course to demonstrate how to use the equipment.  The idea is that by using a climbing harness and carabiner clipping system you are always attached to a cable so should you fall off of a platform or “wobbly” suspended obstacle you won’t fall very far. The idea is to control the risk so that you can try balancing on ropes and swinging logs at heights you would never attempt without being attached to a safety cable. The obstacles start out easy and close to the ground and at the end of the first course you have the option of walking down a small ladder to the ground or carrying on. The next course is typically 20-30 feet above the ground and the obstacles become more difficult and Jan and Zander opted to end their day at this level. The 3rd level is now typically 30-40 feet above the ground and the obstacles demand more balance and arm strength to negotiate. Wild Play also has an extreme course which I plan to do the next time we go to this facility. 
The ziplines allow you to fly through the trees
  The final activity that Jan was interested in trying was the WTF Jump which involves going up a ladder to a platform 40 feet above the ground below and jumping off while attached to a bungy type cord which allows you to free fall for several feet before gradually slowing your descent to the ground. We really enjoyed the challenge and thrill of all the various aspects of Wild Play and we plan to visit one of their other parks which have more challenges like the primal swing and a 150 foot head first bungy jump. We recommend that you reserve ahead of time since they are very busy in the summer, especially on sunny days.  For more information see:
Jan jumping off the 40 foot What's to Fear platform


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Sea kayaking and swimming at Comox Lake

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     On July 16, with wind warnings for Georgia Strait we decided to head to Comox Lake for some sea kayaking and swimming. We hadn’t been there since November 23, 2014 and this time around the lake had a completely different activity level. Back in late November we were the only people at the launch point and virtually the only people on the lake and now it was congestion city at the boat launch. 
There was lots of activity at the boat launch
      We shared the broad launch area with a canoe, 2 other kayaks and a power boat that were either landing or heading out. Actually everything ran smoothly and soon we were out on the lake with lots of other paddleboarders, power boats and even a couple of sail boats. We decided to head across to the other side to check out the beaches near the bridge.  It took us just 20 minutes to paddle over to the gravelly beaches and we had a stellar view of Comox Glacier and the surrounding mountains. Winds were light on the lake and the water was very warm so we paddled in our swim suits so that we could swim once we landed.  On our next trip to this area we plan to head further down the lake but given the great swimming we decided to linger on the shore instead. 
The Comox Glacier and surrounding mountains form a scenic backdrop to Comox Lake
    We recommend checking out Comox Lake when the ocean around Courtenay- Comox is windy since this area may not be affected. Of course another bonus is that you don’t have to consider the tide and the water is great for swimming during the summer. For anyone not familiar with this launch point - drive through the town of Cumberland and follow the Comox Lake signs. The boat launch is at Cumberland Lake Park (GPS coordinates - 10 U 0349475 E 5449247 N).  There is also a large beach area near the boat launch for swimming which is very popular in the summer. Be aware that Comox Lake is not always so placid, it can blow up so watch the weather and plan your route accordingly.
The beach at Cumberland Lake Park is also a great place to swim

Try Comox Lake when winds are strong on the ocean.