Sunday, 25 October 2015

Sea kayaking at Fanny Bay with lots of sea lions and birds

by Keith and Heather Nicol 

 On Saturday, October 24 we decided to check out the birds and sea lions at Fanny Bay which is just south of Courtenay. Last fall we had a great time paddling in this area and so we thought we would spend an afternoon on the water since the forecast was calling for light winds with sunny periods.

The sea lions are fun to photograph
There were certainly a steady stream of people walking out on the wharf at Fanny Bay to photograph the sea lions which sit just offshore on a large float. There is a good place to launch kayaks next to the wharf and after circling the barking sea lions on the float we headed to Ship Point to see what birds were in that area. We saw lots of large groupings of surf scoters as well as harlequin ducks and cormorants. There were also a few horned grebes. This area is often quite protected since Denman Island is just offshore and we recommend it for the sea lions and variety of birdlife. 
Harlequin ducks are very photogenic

We saw lots of surf scoters

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Hiking Dog Mountain in Mt Seymour Provincial Park, Vancouver B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      On Thanksgiving Sunday while on a visit to Vancouver we decided to take advantage of a break in the wet weather to head up to Mt Seymour Provincial Park and check out the Dog Mountain hike. We were joined by our daughter Kristie and her cousins, Ryan and Gillian Nicol as well Maya the dog. On Saturday, October 10 it had rained heavily at times but Sunday dawned with broken cloud so we decided to do a morning hike. Dog Mountain is a short hike of about 2.3 km in length (1 way) and it has little elevation gain so is a popular hike for those wanting an  ½ day trip. There were certainly lots of people hiking this trail on this day and true to its name there were lots of dogs. But keep your dog on a leash since this is a Provincial Park.
The clouds swirled around the adjacent mountains
   To access the start of this trail drive to the top parking lot of Mt Seymour and walk toward the northwest end of the parking lot where the trailhead is located. The trail is well marked and although it starts off looking like it might be an easy walk in the park, it quickly becomes rocky and full of roots with lots of small dips and rises so it is much more of a work out than you might expect.  The trail winds through a lush forest and First Pond before it gets to an impressive lookout which provides views of Vancouver and the adjacent mountains. We enjoyed a snack at the lookout before returning via the same trail. Allow about 2 – 2 ½ hours for the entire hike depending on how long you linger at the lookout. We saw small kids as well as people in their 70’s completing this hike so it will appeal to a wide range of hikers. For more information see
Gillian, Ryan,  Maya the dog and Kristie at the lookout

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Easy hiking trails on Quadra Island

by Keith and Heather Nicol
 On the last day of September we headed to Quadra Island with Judy May, a friend who was visiting from Corner Brook, Newfoundland. The day was sunny with light northwest winds and we were looking forward to checking out some of the easy hiking trails. We first headed to Rebecca Spit where we had done a first rate sea kayak trip earlier in the summer (see Our plan was to hike to the end of the spit and we drove to the large parking lot at the end of the road and set off toward the end of the spit. Parking lot coordinates are: 50 6’ 5.66” N and 125 11’ 16.15” W. This trail is about 1 km long and so the entire hike will take you about 30 minutes of walking. But the scenery is magical and we spent about an hour overall taking photos and watching the fog roll in and out along the shore.

Judy and Heather walking at Rebecca Spit
      After lunch on a sunny log overlooking Heriot Bay we decided to head to the Kay Dubois trail which is located a few kilometers further south from Rebecca Spit. This trail has 2 starting points but opted to begin at the end of Smiths Road. You could also start at the end of Sutil Road. This trail is 2-3 km long (1 way) but we explored just part of it. The trail is mostly in the trees but has many beach access points. On this day the fog floated in and out so we didn’t get much view but we vowed to return to complete the trail when the visibility was better. One bonus of the fog was that cob webs intercepted the cloud droplets so that they were glistening when the sun shone on them.   
Heather at the base a huge tree on the Kay Dubois Trail
Our last trail was Haskin Farm trail which starts from the intersection of Smith and Heriot Bay Roads. It is about 1.5 km (1 way) and it winds through the forest before descending steeply to the beach. It passes by an old farmstead complete with an old apple tree which we took advantage of. Like the other trails this one is well marked and by the time we reached the water the fog had cleared giving good views of splendid landscape of ocean and mountains to the east. All of these trails are marked on the tourist map of Quadra and it lists another dozen or so that we are interested in checking out. The trails we took were some of the shorter trails on Quadra Island and they would interest a wide range of walkers and hikers. Check them out on your next trip to Quadra Island. 
The view to the east from the beach at the Haskin Farm trail is impressive