Friday, 29 July 2016

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is a must see attraction in Drumheller, Alberta

by Keith and Heather Nicol
The Royal Tyrrell Museum is well worth a visit
     Enroute to visit my brother in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan we stopped in Drumheller at the Tyrrell Museum.  The Royal Tyrrell Museum as it is officially known is a fine place to spend a few hours since it has so much to offer the interested visitor. On our arrival we saw all ages heading into the museum from young families to retired couples and the parking lot was virtually full when we arrived on Thursday, July 28 around 10:30 am. Although this area is world famous for its dinosaur fossils the museum is much more than that and offers a walk through the history of life on earth through close to 4 billion years of evolution. Obviously with so many dinosaur skeletons found locally the emphasis is on dinosaurs but the museum does cover lots of other ground from plate tectonics to ice age mammals. Although the parking lot was packed the museum doesn’t feel crowded inside and after exploring the inside museum displays for 90 minutes or so we headed outside to walk the Badlands Interpretative Trail. We also found using the audio guide very helpful and is worthwhile renting for your visit.
There are many true to life skeletons of dinosaurs on display with lots of interpretative material available
The Badlands Interpretative Trail is also well worth doing since it highlights various aspects of this unique type of landscape. The layers of rock come in a variety of colours and the micro topography is fascinating with all of the narrow valleys and gullies that have been eroded into this soft rock. There are numerous interpretative signs to help explain what you are seeing and since the walk is just 1.5 km it is suited to a wide range of people. On our visit there were towering cumulous clouds which made the whole experience feel very dramatic. We didn’t have time to try out any of the various museum programs but they have a variety of outdoor and indoor activity focused experiences mostly geared for kids but others are for all ages. Next time we visit we hope to take part in one or two of those. The dig experience and the 7 wonders of the badlands look particularly interesting. For more information see:

The Badlands Interpretative Trail is gives you a chance to explore the unusual geology of this area

FlyOver Canada is gives an impressive overview of Canada’s landscape

By Keith and Heather Nicol

     On a recent trip to Vancouver we decided to check out the FlyOver Canada attraction which is conveniently located at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver. This attraction is very popular and to avoid waiting in line you might want to reserve online. We were traveling with my sister and her family who were visiting from Arizona and we didn't reserve and we had about a 40 minute wait.  FlyOver Canada is a simulated helicopter flight over some of Canada’s most scenic areas and you feel like you are whizzing  over the landscape just above the tree tops. The show travels from east to west and we loved the shots of icebergs and scenic Western Brook Pond in Newfoundland. From there the trip follows a rugged river valley in Quebec, Ontario’s Niagara Falls and the Muskoka Lakes in fall splender. When you “fly” over water scenes you even feel a light mist hitting you in the face which makes “flight” seem very realistic. We also liked the wide open scenes from the praires as well as the dramatic mountain vistas from the Rockies. The flight ends by flying over the FlyOver Canada building you are sitting in along the Vancouver Waterfront. The full show is 30 minutes long and really does showcase Canada’s varied scenery.  It is geared for all ages and see: for more information.

FlyOver Canada is located along the Vancouver Waterfront at Canada Place

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Exploring the UBC Botanical Gardens and Greenheart TreeWalk

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    On Saturday July 23 we wanted to show my sister, her son and husband who were visiting from Arizona the UBC Botanical Garden and Greenheart TreeWalk. The Greenheart TreeWalk is an elevated 300 meter walkway up to 17 meters above the forest floor and gives a bird's eye view of the temperate rainforest vegetation! Our last visit here was in early May in 2014 and at that time the many rhododendrons in bloom were the highlight. On this visit we wanted to do the Greenheart TreeWalk as well as check out the Physic Garden and Food Garden. There are several other garden loops with various other themes but we only had time to sample a couple of gardens on this visit.
These gardens are known for their collection of lianas which are woody climbers that wrap around trees

      The Greenheart TreeWalk was very popular with a variety of people and we saw many families enjoying the elevated views of the trees and understory below. My sister’s son especially enjoyed it. The TreeWalk is mostly anchored to trees but in one case a metal platform has been constructed with a higher lookout accessed by a circular staircase. The TreeWalk takes about 30 minutes to complete which allows time to explore some of the other gardens. 

Sister Jan negotiating swinging swinging walkway on the Greenheart TreeWalk
  From there we headed to the Physic Garden which is a collection of medieval plants that were used to treat various health aliments. It is nicely layout out and features a sundial in the middle. We also enjoyed the food garden and especially the shaped fruit trees. The UBC botanical garden is Canada’s oldest university garden and is home to more than 120,000 plants representing some 6,000 taxa. It offers much to see and we need to return to see some of the other gardens and take a tour. For more information see:
Geum Urbanum is part of the medicine garden and was thought to ward off evil spirits

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Tubing the Puntledge River in Courtenay, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol

What a difference a year makes. The summer of 2015 was hot and dry and keeping cool was the name of the game. We discovered lots of places to swim and took up tubing since it seems to be an institution in Courtenay. Posts from last year describe some of the places to swim and tube along the Puntledge River  . The summer of 2016 however has been a whole new experience with cool temperatures and much cloudier conditions so the urge to swim and tube has not been as great. But we did get tubing on first hot day in quite awhile on Thursday July 21 and we had Heather’s sister Lisa visiting and she was keen to try it out. We put in just below the fish hatchery and pulled out at the Condensory Bridge. The water is certainly cooler than last year but on a hot day is a great way to spend a couple of hours.

Lisa paddling through the rapids
    Here is some information on the river for those wanting to try tubing and may not know what to expect. The section from Powerhouse Road to Puntledge Park is abit faster and rockier than the lower section from Puntledge Park to either the Condensory Bridge or Lewis Park. First timers or those with younger children may want to do just the lower section starting at Puntledge Park and we suggest the pull out at Condensory Bridge since the last part is very slow, especially if there is a high tide. For the upper section on Powerhouse Road drive to the fish hatchery gate and park your car along the road. Walk around the gate and down the road and part way down you will see a sign pointing to “Tubers Trail” and take that to the put in. This trail is abit steep in places and there is a rope to help you down the last section.  We use a kayak paddle to help steer and manoeuvre but most people don’t use one.  We also use kayak booties since you may need to push off a rock or get out of your tube and this footware makes it easier to walk on the rocky river bed. Also remember “bums up” in the rapids since the river is low at this time. We also use tubes with a mesh bottom and put a life jacket in the bottom. This gives a good amount of paddling since you will inevitably hit bottom a few times and this will save your bum and lower back from striking rocks in the river.
Lisa relaxing on the lower section just before the Condensory Bridge

Monday, 18 July 2016

Alpine Hiking at Mt Washington Ski Resort near Courtenay, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol

On Friday July 15 we looked out our living room window toward Mt Washington and noted clear
Check out the wildflowers enroute
skies to the top. June and July in the Comox Valley has been cloudy with lots of cloud forming over the mountains. Often the day would start out sunny but by 9-10 am the cumulus clouds would start to form so when this day looked clear we decided to head up to Mt. Washington Ski Resort and hike to the top of the mountain. Last summer we did the trail with our daughter Kristie who was visiting from Vancouver and on that occasion we followed the Linton’s Trail (2.1 km) to the top. This time we opted for the Seaview Trail which is abit steeper. This trail starts right from the base of the alpine ski area and is flagged with blue markers so the trail is easy to follow. It is around 1.3 km long which makes it accessible for many hikers but be aware this trail does climb to the top of the Eagle Chair (vertical rise of 1650 feet) so bring water and a light jacket depending on the weather. Allow about an hour to hike the trail depending on how many pictures you take of the views of the wild flowers and mountains. The views toward Mt Albert Edward and the surrounding mountains were great although the pesky clouds did start to form again around noon.
The alpine hiking at Mt Washington is scenic with mountain and lake views
 Near the top we decided to take the Linton’s Trail since it passes by a great lookout platform and once we reached the summit we took the short Top of the World trail to get spectacular views in all directions. You can look back to the Courtenay- Comox area, north to Campbell River and Quadra Island but the most impressive views are to the southwest of Mt. Washington . Here you can see Mt Albert Edward and the Comox Glacier as well as many other rugged peaks. Be sure to bring your camera since the vistas are spectacular. A great bonus is that once you reach the top you can ride the lift down (last ride is at 5:00 pm) which is a fine way to end a hike. For more information on summer activities at Mt Washington see:
Looking out over the Salish Sea with the Comox Valley below