Friday, 30 June 2017

Tree Island is a perfect destination for sea kayakers in the Comox, B.C. area

By Keith and Heather Nicol

Approaching well named Tree Island
     Tree Island is located off the northern tip of Denman Island and makes a perfect half day paddle (or longer if you plan to explore the island or want to linger). We do the trip on an annual basis and usually launch at the Union Bay Boat launch.  This makes it easy to launch your kayak and there is a large car park for your vehicle (gps coordinates are:  10 U 0363691 E 5494107 N). Be sure to drop your launch fee money in the box. From here you can’t quite see Tree Island but as soon as you take a few paddle strokes out of the harbour it looms 4.4 km in the distance. Since it is an open water crossing you want to factor in the weather and wave conditions and be competent at doing a self rescue if you run into trouble. 

We appreciate the shell beach on Tree Island

      On Thursday June 29 the wind forecast was light NE winds which made for a very pleasant trip to Tree Island since the breeze was in our face keeping us cool. Although temperatures were forecast for the low 20’s C the following wind made it quite warm on the return trip. Be sure to bring water! We saw very little wild life in terms of birds or seals but we had fine views of the snow capped Beaufort Range and we love the shell beach on Tree Island. We had a lunch break for about an hour before paddling back to Union Bay. All about 1 hour each way for paddling depending on wind and wave conditions. 
Heather approaching the launch point at Union Bay with snow capped mountains behind

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

To learn about nature in the Comox Valley join a naturalist walk

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Tiger Lilies were a highlight
     The Comoc Valley Naturalists offer a variety of guided walks throughout the year and on Sunday June 25 we joined 10 others at Nymph Falls Regional Park to learn about some of the woodland shrubs, flowers and trees that reside in that area. The leader was Alison Maingon who we had met last summer leading wildflower and other walks in Strathcona Provincial Park for the Strathcona Wilderness Institute. If you are concerned that you don’t know enough to join one of these walks don’t let that deter you. Although some people are quite knowledgeable most people on this walk were keen to learn about even basic id tips like how to tell the difference between a hemlock, cedar  and a douglas fir tree. 
A large trillium with a seed capsule
  Since it was one of the hottest days of the summer so far it was good that we were in the shady forest where it was cooler. We tried our hand at learning some of the different ferns and flowers and Alison probably identified about 30 different species of plants for us. A highlight was seeing a small patch of tiger lilies which we discovered right at the end of our walk. If you are interested in learning about nature in the Comox Valley then try a walk with the Comox Valley Naturalists. They can be reached at  By the way Alison is leading a wildflower walk for the Strathcona Wilderness Institute this Saturday, July 1 for anyone wanting a learn what flowers inhabit Paradise Meadows in the Park. 
Part of the group with the Puntledge River in the background

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Spectacular evening Paddle from Pt Holmes to Air Force Beach

 Heather setting off in flat calm conditions 

By Keith and Heather Nicol
    On Saturday, June 24 we decided to do an evening paddle since the weather was suppose to be very hot through the day. We were glad we headed out at 6:30 pm or so since by now the sun was getting lower in the sky although temperatures were still about 27 C. Another bonus about heading out at this time was that high tide was for 7:30 pm and it was over 5 meters making for very easy launching at the Pt Holmes boat launch. This meant we could paddle along the shore without interference from shoals and reefs that can affect paddling in this area at lower tides.  There were lots of other kayakers and stand up paddle boarders out as well enjoying the virtually flat calm conditions. We turned north after clearing Cape Lazo and then set our sights for Air Force Beach which is on a section of beautiful sandy beach. 
The high cirrus clouds really made the blue sky standout

  It took us about 50 minutes to paddle the 4.2 km to Air Force Beach and we enjoyed fine views of the Salish Sea and the mountains of the BC mainland in the distance which still held some of last winter’s snow. The high cirrus clouds made for an photogenic backdrop.  We had a quick stretch on the beach and then paddled back to our launch point. We saw little bird life or marine life which was somewhat surprising since we know there are usually lots of birds and seals in this area. The very high tide might have had something to do with it since often in this area seals like to haul out on offshore rocks or shoals which were now under water. So we had to be content with the fine scenery and perfect paddling conditions. So think about an evening paddle as we get warmer summer temperatures. Pt Holmes is located on Lazo Road in Comox and there is a large parking area with benches and picnic tables to enjoy before or after a sea kayak trip.

We saw several other paddlers and standup paddle boarders

Friday, 23 June 2017

Hunting for Sea Stars at Pt Holmes

By Keith and Heather Nicol
The route down to the tide pools is a mix of cobbles, sand and seaweeds
      With some of the lowest tides of the summer upon us (it will be just 0.2 m for Saturday, June 24 and Sunday , June 25) you can do some exploring of tidal pools along many sections of coastline near Comox. We like to head to Pt Holmes on these occasions since there is a convenient car park, with nice benches for looking out toward Hornby and Denman Island. The only down side is that the 200-300 meter route down to the rocks and tidal pools is over some awkward rocks that may be slippery. We have found the best tidal pools and orche sea star sightings to be amongst the rocky section which gives the sea stars some protection. We had to look hard find them but if you look in shady areas and crevasses you can see them. This is encouraging since in 2013 there was a major die off of these sea stars which is thought to be due to a virus. 
We saw orche sea stars clinging to rocks in several areas -here they are upside down!
       We found one area with about 6 purple sea stars clinging together and in another case I had to get down on my hands and knees to look under a cleft in the rock and found several clinging upside down to the rock. Be sure not to disturb the sea stars and have a look for minnows and crabs in the tidal pools. We also saw a pair of eagles swooping down and grasping small fish in their talons. Bring your camera! We wore light hiking shoes and they seemed to work fine. Another bonus is that low tide is right around noon for the next 2 days and the weather is suppose to be ideal for exploring the shoreline. To check tides see:  Pt Holmes is along Lazo Road and their is an obvious pull off near the boat launch which is a good spot to park to check out the tidal pools. 
Eagles were out checking out the tidal pools as well