Golden Ears Provincial Park, October 28 2017

I wasn’t going to photograph fungi this year but inspired by my brother’s photos I did get the itch again, so off we went, to Golden Ears park. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we definitely weren’t the only ones enjoying the Golden Ears. It was difficult to find a parking spot but with a little bit of patience we succeeded.
We did not spot many fungi. Too late in the season or other reasons? We didn’t know, but we enjoyed the walk, spotting a toadstool/mushroom/fungus here and there.
We enjoyed the fall sunshine at Alouette Lake before walking the trail back, and lo and behold, we saw many more fungi now. They were quite camouflaged and maybe the brighter sun earlier prevented us from spotting them.
Looking back at the photographs one might expect fairies to appear.

Posted in British Columbia, Golden Ears Provincial Park Oct. 28 2017 | 2 Comments

Homeless, footloose & adventurous; the last weeks

The evening of June 17 we arrived back in Maple Ridge, after dinner with cousin Lily and husband Don in our favourite restaurant in Langley, “Olive Garden“. We always meet here for a meal when they are in the neighbourhood. Good food and great fun as usual! So nice to meet with them 3 days in a row. First at their home in Prince George, the next day for coffee in 100 Mile House, and this evening in Langley, covering a distance of about 750 km.
After dinner we parted ways and we drove to our airbnb “The Running Horse” in Maple Ridge, our home until the 24th. As I had mentioned in part one of the “homeless” blog, this place was fantastic!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the 20th my brother arrived from The Netherlands.
As he needed a little time to acclimatize we took it easy and stayed close to home the first few days.
On the 21st we drove to Burnaby Mountain and Burnaby Lake. A truly beautiful area. At Burnaby Mountain is a display of the “Playground of the Gods”. Some of the artwork was unfortunately enveloped in scaffolding  but the whole display is, and remains, beautiful.
I had been here a few years ago with my sister. Also a beautiful day but much colder as she visited in November.
Between Burnaby Mountain and Burnaby Lake we got lost in spite of the GPS but that didn’t matter. Serendipitously we ended up with a beautiful view over 2 Vancouver bridges: the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge with in the distance the Lions Gate Bridge.
At Burnaby Lake we parked near the Shadbolt Centre for the arts, a very interesting building. After a quick bite in the cafeteria of the art centre we went for a walk on  the grounds around the art centre to the lake.

The next day, after breakfast on the airbnb’s deck,  we walked along Pitt River, noticing a very ugly, long structure in the water. We were wandering what it was and some other walkers enlightened us. It was a bridge, purchased by someone in the U.S.A. and as he could not “store” it anywhere in the U.S. he had it shipped, piece by piece, to Pitt Meadows where it now spoils the beauty of the river.
In the afternoon we drove towards the Golden Ears Bridge, located between Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. We parked the car somewhere in the neighbourhood and hiked up the bridge. Beautiful view! On the way back “home” we stopped by McDonald’s, an unusual thing for us to do but just for this one time, why not!

On June 23rd we headed to Lynn Canyon Park. Always a nice place to visit, and free, compared with the very expensive Capilano Bridge. Lynn Canyon has a suspension bridge as well. And for the rest it is pure nature. Wonderful!

On the 24th we took the ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria and met up with the family there. Swimming in the pool of the hotel, nice dinner at the restaurant across the street “Il Covo”. Delicious. View from the hotel was spectacular. You could see the cruise ships, the mountains of Washington State, part of the Inner Harbour and the Johnson Street Bridge. And the evening finished with…a birthday cake. The birthday celebrations are going on and on…..

And then came June 25. Something was awaiting us. We tried to pry it out of the girls but they, amazingly, kept it secret. They would NOT tell where we were going. We tried guessing but did not get anywhere. And then the drive ended at….WildPlay Victoria. What in the world was that? Well, we would soon find out! The kids were harnessed up and we were told that our turn would come soon as well. Leo and I looked at each other, a little uneasily. OMG! We watched the girls go up into the trees, harnessed on to a safety line (2 lines, actually) but they were pretty high up, maneuvering all kind of obstacle courses like plank walks, rope balancing, etc.
And then it was our turn. Harnesses on, safety instructions. How to hook on and off.
And off you go!!! Really! Both of us are scared of heights and see where we were going!
You can do it Leo, you can do it Oma! Everybody was cheering. Ailish went ahead like a monkey in her element, Hari followed, loudly, but almost effortless. We kind of tested the waters very carefully, one step at the time, hearts beating, not daring to look down. Pffff, we did the first part of the course. Up to the next. And on we went. I must admit: I was quite proud of myself finishing 1/3 of the whole course. Hari did 2/3 and Ailish of course finished it all with the grand finale: ending up like a spider in a web! Raj did part of the course as the kid’s run took longer than anticipated and he was keeping an eye on them.
At the end Priya and Raj did the WTF jump from a high tree……

What’s To Fear Jump (WTF Jump)

AN UNNERVING PLUNGE FROM 40FT.

That little perch high above the ground – that’s where you’re going. Up that rope ladder and onto the platform, you’re tethered to a jump line and then things get real simple. You go over the edge. Step forward or backward, it doesn’t matter. Either way gravity wins.

All together, it was so much fun. High five Leo. We did it!
On to the next surprise. It had to do something with food because we were all getting hungry. Yes, we turned into the road leading to Thetis Lake. While Ailish parked the van we made our way to the beach…….where another surprise awaited us! A big gathering to celebrate the birthdays! Balloons, a banner, and quite an assortment of food.
Thank you Raj and family, Kiran and family, Norah and family, Joanne, to make this all happen. It was fantastic!
What a day! Truly adventurous and unforgettable!

Next day, June 26, Priya’s birthday, we walked over to the apartment to celebrate her 8th birthday with a birthday family breakfast (Eggs Benedict, her choice!). Of course she got to open birthday gifts too. Then all of us walked her to school. Back at the apartment Leo and I said our good-byes; Hari stayed in Victoria. We started our drive to Courtenay via Nanaimo (visit with friend Joanne), Coombs, Qualicum Bay and Fanny Bay.
One interesting fact is the size of Vancouver Island. We overheard (on another trip) a person telling all kinds of facts to some visitors. Some of the facts were correct, some were wrong. One of those was the comparison he made. He told the tourists that Vancouver Island was the same size as England. He was so wrong. It is a large island but not that large!


Vancouver Island:
At 32,000 sq km/12,355 sq mi Vancouver Island is the largest North American island in the Pacific Ocean, and is one of 6,000 islands in British Columbia. It is 460km/285mi in length and 100km/62mi in width at its widest point, with a coastline length of 3,400km/2,138mi.
Regional Geography | Vancouver Island, BC | Destination BC – Official … 
http://www.hellobc.com/vancouver-island/regional-geography.aspx

The Netherlands:
Horizontal Width164 km (101 miles) from The Hague, directly east to the German border.
Vertical Length262 km (162 miles) from Leeuwarden directly south to Maastricht.
Netherlands Land Statistics – World Atlas 
www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/europe/netherlands/nllandst.htm

England:
Horizontal Width: 437 km (271 miles) from the far western coastline of Wales, directly east to Ipswich.
Vertical Length967 km (600 miles) from the far northern edge of mainland Scotland to the southwestern tip of England, just west of Falmouth.
United Kingdom Land Statistics – World Atlas 
http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/europe/unitedkingdom/uklandst.htm


June 27, Sunshine Coast

We spent the night in Courtenay (Comox Valley Inn & Suites) and next morning we took the 6:20 am ferry to Powell River, drove from there the short distance to Saltery Bay where we sailed on the 9:25 am ferry to Earls Cove. The Comox to Powell River ferry was a new vessel, the “Salish Orca“. We found somehow, with a bit of asking here and there, our way to the trail leading to the Skookumchuck rapids. About 1 hour hike (one way) over a roots covered path. Once we arrived we soaked up the view of the water, waiting for the best time to watch the tidal flows at their peak,  found on the tide table on the internet. It was quite a different experience. Neither one of us had ever seen this kind of tidal pools before. Afterwards we made our way back to the car and drove to our accommodation in Halfmoon Bay (Secret Cove Cottage Suites). Only one very expensive restaurant in the area so we drove to Sechelt for dinner.

June 28

We should have spent the night in Sechelt as well! There was not even coffee in our room in Half Moon Bay! A fully equiped kitchenette, a coffee maker, but no coffee. Nothing! Every single place where we stayed in the past month had coffee and tea in the room. The house looked nice, the room was spacious, the frontdoor was see-through glass without curtains. We packed up in the morning and drove to the same restaurant in Sechelt for a delicious, relaxed breakfast. Then a leisurely drive to Langdale, with a stopover in Gibsons, to catch the ferry to Horseshoe Bay, from where we drove north to Whistler. Kiran and Kingston were waiting there for us and treated us to a wonderful e-bike ride around Green Lake. That was a great outing! In the evening dinner with Kiran, Geoff and Kingston at “Mile One” in Pemberton and the night was spent at Mount Currie (The Hitching Post Motel). Yes, coffee in the morning 🙂

After our morning coffee ( 😉 ) we checked out of our motel and drove the few minutes back to Pemberton where we had a delicious family breakfast. With happy bellies we walked into the village where Kingston showed off his skills on his running bike.
After saying goodbye to the kids we drove to Whistler for our next adventure: a flight in a float plane over the Whistler mountains and glaciers. We were a little early so we walked a bit along the shores of Green Lake, where we had cycled the day before. And then it was time to board the plane. Quite a bit smaller than the monsters I usually get to board. The co-pilot’s seat was available and my brother was the lucky one to sit up front! Headphones to hear the pilot pointing out several sights. The pilot had been an arctic pilot for many years before coming down to Whistler. He was extremely knowledgeable and knew how to present it.
I kind of forgot my fright of heights and soaked up the beauty around me. I have no words, really, for what we saw up there. A different world, nature’s extreme beauty, but also scary, because we saw the paths of avalanches and crevasses where one could disappear, never to be found again.|
Two of my ‘gopro’ videos can be seen here: video 1, video 2
We had originally booked a flight with a mountain lake landing and picnic but because the lake was still frozen, this plan fell through so we opted for the 40 minute flight.

We enjoyed every minute of it! After we landed back on Green Lake we drove into Whistler Village to see the mountain bikers. Then south to Horseshoe Bay where we picked up Hari and the 3 of us drove back to Maple Ridge to our next home away from home, a beautiful B&B on the road to the Golden Ears Mountains: “River and Rose B&B“; a jewel of a B&B, right here in Maple Ridge!

June 30 we took it easy. Enjoyed the sun in the gorgeous backyard of the B&B, sat on the bench by the Alouette River, enjoying the sound of the water. Later we had dinner at the “Black Sheep Pub” just down the road and walked on the way back through Maple Ridge Park. We found a nice path, meandering along a stream and surrounded by beautiful trees.

July 1, Canada Day. And not just any Canada Day, no, it is this year Canada’s 150’s birthday. Worth celebrating. As my brother had never experienced a Canada Day celebration we did it “small town” style, even though Maple Ridge is not that small, with its population of 82,256! It just feels like a small town.
We went to Memorial Peace Park in the heart of town where the celebrations took place.
Music, food, face painting, crafts, etc. etc. At noon the dignitaries and Mounties came in. The national anthem was sung, speeches were given. Later on a big birthday cake was served. It was great to watch all the people, young and old, in the spirit of the Canada 150 celebration.
Later in the day we cooled off at the Alouette River, at the bottom of the garden of our B&B. Dinner at the Black Sheep Pub.
Another special day!

July 2 we drove to White Rock. First a small detour, viewing the Golden Ears Bridge from below. Then on to Mission where we had a picnic at the Matsqui Trail, under the shadow of the bridge taking road # 11 from Mission across the Fraser River.
In White Rock we checked into the Ocean Promenade Hotel, right at the beach.
White Rock was fun. Walking on the promenade, watching the people and birds, listening to the variety of languages spoken. Hari was happy to hear Nepali and had a delightful chat with the Nepali family, visiting White Rock. We had a wonderful dinner in the hot sun at the rooftop restaurant of the “The Boathouse Restaurant“. Later in the evening Leo and I finished off a bottle of wine on a patio along the waterside before going back to the hotel.
A great last day of my brother’s vacation with us.

All good things come to an end. We sadly said good-bye to Leo, but not until we had a last walk along the White Rock promenade and a hearty breakfast and a tiny restaurant.
At the airport we had a coffee and checked out Bill Reid’s art work “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe”. Always a nice distraction.
And then we really had to say good-bye.
Leo, it was wonderful having you here. Thanks for sharing our homelessness, for the laughter, the fun, the treats! Thank you!

Afterword:
2 Days later we moved into our new apartment. Now, 10 weeks later, we are still living in a chaos, still waiting for the floors and kitchen to be finished.
With some melancholy I think back of our 5 weeks of homelessness, of being footloose, of being adventurous…….Those were good times!

Posted in Homeless, footloose, adventurous June 1-July 5 2017 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Homeless, footloose & adventurous – the first 3 weeks

June 1 – July 5 2017

May 31: The movers came, stuffed the moving van with all our possessions and drove off to store everything for the next 5 weeks. We did a last walk around on the morning of June 1st and then we said good-bye to River Gardens, which had been our home for almost 14 years.
Now being truly homeless, we drove off to Pemberton, our first stop on our “homeless, footloose and adventurous” journey.

We spent the night with Kiran, Geoff and Kingston. We met them in Whistler first, where we were treated to a delicious dinner at the Aura Restaurant in the Nita Lake Lodge. My birthday celebration had officially started 🙂
Kingston entertained us with his songs and laughter. After breakfast next morning we started on our road trip north, something that was high on my bucket list.
We drove via Lillooet and Cache Creek to Quesnel. Beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery.
I have driven this section several times and it never seizes to fascinate me.

After checking into our hotel (Quality Inn, Quesnel) we wandered around to find a place to eat and later, with happy bellies, walked  to the historic footbridge (not lit up this evening) and along the river back to our hotel.

June 3
Next destination was Smithers, a 486 km easy drive.  Scenery not as spectacular as the Fraser Canyon but still quite beautiful. We spent the night at the Florence Motel.

June 4
From Smithers we drove to Hazelton where we paid a quick visit to Ksan Village, a place Hari had not seen yet. From there to Kitwanga where the old totempoles are still standing. And yes! Instead of longingly looking at the sign pointing north (we used to drive west to Prince Rupert), we actually turned right and north. Wow, that was an exciting feeling, actually going north. I had the feeling our trip had now started for real! I was literally jumping in my seat!
At Meziadin Junction we turned west towards Stewart, right at the Alaska border. This is the “tail end” of Alaska, the “panhandle”, not the main body. From Stewart we drove into Hyder, our first Alaska stop! Hyder is a little ghost town, far away from the rest of Alaska and therefore quite dependent in many ways (schools, emergency) on Canada (Stewart).
On our way to Stewart we of course gawked at the Bear Glacier. Even though much smaller than it used to be, it was quite impressive.
In Hyder we drove to the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site in Tongass National Forest. A platform has been constructed there to watch the bears catch salmon. Unfortunately we were there too early in the season (We did know that).  The bears go fishing in July/August. So I guess we will have to save that for another trip 🙂
After our visit to Hyder (no custom’s check point going into the USA, but a Canadian one coming back into Canada) we walked the boardwalks of Stewart through some interesting marsh. It was pretty chilly by that time.
We had booked accommodation at B&B House Austria. A delightful stay!

June 5
We set off direction Dease Lake. Passed by Bear Glacier again. Yes, another stop to look at this massive ice field, so close to the road.
Back at Meziadin Junction we now turned north again on the Cassiar Hwy. We very much enjoyed driving this road. It is well maintained and has relatively little traffic.
Every once in a while we noticed a sign to some lake or the other. Sometimes we checked it out, sometimes not. One “lucky” stop was at Morchuea Lake. Beautiful and so peaceful.
A few hours later we passed the Lower Gnat Lake. The view was worth a photo stop.
Our address for the night was the Arctic Divide Inn & Motel in Dease Lake.
This was truly a lucky find in a very small town. The young owners, proudly showing off their baby, are slowly developing their inn into something unique. We very much enjoyed staying there. Dinner we found at “The Shack”, a tiny take-out with excellent food. Breakfast was provided at the inn and enjoyed at a large “community table” which was a nice way to get to know fellow travelers.

June 6
Dease Lake BC to Teslin YT
We set off rather early and at 8:10 AM we spotted our first bear. A little later we discovered one in a tree. And driving along we passed one, trotting on the side of the road. We approached (yes, in the car!) cautiously but as soon as he thought we were getting too close for (his) comfort, he disappeared in the shrubs. When I looked back he had come back on to the road again, happily continuing his morning stroll.
We stopped at the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store, a family run business. Everybody is welcome and the coffee is free. It was fun wandering among the raw jade and seeing finished products in the store.
A bit north of Jade City was Good Hope Lake.
Now we were ready for a picnic. We drove a short distance into Boya Lake Provincial Park where we found a perfect spot by the lake.

We also learned that all those depressive looking burned forests we saw, had a positive side to it. This made us feel a lot better because I must admit: those enormous stretches, as far as the eye could see, with blackened trees, looked devastating.
But we learned, on a sign in the Yukon, at Rancheria Falls, the following:

The benefits of fire

While forest fires are often seen as devastating catastrophes, periodic fires are vitally important to the life of a boreal forest. Charred logs on the forest floor are evident of a forest fire more than 100 years ago. You still see this evidence so many years later because the cool, semi-arid climate and short summers of the North slow decomposition and growth.
A fire actually renews growth by getting rid of dense and older growth that blocks sunlight and by creating new environmental conditions for both plants and animals. Patches of burned area interspersed with mature forest provide the best habitat for a wide diversity of animals and birds because they offer both cover and food.

Moose and Snowshoe Hare thrive on the lush green shoots of willow and aspen and the low shrubs and grasses that appear after a fire. Predators follow prey into recent burn areas: wolf follow moose and lynx follow hare. Willow Ptarmigan and Rock Ptarmigan plus Ruffed Grouse also use the open areas and shrubby plants that appear in the first years after a fire. Pine Marten, Red Squirrel and Spruce Grouse are among the few mammal and bird species that are especially adapted to the shadier, more mature boreal forest.

At the gas station at Hwy 37 Junction we talked with the guy working there. He told us that 11 years ago a huge flash fire ripped through the whole area we just drove through.
Because of the intense heat the needles burnt right off the trees but left the trunks standing, dry like matches. Any lightning strike could start another fire and this happened a few times since the big fire so many years ago. The man watches the sky like a hawk and is ready to flee if there is a lightning storm approaching. His truck is always packed and ready to go.

Just before reaching Hwy 37 Junction we crossed the province line into the Yukon!!
Now we drove west, towards Teslin, our next stop.
It had been quite an interesting day, starting with the bears we saw.
In a field along the road, I don’t remember where exactly,  we had seen a moose, but the beast was kind of scared and took off very fast. No photograph 😦
We have seen other critters but neither one of us could figure out what they were. Who knows, maybe a Marten?

After a nice walk across a beautiful boardwalk at Rancheria Falls (where we learned about the good part of forest fires) we approached Teslin with a beautiful view of the Nisutlin Bay Bridge, the longest bridge on the Alaska Hwy.
We spent the night, so fitting, at the Nisutlin Trading Post Motel.
For dinner we had to go to a restaurant across the road. Not very impressive but it was food.

June 7
A delightful day was awaiting us, breathtaking scenery, sunny weather, just perfect!
The distance was not much, just about 255 km.

Leaving our Trading Post we headed for the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre, just out of town.
A beautiful cultural centre, proudly presented by local Tlingit People. We admired their art, checked out the displays and watched a movie about their history.  In another building were some traditional canoes, freshly decorated.
Our next stop was Johnson’s Crossing. A nice tearoom with a plaque, describing a totally useless and waste of public funds “Canol Project“.
Coffee and pies were excellent, the interior eclectic. I happened to overhear a young man at the next table talking about his trip way into the country, encountering lots of moose. I am not sure about the purpose of his trip. Surveying? Study? He had a fat little notebook. Wish I had asked…..
We continued along the Tagish River, enjoying the breathtaking scenery.
The road was “a bit” dusty at times due to road work.
Entering Carcross we discovered a combination of dilapidated buildings and a thriving tourist hub. No doubt because the White Pass train stopped here. It was fun walking around here in the warm sunshine.
Then on to Skagway, , passing the Chilkoot Trail sign on the way (we did not hike this trail!!), watched the beautiful scenery around Bove island, crossing into Alaska and going through US Customs. (The official border is actually several km’s before the border post).
We did it! We were in Alaska (Again! Remember Hyder?)!
In Skagway we checked into the Sgt. Preston Lodge. I was surprised to see the comfortable, spacious room as we had reserved just a basic, small one. More surprises followed! A birthday cake, ordered on line by our son and delivered at the lodge, 2 gifts from the owners of the lodge, and last but not least a congratulatory ad in the local newspaper (hubby’s doing!). Good start of my birthday (next day).
We shared the large birthday cake with some other guests and staff and took off for a discovery walk of the town. Skagway is a tourist town as many cruise ships dock here. We had dinner at The Skagway Fish Company, a very popular place, sitting outside, enjoying food, sun and surroundings. Later we checked out where we were supposed to meet our boat next morning for our trip to Juneau.

June 8
My actual birthday, and a day I had been anticipating for a long time. Not because it was my birthday, but because we had booked our boat trip from Skagway to Juneau this day.
Around 7:00 am we walked from Sgt. Preston Lodge to the Skagway small boat harbour to find our boat, the Fjordland, a 65’ catamaran which we saw arrive around 7:30 am. Captain Glen welcomed us and he and his son Ketch looked after the 48 passengers the whole trip with professionalism, knowledge and jokes. He sailed us through the magnificent Lynn Canal, pointing out eagles, trying to spot whales, finding sea lions and seals. Meanwhile Ketch served coffee and muffins. After a stop in Haines we continued to Juneau. After an absolutely fantastic journey through the canal we arrived in Juneau, where a bus and very friendly and informative driver were waiting for us.
With a side trip to the airport to drop off some passengers he took us for a city tour, pointing out some worthwhile places to go and check out once he let us off the bus for our several hours on our own in the town. We wandered around, had lunch at a picnic table at the side of a city street, watched the tourists, enjoyed the warm weather. And of course I had to take a picture of myself with a “Juneau sign”. After all, my nephew has been named after this town! Juneau is very much a tourist town, with cruise ships mooring here all summer long. Countless jewelry stores and as many eating establishments. As the town is built on a hill side, steep stairways lead to upper streets. And those stairways have street names! We chatted with a First Nations carver who told us some of the history of the town. We also learned that although there were quite a few cars in town, there are no roads out! Juneau is only accessible by boat or plane. We checked out the statues of Patsy Ann and the hardrock miners and Hari tried in vain to spot mountain goats on Juneau Mountain through binoculars.
After we met the bus driver and bus again he drove us to the Mendenhall Glacier. Truly a spectacular sight. As it was a bit overcast the blueish colours really “popped out”.

Then it was time to get back to the boat for our trip back to Skagway. While salmon and corn chowder was being served we enjoyed sighting whales, eagles, more sea lions and porpoises.

And last but not least, Captain, son, and all passengers sang happy birthday to me, and I was presented with a big birthday cupcake!
After a stop at Haines again, we arrived back in Skagway at 8:30 pm.

What a gorgeous, unforgettable day!!