Tag Archives: British Columbia

Kayaking in the Broken Group

Our German friends Carsten and Jackie said they’d like to do some kayaking during their Canadian visit. The Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound immediately came to our minds as a destination because  we’d been there fifteen years earlier with our kids — then 15 and 12.  Even though it made for tight logistics as we prepare for another bike trip, it didn’t take much for us to convince ourselves that we should go along as their personal guides. Wasn’t it our civic duty as West Coast hosts?

It was a fabulous trip; sea birds, dolphins, seals and sea lions appeared on cue, and we watched a mother bear and cubs grazing leisurely about 15 metres away! This last was back at Sechart, after we’d returned the rented kayaks and were waiting for the Frances Barkley to take us back up the inlet to Port Alberni.


Route for five days and four nights, as drawn onto a scan of nautical chart with great precision by the self-appointed chief navigator. Exclamation marks indicate the adrenalin zone.

Our first night was spent at Willis Island, where we quickly fell into a routine of unloading double kayaks and hauling them out of reach of the highest possible tides. On the second day, a rainstorm began as we set out for Clarke Island and Jackie was in the early stages of hypothermia as we arrived. We set up a tarp and prepared hot drinks while she changed into dry clothes, and soon the skies cleared as we watched deer graze calmly near our tents.


Intrepid Germans exploring Barkley Sound

The  third day we teamed up with Jason and Ashton and headed toward outer island Wouwer in the hopes of inspecting a sea lion colony, but discretion became the better part of valour once we got into swells several metres high. With relief all round, we retreated to a more sheltered route toward Gilbert Island. In later discussion we agreed we’d all been beyond our comfort zones for for a good fifteen minutes. In hindsight, I had felt a dose of adrenalin that was a bit like the WHEEE factor I get from going downhill on a bike at over 50 kmh. The chance of tipping was getting pretty high, and the consequences could have been severe.


Driftwood fire at the beach

From our camp at Gilbert, we did an out and back tour to inspect caves and arches along the north coast of Effingham. The fourth day took us past rocks and islets. This was the day we saw a group of half a dozen pacific white-sided dolphins, a seal hauled out on the rocks and more. We arrived at a crowded Gibralter campsite, where youthful kayak guides sliced bagels for a group of codgers about our age who were out for the day from the comforts of the lodge at Sechart, probably having been dropped off nearby by a kayakers’ launch taxi. We felt infinitely superior, of course, as we opened tins with a swiss army knife to prepare our last gourmet supper. We were also damp, smelly, sunburnt, and gritty with sand, and a little reluctant to wrap up the trip the next day.


Right on cue for German tourists

On our final day we wound our way through the Pinkertons, a tiny group of islands just west of Sechart, and poked into bays before finally landing to unload our boats and place gear back into cargo boxes for loading onto the ship. As we waited for the boat, the lodge manager quite calmly announced, “Mother bear and cubs!” We watched the trio calmly graze about 15 metres away before boarding the old packet steamer and chugging off up the inlet.


Is it a sand piper ? Bird experts please comment. (It screeches loudly)

See our Flickr album for more images.


Riding Home from the Rockies

We took the overnight train to Jasper, and stayed one night in Jasper. We then cycled home, using side roads as much as possible, arriving tired after a 950 km ride in just over a week.

The Route Home

Jasper-Little Fort (Yellowhead Highway (Highway 5)) The Yellowhead pass at 1,131 m is only 69m  metres above Jasper townsite, and the downhill ride to Little Fort takes three and a half days, so neither the uphill or the downhill aspect of the ride was obvious. The valley is wide and some snow was still present in the ditches. We quickly found that tourist traffic was low because it was not yet the May long weekend, but this meant nearly everything was closed. We had clear skies on the first day and so the mountain views were great. We stayed in Clearwater two nights for a rest day and to visit relatives.

The open road

Just before Little Fort, we stopped for a second breakfast cum early lunch. The place had about 2-300 regularly visiting hummingbirds. It seems this is an optimum spot for hummingbirds. Little Fort – Lone Butte (Highway 24) Little Fort is at  681 m,  “MacDonald Summit”, the pass on highway 24, is at 1311 m, the climb is made in 10 km of average 6% grade with an extra 3 km of less steep grade at the top. We had our late lunch at the top. This is ranching country. We had trouble finding water and the campgrounds were closed, so we camped behind a building on a community playing field that had a water outlet. Next morning, at the only coffee shop for many miles, we were amused by local news exchange among retired ranchers. Lone Butte – 70 Mile House (small paved roads) We had been hoping to stop and spend a day horse riding,  but everywhere was closed. We saw a sign at a ranch offering rides, but nobody was home so we took our lunch in their driveway. At the end of lunch, the owner and two young European lady wranglers arrived and we went off for a few hours ride. Actually much of it was more like bushwacking through logging slash on a horse. Great supper and breakfast at the ranch and we set off refreshed, passing by the Flying U Ranch on our way to 70 Mile House. Beautiful ride on small roads. 70 Mile House – Clinton (Cariboo Highway 97) Not a very pleasant ride although the good hard shoulder made it reasonably safe.

Clinton – Pavilion (steep climb, small roads, much unpaved) We left Clinton in late afternoon using a small paved road that followed the same general direction as the rail line. We planned to stay at the Downing Lake provincial campground. This proved to be under about 6 inches of water, so we camped in the picnic shelter at the picnic area next to the sign saying “no camping”. Next day, we passed through a washout near our campsite then up a steep hill on unpaved road. We got up into snow, although not enough to cause any problems. The summit was probably the highest we did (at an unconfirmed 1,520 m) on the trip.  The ride down was the highlight of the trip, with views of the Coast Range while the road passed through sage brush and juniper with arowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza saggittata) in full bloom. Pavilion – Vancouver (highway 99) (with an 8km detour down Lillooet Lake, and 10km on rough steep mountain bike trail “sea to sky” south of Whistler) Pavilion to Lillooet was a hot ride and we stopped at a stream under cottonwood trees for a rest and to wait out the heat of the day. We had a large supper at our favourite Greek restaurant in Lillooet. The BC Hydro campsite at Lillooet was closed, and we could see a long queue of vehicles at its gate waiting for its season opening the next morning. We slipped discreetly down the embankment, finding the campground quite ready for use, leaving at 6 a.m. and stopping for breakfast at the first pullout. This provided a fantastic view down Seton Lake in the morning light. We finished 95% of the climb to the Duffy Lake Road summit (1279 m) before stopping for second breakfast and coffee by a rushing river. Rivers in full flood during  snow melt season were the hallmark of this trip. The drop from the pass to Pemberton is an exciting 10 km at up to 13% grade. At the bottom, we turned south along Lillooet Lake, but after 4 km of eating dust and being shaken by the gravel surface we came to our senses, turned round and rode into Pemberton where we collapsed into a hotel with a hot tub in. In the morning we climbed our last pass from Pemberton 210m to Whistler  675 m. In Whistler we joined a nice paved bike path “Sea to Sky Bike Route” that snaked through the town, but at the Olympic Village it changed into a steeper, twisting mountain bike route. We found this difficult on our fully loaded bikes! At the first opportunity (10km later) we switched the highway 99, which has a good hard shoulder but lots of traffic because it was the May long weekend holiday. It was getting late for supper as we rolled through Squamish, so we went into Wendy’s and quickly demolished double bacon cheeseburger combos. We camped with the climbers at the foot of the Chief in our first official camp ground of the trip that was actually open.

The Chief

The next day was, for this trip of 100+km days, a relatively short day’s ride home.


Trip photo album here.

Jasper to Vancouver by an Interesting Route

This evening, we’ll catch the train to Jasper, Alberta. Catching a train is much easier than an airplane: the bikes go in a big box so only the pedals need removing and the handlebars turning. Tomorrow afternoon we’ll arrive in Jasper, and on Thursday morning we leave Jasper to travel west and south. Last week, Canmore (300km SE of Jasper) had a big snow fall, but we understand the road is clear… but clearly leaving much earlier would have been risky. We have a plan A route, but there are so many alternates I will not describe them here. Just to say it is about a 900 km ride, through some of the most scenic countryside in the world.


First Decent Ride

Since  got the medical green light to ride outdoors, I had only been for three very short rides.  I’m certainly out of cycling and hiking shape, because I’ve been focusing on swimming  so as to mobilize and strengthen my shoulder. A few weeks ago, Chris and Kathrin set up on a hike up Mt. Coliseum which was deemed to be too steep and strenuous for me. Since Chris was up early, I got up too and packed my panniers for a day’s solo outing by bike on flat terrain.

Local bike map in hand, and not certain how far I’d go, I headed south, crossing the North Arm of the Fraser River on the Canada Line Skybridge. When the Canada Line extended the Skytrain system to Richmond in 2009, an adjoining structure was included solely for pedestrians and cyclists. This is by far the most civilized way to cross by bike from Vancouver to Richmond, and in my opinion it represents a Great Leap Forward  in Vancouver’s cycling infrastructure. I caught the 9:00 a.m. bike shuttle through the George Massey Tunnel. I’d even packed my passport in case I felt like going to Point Roberts. After coffee in Tsawassen, however, I headed east in crosswinds along the Boundary Bay Dyke path, and looped north on more trails through Watershed Park  …..where I could not avoid running over a hapless garter snake.

Despite the help of a detailed inset on my cycling map, I got somewhat lost trying to get onto the Alex Fraser Bridge. Surrey struck me as distinctly bike-unfriendly suburban sprawl, and I don’t think cyclists’ access to the bridge is used much or has been maintained at all.  At one point, I had to lift my bike over a barrier to escape the heavy traffic on the car on ramp and push blackberry stems as I wheeled my bike toward the bridge’s rarely used sidewalk. I wouldn’t recommend this crossing for the acrophobe; the outer railing isn’t very high and there is an alarming gap between the outer edge of the sidewalk and the bottom edge of the railing. This means that as you glance downward you have a clear view to the river and adjacent industrial areas 150 metres below you, and you cannot help wondering what would  happen if you accidentally swerve a bit too much to the right.

Relieved to be across, I ate my second spring roll under the north end of the bridge, returned along River Road through Richmond, and back to Vancouver over the Canada Line Skybridge.

Boundary Bay Cycling Day Trip

A 98 kilometre loop from Vancouver. About 25% unpaved.

Once home, my odometer read 98 kilometres. I wasn’t faster-than-a-speeding-bullet, and I was a little stiff the next day. I  did remember why I love cycling, why I love my Surly bike, and why Chris and I are planning another major ride in 2013. Counter-clockwise around the Baltic is our plan!


Season Finale

Saturday, October 15, 2011

2011/10/14:  Panorama Ridge in the Snow

Reaching the top

With winter coming, Masa leaving to walk across Australia, and Kathrin off to New Zealand for her southern summer, this was likely our last hike for the year. And what a hike! The snow had come in buckets last week, the sun was out, and the world was beautiful!We hiked up from the Rubble Creek parking lot to Taylor Meadows, where we first had snow under our feet. The snow depth increased with elevation to perhaps 2m at the 2109m peak of Panorama Ridge. Continue reading