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Camping – 3 Nights at Porpoise Bay

Breakfast

For our summer camping trip we spent 3 nights at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park on the Sunshine Coast.

BC Ferry Ride

Porpoise Bay is a great family-friendly campsite close to Vancouver. It only takes 2 hours to drive there, including an hour long ferry ride in the middle where the kids can run around.

There are a few things that make it stand out from the other BC provincial park campsites.

  • There are more tents and less RVs. Probably because the ferry is expensive with a RV.
  • There are no campfires in the campsites. Instead there are communal fire pits.
  • It feels like you’re in nature, but you’re only a few minutes from Sechelt which has restaruants, grocery stores, and other conveniences if you need anything. They also have a great little farmers market on Saturdays.
  • The beach is along the ocean, but because it’s a sheltered bay and shallow. The water is pleasant to splash in at high tide and during low tide there are lot of tide pools to explore.
Low Tide

On the less possitive side:

  • There is an active float plane terminal nearby and you can hear float planes taking off during the day. It’s not too bad, but it’s noticeable especially in the morning.
  • The southern edge of the park backs onto cottages. Campsites 76-84 are right next to the backyards and are not very desirable.
Communal campfire

We thought the communal fire pits would be a downside but it turned into a great way to meet other campers. In the evenings, a lot of families would show up to roast marshmallows. Astrid enjoyed running around with other kids and we got a chance to chat with the parents. Before we knew it, Astrid was running off with the other kids to play in the woods. And during the daytime, kids were coming by our site to play with her. One kid even came to say goodbye when we were leaving.

Leaving with a Friend

The communal fire pits are small and there are only 3 of them, so they’re not great for cooking on. We managed to roast veggie sausages and corn but I would be prepared to do all of the cooking at your own site using a propane stove.

Smugglers cove

There aren’t any hiking trails in Porpose Bay Provincal Park, but there are a few good trails nearby. We hiked the trail at nearby Smugglers Cove. It’s an easy 1.5 hour hike out to a sheltered bay with nice views. Seemed like a great place to jump in for a swim on a hot day.

Starfish

We visited Smugglers Cove back in 2007 and were amazed that there were starfish everywhere. Sadly, we didn’t see a single one this time. In 2013 starfish wasting disease wiped out almost all of the starfish and it the population hasn’t recovered. It’s really sad. We did find a single starfish on the beach in Davis Bay, but it was the only one we saw all trip.

Night in the Tent

Camping was made a bit more difficult this year because of Astrid’s cast. She couldn’t go in the water, she didn’t sleep well at night, and we had to watch her a bit more closely at the playground, not that it discouraged her from climbing. Having a cast wasn’t ideal for camping but Astrid’s a resilient kid.

Bikes

Like most campgrounds in BC, Porpose Bay was full of kids getting around on bikes. We’ll have to bring Astrid’s bike next year (assuming she’s not in a cast).

The sunshine coast is a beautiful area to explore and Porpoise Bay is a great campground to use as a base. Sechelt, Davis Bay, and Smuggler’s Cove are all close by.

Logs

We’re looking forward to finding a new campsite for next year. Maybe something in the Okanagan. Last year we did 2 nights at Alice Lake and in 2017 we spent 1 night at Golden Ears. Tradition dictates that we do a 4-night camping trip next year. We’ll see if that happens.

More photos here.

Sechelt

A Fancy Weekend in Victoria

To celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary, we decided to spend a fancy weekend in Victoria.

Skytrain

We did the whole trip without a car. It’s pretty easy to take public transit to the ferry terminals, and once we were in Victoria almost everything was walking distance from our hotel.

Cherry Blossoms

We were lucky to have a beautiful spring weekend, with only a sprinkle of rain and the cherry blossoms were in bloom.

The Empress

We stayed at the luxurious Empress hotel, originally constructed by Canadian Pacific in 1908. We were a little out of place arriving by public transit with backpacks on, while the other guests used the valet service for their Ferraris and Teslas.

Fancy Tea at the Empress

We might not have arrived in a sports car, but we brought fancy clothes so we could enjoy afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge.
They had no problems preparing an all-vegan tea for us (we gave them notice when we reserved our seating), with scones, jam, crustless sandwiches, chocolates, and passion fruit custard.

Tea Timer

Astrid even enjoyed it. She managed to stay amused for over an hour by playing with the tea timer, reading the tea options, drinking tea with a spoon, stealing berries off the desserts, running around our seating area, and visiting the powder room.

Arby and Astrid

Most of our time in Victoria was spent catching up with friends. Astrid had successful playdates with Arby, Lyla, and Cleo. Our friends Katie and ilan even took Astrid home for lunch so Emily and I could go out for a nice lunch by ourselves.

Play Date

We hit up all of our favourite vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Victoria: Be Love, Rebar, and Very Good Butchers.

Napping

It was a really successful weekend mostly because Astrid slept well. She had no problems sleeping in a double bed on her own in the hotel. And she napped on the go – sleeping on bus and ferry rides while we travelled, and in her stroller on Saturday while we walked around Victoria.

Stormtroopers

Amusingly, we happened to be in Victoria while the Capital City Comic Con was going on at the convention centre connected to our hotel, so there was always someone in a costume walking by.

NDP Fan

More pictures here.

5 Year Anniversary

Groom Gives his Vows
5 years ago Emily and I got married in Banff, surrounded by family, friends, and snowy mountains. This year we decided to spend our anniversary back in the snowy mountains with our lovely daughter.

Mountain Time

Last weekend we stayed in Pemberton, BC and spent our days walking through the Whistler village and snowshoeing through the forest. It was a nice relaxing weekend, and it gave us the opportunity to look back on everything we’ve been through over the past 5 years. We also tried to predict what the next 5 years would look like (and with Astrid in our lives it will be very different).

Whistler

We were really worried about naps and nighttime after Astrid barely slept during our trip to Victoria. Emily got her used to the pack ‘n play before our trip and we tried to time the car rides to help her nap. Astrid slept really well. In fact she slept anytime she was moving, in the carrier or the car. Turns out she was sick with a roseola and had a mild fever all weekend. Good thing she’s such a trooper.

 

Paddling

 

At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Anniversary Dinner

We brought food to make in our suite for dinner. It was so nice having a kitchen.

Snowshoeing in Whistler

Snowshoeing in the Whistler Interpretive Forest

Snowshoeing

We don’t normally give gifts, but gave each other sentimental mementos of our relationship so far.

Oh, the Places We've Been

Wood Anniversary

Sparkling Surprise in the Okanagan

Relaxation Room with a View

Last week my lovely wife surprised me with a Okanagan birthday adventure. We spent the day hiking in Kelowna and then retired to the luxurious Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon.

I knew it was going to be a good day when a rainbow lit up the mountainside as we drove through Abbotsford. I was a bit slow snapping a picture, but it was perfectly formed on both sides.

Birthday Rainbow

In Kelowna, we hiked along the Myra Canyon trail, formerly part of the Kettle Valley Railway. Half of the trail was still covered in snow, but it was still an easy hike with some epic scenery. The trail has some huge trestle bridges, most of them rebuilt after the devastating forest fire in 2003.

Myra Canyon

Myra Canyon Trestles

After our hike, we checked in at the luxurious Sparkling Hill Resort. I never knew this place existed before, but it’s damn fancy. Designed by the Swarovski family, the resort is packed with crystals everywhere, including the washroom signs.

What!?

Lobby

The spa was the highlight, with so many little touches elevating it above the usual. The outdoor pool had fabulous views of the mountains and Okanagan Lake. The indoor pool played classical music underwater. There was a walking path with knee deep water that alternated between hot and cold to help improve circulation (it felt like torture). The steam/sauna area had a number of unique rooms, including the experience showers that simulated thunderstorms and tropical downpours, a rose scented steam room, a sauna with a bucket of rocks that were repeatedly heated and then dunked into cold water, and the igloo with ice to rub on your body. There were also some quiet areas to relax and enjoy the view.

Tea Time

Pool with a View

It was a decadent birthday experience and a step beyond anywhere we’ve stayed before.

Greater Vancouver Hike – Elfin Lakes

Elfin Lakes CampingDate: August 7-8, 2015

Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Elfin Lakes is one of BC’s best backcountry camping destinations. It’s easy to access, has more amenities than you would normally find in the backcountry, and has great views of the Coast Mountains. It’s not surprising that the trail is popular with day hikers, overnight backpackers, and mountain bikers.

At the Trailhead

To beat the crowds, we left Vancouver early on Friday morning. The hike starts from the Diamond Head parking lot, located up a gravel road in Squamish beyond Quest University. There are numerous reports of break-ins in the parking lot, so don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle.

The parking lot is at a lofty 960 meters above sea level, a welcome boost for anyone carrying a heavy backpack. Most of the hike to Elfin Lakes is along an old logging road, with plenty of room for 2 or 3 people to walk abreast. The first section isn’t gruelling, but it is a continuous uphill climb without much to look at. There is only one viewpoint – a brief break in the trees with a view over Squamish and Howe Sound. After 4.3 km and 440 meters of elevation gain, you arrive at the Red Heather shelter. This is a good spot to have a meal and use the outhouse.

Wide Trail

After Red Heather you quickly get above the treeline with more spectacular views of the mountains around. Elfin Lakes is another 6 km of ups and downs from Red Heather, with a net elevation gain of only 75 meters. Keep an eye out for pikas in the rocky areas – they are little rodents with a distinctive squeak.

Pika

Elfin Lakes is probably BC’s most comprehensive backcountry camping area. There’s a full-time ranger station, outhouses that usually have toilet paper, bear-proof food caches, a lovely cooking shelter with an amazing view, two lakes (one for swimming and one for drinking water), 35 tent pads, and a hut with 34 beds if you don’t want to bring a tent. The cost of camping at Elfin Lakes is $10 per person per night, or $15 if you want to sleep in the shelter.

Ranger Station Filtering Water Bear Caches Cooking Shelter with a View

From Elfin Lakes, there are two day hike options – the Gargoyles and Opal Cone. We had planned on spending Saturday hiking up to the Gargoyles, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was grey and drizzly with heavy rain forecasted, so we decided to pack it up and head home early.

I was also worried about my toe. I had stubbed it before we left Vancouver, but didn’t think much of it. However, by the time we arrived at our campsite, it was throbbing and purple. I “iced” it in the lake and taped it to prevent any further damage. I’m not sure if it is sprained or just heavily bruised.

Injured Toe Icing My Toe in the Lake Taped Toes

Check out the BC Parks website for more info about the campsite, and read the great trail reports on Vancouver Trails and Trail Peak.

Times: (with a large backpack on)
Parking Lot to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Red Heather to Elfin Lakes: 2 hours
(GPS data on Strava)

Elfin Lakes to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Red Heather to Parking Lot: 1 hour
(GPS data on Strava)
Elfin Lakes Map

Pictures: Elfin Lakes 2015
Hiking Panorama

Tall Toilet

Hiking and Mountain Biking

At Elfin Lakes

Elfin Lakes

Relaxing in the Sun

Camping Spot Panorama

Greater Vancouver Hike – Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk

Garibaldi Lake
Date: August 12-14, 2006, August 8-10 2008, and July 10-12, 2009

Location: Garibaldi Pronvincial Park, near Squamish, BC (map)

Description: Black Tusk was my first real backcountry experience, and you never forget your first. Glacial Lakes, towering peaks, alpine meadows – this hike has it all. I’ve seen a lot of BC since that weekend in 2006, but Black Tusk is still my favourite overnight hike in BC. I’ve been up there 3 times, and I’m itching to return again.

The Barrier
It’s a 7.5 km hike from the trail head to the campgrounds – taking anywhere from 2 1/2 – 4 hours depending how fast you can move with heavy pack on. It’s a steady uphill the whole way, rising 915 meters, including a section of switchbacks along The Barrier – an imposing lava damn holding back the water in Garibaldi Lake.

Campsite
There are two camping options – Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake. Garibaldi Lake is the nicer option, but it fills up quickly, especially on a long weekend. The campsites are pretty good by backcountry standards – with gravel or wood tent pads, outhouses, bear caches, and cooking shelters.

Little Creek
Late July to early August is the best time to visit, as the alpine flowers are in full bloom and the area is mostly snow-free. You can even take a dip in Garibaldi Lake if you’re brave (no matter how warm it might be outside, a glacial lake is never very warm).

The Ascent to Black Tusk
From the campgrounds, there are two day hike possibilities – Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. Black Tusk is a unique experience. If you’re afraid of heights, like I am, it’s a uniquely terrifying but exhilarating experience. The trail leads up a large scree slope and then traverses a ridge with a steep drop off before reaching the base of an intimidating lava column.

At the Summit
You can rock climb/scramble the top of the tusk but it’s not for the feint of heart. It is steep and the rock is loose. I’ve only ever made it to the top once, on my first trip up when I wore a bike helmet to protect my head. Every other time I’ve chickened out. But if you do make it to the top, the 360 degree views of Garibaldi Provincial Park and Whistler-Blackcomb in the distance are breathtaking.
View of Whistler Mountain

Transportation: It’s a 90 minute drive from Vancouver to the trailhead near Squamish, BC. Directions.

Pictures: Garibaldi Lake 2006, Garibaldi Lake 2008, Garibaldi Lake 2009

Ridge Walking

On the way to the Tusk

Black Tusk Snow Angels

Dr Seuss Flowers

Lake-side Reflections

Luxurious Weekend in Whistler

Lifestyles of the rich and famous
Last year Emily won the grand prize in the FarmFolk CityFolk Win our Windfall raffle.

The prize description:

Enjoy a one night stay at Nita Lake Lodge in their beautiful Rainforest Suite with private elevator access, overlooking exceptional views of Whistler Mountain. Later that night, revel in Chef’s delicious tasting dinner for two in Aura restaurant with magnificent lake views.

On your way there stop in Squamish and take a Whistler Backcountry Tour with Sea to Sky Air. Fly over massive glaciers, sprawling lush forests, and glacial waters of Garibaldi Lake.

So, last weekend we got to enjoy a luxurious weekend in Whistler, staying in the huge Rainforest Suite at Nita Lake Lodge and flying around the Squamish Valley with Sea to Sky Air. Both experiences were world class. It was too much awesomeness for the two of us to enjoy alone, so we invited the Holdings to share some of the experience with us.
Sea to Sky Gang

We had mixed weather for our flight, with snow, rain, and low clouds obscuring some of the peaks. But it was still an amazing experience. We were in a little 4-seater plane with our pilot pointing out the mountains and lakes below us. It was neat seeing places we’ve hiked to before, like Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk, and the Chief, from a new perspective. The highlight was the 360-degree loop we did around Table Mountain.

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Table Mountain

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

The Rainforest Suite at the Nita Lake Lodge is easily the fanciest and largest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, with a huge master bedroom, dining room with seating for 8, and full kitchen. The couch folded out so the Holdings didn’t have to use their sleeping bags (we came prepared). We took advantage of the hotels hot tubs and canoes. Our dinner at Aura was an amazing 5-course tasting meal.

Roar

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Nita Lake Lodge

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

More pictures on Flickr.