Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trail Spotlight - Explore Nanaimo's Colliery Dam and beyond

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive commission if you make a purchase using a link.

A while back I had written a blog about 17 waterfalls along the East Coast of Central Vancouver Island and was blown away with the positive response from outdoor enthusiasts who found it to be a great resource for places to hike and explore. If you read that blog you will know that there were a few of the waterfalls on the list that I had not been to myself so I figured it was time to get out there and go see them firsthand.

I have lived in the Nanaimo area for over 9 years now and like so many other locals, have not been to Chase River Falls, just west of the official Colliery Dam Park trail system. So often I seek out areas to explore outside my own backyard to fulfil my desire for adventure and to immerse myself in the beauty of Vancouver Island but found this little afternoon stroll to be just as rewarding. Beyond the usual beaten paths are trails to explore and treasures to find. Worthy of a Trail Spotlight.

Trail Use: Easy Hiking and Trail Running

Description: The trails are a mix of paved, groomed gravel, boardwalk, bridges, and single track. Forested trails around two lakes and close to 3km of trail in the park. The trails within Colliery Dam Park are easy to travel. Past Chase River Falls the trail is more of a single track with roots and some elevation but overall is quite easy.

Directions: Parking lots off of Nanaimo Lakes Road and corner of Wakesiah Ave and 6th St. Can also park on the side of Harewood Mines Road.

Maps: Parts of Colliery Dam Park is an off leash dog area. Check out the Colliery Dam Map for trails and off leash areas within the park. Trail to Chase River Falls and beyond not part of map. To see more trails and how Colliery connects with Morrell Nature Sanctuary, Westwood Ridges, and the Abyss (Extension Ridge) try Trail Forks - Westwood Mountain Bike Trails map. Possibilities are endless.

Our Trip Report: I spent an afternoon exploring Chase River Falls and beyond, outside of the parks trail system, for a couple hours at a leisurely pace. Perfect for when time does not permit out of town day long hikes. What I found most appealing about exploring Colliery Dam Park was the fun factor for the kids. It is not a grand hike as far as elevation or a technically challenging trail but it does reward the kids with "cool to them" features along the way.

Kids love tunnels. To get to the Chase River waterfall you have to cross under highway 19.

Everyone loves waterfalls, even the kids.

Stunning landscape features.

Wild playground

Forest critters

Things to pack: For a leisurely city hike like this I suggest plenty of snacks or a lunch just to extend the experience a bit further, something I like to call fresh air feasting.  Trail side lunches are my favorite! Wondering about footwear? I recommend KEEN.

Check out a few of our favorite KEEN's over the years.

Disclosure: I am a Brand Ambassador for KEEN Canada and receive free shoes from them to try. I like the durability and function of their hiking shoes for both me and the kids. Opinions are my own.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

17 Waterfall Hikes along the Central East Coast of Vancouver Island

Everyone loves waterfalls. From a distance they sparkle, are magical and tranquil. Up close waterfalls are deafening, powerful and spectacular.  They captivate us, stimulate our senses and are a highlight of many hikes on Vancouver Island.  Here in the Pacific Northwest waterfalls are plentiful and winter is the best time for hiking to waterfalls.  My favorite waterfall encounters are the ones that I stumble upon by accident or are only there due to the endless winter rain. There are no maps or names for these waterfalls, they are the rewards of hiking and exploring.

Thankfully, there are plenty of waterfalls closer to home territory so I can get my fix of cascading water when time does not allow me to hunt for them on my own. Between Cowichan Valley north to Fanny Bay, a distance spanning 125km or so along the east coast of Vancouver Island, are 17 waterfalls that are worth exploring. Ranging from super easy to moderate/difficult. Short hike/long hike. Ropes/no ropes. There is something for everyone.

1. Millstone River Falls in Bowen Park
Boot level - Super Easy
Region - Nanaimo
Location - Access off of Bowen Road on Millstream Parkway

Probably the most accessible waterfall in Nanaimo.  Perfect for young families just getting into exploring the outdoors with their little ones. I loved taking my kids here when they were little. The trails gave me satisfaction of being in nature and the river, flora and outdoor setting provided great entertainment for my kids. One being the duck pond which is a fabulous way to encourage and experience wildlife encounters.  Recommend bringing some duck feed with you to enhance the experience. There are some trails to explore, interpretive signs, a fish ladder, and be sure to visit the rhododendron grove in the spring for a burst of color! Oh, and the waterfall is pretty cool too!

2. Waterfall at Colliery Dam
Boot level - Super Easy
Region - Nanaimo
Location - Parking lots off of Nanaimo Lakes Road and corner of Wakesiah Ave and 6th St. Can also park on side of Harewood Mines Road.

Oddly enough, I have never actually seen the waterfall with my own eyes but have visited Colliery Dam many, many times. My usual time spent here is trail running with the kids as they prepare for the school cross country running events every fall. The trails are a mix of paved, groomed gravel, boardwalk, bridges, and single track. There are two lakes with trails around each which always seem to grab our attention. Usually our rock skipping championships take place here.  Next time I am passing thru the area I will be sure to stop and check out the waterfall. Perfect way to sneak in a daily dose of nature with the family. (photo coming soon)

3. Ammonite Falls
Boot level - Moderate
Trail: 5km total
Region - Nanaimo
Location - Jameson Road with parking lot on Creekside Pl.

Ammonite Falls are the best bang for your buck in the Nanaimo area. They are truly spectacular all year round. The hike in is a gentle descent along a mix of old gravel roads and trails thru treed and logged forests. I graded this hike as moderate because of the ropes required to use to get down to the falls. You don't have to go down but the ropes are handy and allow for more exploring along the creek.  The falls are named Ammonite for a reason, pick up a rock and there is sure to be a fossil. The slope to get down can be muddy with all the waterfall mist so don't be afraid to get a little dirty.  Trail signage has improved over the years but on a few occasions I have met people on the trail who were unsure as to how to get back or tried going back a different way but were a bit confused. I find following the signs in works great and taking the more steep trail back makes a nice 5km loop. Head back past the trail taken on the way in.  Trail will begin to go uphill, keep left at the first trail intersection (will be heading away from Benson Creek) and the trail pops out at the end of the gravel road that you came in on.

4. Waterfall on Mt. Benson 
Boot level - Moderate
Trail: Will map route and update
Region - Nanaimo
Location - Parking area at Witchcraft Lake on Mt. Benson Road

Before getting the kids up to the summit of Mt. Benson, way back when they were about 5 and 3 years old, we would play on the web of trails Mt. Benson has acquired. A favorite loop we would do was to hike up trail #1 to the waterfall, continue up to the logging road and then back down the more popular trail #2.  Add in stopping at the viewpoint and checking out the old cabin remains making this an adventurous day for families or those wanting to give Mt. Benson a try before going all the way to the top! I have always liked this loop because it is challenging, offers a view overlooking Nanaimo and the Strait of Georgia, a beautiful forest to hike thru with a waterfall thrown in for fun.  I think of this loop as a break from the usual grind up and down Mt. Benson. Best to check out the waterfall during the winter months. It does tend to dry up later in the summer.  I will get up there soon and track my loop for a more accurate distance and route. I graded this as moderate but keep in mind it is a challenge not only due to the fact it is steep climbing right from the get go, but also because you have to be willing to navigate yourself around the trails with some confidence and know how.

5. Little Qualicum Falls (Provincial Park)
Boot Level: Easy/Moderate
Trail: 6km of trails within the park
Region: Parksville/Qualicum
Location: 19 km north of Parksville on Hwy 4.

Another waterfall I have not yet checked out, mostly due to the fact we are en route to somewhere else when we pass the Provincial Park. That is not to say that the waterfalls are not worth your time. They most certainly are.  Now, because I have not been there, I am not sure if the trails are easy or moderate, but do know the trails to and around the falls are not long in distance. My task, should I choose to accept, is check out the falls myself and report back. (Happy to share a photo if you have.)

6. Englishmen River Falls (Provincial Park)
Boot Level: Easy/Moderate
Trail: 3km of maintained trail in park
Region: Parksville/Qualicum/Errington
Location: Errington Road off of Hwy 4. Directional Signage provided.

When its flowing the waterfall is impressive and powerful! Provincial Parks are great for  having well maintained trails and allowing access to view these beautiful waterfalls but if your looking for a full day hike or to escape people, this is not it. It is a beautiful canyon amidst an old growth forest, offering plenty of nature wow factor.  Great for families or as a side trip if in the area.

7. Triple Falls
Boot Level: Easy
Trail: less than 1km
Region: Parksville/Qualicum/Errington
Location: Park at end of Sierra Road in Errington

For those looking to escape the manicured trails and tourists at Little Qualicum or Englishmen River, there is an out of the way spot nearby with three small waterfalls.  They are not as spectacular as their neighboring waterfalls but the effort to navigate to the trail head and then finding your way is the challenge. A few trails are evident but take the trail to the right and continue past the pumphouse,  then about 10 mins or so to the falls.

8. Rosewall Creek Falls
Boot Level: Easy/Moderate
Trail: Aprox. 8 km total
Region: Fanny Bay
Location: From Hwy 19, Cook Creek Road to Hwy 19A, north to Berray Road. Directional signage posted.

Rosewall Creek is a provincial park but the falls are not within the parks boundary. Trail to the falls follows along the south side of the creek and then over the creek via a bridge. Once on north side of creek, you will go under hwy 19A and then under Hwy19.  After that it is a beautiful single track trail through a dense forest and moss covered trees following the creek upstream. At the falls there are opportunities to explore further and check out the larger falls. For a more detailed account of the hike, check out my blog post Waterfalls and Sea Lions.
NOTE: Some readers have informed me that when water levels are high, the creek overflows and portion of the trail can be cut off, usually between late Nov to Early Feb (pending rainfall) Eventually the water resides and trail is accessible.

9. Nile Creek Falls
Boot Level - Moderate
Trail: 14km round trip or 5 km round trip (approximate distances)
Region: North of Qualicum
Location: From Hyw 19A, head west to the end of Charelton Road (14km trail) or park off hwy 19, north side, at the Nile Creek bridge (5km trail)

If you are looking for waterfalls, this is waterfall wonderland. The trail follows alongside Nile Creek the entire way. Trail is mostly single track and not much for elevation until you reach the waterfalls. Beautiful forest with a variety of trees, several cool bridges made from fallen trees, and waterfall after waterfall to reward you at the end. This trail is suitable all year round and makes for a great day hike. When I hiked here last, I was with a large group and was distracted from taking pictures so the photos I do have are not worthy of posting.  The likelihood of me returning here in the near future is slim so, if you have a photo of one of the falls you would like to share, let me know. Happy to showcase it here.

10. Bonnell Creek Falls
Boot Level - Moderate/Difficult
Trail: 3km
Region: Nanoose
Location: End of Sundew Place (off Sommerset Road and Sea Blush Drive)

Bonnell Creek Falls are another set of waterfalls I have not yet explored but hear it is an adventure to get to them. Those up for the adventure will be rewarded with a series of three waterfalls, the third one requires dropping down a 20' vertical bank, with ropes to help of course. In fact, a couple rope sections are required to see all three waterfalls.  My good friend over at Island Nature has been to the falls and has a great write up along with spectacular photos. Check out his post Bravery Needed at Bonnell Creek

11. Crystal Falls
Boot level: Easy/Moderate
Trail: 6km loop
Region: Ladysmith
Location: Parking access on Dogwood Drive, Mackie Road or Methuen/6th Ave entrance

Crystal Falls is just one of the features of the Holland Creek Trail in Ladysmith. I mostly love trail running here, always stopping to stretch at the falls, which are best viewed from the south side trail.  A mix of groomed trail and single track with various elevation thrown in. It is a great place to start hiking or get out with the family. Expand the hike by heading up to Heart Lake and/or hiking the Stocking Creek Lake trail.  So many options but most important, there is a waterfall to entice you there. (I have photos somewhere, will update when I find them.)

12. Stocking Creek Falls
Boot Level: Easy
Trail: 2-3km
Region: Ladysmith
Location: Parking access at end of Finch Place or Thicke Road

I love these falls. They are so close to civilization yet once you start getting close, hear the water running, and feel the waterfall spray, civilization seems to disappear. One of the best features of the waterfall here is you can get behind it! It is truly an amazing sound to stand behind and underneath the waterfall and feel the power. Ever stuck your head under a waterfall? Trails in the park are well maintained but you can find some single track trails to explore. Pack a lunch and enjoy an afternoon hanging out by the creek. (picnic tables near Thick Road entrance) This has always been a favorite and special place to go with my kids, letting them explore wild spaces in a safe environment.

13. Christie Falls
Boot level: Moderate
Trail: 8km total (to falls and back)
Region: Ladysmith
Location: From Hwy 19, take Grouhel Road exit, right on Christie Road, and then left on Arroyo Road. Just past yellow gate, on the right, is an old logging road to fish hatchery (gated) Park here and follow road to fish hatchery.

Christie Falls are amazing. They sort of come out of nowhere and take your breath away, especially in the winter when the water flow is powerful. The hike to the falls involves walking 2.5km on a logging road, then a 500m or so hike up to the falls. We usually bring our bikes and ride to the fish hatchery and stash the bikes in the bush.  From here, the trail leads up Bush Creek and is easy to follow.    Biking the road leaves more time to explore the falls. Trail is a single track with plenty of roots, elevation, and some ropes to help get you up above the large falls. Some other options while here is to hike/bike Cammus Ridge and/or check out Thistle Mine (14km total for this route) A section of the Trans Canada Trail connects Bush Creek to Haslam Creek and can be a great all day bike trip for the whole family. Cross the creek and let the adventures begin. So many options.

14. Skutz Falls
Boot Level: Moderate (with hike)
Trail: 7k Skutz Falls to Mile 66 Trestle Loop
Region: Cowichan Valley
Location: West on Hwy 18, left at Skutz Falls Road and right on Mayo Road. Parking at river.

Skutz Falls would be better described as steep rapids. An interesting feature is the man made fish ladders that help get the fish up the Cowichan River. May be fun to check that out at the right time. Viewing the falls takes no time so why not add in an afternoon hike along the banks of the Cowichan River. Hikes are best when combined with waterfalls. 

15. Maple Mountain Falls
Boot Level: Moderate
Trail: 6km total (short version) or 11km loop (Blue/Yellow Trail Loop)
Region: Cowichan Valley
Location: Near Crofton, park at end of Chilco Road

This may not be an actual waterfall but everytime I run past, I stop and admire it. When I first starting exploring Maple Mountain, it was summer and never saw a speck of water dripping. So, when I set off one day mid winter and came upon the bridge, I was pleasantly surprised at the new view that was before me. There are likely many, many trails on Vancouver Island very similar to this but I like this trail and I like the waterfall so I am putting it on the list. Don't go looking for it mid to late summer though. Go while the water is flowing! Maple Mountain has a few hiking trail options and all are spectacular. When I go with the kids we start at Chilco Road and head down Blue to the Yellow Trail, pass the waterfall and end at about the 3km mark which is a nice flat spot along the Sansum Narrows. We never have time to do the full Yellow/Blue Loop due to exploring, eating, and just being lazy so back out the way we came it is. Hiking or trail running the entire loop is well worth the effort, one I have enjoyed doing many times, always stopping to admire the flowing water.

16. Knarston Falls
Boot Level: Moderate
Trail: Variety of distances
Region: Lantzville
Location: See map for parking trail access, one being at the end of Normarel Drive.

Just so happens that I learned about these waterfalls as I was writing this blog so this is a brand new one for me too! If you want to hike the trails and see the falls located in the Copely Ridge Forest, I suggest taking a quick moment and read some info the Save Lanztville Forest has put together.  Then, grab your family and friends and go check out the trails and waterfall yourself. Knarston Falls are not the ones labelled on map.  They are accessible via a new trail (P&R Railroad) off of Wildebeest.

17. Banon Creek Falls (Chemainus River)
Boot Level: Easy
Trail: 5 mins to river on well used path. 
Region: Chemainus
Location: From Hwy 19 turn west on Sticker Mt Road. Then North onto Grace Road. Follow for 4km to parking area with locked gate.

Pack a picnic lunch and head on down to the river for the day.  Banon Creek Falls are perfect for those sunny spring days with family or friends. There are some trails to check out or just walk along the creeks edge exploring on your own. The waterfall makes a great backdrop.

With any outdoor adventure, be prepared and be safe around rivers, creeks, steep banks and waterfalls. Heavy rain can cause loose soil and erosion, wet rocks plus cooler temps equals slippery surface, and use common sense when attempting to use ropes or navigating steep sections.

Boot Levels:
Super Easy - Short distance, easy access, well groomed paths, and elevation change minimal.
Easy - Short distance, easy access, groomed paths and some elevation change.
Easy/Moderate - Variety of trails (groomed and single track) with moderate elevation change.
Moderate - At least 5km, mostly single track trail, mixed elevation changes, steep banks with possible ropes to aid in access to falls.
Moderate/Difficult - More effort required to access trail, technical single track trails, greater distance with moderate elevation change.
Difficult - Less accessible, technical trail and moderate to high elevation change.


Hiking to waterfalls almost always involve taking photos. We use the Canon EOS Rebel. Check it out on Amazon.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trail Spotlight - Bald Mountain near Lake Cowichan, BC, Vancouver Island

So many trails, so little time. I learn of new trails on Vancouver Island faster than I can cross them off my list. What I love even more is the diverse network of trails. Something for every level of hiker, trail runner, or mountain biker. Whether you are looking for an afternoon stroll thru the forest, a full day exploring trails, bike trails to shred, something to test your mountaineering skills or multi day treks, Vancouver Island has what you are looking for.

To help guide you through the endless trails to choose from, I am putting together a collection of trails I consider OTBP worthy.

First up - Bald Mountain Park near Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island, BC

Trail use: Hiking and Trail Running

Description: Variety of trails to hike/trail run and consider level of difficulty to be moderate due to the gentle switchbacks that have you climbing close to the beginning. An easy option would be the Wetland Loop, a well groomed path with little elevation. Switchbacks steady but not steep on a mix of groomed trail, old road, rocky paths, mossy bluffs, and a technical trail [roots and exposed bluffs] starting about 2/3 of the way up to the summit. A variety of trails to hike or trail run pending your needs. Stroll along the Wetland Loop, go all the way to the summit, take the summit connector to Plateau Trail loop, or explore further from the summit.

Directions: From Hwy 1, head west on Hwy 19 to Lake Cowichan and when approaching the town stay right (North Shore Road) towards Youbou. Turn south on Meades Creek road and turn west on Marble Bay road.  Parking lot trail head on right hand side.

Maps: A couple maps to checkout. Signage along the CVRD trail map easy to follow. The Cowichan Lake District map offers some more options that would not be clearly marked with signs (and likely an out dated map). There was blue flagging tape [Jan 2016] that accompanied these trails. Gives option to those who wish to explore further.

Our trip report: The four of us hiked to the summit of Bald Mountain. Hiking distance 11km and just shy of 3 hours hiking time. Plenty of extra stops for taking in the view and snack breaks. Bald Mountain 611m in elevation and we gained a total of 885m while hiking. I plan on heading back to trail run this trail.  Hill climbing anyone? I love a challenge.

Highlights of the hike: The switchbacks were fun to hike.  Cuts down on the steepness of the climb and offers a neat perspective on the landscape as you see fellow hikers above and below you.

Last summer we canoed 30 km across Lake Cowichan so to see part of the lake from a high vantage point was rewarding.  The lake view is mainly the Youbou Arm and Honeymoon Bay but enough for Ben and Liv to be in awe with how big the lake is and that we traveled across it in a canoe. Favorite part of the trail would have to be the section about 2/3 of the way up.  Trail here leads across a rocky slope, around a bluff and up through a more technical treed trail.

Things to pack: It is good practice to always pack to be prepared, even on day hikes. The basics are small and can easily be kept in your pack.  Our basics include backpacks, water [plenty if hiking/running in summer...it will be hot], snacks [we seem to eat often], jacket, extra long sleeve layer, proper footwear [KEEN's work well], cameras, backup batteries, cell phone, GPS [if gadgets are your thing], headlamp or flashlight [and extra batteries], emergency blanket, army knife, whistle, matches and firestarter, toilet paper, plastic bag for garbage [pack out what you pack in ALWAYS], medicine [Benadryl, Tylenol, Ibuprofen] and first aid kit.  Even the smallest of cuts are easily fixed with a band-aid.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why China? Stepping off of the quiet, wild trails and onto the busy, populated streets of China. #throwbackthursday Repost

** Original post published Jan 2, 2014

How an Outdoor Adventure family chose to step off the quiet, wild trails of Vancouver Island and onto the busy, populated streets of China!

The first question asked by family and friends when they learned of our travel plans over the holiday season was "Why China?"  Most did not consider backpacking across a country with two children, aged 8 & 6, to be a holiday.  So, before I begin blogging about our family travel adventures to China, I figured I would start by answering this question and provide some background information, relating to world travel, about our family.  

Quick family history - we are as Canadian as you get.  Born and raised.  We love bacon with everything, enjoy maple syrup so much we tap maples, and live in an igloo…just kidding on the last one.  Family roots consist of German, Ukrainian, and possibly Russian.  This is verified by our addiction to bratwurst, perogies, and vodka.  My world travel history consists of Hawaii, Las Vegas, Green Bay, Mexico, and Australia.  Joel has traveled to Mexico, Reno, San Francisco, and Green Bay.  Ben and Liv have been to BC and Alberta.  We are hardly experienced world travelers.

Usual travel destinations - When planning vacations before and after having kids, Canada destinations were always our first choice.  Big country to explore with so much beauty.  When living in Alberta, BC was our destination.  We explored and played in the Rockies and Central/Northern Alberta regularly.  Even our honeymoon was in Canada… New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI.

So…why China? Why did we choose China as our first world family travel destination? There are four reason why.

1. Ben and Liv went to a Montessori pre-school.  During their time there they learned about the continents through daily activities;  puzzles, journals, and coloring maps of the world.  Ever since, Ben and Liv have identified the continents based on the colors that were used when colouring the world.  Yellow was Asia and Liv, from very early on, would always ask if we could go to Asia.  (I wanted to throw a dart at a map)

2. In the summer of 2011, when the kids were 6 & 4, we backpacked across Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).  Haida Gwaii is an archipelago on the North Coast of British Columbia, Canada about 750km north of Vancouver and Vancouver Island.  From Nanaimo we hopped on a bus to Port Hardy (North Island) on day 1.  Day 2 we sailed the inside passage from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert (16 hrs) and on Day 3 we sailed from Prince Rupert to Queen Charlotte City on Haida Gwaii (5 hrs).  When we finally arrived there, 3 days later, we joked that in three days we could have travelled anywhere in the world, even China!

3. Affordability.  Cost played a key role in why we chose China as our travel destination.  Flights to Europe or South American were more than double in price vs flights to China.  Direct flights and fantastic seat sale prices from Vancouver to Shanghai were attractive and ultimately sealed the deal.  Once in China, the cost of travel (hostels, food, transportation) is cheap. Traveling as a family of four can be expensive but everything we researched showed that keeping travel costs down was possible in China.

4. As with everything we do re: outdoor adventure, world family travel needed to be a challenge and we needed to come away learning something about ourselves or about the experience.  We wanted an adventure.  It was important that we experience a different culture.  Traveling to China allowed us to step outside our comfort zone, so far outside we can't even see the comfort zone! The language barrier would be a challenge, becoming accustomed to culture differences would be a challenge, and simple tasks like buying/eating food would be a challenge.  We love a good challenge.

And that's how we came up with China.

The Complete Blog Series:

How Outdoor Adventure prepared our family for World Travel

Adventure Food of the Day in China

Beijing, China - Our Cultural Experience

Shanghai, China - Big City Adventures 

8 reasons why Yangshou China felt like home

Photo Gallery:

Adventurous Eating in China

Beijing, China 

Shanghai, China 

Yangshou, China

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Putting kids behind the lens - A hiking photography adventure

A while ago I  posted a blog in my series Adventure Chat with Kids about pet peeves. It was a lighthearted chat that had Ben and Liv share some of their pet peeves about adventuring with mom and dad. One thing they both mentioned was the crazy amount of photos we take.  Fair enough but I was honest with them and stated that taking photographs while adventuring will always be a part of what I do. My advice to them - When in Rome...

Slowly Ben and Liv have taken interest in photography and on this particular adventure day, they both were proactive in their desire to take charge of both the camera equipment and photography for the day. I fully embraced their determination and was looking forward to seeing the two very different and unique perspectives they would create in their photographs. It was a tough day to take on photography given the grey clouds, misty weather and dark coastal forest we were hiking in, but they gave it their all.

I was surprised to see that they both captured some pretty amazing shots using aperture. Ben did a great job experimenting with aperture, describing what it was he wanted and ending up capturing the images he intended to catch. Four of his fabulous creations are below.

Liv had a few great aperture shots as well but it was her scene composition and capturing moments of Ben or Ben and I that expresses her style perfectly. She is a story teller and the four shots below certainly tell a story.

Today, I found myself standing around waiting for the two of them to finish taking their shots. Which I secretly loved.  No better time to play a bit myself.  With the dark dreary day, landscape shots were a no go. Not my area of expertise at the best of times so I used the opportunity to capture what I know and love best, Ben and Liv.

Five Tips for Getting Kids Comfortable Behind the Lens

- Support camera use.  Let them take photos when they ask. Give them use of an old camera or trust them with one you currently use.

- Show them some camera features. A quick review of how the camera works and settings to use. Start with the basics like auto focus and zoom. Then move to aperture and shutter speeds.

- Encourage different perspectives. Demonstrate getting low and using different angles. Point out lighting, composition and have them find interesting to them objects to take photos of. Photography is just another form of art.

- Teach them how to hold a camera. Strap around neck, keep fingers out of frame, hold steady with two hands, and rest elbows on knees for added support.

- Allow experimenting. Their photos do not need to be like your photos. They can be blurry or of way too many rocks but if it inspires them to continue taking photographs then keep on letting them experiment.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Snorkel with the Salmon - a Pacific North West Coast Experience

It was a balmy 17C alongside the Nanaimo River.  The warm temps, blue skies and a bright shining sun resembled a typical summer day only difference was, today was October 15.  I was standing alongside the river with an adventurous girlfriend who was looking to check off a bucket list activity - snorkel with the salmon.  A few years ago my family tried snorkeling with the salmon for the first time at this very same spot on the Nanaimo River.  It was a modest experience (not many salmon that year) so I jumped at the chance to give it another whirl.

The quick low down on what is required for snorkeling in rivers late in the year: a dry wet suit complete with booties, gloves, and hood; snorkel and mask; and an adventurous spirit.  It is also a good idea to be river smart.  Keep away from large rocks, overhanging trees or log jams and swim in conditions within your ability. Having a snorkel buddy a good idea as well.

What makes the Nanaimo River great for river swimming in general is the slow current throughout the summer months and shallow areas. Seems this combination is what salmon find ideal as well. The location I had picked out had a rocky bluff beside the river perfect for gearing up and allowed easy access in and out of the river. The location also has a large pool, what locals refer to as deep hole, so it allowed us to easily swim around without worrying about the current.  It is rather deep so viewing the salmon not ideal.  Best to walk up stream and gently float back down to the deep hole.

As the two of us walked up stream, looking like some sort of river creatures ourselves all donned in slick black wet suits, signs of the salmon run was evident.  Salmon carcasses, likely Coho, were littered all along the river bank.  The salmon’s life cycle is a great one.  Born in rivers, salmon grow for a year or so and then venture out far into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia.  Then, some five years later, they return to that same river, their birthplace, to spawn and then die.  As we walked along the river, being sure to step over the salmon that had met their fate, splashes in the river confirmed their presence. It was time to swim with the salmon. 

So there we were, standing in the river about knee high.  My friend and I each adjusted our masks, got the snorkels ready and gently slid into the cool waters.  It took a few seconds to get adjusted and comfortable to the flow but as soon as the mask went into the water a whole new world took over. Underneath me rocks and pebbles became the backdrop. The sound of water rushing was turned off and a calming sound took over. Off to the right a silver flash went by, then another and another. Looking around some more I could now see a handful of salmon swimming effortlessly around me. At one point I recall my friend saying “Oh my, this is so beautiful!” through her snorkel.  It was.  For two and a half minutes we floated with the salmon and it was amazing! Repeated many times over.


The life cycle of salmon is a remarkable one and the brief moment in time I shared with these selfless creatures was almost spiritual. My friend and I left the river completely fulfilled and full of life. This is why I love outdoor adventure. Every outdoor experience enriches my life is so many ways - appreciation for nature, passion for trying different things, sharing outdoor moments with friends, and overcoming my crazy childhood fear of things swimming under me. 

Sunny October day by the river, perfect day to wear KEEN sandals.