Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Leaves not the only thing changing in autumn. So are B.C. Salmon

Canada’s beauty is abundant in autumn.  Everywhere you look there are splashes of color and changing landscapes.  The Western Larches in the Canadian Rockies begin their amazing transformation from light green to bright yellow in the fall. Changing leaves of red leaf maple, sugar leaf maple, white birch, aspen and red oak in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park cover the landscape in orange, red and yellow.  Up North, where daylight hours diminish, aurora borealis viewing returns and the white and blue lights once again dance across the sky.  Here on the BC coast, we too have a splash of color and if you get too close, you will likely get wet.

Annual BC salmon run

Every year, mainly in the fall, thousands of salmon return to the stream they were born to reproduce and die.  Their 4- 5 year life cycle and migration is remarkable and so are the conservation efforts to keep the salmon running for years to come.  I never get tired of learning about the salmon run.  This year, our attention was on the shape and color changes salmon undergo as they run up the stream. 

Most of the rivers on Vancouver Island have Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Steelhead but there are sockeye runs too.  The Sockeye Salmon have the most dramatic color change, from silver blue to deep red and places like the Fraser River and Adams River are the best places to check out the sockeye run.  The river we explored was the Little Qualicum River near Qualicum Beach, BC on Vancouver Island and the salmon were well on their way up river.  There were probably chinook, chum and steelhead swimming around but I am still learning how to recognize the difference.  What is neat about Little Qualicum River is there is a Department of Fisheries fish hatchery alongside the river and spawning channels that were created to ensure suitable water levels, flow, gravel river bottoms, and fish ladders that aid in salmon reproduction.  

Fish ladder in the spawning channel at Little Qualicum Fish Hatchery

There was not much color change happening with the leaves but the salmon were definitely changing and not just in color.  Color changes from the silver blue to darker colored patches, white spots, dark red and greenish yellow are to attract a spawning mate.  Standing above the spawning channels, the color change was noticeable as was their shape.  When salmon return to freshwater, they no longer eat and their stomach disintegrates leaving more room for eggs and sperm. Instead they live off of stored fat in tissue.  Could be one reason why the salmon look bloated but that is mainly due to taking in fresh water rather than sea water.  Salmon have a salt gland to extract salt to prevent dehydration.  Another characteristic change visible is males developing a hooked snout, or kype.  It is used to show off their dominance.  Some male salmon species also develop a hump on their back. 

After walking for over an hour around the spawning channel, I began to see the small color changes in each salmon.  Some were a dark grey solid color.  Some had patchy white spots.  A few even had shiny purple and yellow areas on their body.   

The changes were subtle but by no means does that dismiss the power and energy the salmon require to get here.  They are amazing creatures.

The transformations that occur in Mother Nature are truly spectacular and autumn is a great time to see it happen.  Spending a beautiful fall day exploring a new river and witnessing salmon fight their way up stream is a must do fall family outdoor activity on the west coast.  There are countless rivers on Vancouver Island where volunteer ran hatcheries exist and 15 fish hatcheries operated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  Little Qualicum Fish Hatchery and Spawning Channels located at 1380 Claymore Road in Qualicum Beach, BC.

More B.C. Salmon blog posts:
Snorkel with the Salmon                A Salmon's Journey

With a KEEN eye, I patiently wait for fish to jump the ladder.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adventure Chat with Kids - Reaching the Summit

Standing on the highest point of anything else around you is an amazing feeling.  The air has a distinct feel to it, the sounds are different and the view is breathtaking.  This is the reward for a hard hike or climb up to the top of a mountain.  As a family, we began reaching summits last summer when Ben and Liv were 8 and 6 years old.  Hiking and backpacking were established pursuits so the natural progression was to start going up.

There has been one peak on Vancouver Island, BC that has been on our adventure list of things to do for many years.  Mt. Arrowsmith.  Locals are familiar with the Mt. Arrowsmith's Massif being it is visible just north of Nanaimo, all the way to Port Alberni and north past Qualicum Beach.  The peak stands tall, made up of mostly basalt, a common extrusive igneous (volcanic) rock.  It is the tallest peak on Southern Vancouver Island, measuring 1819 m or 5968 feet tall, keeping in mind Vancouver Island is at ocean level. 

Weeks before we hiked to the summit of Mt. Arrowsmith as a family, I sat down with Liv, my 7 year old adventure girl, and talked about what it is like to summit a mountain. She had a lot to say about being a 7 year old who hikes to the top of mountains and even tried her hand at interviewing me.

Mom - Let's talk about Mt. Arrowsmith.

Liv - high squeal and smile on her face NO, no!

Mom - Why no?

Liv - Because it is going to be hard!

Taking in the route ahead.  Never said it would be easy.

Mom - It is?

Liv - Yes, it is the highest mountain.

Mom - It is the highest peak on Southern Vancouver Island, there are much higher mountains here and around the world. Is it hard because you are 7 years old?

Liv- Because I am the youngest, my little Livvy legs get tired and I don't have as much energy.

Almost there adventure girl, you can do it!

Mom - What do we do to get more energy for you while we hike?

Liv - Take breaks, eat food.  I like the apples and treats we bring.  And drink lots of water.

Mom - Tell me what you feel when you reach the summit?

Liv - Shouldn't you be asking me this when we climb to the top of a mountain so I know what it feels like?

Mom - Probably. But we have hiked to mountain tops before.  Close your eyes and remember what it feels like. 

Liv - pauses with eyes closed OK. I am tired. I feel big because I am high up.  There is wind and I am cold.

She was right, it was windy.

Mom - What do you enjoy most about being on the top of the mountain.

Liv - I enjoy getting to the top.  It's pretty and beautiful. 

Adventure girl taking in the view from the top of Mt. Arrowsmith

Mom - Are you looking forward to hiking to the top of Mt. Arrowsmith?

Liv - Kind of. I am going to like it when I am at the top but it is going to be hard to get there.  Can I ask you some questions?

Mom - Sure.

Liv - Are you excited and looking forward to hiking up Mt. Arrowsmith?

Mom - I am! It has been on the list of things to do for about 5 years.  We attempted it once, when you were 2, but never made it all the way up.

Liv - Is it going to be hard for you?

Mom - Some parts are going to be hard but not the hardest thing I have ever done.


Liv - What do you enjoy most once at the top?

Mom - Same as you, feeling of being big only thing I feel small.

Liv - Why?

Mom - When standing on top of a mountain, I look around and the trees, the ocean, the mountains far off in the distance look smaller than they look from the road or when I am beside these things.  So then I feel like a tiny speck of dust in this huge place we call earth.  And I am so happy to have a micro dust, point at Liv, standing beside me because together we are big.

Liv - Aren't you super duper happy that you have more than just one speck of dust beside you?

Mom - Are you referring to you, Ben and Dad?

Liv - Shakes head yes

Mom - You bet! Together we are a giant speck of dust and there is no other dust I would rather be with.

4 specks of dust, jumping for joy

KEEN gear used:

Ben wore his Chandler CNX hiking shoes
Joel wore the Marshall hiking shoe.
First time worn, Jill had on her Gypsum hiking shoe.
And Liv was wearing the Chandler CNX.  It is lightweight, has breathable lining, and great traction for the terrain we hiked on. 

She's only 7 years old but she has big shoes to fill. #followyourfeet KEEN Canada

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Enhance your child's learning with Outdoor Education

British Columbia is in the midst of a full scale teacher strike that began June 17, 2014.  This meant an abrupt end to school in June and no back to school yet for kids in BC Public schools.  So many parents, me included, are coping with the situation and are doing our best to offer some education to our children as we wait for a settlement to be reached.  Having children at the primary school age makes it a bit more manageable for me.  No provincial exams to worry about, no concern over credits earned, and no calculus to teach.  I will leave that to the professionals.  What I am able to offer my children is a “classroom” style learning I know well. Outdoor Education. 

Outdoor education by definition is learning that takes place outdoors.  I have said numerous times and is a favorite quote of mine, “Nature is the largest classroom you or your child will ever experience.”  So many times I have seen Ben and Liv learn and grow through our outdoor experiences, and not just physically.  The outdoors offer a wealth of education; science, social studies, english and math. The best part is, the learning is fun and exciting! 

Any outdoor experience has the ability to offer education. It could be a hike in a forest, a weekend camping trip, or a stroll through your local park.  My story involves biking on an island that is a marine provincial park but the location and activity can easily be replaced with your activity of choice in an area close to you.  Every place has history.  Seeing new images ignites imagination and creativity.  The ground we walk on is science; natural or man-made.  And you say you're not a math person? Chances are you had to obey speed limits, purchase something or check the time during said outdoor adventure.  Basic math at work. 

Outdoor Education - Newcastle Island

Newcastle Island, located in the Nanaimo Harbour, is accessible by foot passenger ferry or by your own watercraft of choice.  Once on Newcastle Island, a marine provincial park, visitors have over 22 km of trails to explore by foot or bike, beaches around every corner, campsites, picnic areas and endless nature.  We chose to bike on Newcastle Island and it was easy to transport the bikes onboard the Nanaimo Harbour Ferry.  

All Aboard!

Clearly physical education was going to play a large role throughout the day but we were here to learn! (Actually, having fun was the goal.)

Social Studies: Before European discovery, the Snuneymuxw First Nation inhabited the island, primarily from January to April, to easily access the herring that spawned in the area.  In August, they would return to the island and catch salmon and shellfish.  

The island was named after a mining town in England, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, by the British once coal was discovered in 1849 on the island and around Nanaimo.  The coal discovery alone holds many historical stories, one being a gas explosion that claimed the lives of three miners and the tunnels that connect Newcastle to Protection Island and Gabriola Island.  In 1869, sandstone and pulp stone quarries replaced coal mining. The sandstone was a highly sought after building material.  

Then in 1920, herring salteries were the main activity on Newcastle, until four of them burnt down.  In 1931, the island was purchased and used by Canadian Pacific Steamship Co. as a pleasure resort until WWII created a decline in ships available and a decline in the islands popularity resulted.  Quite the variety of historical moments on an island that is 306 hectares in size.  The most interesting story, and one the kids seemed to be most interested in was the story of Peter Kakua.  

The past has some interesting stories.

Science: We already learned that Newcastle Island has plenty of sandstone, which crosses over nicely from social studies to science.  So many natural resources, rock and fish, on one little island.  There is a wide range of diverse habitats on Newcastle Island.  Ocean, forest and lakes all come into play on Newcastle.  Having the fresh water from Mallard Lake is what allowed so many different people to inhabit the island.  The lake provided a source of water.  Today it is a wildlife sanctuary and it is beautiful.  

In the few hours we were on Newcastle Island we saw racoons, a pileated woodpecker, shorebirds, and waterfowl.  Beach-combing added many more species to the list.  Crabs, seagulls, jellyfish, barnacles, and sculpins just to name a few.

Hands on learning with the jellyfish

English: Being a provincial park, Newcastle has plenty of interpretive signs, information notices, trail signs and maps throughout.  It starts with the welcome to Newcastle Island sign.  (Kids noted “Is” on the sign, short for Island.) 

Our visit to Newcastle Island was with friends and between the two families, several of us had been to the island before.  Memories of past visits were sparked with familiar sights which was followed by storytelling.  New stories were developing. 

Math: The ferry boat holds 12 passengers.  There were seven in our group.  How many more passengers could hop on-board? Seven bikes plus seven people equals? Pretty easy to work math into any situation.  Trail maps are great opportunities to use math skills.  

Adding up the total distance between two points or a cumulative distance total of trails used was a neat interactive way to engage the kids.  Perfect for primary aged kids. 

The learning aspect of the day was subtle. A little bit of information here and there in amongst the sunshine, the trail riding, and taking in the beautiful views.  After writing down everything, I was surprised with what we all learned.  It certainly does not replace the education that kids receive in school but it does enhance their learning opportunities.  And because of that, I will never leave the outdoor classroom!

Riding the bus back home

Shots of the Day

For more photos of Newcastle Island, please view the entire photo album on Facebook - Newcastle Island, BC

Monday, September 8, 2014

Raptor, River, Hike, and Paddle – a personalized Vancouver Island 3 day tour

When you live on an island that is known for its adventure, natural beauty and tourism, you learn to become a tour guide when friends and family visit.  I am always more than happy to accommodate my local “tour” based on what my guests are interested in.  I was beyond excited when a special guest, returning for the second time, emailed me about her summer plans to visit Canada, specifically the Vancouver area and Vancouver Island.  This meant I could create a personalized tour of our favorite places to adventure knowing the special guest would fit in perfectly. 

My family and I first met Anna (name changed for reading ease) in January 2013.  Anna, 14 years old at the time, who is from Germany, was on a 3 month student exchange program in Vancouver, BC.  She is also a distant cousin on my husband’s side and thanks to my mother in law and Anna’s grandmother for keeping in touch over the years, we were volunteered to have Anna spend a weekend with us.  We agreed.  I will admit I had no idea what to expect from a 14 year old German girl, who we knew nothing about.  What I can say about her now is she blew us all away with her maturity, intelligence, innocence, and bravery.  In the few short days that we spent with Anna back in 2013, we experienced wonderful adventures together that allowed us to break down the language and country barriers.  I felt my passion for places already explored reignite just by watching Anna’s face light up as she stood on the edge of the North American continent and looked out on the open Pacific Ocean for the first time.   

We took her deep down into a cave and Ben and Liv had a chance to show Anna the nooks and crannies they love so much.  The best was watching Anna’s expressions and complete disbelief that Joel was making soup with our backpacking stove as we sat in an ancient giant forest.  I know exactly what it is like to experience these feelings all for the first time and it is every bit as powerful watching someone else experience it as well.

Anna is now a 16 year old young lady.  She is very much like the last time we visited but much more outgoing and confident.  I still am in awe at her knowledge of history, politics and culture and am pretty sure I learned more from her visit than she did.  One thing is for sure, we had great adventures!  This time I wanted to show Anna how diverse nature and the natural spaces are on Vancouver Island, aside from the usual coastal scenery and orca watching.  The three day "personalized" tour for Anna, "Raptor, River, Hike and Paddle", involved swimming in all three different sources of water on Vancouver Island, up-close encounters with raptors and other flying creatures, an alpine hike with a mountain view to finish, and another first time experience for her – kayaking. 
First up was Raptors.  Many raptors call Vancouver Island home and there is a great facility near Duncan, BC called the The Pacific Northwest Raptor Centre, a birds of prey attraction that educates and allows visitors to discover eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, and vultures through flight demonstrations, personal interaction, and educational courses.  I have visited the Raptor Centre before, with Ben and Liv, and have been itching to take someone there.  Anna was the obvious choice and to make it even more special, we did a Hawk Walk and had an opportunity to get real close to Anakin, a Harris Hawk.  I highly recommend visiting the Raptor Centre, if ever the chance.  

Part of our regular summer schedule on Vancouver Island is beating the heat with water while avoiding the crowded beaches.  For us, the Nanaimo River is the place to go.  Unless you’re a local, not many know about the different spots along the river that are perfect for those lazy days of summer.  The scenery is spectacular, water cool, crisp, and fresh, and often are quiet places to escape to.  After our morning with the raptors, we headed to our favorite swimming hole on the Nanaimo River for a late afternoon/supper swim.  She and the kids had fun swimming, catching crayfish, and floating down the mini rapids.  For Anna, this was special.  There are no rivers in Germany for her to swim in and the lakes are so cold that it usually is a quick in and out swim.

Originally I had wanted to take Anna on a backpack trip.  Unfortunately the timing did not work out (next time). Instead, I took her hiking in Strathcona Park, to Lake Helen McKenzie, where she could see what some of our back-country camp sites look like.  This short loop is a great day hike and offers guests with plenty of flora, fauna, and vistas.  It offers a bit of everything if time is not on your side.  A day hike here gave Anna another swimming experience, in Battleship Lake, an alpine hike with types of trees she had not seen before and some more encounters of the friendly flying kind.  Bonus was a helicopter encounter, a quick chairlift ride up Mt. Washington, and an opportunity to build an Inuksuk.  Does not get any more Canadian than that!

On Anna's last visit, we took her caving, which was a first for her.  This time I wanted to give her that same experience and was happy to hear that she had never kayaked before.  As if routine, Anna, Ben, Liv and I packed up for the day and headed to Ladysmith Harbour and went to see my friends at Sealegs Kayaking.  The Ladysmith Harbour is a great place to take first time kayakers.  The water is usually calm and there is plenty of ocean to explore.   

Anna was a pro in the kayak and again I got to watch her face light up as she enjoyed the beautiful setting we were in.  Together we all marveled at the ocean's bottom when it came into sight, we paddled towards cormorants, came across a huge jelly fish, and on shore we flipped rocks over in search of shorecrabs.  We ended our ocean adventure with a quick swim marking Anna’s first ocean swim! 

I know Anna had an amazing outdoor experience with us.  The truth is, I did too! I love showing off Vancouver Island and taking people to unique locations outside of the regular tourist hotspots.  Places that are routine for me to explore become new again and like I mentioned before, watching someone fall in love with Vancouver Island is every bit as special as falling in love with it myself. Next year the roles will be reversed when we visit Anna in Germany.  I can’t wait to fall in love with Germany!
ps - When I grow up, I want to be an outdoor adventure tour guide.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Trails. Bike. Cumberland, BC . A KEEN Adventure.

I am proud and honored to become the newest KEEN Canada Ambassador and wanted to celebrate in a special way.  It had to include Vancouver Island’s stunning outdoor landscapes.  It had to involve exploring somewhere new and get a feel for the area.  Of course it had to incorporate an adventurous outdoor activity.  And last, but not least, it had to include the whole OTBP crew because, even though I bear the KEEN Ambassador hat, I am only a quarter of the pie.  It takes all four of us to create inspiring adventures and do what we do.  We are a KEEN Canada family.

Someone must have known we were coming.  Driftwood KEEN graffiti on beach.

If I had to describe Cumberland, BC to you in three words it would be: Mountain. Bike. Trails.  Don’t get me wrong, there is more to Cumberland than just mountain biking.  Cumberland is chalked full of coal mining history, dating back to 1888 that included workers from Europe, Japan, and China, it is tucked away and nestled in the foothills of the Beaufort Range which means plenty of hiking and trail running.  It is close proximity to Mt Washington and other snow-capped mountains making access to all your winter activities easy, and has a community of like-minded people who are passionate about outdoor recreation, preservation, and creating a vibrant community.  Still, mountain biking and the trails in Cumberland really make it a special and unique place to adventure and explore thanks in great part to the Cumberland Community Forest Society. Time for the OTBP crew to finally ride the trails together and celebrate the adventures we are so fortunate to have.  (Joel and I have had the pleasure (?) of riding select Cumberland trails while competing in the best adventure race out there, MOMAR.  Finally, I get to enjoy it!)

Before I get into telling about our story, you must read about the story of the fabulous trail builders that make Cumberland what it is.  Trail Blazers - River Rats  Pretty cool story and I had the pleasure of meeting Terry (a River Rat) a few months back at a Vancouver Island Trails Conference.  This guy loves what he does!

Our Cumberland mountain bike adventure began on a Monday morning which was perfect for us.  We enjoyed a leisurely morning breakfast, finished loading up the gear and bikes, then began the hour or so drive to Cumberland, BC, in the beautiful Comox Valley.   It was looking to be another hot and sunny day and chances are the trails would be less busy than the weekend.  Ride on!

First stop in Cumberland was Dodge City Cycles to pick up a map of the trails that the Comox Valley Mt. Bike club produces.  Of course, this quick stop lead to browsing the show floor and picking up a few last minute items.  Shopping locally and supporting the businesses in the area we adventure in has always been a priority for us.  With this in mind, I quickly ran across the street and checked out The Big Patch Store, a unique, vintage and retro clothing store.  Must go back!

You know this is a biking town when the village’s recreation centre parking lot is full of vehicles with empty bike racks.  We happily added our vehicle to the lot and headed up the main logging road past the community forest enroute to our trails of choice.  The trails we were riding were all intermediate trails, perfect for our group but for one member of the OTBP crew, this was monumental.  Riding on her new 24 inch wheels, Liv can finally pedal up the hills and navigate the downhill single track like a pro.  She loves the trigger shift.  Proof that mountain biking can be a family activity and I have no doubt there are families in Cumberland who do the same.

Liv riding on Missing Link

Cumberland trails treated us well this day.  Ben challenged some lengthy boardwalk structures beautifully.  Joel and Ben got to ride with some speed together, which was pretty special.  Liv, even in the extreme heat, kept going and rode more trail than expected, thanks to her new bike and even I went over some rocks that normally would have had me jump off and drag the bike over.  Our trails of choice were EnTrails, Shaker, Missing Link and Mama Bear. It was the perfect mix of trails for us.

Ben rode the entire log bridge like a pro

Time for some lunch! Normally, I would have a lunch and plenty of snack packed for a day of adventure but today we opted to experience Cumberland’s local food establishments and try one out.  Support local business. No lacking in choice of local eateries, I counted about 10 different places.  In past adventures, we have enjoyed yummy food from Tarbell’s Deli and Cumberland Village Bakery and this time we gave the Wandering Moose CafĂ© a try.  It did not disappoint.  Great service, beautiful historic building (1907 Post Office) and fresh homemade soups, salads and sandwiches.  It was the perfect place to cool off, fuel our bodies, and reminisce about the day’s ride.  Ben used the word “epic” quite a bit. 

Cheers! To an epic day of riding.
I knew that this day was gonna be a hot one.  For weeks Vancouver Island has been stuck at around the +27C mark.  No way were we going to ride all day and suffer without jumping into some body of water.  So I planned for just that.  After lunch, we did a quick gear swap at the vehicle.  Exchanged riding shoes for sandals, camel-back for day-packs, and shorts for swim suits. Comox Lake is a stone throws away from Cumberland, by road or trail, this is biking country after all.  Via Mama Bear and then the Collier Line (a possible route for the Spine Trail), we rode on trails to a semi quiet lake access spot and enjoyed the fruits of our labour with a cool and refreshing swim. Perfect end to a prefect KEEN family adventure.

Check out more photos on our flickr album - Trails. Bike. Cumberland, BC.

KEEN gear used:
Joel and I opted to swap footwear prior to riding to the lake.  Venice H2 & Clearwater CNX
Ben and Liv grabbed the KEEN Frisbee

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Misadventures of Judge's Route - Mt. Arrowsmith Vancouver Island, BC

Hard to believe that it has been almost 5 years since the last time we tried to summit Mt. Arrowsmith.  Ben would have been 4 years old and Liv was 2.  We have since hiked to many summits on Vancouver Island, waiting for the right time to go back and finish what we started on Mt. Arrowsmith.  In fact, plans were to get back to Mt. Arrowsmith, three days from now, only to find out that the forestry companies have restricted access to many backcountry playgrounds due to the high fire rating.  So, Mt. Arrowsmith will have to wait to meet us another time and I will find some other adventure to take its place.

I did write an article about our adventure to Mt. Arrowsmith, way back in 2009.  I went with a creative writing style to tell the story, very different from my normal writing.  So much has changed since 2009 but one thing has stayed the same.  Joel still is our pack mule.

 *** A BLAST FROM THE PAST *** Dec/Jan 2010 article published in Take 5 Magazine 

He stands tall over the landscape, the sun proudly displaying his golden stature and white covered tips.  He calls out to adventurers and invites them up to enjoy the view.  Mt Arrowsmith is his name and he called out to me one day.  I accepted the invitation, provided I could bring a few friends. 

Mr. A is well set up for visitors.  He boasts a height of 1817 m, covers 1300 sq hectares and yet, surprisingly, is easily accessible year round.  There are three approaches to Mr. A’s massif; Saddle Pass, Rosseau’s Route and Judge’s Route.  I had informed the kind man of the small friends joining me and he recommended the Judge’s Route.  “That way, you need not worry about ropes” he said.  “It’s worth the climb, but do take caution as it is a tad steep!”  I thanked him for his advice and began to prepare for our visit.  Always bring offerings of food when visiting friends my mother used to say. 

When we arrived at Judge’s Route, Mr. A’s choice of trails was a bit questionable.  Standing before the Judge required tilting my head completely back in order to see the path.  As we proceeded along, you could simply reach out and touch the ground at shoulder height.  My small friends managed quite easily, a crawling-type technique that I was soon attempting.   Resourceful little ones they are.  A bit of time passed and my bigger friends and I contemplated calling up to Mr. A to let him know that we may not make it after all.  Mr. A responded with an inspiring stretch of second growth forest and, with the warm sun beating down on us, we instantly voted to continue on.  Mr. A had done such a wonderful job displaying the hemlock and alpine zones, turning back would simply be rude.

We climbed steadily upward until the air suddenly changed. The sun was still rewarding us with its rays but the warmth was no longer felt.  The chill was an unwelcome distraction from the beauty that surrounded us.  The Wind gently descended upon us whispering that Mr. A had to leave unexpectedly.  His sister, Mt. Cokely, had started throwing snow upon Mr. A’s eastern slope and that nonsense needed to stop immediately.  “Please feel free to explore the neighborhood,” the wind whistled, “and do come back again real soon.  Mr. A would love you to visit and hear of your adventure to the peak.”

We thanked the wind and retreated back to explore the biosphere reserve surrounding Mt. Arrowsmith.  The views were amazing.  West to the Port Alberni inlet, McKenzie and Beaufort mountain ranges and east to the Strait of Georgia and the Coastal range.  Blend in Western and Mountain hemlock, Yellow and Red cedar with Douglas fir to create a picturesque scene with basalt rock as the canvas.  Very nice indeed.

I look forward to meeting Mr. A one day.  He treated us to a fine sunny afternoon and I must repay him with an offering of food, delivered to his doorstep of course.

How to get there

If you are traveling from the West Coast, drive through Port Alberni heading towards Parksville. Turn right at the turn-off to mt Arrowsmith Ski Hill.  From the East side of Vancouver Island, travel West along Highway 4# towards Port Alberni and turn left at the turn-off to Mt Arrowsmith. From here drive down a logging road for 3kms. At the T intersection turn left, drive for approx.10 kms, cross Cameron River and take the next main turn to your left. The road will now start heading up at good grade, with lots of wash board. Drive for about 3kms, or count the roads, you want the fifth road on your right and you should see some flagging tape of assort. colors.  This is the trailhead for Judge's Route. You can drive up the road and park on the left side.  If you own a 4X4, there is parking about 30 meters up the very rough road that marks the trailhead.   There are three trails up to the top or close to the top of Mt. Arrowsmith.  Judges Route, Saddle Pass, and Rosseau Route.  Do your research, go prepared and enjoy!