Birkenhead Lake

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Birkenhead Lake

Last August, me and two of my girlfriends went camping at Birkenhead Lake for four days. It was stunningly gorgeous and has now taken the top spot as my favourite campground that I’ve experienced thus far.

We were lucky in that we were all able to take time off work to go during the week. I don’t know how busy it gets there on weekends, but it was really quiet while we were there, especially considering how amazing the weather was that week.

On our first day we went down to the lake for a swim and it was really cold! Thankfully we later discovered that we’d been swimming right by where a glacier fed creek runs into the lake. After that we moved further down the beach and it was perfect – and I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to cold water!

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Birkenhead Lake

On our last full day there we decided to go for a little hike and found a path along the edge of the lake. It was absolutely beautiful, and as a bonus, we discovered a private little beach along the path. Next time I go there, I want to pack some food and drinks and head there for the afternoon.

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We found this spot on our hike and thought it was good for a photo op.

After four days of my favourite things – sunshine, lake floating and swimming, camping, and quality time with great friends – we headed home (stopping for brunch of course). I plan to go again this summer and hope to write an even more detailed post about it then.

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This was day one of camping, which you can tell by the condition of my hair. Yours truly on the left and my buddies behind me.

In terms of facilities and logistics – it is not quick to get to, and is down some long dirt roads – but totally worth it. They have outhouses, water pumps and bear proof garbage cans. The rangers are quite adamant about not leaving food and garbage out at your campsite. There are bears in the area, so you must be bear aware and take the necessary precautions. That being said, the biggest animal we came across was the deer that walked through our site. Speaking of sites, I liked the ones here because they are not too close together and are reasonably private. If you have the opportunity to camp here, I highly recommend it. Click the title of this post to go to the park’s site.

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Evening at Birkenhead Lake
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Aldergrove Lake Regional Park

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Enjoying some sunshine at Aldergrove Lake Regional Park.

Last Saturday we did some easy hiking at Aldergrove Lake Regional Park. There are a few trails so you can do a short hike or join up with other trails to make it a bit longer. There were some slight inclines but it is more of a walk than a hike.

Scott was fighting a bit of a cold so we wanted to take it easy but still get some outdoor time and movement in. I had never been to this spot before. It was a lovely spot for a walk without having to drive  too far (Scott lives in Surrey).

I got a Fitbit Flex a few days ago, and so far I am loving it! It’s definitely helping me be more aware of how much activity I’m getting in during my work days, and motivates me to do things like get off the bus a stop early. I’ll post more about it once I’ve had it for a while.

I should say that I realize how lucky I am to live somewhere where I can be outside in January dressed like I am in the picture above – warm walking boots, thick leggings, a long sleeved base layer and a light jacket. I started with a toque and gloves as well, but shed them pretty soon after going up a couple of hills.

I hope you are all doing well and getting outside when you can despite winter temperatures!

5 Beautiful Days on Pender Island

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I got to spend five beautiful days on Pender Island, BC with my boyfriend Scott, thanks to his parents who let us use their “cottage” (two bedroom, two bathroom, gas fireplace…not exactly roughing it).

We arrived on the afternoon of December 31st and rang in the New Year together at the cottage. Then we spent the next 3 sunny days exploring the island. Starting the year off exploring nature and enjoying beautiful views with my favourite person was pretty much the best way to kick off 2016.

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Me and my favourite guy out exploring.

There are lots of  roads and trails you can follow and find your way to little beaches and pretty views.

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One of the things that really stood out to me was the fact that Pender Island has so many Arbutus trees! I absolutely love these coastal trees that are native to British Columbia. Read all about them here!

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Arbutus trees
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The gorgeous red peeling bark of a large Arbutus tree.

We also checked out a short hike in the “Enchanted Forest”. While it had some decent views at one end, as well as the Arbutus trees pictures above, it was definitely one of the less spectacular places we went. When I had searched online about hiking on Pender, one of the first sites I came across described the Enchanted Forest as confusing, easy to get lost in, and suggested that one should allot a fair amount of time to it. We did not find it in the least bit confusing and it is pretty close to the road and meets up with it in a few spots so I think it would be pretty hard to get lost if you have any familiarity with hiking or being in the woods at all. It also only took us about 45 minutes to go to both ends, including stops for picture taking. And while it didn’t have the level of breath taking views as some of the other spots we went, it was still a lovely walk.

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Enchanted Forest Park entrance, Pender Island

My favourite place that we discovered was Gowlland Point. We found it just driving around exploring. We drove to the end of a road and saw the ocean, so we walked down to it and were amazed by the long stretches of gorgeous beach with stunning views.

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Gowlland Point, Pender Island, BC
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Gowlland Point, Pender Island, BC
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Gowlland Point trees.
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Gowlland Point, Pender Island, with Mount Baker faintly visible in the background.

It rained on the last night, but we were already back inside, warm and cozy by the fire. On day five we had a leisurely morning, and then packed up and headed home…and for me, back to work after three weeks off! It was a wonderful trip. Pender Island is beautiful, so if you get the chance to check it out, you should! And if you are looking for some yummy pub food check out the Port Browning Pub!

Happy New Year to all of you! I hope 2016 treats you well and is filled with adventures, good health and happiness.

Gear Review: MEC Aquilina Sleeping Bag

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MEC Aquilina Women’s Sleeping Bag (Photo from MEC.ca)

MEC Aquilina Sleeping Bag: After much research and going back and forth as to down vs synthetic (in the damp environment that is the West Coast of BC), I landed on this sleeping bag. I had never had a down bag or a mummy style bag before, but after spending the past several years freezing in the sleeping bag my Dad got me when I was a kid – I knew it was time for an upgrade.

I am SO GLAD I forked out the cash for this! Don’t get me wrong, it is a very reasonably priced sleeping bag for what you get, but I’m on a budget so this was quite a splurge for me. Especially considering I also needed to replace my sleeping pad and tent!

I have now used this bag on two camping trips. One was during a cool and very rainy weekend and one was during a hot and sunny summer weekend. I stayed cozy and warm on both trips (5 nights between the two) which is saying something as I am a naturally cold person and am used to waking up shivering even during summer camping trips. During the hotter trip I just unzipped it a bit when I got warm (it is rated to -7C). During the cold rainy trip I was snug as a bug!

I was a bit concerned about the down getting damp during the crazy downpour night and soggy weekend, but it didn’t get moist at all! The outer shell has a DWR finish on it to protect from dampness and it certainly worked.

I also found it quite comfortable. It fluffs up nicely after being stuffed in a drybag (which I purchased separately – see pic below), and I found it roomy enough for me even though I was used to a barrel sleeping bag.

It has a neck yolk to prevent drafts and a handy little pocket inside as well.

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MEC Aquilina Women’s Sleeping Bag (Photo from MEC.ca)

 

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Outdoor Research Drybag (Photo from MEC.ca)

And, the girly part of me LOVES the colours! I feel like a caterpillar in it!

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Pretending to be a caterpillar.

Overall, with this bag, I am a very happy camper (literally!)

As a side note: I apologize for the lack of hiking posts over the past month and a bit. I had a flu, then was away for a weekend, then I got a cold and bronchitis and now I have a minor foot injury. Sometimes life gets in the way but I will be back at it as soon as I can. I can’t stay away from nature for too long or I start to go a little buggy!

Overflowing Buntzen Lake

Buntzen Lake Loop is one of my favourite easy hikes. It’s long enough to get a decent workout, but it’s not steep or too challenging if I want to bring along a friend who is new to hiking. And most importantly to me, it’s gorgeous no matter what the weather is doing. In fact, I like it best when it’s cloudy because you get awesome sights like this:

View from the far beach.
View from the far beach.

When we were driving into the parking lot there were signs warning that the lake’s water level was really high and that some sections of the trail may be closed. We decided to chance it anyway, and luckily, the trail was open the whole way around. There were a few “Hazardous Tree” warning signs along the way, but that was it. However, it was quite something to see how high the water level was compared to usual, so I thought I’d whip up this post to share some pictures with you. My thoughts around the high water levels are that the ground became very dry during our drought, and then when we got that heavy dump of rain, the ground was unable to absorb it so it just flowed down the mountains into the lake.

Check it out!

The main beach.
The main beach.
The far beach - I couldn't even get to the dock I like to take my pictures from!
The far beach – I couldn’t even get to the dock I like to take my pictures from!
Luckily it didn't get high enough for the tables to float away!
Luckily it didn’t get high enough for the tables to float away!

Fall is in the air and the cooler temperatures are ideal for hiking – and there are less bugs! As always, I urge you to get out into nature – it’s good for your health, your stress levels, and your soul!

Keeping busy, having fun.

Hello everyone!

I owe you a few posts! I went camping at Birkenhead Lake which was amazing! So I will do post about that soon.  I also owe you a couple of gear reviews (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad).

Life has been very busy lately, but very good.

I’ve got to sort through some photos, and then I will get to posting!

In the meantime, here are a couple of pictures from this past long weekend:

Horseshoe Bay. One of my favourite places for a quick walk or bite to eat.
Horseshoe Bay. One of my favourite places for a quick walk or bite to eat.
Enjoying the sunshine and views at Whytecliffe Park in West Vancouver.
Enjoying the sunshine and views at Whytecliffe Park in West Vancouver.
Me and Scott - the best thing keeping me busy lately!
Me and Scott – the best thing keeping me busy lately!

Camping at Harrison Hot Springs

This weekend I went camping for the first time this year. One of my friends was coming up from Seattle and had a bus to catch on Sunday afternoon so we wanted to go somewhere close. We managed to get a rather short notice reservation at Harrison Springs Camping and RV Park. I will post a brief review of this campsite at the end of the post.

Three of us ladies, all seasoned campers, arrived at the campsite on Friday afternoon. It was raining lightly so we set up a tarp and our tents as soon as we got there. It’s a good thing we did because shortly after it started to pour rain, and I mean HARD. I really didn’t think a rain that hard would last very long, but it kept pouring like that all evening and all through the night. We rented a propane ring “fire” to help keep us warm and we huddled under the tarp for several hours.

Tarp set-up before the heavy rains kicked in.
Tarp set-up before the heavy rains kicked in.
Keeping warm around the fire in our funky leggings (left and centre are from sweetlegs.ca and right are from Target).
Keeping warm around the fire in our funky leggings (left and centre are from sweetlegs.ca and right are from Target).

Thankfully I bought my new Eureka Basecamp 4 tent a few weeks ago which kept us totally dry through the all-night downpour. My old tent would have had us floating away. My friend’s tent leaked so she came into my tent as well and it was comfy having all three of us plus some gear in there. I will do a full review of the tent in another post.

My new Eureka Basecamp 4 tent.
My new Eureka Basecamp 4 tent.

Luckily on Saturday the rain stopped and we were able to dry out a little bit. We went into Harrison and spent some time soaking at the Hot Springs pool. After that we had a patio lunch at a nearby pub. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of it. The food was pretty standard pub fare and we had this view of the Dragon Boat race tents:

Patio view of the Dragon Races tents.
Patio view of the Dragon Races tents.

We walked around the town a bit taking in the sites and then we went back to camp. We had planned to do some lake floating but it wasn’t quite warm enough. Saturday’s dinner consisted of bread home made by one of the friends, salad and bolognese pasta made by my other friend. Not bad!

Camp dinner

The campsite had a lot of ducks living there and we would frequently get visitors to help us “clean up” any dropped food.

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Camp ducks

We had brought a bunch of things for entertainment (Bocce ball, Cards Against Humanity, a crib board) but we ended up just chatting the whole time. We don’t get to see each other often so we had lots to chat about! We had a great time.

Happy Campers.
Happy Campers.

Luckily by the time we had to pack up camp on Sunday most of our stuff was dry. Packing up wet tents and tarps is a nasty job so I was pretty happy about that. And we did it just in time too – it started to pour again on the drive home.

Rainy drive home.
Rainy drive home.

It was so nice to get to spend some quality time with my friends outside, despite the horrible weather on Friday night. I was very glad that I decided to bring my waterproof trail shoes at the last minute! Having the right gear makes all the difference.

Review of Harrison Springs Camping and RV Park:

Pros:

  • hot and cold water available as well as a couple of sinks for doing dishes
  • full bathrooms that were kept clean and had free hot showers
  • close to the town
  • friendly host
  • you could rent propane fire rings which are allowed even during a fire ban
  • ducks (some would list this as a con but I thought they were cute and provided comic relief)

Cons:

  • a bit more expensive than a lot of other campgrounds
  • many of the sites were tiny, and some were very much on display to all the campers walking past
  • the sites are very close together so there isn’t a lot of privacy and neighbour’s noise can be a problem at night (we got one of the few sites that was pretty large and set back from the road – site #36 if you ever want to make a reservation there). Most people were pretty quiet at night be we did have noisy neighbours the second night.
  • the propane rings were $40/night, and on the second night our propane ran out at 10pm and the office was closed so we weren’t able to get a new tank.