All posts by maggiemwoo

Kayaking on Westcoast Vancouver Island

Well, when I started this blog, this wasn’t the trip we had in mind. Our goal was to paddle all around Vancouver Island this summer but as fate would have it, our plans changed. Instead, we did some hiking on the wild Nootka Island trail while Bryan’s broken hand healed up a bit and then did a month of leisurely kayaking in Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We checked out remote beaches, relaxed in hotsprings, fished for our dinner and cooked up delicious meals over a small campfire. We took our kayaks up river and down the long exposed coastline between Tofino and Ucluelet. We explored the labyrinthine of islands in the Broken Group and high tailed it back to Ucluelet before the full force of what apparently was one of the worst storms in a decade. I thought the climax of the trip was making the run from Ahous Bay on Vargas Island to Ucluelet, completely exposed, but paddling in the vanguard winds of the storm beat it with a bang. It has been a pretty incredible summer and an amazing end of our two year long honeymoon. A quick shout-out to our wonderful and understanding sponsors: Princeton Tec, Wildcoast Publishing and Tilley Vancouver : THANK YOU!

Hidden gem: Calm paddling in the super tranquil Sulphur Passage behind Obstruction Island. The water is so calm that it perfectly reflects the sky and mountains like a mirror. To top it off, none of the busy tour boats comes back here...in fact, not many kayakers either. We saw no body in our whole time in the passage
Hidden gem: Calm paddling in the super tranquil Sulphur Passage behind Obstruction Island. The water is so calm that it perfectly reflects the sky and mountains like a mirror. To top it off, none of the busy tour boats comes back here…in fact, not many kayakers either. We saw no body in our whole time in the passage
After waiting 3 days for the gale force winds settle down so we could paddle the outside of Flores Islands, we decided to head on the inside instead. I was a little sad at first because the outside of Flores Island is known for grey whales but instead, we were blessed with paddling for two hours with a pod of transient orca whales also heading down the inside!
After waiting 3 days for the gale force winds settle down so we could paddle the outside of Flores Islands, we decided to head on the inside instead. I was a little sad at first because the outside of Flores Island is known for grey whales but instead, we were blessed with paddling for two hours with a pod of transient orca whales also heading down the inside!
The long exposed coastline between Tofino and Ucluelet. This is a calm day out here with gentle rolling ocean swell.
The long exposed coastline between Tofino and Ucluelet. This is a calm day out here with gentle rolling ocean swell.
Gorgeous paddling in the Broken Group
Gorgeous paddling in the Broken Group
Feeling thankful and really appreciating these islands by Ucluelet that gave us a bit of protected water. This was the first time we could stop and relax a bit after two hours of hard paddling over about 14km of stormy open waters from the Broken Group
Feeling thankful and really appreciating these islands by Ucluelet that gave us a bit of protected water. This was the first time we could stop and relax a bit after two hours of hard paddling over about 14km of stormy open waters from the Broken Group
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A Weekend on the Sunshine Coast Trail

It was a mad rush out of the city as we winded through a Friday evening’s traffic collecting our merry band of friends. When we were trapped in the gridlock on Hwy 1 with only a half hour before the ferry to the Sunshine Coast left, the forested trail seemed to be a distant dream. However, we made it onto the ferry with almost the ramp lifting and the ship departing just after our wheels rolled on to the deck. We were off!

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Bryan by an iconic arbutus tree of the southern Strait of Georgia coastline. Even in this small portion of the trail, we hiked through rugged coastline, a dense temperate forest that felt like another primeval world, a quiet bay full of marine life and a clearing through an old overgrown road that became a berry filled paradise!

The Sunshine Coast Trail is lesser known than the world renown West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island but honestly, it should be just as famous. Traversing lush temperate rainforests, arbutus lined coastline, gorgeous lakes and more, the Sunshine Coast Trail travels from Sarah Point at the tip of Malaspina Peninsula at the mouth of Desolation Sound all the way over mountains and around forested lakes to Saltery Bay.  This 180km trek and its canoe route counterpart is a testament to community spirit as it is completely developed by volunteers from all the trail signage, wonderful huts to negotiating with logging companies to save the forested areas around the trail. There are multiple start and exit points making for a variety of possibilities from day hikes to weekend escapes  to weeklong jaunts to the full haul of the whole trail. It is completely free to hike and includes amazing cabins/huts at scenic locations for hikers. We did about an 14km roundtrip hike from Saltery Bay to Fairview Bay.

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The ferry from Earl’s Cove to Saltery Bay arriving just after sunset

From Vancouver, it takes two ferries plus an 84km windy drive between them. We caught the 6:35 ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale arriving on the Sunshine Coast at 7:15pm. However, this is the lower Sunshine Coast and the trail is on the upper portion. The next ferry from Earl’s Cove to Saltery Bay left at 9:40pm so by the time we reached the trailhead, it was pitch black and close to 11pm! There is the large  Saltery Bay Provincial Campground nearby but after such a long time in the truck getting here, we were excited to get on the trail. It was a night hike with our headlamps as we shouldered our backpacks and started on the easy to follow trail. We were welcomed to the Sunshine Coast Trail by uphill grind named “The Escalator” where steep, tight switchbacks climbed through the forest for seemingly forever but was actually only about 1km. When we returned to the ocean on the other side of the hill, it was Pirate’s Cove where we could camp on the rocky headland. Pirate’s Cove is about 1/3 the distance to Fairview Bay.

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Camping on the rocky headlands at Pirate’s Cove. Pirate’s Cove is about 3km from Saltery Bay

The weather was overcast in the morning with mist wrapping around the mountains. We hiked a long the rocky arbutus lined coastline for awhile before joining with an old powerline access road. Alongside the road was so many berry bushes and all full of plump delicious fruit! There were thimbleberries, blueberries, salal berries and blackberries! Yum!

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A ‘berry’ delicious time!

After a short easy walk by the powerlines, we returned back into the undulating forested hills. With the local forest fires in the region, ash had fallen and dusted the many spiderwebs lacing between the underbrush. I had no idea until now just how many cobwebs there are in the forest! I guess it’s kind of a tough time for the spiders though being so visible!

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Ash covered cobwebs on the forest floor

We hiked up, we hiked down, we hiked up again and then down again and repeat. There were no climbs or descents that were very steep or long in distance but we were almost never flat! The trail went right along the cliff side with beautiful views of Jervis Inlet then cut across a headland and descended into Fairview Bay.

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Fairview Bay hut

Fairview Bay is a little slice of paradise. It, to me, is the quintessential definition of a hidden gem found off the beaten track. Set in a quiet bay full of oysters and mussels, dedicated volunteers have built a lovely cabin, outhouse, picnic tables and a fire pit. The cabin has a covered patio, enclosed hanging out area with a table, benches and lots of windows that look out into the gorgeous landscape. On top, there is a sleeping loft that fits 12 people.   The only way to get to Fairview Bay is either by boat or hiking in but once you arrive, you don’t want to leave!

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Fairview Bay
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It’s hard to leave!

That was kind of our story though  the rain also didn’t help motivate us to leave either. We are so happy about the rain because the forest really needs it. We live in a temperate rainforest and it is nice to have days after days of sunshine but at some point, the landscape begins to suffer. Though we were happy about the rain, we also weren’t too excited to hike in it, especially when we found such a nice place to hang out! We ate and played many fun rounds of cards in the afternoon. The rain continued non-stop through the day and night but stopped in the morning for our hike back to Saltery Bay.

We weren’t in a rush to get back so we had a leisurely morning at Fairview Bay. Bryan and Trouton dove for crabs and got four big ones! We boiled them up in salt water and ate them for breakfast. There is something amazing about seafood so fresh!

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Hiking through the lush temperate rainforest. It really felt like this other primeval world here like a dinosaur was lurking beyond the ferns. The forest looked so much happier after some rain.

We hiked back to Saltery Bay, continuing along the overgrown road by the powerline instead of going by Pirate’s Cove. The road is a more direct route and put us in berry paradise for longer. We are not the only ones enjoying the berries as we saw some bear poop on the trail as well!

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Berry picking on the overgrown road on the way back
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Berry blast!! A plump, juicy, sun ripened blackberry sandwiched between two lush thimbleberries

Overall, it was an amazing weekend with awesome friends. It was a great hike to get us warmed up for Nootka Island next week and we feel a lot more comfortable and confident in our hiking (and packing) abilities! It was great to find the little cabin at Fairview Bay, which was a lot nicer than expected. Our weekend here has inspired me to come back and do more hikes on the Sunshine Coast trail!

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Our merry band of hikers. From left to right: Bryan, Maggie (me!), Drew, Trouton and Laura

Check out more photos of the trip by checking out the gallery here!

Sunshine Coast Trail Photos

Some photos from hiking on the Sunshine Coast Trail last weekend. Read more about the trip at the post here

DIY Backcountry Meals – Dehydrated Chili Recipe

Chili is one of my favourite dehydrated meals while camping – it is hearty, delicious and easy to make! The ground beef has a lot of surface area so it dehydrates and rehydrates well. I just make a big pot in the slow-cooker, have it for dinner and then dehydrate the rest!

The tower of cans that went into this chili recipe
The tower of cans that went into this chili recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • Optional – 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (small) tomato paste
  • 1 can of sliced mushrooms (I really like it so I used 2)
  • 4 cans of beans (I usually use two black beans and 2 red kidney beans but you can really use any that you want… I’ve made chili abroad with lentils and chickpeas before!)
  • 1 can of corn (whole kernel, nibblets)
  • 2-3 tbsp chili powder  (Make your own Chili powder from scratch! – http://www.food.com/recipe/chili-powder-16892)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Extra spices to taste: salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, cayenne (all of these are actually in the homemade chili powder but you can add more of one or the other as you like)

Instructions:

  1. Open and pour all the cans into the slow cooker to start cooking.
  2. In a frying pan, Fry the ground beef and drain the fat. Draining the fat is super important dehydrating.
  3. Add the onions, garlic and the optional green pepper in the frying pan and saute to brown a little
  4. Add chili powder into the frying pan and cook for a few minutes to soak into the mixture
  5. Add frying pan mixture into the slow cooker. Add the salt and simmer about 4-6 hours.
  6. After the slow cooker has heated with everything in it for a couple hours, taste to see if you want to add more salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, cayanne or just more chili powder as you like

Dehydrating instructions: 

Spoon two scoops or so onto a dehydrating tray so that there is a very thin layer of chili. Set the dehyrator on high temperature/ meat setting if available.  Dehydrating times depend on your dehydrator but just make sure that there is absolutely no moisture before packing it away. I just put it into ziplock bags. You can store it in the fridge if keeping it for a long time.

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The Essence of Adventure: Revised Summer Plans

Today is two weeks from the date we were supposed to start our kayaking journey circumnavigating Vancouver Island by kayak. Instead, we went to the hospital this morning to get an x-ray for Bryan’s broken hand. Bryan is a survivor and a quick-healer and though his hand is still a little swollen, he’s doing much better. Not kayaking level of better yet but the healing process seems well on track.

Change is an opportunity so check out this teaser of what’s coming up this summer of good wholesome BC adventure!

Maps are interactive so click on the Satellite map setting (lower left hand corner of the map) and zoom right in to see the bays and beaches we’re going to stay at. Don’t forget to also click on the points to read the info about them!! For the Nootka Island trail, I have compiled all the info on the trail from various sites on the internet into one map! 

Sunshine Coast Trail – July 10 -12 – Saltery Bay Loop 

The Sunshine Coast Trail is an 180km long meander through the beautiful northern Sunshine Coast from Saltery Bay all the way to the tip of Malaspina Peninsula in Desolation Sound north of Lund. It is free, easily accessible with multiple entry and exit points and features hut-to-hut hiking. Amazingly dedicated volunteers have constructed huts for hikers to sleep in (though bringing a tent is recommended in the summer in case there are other hikers without tents!). We will be hiking the Saltery Loop in the south end, one of the newest parts of the trail. The 18km loop goes from Saltery Bay to Fairview Bay up to Rainy Day Lake and then back down to Saltery Bay past some viewpoints and waterfalls. This is going to be a practice run for the remote Nootka Island trail the following week. We have independently trekked in the Himalayas up to Everest Base Camp and summited Mt Kilimonjaro in Africa but hiking around with everything that we need for days with only our backpacks is something new*. On this hike, we hope to work out the kinks of packing while still relatively close to civilization.  Of course, anyone whose in the Lower Mainland right now living in the haze of smoke cannot ignore the wildfires rampaging across the province right now. This trip may be cancelled if the wildfire conditions worsen. Currently, the Sunshine Coast Trail is currently away from both of the fires in the region. The Sechelt fire is to the south on the other side of a ferry ride, with winds blowing the smoke south to the city of Vancouver. The Pemberton fire is separated from the southern Sunshine Coast trail by numerous ocean inlets and mountain ranges. I am in contact with the Sunshine Coast trail and getting updates from them.

Nootka Island Trail – July 17-26

The Nootka Island trail is a 35km long backpacker paradise in the gorgeous remote wilderness on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Set in the lush temperate rainforest along the abundant coastline, the Nootka Island trail has spectacular long sand beaches, tumbling waterfalls cascading onto the sand and stunning sunsets out onto the Pacific Ocean. The wildlife possibilities are endless from sea otters, sea lions and even the possibility of seeing whales in the waves to eagles, wolves and bears in the forest. The trail starts with a drop off by a float plane in a remote bay and then it works its way along the outside coastline of Nootka Island to historical Yuquot/Friendly Cove where the Spanish and British met in the colonial era to discuss the future of the west coast. The trail is pristine and undeveloped and it’s been compared to how the popular West Coast trail was 20 years ago. There is no long wait-list or many people at all; it is just the awesome wilderness and the hiker walking in the footsteps of the rich First Nations culture that continues to flourish today in remote Nootka Island.

A West Coast Meander – Aug 5-Sept 10

A month long kayak from Tofino to Port Alberni and everything around and in-between

Prequel – Family Mini Vacation in Tofino

Depart Vancouver on Wednesday Aug 5 to head over to Tofino where we have rented a studio apartment on the waterfront in downtown Tofino for three nights.  We will spend time together, explore Tofino and its beaches and make a day trip down to Ucluelet. On Saturday Aug 8, Bryan and I will paddle off and Pat and Bill will return back to Ladner.

Part 1 – Clayoquot Sound

Our 14 day paddling route in Clayoquot Sound- tentatively from Aug 8 to Aug 21- from Tofino up to Hotsprings Cove and then back down the outside of Flores and Vargas Islands. This paddle is leisurely and explorative, with lots of beach and hiking days and short paddles to the next gorgeous beach campsite. This leisurely paddle is designed to get us back into paddle touring, especially for Bryan’s freshly healed hands.

Part 2 – Barkley Sound

The second half of our paddle from Tofino to Ucluelet for the Broken Islands and Deer Group and ending with a paddle up to Port Alberni. This half features the challenging paddle from Tofino to Ucluelet along a long stretch of exposed west coast, which we will attempt in the early morning hopefully when it is still calm, then a leisurely paddle through the Broken Island group, which one of National Geographic’s Bucket List 20 Adventures to do in the world. From the Broken Island group, we will cross to the Deer Group, which is still very beautiful and excellent to explore with tropical like crushed white shell beaches,  sea caves and other awesome things. I have built in 5 flex days into our schedule for this trip in addition to lots of rest and exploration days. The flex days are for weather and beach-is-so-beautiful-I-need-to-stay-longer delays, which may be used for optional West Coast Trail detour if 4 or more days are left at the end.

A couple final words on adventure: 

Life is full of unexpected surprises and even the best, most detailed, researched plans can all go out the window in a split second. One reaction to change is frustration and disappointment …and maybe a bit of anger to the world for screwing us out of something we were really looking forward to. However, a more productive reaction to change is to view it as an opportunity to explore a different aspect of something. If you think about it, that is the beauty of travelling, exploring and discovering – experiencing more than what is currently in your world right now. It is the unexpected twists and turns that brings you to new heights that you might not have even imagined was an option. So embrace this essence of adventure!

*Kilimonjaro requires that you go with an outfit and it is possible to hike from little Sherpa village to the next on the Everest Base Camp trek

MSR Mutha Hubba Tent

A general tip is that a 2 person tent is really for 2 people who are very comfortable with each other. It is a cozy fit and if you want your gear inside of the tent, it kind of counts as an extra person. We came home from our cycling trip to find that our 2 person MSR Hubba Hubba tent had been recalled (fabric too flammable – read more on the government website here) and decided that we wanted to move up in the world. Well, moving to the 3 person tent was like upgrading to a palace – so much more room! Here’s our review and final verdict of the MSR Mutha Hubba Tent:

Quick Description: 

Weight – only 2kg
Floor area – 3.8 sq. m plus 1.67 (.84 + .84) sq. m for vestibules
Interior peak height – 112cm

The Mutha Hubba was redesigned for 2014 as an ultra lightweight backpacking tent for three people. It has two doors and the inner tent is made of ripstop nylon with a wide band of nylon micro mesh near the top. There is only one set of connected poles that form the structure of the tent. Think of a giant capital letter “H” where the middle part forms the spine of the tent and the two long sides arch to the ground and the vestibules form a triangle outside of the two long sides. It is a freestanding tent with the option of using only the raincover and groundsheet (purchased separately) to be even less weight.

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The Pros:

  • Symmetrical and non-tapered floor makes for easy sharing and room for stuff
  • I love all of the inner space! We can sit up comfortably and even wave our arms around a bit. It feels like a home rather than a tent
  • It is really lightweight. This 3 person tent weighs less than our old 2 person tent (also by MSR)
  • If you’re one for stuffing your tent into the sack, the tent bag is a compression sack now! We roll up our tent so it doesn’t make much of a difference for us.

The Cons: 

  • Tent pads become a pain in the butt!!
    Tent pads become a pain in the butt!!

    You have to peg down the tent. Because of the “H” shape of the poles, it tips easy side to side. This equates to problems camping on the wooden, raised tent pads which either seems to have the tie-down nails in all the wrong spots or missing. Also, camping in shelters with a floor is also now really tricky.

  • There seems to be spots that are too tight while other spots are baggy. The ceiling of the inner tent is really tight, especially when the corners are pegged down and the seams look stressed and stretching only after a few camping weekends. On the other hand, the floor sides of the tent are really baggy and sag.
  • The inner part of the tent is shaped like a triangle on top of a rectangle while the fly is shaped like a half-pipe. They have really maximized space inside the tent BUT this means you have to be really careful pegging out the sides of the tent. If you don’t peg out the sides of the fly OR peg the side down too steeply, it droops onto the inner tent unfortunately, right at the point over your face. When there’s condensation, it collects on the ceiling, rolls down and then drips on your face. Rather unpleasant!
  • I prefer the older MSR Hubba inner tents made with all mesh sides instead of mostly nylon. The mesh allows the breeze to travel through much better.
  • Accessories for this tent don’t seem to fit right. We got the MSR Universal Gear Loft  and connecting to each of the corners of the tent cuts off a third of the headroom of the tent! The groundsheet straps are too big for the tent and are not adjustable making for the groundsheet to sit loose and move around a bit.

Our Verdict: 

We really feel comfortable in this tent. I love all the space and it is so lightweight. We can both pack up our gear at the same time and I can spend time in the Mutha Hubba, great for being caught in rainy weather. It feels like a home rather than just a tent. We also really love the MSR brand because they consistently have good, reliable backcountry gear. However, in this 2014 redesign, I feel like there are some quirks that need to get worked out. This tent feels a little like an awkward teenager just going through puberty – there ‘s been a growth spurt but doesn’t really know what to do with it yet!  They have really tried to maximize the tent space and I feel like they might have done a little too much. Unfortunately, we can’t recommend the MSR Mutha Hubba as it is today but we are looking forward to checking out the next edition!

Trip Delayed….

Well, we just got home from a long day at the hospital. While many people worry about the dangers of travelling,  accidents at home are actually much more common. We were preparing ourselves for the rough and challenging Cape Scott at the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the wave and wind pounded exposed western coast but what ended up being the most dangerous was a rotten inner-tube in a neighbour’s dolly cart.

Bryan was helping out a neighbour move a new fridge. First, he was inflating the tires on an old dolly with the air compressor. The wheel said it was good until 90 psi but not even at 50, the tire exploded. The metal rims struck both of his hands, cutting deep until white was exposed.

Luckily, we live only minutes drive from the local hospital and Bryan was on a bed in the emergency room within 10 minutes of the event. The nurses and doctor at Ladner Hosptial were wonderful, skilled and to be commended but it was still a very, very long and painful afternoon. Both of his hands needed stitches, a tendon was nicked in one hand and severed in the other. He also fractured bones in the hand with the severed tendon.

Needless to say, hand injuries do not bode well for kayaking. Bryan will be ok but it will take time to heal and plans to circumnavigate Vancouver Island by kayak are postponed. However, I’d like to emphasize that plans have been delayed rather than ended. We will probably still have a month or so at the end of summer and while it won’t be enough to go around the whole island, we will still be able to do an awesome trip… in practice for attempting to complete a circumnavigation next summer! The big bag of dehydrated chili will go into the deep freeze, where it will keep longer since there’s meat in it, and we will continue to dream of the blue.