The famous Tilley hats and more!

Bryan and I infront of all their hats!
Bryan and I infront of all their hats!

Last Thursday, we visited the Tilley Vancouver store right by Granville and Broadway (technically, Granville and 8th ave) . As we walked in, we were greeted by Yukiko, the assistant manager of the store who has been working there for 15 years and can list off the different variations of endless models of clothing and hats by heart, and by Nikki, the store manager whose’s been associated with Tilley all her life.

Nikki’s last name is Tilley if that gives you a better idea of her association with the brand!

It was Nikki’s uncle who made the first Tilley hat, which is now known for its amazing durability for adventure and its rock-solid warranty. It is a hat for life, literally, because you go back to the store and exchange it for a new one if it gets  worn out.

The back wall of the store is filled with hats of all different sizes and styles. The hats are partially hand-stitched so the sizing is sometimes a bit unique to the hat. Nikki brings out a stack of hats of the same marked size for me to try on as she critically evaluates how it fits me.  I ended up choosing the T4MO Tilley Organic Airflow hat, which has a mesh crown for ventilation and is made from organic cotton!

Once we were finished with the hats, we went onto some pants. Bryan got a pair of Legends Zip-off Pants, which is guaranteed not to wear out for life! If it gets a hole from wear, he can just go back and exchange it for a new pair!

I got pair of Venture Trek-4-in-1 Zip-off Pants,  which is like the one pair of pants to rule them all. There are four options to wear these versatile adventure pants with two different levels to roll up into capris and then it also zips off into shorts.

Bryan and I with Yukiko and Nikki
Bryan, me, Yukiko and Nikki with our proud Tilley hats

After our trip, we will post gear reviews of these items. We are so excited to have these on the trip!

Eager to use them in as much outdoor adventure as possible, we headed out to camp with our friends at Harrison Lake over the weekend. The sun was shining, the lake was cool and wonderful to swim in, and our Tilley hats and pants were marvelous.


Our kayaks

IMG_0041Bryan paddles a Seaward Chilco named Honeybee (for the black lines across the yellow top fyi). It is 18.5 foot long, 22.5 inches wide and 14 inches depth. It has total storage of 346 liters! The Chilco is multi-chine. Well defined chines allow for more stability. IMG_0039 I (Maggie) paddle a Necky Arluk I, so says the writing on my boat. There’s not much info that can be found about my boat because she is so old…*ahem* experienced. Wavedancer was built in the late 1980s. She is named Wavedancer because she is like a 19 foot needle in the water, slicing through waves.  She’s narrow and has a rounded hull making it super responsive (I just have to think of turning and usually my body language moves the boat in that direction) but is less stable than the Chilco. Both kayaks are kevlar (bullet proof vest material!). We invested in kevlar because it is much lighter than polyethylene (plastic) but tougher than fiberglass (lots of barnacles on the rocks and beaches in the Northwest coast). We both got our kayaks used off Craigslist.

My Necky Arluk I on the right and Bryan's Seaward Chilco on the left
My Necky Arluk I on the right and Bryan’s Seaward Chilco on the left

Vancouver’s Kayaking Gem: Indian Arm

Our kayaks at Granite Falls beach near the end of Indian Arm

Kayaking up Indian Arm is probably one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets where locals flock to on a sunny evening or weekend. It is close to Vancouver (transitable!), has a kayak rental place right at the beginning in Deep Cove (accessible for those who own or don’t own kayaks!) and it is a wilderness paradise (roads end soon after Deep Cove). Indian Arm is a steep-sided glacial fjord close to the city of Vancouver extending north for about 20km from Burrard Inlet.  It was an easy choice for us for a practice paddle up Indian Arm last weekend with a couple friends in preparation for our larger journey around Vancouver Island this summer.

Map of Indian Arm
Map of Indian Arm

Indian Arm is at the heart of indigenous Tsleil-Waututh Nation since time immemorial. Since 1995, much of Indian Arm has been made into a provincial park named the Say Nuth Khaw Yum Heritage Park (aka Indian Arm Provincial Park), which is co-managed with Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Fun fact, a rough wilderness hiking trail goes around the perimeter of Indian Arm, created over many years by Don McPherson who also created the Grouse Grind!

Launching at Deep Cove
Launching at Deep Cove

We started at Deep Cove near the entrance of Indian Arm. Burrard Inlet and the opening of Indian Arm was mapped first by Captain George Washington and then Indian Arm was fully explored later by Dionisio Alcala Galiano in 1792. Kayaking out of Deep Cove, we followed the western shore past gorgeous homes and old family cabins nestled into the cliffside.

Getting some help putting on my sprayskirt! I don't remember it being THIS tight!! haha
Getting some help putting on my sprayskirt! I don’t remember it being THIS tight!! haha

Talking to another fellow who comes up here regularly, he said that there are two types of people who live up around Deep Cove and Indian Arm – the hippy, live off the land type and the independently wealthy. Well, after about 3km of paddling, we get up to Lone Rock Point where there is a small “lighthouse” beacon by a gorgeous home with its own helicopter perched precariously on wooden landing pad that pulled up from the beach. Lone Rock Point is the closest crossing point to Raccoon Island. On hot summer days, a wind picks up in the afternoon whipping up the channel causing a bit of chop to the waves and lots of little powerboats, sailboats and yachts zipping around. However, the crossing is not long and soon we were at Raccoon Island. Raccoon Island is day-use only and apparently should be named Goose Island because it is invaded by Canadian Geese. As we paddled by Raccoon Island, a couple Canadian Geese trumpeted their dislike of our arrival.

Camping at Twin Islands
Camping at Twin Islands

Twin Islands are about another kilometer further.  The two islands are very close to the mainland and seem to detach themselves as we paddled closer and depth perception increased. The smaller southern island is day use only while the larger north island has five wooden tent pads nestled in the forest.

Trails on Twin Islands
Trails on Twin Islands

There are little trails all over the small island that we wandered around in the afternoon all the way out to the northern tip of the island where there is a small “lighthouse” beacon and then trails south over the rocky hill and down to the small beach between the islands and a quick trail there back to the dock on the northeastern side of the island. The north island is covered by tall evergreen trees and a thick underbrush that is almost completely edible! Hardy green salal carpets the forest floor with delicate little white bell flowers hanging in a row. Huckleberry bushes already have plump red berries on them and a salmonberry bush welcomed us onto the island right off the dock ramp. Around dusk, a deer timidly wandered by very close to camp.

It was about 5.5km paddling from Deep Cove to Twin Islands. About 5km further north following the eastern shore, we came up to two old BC Hydro powerhouses built in the turn of the century where Gothic stone architecture made them look like an old castle. We paddle by Buntzen No 2. first, built in 1914 and then around the corner is Buntzen No. 1 built in 1903 to power Vancouver and upgraded in 1951. Penstocks direct water down from Buntzen Lake about 150 metres up the hill. The lake is in turn replenished though a tunnel from Coquitlam Lake, which was completed in 1905.

Approaching Buntzen No. 2 powerhouse
Approaching Buntzen No. 2 powerhouse

Though Buntzen No. 2 looks a little like a setting from a horror movie with broken windows and only the only sign of life is one fan high on the stone wall spinning away, they are still functioning. One unit at Buntzen No. 2 was shut down in 1972 but the two remaining units can still produce 17,800 kW. Both plants are remotely monitored and operated at a facility on Burnaby Mountain. On Buntzen No. 2 is a small sign that cautions people from getting to close as there can be sudden outflows of water. Ironically, the writing is so small that you need to be close to read it! Fun fact, Buntzen Lake and powerhouses is named after Johannes Buntzen, a Dane who was the first general manager of the BC Electric Railway and was called “the grandfather of electricity” in British Colombia!

Granite Falls 1887
Granite Falls 1887

After the long Buntzen Bay where Buntzen No. 1 is located, Croker Island comes into view in the middle of the channel and Granite Falls is tucked in behind. Granite Falls today is a beautiful wilderness boat-access-only campsite with about seven gravel tent pads and extra camping on a grassy field south of the falls. Though many people love Granite Falls for its wilderness, it was actually the site of a huge rock quarry as early as 1891. Stone from Granite Falls was used to construct grand new buildings in the young city of Vancouver around the turn of the century.

Granite Falls Quarry circa 1925
Granite Falls Quarry circa 1925

The Granite Falls Quarry bunk-house and cook-house were completely destroyed by fire in September 1946. Throughout the 20th century, the Indian Arm fjord was a popular destination for day-cruises, including a daily steamship up to the posh Wigwam Inn, originally opened as a luxury German resort and fishing lodge in 1910 located at the north end of Indian Arm (currently owned by the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club as an outstation for club members). In 1965, Granite Falls was the site of an ambitious resort project with a marina, lodge, dinner and dancing facilities, beer garden, roller skating pad, picnic area and horseshoe pitches.

Brochure of the Granite Falls Resort from 1965
Brochure of the Granite Falls Resort from 1965
Picture of Granite Falls Resort 1965. The Galley is probably sitting right where we camped this past weekend!
Picture of Granite Falls Resort 1965. The Galley is probably sitting right where we camped this past weekend!
All that's left today of the busy industry here in the past!
All that’s left today of the busy industry here in the past!

A view of the falls now….much different from the previous pictures from the past: Today, it is a tranquil place with its campsites filled with paddlers. Boats come in for the day to splash around in the waterfall but then leave to anchor with other boaters in different areas.

The “Waterslide” at the base of the waterfall. The middle portion is the place to slide down rather than from where the water comes out. There is a bit of a drop from the first tier to the other which tilts people forward so they land headfirst into the shallow water. This is also the perfect water level…any more or less is dangerous. There is apparently a rock that sticks out if there’s less water that cuts people (a regular to the falls told us to look for the iconic 4 inch scar on the left shoulderblade on other visitors to the falls).

There is a lovely shallow pool at the base of the waterfall including a cool waterslide down the lower part when the water level is right (see picture for more info). However, the secret is to climb up to the second tier where the views are gorgeous and there is an emerald green pool deep enough to dive into. There is a beautiful cascade tumbling into the pool and more cascading down onto the ground. Follow the dried creek-bed on the south side of the waterfalls and then ironically, follow the dangers of climbing up the waterfall signs. It is a steep climb using roots as handholds and only go up to the second tier if the conditions are good.

Cascade into the lovely swimming hole up at the second tier of the falls
Cascade into the lovely swimming hole up at the second tier of the falls
Bryan taking in the gorgeous view from the second tier of the waterfall
Bryan taking in the gorgeous view from the second tier of the waterfall

However, the swimming fun is not just limited to the day. We went for a midnight dip in the bay where every movement sparkled with bioluminence. These glowing sparks are plankton that produces their own light through a chemical reaction when disturbed. It was very surreal to swim in the dark waters where each of our movements was followed by a swirl of light.

Perfect conditions in the morning leaving Granite Falls
Perfect conditions in the morning leaving Granite Falls

There is a mass exodus from Granite Falls early Sunday morning. We all wanted to paddle out early when the fjord was calm. The water surface was like a mirror and fog curled out of the mountain sides. As the day heats up, the wind picks up and is channeled down the fjord into a challenging headwind. We crossed over to the western side of Indian Arm and stopped at Silver Falls about a third of the way back to Deep Cove. You can hear Silver Creek before you see it. The roaring sound leads us to a little nook with beautiful translucent green water and a waterfall behind some rocks. There is a lovely pool for some refreshing swimming.

Leaving Granite Falls at around 8am, we were back in Deep Cove by around noon after a leisurely 17km paddle. It has been a great paddle to get ourselves back onto the water and hang out with friends, Mike and Lauren!

Great times with great friends!! Thanks for all the fun, Mike and Lauren!!
Great times with great friends!! Thanks for all the fun, Mike and Lauren!!

How to paddle up Indian Arm:

  • You can launch your own kayak at the beach in front of Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Center. If you have a vehicle, you can rent a kayak at MEC (cheapest) and bring it there. If you want really easy and/or don’t have a vehicle, you can rent at Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Center and launch right there!
  • Paddling to Twin Island – best route is to kayak up the west side of Indian Arm up to Lone Rock Point for the shortest crossing to Raccoon Island and then Twin Island is only a little farther away. About 5.5km
  • Paddling from Twin Island to Granite Falls – stick to the east side of Indian Arm. You’ll see Buntzen No. 2 power plant from Twin Islands, which is about 5km away. Buntzen No. 1 is around the point in Buntzen Bay. After crossing Buntzen Bay, you’ll see Croker Island and Granite Falls is behind the island. About 12.2km
  • Paddling from Granite Falls to Deep Cove – cross to the west side of Indian Arm via Croker Island. Silver Falls is after about 6km and just before the first dock on the trip south.  About 17km

Wicked Weekend Paddling in Indian Arm Video

Kayaking up Indian Arm from Maggie Woo on Vimeo.

A short just over 2 minute video of our kayaking trip up Indian Arm this past weekend. As you can tell from the video, it was a great little trip that was tons of fun and great practice for our expedition around Vancouver Island starting in just a couple weeks from now!

Practice Paddle up Indian Arm

Last weekend, we went for a magical paddle up Indian Arm. Here are some pictures from our 3 day/2night trip.

Click here to see write-up on our experiences and how you can kayak Indian Arm too!

Our Route around Vancouver Island

Map of Vancouver Island. We plan on kayaking all around it
Map of Vancouver Island. We plan on kayaking all around it

We are excited to share that we are leaving on the expedition in under three weeks! We plan to head out on June 22, the day after Father’s Day.  Fun fact, I found out that June 22, 2015 is also Discovery Day, a holiday in Newfoundland commemorates John Cabot’s arrival at the province in 1497. While our trip is across the country from Newfoundland, it is kinda cool to start this epic expedition on a day named Discovery!

Our goals (*ahem* not expectations – read my blog post on expectations versus goals for a long expedition by clicking here) is to spend about 5 weeks going up the inside of Vancouver Island, stand on Cape Scott at the northern tip for our second anniversary of our wedding on July 27 (I love you, honey!) and spend another 5 weeks paddling down the outside of the Island (hopefully with those NW winds that plagued us going up to Alaska last time).

Our end date is September 10-11 fitting between vacations our family members are going on and going back to school to upgrade his electrical ticket for Bryan!

Part 1 – The Gulf Islands – Victoria to Nanaimo

Part 1 - Victoria to Nanaimo

  • Mainland to Victoria BC Ferries from Twassassen to Swartz Bay, kayak to Portland Island in the Gulf Islands that night to camp
  • Portland Island, Prevost Island, Wallace Island, Valdes Island, DeCourcy Island and Newcastle Island
  • A couple of the highlights: Cool sandstone cliffs on Valdes Island especially northwest of Blackberry Point, Hole in the Wall “one of those special places” narrow passage between sculpted sandstone with a crushed shell bed between Link and De Courcy Island

Part 2 – Strait of Georgia – Nanaimo to Lund

part 2 nanaimo to lund

  • It becomes a long series of private property between Nanaimo to Campbell River and while beaches are public property in Canada up to the high tide line, it is really awkward and sometimes confrontational. We instead use Lasqueti and Texada Islands as are more wild option for our marine highway through the top end of the Strait of Georgia
  • Gerald Island, Home Bay on Jedediah Island, Texada Island, Harwood Island or Powell River, Lund
  • A couple highlights include: paddle through the only sea cave in the Gulf Islands on north shore of Jesse Island, Jedediah Island (tucked between Lasqueti and Texada Islands) is in the middle of a small archipelago gaining popularity as perfect for kayaking!

Part 3 – Discovery Islands and Johnston Strait – Lund to Telegraph Cove

part 3 lund to telegraph cove

  • Early explorers through Vancouver was just a large peninsula off the mainland and it is easy to see why they thought so as Vancouver Island and the mainland blur in a myriad of little waterways between the labyrinth of the Discovery Islands. Challenges here include strange currents swirling around the islands and tidal rapids. As we get into Johnston Strait, the waterway opens up and we are joined by orcas on their migration path!
  • Marina  Island, South Rendezvous Island, Hole in the Wall (rapids), Francisco Island in the Octopus Islands group, Okisollo Channel (upper and lower rapids), Little Bear Bay, Robson Bight Ecological Reserve (camp by it but not inside since it’s an orca reserve), Telegraph Cove
  • A couple highlights include: The sweet little 8 island archipelago Octopus Islands surrounded tightly by a wider ring of islands that we squeeze though on narrow little passageways guarded by rapids (don’t worry, we paddle through on slack tide avoiding the rapids and whirlpools), orcas who travel up Johnston Strait and visiting rubbing beaches of smooth pebbles – we may camp by three of these beaches!

Part 4 – North End of the Island – Telegraph Cove to Winter Harbour

part 4 telegraph cove to winter harbour

  • This is probably one of the most challenging parts of our kayaking trip, rounding the fearsome Cape Scott at the north end of Vancouver Island. On a closer look, the Cape itself looks like a claw reaching out into the seas. Weather, wind and surf are our challenges here but there are also beautiful scenery with long sandy beaches to enjoy.
  • Port McNeill (resupply and restock stop), Cattle Islands, Bell Island, Nigei Island, Cape Sutil, Experimental Bight, Helen Islands, Topknot Point, Grants Bay, Winter Harbour
  • A couple highlights include: God’s Pocket Provincial  Marine Park in the islands by Port Hardy, the awesome Cape Scott Provincial Park with its beautiful beaches!

Part 5 – Brooks Peninsula – Winter Harbour to Rugged Point

part 5 winter harbour to rugged point

  • After Cape Scott, our next challenge is the mighty Brooks Pennisula, an 800m high and 14m projection off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. However, with the right planning and waiting for the right conditions, it is an amazing place full of wildlife from birds to sea otters to lots, lots more!
  • Rowley Reefs Peninsula, Heater Point, Crabapple Islets, Paradise Beach, Bunsby Islands, Mission Group, Rugged Point
  • A couple highlights include the Sea Otter reserve in the the Checeleset Bay (Bunsby Islands) and kayaking through the Mission Group

Part 6 – Nootka Sound – Rugged Point to Hotspring Cove

part 6 rugged point to hotsprings cove

  • We have an option for inside passage around Nootka Island or the outside. Both routes are basically equal in kilometers and we can decide when we get there. We might want a break from the exposed coastline and ready for a nice quiet waterway paddle.
  • Catala Islands, Lord Waterfall, Santiago Creek in Tahsis Passage, Bligh Island/Yuquot, Barcester Bay, Hesquiat Harbour, Hotsprings Cove
  • A couple highlights will be Bligh Island Marine Park in Nootka Sound and the lovely and well deserved hotsprings in Hotspings Cove

Part 7 – Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds – Hotsprings Cove to Bamfield

part 7 hotsprings cove to bamfield

  • We have another choice here to go the inside route in Clayoquot Sound or the outside route – inside has serene waterways while the outside has glorious beaches. After a couple days off in Tofino, we will have lots of beaches anyways navigating Long Beach to Ucluelet where we will hop into  Barkley Sound for the Broken Group and Deer Group islands
  • Francis Island, Dodd Island, Gibraltar Island, Ross Islets in the Deer Group/Bamfield
  • A couple highlights include kayaking the Broken and Deer Groups in Barkley Sound! Those are both places I have wanted to kayak for so long!

Part 8 – Juan de Fuca Strait – Bamfield to Victoria

part 8 bamfield to victoria

  • The final hurrah of the expedition where our challenge now is few and far between campsites. We will have some long days in this section as it is just straight coast without many inlets or islands.
  • Transiting the Pacific Rim National Park and the famous West Coast Trail perhaps with stops at Tsusiat Falls, Carmanah Point, Trasher Cove by Port Renfrew, Mystic Beach….and then there is a bit of a camping desert as we get closer to Victoria….suggestions and recommendations anyone?
  • A couple highlights: we’re basically doing both the famous West Coast Trail and the Juan de Fuca trail…marine editions! A victory beer in Victoria!

A summer of paddling 1100km around the island

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