Parks Canada: Pacific Rim National Park Interpretive Program

PacificRimNationalPark

Pacific Rim National Park Interpretive Program

Parks Canada has a great interpretive program that runs every day during the peak period at Pacific Rim National Park. The program typically runs five interpretive programs a day which consist of guided walks, evening programs and prop talks. Back in 2013, Parks Canada decided to extend their interpretive program until past Labour Day. I was thrilled to find out about the extension as I was able to take advantage of the program during my visit to Pacific Rim National Park! If you have a chance to check the program out, make sure you schedule your day around attending, as it will be well worth it. The interpretive program was one of the highlights of my trip.

When I visited, their program consisted of:

  • Saturday, September 7  at 2pm: Rainforest Guided Walk.
  • Saturday, September 7 at 8pm: Bears, Wolves, Cougars Evening Program.
  • Sunday, September 8 at 11am: Seashore Guided Walk

One of the great things about the program is that it is free! I went to all of events that were available. Carl from Parks Canada ran them all, his passion for the outdoors and the love of his job was apparent. I found great value in attending as it gave me insight into the geographical area and provided me with new information.

Rainforest Guided Walk

Pacific Rim National Park

The Rainforest guided walk took place on the Schooner Cove hiking trail in the North end of the Pacific Rim National Park. It’s a 1 km one way walk. At the end you can either walk back along the path or continue onto Long Beach. At the beginning of our walk, we were taught about the different tree types and how to tell them apart. The walk takes you through the Cedar/Hemlock forest which leads into the Sitka Spruce fringe. The boardwalk takes you over the moss covered forest, over a creek and then continues on the boardwalk with many stairs up and down. Eventually you will catch a glimpse of the beach. Before you know it, you are standing on the sand with the ocean steps ahead. There is a rocky outcrop that you can explore depending on the tide, just remember to get back before the tide comes in! During the walk, we would take breaks and during the breaks our guide would discuss the specific areas that surrounded us. The tour was a great combination of enjoying and learning about the wildness.

Bears, Wolves, Cougars Evening Program

After watching the early stages of the sunset, I headed into the theatre. Camping in such a magnificent wild place, you need to be aware of what to do if you see animals in the wild and know how to keep both yourself and the animals safe. We heard stories about experiences that the Park Canada employees have had, learned about bears, wolves and cougars. Even though I knew a lot of the safety facts before coming to the talk, I still had a wonderful time, and picked up some new information. This talk also gave me a greater appreciation of the work that Parks Canada does for both the human and animal kingdoms. Carl also mixed in some fun events to keep the night interesting and educational.

Seashore Guided Walk

I arrived early for the walk and decided to explore the Kwisitis Visitor Centre. The centre has exhibits of bears, wolves, cougars and other animal tracks that you would find on the beach, short movies featuring Pacific Rim National Park, and exhibits that allowed you to listen to stories of the First Nations history. There were also exhibits on the environment. I highly recommend visiting the Centre before or after an interpretive program or walk in the area.

Pacific Rim National Park Carl

Carl, our Parks Canada guide for the weekend.

The Seashore guided walk will be different every time you go on the walk, as it depends on what is found on the beach. We got to hold Starfish, use Bull Kelp as a horn, dig for Blood Worms, play with California Beach Hoppers, touch Rockweed, and see Acorn Barnacles and Mussels up close. We learned some tips to lessen our impact on our visits to the shore such as leaving marine animals and plants fastened to rocks, tread carefully as you may crush what is underneath you, and return what you find to the location where you found them. This will allow others to enjoy the sites as well. I’ve spent numerous days exploring the shorelines on the west coast. The advantage of having attended the interpretative program is that you learn by observing little details that are pointed out to you, and how plants and animals are connected. I really enjoyed learning new things about one of my favourite places.

The interpretive programs is a must do! The program enhances the exploration of the parks; you gain knowledge about the wildlife, environment and nature around you! The programs are free to join. Check out the Parks Canada website for more information. I hope they include more programs in the off season, as that is when I like to visit.

Pacific Rim National Park Sunset

After Hours at Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium Jelly Fish

Need some time away from the kids or just enjoy going to events where children won’t be around, the Vancouver Aquarium hosts an adults-only night After Hours event three times of year! It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the Aquarium and treat yourself. Normally, you can’t purchase alcohol at the Aquarium but they make an exception for this event. It’s a nice treat to indulge when you would normally only be sipping water or pop while exploring and learning! I haven’t been to the Aquarium in a while and as the number of tickets are limited, we had an opportunity to observe the animals and sea life, speak to the staff and explore without the venue being too crowded. Without the crowds it was a lot easier to explore and take photos!

We were one of the first people admitted and we immediately went to the Wet Lab. The Wet Lab is in a semi-classroom setting where you get to have hands on time with a variety of invertebrates (animals without backbones) such as sea cucumbers, jellies, sea stars, sea urchins and craps. We walked around each tank as a staff member explained everything to us from their environment, unique characteristics and how they live. Check out this short clip of our time there -

After putting our hands into the cold water and touching the creatures that we could, our time was up and it was the next groups’ turn. The Wet Lab was such a fun experience and the time flew by! We would have went back to the Wet Lab if time permitted. I would recommend going to the Wet Lab first as the lineups got longer as the night went on!

Unfortunately, the weather was too cold for the penguins but the dolphins were allowed out. We headed to watch the “Caring For Dolphins” presentation. Watching the trainers interact with the dolphins was priceless and you could see the connection they share and how the dolphins loved to show off. The show was more than just entertainment as we learned about how the dolphins form relationships, and receive training and health care.

As soon as I saw the sign for the belugas, I headed right over to see them despite the pouring rain. I took some time just to watch them and appreciate their beauty. We were lucky for a few minutes, my friend and I were the only ones watching these gorgeous animals swim and relax in the water. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to the belugus. One of the experiences I would love is to spend time with them behind the scenes or in their natural environment.

During the evening, there were multiple talks and interactive experiences planned – we checked out the 4-D Experience and the Ask the Staff panel where we were able to ask staff members our questions. There were other events such as Up Close with Snakes and Up Close with Dissections but we didn’t get a chance to see them, as there were not enough hours in the evening for us! Besides watching the animals, my favourite exhibit was “Treasures Of The BC Coast”. The reason why I loved it is that it allows you to see inside the waters that surround us, i.e. the BC coastal waters. It’s an exhibit that you can’t miss when you visit the Aquarium. I was able to catch a glimpse of what is below the water surfaces that I kayak and travel in.

One of the things that resonated with me were the animals and their stories. I’ve heard about the aquarium’s research and rescue operations from others and the Aquarium but I didn’t know about their practices. After reading about it and doing some research of my own, I felt confident that they aren’t keeping the animals there for our enjoyment but to care for them. The only new Cetaceans that are kept from the wild now are animals that can’t be released. Here is a quick summary of their policy about keeping cetacean in their facilities.

We are a leader in managing our cetacean populations, which includes our belugas and Pacific white-sided dolphins. On September 16, 1996, Vancouver Aquarium took a leadership role and became the first (and only) aquarium in the world to make a commitment to no longer capture cetaceans (whales and dolphins) from the wild for display and to only care for:

  • Cetaceans that were captured before 1996
  • Cetaceans that were already being kept in a zoo or aquarium before 1996
  • Cetaceans that were born in a zoo or aquarium
  • Cetaceans that were rescued from the wild and rehabilitated, but deemed non-releasable by the appropriate government authorities

We do not and will not capture wild cetaceans for display. The last dolphin collected for the Aquarium was in 1971 and the last cetacean of any kind was collected in 1990 when our beluga whale, Aurora, joined us.” Read the rest at An Open Letter on Cetaceans in Our Care

I understand that there are multiple opinions about Aquariums but I believe that the Vancouver Aquarium is doing the right thing and learning from these animals with research. An added bonus is being able to educate people about some of the issues that these animals face and how we can make a difference. If people can connect with the animals and learn from them, hopefully they will take their experiences out into the wild and apply the knowledge. This post isn’t about if Aquariums are right or wrong but I wanted to touch on their policies as I know it’s an important issue to many.

I’m still enjoying my time at the aquarium through my memories and my photos. My friend and I loved the adults-only After Hours experience at the Aquarium and I’ll be back to check out the next one! Have you been to After Hours?

Vancouver Event – Salt Spring in the City

I love visiting Salt Spring Island, it’s one of those unique places where it feels like the world around you stops. Since, I can’t visit every weekend that I wish, I’m happy to find out that one of my favourite places will be bringing artists to Vancouver from Salt Spring for Salt Spring in the City. From March 14-16th at Heritage Hall in Vancouver, BC artisans will be displaying and selling their products and services. I normally don’t share about future events happening in Vancouver but this one looks like fun and an opportunity to purchase some unique items.

Nestled in the Strait of Georgia, between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island is the largest and most visited of the Gulf Islands. It is particularly renown for its artisans, ranging from jewelers, to potters, clothing designers, painters, wine-makers, candle-makers, cheese-makers, preserve-makers, woodworkers, sculptors, writers, musicians, and even poets.  Their creative talents are influenced and inspired by the island and they have come together to bring that distinct flavour to Vancouver.

This March, Vancouverites will be let in on the secret and have a unique opportunity to discover the best of what the island has to offer in an indoor environment. But Salt Spring in the City is more than just a market, it is an artist-ran collaboration.

Suspended rock

When visiting Salt Spring Island, I love going to family owned shops and farms. The local food on the island is delicious and fresh, a separate bag home is often required. Salt Spring Island is a magical place to be and I can’t wait till I return. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to a sample of what the island has to offer when they come to Vancouver.

Date: Friday, March 14, 4:00-9:00PM, Saturday, March 15, 10:00AM to 8:00PM, and on Sunday, March 16, from 10:00AM to 5:00PM.

Location: Heritage Hall (3102 Main Street, Vancouver, BC)

Cost: $2 for adults, and $1 for kids — with all proceeds going to Save-On-Meats’ Sandwich Token Program

For more information check out their website, Salt Spring in the City.

If you would like to read more about a couple of my experiences there, please check out Flying in a float plane, Salt Spring Air and Hastings House – A weekend of luxury on Salt Spring Island.

Salt Spring - Starfish

Vancouver Parks: Pacific Spirit Regional Park

My favourite rainy day park in Vancouver

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

People who live in Vancouver typically have a love and hate relationship with the rain. It keeps the city beautiful and green but too much rain can get to you, especially in the winter. However, I’m a firm believer in not letting the rain keep you inside. One of my favourite rainy day walks is Pacific Spirit Regional Park as it does provide some shelter from the rain and wind. It’s also beautiful to walk around and explore.

Pacific Spirit Regional Park is located on the University Endowment Lands with the University of British Columbia on one border and the shores of Georgian Strait in the Pacific Ocean on another. If you would like a map of the trails you can discover, MetroVancouver.org has a great one. You can explore over 73 km of trails with many of trails being of mixed use to walkers/runners/dog walks and even horseback riders. Multiple posts could be written about this park but I’m going to write about one of my favourite parts, the northern end. You can start and end this trail at Spanish Banks, Central Parking spot. You can reach it by car or jump on the bus!

The off season is my favourite time to go to the beaches in Vancouver as they are quieter and you get to see a side of them that you usually don’t. This trail is terrific and there is the beach at the end. Since I’m usually with one of my best friends and his adorable dog, and we start off on one the multi use trails, such as 17, and then head to trail 7, 27 and finish off with 1. No matter what the season, you will see walkers, runners and bikers getting in their workouts and enjoying nature. You also get moments of being completely alone, especially when you get off the multi-use trails and can savour the rain drops dripping off the branches, with the sun occasionally peaking in. This trail is scenic with the mosses growing and surrounding the old cedars. If you have time, come back and try different routes and find out which one you enjoy the most.

If you have a dog, this is the place to go. A lot of the trails are off leash, which well behaved dogs love as they can run around, chase balls or simply enjoy the freedom of being off their leash. There is a small section of the park where no dogs are allowed on weekends but in comparison, it’s extremely small. My friend’s dog loves it here as she loves to chase rocks and run the length of the trails. She gets tired and burns off a ton of energy by running to each thrown rock and then running back to us, waiting for the next rock to be thrown.

There are washrooms in the park but bring your own water and snacks. The walks can be long, so plan your walk so you finish the walk before before you are too tired. The reason why I like starting our route at Spanish Banks is you get to end it there, and the car is right there.  I love the days when it had starts off raining and then stops and you finish your walk savouring the view of the mountains and the city while the sun is setting on what was hopefully a wonderful day.

You can explore walks along the ocean, a bog or the forest. There are many starting and ending points for the trails so figure out what area calls to you and go explore!

Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Celebrating my champagne birthday

Having a birthday that falls between Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be frustrating and I’m sure those who have a similar birthday can agree. During the holiday period a lot of people have a jammed packed schedule, or are away travelling so planning something with friends can be difficult. However, this year I was determined to celebrate my birthday on my birthday. I was turning 29 on the 29th and wanted the day to be special.  When your birthday falls on the age you are turning, it is called a champagne, lucky or golden birthday. My birthday fell on a Sunday, which meant the day was mine to do what I wanted with it. I debated about what to do, I wanted to do something special and one of the options would have been a road trip to Pacific Rim National Park but I stayed local and enjoyed one of my favourite things to do in Vancouver, kayaking with my friend! Below is some of my footage from my time on the water ->

Being on the water makes me happy, there is something about paddling that can bring you so much joy. It was a bit chilly so we bundled up and were fine! You can’t let a bit of drizzle and cooler temperatures keep you inside.

To make the day a bit more special, I picked up the Avocado Key Lime Pie from the Pie Hole. I was really happy with it. The pie was delicious, vegan and something different. If you are looking for a yummy pie and are in Vancouver, look Pie Hole up. I brought the pie down to English Bay for a pre-paddling snack and it hit the spot perfectly. The pie left us feeling satisfied, but not stuffed with no carb crash afterwards. After we were done eating, we headed out and my friend surprised me with a bottle of champagne. We toasted to a great day and to an exciting year ahead. The champagne was a luxurious treat, and helped to make this birthday a memorable event for me. The smooth taste and bubbles had me bouncing all the way home.

Before the day was over, I enjoyed conversations with family back East, and talking with friends. I received some very caring and sweet gifts to help me with my goals. The evening ended with Indian food and a movie as I was exhausted after kayaking. I’m looking forward to enjoying my last year in my twenties and seeing what the year brings. I’m already planning some adventures including celebrating my next birthday in a foreign country. My lips are sealed  until the details are finalized.

I hope everyone has wonderful 2014! What has been your favourite birthday so far?

Exploring Fort Langley National Historical Site

I was given the use of a 2014 Chevrolet Trax for a weekend, so to take full advantage of this opportunity I decided to hit the road. One of the destinations that I was determined to visit was Fort Langley National Historical Site.

I put out a call out to see who wanted to join me, but with the cold weather a lot of people wanted to stay inside.  Cold weather isn’t an excuse!  On the road, taking advantage of the heated seats, we started on our day trip. The drive to Fort Langley didn’t take long, despite the detour to avoid the Port Mann bridge toll.  We drove past the charming downtown area of Fort Langley before pulling in to Fort Langley, after making a quick stop for lunch. I’ll have to return to explore the town.

It was a cold day out, the temperature was below zero which kept some people indoors. With barely anyone around, we almost had the place to ourselves, it was a treat! We took advantage and spent hours talking to the staff. They explained the history of the fort, the days of fur trading, relations with the First Nations and up until the point where Fort Langley closed as a trading post. I wasn’t raised in British Columbia,  so my knowledge of the province’s history isn’t vast. I loved hearing about the North West and  Hudson’s Bay companies, the use of the Fraser River, railroad, the different backgrounds of the workers including some from Hawaii, the gold rush and how Fort Langley became the birthplace of Canada. The original Fort Langley was established in 1827 and became a regional depot and a centre for trade in the area.

Fort Langley Historical SiteWhen we arrived, we were just in time for the historic weapons demonstration. We learned how the muskets worked, and saw the guns being fired.The sound of the gunshots could be heard  kilometres away before the population grew and the area was built up. The incoming ships would start firing to alert the fort that they were coming and to get ready.

We also got to see a blacksmith demo with one of the employees, who had formed a piece of metal into a hook for a wall, and he explained the details of the process as he went along. Depending on the time of year and day of the week, different activities and demonstration are scheduled.

The staff was wonderful. Since, it was really quiet they spent a ton of time with us, answered all of our questions and provided insight in other areas. We had a blast talking to them. I know if it was busier, we wouldn’t have received all of this attention so we took advantage of it. My friend Henry and I were talked about how great it would be to come back and visit during the different seasons. In the summer there is a farm and camping in the oTENTik (a mix a tent and a rustic cabin) and for Halloween there are night time ghost tours.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed my visit. Before setting out, I thought we would spend an hour, but the hours flew by and before we knew it the sun was setting and it was time to hit the road for the forty minute drive back to Vancouver.

For more information, check out their website, Fort Langley National Historical Site and let me know if you visit and what you thought!

Fort Langley Historical Site

Fort Langley Historical Site

Fort Langley Historical Site

Vancouver Christmas Market

The rain decided to hold off until our stomach were full of alcohol and delicious food. Friday was my first proper introduction to the Vancouver Christmas Market and I loved it.

It’s that time of year when everything around you is decorated for the holiday season. I’m trying to make the most of the season this year by jumping in feet first. It began with joining some friends, Henry and Amanda to exploring the Vancouver Christmas Market which are modelled after the markets in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Henry was our unofficial guide, speaking German with employees and volunteers. He already visited the market on opening weekend and had a routine down. He took us on an orientation tour and introduced us to the food choices that we would need to pick from. Multiple food options ranged from apfelhaus (stuffed apple covered with vanilla sauce), apple strudel, flammkuchen, schnitzel, bratwurst, waffles and tons of treats. I want to come back to sample some more of the food options and then choose my favourites.

We walked around, but soon a warm drink was calling us.  After reviewing my choices, I picked a traditional Glühwein. The staff were friendly and would ring a bell with each tip. On our second round, they let us try small samples of the Glühwein we didn’t taste. We couldn’t decide between traditional, white, cherry and apple. My favourite was the traditional Glühwein made with red wine. The drinks kept us warm as we went off to explore the rest of the market.

Maple taffy on snow from Maple Sugar Shack in Squamish, delicious and such a huge sugar rush.

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Building my first campfire

One of the goals of my camping trip this September was to build a fire. I didn’t need to build a fire to survive, to cook from or for warmth. I simply wanted to build one to prove to myself that I could. As a bonus, I could relax and enjoy the fire’s beauty, make some  s’mores and sip cider .

In September, I went on a solo road trip to Pacific Rim National Park and camped at Green Point Campground. At night it was a toss up on whether I should build a fire after dinner or go enjoy the sunset. The sunset and Parks Canada program won out but after the sun was down and I was back at the campsite, I successfully built my own fire. It was easier then I thought. I had built up the idea that making a fire by myself was going to be difficult, but it wasn’t. It just shows you that you never know what you can achieve or accomplish unless you try. I admit I am proud of myself for trying something new!

I was building a fire in a fire pit, with firewood bought from Parks Canada shed, a minute walk from my campsite. If you haven’t built a fire before, set yourself up for success. I wouldn’t try making my first campfire in the pouring rain, with damp wood or in the backcountry. I will attempt to build fires under more difficult conditions once I get more experience. The first time should be in fairly easy conditions.

Before I went I watched Parks Canada, Learn to Start a Campfire video and a couple more videos. I also asked a couple of friends for some tips for first time campfire starters. Below is a list of hints to build a fire:

  • Depending on where you camp, if the facilities are available, buy your wood from the park/campground. If they don’t sell it, they can probably tell you where to buy it. Don’t bring wood from different areas/provinces. Don’t use deadfall as it is valuable for the environment.
  • Keep your wood dry. At night, I would put the wood on a tarp and cover it but depending on your environment , that may not be necessary.
  • Use longer, sturdier wooden kitchen matches or a barbecue lighter. Leave those free match books at home. You can also use a fire paste or starter to help get it going.
  • Overestimate on how long it will take to chop the logs into small kindling bits, don’t skip this step as it’s important to get smaller pieces to get the fire going. The hatchet, being smaller than an axe was more comfortable for me.
  • Before you start building your fire, make sure the immediate area around the campfire is clear and there is nothing flammable in the pit.
  • Keep your fire small, start off with twig size pieces and old paper, make a small tipi with kindling, continue to feed the fire, blow on it. Start adding a bit bigger pieces of wood as it catches and grows. Don’t smother the flames, the fire needs oxygen to grow.
  • Enjoy a glass of your favourite beverage and make some campfire desserts once it’s going,once the fire gets going. Remember to keep adding wood to the fire.
  • If you are not successful keep trying. Make sure the wood isn’t damp and that the wood pieces are small enough.
  • Make sure your fire is out. I let my fire die down and then the coals around until they became cool. You can also spread out the fire, let it die and slowly put water on it if you can’t wait to cool on it’s own. Always make sure you don’t leave it burning or hot to touch. There are too many forest fires caused by humans.

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Pacific Rim National Park Sunsets

One of the things that I loved about visiting Pacific Rim National Park were the sunsets. The first night I was there, my feet were frozen from walking in the Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t stop walking until the sunshine was gone and the sky was dark. I loved soaking it all in and enjoyed every moment.
Long Beach Sunset

Some sunsets capture your attention more than others, this was one of them. Even after the sun went down the sky had shades of pink, yellows, blues and purples. The sky demanded your attention.

Pacific Rim National Park Sunset

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Forbidden Vancouver – Prohibition City

Forbidden Vancouver Prohibition CityDo you know what a blind pig is?

Neither did I until I went on the Forbidden Vancouver – Prohibition City tour earlier in October. A blind pig is the Canadian name for a speakeasy, infamous during prohibition. If you couldn’t afford a private club and wanted to drink outside your home, you would go to these rundown illegal drinking dens that served industrial alcohol, toxic stuff. There were other ways to obtain alcohol during prohibition but you’ll have to figure those out on your own or go on the Prohibition Tour.

Tanya Bennettstoryteller and guide, plays a lead reporter along with the participates on the tour. We were armed with a newspad and pencil as we walked in alleys and down streets.  We heard about the darker side of Vancouver’s history and how people lived before, during and after prohibition in British Columbia, their relationship with alcohol and why things happened the way they did.

As we walked around, we tried to figured out the answers to questions that were presented to us while information about the people, building and neighbourhoods we visited was shared. The tour guide’s stories brought to life the history and I could imagine what it would have been like here when prohibition began on October 1, 1917.

At the end of the tour, the top newshound was announced. A tie between Adelina from Pack Me To and myself. A tie breaker round was announced which stumped us both. Adelina let me win with my multiple guesses and I was awarded a prize. The questions during the tour were a bit challenging due to the tour being at night. However, the darkness added to the atmosphere, and we had to investigate and take some educated guess. How often do you find out more about a place while walking in an alley?

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