Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #15 – searching for gnomes in Davis Bay

 

Brookman Park, Sechelt

It had been several years since I last walked the Brookman Park trails, but I had a little extra time on my hands and what better way to get some exercise and take a few pictures. Besides, I wanted to see if I could spot any of the hidden gnomes I’d heard about.

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If you’re coming from Sechelt, the trail is accessed just past the big sandy beach at Davis Bay, and just before the bridge. It follows along beside Chapman Creek.

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You’re never too far from the creek and soon after I had started, the sounds of traffic were replaced by flowing water and the plaintiff call of a Swainsons Thrush hiding somewhere in the brush.

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The trail is well maintained with this footbridge recently built over a perennial wet spot in the trail.

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I was on the look-out for gnomes and was soon rewarded with this pair carved into the aged stump of an old growth cedar.

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…and then, just as quickly, another appeared right in front of me. These stately faces were carved several years ago by Terry Chapman, using a chainsaw. Terry started carving at a very young age, making boats and figures from bark found along the riverbanks of the Fraser River. He now lives in Ladysmith where he has his own gallery.

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I had heard that there were several gnomes along the trail, as many as seventeen. Some are quite obvious and others… well, they’re gnomes so you have to keep your eyes open… and sure enough I was rewarded with another pair, hidden a little further off the trail.

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My time was running out and finally I had to turn back. I’d had a great walk through the woods, took a few pictures and had spotted a few gnomes. All in all, not a bad outing. My gnome count for the day – six, but I’ll be heading back to see if I can spot a few more.

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Where to eat in Sechelt? The Lighthouse is a great waterfront option

 

Lighthouse in Sechelt

It doesn’t get much better than this – dining on the deck on a beautiful sunny day at the Lighthouse. It’s one of my favourite places to go and I definitely speak from experience when I recommend my guests to have at least one meal at the Lighthouse.

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It’s casual dining, and the place to be is on the deck, where you can watch all of the action.  Porpoise Bay is a busy waterway with small work boats coming and going and float planes landing and taking off throughout the day.

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…there’s all sorts of things passing in and out of this amazing vista. The view is constantly changing, keeping you entertained while relaxing on the waterfront deck

Lighthouse in Sechelt

Even when it’s a cloudy, misty day, your table is protectively tucked under the retractable roof and you’re still able to enjoy the ever-changing view. And if it’s one of those “rare” west coast rainy days you can move inside and sit beside the warm fireplace.

Lighthouse in Sechelt

The Lighthouse is all about enjoying one of the most amazing views on the Sunshine Coast and their expansive outside deck has plenty of seating.

Lighthouse in Sechelt

They’ve got a good selection of brews on tap, including some great craft beers. My favourite… Total Eclipse of the Hop, a strong IPA brewed with six varieties of hops, produced by nearby Howe Sound Brewing. If you like a beer with some character, then I would recommend giving this one a try.

Lighthouse in Sechelt

Yesterday’s special was the Warm Seafood Salad and as you can see the serving was extremely generous, with fresh prawns, mussels, salmon and whitefish served over a bed of mixed greens. The seafood was cooked perfectly and the dressed mixed greens were fresh and crisp.

Lighthouse in Sechelt

Some of my other recommended choices: Seafood Curry Hotpot, Baha Fish Tacos, Braised Lamb Shank, anything with Mussels, and of course their Fish & Chips… and if you’re feeling a bit more carnivorous I’ve heard their Pile Driver is pretty unbelievable.

Follow this link to learn more about Coracle Cove Waterfront Suite and more of our Insider Tips for the Sunshine Coast.

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The Upper Deck Cafe – fine dining in a floating restaurant in Secret Cove

You can’t get any closer to waterside-dining at the Upper Deck Cafe because you’re actually floating on it.  Located in Secret Cove Marina in Halfmoon Bay, they have a well deserved reputation among boaters, many of whom plan their trips around a scheduled overnight mooring in order to sample their fare.

Secret Cove is just a short 25-minute drive from Coracle Cove and we regularly recommend this small intimate restaurant to our guests who are looking for a special dining experience. They were recently reviewed in Flare Magazine’s “Five most romantic little getaways in the world.”

This seasonal restaurant, open from May to September, has been managed for the past few years by a family who alternate their seasons between Secret Cove and Melaque in Mexico where they operate their own restaurant during the winter season. Mother is the genius in the kitchen while her affable son most capably manages the floor.

They offer a limited menu with a fresh sheet for daily specials which allows them to extend a variety of choices over their short season.  The tantalizing choices will definitely keep you focussed as you struggle to narrow down your selection. My wife is a self-admitted scallop junky and when we were last here she ordered the sambuca-orange scallops with wild rice and barley.

Fortunately, scallops were on the menu again, this time prepared in a ginger, basil, coconut sauce. Cooking delicate scallops demands impeccable timing to keep them moist and to maintain their briny flavours. They were cooked perfectly and accompanied with julienned pepper, red onion and zucchini sticks, together with Thai curry rice cakes that were just spicy enough to add a counter balancing zing to the palate.

Upper Deck in Secret Cove

We were on our way home from a Skookumchuk hike where we had watched a group of crazy kayakers surfing in a 15+ knot tidal current. Normally I’m a bit of a carnivore, as evidenced from this image from my previous review: a coffee-crusted tenderloin. It was tender, with a bit of spicy heat and the coffee crust and balsamic reduction a lovely counterpoint.

It was late into the evening, however, so I wanted something a little lighter.  The Proscuitto wrapped halibut came with a  lemon-caper beurre blanc sauce that was absolutely succulent. Like the scallops, the halibut was cooked perfectly, moist throughout with fresh ocean flavours. As you can see the serving was most generous, coming with a side of mixed greens and a wonderful mushroom risotto, with lovely, little oyster mushrooms.

Upper Deck in Secret Cove

The food was marvellous, the service efficient and friendly, and the bill quite reasonable – $90 including a generous pouring of wine for each, plus tip. In addition to this fine dining experience we were entertained by boats of all sizes passing by our outside table on the upper deck. Dessert wasn’t necessary, but the colourful sunset was a wonderful finish.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #14 – Skookumchuk Rapids

The Skookumchuk Rapids could easily be considered the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Twice a day, over 200 billion gallons of water flow through the narrow and constricted opening of the Skookumchuk Narrows, creating a tidal current that is rated as one of the world’s fastest and most dangerous.

Skookumchuk

Experienced boaters will carefully consult their tide tables, often checking a second and even third source, before entering the Narrows. They are waiting for “slack tide,” that precise moment when the tidal flow changes direction, from flood to ebb and the current subsides. However, it’s those extreme currents which can sometimes approach 16 knots,  that attract a daredevil group of white water kayakers, .

Skookumchuk Rapids

During a Flood Tide, the water flows through Skookumchuk Narrows at a far greater volume than the narrow and constricted opening can handle. As the waters back up they create a series of standing waves and it’s these waves, that attract the kayakers, who attempt to surf in their small vulnerable craft. (check out this YouTube video)

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It’s an incredible experience to witness the raw power of Nature and this is what makes the Skookumchuk such a great experience.  At the end of your hike there are two viewing areas to choose from. If it’s a flood tide you’ll want to carry on to Roland Point, while if the tide is ebbing, North Point is the preferred site to see the large whirl pools.

Ebb Tide occurs when the tide is flowing out of Sechelt Inlet and that’s when the large whirlpools are created. They’re strong enough to suck down a large log and send it popping into the air as it frees itself from the swirling vortex. It was an ebb tide that was responsible for the tragic accident that took the lives of two Auxiliary Coast Guard members in 2012, as they attempted to travel through the waters during a practice session.

You need to time your hike to see the tidal surge at its strongest and you can use this tide table link to determine the best time for this.  The hike itself takes about 40-50 minutes along a wide and well maintained trail, that is easy for most abilities. If you arrive early you can watch the current building up.

Skookumchuk Rapids

From early June to mid-September, the little bakery is open at the trail head where you can pick up panninis or sticky buns to munch on while you’re watching the show.  Once you arrive, take your seat and watch the Skookum Lady strut her stuff.

We hope you enjoyed this. If you’d like to learn more about other Sunshine Coast attractions and our award winning Vacation Rental follow this link http://www.coraclecove.com

 

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – Watching a Great Blue Heron catch its dinner

We had an interesting visitor at Coracle Cove last night. It was the end of a hot, sunny day and the tide was low, providing a shallow basin of water at the shoreline.  I was wandering down to our dock to take in the sunset when I noticed this beautiful bird standing patiently in the water.  I moved quietly into our little studio where I could watch undetected through a small window.

Great Blue Heron  at Coracle Cove

Great Blue Heron are actually regular visitors to Coracle Cove, but they don’t often stay put for as long as this one did.  But then, this beautiful blue feathered bird was quite focussed on catching its next meal and didn’t seem to notice the close attention that I was paying to it at all.

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

Heron are carnivores and their long legs, neck and pointed bills are particularly well suited for foraging in the water. A further modification in their vertebra lets them draw their neck back into an S-shape. Standing completely motionless, they patiently wait for small fish to move into striking range, and then shoot their head and bill forward with lightning speed to spear their unwary prey.

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

Unfortunately, these heron are themselves, caught in the middle of the food chain. They must be ever vigilant and on the lookout for the sharp-eyed and swift-flighted eagle. As our eagle population has increased, the ungainly flight pattern of the heron is seriously outmatched, and our heron population is now noticeably declining.  Can anything be done, or have we already interferred too much with Mother Nature?

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast #13 – Kinnikinnick’s newest trail

 

Kinnikinnick Park

A new multi-purpose trail  project was officially opened at Kinnikinnick Park last week. Brown Sugar with 1.8 km of twists and turns was completed over the course of 5 years by successive classes from Capilano University’s Mountain Bike Operations Program.

Brown Sugar Trail at Kinnikinick Park

Kinnikinick is already one of my favourite walking areas so it seemed like a good excuse for a Saturday afternoon hike. One of the hallmarks of this trail system is excellent signage with approximate distances allowing you to choose just how far you want to walk that day.

Kinnikinnik Park

The student expertise that went into the building of Brown Sugar was evident with a few of these raised bridges for those wanting more of a technical challenge. This new trail also had banked corners for an easy ride, graded areas to keep the trail from washing away, and strategically placed obstacles to keep you from wandering off  the trail.  But the trail wasn’t built just for mountain bikers and I had it completely to myself as I explored on foot.

Eagles Nest Trail in Kinnikinnick

With a few stops for photography, it took me about a half-hour to explore this new addition and I followed Eagles Nest for my return route. This trail is aptly named as I could hear a pair of eagles overhead calling back and forth to each other.  At other times along the trail I could also hear the occasional tapping of woodpeckers and a healthy chorus of frogs.

Kinnickinnick Park

When the trails were first created a decade or more ago, they worked hard to leave the park in a very natural state and I think they succeeded. Today you can see the forest slowly reclaiming its territory. Fallen logs have taken on a verdant green coating with  small shoots of new vegetative growth poking through the moss.

Kinnikinnick ParkTall conifers, 10 feet or more in circumference, stretch upwards toward the sky, while the massive stumps of  trees from a bygone past stand silently, allowing us to imagine what this forest once was.

Kinnickinnick Park

As I walked through the park, passing over conveniently placed footbridges, the  sun shone through the trees, dappling the trail with patches of light and everything was as it should be. Life is good on the Sunshine Coast.

foot bridge - Kinnickinnick Park

A hearty thank you to the students of Capilano University’s Mountain biking Operations Program and to the original stewards of Kinnikinnick Park for creating such a wonderful set of trails. We are indeed very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place as the Sunshine Coast.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast- #12 – the totem poles of the shíshálh

The shíshálh people have lived on the Sunshine Coast for several millennia benefiting from the rich resources of the sea and the rain-forest. Their wealth was enhanced through strategic marriages which fostered peace, goodwill and trade .  At the time of European contact their population exceeded 25,000.

Sechelt Village  c.1920

Unfortunately that relationship would prove to be costly as disease and misguided government policies brought this once proud nation to its knees. More recently the shíshálh have re-gained their economic independence and moved forward to rebuild their Nation. Their totems tell us a story of freedom and re-birth.

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In a tremendous cultural renaissance, almost 30 totems have been carved in the last thirty years. While contemporary, they are impressive indications of the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the shíshálh.

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Our tour begins at the Sechelt Indian Band Hall which is located behind McDonald’s. Leave your car in the parking lot and walk around to the front of the hall.

It is here that the talking totems begin their story…

On the water side of the Hall, a circle of smaller totems, carved by Jamie Jeffries surrounds a large granite bolder with a plaque describing the history of shíshálh Nation. While only four of the original seven remain, three of these are faceless and represent the loss of identity under the Federal Indian Act.

totems - hall commemorative

On October 9, 1986 the federal government passed legislation removing the shíshálhs from the oppressive Indian Act. They became the first in Canada to achieve a self-government status enabling them to exert more control over their economic development . The provincial government would follow 20 months later with legislation creating the Sechelt Indian District Government.

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Two larger totems stand to the side of the plaque, each celebrating the passage of this historic legislation by the respective parliamentary body. A second set of totems stand at the front of the hall honouring the elders of the community for their patience and wisdom.

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Sunset Totems

Follow the road leading toward the ocean and turn left, walking along the seawall until you find five totems majestically looking out to the Salish Sea. The  shíshálh territory was vast and these totems represent the four main clans of the nation. The ts ´únay were in Jervis Inlet at Deserted Bay and the xénichen at nearby Queen’s Reach. The téwánkw occupied the waters of Sechelt Inlet and the sxixus ranged from Pender Harbour to Roberts Creek. The fifth totem, in the middle, marks the amalgamation of these four clans in 1925 to form the modern day Sechelt Nation.

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Leaving the waterfront, walk up Chelphi Avenue until you come to the highway and then turn left, until you reach the traffic light where you can cross the highway. Within just two decades of achieving self-government, the shíshálh Nation had created the Tsain-Ko Village Shopping Centre, the crown jewel of their economic development.  To celebrate this achievement five more totems were erected in 2007.

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The eagle on the top is the Spiritual Bird that watches over all of the communities. Below is the Welcoming figure, holding its arms out in greeting and welcoming people of other nations to the Sechelt Community

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This Thunderbird is the spiritual guardian of the Sechelt Nation and was carved by band member Tony Paul in 2007.

Three more totems are currently being carved to commemorate the opening of the new wing of the hospital which sits on traditional grounds. The land for the hospital was  generously donated to the community by the shíshálh Nation several decades ago.

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Follow the sidewalk on the north side of the highway and just in front of the hospital you will find artist Andrew U’magalis Puglas and his team at work, skillfully carving to bring out figures of a noble woman, a double headed sea serpent and a great golden eagle from the eight-metre cedar pole.

Cross back over to the other side of the  highway, making one final stop at the House of héwhíwus complex. The tems swiya museum welcomes you to a journey encompassing the shíshálh land, history and culture. Stop by the tsain-ko gift shop and take home a reminder of your visit to Sechelt.

With special thanks to Susan Blockberger, Lenora Joe, Fran Nahanee, Bradley Hunt, Jamie Jeffries, Lori Dixon, Kerry Mahlman, Tony Paul and Candace Campo for helping to compile this information.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #11 – Hidden Grove & an amazing set of trails to explore just 5 minutes from Coracle Cove

How good is this… a walk through a beautiful forest and a chance to do some photography – sounds like the perfect outing for me!! Hidden Grove is just five minutes from Coracle Cove and I’ve been spending a lot of time there lately.

Google Map for Hidden Grove1

A series of wonderful trails has been created over the past few years and a second, widened trail with a good smooth base has just been finished by the hard working crew of volunteers. Both are perfect for the wheels of your choice – a wheel chair or a child’s stroller - providing increased access to a broader spectrum of users.

There’s a cultural history component to the trail system as well. Shortly after entering the trails you’ll notice several trees which have undergone bark stripping. The shíshálh Nation who have settled the area for several millennia, continue to harvest the bark of the cedar tree to make traditional baskets, regalia and clothing. The bark is relatively thin and grows back quickly.

The history of Hidden Grove is also one of survival… survival from natural fires of several centuries ago, which left charred bark up to a foot thick on the largest Douglas firs. More recently, the area was scheduled for logging but the local community rallied together  and Hidden Grove has been saved again.

Today these precious 125 acres have been set aside solely for recreation and less than 5 minutes away from Coracle Cove, they provide our guests a nearby opportunity for both solitude and a re-connection with nature.

View from Hidden Grove

The main trail rises gently, passing rocky outcrops and mossy plateaus and I branched off to the yellow trail to take this picture. The trail wound its way around a large outcropping of rocks and the view from the top was outstanding. It shows the very narrow stretch of land upon which the town of  Sechelt sits  and how it got it’s first name “Land Between Two Waters.”    We could just make out Vancouver Island in the distance across the Salish Sea

Hidden Groves near Sechelt

The extensive trail system loops through some interesting micro-climates and vegetation. Coming down from Pine Bluff, I picked up the Red Trail and as I followed it further, the change in vegetation was dramatic with a profusion of low growing ferns and moss covered tree trunks.

Hidden Groves near Sechelt

The network of trails is well marked with signs like this at each intersection, and it’s impossible to lose one’s way. Today,  it seemed as if I had the trails completely to myself, with the exception of a a couple of woodpeckers who kept me company with their rhythmic tapping on the trunks of the trees.

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – what are these birds trying to tell us?

The weather’s been crazy lately – freezing temperatures, wild wind storms… oh, and did I mention the rain? Will will it ever end?  Well, there’s a few signals out there, that better weather may be on the horizon.  Nature is pretty good at reading and sending out its own signals. It’s had a lot of practice.  We’re surrounded by quite a few of nature’s creatures at Coracle Cove and when we slow down long enough to watch and listen, we pick up on those signals.

Barrow's Goldeneye at Coracle Cove

Birds migrate over great distances in search of a steady source of food. They have an amazing ability to know just when to start moving on to greener pastures. Like these Goldeneyes who showed up  a couple of weeks ago. There’s just a small flock of maybe a dozen or so, and they like to feed on the mussels under our dock.  They usually hang around for a month before heading further north to begin their breeding cycle.

Surf Scoter at Coracle Cove

This Surf Scoter showed up a couple of days ago. It was a new sighting for me and it wasn’t until I got the binoculars on its colourful beak that I was able to verify its ID.

Hooded Merganzer at Coracle Cove

Mergansers are relatively common throughout our winter months, easily identified by their crested head. My favourite, however, is this Hooded Merganser with a large white crest which he fluffs out to attract a mate. Hooded Mergansers are a sure sign of the approach of Spring and breeding season.

Eagle at Coracle Cove

Although not a migratory bird, Eagles also travel in search of food and salmon is at the top of their shopping list. Our resident family of Eagles return each year after feasting elsewhere on spawning salmon. Their call is easily identifiable and we first started hearing it a few weeks ago. This year’s family seems to be made up of at least one or two adolescents who still have their brown head feathers and this handsome fellow who is the dominant Partiarch of the family.

Oystercatcher at Mission Point

Oystercatchers search along the shoreline for small mollusks and use their long bills to pry the shells open. Like the others in this blog, they return to our area at this time of the year and when I heard that they had arrived I immediately set out with my camera to take some pictures.

Birds are like old friends who have left our lives and then return. In this case, we’re doubly happy to see them because we know that the warmer days of Spring are not too far away.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #10 – Cliff Gilker Park & following the water down to the Salish Sea

Cliff Gilker Park  is zealously protected by a passionate community and with good reason.  Its 56 hectares are joined together with a series of well maintained trails and foot bridges that criss-cross back and forth over Roberts Creek as it funnels its way down to the Salish Sea.

Cliff Gilker Waterfall

Along the way the creek bed drops suddenly in elevation forming four  waterfalls. There are several viewing platforms and comfortable benches allowing one the opportunity to sit and contemplate the beauty of this endless cycle of Nature.

I took the Red trail today, a short 2 km loop which follows along the east side of the creek. The trails are well signed with a map at each intersection. Between stops for pictures and a leisurely pace it took just under an hour. It seemed like I had the park completely to myself as I saw only two other people.

I did have other companions, however, and could hear several species of feathered friends singing their songs of courtship and territory. The ripe salmon berries were a bright orange contrast to the verdant moss covered branches hanging above the misty waterfalls.

The water continued to flow, sometimes quickly, plunging over the rocks, at other times slowly, gathering in pools, but always propelled by the force of gravity. Leaving the park I took a short 5-minute drive to the mouth of Roberts Creek to see the water finally return to the ocean, where it will begin once again the cycle which will bring it back to the highlands behind the creek.

 

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