Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #3 – Foraging for Wild Mushrooms

It’s mushroom season on the Sunshine Coast. The few days of rain we had last week  have coaxed these delicacies of Nature to make their annual appearance. If you’re patient, and know what to look for, and where to look you will be rewarded. We found a small patch of these Coral Mushrooms with the help of Tyler Grey, owner of Mikuni Wild Harvest, who grew up on the Sunshine Coast.

We were in pretty good hands. Tyler has been foraging for wild mushrooms for most of his life, a passion that was handed down to him by his mother. That’s him on the right with my youngest son, Colin and they’ve just found a patch of Hogshead Mushrooms – a healthy handful that we enjoyed later that day in a savoury wild mushroom pasta, cooked with some garlic that I’d been drying in my cellar, and olive oil. That was all we needed – talk about letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

The ultimate find for the day, however, were the covetted Chantrelles (pictured below) and we were rewarded a number of times for our patience.

Mushroom Foraging is a popular Autumn activity on the Sunshine Coast and it seems that everyone has their own secret place or two.

The Second Annual Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival takes place this weekend in Pender Harbour. Several workshops on identifying mushrooms are offered and most of the local restaurants will be featuring wild mushrooms on their menus. If you’d like to get some expert advice on identification this is a great opportunity. Of course any opportunity to escape from the big city to visit the Sunshine Coast is always worth considering.  Happy hunting!!

 

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #2 – Birding at Sechelt Marsh

Sechelt Marsh has a winding trail around a small pond with a smaller island in the middle. The pond is fed by both fresh and tidal water, offering a rich habitat, and an abundance of ducks, mostly Mallards and other common species is usually present. The island offers a level of protection to new arrivals, and many rarer ducks have appeared including Canvasback, both the Redhead & Tufted Duck,and Blue-winged & Cinnamon Teal. Green Heron and Gray Catbird have also occurred.

The winding loop passes through trees and bushes surrounding the Marsh and can be good for a wide variety of passerines at any season. Recently, this has been the most reliable location for Black-capped Chickadees which are presently colonizing the Sunshine Coast. A White-throated Sparrow was seen several times this past winter (2011) Porpoise Bay, which is adjacent contains many species of waterbirds in winter, and the mud flat at the head of the bay is good, at low tide, for shorebirds in the summer and fall.

I always enjoy making several loops around the Marsh, both for the exercise as well as the opportunity to see something I may have missed.

Sechelt Marsh is located just north of the town centre at Porpoise Bay. More information about birding on the Sunshine Coast can be found at http://www.sunshinecoastnature.com/

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #1 – Sargeant Bay

It’s birding season and when the skies cleared yesterday afternoon, I set out with my camera and tripod in hopes of capturing some of our recently arrived visitors. Unfortunately the wind was conspiring against this, and I was a bit early in the season, but who cares, it was a good excuse to spend some time in one of my favourite places.

If you’re looking for a place where you can enjoy a walk in solitude, Sargeant Bay is pretty well guaranteed. It has been a favourite of mine for a long time.  A perfect horseshoe-shaped bay with piles of driftwood stacked haphazardly along the pebble beach… and more often than not, I’ve had the whole area completely to myself.

Sargeant Bay was established as a provincial park in 1990 after a decade-long, heated struggle by local residents to prevent an outside investor from developing it. The plan was to  subdivide the property into 145 lots, dredge out the bay and build a large marina. A prime example of paving paradise to put up a parking lot and local Sunshine Coast resident Joni Mitchell would have been proud of the efforts to prevent this from happening .

The park can be reached by following the main highway from Sechelt for about 5-minutes, turning off at Redroofs Road, and following this for another 3-4 minutes. There are two parks actually. The upland section is an extensive network of well-planned connecting trails. The lowland section has a trail along a raised berm with the curving pebble beach on one side and marshy wetland on the other.   The combination of boreal forest, saltwater and wetland provides a rich habitat for birds with 157 species identified in the park

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Falling for the Sunshine Coast – Part 1

When I was working, the Fall season always seemed like a glass half empty.  But, now that I get to play all year round, I have time to appreciate its true beauty. I find myself looking forward to its approach, knowing of the opportunities to  capture its many colours…  like these golden leaves floating with some kelp in the bright, low lying sun.

But it’s not just the changing colours of the leaves. The sunsets (and sunrises) during the Fall season are a much celebrated event. I won’t try to explain why this happens; it’s just the magic of the season. As each day draws to a close, there is an eager anticipation, watching the sun tuck behind the hills to the west and waiting for the colours to emerge.

I captured the image above  on a Halloween evening, two years ago, and then just a couple of days ago, this image of the same hillside presented itself.  I’ve been using the camera on  my iPhone quite a bit lately and used the HDR function to take the picture.  I’m quite pleased with the result. The two pictures of the same scene seem like mirror images, with the vividly coloured clouds like brackets on each side of the hills. I’m not sure which I prefer – which do you like?

To see more of these images of the Fall season at CoracleCove, visit my website www.coraclecove.com where you can see a short video of some of my other favourites … enjoy!!

 

 

 

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Jazz on the Sunshine Coast

We get to listen to a lot of good music on the Sunshine Coast and the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival is one of my favourite events. Mix great jazz of all styles with very, very small venues and you have the phenomenon that is the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival. And how about those venues… waterside restaurants and pubs – it just doesn’t get any better.

Pender Harbour is a collection of small, friendly communities joined by a highway but more connected by water. Its days go back as a fishing community and it was much easier to get around by boat. The nautical influence continues, like this mural on the side of the community hall which hosted  yesterday’s event – a series of four one-hour performances ranging from a tight sextet playing old gold jazz to my favourite, Van Django’s punchy gypsy jazz.

Van Django is influenced heavily by the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt who played at the Hot Club in France during the 1930’s. Here they are tying it all together with a last minute rehearsal just before going on stage. It was an extra bonus for me to sit and listen in this casual setting.

This was the fifteenth annual Jazz Festival hosted by Pender Harbour and it’s easy to understand why it has become an annual destination event for a crowd of jazz lovers from across the Pacific Northwest. Mark your calendar for next year – the third weekend in September.

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Hidden Grove on the Sunshine Coast – a story of survival

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

Today these precious 125 acres have been set aside solely for recreation.  Less than 5-minutes away from our bed & breakfast, they provide our guests both solitude and a re-connection with nature.

 

Shortly after leaving the parking area you’ll notice several cedars which have undergone a limited bark stripping. The trees are unharmed, and members of the Sechelt Indian Band use the cedar bark for traditional baskets, regalia and clothing.

The main trail rises gently , passing rocking ourcrops and mossy plateaus and brings you to the Ancient Grove, a concentrated group of tall, stately firs.  Some of the old growth have been dated as much as seven hundred years old. Partial logging in the late 19th century has left many larger second growth trees like this.

 

The network of trails, created entirely by community volunteers has been very thorough with signs like this at each intersection, so it’s impossible to lose one’s way. On a recent walk, we followed the “Northern Loop” and were able to complete this section in just under an hour. There are also connector routes leading to the adjacent Sechelt Heritage Forest, and my wife Sheila, and her two hiking partners spend a couple of hours walking these trails three mornings each week.

 

Be sure to keep your eyes moving, both up and down, as you never know what you might see. I used my iPhone for all of the images in this blog and was generally quite pleased with the quality of its 5-megapixel camera. I was pretty impressed with the detail that I was able to capture on this fungus.

 

So, how good is that… a walk in solitude through a beautiful forest that’s only 5-minutes away,  and a chance to do some photography – sounds like the perfect outing for me!!

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Summer Days on the Sunshine Coast – a day for relaxing

traffic report from Coracle Cove

Most mornings I hear the Vancouver traffic report on the radio while I’m preparing breakfast for our B&B guests. I had the morning off today, and as I was enjoying a coffee down on my dock, I thought it might be fun to send out my own morning traffic report.  This is the picture that I Tweeted out.

As you may have guessed, today’s blog is all about relaxation and taking time for yourself. This is the fifth in my series of seven daily blogs in which I unlock the secrets of the Sunshine Coast and share a few of my best insider tips to help you get the most out of your getaway.

There’s nothing better for relaxing than a Yoga class and my favourite studio is Yoga by the Sea.   The drop-in rate is only $15 for a two-hour class and they’ve got all the gear you need. The instructors always provide a great mix of both mental and physical activity; the classes are small; and you get as much attention and help as you want. So don’t worry about anything – give it a try.

 

My dinner recommedation for tonight is the Old Boot in Sechelt.  This is an easy and relaxing dining experience – the food is good, the servings plentiful, and the prices reasonable. The menu is just the right size with a selection of pastas, steak, ribs and seafood.After dinner head back to Coracle Cove and down to your favourite waterside seat on our dock. You’ve had a good day, feeding both the body and the mind, so take some time to remind yourself of how much you have to be happy about. click here to return to our website www.coraclecove.com

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Sunshine Coast Sandcastle Competition

photo courtesy of Coast Reporter Newspaper

Perfect weather conditions brought out a large crowd of curious spectators and over twenty teams of creative sand architects in this year’s Sunshine Coast Sandcastle Competition. The annual competition is held each year at Davis Bay Beach, where the broad and expansive sandbar at low tide provides a perfect canvas for this community event.

 

a castle fit for a king

While the event draws eager participants of all ages, this is a very serious competition. Local and imported teams, armed with buckets, misters and complex plans vie to see who will win the coveted bragging rights for the next year.

This one was my favourite – a complex , multi-tiered undertaking, with its moat linking to the incoming tide and filling, just as the judges arrived. Ahh… the advantage of a little local knowledge always helps.

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Summer Days on the Sunshine Coast – your first day

The Sunshine Coast is an easy and affordable option for anyone needing a few days away from the daily grind. Imagine taking a stunning ferry ride to another world where the pace is slow, the scenery is breathtaking and the people are friendly.  The  Sunshine Coast is on Vancouver’s doorstep, and it’s only a scenic 40 minutes away, waiting to welcome you to BC’s best kept secret. In this series of seven blogs we’ll unlock the secrets and share some of our best insider tips to help you get the most out of your precious time away.

BC Ferries - Mini Cruise

Our first piece of advice is to get an early start to the day. There’s less traffic on the early morning ferries and you’ve just gained some extra hours for your getaway. Once you’ve boarded the ferry, grab your camera and head up to the outside deck. You’ll get some great pictures as the ferry winds its way through several small islands.

Lower Gibsons is our first destination, so break away from that pack of cars, turn left at the traffic light and follow this quiet country road. Lower  Gibsons was originally a fishing settlement and still holds some of that maritime charm.  There’s a good variety of galleries, coffee shops and some great gelato. Mike’s Gelato was recently named by Vancouver blogger 604 Pulse, as one of the Ten Best Places to get Gelato in the Lower Mainland.

Smitty's Oyster House

Hungry for lunch? Head down the stairs beside Molly’s Reach where you’ll find Smitty’s Oysterhouse.  They offer the freshest of seafood and you’ll be seated at a communal table just a few feet from the salty brine. After lunch, walk along the boardwalk or head out onto the wharf to look at all the boats. There’s even a floating garden.

Sechelt is only a 25 minute drive from Gibsons so you’ve still got lots of time before your 3:00 check-in. You might even want to pick up a few supplies before-hand so that you can fully relax on our waterside deck after you’ve checked-in. There’s an IGA store along the highway, and a good wine selection at the Lighthouse Wine & Cold Beer store, just as you come into Sechelt.

dinner at the Lighthouse

Keeping with the relaxation theme, our dinner recommendation for tonight is casual and there’s no need to get dressed up. The Lighthouse serves good pub-style food and has a large variety of seating areas, including two large waterside decks offering great views of the busy little harbour and Sechelt Inlet beyond.

After dinner head back home and return to your favourite seat on your other waterside deck. As the evening sets in you’ll be treated to an amazing display of stars set against the dark, dark country skies. Are you starting to feel relaxed…. wait till you see what we’ve planned for tomorrow.

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Four Ways to Paddle the waters of Sechelt Inlet

The early morning is one of my most favourite times of the day. Whenever I can, I’ll head down to our waterside deck with a cup of coffee and yesterday’s newspaper to sit and enjoy the peaceful morning water. More often than not I’ll be entertained with a parade of all sorts of interesting boats. Here’s a few recent pictures.

watching the boats going by at Coracle Cove

The inside waters of Sechelt Inlet have been discovered by a wide range of paddling enthusiasts, gliding over the water in boats of all different sizes.

First Nations – Pulling Together

The Dolphin Spirit is a First Nations war canoe, and she’s been a regular visitor during the past few months. Her crew was training for Pulling Together, held this year along the open waters of the west coast of Vancouver Island. Pulling Together was the brainchild of Ed Hill, a local retired RCMP Staff Sargeant. The annual journeys bring together crews of law enforcement officers and aboriginal youth and elders, who paddle or pull together, down or along the traditional waterways of the province, visiting many of the First Nation communities along the way. Ed Hill knew the benefit of police officers working with the First Nation community and this was the start of an annual tradition that’s still going strong.

Dragonboating in Sechelt Inlet

We also have a very active dragonboating club on the Inlet, who freqently bring their large boats out our way. The Sunshine Dragon Boat Club, formed in 2004, has a membership of approximately 125 members, and includes a large contingent of breast cancer surviving paddlers. They offer several programs and practice times weekly and keep their two international standard dragon boats very busy. This weekend they held their annual MacKenzie Cup Regatta.

outriggers practice in front of Coracle Cove

In addition to the dragonboats, we also see several of the smaller outriggers practicing their paddling and technical manouevres. Coracle Cove is located at Four Mile Point on Sechelt Inlet, and makes for a good paddling workout for these 4 and 6 person crews. Each year the Howe Sound Outrigger Race attracts a large contingent of local and international entrants.

Paddlers Challenge – checking in at Coracle Cove

And finally, we enjoy seeing the colourful kayakers, sometimes just a lone boat glidiing over the calm early morning waters and occasionally a flotilla, heading up the inlet to one of the many mairine parks. Sechelt Inlet is a narrow stretch of protected water and is ideal for both novice and seasoned kayakers.

This picture was taken last year during the Paddlers’ Challenge Series, a summer event, organized by Halfmoon Sea Kayaks. Each week they organize a kayaking challenge on a different part of the Sunshine Coast. This particular event dubbed, the “poker paddle” was lots of fun, as the paddlers completed a circle route around Sechelt Inlet, stopping in at various check points to collect playing cards to see who could make up the best hand. In this picture they were checking in at the Coracle Cove dock where our guests were handing out the cards.

Now, I think you have to agree, there aren’t too many places where you can see all of this activity, up close, as these pictures will attest… and that’s why we love living on Sechlet Inlet.

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