Park Guide: Paradise Meadows (Strathcona Provincial Park)

In the winter, I spend a lot of time snowshoeing at Mount Washington Alpine Resort in Strathcona Provincial Park.  I go almost every weekend to walk around the trails, always marveling at the scenery and the quietness of the surroundings.  It’s one of my most favourite things to do and I look forward to when the trails open each winter so I can pull my snowshoes out of storage and get out & play in the snow!

This year though, I really wanted to go check out the park BEFORE the snow fell.  The park has beautiful boardwalks throughout, there are running creeks and small waterfalls, and wildflowers galore… I’ve just never seen any of that because it’s usually under a few feet of snow when I visit!

With the incredible fall weather we had through October, we took advantage of the bright, dry days and teamed up with Sonja of Photography by Sonja to go check out Paradise Meadows without any snow.  All the photos in this post are by Sonja and the fact that she took approximately 1400 photos (seriously… that’s not a typo!!) on our 13km hike should be a testament to the beauty of the park.

We drove up to the Raven Lodge at Mt Washington Alpine Resort, not really knowing if we were going to the right spot.  We were… and it turns out there are lots of signs that I’ve just never seen due to being buried under the snow.  (That’s going to be a theme in this post I think! Haha).  It was a beautiful day and the parking lot was almost full with like-minded folks getting out and enjoying the warm sunshine.  There is a hiking hut, bathroom facilities, and park map at the trail head, so just a few minutes after parking, we were on our way with a route in mind.

Our adventure took us from Paradise Meadows to Battleship Lake to Lake Helen Mackenzie.  Considering we had set out to do the quick Paradise Meadows loop, the fact that we were still walking 4 hours later was pretty impressive.  From the start, we got more excited every time we turned a corner and couldn’t wait to see more, so we just kept going and going and going!

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The paths were mostly all boardwalks and where boardwalks didn’t exist, the trails were well-maintained and easy to navigate.  On the Paradise Meadows loop, I pulled out the strategically packed bird seed to see if I could get the whisky jacks (a.k.a. gray jays) to come around.  [Please note: If you want to feed the birds on your trip here, please take bird seed!  It is dangerous to feed these birds any human food due to the sodium content so don’t do it!]

I tried a couple times with no success, but on the third try, the whisky jacks showed up en masse. They were fighting over a spot on my hand and, with Sonja snapping away beside me, she got some stellar shots of me doubled over trying to prevent them from hitting me in the face.  Beyond those moments, it was pretty special seeing the birds up close this way.

From Paradise Meadows, we had planned to loop back but we opted to continue on to Battleship Lake.  This is a favourite spot of mine when I’m snowshoeing and I learned that outside of the winter season, it’s a stunning spot to sit and relax and admire the crystal clear reflections on the water.  We saw a few other people feeding the whisky jacks as well and Sonja had to climb out to the dock that was still under construction for the perfect pics.  It was just so beautiful!

Not wanting to turn back again, we kept going to Lake Helen Mackenzie.  Here we found a provincial campground with one of the best views ever.  The serene lake, quiet chirp of birds nearby, and the breeze in the trees created the picture perfect campground and considering its only a few kilometers from the parking lot and easy walking, it’d be very easy to get your gear in here for a weekend camping trip!

With Sonja veering off main path on side paths or old trails whenever she could (in search of the perfect pictures!), I loved the feeling of having the park to myself.  We occasionally passed other hikers and walkers, but there weren’t any spots where we all collided at once which made the day that much more special.  I did pass a fellow nature enthusiast with his 10 week old puppy and had a pretty intense debate with myself about whether he’d be okay if I just scooped the puppy up on my way by.  Knowing better, I just asked to pet the pup and kept on going, sans puppy.

In short time, we arrived back at the parking lot with big smiles and feeling exhilarated from the day.  It was exceptionally scenic and I left knowing that one of the most impressive winter spots I know is a different kind of impressive the rest of the year as well.  I’m excited to visit through the winter again but then also in the spring when the wildflowers bloom.  It’s going to be a sight to see for sure!

I loved the adventure and appreciated Sonja coming along and capturing the beauty of the park.  She’s pretty adventurous and loves to capture anything water related as well as experimenting with different types of shots.  Like & follow her page – Photography by Sonja – and see all her photos there!

To check out more of our Van Isle adventures, click here

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The Other Islands: Malcolm Island

Just a short ferry ride away from Port McNeill is Malcolm Island. Having never been here we did some research before arriving. It was built by Finnish settlers who wanted the community to be a utopia—a place where everything is perfect. While that didn’t quite work out as planned, there is certainly a strong sense of community, neighbours helping one another, and people working together for the greater good of the island. Also, with every Gulf Island comes two things: a laid-back island feel and a totally unique culture that is simultaneously both like and unlike the other Gulf Islands.

It’s a long winding drive up to Port McNeill!
Continue reading “The Other Islands: Malcolm Island”

Try This: Attend Sointula Winterfestival!

Forty two years ago a few tree planters got together in the fall to sell their crafts for some extra dough before Christmas. That first event led to the creation of an annual event that has evolved to highlight much of the talent within the community and beautifully showcase local musicians and artists.

Fast forward to 2018 and Sointula’s Winterfestival is a highlight of the fall season! The whole Malcolm Island community and people from near and far gather for the festival consisting of workshops, a craft fair, and entertainment. Now, this isn’t just a few tables selling knitted dish cloths and wooden bowls… This is a huge event for the island and the whole community is involved!

Sointula Banner
https://www.sointulawinterfestival.com/

Continue reading “Try This: Attend Sointula Winterfestival!”

Try This: South Island Kid Adventure

I had a week off recently and was able to take my niece on another adventure!  You might remember my last adventure with my niece – our Sunday Funday Kid Adventure! My niece is 7 now and when you put a 7-year-old in charge of the day, you know it’s going to be both crazy busy but also heaps of fun!

We started the day with our pancake breakfast tradition before turning the car south and heading to Duncan.  Here, my niece got to choose between the BC Forest Museum or the The Birds of Prey Visitor Centre.  She chose the Visitor Centre and off we went to see The Raptors.  From the moment we arrived, she was fascinated… actually, we both were!  From owls to eagles to vultures to kookaburras to an actual real-life stork, my niece zoomed around, reading all the birds’ stories and calling to them.  We stayed for a flying demonstration and had eagles, hawks, and owls swish by our heads within inches.  My niece, an animal lover, loved getting to know more about all the birds and being able to be so close to birds that are normally only seen from a distance.   Continue reading “Try This: South Island Kid Adventure”

Go Hiking to the Bomber Plane Crash in Tofino

I’ve wanted to do this hike for years and just never made it there… Either it was too rainy when I got to Tofino or I was in Tofino to go to the beach or another event.  If I’m being honest, I also thought this hike was in Ucluelet (not Tofino like it actually is!) so it was probably best I waited for a friend to suggest we go and tag along with them so I actually got where I planned to go!

I’m talking about the hike to the famous Canso Bomber plane crash site in Tofino.  Starting near Radar Hill, you walk through some dense West Coast rain forest, a genuine muddy bog, an absolute maze of tree roots, and around a crater lake left by bomb detonations after the crash.  In total, the hike was only about 4.9km rountrip, but it was certainly one of the more interesting short hikes I’ve ever done!   Continue reading “Go Hiking to the Bomber Plane Crash in Tofino”

Park Guide: Stotan Falls

We had heard about Stotan Falls near Courtenay a few years ago. People who have been here before say it’s a perfect place to swim and explore so we were already motivated to find this spot, but then a promotional video in September 2017 from the Matador Network (check it out on Youtube HERE) made us even more googley-eyed and excited to check it out! Fast-forward to this summer and our friend posted pictures of it on Facebook and we knew it was finally time to just go!

Stotan Falls has been a bit of a secret for many years, though locals know it and love it as a great summer spot to cool down and relax. Continue reading “Park Guide: Stotan Falls”