Park Guide: Cathedral Grove & Malcolm Community Park

We both love ice cream, but it’s kind of a guilty pleasure! In the past, we have tried to make sure we do something active in order to earn the treat and it’s special day (read: usually pretty hot and always very sunny!) when we indulge in a cone.  Turns out we might suffer from a bit of “treat guilt”!

We had a couple hours one day and at least one of us (it was Alina!) had a craving for ice cream and so naturally we thought of a trip to Whiskey Creek Store. This place is famous for its ice cream cones and it has over 30 flavours from Island Farms so you can be either be daring and try something new or else go for your favourite flavour each time.  Either way, you’re sure to enjoy every bite! We decided to turn the trip into an adventure and get a few steps in first to at least earn the treat.

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We headed out and went directly to Cathedral Grove, home of an ancient and an endangered giant Douglas Fir ecosystem. Many trees in the Grove are 500-800 years old and can sway about 250ft overhead. Seriously, they are just massive! Throughout the Grove, there are a lot more paths here now than either of us remember as kids so it’s a nice spot to explore and, since people come from near and far to walk amongst these giants, it’s a great spot to people-watch too. The paths meander through the forest and
along a creek bed. They also connect to the trail system that goes straight up Mt Arrowsmith if you just want a beautiful start to a crazy hike!

We were content to mosey along and take a few new turns to check out some corners of the Grove we hadn’t seen before. Beyond the Giant Douglas Firs, Cathedral Grove also contains many culturally modified trees. Many Red Cedars in the Grove have had their bark stripped– an ancient practice of First Nations people for cultural and ceremonial purposes.

Of course, no trip to Cathedral Grove is complete without a stop at The Big Tree. The Big Tree is thought to be over 800 years old, 76m tall, and 9m round. It’s called The Big Tree for good reason! The Grove will be changed every time you visit so that if you haven’t been here in a while, we highly recommend a trip back to check it out again!

After a jaunt around Cathedral Grove we headed back to the Whiskey Creek Store. Before we got ice cream though, we headed out back to the trail entrance to Malcolm Community Park and Steve’s Loop Trail. The trail starts right at the parking lot here and is just lovely. There are a few little hills and dips as you follow along, but the forest is full of new growth trees (read: all quite skinny and short when compared to Cathedral Grove) and the trail is probably somewhat underutilized as we didn’t pass another soul along the way. Whiskey Creek runs alongside but is almost silent itself so that you can bask in the sounds of the forest or chat it up and fill the void yourself if you’d like.

The loop from the parking lot is just about 2.5km and took us about half an hour at a very comfortable pace. The trail is a rough loop but easy to follow so there’s little chance you will get lost. Here, we had the motivation to get back to Whiskey Creek Store because we were finally going to get an ice cream!

We made it back without incident and found we both really liked this new trail discovery! We got our ice creams and headed home, happy with the day’s adventure that got us outside, moving, and involved a yummy treat!

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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.

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From there, we stopped for a quick lunch at Boston Pizza and continued south.  Seeing the birds had really made her want to go to a farm and see even more animals so I decided the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm would be the perfect next stop.  Turns out she had visited here once before but I think that made her a little more excited!  She grabbed me by the hand and took me around to show me all the animals.  We laughed at the chickens in the alpaca pen, the peacocks in the trees, and miniature horses quietly roaming about.  The baby goat pen was lively and chaotic so naturally my niece ran straight in and was curled up with a tiny little goat within seconds.  She made sure to introduce me before running off to pet Every. Other. Goat. There.

After a while (turns out it’s kinda hard to get kids out of a petting zoo when they’ve buried themselves in baby goats!), we got cleaned up and headed to Fired Up Ceramics.  This is a pretty cool place that has shelves upon shelves of pre-made ceramics, about 80 colours of paint, every paint brush imaginable, and knowledgeable staff to help teach you a multitude of painting techniques.

I let my niece pick her own piece to paint and she got to work.  She chose a lizard and made me google what a bearded dragon looks like so that she could get the colours just right.  Turns out she had wanted a bearded dragon for her birthday and when she didn’t get one, she took this opportunity to just make her own!  It turned out to be pretty adorable and she worked so hard on it.  The staff were all so good with the compliments, telling her she got the colours exactly right, so she left with a puffed chest and excitement to meet her new bearded dragon in a week (you leave it behind to be glazed and fired in the kiln).

From there, we grabbed dinner at the family-friendly Old Spaghetti Factory and began the drive north towards Nanaimo.  We had packed bags so we made a last-minute decision to stay at the new Microtel in North Oyster, just north of Ladysmith.  After the crazy busy day, I was ready to sleep, but instead we put on bathing suits and headed for the pool!

The hotel is fairly new and still building a name for itself so that there was short-notice vacancy and we got to have to the pool all to ourselves.  Because it was empty of other guests, my niece could be a crazy little kid (and, let’s face it, she was running on pure adrenaline by now!) and I could let her.  By the time we got back to our room, I think we were both struggling to keep our eyes open and we fell asleep pretty quick once our heads hit our pillows.

The adventure felt busy as we hopped from place to place all day long but we weren’t rushed and it was such a special treat to stay in a hotel, especially when we really weren’t that far from home.  We got to cuddle with the goats, see a stork in person, get creative with our ceramics, and have a private pool party!  We covered a lot of ground from Nanaimo to Duncan to Victoria to Ladysmith and filled the time doing and experiencing things we hadn’t done before.  My niece is getting good at planning these crazy busy adventures and I can’t think of anything else we could have done to squish any more fun into one day!  I wonder what she’ll come up with next time?!

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Park Guide: Moorecroft and Beachcomber Parks

Moorecroft Regional Park

Moorecroft Park used to be known as “Camp Moorecroft” and was purchased by the Regional District of Nanaimo in 2011. There are future plans to expand the amenities in the park such as adding picnic shelters and play areas, as well as removing some older buildings. Bring along a picnic, a pair of comfy shoes and a bike and you’ll be set to enjoy the features of the park!

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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”

Park Guide: Stocking Creek Park

Ever been behind a waterfall? If not, you’ll be able to check that off your bucket list when you visit Stocking Creek Park in Chemainus! This lush park is a great place to spend 30-60 minutes walking and taking pictures.

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