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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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: Seek Out a Local Film Fest

Film festivals are something near and dear to my heart.  I love seeing new and interesting ideas and perspectives come to life and supporting  independent film makers.  Independent films, both short and feature-length, tend to focus more on storytelling than fancy visual and special effects of film making.  This creates a different kind of movie-going experience that is more unique and often more memorable.

photo credit: www.harbourliving.ca

In addition, the festival atmosphere frequently puts you in a position to talk with the film makers directly and you can leave with even more understanding of the story and intention behind the film.  Many festivals are scheduled through the fall and winter so they align pretty perfectly with days you’d probably prefer to stay indoors with a big bucket of popcorn and a good story anyway.   Continue reading “Try This: Seek Out a Local Film Fest”

Park Guide: Holland Creek

Tucked away at the top of Ladysmith, you’ll find Holland Creek. The whole trail system here can take you from Transfer Beach to Heart Lake and Stocking Lake, so whatever you are in the mood for (distance and difficulty), you’ll find it here.

My favourite trail here is the Holland Creek Loop Trail. Marked by the yellow markers, you can start in a couple different places. The easiest one I’ve found is just down the road from the Police Station. There is a small parking lot at the corner of Methuen and 6th Ave where you can connect to the trails and start the Loop Trail. Continue reading “Park Guide: Holland Creek”

Park Guide: Arbutus Trails and the Whimsical Forest

In the heart of Qualicum, we found a Whimsical Forest, full of toys, creatures, signs, and odd ball items that made a walk through the forest more entertaining than ever!  When you think of Qualicum, I think we all picture the beautiful beach but if you head up from the beach, you’ll find Ravensong, a community centre with a skate park, ball field, pool and BMX track.  We were here in search of the Whimsical Forest, something that when described sounds a bit like an urban myth!

True to its name, the Whimsical Forest was a little difficult to find at first.  We discovered a trail entrance in the right area and assumed we were on the right path, but we later discovered we mistakenly walked through the Arbutus Trails on our search for whimsy. We asked every person we passed about the forest creatures but no one knew what we were talking about. At first it almost seemed like it didn’t exist, adding more mystery to the experience.

The Arbutus Trails  

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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.   Continue reading “Park Guide: Cathedral Grove & Malcolm Community Park”