Broken Group Islands

I’m in Tofino this week – one of my favourite places in the world – and went on a day-long boat trip out of nearby Ucluelet to the Broken Group Islands with Archipelago Wildlife Cruises.



The Broken Group is a group of small islands and islets in the middle of Barkley Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, BC. The group is protected as the Broken Islands Group Unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Benson Island, on the northwest corner of the Broken Group, is an important cultural site for the Tseshaht First Nation. The weather was perfect and the scenery was amazingly beautiful.


There were loads of bald eagles …

Seals and sea otters …. with sea otters making a come back in this area to the benefit of the whole ecosystem (sea otters eat oysters which helps maintain healthy kelp beds and so on) …

And, my favourite, the sea lions!  Wish I could have recorded the sound of their grumpy barking and grunting. So awesome. 🙂

We had a lovely lunch on the upper deck, with some hummingbirds, who came to snack with us.

Altogether, a great day of sun and sea and wildlife.


Two years ago

Two years ago today I was off to Scotland to hike the Outer Hebrides.  A trip full of great memories, a reminder to live each day to the fullest and a recognition of the importance of love and connection. 

And, as it turns out, I’m headed back to Scotland in a few weeks. 

Life is full of circles. 

Fun on the Beach

One of the things that I love about trips to Tofino with my family is all the fun we have on the  beach. Here’s just a taste from this year …

There was playing in the waves with the body boards and stand up paddle boards.  My nephew made a great video of all the action.


We rented bikes and I haphazardly took photos while biking and trying not to fall off. My sister and I biked along one morning while my brother-in-law ran. Sure, it looked like we were chasing him down but, whatever! <grin>

 The kids spent time flying their kites and my nephew strapped his GoPro to the kite for a unique, if slightly nauseating view. Note that we stayed away from the Charlie Brown kite tree, that is not one of our kites stuck up there!

There were incredible sunsets …

 And amazing opportunities to capture the moon.

 We took pictures at night, writing our names and making shapes with sparklers. It is remarkably hard to write your name backwards!!!

 My sister read (or saw) somewhere about steel wool photography. So, with my ever-creative sister and my ever-enthusiastic niece, we gave it a try. We tied a string to a whisk and then filled the inside with steel wool. We lit the steel wool on fire and gave it a whirl! So much fun!!

 And, as always on the beach, there was time to wander and explore and just see what catches the eye.

 It goes to show you that the only limits are imagination. I think next year we might have to stay longer!

PS – check out my sister’s awesome photos, too!


family tofino2015

Hot Springs Cove

Some days are just the right amount of perfect.

I spent last week in Tofino with my sister, brother-in-law and my niece and nephew (16 and 17 yrs old). On Tuesday, we embarked on an excursion to Hot Springs Cove, located 26 nautical miles up the coast from Tofino, British Columbia in Maquinna Provincial Park. Located at the mouth of a narrow peninsula, the springs are perched right at the water’s edge overlooking the open ocean, and are accessible only by boat or plane.


We opted to take a 20 minute float plane for the trip up to the springs and then the hour and a half covered boat on the way back for the chance of seeing whales on the return.


The float plane ride was great. The day was sunny and clear with medium winds so the views were spectacular and the landing only a bit bumpy.

Once we got to the dock, reaching the hot springs required a 2 km hike along a boardwalk through old growth forest.   The boards had various names engraved into them, I’m assuming as a thank you for donations. There were ship names and drawings, milestones of school outings, couples names and even one “Patricia Richardson, will you marry me?” (no word on the answer).

The springs are located in a rocky cove, requiring some scrambling down through the rocks to access the pools. But, once you get there, they are lovely and warm (if somewhat crowded in late July). The springs have a water flow of 5 to 8 litres per second. The hot spring is a result of surface water flowing through a “fault” to a depth of about 5 kilometres. The water is geothermically heated to a temperature of at least 109 degrees C before pressure forces the water back to the surface and discharges through fractured rock at a temperature of about 50 degrees C. (kudos to my sister for some of the shots of the hot springs, she scrambled up some rocks to get better shots!)

We lounged in the pools, had a snack and then hiked our way back to the dock in time for a drink at the on-dock cafe only to discover that our covered boat had broken down and so the excursion company (the wonderful Jamie’s Whaling Station) had arranged for us to join one of the zodiac whale watching boats for the trip back to Tofino. Which was a much more fun way to travel than a covered boat! Although, I have no idea where they scrounged up survival suits for us!

On the way back to Tofino, we rode the waves and got sprayed by the sea, saw several bald eagles and then cruised by a bunch of sea otters, floating on their backs with their hands and feet out of the water to keep warm.  And then, we had the amazing experience of watching a mother gray whale and her calf feeding.

Gray whales migrate between feeding and breeding grounds yearly and reach a length of 14.9 meters, a weight of 36 tonnes and live between 55 and 70 years. They are also really hard to photograph! Hard to see, and then they slide under the water before you can aim and click.

We ended the trip salt-encrusted from the zodiac ride, hungry for dinner, and contented from a rather perfect day.


From the sea to the sky

One of the great things about having friends and family visit – aside from the hugs – is the chance to be a tourist in your own town. As excuse to do those things that I normally think, “geez, that’s a bit expensive!” Recently, my sister came to visit from the east of Canada where the temperatures have been far far below zero for far far too long. “Square tire weather” my sister calls it because the normally round tires go “thunk thunk thunk” for a bit when you first start driving until they warm up. I will skip the rather obvious point that this this is why I live in Vancouver (oops, too late!). Anyway, a visit from my sister and a warm, sunny February day in Vancouver was all the excuse we needed to head up the coast a bit and try out the new Sea to Sky Gondola. going_up ???????????????????????????????going_down Located just south of Squamish, BC, the gondola rises up to 885m above sea level. The route goes up behind the Stawamus Chief, the second-largest granite monolith in the world. The hike up the Chief is a bit beyond my trekking capabilities and so I was pleased when they built the gondola, although I know there were some objections raised at the time about the impact on the environment. IMG_1314FullSizeRender squamish The Chief is also a popular rock-climbing spot. And, trust me, if I’m not sure if could hike up the back of the Chief, I am damn sure that I am never going to rock climb up the front of it!! chief_climber This guy was heading up the rock face, where the red circle is. Ahem. chief_climber_location The gondola ride was great. Once at the top at the Summit Lodge, there were many trails leading off with a range of hiking skill levels. We traversed our way across the suspension bridge which, for those of who who have followed my saga with heights, vertigo and paralyzing fear, I am proud to say I crossed with a minimum of panic. ??????????????????????????????? bridge2path1tree_faces We also did a 1.6km trail out to a viewing platform which cantilevered out past the edge of the cliff. Amazing views of the local peaks – Sky Pilot, Co-Pilot, Ledge Mountain, Mount Habrich and Mount Garibaldi. And, a gorgeous view looking down over the Chief, the town of Squamish and Howe Sound.

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mountain3 mountain5 And, we had some fun playing with our cameras and trying out different shots and settings. My tip for a successful selfie – always take the shot on an angle!! pano_fun ???????????????????????????????sky Then, back to the Lodge for some snacks and a rest in the sunshine. And of course, a selfie to commemorate the day! group_selfie