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

Bear Watching

After a wonderful trip to Hot Springs Cove while in Tofino, my sister and I decided to also head out for some bear watching with Jamie’s Whaling Station .

I have always loved bears –  black bears, grizzlies, polar bears. Bears seem to me a symbol of strength, of protection, of connection to the land. And, there is a lesson in hibernation, of rest and reflection.

As opposed to zipping along in a zodiac looking for whales, bear watching involves a covered boat and a slow cruise along the low tide zone. The bears will come out of the woods to the intertidal zone, turn over rocks and snack on rock crabs. Our instructions were, “watch for a moving black rock”.




When we spotted a bear, we all tried to be really quiet until we could see if the bear was comfortable with our presence or not. These bears have very few predators and are generally not afraid of people. There are no roads into this area of Vancouver Island so humans have managed not to encroach on bear territory too much.

The bears in this area are very healthy, as evidenced by their black shiny coats. There is an abundance of food – grasses, berries, rock crab, salmon – so they are pretty large for black bears and may live a little longer than the normal 10 year average. In this day of humans damaging wild habitat, that was nice to hear.

Our first bear we saw was a Momma with a cub. Then, we saw two other bears each on their own.  Female bears will have between 1 and 5 cubs. They are impregnated by mating with different males. The female stores the fertilized eggs and then at the end of the season, before hibernating, her body decides how many eggs to implant and gestate, depending on how much salmon she has eaten (aka how many cubs her body can support). Cool, huh?

Got some video of the Momma and cub and of one of the solitary bears; not an easy job with a zoom lens and a moving boat!!!

In addition to the black bears, we saw a bunch of sea lions and seals. Sea lions and seals also look like rocks on the shore; but they blend in more and don’t move as much! I know it’s anthropomorphizing them but they always seem to be smiling and friendly. And, I love they way they sit with their heads up and their tail fins up!  The seals and sea lions are resting on the rocks staying out of the way of hungry orca whales until the tides rise again.

Altogether, a fantastic outing. When I was a kid, my parents used to stop at the dump to drop off garbage as we left our cottage. There were often bears there and while I loved seeing them, it made me sad to see them in the garbage. It was so much better to see these amazing, majestic animals in their natural habitat and looking so healthy.


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.


Island Life

I love June. Long days and light-til-late evenings, morning sunshine and the promise of summer vacation ahead.

One of my favourite June activities is my annual Fabulous Women weekend on Saturna Island.  Amazing women, long walks on the beach, good food, juicy conversation, plenty of love and hugs and support and sleep and lots of laughter.

The ferry ride is three hours long with two stops along with way. It’s a great way to unwind. But since I couldn’t leave town early with the rest of the gang, I flew over on a small float plane early the next morning. It took 15 minutes!

One of the best things about Saturna Island are the beaches. They are replete with rocks, driftwood, tidal pools and all kinds of marine wildlife and birds. You can explore to your heart’s content, or just sit and watch the waves roll in.

It’s hard to get good pictures of marine wildlife. We saw lots of seals and so I have several dozen pictures of a patch of ocean where a seal was JUST before I took the shot.  I did manage to get a few, though.

Lots of other wildlife to see, as well. You have to drive slowly on the island. There are a lot of deer (no predators for them) which can jump out of the bushes at any moment. This trip, a bald eagle landed on the road in front of us!

For me, a great thing about having all afternoon to explore is that I can play with my camera. Lots of times when I’m travelling, it’s hard to stop and spend time taking photos. You hold the group up or miss your bus, plane, ride, restaurant reservation, etc… I love having time to play …

And then, of course, there was time to relax – to sit in the hammock and read, to look for shapes in the clouds, to hang with amazing women and to watch the sunset.

I came home relaxed, more myself, aware of the importance of making time for aimless creativity and, as always, made wiser and kinder by my woman tribe.


Life is short … and other clichés

This year seems to be one that is determined to make me think about mortality.

January started with the profound and intense experience of being with a close friend, and his wife, as he passed away from cancer at the too-young age of 48.

More recent events of a  friend undergoing life critical surgery, others battling cancer and those dealing with the shock of loved ones who have died suddenly and unexpectedly  have made me realize that so many of the clichés we use about life and death have probably become clichés because they are so true. I am reminded that life is short and that we all will die. Including me.

But the knowledge that has really settled into my bones and blood is that none of us know how short, or how long, our lives truly are.

What motivates me, and what lights a fire in my belly, is not that I will die someday. But that I could die tomorrow. Or today.

And I could die with things left undone. Words that have not been spoken. Places left unvisited. Time still wasted on actions without heart or passion.

I am finding myself becoming wildly determined to not to wait to do the things that are important to me.  After all, what am I waiting for? Last year’s journey of “fierce” has combined with this year’s journey of “stretch” to urge me forward on my path leaving behind the “I should’s” and moving toward the “I want’s”.

Two weeks ago an opportunity came up to buy a condo in an area of town in which I’ve always wanted to live. In nine days, I bought the new condo, got my place ready to sell and accepted an offer.  Nine days. And I took Sunday off to visit with friends!

My initial thought was “it’s too fast, I’m not ready, I can’t do this”.  But as the Committee in my head began the bickering process of why it wouldn’t work, I could also hear the insistent whisper of my heart saying, “this is what we want, what we’ve dreamed of, we can do it”. But is my blood and my bones that are new to the conversation and who are speaking up and saying “We are doing this and we are doing it now. So get it in gear and figure it out”.

So with help from friends, a good real estate agent, and an amazing mortgage broker, I made it happen. And, with the bit of money left over I am starting my travel fund to finally travel to Africa on safari. I want to see elephants in the wild.

I don’t know how long I have left. So I am doing it now. I am not waiting any longer.

As the cliché says, “there is nothing like death to make you appreciate life”.