Monday, April 14, 2014

La Conner - Tulip Tour by Bike

After paddling yesterday at Widgeon Creek, we had a really bad case of Spring Fever.  Nothing quite cures Spring Fever like a slow bike tour through the Daffodil and Tulip fields outside of La Conner in Washington State.  Words will not do it we will share the day via pictures.

Tiptoe through the tulips with us.....

Where's Waldo?  Look carefully!

Giggle of the day:

We imagined a peaceful,cycle in solitude through spectacular farmer fields.....we found everything BUT solitude!

Map and Route Tips:

Check the bloom map before you go:

..and be sure to check out the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Cyclists....need to be really careful.  Traffic can be extremely heavy....and the drivers and passengers are ALL looking at tulips NOT watching for cyclists.  Be defensive....for sure!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Widgeon Creek by Kayak...Lions and tigers and bears...oh my!

Today was our first paddle of the season,,,and it was SPECTACULAR.  I must confess that it really doesn't matter where you paddle on your first day of the season, as it is simply the pure joy of being back in your boat that matters.  I wish I could describe the feeling that comes across you as you dip your paddle into the water on that first day.  With every stroke of your paddle you get farther away from the City and your every day work life and a sense of peace and calm seems to overtake you.

Launch Site at Grant Narrows - Pitt Lake

We were extremely lucky today as the water was calm, the sun was out and the wind was down.  We made the choice to paddle along Widgeon Creek, an estuary at the south end of Pitt Lake.  It was a picture perfect spring day...the mountains were snow capped and you could feel the land coming to life.

Snow Capped Mountains
To enter Widgeon Creek you must paddle across Grant Narrows.  It is a short crossing, but during peak season you must be careful to watch for motor boats.  Pitt Lake is the only tidal lake in Western Canada and the tide swings are unbelievable.  This 24 km lake is known as the largest fresh water tidal lake in North America.  A few years ago we were camping on the lake and almost lost our boats, as we didn't account for the tidal swing when selecting our campsite.

We made our way through the marsh and enjoyed the ever changing scenery as the creek twisted and turned.  We passed by the Widgeon Creek campsite, which had been over run by a troop of boy scouts. They were planning a day hike up to the falls.  The falls are spectacular and well worth the hike.

After bidding farewell to the Scouts we travelled further up the creek until the water levels were just too low to continue.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the sandbar and contemplated the paddles we would like to take this summer.  So many little time.

Perfect sandbar for a picnic
The highlight of the trip was a bear sighting!  As we paddled back to the boat launch we were chatting away, when we rounded a bend in the creek and came across a magnificent black bear.  I saw him first, and Rob continued to chat.  I "casually" mentioned BEAR...and we back paddled to put some distance between us.  We watched him forage for quite a while, until he finally put his head up and took notice of us.  At that point, we decided it was best to move on.  Better grubs be his lunch!

Da Bear!

Giggle of the day:

The Widgeon Creek paddle is perfect for beginners!  A canoe rental outlet is conveniently located at the boat launch, so it is not uncommon to come across "newbies" out for the first time.  We are always thrilled to meet and greet those new to the outdoors and we take every opportunity to share our love for paddling, hiking and cycling.  Today we came across a young couple, who clearly were on their first date.  In his ultimate wisdom this young man decided a romantic paddle on Widgeon Creek would be the date to WOW her.  Unfortunately, it was abundantly clear that his lady love did not share his passion for paddling or the outdoors.  When we passed them, he had tied her boat to his and was towing her, literally UP THE CREEK!  She could not have looked more miserable!  We found them one kilometre from the boat launch, she was staring down and refusing to paddle.  We greeted them with a hearty hello...and made the executive decision to NOT mention the bear that was around the next corner, foraging for food along the river bank.  We didn't think that information would help spark the romance.  We hope we made the right decision......

Map and Route Tips:

Pinecone Burke Provincial Park

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fraser Valley - North Abbotsford by bike

We ventured out on another route we discovered on the Trails BC website - the North Abbotsford Loop.  The route connects the Matsqui, Discovery and Clayburn trails and features lots of variety.

View of the Mission Bridge

We began the day at Douglas Taylor Park in the Mount Lehman area and quickly joined the Matsqui Trail through the Matsqui First Nation land.  The trail was beautiful, but again, not recommended for road bikes.  We had to hop on and off frequently to cross the equestrian gates and we were moving quite slowly as we navigated tight corners and crushed gravel.

Feeling really happy my bike wasn't loaded with gear!

The trail continued on to the Mission bridge and along dykes as it followed the Fraser River and provided excellent views for the entire length of the dyke trail.

Great views of the Fraser

After leaving the dyke trail we wound our way through back country roads to the historic town of Clayburn.  This quaint little village and has been designated a heritage site and is well worth a visit.  It is a gem.  However, it is located at the foot of Sumas mountain.  Now, past experience has told us that when the route is at the FOOT of a mountain, there generally is nowhere to go but UP.....and UP we went.  It was quite a steep climb out of Clayburn....good training we told ourselves as we gasped for breath!

Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and it was quite socked in, so we weren't really able to enjoy the view from the top - hopefully, next time!  In all honesty, I am not sure that we were upset about the lack of view, or more upset that we didn't have an excuse to stop for an extended period to take pictures and catch our breath.

Another sign of spring....curious babies!

A highlight of the route was the Discovery Trail.  This trail is 30 km of paved pathway connecting the east and west ends of Abbotsford.  It features towering trees, boardwalks, open meadows and a great section through the Fishtrap Creek wetlands.

Discovery Trail - Abbotsford

Giggle of the day:

We were riding along a section of the dyke trail when we came across a large group of boys.  It was mayhem!  Bikes, helmets and gear strewn everywhere.  They were in the middle of a "repair" session and were in need of extra tools to adjust seat heights.  In turns out it was a group of Boy Scouts training for their summer adventure along the Kettle Valley Railway.  We had a wonderful chat with the boys and their fearless leaders and left chuckling.  It turns out the kids were about 1 km from their start point.....they had already stopped for SNACKS and for seat adjustments!  A great group of leaders and kids....fantastic to see them out there.

Look at the picture closely - We also giggled at how many of the Scouts were "helping with the repair!  

Map and Route Tips;

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tri Cities Loop by Bike

The Tri Cities loop is part of the Trans Canada Trail but be forewarned - it is definitely NOT for road bikes. There is a lot of variety - paved trail, roads, crushed gravel, forest trail and dyke riding as you wind your way along this route connecting Coquitlam, Port Moody, and Port Coquitlam.  Not a great choice if you are looking for speed and distance, but if you are interested in amazing views and exploring, this is a winner!

Salmon stream along Hoy Creek Trail

As we step up our training for our West Coast tour, we have been trying to get in a few longer rides on the weekend.  The forecast was good, so we began our trek to the trailhead at Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam Centre park.  Despite a good forecast, the day turned out to be quite "humid"  We were glad to have come equipped with our heavy duty rain gear.

Cue sheet a little worse for wear due to the "humidity"
The route had lots of variety!  We rode past Rocky Point Park in Port Moody, Barnet Marine Park and enjoyed city riding along the Burnaby Urban trail and the Central Valley Greenway.  Near the end of the ride we enjoyed a section in Colony Farm Regional Park before making our way back along the Poco Traboulay Trail.

Forests come to life - spring is in the air

Bears also coming to life!  

Section along the Trans Canada Trail after leaving Rocky Point

Bummer....we were climbing up!

I think it is clearing up!

Are you sure this is the right trail?

Giggle of the Day

When I found this great route on, I excitedly shared it with Rob.  He took a look, agreed that it looked both amazing and challenging and promptly declared, "we are going to get lost".....and we did!  Not once, not twice, but numerous times.  On the bright side we discovered a fabulous kayak launch site at Barnett marine park.

We have also been playing with a web app called stravos.  This tool allows us to time and map our rides  through our cell phone and provides data on speeds, elevations etc. etc.  Today we decided to join the 21st century and go high tech for our ride.  No maps, no compasses...just all the technology an Iphone can provide.  Everything was great until the four hour 27 minute mark...after following a wonderful trail along river and through woods we arrived in a little town called Maillardville and realized we had no idea where we were and also realized we weren't even in the right city.  Not to worry, our handy iphone and stravos would set us straight.  A great plan...except the cell phone battery was dead.  No worries, we had marked our parking spot with a gps tag....our only problem...the gps tag was stored in the dead cell phone.  We went old school and asked for directions...they were sketchy at best, but definitely better than what our iphone was offering.

Here is our Stravos map.....

Breathtaking blossoms along the way.

Map and route tips:

Our finished map!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ladner Loop by Bike

The Ladner Loop is a perfect ride for those who may be a little out of shape after just getting back on their bikes after a winter of rain.  It is flat, REALLY FLAT, scenic and includes a lot of trail riding along the dykes.

View from the dyke
The views are spectacular, and you are often treated to some great bird watching as you travel in the Important Bird Area near Roberts Bank.

We had another almost perfect day.  The sun was out, there was no wind, and did I mention the route was FLAT - really FLAT?  The area is almost surreal as you are so close to Vancouver, yet you feel miles away from the big city as you pedal through acres of farmland and along the dykes.  (lots of great farmer's markets to stop at when in season)

The view of the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and the Roberts Bank Terminal brings you back to reality.  Roberts Bank is huge and the number of trains coming and going is mind boggling!

Cargo ships loading at Roberts Bank
 "The Roberts Bank Rail Corridor consists mostly of single rail track and currently carries up to 18 trains per day, ranging from 6,000 to 9,500 feet in length. The volume of train traffic is expected to increase to 28–38 trains per day by 2021, and some train lengths are expected to increase up to 12,000 feet."  

Roberts Bank rail corridor
We had to hop off our bikes and cross several train tracks to complete the loop. We stopped for several minutes to watch the comings and goings of this very, busy terminal.

After leaving Roberts Bank, we cycled on through Tsawwassen and enjoyed a great ride along the Mud Bay trail.

 It was a beehive of activity as joggers, cyclists, walkers, birders took to the trails in order to enjoy a sunny spring day.

Giggle of the day: 

We recently discovered a  group called The Slow Bicycle Movement.  Curious, we investigated further to learn more about the criteria for joining the group and becoming a card carrying member.  Members must agree to:

  • meander
  • stop
  • look
  • eat
  • take pictures
  • laugh
  • chat

The description fits us perfectly!  We giggled throughout the entire Ladner Loop every time we hopped off to meander, look, EAT, get the picture!

Map and route tips:

The loop begins at Deas Island Regional Park and follows the Millenium Trail under highway 99 to Ladner.  From Ladner, follow the Fraser River out to Brunswick Point and then continue on to Tsawwassen and Mud Bay and then a quick loop back.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bike Centennial Trail Washington State

It was time to be back on the bikes and this weekend we decided to head south to the Centennial Trail in Washington State.  The trail is 29 miles long and runs from just north of Bryant to the City of Snohomish.  Another rails to trails initiative the trail is designed for walkers, runners, cyclists and horseback riding...and we saw them all.  A few brave in line skaters were even braving the rain!

Trail access at Arlington
We decided to jump on the trail at Arlington.  There are many access points to the trail, so it is easy to hop on and off to explore the many local shops, parks and family attractions.  Arlington is a wonderful little town and definitely a blast from the past.  American flags proudly flying and good old small town charm everywhere!  Of course, Seahawk pride and evidence of the 12th man is also everywhere!

Go Hawks

Rob will tell you that no day trip is a success unless you begin your day in the Ma and Pa diner.  And so, without a second thought we found ourselves enjoying omelettes at the BlueBird owned since 1958.

Just outside of Arlington the trail is under construction, so riders are forced to ride in traffic for a short distance.  We found the drivers to be very considerate, but as always were grateful to be back on designated trail away from traffic and noise.  The trail featured many scenic views and rest points.  We simply can't recommend this trail enough.  It is an easy ride, well maintained, great access points and lots of services along the entire length of the trail.  Truly a gem!

A view of the lake

Scenic boardwalk to the lake

Unfortunately we have not been on our bikes this winter as much as we would like so we must confess that we were not in the best shape for a 60 mile jaunt.  (Mind willing - body ain't!)  As the rain and wind picked up for the return journey our legs began to give out.  It really was a test, both mentally and physically to get back to the trail head.  We were both fighting leg cramps and bike butt and at times had to get off and walk.  On the bright side, the weather had turned so nasty that there was no one left on the trail to witness our walk of shame.

I think it is clearing up!
We trudged along, and were absolutely thrilled to return to our van at the Trail head parking lot.  We made a promise to ourselves to pick up our work-out schedule and return to the Centennial Trail in the summer....rumour has it the ice cream stores along the route are amazing!

Giggle of the Day:

One of the joys of rails to trails routes is it usually means FLAT, and generally the Centennial Trail is a very easy ride.  However, there is one section featuring a slow steady climb - 642 feet.  On the bright side, when you reach the top of the hill, you are made honourary members of the Robert M. Culpeper Blistering Saddles Cycling Team!

Not really a team you want to join

Free Library - now that is community in action!

...for those feeling a little thirsty

Map and Route Tips:

Centennial Trail