Thursday, April 21, 2011

Squamish Estuary

Squamish is one of those towns you know of quite well, pass it on occasion heading to the more prestigious destinations of Whistler or the BC Interior but rarely stop for any more than a coffee or gas enroute.  I had read that there was an easy pleasant walk along the Squamish Estuary and this beautiful sunny Spring day seemed like a great day to try it out.

The drive to Squamish is always stunning along the Sea-to-Sky Highway.  Views here from near Lions Bay across Howe Sound towards Bowen Island, the Sunshine Coast ferry returning to Horseshoe Bay.


As we head towards the end of April it is neither peak Winter season nor has the Summer one kicked in so the drive along the newly improved Sea-to-Sky Highway is easy, mostly 4-lanes.


Once in Squamish we must pass through ‘Downtown’ to get to the nature reserve in the estuary.  I use the term ‘Downtown’ loosely although this is the official name for the area – it has a fairly sleepy main street with a good selection of independent stores while closer to the Highway the big box stores have dominated the open-air malls.  Squamish isn’t a particularly pretty town, although like many small BC towns it is helped significantly by being in a beautiful location !


The improved road access to Vancouver has increased pressure on Squamish to continue building more housing.  There are new developments springing up on each side of town. 


However it’s not long before we can abandon the car and get out walking.  Immediately West of the downtown core is the Squamish Estuary, 673 hectares designated as a protected wildlife management area due to the number of fish and bird habitats the location supports.

The view South along the estuary.


Views South East towards the Garibaldi Mountain range and Provincial Park.



The estuary consists of a mixture of open fields and marsh, ponds, creeks and light wooded copse such as the trails passes through here;


We cross a BC Rail branch line which leads down to the docks at the head of Howe Sound.


There is a lot of wildlife and particularly birds in this estuary.  Most were too quick or small and distant to photograph.  However, these two canada geese kindly stood patiently while being photographed.


Views to the North West towards the Tantalus Range and Provincial Park.


This hunting season sign has been here a while……still advertising the 2005-2006 hunting season ?


We reach the Squamish River, which is the main body of water passing through the estuary into Howe Sound.



Most of the first section of the walk was along Heritage Dyke, built in the late 1800’s by immigrant Chinese workers hoping to create usable farmland on the valley floor.  These old dykes now show their age as many trees have grown and taken over while the ‘trail’ in many places mostly consists of gnarly tree roots.


More great views to the South East towards Garibaldi



A brief panorama of the views in the estuary park.  It was a very blustery Spring day so lots of wind noise on the video, sorry !

The planned walk today was supposed to be a figure-of-8 using the trail network in place, unfortunately part of the Heritage Dyke had collapsed here, and while we were able to cross this section just a short distance later more had collapsed and there was too much water to get across.  We had to retrace our steps on this section.


One of the big old spruce trees growing along the Heritage Dyke.


We loop back onto the Forest and Swan Walk trails to complete the walk.  Views here towards Tantalus.



A short stint on a flat logging road


And we’re soon back on the trails again.


Mojo is pretty pleased with this walk – it’s somewhere new, plentiful supply of sticks and all the puddles, ponds and creeks you could ask for.


Finally as we’re turning back towards the town and our car we get these views North up the estuary.



A lovely walk and a refreshing change from the heavily forested North Shore.  There are many fantastic walks in the Squamish area but unfortunately most of them are within the boundaries of Garibaldi Provincial Park which as a major bear migratory route does not allow dogs.  I am still hoping to explore a couple of these hikes over the summer, if I can persuade Mojo to spend the day at home ?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hockey Season is here again

Last night the playoffs arrived again for dedicated Canucks fans in Vancouver.  David and I were bought Canuck teeshirts as part of our citizenship gift from Stephen and Andrea and then last Friday we attended a fund-raising dinner event for disaster relief efforts in Japan and they had a limited number of donated jerseys one of which we bought. 

We spent the evening at Sig and Helens.  Their friend (and equally dedicated hockey fan) Sharon came over but the kids were over at their dads.

It was a quintessentially west coast Canadian evening…, sushi and beer !

David, Sharon, myself and Sig.


Myself with our hosts for the evening Sig & Helen.


It was a great game with Vancouver winning 2-0 over Chicago.  We play them again on Friday.

However, the excitement eventually became too much for little Missie who had to snooze on the sofa next to us, snuggled warm by her own little Canucks blanket !


Monday, April 11, 2011

Lighthouse Park, April ‘11

Last week on the only pleasant sunny day that I had time to get out with Mojo, Mojo was unfortunately sick.  So, it seems a long time since we have been out walking in recent weeks.

Today however Mojo is fighting fit again, the weather was a blustery, bright and sunny Spring day so a great time to visit Lighthouse Park where the coastal trails enjoy plenty of sunlight and the sea breeze will be refreshing.

It’s still early in the season so despite being a nice sunny day there is still loads of room in the parking lot at Lighthouse Park.

IMG_4307 It only takes a few minutes of walking and you are soon immersed into the forest, away from all the sights and sounds of West Vancouver.

IMG_4308Sheltered from the noises of both the city and the coast the only sounds are the birds and the occasional rummaging of squirrels and the like on the forest floor.

More views in the interior trails as we head for the coastal path.

IMG_4312 Mojo demonstrates the enormous size of the trunks on some of the old growth trees


The sunlight pours through this rare tract of old growth coastal rainforest.

IMG_4314Soon we reach the coastal pathway and take the trail down to Starboat Cove.  En route down to the cove a detour takes you to a cliff edge overlooking the cove with a bench.  A perfect spot to stop and have lunch, or in our case drink our coffee and soak up some sun and enjoy the views.


Views of the Lions Gate Bridge, Stanley Park and Downtown skyline from Starboat Cove.


Starboat Cove


After our coffee we walk down to the beach area in Starboat Cove, Mojo has raced ahead and is already paddling.  Everytime we visit this cove the route is a little different as with each storm the huge pile of driftwood increases or decreases or just gets moved around and you have to pick you way over and around the wood.


Mojo decides there isn’t enough driftwood already on the beach and he needs to rescue some more he’s seen lying underwater.  The trouble is he is just a little scared of waves.  Even these little tiny waves lapping at his feet are a disturbance as he attempts to bring the driftwood to dry land.

Views of Starboat Cove from the beach.

It seems to be the waves breaking around his feet that upsets Mojo the most, he’s more than happy to race off and swim in the sea to fetch his sticks.

Eventually however it’s time for us to move on.  We continue past the Lighthouse viewpoint which has attracted what visitors there are in the park and about 20 minutes later reach Shore Pine Point. Views here along the coastline from Shore Pine Point.


The Bowen Island ferry returning to Horseshoe Bay.


Water access at Shore Pine Point.


Finally the lovely views to the West across the entrance of Howe Sound towards Bowen Island.