Monday, October 31, 2011

Spawning Salmon on Courtenay's Puntledge River

I was working up in Courtenay on a late October day and managed to steal a few moments for a stroll along the Puntledge River. The river runs right through downtown and there are a number of public trails along the river you can access.

It was great timing for me as I got to witness some of the last throes of the Chum salmon spawn. Gulls were fat and feeding on the carcasses that littered the river bank, but some of the salmon were still engaged in their annual spawn.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Trip to Cumberland, BC, to see No Means No and Ford Pier

We took a short road trip up to Cumberland for a taste of the big city, a rare chance to enjoy a couple of rock bands from Vancouver we knew well from the old days. Cumberland is about an hour north of Parksville, or an hour and a half from the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal, but unlike its sister cities, Courtenay and Comox, it's inland off the highway. It's an old coal mining town with a long history and a quaint old-timey feel.

We started off at the Fanny Bay Inn, or FBI as it's known to the locals. My companion had a half dozen oysters on the half shell and a seafood wrap, and I couldn't pass up the $13.95 baron of beef buffet with real Yorkshire pudding and a spicy horseradish. It was a beautiful late summer evening so we ate in the outside patio yard with a view of the Strait.

Cumberland has a more youthful population than does the town where I'm from, so they tend to get more original touring acts, including the feature this week of No Means No with the Ford Pier Vengeance Trio. The Waverley is a great bar for music, a nice warm wooden room with decent sound and delicious and cold craft and Island beers, including Philips Blue Buck and Tree Brewing's Thirsty Beaver at a reasonable price.

We solved the problem of deciding who would drive home after the show by booking a room at the Riding Fool Hostel just around the corner from the bar. The hostel caters to the mountain bike and ski crowd, as close as it is to Mount Washington and the trails around. You can sleep in a dorm for $23. or get a private room with a double bed for $60.00. The building also houses Dodge City Cycles. I hope we didn't wake any of the other sleepers by playing pool too loud at 2 a.m. in the large common area.

The purpose of this blog is not to act as a source of music or gig reviews, suffice it to say that both acts blew my mind with the intensity and sophistication of their music, but Cumberland, and the Waverley, proved themselves fantastic spots for a gig of any kind, including their annual Big Time Out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hornby Island Bliss, Discovery Island Paradise

It takes two ferries to get to Hornby Island, located off the East Coast of Vancouver Island about halfway between Parksville and Courtenay. The first ferry takes you to Denman, followed by a short island drive to the next terminal. $80.00 was the return fare for our car and two passengers and takes a total of less than an hour.

Hornby is typical of the Gulf and Discovery Islands, attracting an artistic and creative population. The island is dotted with artisan studios and organic farms, self-built houses and serene cottages.

We stayed at the Ford's Cove Marina and Campground, essentially at the end of the main road after getting off the ferry. It's a small campground with perhaps a dozen sites and as many cabins for rent, while featuring flush toilets and pay showers. There's a store on-site that offers pretty much everything you could possibly need while camping, and an espresso machine to boot. There's also a small food-stand restaurant that we didn't have time to try and a scuba operation. It is a marina so there are plenty of boats to peruse.

Some of the must-see attractions on Hornby include the Cardboard Bakery, a quaint little restaurant and artisan market that specializes in pizza and baked goods situated on the beautiful grounds of an orchard and garden. There is often live music in the garden on a Saturday afternoon, and other events can take place depending on your timing and good fortune.

The Co-Op, down the road is next to Tribune Bay Provincial Park, with its beautiful beach that attracts many tourists. The Co-op sells just about everything, including liquor, hardware, groceries and camp supplies. Outside the main building is a circle of markets, bookstores, bike rentals, cafes and restaurants, a true meeting place for the locals and tourists alike. There is a pub and restaurant by the ferry terminal.

Other services and attractions include Bradsdadsland Campbground, Whaling Station Bay, Helliwell Provincial Park, wineries, kayaking and scuba. The geology of the island is fascinating and a walk along the coast features many interesting sandstone formations carved by the force of the ocean. The island is a mecca for mountain bikers and the many trails are popular for all skill levels.