Magnificent Dundas Valley Conservation Area

6,000 acres in the heart of Canada’s 5th largest city with more than 3000 acres controlled by the Hamilton Conservation Authority.  Simply beautiful:

Bruce Trail Stairs

When considering the Dundas Valley it is important to understand just how rare and unique it truly is.  It is a vast and deciduous forest stretching from Southern Ontario to the Carolinas, known as the Carolinian Forest.  This Carolinian Forest can be found nowhere else in Canada and accounts for only 1% of Canada’s geographical area but contains 1/3 of Canada’s endangered species.  The Valley became home to the region’s first settlers: Ancaster in 1790 and Dundas in 1798. As part of the Niagara Escarpment, the Valley is an area which has taken 450 million years to evolve.

UNESCO has declared the Escarpment a world biosphere, putting it in the company of such incredible natural areas as the Serengeti, the Everglades, the Amazon Rain Forest and the Galapagos islands.

We hiked from marker 45.0 to 55.2 in magnificent weather.  A cool plus 9; no bugs; very little mud and more friendly people than we encountered in all of last year.  We saw our first butterfly:

Bruce Trail butterfly

Our first golfer:

Bruce Trail golfer And our first flowers.  The hearty “snowdrop”:

Bruce Trail snowdrops

We enjoyed Sherman Falls where Carol ignored the “no climbing sign”

Bruce Trail no climbing

We were amazed at the private property sign.  It’s wonderful that private land owners allow access to their property but disappointing that such a magnificent area could be in private hands.  Sherman Falls is 19 meters high and 8 meters wide:

Bruce Trail Falls

Canterbury Falls is described as a “ribbon cascade” and is 9 meters high and 4 meters wide:

Bruce Trail Cantebery Falls

The sight and sound of waterfalls enrich our hiking experience immensely and those contained within the Dundas Valley did not disappoint.

We hiked a total of 19kms but of course can only count 15 (remember the 2 out and 2 back that were as a result of a wrong turn).  Not bad for our first hike of the season and definitely left us wanting more!

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We’re Back!

After 5 long months of winter and 5 long months of not hiking, Carol and I were both excited to get back on the Bruce Trail.  Dates have been set and we are hoping to complete another 250 km this year (266 completed last year); but before we project such lofty goals, let me tell you about our first 2 days of 2015.

We decided to head south and hike Map 8 part of the Iroquoia Club in Dundas Ontario.  The weather for the past week has been brutal with lots of rain which equates to lots of mud!  I was to leave Port Elgin around 6 a.m. for a 9:30 meeting time at kilometer 45.0 Tiffany Falls.  A fierce thunder and lightening storm during the night prompted me to text Carol around 5:30 a.m. to see if we should in fact cancel.  We were both looking forward to starting our 2015 hike so a decision was made to meet at noon when the rain was suppose to stop.

Carol’s partner was suggesting she leave around 9:30 to make sure she was at our meeting point on time; but knowing I would be late after getting lost (at least once) gave her another hour at home.  Carol moved this past winter to Barrie Ontario so has farther to travel at least until we reach her neck of the woods.

I did get lost and was late – but that is no longer news.  When I reviewed our first hike of 2014, when I actually drove across the U.S. border and had difficulty getting back into Canada without a passport, this year’s “lost” was not as lengthy nor as traumatic.

The wind was brisk and we bundled up in the parking lot where we had finished kilometer 266 on November 2, 2014.  We chatted non stop as we started what was to be a 4km hike  (it was day 1; we were out of shape and we were late starting account weather).  We would finish early and have a nice visit with my sister and her husband who were providing our overnight accommodations.

2 kilometers in, we started to recognize the terrain, only to realize we had completed this portion of the trail.  2 kilometers back – a total of 4 and we hadn’t done any of the scheduled hike!

But the weather was great; the trail was less muddy than anticipated

Bruce Trail Carol climbing

and we were happy to be back together exploring this amazing natural resource.

Bruce Trail Cheryl on bridge

 

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Kelowna Signs

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign – Blocking out the scenery Blowing my Mind – hope you’re singing along to this well known song by the 5 Man Electrical Band.  It seemed like an appropriate and fun introduction to my blog on Kelowna Signs.

While walking and biking the downtown Kelowna core recently, we came across numerous signs that were unique, humorous and just plain odd.  None of them blocked out the scenery or blew my mind but some I thought were worth sharing.

Remember the Grateful Dead Rock Band.  Wikipedia says they were founded in 1960 in the San Francisco Bay Area and were known for their long improvisational style of music.  A restaurant owner in Kelowna shares his love of food and music with his sign:

Sign Grateful Fed

Here someone was clowning around – pardon the pun – with the spelling of Kelowna:

Sign Calowna Costume

The local smoke shop in this incredible city in the heart of the Okanagan Valley reads: SMOKANAGAN.

I love and appreciate the large independent book store in Kelowna – Mosaic.  I’m always worried about how much my luggage will weigh on the return flight as I’m usually hauling 4 or 5 children’s books which have become bedtime favorites with my sister’s grandchildren, my “great” or “grand” nieces and nephews.  We think they’re both great and grand, we’re just not sure of the correct title to give them when introducing them to friends we meet.  On a small side street another independent book store sign caught my eye:

Sign High Browse Books

I wasn’t looking to buy any men’s underwear on this particular trip although raising two sons I’ve been known to stuff stockings at Christmas with unusual socks and fun underwear.  When I am in the market to make such a purchase this sign might coax me into the store:

Underwear sign

People in Kelowna are blessed.  Temperate climate; nature at their doorstep; magnificent mountains surrounding their fair city.  It’s nice to know they also don’t take themselves too seriously.

 

 

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Kelowna – A Tourist Haven

Kelowna is the 3rd largest metropolitan area in British Columbia and the largest in the interior of B.C.  It was founded in 1905; is located 393km Northeast of Vancouver and has grown to a city of 180,000.

It offers museums; hiking and biking trails; historic neighborhoods; small independent and big box shopping and a general feeling of being protected by the expanse of snow capped mountains that surround the city.  A short 10 minute drive and you are in the Okanagan Valley, home to award winning orchards and vineyards.

The downtown core sits on Lake Okanagan and is home to several beautiful sculptures including Rhapsody, a large fiberglass work by Robert Reid:

Kelowna statue

It is a pedestrian friendly city with wide sidewalks, miles of bicycle paths, outside cafes for resting weary feet and numb bums and beautiful old storefronts that beckon browsers like me:

Kelowna downtown

When traversing the many neighborhoods that make up the city you are never far from the shores of Lake Okanagan and small pristine beaches:

Kelowna beach

Located within the city limits and within walking distance from downtown sits Knox Mountain, the city’s largest natural area park.  Its’ more than 366 hectares contain hundreds of hiking trails and a few municipal beaches.  Several roads lead to small housing developments with upscale residences some of which boast infinity pools that appear as though they cascade into Okanagan Lake:

Kelowna hill house

We took a 45 minute drive to Fintry Provincial Park and encountered bighorn sheep along the side of the winding two lane road:

Rams on highway

The Park is on the former Fintry Estate and includes both swimming and kayaking opportunities; camping spots and moderate to difficult hiking trails.  We climbed the  more than 300 stairs that lead to one of many breathtaking waterfalls:

Kelowna waterfall

It was a wonderful 5 day getaway with lots of areas unexplored; tourist brochures accumulated but unopened and a strong desire to return.

 

 

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Historic Kelowna – British Columbia

Our youngest son Steven moved to Kelowna last year and we decided to head West for a week to get out of the snow and minus 20 degree temperatures and to celebrate his engagement to his best friend and soul mate Christine:

Christine and Steven

We had a wonderful weekend hiking Knox Mountain and biking the trail on Abbott Street into The Mission district.  It was 13 degrees and sunny both Saturday and Sunday.

Monday they went back to work and Chris and I set out on our own.  We walked the downtown core; visited several beach areas on Lake Okanagan; shopped at the Mosaic Bookstore (an independent in the heart of the city); visited the Heritage Museum where they have a temporary exhibit entitled Off the Grid and wandered home tired but happy.

On Tuesday we decided to take Christine and Steven’s cruiser bikes out to explore the historic neighborhoods.  We were armed with maps supplied by KSAN (Kelowna South Central Association of Neighbourhoods).

In the Bernard-Lawrence neighbourhood the brochure outlined 28 heritage homes; two churches, an armory and a public school:

house 3

The FDE DeHart House built in 1907 by Frank DeHart who became mayor in 1909

house 4

and the JW Jones house built in 1912 for Jones who was the mayor of Kelowna and a conservative MLA

and a Tudor Revival style home built in 1931 known as the Atchison House:

house 2

Imagine our surprise when we noted a deer wandering between the houses:

deer

The second map/brochure depicts more than 325 homes in the Abbott Street Heritage Conservation Area with 48 of these listed on the Kelowna Heritage Register.  Abbott Street houses a wide bike path between the sidewalk and the road and is a joy to ride.  Less than a block in from Lake Okanagan the houses were described as moderne, early or late cottage, tudor revival or colonial revival and early and late arts and crafts.

The G.D. Loane house built in 1937 and described as moderne:

house 5

The Cookson House a Tudor Revival built in 1929:

house 7

and the Adams House also referred to as the candy cane house:

house 8

We cycled over to the last area known simply as Marshall Street.  A small street just a block in from busy Highway 97 with no more than 20 old homes situated on a quiet cul de sac.  The brochure says it was a friendly neighbourhood and a safe place to raise a family.  Most of the homes were built around 1937 and back onto Mill Creek.  The street was often flooded in the Spring and groceries were delivered by canoe:

A delightful day in a beautiful city.

 

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Palm Springs California

 

Four feminists, trade union sisters meeting in the desert for the Palm Springs Film Festival – what could be better!

 

It never ceases to amaze me that you can leave bitterly cold temperatures and pine trees covered in snow in the morning and in less than 5 hours arrive in a place that is plus 17 degrees with swaying palms:

Palm TreesIt is always a treat to head somewhere warm  in the middle of our Canadian winter.  Palm Springs California boasts average daily temperatures during the winter months of plus 17 and with a 3 year record drought we weren’t expecting anything but warm sunny days.

California’s population is over 38million, more than the entire population of Canada. Palm Springs is a city spread over 94 square miles with a population of  46,280 about  2 1/2 hours east of Las Angeles.

We laughed at the directions our friend emailed to us;  turn right onto Ginger Rogers, left onto Bob Hope and then keep your eyes peeled for Frank Sinatra Blvd.  Street signs that would indicate Palm Springs was once the destination of choice for big time Hollywood stars.

We had tickets for 3 films Salt of the Earth; Corn Island and Afterlife.  Then when the Best of the Fest was released, we picked up tickets for Dark Horse and BoyChoir.  A regular theatre goer informed us that often the films that don’t make the big screen, can be seen on Netflix.  So if you get a chance, all are worth watching.  BoyChoir starring Dustin Hoffman will undoubtedly get picked up by a Hollywood distribution company, but the others are foreign films and not likely to be in a cinema near you anytime soon.

We spent mornings walking the gated community where we were staying in Rancho Mirage:

Rancho Mirage

afternoons at the pool – reading and napping or attending a film and evenings on a patio enjoying happy hour:

Four sisters

Carol and I spent one day hiking Joshua Tree Park.  We have been off the Bruce Trail for more than 2 months and knew that being at the national park would give us time to once again find peace and beauty in natural surroundings:

Carol at Joshua Tree

The park is where two deserts meet:  the Mojave and the Colorado and is filled with fascinating rock formations and a wide variety of plants.  The  Joshua Tree or Tree of Life can grow to a height of 49 feet with as much as 36 feet of underground roots and can live for hundreds of years:

Joshua Tree Tree of Life

One amazing lookout in the park is southwest toward what is known as the Sultan Sea created in 1905 when an irrigation dam in the Colorado River broke.  Now with only 3 inches of annual rainfall in the desert the Sea is completely dry:

Sultan Sea

An amazing difference in landscape from the lush greens of golf courses and lawns to the natural beauty of rocks and sand.  We know California has a massive shortage of water but were surprised to learn there are no limits on use or pipes in place for supplementing fresh water with grey water.  Headlines in the local paper warned of the water shortage  as a result of much reduced annual rainfall (no mention of over use) and the increase in lung infections from blowing sand and unhealthy dry conditions.

It was a wonderful break from winter but one can’t help but see the impending environmental disaster that egregious use of limited natural resources will bring.

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Big White British Columbia – Christmas 2014

This is our second vacation at Big White and it is truly a magnificent ski resort.   Trees covered in fresh white powder are dubbed “snow ghosts” and fresh powder falls almost daily, creating perfect conditions.  There are plenty of steep slopes for the black diamond dare devils and long gentle runs for the faint of heart:

chair lifts

Our ski-in ski-out chalet was magnificent and the village was only a short walk or gondola ride away.  It was lovely to sit outside cradling a warm beverage basking in the glow of thousands of Christmas lights which adorned the trees and buildings::

Night Shot

When we weren’t skiing we were tubing; watching fireworks; enjoying horse drawn sleigh rides and warming up in the hot tub on our balcony.  We cooked wonderful meals, played silly board games, laughed a lot and enjoyed one another’s company:

3 kids outside

We are a family of skiers and really love the sport.  Steven was only 3 years old when we ushered him up his first slope and Christine (Steven’s partner) enjoyed her first time on skis declaring she was going to “conquer the sport”.

Snow shot Christine Steven

Nice for them as Big White is only 45 minutes from their home in Kelowna.

What a wonderful family vacation!

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