June 30, 2011


Carless but itching for adventure? Minimum wage earner with maximum curiosity? Bewail no longer – your intrepid traveler aka columnist is here to help you experience the desires of your heart.

I share the dilemma of many who wish to see more of British Columbia but do not have the wallet of a Don. Recently I discovered day trips that are fun to do on your own or with your family and friends. So here is one of many getaways for the light wallet or purse carrier.

Bowen Island

The island which feels so far away when you’re there is just 20 minutes by BC Ferry from West Vancouver. The regular cost for an adult round trip boat fare is $10.20. Technically you are paying only one way because the open return trip is “free”. To get to the ferry by public bus, use the web site www.translink.ca, see Trip Planner, type in Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal as Going To destination, and choose the most convenient bus route and time of travel. Most likely you have to board Bus No. 257 (local) or 250 (express) in front of downtown’s The Bay department store at West Georgia Street. The bus will drop you right in front of the ferry ticketing office.

If you can afford it, buy a BC Ferries Experience Card. The minimum load value for the electronic swipe card is $50 from which you can withdraw to purchase tickets for participating routes. The advantage of such a card is it gives you a discount. The Bowen Island fare for a walk-on adult (12 years or older) with the card is $ 6.20, a savings of $ 4.00. Children from 5 to 11 years of age get two dollars off the regular fare of $ 5.10 with the Experience card. Under 5 are free regardless, as well as all pets. To know more about this card, fares for cars or bikes and ferry schedule, see www.bcferries.com or call 1-888-BC FERRY (1-888-223-3779). The port at Bowen island is called Snug Cove. Under Sunshine Coast Routes, look for Horseshoe Bay departing times to go to the island, and Snug Cove timetable to return to Greater Vancouver.

Make sure you bring food and drinks as these are expensive in the ferry boat, and in the island itself. Once you disembark you will face a slightly uphill Bowen Island Trunk Road. You will see the library and information centre at your right where you can get free hiking trail and island maps. Along your left side are the restaurants, a medium-size general store or supermarket, an organic grocery store, souvenir and clothing shops, and historical cottages. Not surprisingly, things are more expensive than the mainland. Burger and fries will cost you $10.00, and that is with tap water.

The reasons to go to Bowen Island are the hiking trails. There are several, many part of Crippen Regional Park. From the info center start with the short 1.5 km Bridal Veil Falls trail – rather small and unimpressive - which can lead you further on to Killarney Lake. The lake has a picnic area with only a handful of picnic tables, so carry a wet-proof picnic cloth. No campfires are permitted so everything you bring must be ready-to-eat. For questions, phone the Park office at 604-224-5739.

The Killarney Lake Loop goes around the water for about four kilometers – a leisurely two-hour mostly flat walk. This is a good one for the whole family. Although there are signs that pets must be leashed, on the Tuesday I was there, I saw four local individuals or pairs letting their pet dogs run loose. Fishing is permitted if you have a license. Visit www.fishing.gov.bc.ca for more information.

Mount Gardner Trail

The other trail for the 15 to 59 years old and plus (if fit) crowd is the hike up to the North Summit of Mount Gardner, roughly 760 meters above sea level. There is no point going to the other peak – the South Summit (the true peak) because there are no views. Although there are a number of trails to either summit, it is best for the first-timer to start at the Hikers Trail entrance on Mount Gardner Road, past Killarney Lake. On weekends, your Vancouver bus pass will allow you to board the local transit bus (the Eagle Cliff run) which will take you right to the entrance. On weekdays, you have to walk from the ferry dock - a three kilometer, half-an-hour stroll.

At the entrance there is an information board with a map. Follow the North Mount Gardner Trail. Round trip to and from the North Summit is approximately 11 kilometers. It is not advisable to bring children, or for pregnant women. Though the hike is graded moderate, which it is, there are lots of opportunities for kids to trip over fallen vines, small logs, or get lost.

The first hour involves passing through a one lane gravel road that gently goes uphill. Once you see a metal pipe in the middle of the road, immediately look for the small metal sign pointing an arrow to Mount Gardner North Summit. The real but still easy hike begins. It involves a slight exertion and caution at three slippery but short spots. If you take your time, it is an undemanding hike for an amateur.

Once you reach a rocky ledge with great views, walk pass and down into a pine-carpeted gully. Then you will head up again. As you get closer to the North Summit you will see the telecommunication towers – an eyesore in what you hope would be 100 per cent nature. Oh well. Finally you land at the North Summit and you have a choice of two wood platforms or helipads to sit or lie on. Make sure you go to the helipad with the Vancouver City view – the vista is more open, whereas the other one’s scenery is partly obscured by treetops.

For slow pokes like me with a bit of fitness issue, it took me almost two hours to get to the top. The panoramas are indeed worth the effort, and do hang out or stay for at least an hour. Enjoy the fresh air, eat, drink and be merry. When I was there on Victoria Day, it was more of a singles crowd or dating pairs. As I munched on my sandwich, I listened to the musical Corner of the Sky on my iPod. It was heavenly. I was also glad I brought a sweater and a jacket along as it became cool at some point.

If you are planning to do the Mount Gardner trail, which is open year-round, do so on a sunny day so that you can see the trail. The yellow ribbons wrapped or reflector markers tacked on trees are few and far in-between. Many have gotten lost.

Suggestion: make two day trips. One day for the whole family just to traipse around Snug Cove and Killarney Lake. Then another day, for the older teens and adults to go up Mount Gardner.

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