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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just Passed Capilano, Across the Dam

As we drove closer towards Grouse's summit, the feathery clouds seemed to drift directly over us. The temperature dropped, similar to being in a cloud forest somewhere South. There were no rain droplets, but the humidity was very high; I could tell based on the curls that turned into frizz, and the nice dewy feel on my face. I'm so glad we live in a rainforest. It's walks like these that justify the months of rain.

To get to the trail we took, we drove up Capilano Road, passed the Capilano Bridge. About half a kilometer passed the bridge, on the left hand side is a parking lot labeled 'Capilano Regional Park'. There's only one way to go - over the Cleveland Dam. This is a great spot to check out the amazing sites of the canyon, the mountains, the water, and even the Grouse Mountain Gondola. Before you head over the bridge, there's a grassy mound that makes for a perfect photo op.

Jamie can be seen here with the two dogs. Just behind is the water reserve, and the dam to the left. You can see the clouds drift between mountains,
and over ravines seemingly effortlessly.
The grassy area is large enough to bring a frisbee or ball for a game of fetch, and off to the side they've included a few picnic areas for when the temperature rises.
We took a fairly easy route. Once over the dam, we took the trail furthest to the right - it immediately climbs a short ways up, and right around the bend there's a small trail that jets off to the left yet again. Once in the forest, you can tell this is an old one; the trees are absolutely huge, with a bunch of smaller undergrowth. I took a moment to let the little ones know they would soon (a hundred years or so) be as big as the rest. The trails as seen in this photo are moderate to easy. They're well marked, somewhat paved and only climb and descend small hills on the mountain sides. You can take steeper trails in towards the Canyon, but if you stick to the trail we did, it's an easy one for dogs and people alike. The trail takes you in a big loop, and it's hard to miss the exit. Simply keep following once you've taken the second left into this part of the trail pictured to the right. You will come across you first obstacle, but for those with stairs in their homes, this is no feat.

As we walked down the stairs, the forest seemed to lighten up a little. It became a lot less dense, but had a lot of water. There was lichen dripping off the trees, puddles on the ground, and of course, mud. Follow the water, and make sure to step on the stones as the mud is deeper than one would expect. Bikini took a moment to drink from the mini-flowing creek. It was so crystal clear, and obviously came directly from what little glacier we once had this season.

Bikini can be seen here doing her jumping exercises :P. We came across a few other hiking pooches, but for the most part, we were solo. All in all, I really enjoyed this walk. The wind dies down once inside the protection of the trees, and the dogs seemed to really enjoy this one as well. They took their time chasing squirrels up trees, climbing mountain sides, drinking from the water, and just enjoying the few rays of sun we stumbled upon.
Happy trail walking!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

International Dog Walking... Right in Your Backyard

Sure, Point Roberts might be known best for it's cheap gas, cheese and beer, but it also has some great spots for dog walking. This small peninsula has fantastic natural wonder, but has suffered from major economic blunder. In it's glory days, Point Roberts was a booming fishing town, but once the fish were nearly gone, PBob had to switch it's major source of income from the fishing industry to 'tourism'. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Point Roberts hosted some of the best summer parties at it's few successful bars and campgrounds. After 9.11, Point Robert's economy took a downturn. Unfortunately, the tighter the security got at it's small border, the less Canadians were willing to risk a DUI - and so the influx of Canadian dollars dwindled to gas and cheese, supporting only the industries that supplied it. Not all is lost however. After a daring project to build a world class golf course brought some Canadians back, the lack of support from the community has kept its over-all success on hold. New projects within the Golf Course and within the community however, do offer a ray of hope in bringing back Point Robert's luster and this is promising.
Dining options are still available, and are worth the drive. If you end up making it to the beaches, trails, or to the golf course, make sure to check out the following businesses; Cafe Capana on Gulf Rd. & Marine Dr. offers great coffees, french cuisine, ocean views, and a deck off the back. Brewsters on Gulf is a great place for Sunday brunches, or mid-week dinners. It's romantic enough to bring a date, but not so formal you can't bring the family. The homemade desserts are to die for. Lastly, The Reef is a small pub on the water side - how many pubs can you enjoy a beer and watch whales swim by?
There are a few overnight options as well. One retreat that offers a dog-friendly environment for over night rentals is the Point Roberts Retreat. Well-behaved dogs are more than welcome to enjoy the ocean views, five acres, beautiful suites, and a nearly completed cottage out back. Private patios, garden fresh vegetables, private infrared sauna, and a rose garden are all accented by the horse fields next door. There are some great dog trails within walking distance to this overnight sanctuary - the two ladies that run the place are more than willing to show you the best spots as they are both dog savvy, and love our canine companions. Check them out here:

Well ecomony aside, the natural wonder here is incredible. Being as Point Roberts is a Peninsula cut off by Canada, it is surrounded by beaches on all other three sides. There is dense rain forest throughout, which for me, is a lot of fun - leave your compass or other supplies at home. Unlike hiking or walking on the trails of the North Shore, you can feel free to just get lost here. Being as PBob is only 5miles by 5miles, you'll pop out somewhere, and more likely than not, someone will offer you a ride if need be.
Lighthouse Park on the Western side of the Peninsula is home to a great boardwalk that hosts art festivals, barbeques and other fun during the summer. This is an amazing place to whale watch. There are campgrounds scattered throughout the park as well.
Maple Beach, on the Eastern side, next to the border offers close to a mile of sandy beach on low-tide. The water is nearly bathtub warm as the tide drifts back in over the hot sand. This is my favorite beach in the summer - Kits doesn't have anything on this.

Lily Point, the main trail of my blog today is located on the far South Eastern side of the Point, and has recently been made into a national reserve. There are well marked trails throughout the rain forest, but it's main draw is the eagle ridden bluff and sand dunes. You are guaranteed to spot at least three bald eagles on your walk here. The parking lot is located next to Point Robert's only cemetery. It's worth stopping to take a look at some of the history here.

Bikini, Roy and I took an immediate right, into the lichen laden forest. We walked a loop through the temperate jungle, that brought us back to the main trail eventually. The forest here is dark, alive, and absolutely stunning. Birds, including song birds, and raptors can be heard all around. The trails are easy so long as you stay above the bluff, which even then is only mildly difficult to trek back up. We walked through the forest to see leaves budding, eagles mating, and even blue skies. The lookout here has amazing views of Mount Baker on a clear day, but is stunning even with no view of the dormant volcano.

The cliff here is eroding, it's best to keep your dogs on leash, as it's rumored that a few have met their demise by running blindly off the cliff. If you do come to the view point, there's a fence to show the safe zones. It's recommended that you stay behind the fence, as the cliff hangs well over the rest of the bluff. Bikini and Roy enjoy the view from a safe distance here. The beach below is accessible by trail, and is a fun place for dogs and people alike. Don't expect to run into too many people down there - perhaps some herons, an eagle or two and possibly some starfish, but people are unlikely.
For other out-doorsy types, this is just one of the spots that mountain bikers have found. There are many trails within Point Roberts that offer pre-built ramps and other obstacles. Some other places to check out if you're into biking are behind the elementary school, in Lily Point and another trail that starts just up the road on Johnson, coming from Boundry Bay Road. Watch for this trail on the left hand side of the road. Some of the man-made obstacles have succumbed to the damp of the rainforest - it's recommended you do a once over to make sure of rotted wood.
On the whole, the Point is just a cool place to come and relax. Only a 40minute drive from the city, and it feels like a world apart. Don't forget to bring your passport, and make sure your canines have their rabies shots up to date. All the before mentioned trails and parks are off-leash friendly. Go support a dwindling community, and enjoy all it has to offer with you best buds, your doggies.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Fenced Hangout For Canines & Humans Combined

I recently had a request to do a series on safe spots for deaf dogs. I thought about the parameters to what that really ment. It meant the area had to be safe, preferably fenced, and away from traffic. I then had the thought that these parameters could be applied to more than just deaf dogs. For people just getting to know their new hound, or in a puppy's case, these would all be important attributes of a safe off-leash experience.

Today Roy, Bikini and myself made it to Nelson Park. The entire park isn't off-leash friendly, but does have a lot to offer. People come here to read on the grass, or play their acoustic guitars. There's a gazebo to hang out in, and a play area for children. On the opposite side of the park, they've included a completely fenced area for dogs to do their thing, off-leash allowed.
Nelson Park is located between Nelson and Thurlow and continues to Bute Street. This means it's nearly in the heart of downtown, but has the serenity that the West End tends to offer. It's a short walk from the hustle and bustle of Burrard St, but has birds chirping and tweeting in every tree planted. There's a school right next to the dog park, and it's always fun to let the kids pet the doggies.
This park is about as social as it gets, for both dogs and their owners. I was here on a late, Monday morning, and it still managed to attract a crowd. This place is comparable to a local, doggy gathering spot. You have your regulars that come to chat over coffee as the dogs play, dig, or chase a ball. You also have the socialites that come in groups to simply chat at one of the picnic tables offered within the fenced, off-leash area. And of course, you have the occassional loner who sticks to their designated corner of the place.
This community inspired park is a fun place to take your dog, particularly if there isn't quite the trust needed to go to other un-fenced areas. The security is tight at this park. The fence doesn't have a single break in it, and there is a double gate to ensure your pet gets his leash on and off in a safe manor. Dogs can just be dogs without the worry of traffic, children, run aways, and other mishaps. If security is the issue, or has become a worry the gates that lead in and out of the off-leash area  are designed to keep dogs in, and keep them safe.
As I've said in other posts, I'm completely floored by the heat wave we've been having here in Western Canada. Cherry blossoms have been spotted already in bloom, and tulips are starting to make an appearaance, but today I actually found the first real sign of Spring. A single flower sat in an unkempt garden. Around the corner, there were five or six more stalks completely in bloom. I only hope we don't meet a cold snap that kills off all these early bloomers. *Sigh*, if only we could have our cake, er snow, and eat it to...