Exploring Is Never Boring – North Island

“The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.” – Jeff Johnson

Having grown up in Nanaimo, like most from this area, I have only ventured north of Campbell River a handful of times. It is common to meet local Vancouver Islanders who haven’t even been that far. If you are in search of desolation, wanting to get in touch with nature or just looking to unwind, there is no better place to be then amongst the trees in the rugged landscape of the north island.

20160704_080921Leif and I were lucky enough to have a few days of peace and serenity in the north island last week. The torrential downpour on Thursday was not enough to deter us from getting out and exploring what this beautiful island has to offer. Despite the weather and the odd questionable song on Leif’s Ipod, our 5 hour journey from Nanaimo to Port Hardy was a whole lot of fun. Our first stop was for a fresh fritter from Cumberland Bakery (maybe two) and a well needed coffee from Grind. Both spots are located on the main drive in town and are well worth the slight detour. My frequent snowboard trips to Mount Washington will now include the bakery every time. Friendly locals and funky vibes make Cumberland one of my favourite places to visit.

Continuing north, our next stop was Dalrymple Creek just outside of Sayward. With educational signs along the way, this short, easy trek through the old firs is the perfect place to learn about our forests while also enjoying the wicked views and soothing sounds of the creek. After Dalrymple, we explored the small, quaint town of Woss “Vegas” and the Lucky Logger Pub. From here you are only about 1.5 hours away from Port Hardy. 20160623_172813Tall trees, mountains and waterfalls highlight the winding, isolated drive to the northernmost community on Vancouver Island.

Thanks to the rain, our original plan of camping was kiboshed. I was more than happy to stay at the North Coast Trail Backpackers Hostel and return to my traveling roots.  Anne and Rob, the owners, are super friendly and down to earth people and they loved having us there.  Although Anne warned us about bears, the recent cougar sighting and the muddy conditions, Leif and I still decided to hike to the 1945 WWII 576 Dakota plane crash site. The hike itself is only 2 hours round trip but has a few challenging, steep sections to be cautious of.  The trail is relatively well maintained, but there is still some bush whacking to be done with your stick of choice as well. Once you get to the site, you will see a plaque explaining some of the history and the Dakota nestled in the old growth forest, pretty much fully intact. This was remarkable to me considering how long it has been there for and how terrible the crash was. Once we finished our hike, we were soggy but definitely satisfied. After a few beers at the hostel, a quick bite to eat at Toudai Sushi and a riveting game of shuffle board we were ready to hit the hay and rest up for the next day of adventure.

Nothing feels better than waking up the shuffle board champion of the North Coast Trail Hostel. With my spirits high, the day began with a coffee and a danish from a cozy, vibrant joint called Cafe Guido. After breakfast, we loaded back into the van and made our way to Storeys Beach, which is near the airport. Along the way we saw countless eagles but still not one bear… It’s not often I come home from the north island without seeing at least a few bears. We took some time to explore the sandy, stretching coastline of Storeys before eventually continuing south down the island. 20160624_104615Although we didn’t have time to venture out to San Josef Bay, Raft Cove or the surrounding areas, I would highly recommend these camping or day trips to anyone. Head two hours west of Port Hardy down a logging road and you will not be disappointed…trust me on this one!

Our next stop was Telegraph Cove, which should be on everybody’s bucket list to explore. This unique old fishing village is home to some rustic buildings and cabins and is also the gateway to the Johnstone Straight and Robson Bight. Through the summer months, Telegraph Cove is thriving with tourism. Kayakers come from all over the world with hopes to see the many orca whales that reside in the area. Luckily we were there on somewhat of a quiet day and were able to experience the boardwalk without too much interruption.

white-river-provincial-parkLeif and I had researched our next stop in Sayward the night before and were stoked to check it out. White River Provincial Park, the so called “Cathederal Grove of the North”, turned out to be quite the bust, although we still had fun finding it! It was a nice example of old growth forest, however places such as Cathedral Grove or Avatar Grove far surpass this small block of forest in denseness and darkness.

20160624_165607After a quick visit to Elk Falls in Campbell River, our final stop was at Gladstone Brewing Company and Guerilla Pizzeria in Courtenay. If you are a craft beer lover and haven’t been to this place, you are definitely missing out. Gladstone is my ideal hang out, it’s an old converted car garage and is full of good energy. There are always thirsty customers lined up out the door, awesome decorations hung on the wall and most importantly the beer is  actually really solid. We had a flight of 6 different brews served on an old licence plate paired with a delicious pizza. It was the perfect way to end our quick little north island getaway!

I still didn’t see any bears.

Wine of the Month – August 2016

Unsworth 2015 Rose

We started a beer of the month post in July, but then all the great local Vancouver Island wine got jealous. So here we go with Wine of the Month! We have so much wonderful wine here on Vancouver Island that many people don’t even realize we have. Hopefully we can help bring to light some of the delicious, approachable wine that we have to offer so that next time you’re in the liquor store or wine shop you feel confident to branch out and try something new.

Our first wine of the month just happens to be perfect for summer patio sipping on a beautiful August afternoon or even for pairing with a nice barbecue dinner. It also happens to be a rosé. Now don’t worry, I know that years of sweet, syrupy white zinfandels have scarred many human beings along the way. This should not be a reason for you to stay away from rosés! Most Vancouver Island rosés are crisp and dry wines that have amazing notes of strawberries or cranberries. Very easy drinking and approachable, yet all sorts of complex flavours coming through.

Unsworth Vineyards produces one of my favourite rosés anywhere and to me is a perfect expression of the wines we can consistently create right here on Vancouver Island. Theirs is a provencal style rosé that has a beautiful colour created by leaving the wine on the skins for just enough time to extract a bit of colour from the pinot noir grapes they use to make it. Pairs beautifully with cheese, grilled fish, or just good friends on the patio. Enjoy!

Beer of the Month – August 2016

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When at the liquor store trying to figure out which craft beer to buy, sometimes you need a little help. Lucky for you, we’re committed to trying lots of craft beer so that we can help you choose a solid beer that you will hopefully find just as enjoyable as we did.

This month’s choice is a seasonal beer from Longwood Brewery. The One That Got Away is a red wheat ale that I find both delicious and refreshing. This unique style was originally created for a tuna fishing derby out on the west coast of BC and has continued to be produced each summer due to its popularity. Its copper colour, rich flavour and surprising lightness make this a nice beer for boating or just sitting on the shore yet also pairs nicely with seafood.

This summer the folks at Longwood decided to use this beer as the base beer for their limited release beer creation for Longwoodstock Music Festival. Combining the red wheat ale with grapefruit juice to create Pulp Friction, their radler was the perfect drink for a scorching hot summer day listening to some great artists such as Daniel Wesley, Dope Soda and Wil.

It’s definitely a beer I look forward to each year and will be savouring the last few I have sitting in my fridge as summer begins to wind down.

Beer of the Month – July 2016

Beer of the Month - Driftwood Gose

We’ve decided to start a beer of the month blog post here at Vancouver Island Expeditions. When at the liquor store trying to figure out which beer to buy, sometimes you need a little help. Lucky for you, we’re committed to trying lots of beers for you so that we can help you choose a solid beer that you will hopefully find just as enjoyable as we found it. Our hope is that it can satisfy both the people just starting to navigate their way into craft beer all the way up to the craziest of craft beer nerds.

For our first beer of the month we have chosen a style that has become the style of the summer. Lots of breweries have decided to brew this once forgotten style of beer. Driftwood Brewery was the first in BC to release a Gose (pronounced Goz-uh), and it is brewed in the tradition of the artisan brewers of Leipzig where it originated.

Cry Me a River has a slight dry, tartness to it that is pleasantly refreshing on a warm, summer day.  The really interesting part to me is that it has a pinch of Vancouver Island Sea Salt in it to give it a bit of saltiness. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this one. Grabbing a bottle of this to sip on in your backyard this summer will leave you feeling happy that Driftwood helped bring this style back from extinction. Cheers!

Soren – Harvest Time at Chateau Wolff

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Vancouver Island is a place to visit for people of all ages. Join Soren as he tells us about some of his amazing adventures right here on Vancouver Island!

 

Papa knows that I love grapes.  All summer he brought me grapes from his house.  They are so sweet and yummy.  So when daddy asked if I’d go with him to pick some grapes at Chateau Wolff Estate Winery I thought I’d spend the whole day eating grapes!  I was excited to see soooo many grapes on the bushes. BUT we weren’t allowed to eat them, I tried one, and spit it out because it had seeds in it!  Papa makes nicer grapes to eat.  I guess these ones are for wine.  I don’t drink wine as I’m not tall enough.  Maybe when I’m taller I can go on one of daddy’s tours!

IMG_8316Daddy picked a lot of grapes and threw them into a big bin.  Where are they taking all those grapes?  Who is going to eat them?  The tractor came to pick up the big bins.  I LOVE TRACTORS.  The man asked me if I wanted to ride the tractor but I was so stunned I just stared and didn’t answer back.  Look at those wheels!  Later I saw where the tractor was going: to the processing plant!  They were throwing the grapes into a machine that spit out twigs.  It was really loud.

IMG_8332The grapes went downstairs into another machine.  This place is fun!  Lots of shiny bits and electrical cords (and lots of things I wasn’t supposed to touch).
We were all hungry and ate lunch outside on a big long table.  We even got juice boxes!  I played with some other kids for a bit, running around.  Juice always makes me a little silly!  Then it was time to go.  We had fun, I know we’ll be back.  I sure hope I get to see the tractor again!

Soren – Exploring the West Coast

Vancouver Island is a place to visit for people of all ages. Join Soren as he tells us about some of his amazing adventures right here on Vancouver Island!

IMG_6501In the summer my family went for a long, windy car ride to BIG beaches on the west coast!  We saw lots of things on the way, BIG trees, birds, cows, lakes, nice people, more trees and then the OCEAN.  When we got out of the car I headed straight for the water.  Waves crashing, big waves, little waves and sand everywhere. We climbed on rocks, we dug big holes, and found funny little animals scurrying across the sand.  I love the sand in my toes, no shoes here just soft sand and LOTS of space to run. I didn’t want to go but mommy said I had to have a nap. I’m a big boy now so I don’t think I need I naps, but mommy disagrees.IMG_6612  I would like to live at the beach, I think that would be a good idea.

The next day we went on walks.  I can walk really far, daddy only had to carry me a couple of times to keep up with mommy and baby.   Everywhere we go there’s new things to see and touch.  My favourite was the star animals – I squealed the first time I touched them but then I thought it was fun. It would be nice to take them home to see our cats, but we’re not allowed to.  They seem to like living by the ocean, plus they would miss their ocean-friends. IMG_6534We also went to Ucluelet Aquarium.  I’ve never seen so many fun creatures in my life!!  The best was the crabs, part because my favourite colour is orange but mostly because of their big, pinchy claws!  And the sea enemies (anemones) were fun too. When I poked them they grabbed my finger – but not in a scary way, in a gentle, slow way – why are they called enemies when they’re so nice?  They were cute.  I wonder if they could see me because I didn’t see their findviagrapills eyes, but I really liked them.

Until next time!..IMG_6489

Favourite Vancouver Island Wine Releases – 2015

Spring time to some means flowers blooming, trees waking up from their long winter naps, and the return of warmer weather. To me, it means one very exciting thing: New wines to try!

Now that we are just getting our first taste of this year’s wines, I wanted to do a quick post about some of my favourite releases from 2015. In no way am I a professional at judging wines nor do I have a broad knowledge of all there is to know about wine. With that said, I do know more than the average person about British Columbia wines, and more than most about Vancouver Island wines.

You see, to make sure that everybody I take on a tour gets a chance to taste the best that Vancouver Island has to offer, I have to do a lot of painstaking research. I have to drive up and down the island and go to every winery, brewery, distillery & fine restaurant to make sure that my guests are only getting the best. I do the work so that you don’t have to. Aren’t I nice? Tempest-Ortega-2014Now on to the list! (please note that these are just wines that were available/released in 2015, not wines from the 2015 vintage)

Enrico – 2014 Ortega

This award winning wine was one of my favourite white wines to ever come from Vancouver Island, and the judges for the Lieutenant Governor’s Award apparently agreed with me. Very fruity with a slightly sweet finish made this the perfect patio sipping wine, although still paired nicely with food. This wine sold out very quickly due to the press it received, so if you’re considering buying some of the 2015 vintage (which is just as good in my opinion!) then you better act fast!

Chateau Wolff – 2014 White Blend2015_11_ExploreNanaimo_GRANDPRIZE-0822

This was also a beautiful, patio sipper of a wine. With a predominantly Viognier blend, this medium-bodied, fruity wine also pairs well with spicy foods such as Thai curries or even Indian cuisine. There are still some bottles left at the winery, so stop by and check out www.findviagrapills.com/ one of Vancouver Island’s first 5 wineries dating back to the early 90’s and say hi to the wonderful new owners, Matt & Natalie.

Cherry Point – 2012 Estate Pinot Noir

Also one of Vancouver Island’s first 5 wineries, Cherry Point tends to produce wines that are very different in style from the rest of the region. And nothing shows this off better than their Pinot Noir. This wine was grown exclusively on their estate vineyard and aged in old oak barrels for nearly 3 years, making this a true estate wine. I loved pairing it with any red meat, but it was also versatile enough to pair with salmon.

Unsworth+WineryUnsworth – 2013 Symphony

I absolutely love this red wine produced solely from Vancouver Island grapes. This blend is comprised of Cabernet Libre and Petit Milo grapes, both varietals that most have never heard of. They are hybrids that have been designed specifically with climates like ours in mind. The result is a beautiful, medium-bodied red wine that makes my water just thinking about it. There is quite the following for this wine, so it sold out quickly and will likely do so again in the future. So if you see it anywhere on a shelf, just buy it. If you find that you don’t want it, please feel free to send it my way and I will happily finish it off for you!

Glenterra – 2014 Natural Orange Pinot Grisglenterra-natural-orange

I’ll finish my list off with one of the most unique wines around. This natural orange wine is made in an ancient method dating back from Georgia (the country not the state). This is essentially a white grape made with red winemaking procedures. By letting the wine ferment on its skins, this normally white wine becomes orange. After a short aging in neutral French oak barrels it is bottled for all of us to enjoy. So if you’re up for trying something different that is sure to be a conversation starter, then I definitely recommend this wine.

 

Thanks to all these wineries for helping make the Vancouver Island wine region what it is today!

Now how about you? Were there any wines that stood out for you in 2015? Which wines are you looking forward to trying in 2016? Leave us a note in the comments about wines that really tickled your tastebuds!

 

 

Get to know Brendan Milholm

Thanks to all the wonderful people that we’ve had a chance to take on tours ranging from food and wine to hiking and kayaking, Vancouver Island Expeditions has had to add a new guide! Brendan Milholm is our newest team member looking to show you around our wonderful island. Here’s a little intro from him so you can get to know him better.

Hey Everyone,

I’m Brendan, the newest member of Vancouver Island Expeditions and self proclaimed “exploration expert”. I have been traveling up and down this beautiful island my entire life. Countless road trips, surf getaways, camping excursions and seaplane tours have allowed me to see some of the most breathtaking places in the entire world. I truly enjoy showing off these gems to people for the first time…. so to say I’m stoked to be doing this for a living now would be a definite understatement!

brendan2You can describe me as an easygoing guy, who’s always up for the next adventure or next “good time”. I try to put out positive vibes in any situation and can make friends with pretty much anybody I meet. Maybe it’s an island thing, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than in the frigid waters of the pacific ocean or among the tall old growth trees.

I have been lucky enough to travel abroad and findviagrapills.com/ experience many different cultures, yet Vancouver Island always finds a way to bring me back. The scenic west coast views are only the beginning to what this magical place has to offer. We can dip into the local food, craft beer, wine and art scenes together!

This is my home and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Soren – Something's Brewing at Longwood Brewery

 

Vancouver Island is a place to visit for people of all ages. Join Soren as he tells us about some of his amazing adventures right here on Vancouver Island!

IMG_0085Mommy and Daddy drink beer, I don’t like beer it smells funny and it’s for adults only. They make lots of beer in Nanaimo, where we live and Daddy takes people on tours to show them how it’s made! Did you know that at Longwood Brewery their beer likes to ride in a hammock? So funny. Beer doesn’t belong in a hammock, it has to stay in the fridge!!

It was real loud in the beer making room. Everywhere you looked there were about shiny, clean tanks that I could see myself in! And there were water sounds everywhere, and beeping noises and “chhhhuuuuu” like a steam engine! IMG_0101I got to climb a great big ladder to look inside one of the shiny containers. It was dark. I got a little scared but Daddy picked me up so everything was okay. Then they showed me a machine that spins cans of beer around and puts lids on them. It was pretty cool!

The best part of the tour was the air plane! So small but it looked so real. I wanted to fly it all over ALL DAY but Mom said “don’t touch, it’s for looking only” I still don’t understand why I can’t play with that plane ALL DAY!IMG_0112

We filled up daddy’s great big glass beer containers from the big beer taps. I took them to the car to help Daddy out, but boy were they heavy! Luckily I am a big boy now, I can help with everything. My brother is a baby, he can’t help yet. One day me and my brother will be REAL BIG and we can drink beer with Mom and Dad. And go on waterslides. And rides at the amusement park. I can’t wait until I’m bigger!IMG_0121

My Place – Kyla Karakochuk

Everyone has a special place, a place where you have memories, where you can find peace and harmony. A place where you know you are just happy being there. For some it’s a quiet place, for others it’s a noisy place. But all of these places have one thing in common; they are places where you think of first when asked “Where is Your Place?”.

Kyla - On the Beach1. Who are you and how long have you lived on Vancouver Island?

I am Kyla Karakochuk.  I moved to Nanaimo 16 years ago, and after living in Vancouver, Victoria, Australia and Belize, I wanted to come back to make Nanaimo my permanent home. I have been back for six years now and can’t think of a better place to live! Read More