Welcome to our blog!

Thanks for visiting our blog. If you'd like to get updates when we publish a new post, please enter your email in the follow by email box to the right. Alternatively, you can follow using an RSS reader (I personally use NewsBlur combined with GrazeRSS for Android).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wedding Pictures!

Our pictures finally came! yay! Some of our favorites are posted here. You can look through all of them by clicking here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Honeymoonin' (back to Victoria)

Disclaimer: Some photos taken by James (many of the very awesome ones!)
Day 9:
This day started off with James waking up early and spotting some crows out the window. He looked and saw they were pestering a bald eagle. He shot some great pictures of the eagle being chased by the crows, the eagle sitting up at the top of a spruce and the eagle soaring off. He woke me up so I could see the eagle too, which was very cool.
Wet eagle

It was rainy and chilly, so the eagle looked drenched from sitting in the treetop.
Flying off. Look at those talons!

After getting ready, we went downstairs to the hotel restaurant, Fetch, for breakfast. We got seated by the window again and enjoyed the waves. James had a salmon bennie with potatoes and I had granola with fruit and yogurt and a green smoothie. Our next stop was the hotel gift store, where James picked out a nice photography book of the scenery and wildlife of British Columbia. It's like a nice big coffee table book that will be neat to leaf through later. We did a whirlwind packing job once back up in our room, said goodbye to the amazing view, and checked out. As we drove out of town, we stopped at a little art and print shop called Pina. We were looking for a print we'd seen in Ukee Dogs the day before of the town of Ucluelet, but they only had it as a tiny magnet. Oh well. The magnet would have to do. Then it was goodbye Ucluelet. The drive out onto Pacific Rim Highway was once again turny, twisty, and rainy. There were some beautiful waterfalls running over the rock cliffs, some mysterious, misty lakes, and raging rivers hoping over big boulders. We made a stop at Little Quallicum Beach and did some hiking. The rain stopped right as we pulled into the parking lot. Win! The falls consisted of a lower and upper falls.
Lower Quallicum Falls

Both were beautiful and showed the great power of rushing water. The hike was a nice break too.
happy hikers

Beautiful clear water with a view of the stones underneath 

powerful rushing water from the upper Little Quallicum Falls

 We spotted a frog, big slug, snail, and lots of other hikers.
Big ol' slug


Next stop wasn't planned for. On the road, we saw a sign for the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, where they supposedly rehabed black bears, owls, and other birds of prey. I was immediately interested, since I'd worked at a camp that had a raptor rehab center. We stopped off expecting a small place, but were pleasantly surprised to find a pretty big facility. We paid and entered a room full of plaques about different birds, cougars, wolves, etc, along with some taxidermied examples, then wound around to an eagle flight house. We viewed the eagles from slots above as to not disturb them or give them human contact. There were also several monitors where you could watch live feeds of black bears. Two cubs were playing and rough housing when we watched. Next came the outdoor path around to the rest of the animals that had no chance of release back into the wild.
Barred owl

Short eared owl

Funny log full of turtles

There were ravens, eagles (bald and golden), barred owls, barn owls, great horned owls, short eared owls, ferrets, turkey vultures, wild turkeys, peregrine falcons, doves, turtles, and ducks. The place was huge and well maintained. I was certainly impressed. Before we left, we had to take a photo in their little set up....
hungry baby eagle 


After spending a good chunk of time there, we got back on the road, got a little turned around, then found our bearings. Off to Nanaimo for a light lunch. We ate at a place called Corner Bistro. James had some chowder and a great piece of herb bread and I had some little quinoa sliders. Back on the road to Victoria, we noticed the sun peeking out a little, which was strange since we hadn't seen it in so long! When we arrived at the hotel, it was pretty late. We lugged our bags to the room and headed across the street to Sizzling Tandoor for some excellent Indian food. I had paneer tika masala and James had lamb masala and we split some naan. After dinner, we walked over to the harbor and back across the bridge and enjoyed the mild evening before hitting the hay.

Day 10:
We slept in very late, almost until noon. After our late start, we walked over to a nearby diner called John's Place. The service was friendly, decor was amusing, and the food was tasty. The bread alone was enough to get a thumbs up from me. I also had a Jerusalem Wrap with falafel and veggies and James had a lamb soublaki. We headed back to the hotel, grabbed the car and drove out to Fort Rodd Hill, home of the Fisgard Lighthouse, which is one of the earliest permanent lighthouses on Canada's west coast. The walk around the grounds was beautiful.
Mountain view from atop the old bunker at Fort Rodd

Fisgard lighthouse 

The weather was sunny and warm. James got lots of nice pictures and we enjoyed seeing the pretty lighthouse, mountain views, birds, and learning a bit of history.
Spotted a few herons around

Robin Chripbotski (for all you How I Met Your Mother fans)

Back at the hotel, we brought up the rest of the luggage so we could repack for the plane and relaxed a bit. Since the weather was so great, we decided to walk up to a park that had the world's tallest totem pole. The park was called Beacon Hill and it was just a bit of a walk past the Royal BC Museum, which also had a totem pole display outside to stop and wonder at.

 Once we entered the park, we found out there was a lot to explore. Our visit to Beacon Hill began with us taking some "action shots" of the many types of ducks in the pond.
Pretty light hitting the water

Diving duck

Pretty heron atop a tall tree

We also took more pics of the talkative crows. We continued on through the large park admiring the tall trees and colorful gardens along the paths. There were black squirrels, which I hadn't seen many of before.

Then we heard the unmistakable cries of peacocks. First, we just saw a few females, pretty, but not the kind of splendid, showy colors of the male peacock. We wandered a bit more and found a few males. Some even had their feathers up in display, yapping and dancing.
Peacock crossing the road

Peacock showing off

Female Peacock
We wondered more through the pretty gardens and trees and past a trail along the waterfront.

 As it was getting later, we decided we had better find that big totem pole. You'd think it would have been easy to spot, being the world's tallest and all, but the gigantic trees that blanked the park did make it a more challenging search. Finally, we spotted it over the trees. There was a bird-like silhouette sitting atop the pole. From a distance, we assumed it was part of the totem design. But James looked through the zoom lens from his camera and discovered it was an actual bald eagle!
Awesome sight

Eagle talking to the crows

Totem from below

We tried to quickly make our way toward the pole to see this cool sight. After a short stop to get pictures of the mountains across the way and a quick walk through some buggy woods, we were at the bottom of the pole and the eagle was still sitting on top. It was such a majestic sight! Then came the crows. They flitted around, cawing and diving toward the eagle and trying to bother him and get him to leave the area. The eagle seemed unbothered by the crows and held his ground. Finally the crows left. We walked closer to the pole to get some neat perspective pictures. The eagle remained on top. As we were walking away from the pole, we heard a barred owl calling from the woods..."whoo cooks for you- whooo cooks for you aaaallll?" it called. So we decided to take a quick look in the woods. The eagle also decided it was time to give up his post upon the pole and flew off. We didn't find the barred owl and it was starting to get buggy, so we decided to head back to the hotel and clean up for dinner. Dinner was right around the corner from our hotel at a hip little place called Mint. It was dimly lit with sparkly lights strung about over the tables, pillows tossed about on the seating, and decorated with masks, and kitchy artwork. There was live music followed by a dj. The atmosphere was pretty fun and chill at the same time. James ordered the naan pizza and I had spinach curry. We both had some yummy drinks and split a lemon tart. After hanging out for a bit, we decided to head back to the hotel and pack up since it was our last night and we'd have to wake up super early to catch our red eye flight back to the states. We did not want to leave Vancouver Island!

Day 11:
The trip home was uneventful and went mostly smoothly. We flew from Victoria to SanFransico (we saw the Golden Gate bridge and San Mateo bridge from the plane), then from San Fran to Chicago (saw more mountains and Lake Tahoe from the plane), then Chicago home to Lexington. It was thunderstorming when we arrived a little before midnight. The honeymoon was wonderful and I loved the island! Can't wait to make a return visit sometime!
Mountains from the plane

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Honeymoonin' (Ucluelet)

Day 7: (continued)
We arrived in Ucluelet (it means "safe harbor") and found our next hotel, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. We were early to arrive, but they had the room ready, which was wonderful since we were tired from being up so early for the bear tour. We went up to our room and were immediately taken with the view.
Beautiful view from our room at Black Rock. 

Ocean waves crashed over mighty black rocks right out our floor to ceiling windows, then if you looked further, you could see the Pacific stretching into the distance as far as the eye could see. The sounds of rolling and crashing waves with the occasional fog horn were pleasing to the senses as well. We decided to shower off the sea from the earlier bear tour and relax with an open window and fresh air for a bit. Then we finally made it out for dinner at Romans Grill. I had a margherita pizza and James had veal parmesan. Pretty good. We stopped off at the local market to grab some cheese for later and headed back to relax by the fire and sound of the waves for the evening.

Day 8:
This morning, we woke up pretty late and made our way down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet and our view of the waves out the window from the table.
Breakfast at Black Rock's Lure Restaurant

It was an on and off rainy day, so we layered up, grabbed jackets and headed toward the Wild Pacific Trail for some hiking. Most of the hike was dry. Yay!
Enjoying the beauty and rugged landscapes of the wild pacific trail

 We enjoyed many beautiful vistas of the ocean along with twists and turns through the rainforest and a neat little red and white lighthouse.
The strange, yet serene Amphitrite lighthouse in Ucluelet

The highlights of the hike were spotting several more bald eagles, one with a freshly caught fish, another sitting atop a tall evergreen guarding it's huge nest.
Eagle sitting over it's giant nest

 After our hike, we headed to Ukee Dogs for lunch. It is a tiny local hot spot with all sorts of delicious hot dogs, coffee, and cookies. I had the Veggie Ukee dog with mac n cheese and James had the carnivore Ukee dog with fries. Our next stop was the Ucluelet Aquarium. It is a pretty small place, but neat. They catch and release all the sea life locally and have lots of touch tanks.
Big sunflower starfish

We spent a good chunk of time in there watching a friendly halibut spit water at guests and checking out a speedy sunflower star fish.
Hilarious spitting halibut 
There was even a red octopus feeding going on while we were there. Though it wasn't like any other aquariums I visited, I enjoyed it and I think James did too. He sure got a few good pictures of the sea creatures. Next, we drove up the main drag of Ucluelet looking for some statues we'd seen on a cartoon map of the town while sitting in Ukee Dogs. We saw an eagle statue, bear statue, and lady with a bird statue. Nothing too wild, but it was fun to drive through the tiny town and try to spot the landmarks. After that, we headed to the hotel to relax a bit. Later on, we went to the Crow's Nest gift store for a few trinkets to take back. Then it was dinner time. We headed up the street to Matterson House, a cute little restaurant in an old, historic house. The atmosphere was quaint, service was friendly, and food was amazing. I had the Cheesedillicious pasta and James had some kind of sea food pasta with olive oil. We both enjoyed nice green salads and some very yummy bread. The best part was dessert- lemon cheese cake. Yum. Having stuffed ourselves, we went back to the hotel to wind down for our final evening in Ucluelet. Now, a few words about Black Rock Oceanfront  Resort. The view!!!! I just couldn't get over the view of the waves breaking over the dark, jagged rocks, especially during high tide. It is just amazing. The rhythmic waves are almost hypnotic. The room itself wasn't too shabby either. Cute little patio overlooking that beautiful ocean view, comfy bed, cozy fireplace and...drumroll please....an awesome bathroom! Now usually I don't care to take the time to rave about hotel bathrooms. They is what they is. But this bathroom was something I could get used too. It had a giant soaker tub with sliding windows so you could watch out the floor to ceiling windows and enjoy those wonderful waves rolling in.
This picture doesn't do the bathroom justice...

It also had beautiful black rock heated floors, and a black rock shower with a rain spout. I felt pampered just taking a regular old shower. Ahh. Do we have to leave? We ended our night listening to the sea, the wind (which really started roaring for awhile), and the moan of some not too distant whistler bouys. Relaxing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Honeymoonin' (Tofino)

Disclaimer: James also took some of these pictures (he is awesome like that)
Day 5:
We woke up and walked up the street for some pizza from New York Style Pizzeria in Nanaimo. It wasn't open yet, so we walked about a bit in the rain and came back to enjoy some yummy pizza before hitting the road for Tofino. The drive to Tofino was an experience in itself. We made a stop at Coombs Country Market to see the famous market with goats grazing on the grass roof.
Goats on the roof at Coomb's Country Market

We also, once again, grabbed some ice cream. I had to re-visit the Nanaimo bar flavor and James decided on the spumante again. We took some pics of the goats and also a big, oddly colored bunny then headed back out.

Random rabbit 
 We got going again for a bit, then decided to stop off at the Port Alberni Walmart to buy some items, including an extra small suitcase for taking home souvenirs. The Canadian Walmart seemed much cleaner and nicer than any US Wallys I've visited. We filled up our Mazda with petrol and kept truckin'. The drive became very interesting after leaving the Port Alberni area. It was pretty remote and pretty...well, pretty! We made one last stop at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. This place was magical. The trees in the grove were Douglas Firs and Red Cedars. The trees in the forest are very old and very tall. Some were 700 years old. I felt small in the forest. It was an amazing stop.
Awesomely tall trees in Cathedral Grove

The drive got windier and twistier and wilder and more scenic. Misty mountains loomed in all directions. It was hard to tell how tall they were in the clouds. Rivers and lakes were almost always in sight, some with beautiful rapids and small waterfalls. After several hours of wonderful scenery and twists and turns, we arrived in the sleepy, little surf and fishing town of Tofino. As we came in towards Tofino, glimpses of the open Pacific Ocean could be caught through the rainforests. There were also signs warning travelers that they were entering tsunami zones. This prompted me to research the last tsunami in the area. It seems any noteworthy tsunamis around Vancouver Island haven't happened since the 1700's. I still wanted to read the safety signs before entering any beaches or hiking grounds. It seems if you feel the ground shake or see sudden rise in the ocean, you better high tail it to higher ground. Anyway, we arrived at our resort, Pacific Sands. It was a nice place with it's own private beach access. Our room was on the second floor, overlooking the beach.

Watching surfers from our balcony 

Dogs playing on our beach

It was great to hear and see the waves rolling in. We got changed for dinner and headed into town to a place called SoBo (sophisticated bohemian). After a bit of a wait, we enjoyed our meals. James had halibut over veggies and a carrot emulsion that he really liked and I had green curry soup and veggie arepas. After dinner, we went back to our room, donned our bright yellow raincoats and went to the beach to enjoy the drizzly evening. There were quite a few surfers out and people walking dogs. We walked up and down the beach and to a big rock to look at some tide pools. There was a neat view of a lighthouse from the beach too. We sniffed out a nearby trail to come back to the next day, then called it a night. The sound of the waves rolling in was a great way to fall asleep and a beautiful sight to wake up to.

Day 6:
We woke up pretty early, expecting our in room breakfast delivery, which never came. We were on a schedule to get to our whale tour, so we ended up scarfing down some Clif bars and heading out. We arrived at the Tofino Whale Centre around 10. The lady at the desk checked us in and said we could wander around for about 20 minutes then come back to get suited up.
Ridiculous red survival suit...so cool

We walked up and down the nearby streets, looking at the little shops and the harbor, then headed back. The suits were bright red Mustang Survival suits that pulled over our many layers to keep wind and rain out. We were also given rain slickers, just in case. Our group of 11 people walked down from the centre to the boat dock (looking ridiculous in our puffy red suits) and hopped over into our Boston Whaler boat. The boat was small and quiet and great at jumping waves and making quick turns. Our skipper and guide, Howie, was very knowledgeable and had a keen eye for spotting wildlife. We hopped along the waves at high speeds, then idled in towards an island to have a look at a deer.
Oh dear, what a cute deer!

It didn't seem much bothered by us being there. Next, we rode out a bit further to a small island. As we approached, there seemed to be something curled up for a nap atop a large rock. It was a wolf!
Beautiful wolf

Checking out what's going on

Checking out our boat

We got closer and he awoke from his nap, standing up to stretch and check out the boat. He decided to walk around to some other rocks and our boat was able to follow along side the island. He finally settled back down, poking his head over some rocks to nap again, but kept his ears alert, like little radars turning this way and that. After wolf watching for some time (Howie informed us that wolves were his favorite and he had even recently had a wolf tattoo done) we headed back to open water. We then saw it, our first whale! Gray whale to be exact. It was pretty awesome. You'd see a blow, a back, a tail, a fin. Were they playing? Eating? Waving? There was a moment when one whale was not but 20 feet from our boat! Another interesting thing about whales....they have a smell. A gross smell. But the smell was nothing to worry about during this awesome experience.
Gray whale tail

So big!


Awesome shot, James!

 Our boat also passed a group, or raft, of steller sea lions sunning on a rock.  We saw a harbor seal poking out of the water, some bald eagles, brandt's cormorants, puffins, starfish, gulls, and a cute little otter floating about.
Sea lions sunning

Bald eagle ignoring a crow

"You otter join me in the water!"

We saw whales a couple times, though I'm not sure how many individual whales there were. Overall, an amazing tour! Once we were off the boat and back to the center, we thanked Howie, lost the red suit, and left.
Tour boat

 Lunch was at a small Chinese place called Gary's Kitchen. James had Szechewan Chicken and I had fried tofu over veggies and noodles. We split some veggie spring rolls. It was a mighty big portion and was mighty tasty too. After lunch, we headed back to our hotel where we stopped into the main reception area and bought some frozen curries and a dessert ice cream cookie sandwich to make for dinner later. Then we decided to hike the sunset trail out to Pettinger Point, which was the trail just by our hotel property.
Beautiful views everywhere

 It was a fairly short hike out to some stunning and picture perfect viewing spots of the ocean, rocks, and some shorebirds. We spotted a golden eagle and some oyster catchers, and lots of crows as far as birds go.
Golden eagle and crow

There were some pretty plants too. We hiked back and decided to head over to Schooner Cove, a trail in the Pacific Rim Provincial Park. We had to drive a few miles to get there and purchase a daily park pass, then we headed onto the trail, which was mostly boardwalks through some beautiful rainforest. Before we really even started, we met a giant (as far as slugs go) spotted banana slug.
Giant slug

 We took its picture and headed onto the trail. It lead us out to a nice, very secluded beach. We were the only people on there for awhile. After exploring the beach a bit, climbing through some driftwood, and of course picture taking, we decided to head back up the trail as it also looked as though it might rain.
Peaceful and empty beach


Made a quick sand heart for my love

Silly perspective shot

We look so short 

 Right as we got back into our car, the rain started really coming down. Great timing! We decided to use the rainy down time to do some laundry in the guest laundry facility and then we made dinner in our kitchenette. We made chicken curry for James and palak paneer for me (spinach with cheese). Both were tasty. We entertained the idea of going out on the beach for a bit, but the heavy rain dissuaded us. We used the indoor down time to do some picture reviewing, journaling, emailing, and general relaxing by the fireplace.
Cozy room at Pacific Sands

We knew we'd have to be up super early for our bear tour.

Day 7:
This was bear tour day! We were up at 6:45am. We ate a Clif bar and had some ginger ale to settle our stomachs for the potential choppy waters since it was a rainy and windy morning. We checked out of Pacific Sands on our way out and headed back to the Tofino Whale Centre where we were cheerfully greeted by the same receptionist. She got our familiar red suits and yellow rain slickers ready and gave us a hat for the wind and rain. Our skipper was Howie again. He had come in on his day off just to do a tour for the two of us. Super nice.
Howie waiting on the bear tour boat

The boat we took out was slightly different from the one we went whaling in the day before, but still very quiet and quick. We hopped into the front for good viewing. On the way out to the inlets, the driving rain and wave spray was harsh and sharp on my face. I had my sunglasses on and hoods pulled around me best I could. James seemed to be doing the same thing. When we arrived to the inlets, the weather had calmed down greatly and Howie spotted our first bears- a mommy and two little cubs. Magical!
Crazy! We are watching real black bears out for their morning breakfast!

So cute! Love the cubs.

The mom turned rocks to find food while the cubs played. Howie talked about how cubs usually stay with their mother about 2 years and that these were first year cubs. He also talked about how good the bear's sense of smell and hearing was but not so much their eyesight. We watched as she munched away at the bounty she found in the rocks until her cubs ran off into the treeline and called to her. We moved on to the next grouping of bears.
"Anything tasty under here?"

Paw lickin' good

 One bear was so close, it seemed we were no more than 10 feet away. They really didn't seem to mind that we were there. Just busy eating. Crows seemed to hang around the bears, I guess to pick off the leftovers. We ended up seeing 15 black bears, which was apparently very lucky! We also had the pleasure of seeing more bald eagles and a couple porpoises. Overall, a really awesome and dreamlike experience. We had a quick bite to eat at Breakers Deli, right across the street from the Whale Centre. James had a salmon sandwich and I had a falafel wrap. Then we headed to the town of Ucluelet, just a short distance from Tofino. We stopped at Incinerator Rock, a little beach area with big rocks on the way, but only for a short time since it was windy and chilly. I will continue about Ucluelet on the next post since I've been trying to break the posts up by town.