Clean, warm sea air from the Strait of Georgia wafted over us morning of day six, as rain plonked off of our airplane wings and onto our tent-fly. We had escaped the forest fires and smoke of the interior of BC only to head into wet weather on Texada Island (CYGB).
But by the time I was cooking pancakes on our campstove, the sun was out, drying our tent & warming the skies as bedraggled dandelions unfurled their sunny yellow heads in the gleaming green grass around us.
The campstove we use is fantastic and weighs only 441 grams (MSR WhisperLite International, about $120 Canadian from MEC).
- Boils 1L of water in 3.5 minutes at 30psi (white gas), 4.4 minutes at 30psi (kerosene).
- Output is 9700BTU (white gas), 7300BTU (kerosene), 9000BTU (unleaded gas).
- Burns for 99-289 minutes (650g bottle of white gas), 145-359 minutes (kerosene).
We usually use Mogas in it, but in a pinch have mixed Mogas & Avgas, which has worked splendidly. (We note that this is not a combo the manufacturer’s envisioned for it, but when necessity requires creativity…)
After stuffing ourselves on hot, buttery pancakes, we walked to Paxton Lake.
A lovely ramble very close to the airport, the forested trails lead through wooded meadows to the rather insect-saturated marshy western end of the lake, and then continues on for a bit.
An easy walk with no elevation gain, Paxton Lake is steeped in the type of natural scenery that overwhelms you with choice of excellent photos.As the weather was forecast to deteriorate with some rain showers expected again, we strolled about the woods for only a short hour before heading back to the airport to pack up our tent & gear.
A hawk spotted en-route to Paxton Lake
We decided to fly next to Courtenay Airpark (CAH3). In flying from Texada to Courtenay, we spoke with Comox Tower 126.20, to receive flight following.This jewel of an airpark has wisely painted the hangars at each end bright orange, which is ever so helpful in locating the airpark from the sky, as it’s right in the heart of the city of Courtenay and therefore blends with the surrounding houses, roads & apartments. Flanked by the Courtenay River at the estuary of Comox Harbour, Courtenay Airpark offers spectacular views of the Strait of Georgia & the snowy peaks of the Insular Mountain range. A popular, sun-drenched paved path, perfect for jogging/strolling/dog-walking, wends its way alongside the eastern side of the airpark, past a charming marina.
The heart of Courtenay is just (literally) steps away from the airpark, and there is a cafe right on the public side of the airpark. This is one of those treasures of an airpark that has a very sensible attitude towards the public: a simple, waist-high fence separates airpark from public, with no razor-wire or coded gates barring access. Common sense and simple signage prevail.
No sooner had we landed at Courtenay and taxied to the itinerant parking outside the clubhouse when an incredible monsoon downpour unleashed on us. It pounded against our plane so fiercely it sounded as if we were being struck by baseball bats. We sat in our plane, jaws-dropped, as rain covered our windows in sheets so thick it seemed as if the heavens were raining thick milk. We didn’t dare get out.
Within minutes, our plane was leaking like a sieve. Dumbfounded, we stared at each other as the rainstorm hammered what had only minutes before been an idyllic summer setting, replete with sun-screened kids eating ice-cream cones beside mom in her sundress & shirt-less dad in shorts, pointing out our plane as we landed.
When the rain waned enough to permit it, we unloaded our plane, ducked into the roomy and accessible airpark clubhouse, and arranged for Budget to pick us up, which they promptly did. By the time we had our rental car packed with our gear, the rain had stopped & a clouded sun nervously peeked out. We checking into the pet-friendly Travelodge at 2605 Cliffe Avenue and then went exploring. We drove to stunning Nymph Falls, located along pastoral Plateau Rd on the way to Forbidden Plateau. Shortly after crossing the inland highway you’ll find this marvelous park, about 2 km’s ahead on the left hand side. If there’s only one place you visit in Courtenay, it has to be this.
Quiet wooded trails of bark mulch wind throughout the park, welcoming equestrians, dogs, hikers, & sightseers. Find one of the trails leading to Puntledge River and Nymph Falls (all trails are clearly marked with charming hand-carved wooden pointers), which is only about 600meters from the ample gravel parking. A magnificent series of broad, low falls on this wide river rush over a series of pocked and peculiarly worn sandstone shelves.
Signs warn that bears abound in the area, though we saw none.Next, we drove to Seal Bay Natural Park, located off of Bates Beach Road, where we started yet another lovely walk on the east side of the park, along trails that meandered through a second growth forest of Douglas-fir, big-leaf maple and red alder, with steep ravines lined with gigantic sword ferns. Three trails lead down to one kilometer of beach waterfront: Seacliffe, Don Apps and Seabank. Apparently you can spot harbor seals loafing on rocks throughout the year, but before we reached the beach, we lost steam. The past few days of early morning starts, stressful last-minute plans, and hasty packings had finally worn us down. Even the dog looked beat. And it was starting to rain again. So we headed back to the city of Courtenay through some lovely farmland roads to find a nice local restaurant. We found two that were closed and one that was blaring head-busting music; resigned, we ate at White Spot, returned to the hotel, and started planning for the next days’ flight.
To our astonishment, the smoke that we’d fled from in the interior was forecast to smother the entire coast on the morrow, to stay for a projected two to three weeks. We stared at each other in disbelief, and then, giggling somewhat maniacally, planned for yet another 5a.m. departure to beat the smoke—this time, to retreat to our home airport of Pitt Meadows (CYPK)… so that we could plan next years’ flying/camping adventure.