Our favourite litte way-point–Kelso, WA, USA

With the I-5 running like a zipper down its centre and the regional airport a poetic stone’s throw away, Kelso has been our way-station for almost every trip we’ve taken south of the Canadian border in our little plane.

img_5307
TAM O’SHANTER PARK

With a clean, pet-friendly hotel (Guesthouse Inn & Suites) conveniently located in the nearby Three Rivers Mall, Kelso makes for a perfect place to fuel up the plane, pick up camping food supplies that we can’t cross the border with, stretch our legs, and overnight if we need to. img_4890Right across from the mall going east is the lovely Tam O’Shanter Park along the Coweeman River.  Dog-friendly and picturesque, it’s a wonderful ramble and can be accessed from the mall via Monasco Drive, located directly behind the Fiesta Bonita Mexican Grill (which does a decent take-out, btw).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lake Sacajawea Park is also quite lovely, located in nearby Longview about 3.2 miles from Three Rivers Mall, but this park is much more popular/crowded. Dogs are allowed on leash on the lakeside walking paths, and there are Japanese gardens to explore and kayak rentals available.

Sacajawea
LAKE SACAJAWEA PARK

The first thing we notice every time we fly into Kelso KKLS (see airport diagram at the end of this post), is how very busy the frequency is — it sounds like the circuit is clogged with air traffic.  It never is.  The small regional airport is always delightfully quiet.  The air-wave clutter is a result of several airports sharing the same frequency.

 

As soon as we land at KKLS and before we’ve even tied down, we call a taxi–they arrive at a very leisurely pace: Uptown taxi (360) 577-TAXI (8294).  It’s about $10 USD from KKLS to Three Rivers Mall. img_5311If you have extra time on your hands and want to rent a car, Kelso is a great jumping off point for exploring Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Park . Located right at the end of SR 504 in the national park is the 2+ mile-long Ape Cave, the longest lava tube in the continental United States.

_st_helens_spirit_lake_reflection
PHOTO SHAMELESSLY FILCHED FROM PARK WEBSITE

En-route to it, there’s Silver Lake & Mount St. Helens Visitor Center–via I-5 N and WA-504 E, approximately 20 minutes from Kelso.  This is the park’s original Visitor Center and the displays are rather dated, plus you have to pay to get in.

Silver Lake
SILVER LAKE WITH MOUNT ST. HELENS

Further up route 504 on mile marker 33, there’s the free Mount St. Helens Forest Learning Centre, touted as the best exhibit on the mountain (there’s a helicopter for kids to play in, and an `eruption chamber’ that’s apparently pretty awesome).

golf course
ON THE FAIRWAY, THREE RIVERS GOLF

If you’re a golfer, the Three Rivers Golf Course  runs along the Cowlitz River and is snug against KKLS—but separated from the airport by fencing and railway tracks (you have to get to it via a somewhat wandering series of roads, requiring either a car, or great energy & a yen for walking).  You can get your hundred dollar hamburger here, too, at The Scottie Dog Café. afd

The enchanting charms and astonishments of Davis Bay, Sechelt, BC

It’s a faerie wonderland of huge cedars rubbing shoulders with old hemlocks, picturesque creeks fit for water sprites, and sandbar beaches where ocean nymphs might be swimming offshore, among rare Jurassic glass-sponges.

low tide mission creek beach
Low tide, Mission Point Park

Snuggled on the narrow isthmus which separates Sechelt Inlet from the Salish Sea, the town of Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast derives its name from the shíshálh First Nations word that means “land between two waters.”

aerial of mission park beach
Davis Bay, & Mission Point, & CAP3 (upper left)

Flying into Sechelt offers extraordinary views of the Strait of Georgia and the Sunshine Coast, backed by snow-capped mountains on the mainland and Vancouver Island.  For those without their own wings, fly a frog:  C-Frog is the registration mark of the plane belonging to Fly Coastal, a local flight tour company that, with the appropriate magic words and gold coins (or plain old Canadian dollars), can get you airborne and bewitched with the views.

cap3_overview
Aerial of CAP3 (Sechelt airport)–the red circle delineates the start of the lovely Chapman Creek trail

For fly-in pilots, the Elphinstone Aeroclub at Sechelt airport (CAP3) has great facilities for an onsite picnic breakfast or lunch (bring your own groceries; red-riding hood not required).  

Just behind the airport’s south boundary fence is the perfect place to walk off granny’s baked goodies– the upper trailhead for the Chapman Creek trail.start of Chapman Creek trail

This charming trail wends its way through shady forest, down gullies, and over a little bridge that spans Chapman Creek.  At every sylvan turn, one expects to meet hobbits or glimpse dryads peeping out from behind moss-covered boulders and tree-trunks. upper Chapman Creek trailThe trail will, apparently, lead the enthusiastic hiker all the way down to Davis Bay.  (Alas, we’ve not yet been enthusiastic enough to confirm this).Chapman creek upperIf a sun-drenched stroll along the beachfront appeals more than a forest hike, a magic-carpet-ride from CAP3 airport to Mission Point Park will whisk you to the seaside for about $12 (as of October 2017) by calling Sunshine Coast Taxi Sechelt: (604) 885-3666.

landmark toilets
The unique and distinctive washroom facilities, adjacent to Mission Point Park

Cut through green and leafy Mission Point Park to the beach, which is a slim sandy crescent at high tide, and at low tide, a robust rocky sandbar.

Mission Creek park
The grassy picnic area of Mission Point Park

There’s magic beneath those waves: reef forming glass sponges, believed to have been extinct for over 40 million years, that exist nowhere else on earth.  Glass sponge reefs once covered vast areas of the prehistoric sea floor, back when lizard-like giants roamed the earth.  sponge-reefIn the late Jurassic period, a glass sponge reef that was the largest biotic structure in the history of the world stretched 7,000 kilometres across the sea, all the way to where Europe is currently located.  But somehow, somewhen, it all disappeared… or so we thought, until in 1987, when scientists discovered four massive glass sponge reefs in BC, and in 2001, some smaller reefs in the Strait of Georgia.  Some of the individual glass sponges out under those very waves in the Strait of Georgia are the size of VW beetles.  Some of the larger ones in the Hectate Strait are 9000 years old, cover 1,000 sq. kms and reach the height of an eight-storey building!! 

doggy path at beach

Alas, you must imagine all this as you stare across the panoramic Strait of Georgia… unless you visit local underwater wizards and have them work their magic with you, to take you beneath the waves:  The Scuba Shack   and The Seadog Divers Den

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back on land, north of Mission Point Park, directly across the Sunshine Coast Highway (there are pedestrian controlled crosswalk lights to briefly halt the flow of charging tin dragons that roar up and down the asphalt), is Brookman Park, an off-leashing romping ground for Fido and friends.creekDelightful riparian trails meander alongside Chapman Creek, and yes, we actually glimpsed two bearded dwarfs en-route.tree stump carvingThis is the lower half of the trail that apparently links up to the airport.  Again, we didn’t follow the full length of it, choosing instead to walk only a portion.  We stayed on the leafy “ungroomed” trail rather than take any forks that led away from the root-gnarled path (save for where the river bank precipitously dropped away).  Some of the signposts marking the trail actually lead to roads–we preferred to stick to the leafy creek-side trails.  seawall walk

We then returned to Mission Point Park and strolled the length of the sea-walk, right to the Davis Bay pier. the Pier

We spent a delightful hour or so on the pier itself, gazing at sea-sprites disguised as jellyfish, fry, and fingerlings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although there is no Prancing Pony Inn where one might find a cup of mead and Gandalf the Grey, there are several cafes right across from the pier if one needs fortification of the caloric kind.  The Gourmet Girl Cafe boasts a variety of “sexy” soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches and sea-salt fries, and the Pier 17 Restaurant offers much the same, with draft beers but no promise that their food is sexy.  local cafesWhen pilots are done hiking, strolling, beach-combing, eating, and fish-gazing, a taxi from the pier back to the airport costs about $18.

For those non-pilots who really want to experience the fantastic scenery of the Sunshine Coast from the skies, fly to Sechelt via Harbour Air or  Sunshine Coast Air or maybe even Tofino Air  Note: some of these are float plane services which will take you into Sechelt itself, an approximate $60 cab ride away from Davis Bay and Mission Point park.  Blackcomb Helicopters may also helicopter charter service to and from the Sunshine Coast.

For those who are wingless and don’t wish to take to the skies, to reach Sechelt from Vancouver, catch a 40 minute ferry ride Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, then drive for 27 km up Highway 101.