Enter If You Dare!!

When hiking the trails at Cameron Lake, on Vancouver Island, I came across several old cabins which made me pose the questions:

Would you enter?
Or dare peek inside?
Even if you knew that hauntings, the ghost of Grandpa Bonney, the Cameron Lake Monster and Sasquatch sightings have all been reported in this area?
Even if you suffered from Friggatriskaidekaphobia?

Cameron Lake is surrounded by McMillian Park, lush with towering ancient Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars. Overlooking the lake you will find train trestles with wooden platforms. The trestles, now inactive, boast an incredible history and stand as an iconic landmark. Sitting on the lake, below the trestles, are several cottages originally used by the workers who maintained the railway and safeguarded it from fire. The cottages since have been passed down to the families of these workers.

Cameron Lake has repeatedly been at the center of much intrigue and fascination. In addition to what has been mentioned above, there have been several mysterious events, often retold by locals. These occurrences include the crash of a small plane (1968) where the wreckage (still containing the remains of the four passengers) was not discovered in the lake’s waters until fifteen years later. (Additional Sources: 1, 2). There have also been unsolved reports of a three-foot monkey appearing in people’s driveways just a few kilometers away (despite no one in the area known, or licensed, to own such an animal). And then there are the stories for which I could find no shred of substantiation (other than to confirm that these stories do in fact exist). These include tales of a train wreck that supposedly lies at the bottom of the lake and has never been recovered.

Earlier this week, my husband and I donned our hiking boots and rain gear (it is Vancouver Island after all) and set out to capture a few extra photos for this post. The dark skies and drizzle were perfect for the photos that I had in mind.

When we first arrived along the shore, lined with small cabins, our eyes were immediately drawn to a string-bikini-clad bather. She seemed to be having her own photo shoot on the floating dock of one of the cabins. Before you begin imaging a warm climate, it was four degrees Celsius with a stinging rain. To my husband’s chagrin, I resisted the temptation to sneak in a shot of the event.

As we continued along, Cameron Lake did not disappoint and held fast to its reputation for giving cause to wonder. Does that not oddly look like some kind of monkey king deep in that tree? (Ninth photo, no special effects.) And look! There’s a strangely elongated face high on the other trunk! (Tenth photo, again no special effects.) Well, I might as well roll with the fun and get a shot of Grandpa Bonney himself…or the closest stand-in that I could find. (Eleventh photo…special effects may have been used!)

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!!

This post has been written for #ThursdayDoors, a weekly blog link-up hosted by Montreal blogger/photographer Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0. Why not check out the other ‘door’ postings…safe from the inside of your home?!

Day 0 – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port: Greetings from The Camino Frances!

My husband and I recently walked 200 kilometers of the Camino Trail, in eight days, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Najera, Spain. Although I originally had lofty notions of blogging daily ‘live from the trail’, creating an iMovie, or iMovie trailer, these plans were quickly dashed. Without my computer or iPad, and with infrequent WiFi connection (not to mention very full days and sheer exhaustion) I was left to journal with pen and paper (shriek here)! For any readers interested in getting a small sample of the Camino trail, I will do my best to transcribe my notes and post them daily for the next several days. Stay tuned—and feel free to ask questions—I will be happy to answer if I can!

Day 0: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

The Camino de Santiago is a physical journey that people of all backgrounds have been making for over a thousand years. Some people make this trek for spiritual reasons, others for adventure, culture, fitness, enlightenment or different personal causes. Experiencing the Camino is an incredible way to immerse yourself in the local food, culture, and history of the area covered. It can also be done very affordably. There are numerous established routes leading to Camino de Santiago (where it is believed that the remains of the apostle, St. James, are buried). The Camino Frances, which crosses the Pyrenees Mountains, along the French-Spanish border, is a popular route that covers 800 kilometers. This is the path that we ultimately chose (albeit only the first eight days of it).

Whatever the reasons someone has for walking the Camino, the trek is tough. The pilgrimage from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port includes crossing a lower ridge of the Pyrenees, as well as climbing and descending mountain passes with altitudes of up to 1,500 meters. The weather has a huge impact and can vary remarkably from very hot and dry, to very cold and wet, depending on the season.

We began our journey in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port. Getting there was no easy feat (we took a train from Manchester to London, a plane to Biarritz, France and then a shuttle van to St. Jean (shared with one other hiker). Although you don’t usually need to book ahead at most auberges, we did book at Beilari in St Jean. (30 euros a person got us a full dinner plus salad, dessert and wine, a bed, hot shower and breakfast the next day.) As most guests were beginning their hike there, the hosts of this auberge, Joselu, Jakeline, and Elizabeth, successfully created a warm, communal atmosphere which was a terrific way to begin our journey.

The feature photo was taken outside of Beilari in the early morning of July 16 as we took the very first steps of our journey. Don’t I look clean, refreshed and ready to go? Spoiler alert: that all changes!

Beilari Aterpea, Gite du Chemin                                                                              40, rue de Citadelle                                                                                               64220 St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France                                                             +33(0)5 59 37 24 68                                                                                    info@beilari.info

grupo 15.7.2016

Group photo sent from the hosts at Beilari. My look of surprise foreshadows many things to come.


The start to a most scenic journey.


I’ve just returned from our regular weekend 5K walk. Okay, so it’s actually supposed to be 10K, but a few of us cut out half way through to join some of our other friends for coffee. I don’t want to miss out on the coffee part, so I exit at the 5K mark too – my story, and I’m totally sticking to it!

I originally had a different post planned for today (my apologies if I told you about that one, and you were expecting another topic). Since I have recently been on my ‘longevity and active aging rant,’ I thought that I would sneak in one more post on this theme.

Previously a somewhat undervalued activity, the benefits of regular walking are now exalted everywhere that we turn. From improving physical fitness, calming the mind, reducing stress (source) triggering anti-aging processes, repairing old DNA (source), lessening risks of breast cancer/colon cancer (source)/dementia (source) and helping to prevent premature death (source), walking is now hailed as a multi-tasking cure-all.

Experts suggest mixing up your walking routine to keep it fresh and challenging, as well as to ensure that you reap maximum benefits. For example, walking barefoot, sometimes called ‘grounding,’ helps you to absorb free electrons from the earth. These electrons are touted to assist with a wide assortment of health concerns including, poor sleep, arthritis, respiratory issues, chronic muscle pain, stress, hypertension, weak immune systems, and more (source). If going barefoot is not quite your thing (or if you have no soft sandy beaches or grassy knolls nearby), taking 100 steps backward is claimed to reap the same benefits as taking 1,000 steps forward (source). According to researchers, compared to regular walking, ‘retro walking’ increases cardiovascular endurance, burns more calories, improves balance, more fully promotes blood circulation, and prevents the development of a hunched-back (source). Have the walking coordination of a tarsier? Try ‘breath walking’! This technique (taking four sharp breaths in and four sharp breaths out while you walk) is argued to “prime your mind for learning and creativity while you exercise” (source). That strikes two (or even three) birds with one stone–you’ve gotta love that!

Excuse-buster alert: Almost everyone can take part in walking (or modified walking) activities and just a little bit can make a huge difference. Researchers have found that walking regularly for just 20 minutes per day, burns approximately 100 calories each time and contributes to the wide-ranging health benefits listed above (source). Some literary theorists have even closely compared walking and writing, stating, “writing is one way of making the world our own, and walking is another” (source).

According to Random Facts:   “The average Australian takes 9, 695 steps per day (just a few short of the ideal 10,000), the average Japanese takes 7,168; the average Swiss: 9,650; and the average American just 5,117.” Supplementing these facts, “the average Canadian man takes “9,500 steps per day” and “the average Canadian woman takes 8,400 steps per day” (source). How do your steps align with your country’s average?

Looking for even more health benefits? Add coffee! Loaded with antioxidants, coffee has been found to improve energy levels, make you smarter, fight against depression, helps to protect against liver disease/Type 2 diabetes/Parkinson’s disease/gout, and promote a healthy heart. (source, source). Add friendship and laughter on top of all of that and the health benefits are maximized off of the charts!

So, the next time that you notice a small group of walkers seemingly cutting out early, think of them not as slackers, but as diligently in pursuit of optimal health and well-being. Shout out to the Mid-Island Walkers (from Oceanside, BC) here!

The photo above is from our walk today. Seriously, it was like walking directly inside a painting. Below are a few shots of the regular walks we had in  Beijing and surrounding areas, which we also greatly loved. (Beijing friends: do you recognize any of these spots?)