Englishman River Trail, Vancouver Island

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

AllTrails calls this adventure the Englishman River Trailway.

But you don’t need follow the AllTrails 10.5km out and back route.

It’s a network of mountain biking / walking trails on the west side of the Englishman River. You can’t really get lost so long as you parallel the water.

I spend a lot of time here as I have family in Parksville.

This is temperate rain forest. It can be wet. It can be muddy.

Riparian.

But hiking is accessible year-round. In fact, this video was taken early December.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Most people park at the Top Bridge trailhead (green dot) close to highway 19 at Parksville. Head inland along the river for as far as they wish. Then backtrack.

I started on the far left of the map below at Middlegate Road trailhead. Walked to Top Bridge Park close to the highway. About 5km one way plus many side trips.

I often, as well, head the other direction, under the highway towards Parksville on the 5km Top Bridge Regional Trail.

In good weather, the bridge near the parking areas is a popular swimming spot.

Summer

Nitecore NU25 headlamp review 2020

I needed enough light to cycle in the dark as well as for hiking / camping.

After reading good reviews, I went with the Nitecore NU25 headlamp.

I like it.  Comfortable, adjustable headband.  

Four settings for white light.  Three for red.

In addition, a three second press of the white light sets off the well known ••• – – – ••• Morse code sequence.  

Simple design.

  • rechargeable with micro-USB
  • maximum output of 360 lumens
  • max. Beam Distance 81 m
  • auxiliary red light
  • indicator reports remaining battery power
  • lockout to prevent accidental activation
  • 0.99oz

Headlamps have turned on accidentally during transport in the past.  That won’t happen when you lock out this one.

It will work while charging from a portable battery, if needed for many hours.

 

Click PLAY or watch a review on YouTube.

Here are other recommended headlamps in 2020.

The NU 25’s main limitations are its short battery life (in our testing, the NU’s burn time was much shorter than listed) and the fact that it’s hard to keep the light from shining in your camping partner’s eyes due to its wide beam pattern.

Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD battery

Though I’m now bikepacking with solar, to be SURE I’ve got enough juice to get my devices through a weekend hike I’ve also purchased the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD with 30W.

This is the largest portable battery currently allowed for airline carry-on baggage.

26800mAh of power charges most phones over 7 times, tablets at least 2 times or notebooks at least once.

There are two parts: battery and USB-C wall charger.

Charging devices from a wall socket (including the battery) is claimed to be up to 3x faster.

On longer cycling trips when I’m carrying a laptop, this unit IS powerful enough to recharge a MacBook Pro. That will help me keep up-to-date with photos, video and trip reports.

Cycle hiking Gabriola Island, B.C.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

On July 1, 2020 I cycle toured Gabriola Island, the first time I’d been back to the island since I was a kid on family summer vacation.

Gabriola is about 14 kilometres (9 mi) long by 4.2 kilometres (2.6 mi) wide, about the same land mass as Bermuda.

I caught the ferry over from Nanaimo in the early evening.

Next morning, while celebrating Canada Day, I was reminded that descendants of the original inhabitants are still there — the Snuneymuxw, a First Nation of the Coast Salish People.

Sobering.

First stop was the Malaspina Galleries, a sandstone cliff carved by wind and waves. Lovely shoreline, as well.

To navigate I used Cycling the Islands: A Guide to Scenic Routes on the San Juan and Gulf Islands by John Crouch.

And Hiking Trails 2: South-Central Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands by Richard K. Blier.

Gabriola is less developed than I anticipated.  A definite hippy vibe.

I circled the island counter-clockwise, stopping next at Sandwell Provincial Park.

Popped in briefly to Joyce Lockwood Community Park.

There’s a marina and campground at Silva Bay at the far end of the island.

Cycling and hiking temperate rain forest is wonderful when it’s not raining. And the rain held off this day.

My last stop was Drumbeg Provincial Park.

One day was enough to explore Gabriola. All good. The hiking trail infrastructure is excellent for a small island. Paths well marked.

All trails are short and easy.

I recommend Gabriola.

Strathcona Park BC – Buttle Lake area day hikes

By BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Strathcona Provincial Park,  Vancouver Island, offers many challenging multi-day adventures. And many very challenging day hikes.

In this post, however, I focus on easy highway-accessible day hikes recommended for kids, families, everyone.

I hiked most of these.  All good.

Almost everyone stops for the short walk to the viewing platform at Lady Falls.

  • Elk River Viewpoint
  • Lupin Falls
  • Auger Point
  • Karst Creek
  • Wild Ginger
  • Shepherd Creek

Without question Lower Myra Falls is best of the easy day hikes.  Don’t miss it.   And bring a bathing suit if weather is good.


Auger Point Fire Trail was interesting in seeing how some trees can survive major forest fires.


If you stay at Buttle Lake campground, I loved their Beach Access Trail.

I was cycling this trip, hiding my bike in the trees between each short nature walk.

BestHike editor Rick McCharles

The best hiking guidebook is Exploring Strathcona Park. Dead tree version available only. 

See our list of the best hikes in North America

American thru hikes cancelled for 2020

Mac:

… The Pacific Crest Trail Association, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy have all officially requested hikers to postpone or cancel their thru-hikes

… (in related news, the Arizona Trail Association and the Great Divide Trail Association have done the same). …

Your Pacific Crest Trail Thru-hike Is Canceled

You can certainly still day hike. And should be able to plan multi-day hikes.

BUT check camping and resupply options. California State Parks, for example, has closed all campgrounds.

 

NEW Great Walk in New Zealand – Paparoa Track

Fully opened March 1, 2020.

Bookings will open on Wednesday 10 June 2020 at 9:30 am, for trips from 1 October 2020 to 30 June 2021.

The Paparoa Track is a 55.7 km (34.6 mi) shared hiking and mountain biking track located in Paparoa National Park in the South Island of New Zealand.

The track was created as a memorial for the 29 miners who lost lives in the Pike River Mine disaster.

The track is the tenth Great Walk to be created …

Highlights

      • Explore the spectacular Pororari River Gorge with dramatic limestone cliffs, beech forest and glades of subtropical nīkau palms.

      • Sit back and enjoy in incredible sunsets over the Tasman Sea from the Moonlight Tops Hut.

      • Follow in the footsteps of gold miners on the historic Croesus Track. Take a side trip to Garden Gully to see gold-mining remains.

      • Enjoy the stunning views. You’ll spot the Lone Hand rock formation on the way to Pororari Hut.

Official DOC website.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

 

Best INDEPENDENT hikes Nepal 2019

by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

I’m just back from Nepal, my first trip since 2014 where I hiked Langtang.

Around 9,000 people died during the Nepal earthquake of 25 April 2015.

One tiny village in the Langtang Valley accounted for 243 of them: 175 villagers, 27 local tourism staff (guides and porters), and 41 foreign trekkers.

Yet in the 2018-19 fiscal year, a record 21,945 tourists (16,386 foreigners and 5,559 Nepalis) visited Langtang National Park.

So far as I could see, Nepal trails are busier than ever. And easier than ever as you could connect to the internet almost everywhere with a Nepal Telecom (Namaste) SIM card in my mobile phone. I didn’t once have to pay for electricity in the mountains.

The big 3 trekking areas for those who want to hike independently are

        1. Sagarmatha National Park (Everest)

        2. Annapurna Conservation Area

        3. Langtang National Park

We love Nepal because it’s so easy and inexpensive to access many of the best hikes in the world.

Hiking other Himalayan nations is problematic for different reasons: Bhutan, China, Tibet, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan.

On the other hand, arriving in Kathmandu or Pokhara you are faced with a bewildering number of options.  😐

 

In this post we rank the very best hikes you can do independently in 2019.

Best independent hike – Sagarmatha Region

If you can only do one hike in Nepal it should be Everest Base Camp 3 Passes:

Kongma pass (5,535m)
Cho pass (5,380m)
Renjo pass (5,388m)

Plus Kala Pattar peak (5,545m) and Base Camp (5,380m).

Ideally you’d want 3 weeks. Two weeks would be risky in terms of rushed acclimatization.


Best independent hikes – Annapurna Region

The classic trek is the Annapurna Circuit. But but road construction has degraded the experience.

Though still popular in 2019, the Circuit now might be better for mountain biking than hiking.

Best of the alternatives is another classic:

Annapurna Sanctuary (ABC)

OTHER alternatives somewhat similar to ABC include:

Khopra Ridge (opened 2012)
Mardi Himal 

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

Ideally, we’d love to do one continuous hike:

Annapurna Dhaulagiri Community Trek starting Banskharka (Bans Kharka) to acclimatize → continuing on 1. Khopra Ridge → connecting to 2. Annapurna Sanctuary (ABC) → finishing with 3. Mardi Himal .

The 2-3 week adventure in green connecting those 3 hikes would be far more enjoyable than the Annapurna Circuit.

You can do all on the same permit.


Best independent hikes – Langtang Region

Our recommended route. Perhaps 14-16 days.

Drive to Syabrubesi, trekking Langtang first (top of the map). Then backtracking to the Gosainkund & Helambu trek, walking most of the way back to Kathmandu.

langtang_gosainkund_helambu_trek
map via NepalSanctuaryTreks.com

Our group atop Kyanjin Ri (4773m) Langtang

Laurebina Pass (4600m) on the Gosainkund & Helambu

This will be far less crowded than either Everest or Annapurna regions.


You can easily and inexpensively hire a guide and/or porters on any hike in Nepal for your whole trip … or short sections. But we’d recommend you do those listed above independently.

If we were to do a guided hike we’d choose areas of Nepal where guides are mandatory. For example:

Best GUIDED hike – Manaslu Circuit

The Manaslu Circuit (lodges open since 2010)  was fantastic and uncrowded before the 2015 earthquake. Reports are that it’s fantastic again in 2019.

The Tsum Valley sidetrip is still a recommended add-on in 2019. But  China is developing a road. It could be a dusty construction zone soon.

Manaslu finishes on the Annapurna Circuit. In 2013 I did Manaslu with a guide — then continued independently on the Circuit hiking & cycling.

Since I was acclimatized, the high pass on the Circuit seemed easy.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page.