Photo: The Tin Hat Hut on the Sunshine Coast Trail, February 2012. Source: Sunshine Coast Trail Blog.
Situated two ferry rides from Vancouver on the Upper Sunshine Coast, the community of Powell River is often described as a town in transition, diversifying its economy and identity from its industrial past. I admit, the first thing I noticed when I arrived last fall was its mill, but when I left, it was the last thing on my mind.
I was really impressed by what I saw of Powell River when I visited briefly back in October. I couldn’t get over its wealth of preserved heritage and history, including large-scale residential neighbourhoods full of beautiful heritage homes. I was taken by its downtown full of quirky boutiques, cute art galleries, neat-looking restaurants and just its general artsy, eccentric, west coast vibe – something, perhaps, I wasn’t expecting. At least not to that degree.
Photo: Powell River during the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl, October 2011. Source: Robyn Hanson.
But Powell River’s more than just the town. Its geography along the Strait of Georgia is stunning and offers a multitude of quintessential west coast activities: multi-lake canoe circuits, long distance hiking trails, mountain biking, rock climbing, lush temperate rainforests, mountain vistas, the ocean fjords, the beaches, the marine parks, kayaking, sailing, diving, fishing… you name it. Living here would no doubt give you the best of what BC has to offer – and affordable too, no less.
But this isn’t about living in Powell River. No, it’s about visiting Powell River in an often under-appreciated month: February. But for such a month, there’s a surprising amount of things you could do. Here are five activities to consider, to name but a few:
1. Powell River Film Festival
Photo: Outside the Patricia Theatre in Powell River. Source: Robyn Hanson.
Now in its eleventh year, the Powell River Film Festival kicked off on Thursday and continues all weekend until February 19. The festival takes place at various Powell River venues (including the Patricia Theatre – BC’s oldest-running theatre) and includes evening receptions, daytime films, art, live music, film contests, and the Adventures in Film Camp for Youth. Some of the featured films at this year’s festival include Louder than a Bomb, The Whale (the story about Luna, the Nootka Sound orca) and 40 Days at Base Camp. Full schedule can be found on the Powell River Film Festival website here.
2. Sunshine Coast Trail
Photo: Ascending Confederation Trail along the Sunshine Coast Trail. Source: Sunshine Coast Trail Blog.
The Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT) is a 180 km Upper Sunshine Coast hiking trail that begins at Desolation Sound (a 30 minute boat ride north of Lund) and ends at the Saltery Bay Ferry Terminal. You don’t have to trek the whole thing though. There are several places where you can easily access the trail if you want to do short day hikes. The lower elevations are often free of snow in February, but people wait until it gets warmer before they even consider hiking the rugged snowbound mountains in the mid-section of the trail. Not these guys.
Just last week four visiting Dutchmen trekked the Sunshine Coast Trail in full winter conditions. They hiked it for six days traipsing through rainforest and snow, covering roughly the middle half of the trail, overnighting in huts along the way. Proving that it can indeed be done, they have no doubt inspired future adventure-seekers. Read the rest of their tale here.
3. Powell River Festival of Performing Arts
Lovers of the performing arts will want to be in Powell River in late February. The Powell River Festival of Performing Arts is now in its 68th year, kicking off events on Monday, February 20. As described on Discover Powell River‘s website, “Amateur performers in piano, voice, strings, wind and brass instruments, speech arts, and amateur choirs, bands, string and jazz ensembles are invited to perform in the Powell River Festival of the Performing Arts. The Rotary Club of Powell River supports the development of our community’s amateur performers”. The majority of the events take place at the Evergreen Theatre, with a few hosted at Max Cameron Theatre. You can see the full schedule on the Rotary Club of Powell River’s website here.
4. Geocaching the Yew Trail
Turn your nature walk into a treasure hunt! If you’ve ever wanted to try out geocaching, the Yew Trail is the place to go.
Now we need to give credit to photographer Jennifer Gomez for introducing us to this idea in the first place. We found her Yew Trail photo completely by accident on Flickr. It was taken back in January while she took her parents geocaching around Powell River. She writes, “Mom, Dad and I went geocaching on the Yew Trail today. Yew Trail is between Duck and Mud Lake. We found 7 out of the 8 caches that we went looking for. I absolutely love the trails in this area. So GREEN!”
On top of that, we were spying on the Tourism Powell River Facebook Page last week and we read, “Are you a GEOCACHER? Yes, then word is Duck Lake trails – whole lot of new.” So that just proved that this has to be a geocaching hot spot. Plus, there’s just something so enchanting about a winter walk through a west coast rainforest.
If you want to learn more about geocaching around Powell River, sign up for a free account on Geocaching.com to have access to all the locations. Or simply ask on the Tourism Powell River Facebook Page – there a local geocachers there to help you out.
5. Powell River’s Historic Townsite
Photo: Looking down the hill in Powell River’s Historic Townsite. Source: Robyn Hanson.
If you’re a history buff and you appreciate architecture and British Columbia heritage, treat yourself to a self-guided walking tour of Powell River’s Historic Townsite. Designated a National Historic District of Canada in 1995, Powell River is one of only seven in Canada and the only one in western Canada. Now that’s impressive.
This part of Powell River is especially photogenic, partly because of the town’s original urban planning. Writes the Townsite Heritage Society of Powell River, “The Garden City and Arts and Crafts Movements influenced Powell River’s planners of 1910 in regard to the location and architectural style of our homes, parks, green belts, commercial buildings and recreation facilities.”
The self-guided walking tour consists of 25 sites around Powell River, including the Maple Avenue houses, the former Provincial Building, and the Patricia Theatre. Once you visit you’ll want to vote for Powell River’s Historic Townsite in the Great Places in Canada poll. The poll closes on February 29, 2012. And even if you haven’t visited, give Powell River a vote – spread the love. They deserve it!