Idyll Wild: Coastal adventures on Vancouver Island, British Columbia

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Rainforest, MacMillan Provincial Park, Vancouver Island | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

Born from volcanic rock and full of beauty and natural splendor, British Columbia’s Vancouver Island offers magnificent rainforests, towering mountains, sparkling blue seas, remote beaches, and secluded bays.

The Pacific Rim on the island’s west coast delivers wild landscapes, old-growth forest, and long sandy beaches. Victoria, on the southernmost part of the island, presents a remarkable diversity of recreational opportunities. The Gulf Islands, along Vancouver Island’s east coast, feature one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems within a string of unique islands.

For those seeking a mix of outdoor adventure, world-class dining, city strolling, and some of the best views Mother Nature has to offer, these three stunning areas on the southern half of Vancouver Island make for a perfect trip.

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Victoria’s iconic Parliament Building | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

Destination: Victoria
For those who’ve been reluctant to visit the Pacific Northwest due to its notoriously drizzly weather, you will find decidedly sunnier skies and incredible views in Victoria, British Columbia’s capital since 1866. Victoria sits inside the Olympic Rain Shadow, which is created by the nearby Olympic Mountain range. The Olympic Rain Shadow is a “wall” that shields the area from rainfall. This means the city, as well as a portion of BC’s Gulf Islands, gets significantly less precipitation than Vancouver or Seattle.

Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour is the primary port-of-entry for seaplanes and high-speed ferries, and it is an ideal starting point for a tour of Vancouver Island. An eminently walkable city, Victoria is simple to navigate and best explored on foot. Check out Lower Johnson Street, or “LoJo,” to shop boutiques housed in stately Victorians. Fort Street, formerly an antiques shopping hub, now also features locally made clothing and collectibles. Don’t miss Victoria Public Market at the Hudson, which offers a collection of the area’s best artisan foods and goods under one roof.

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Peacock at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

If exploring nature is more your style, try hiking or biking along the 34-mile Galloping Goose Regional Trail. Or, visit the 200-acre Beacon Hill Park, which features woodsy walking trails that lead to the sea. The park also has a children’s petting farm with strutting peacocks and baby goats. And, of course, no trip to Victoria is complete without a stop at the Butchart Gardens, just a short drive from Victoria.

When hunger strikes, fuel up with a house-made gelato and fresh baked baguettes at Fol Epi Organic Bakery, or have lunch at its sister restaurant, Agrius, featuring hearty sandwiches on the bakery’s amazing bread.

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Fol Epi Organic Bakery, Victoria | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

For a memorable dinner, try the Chef’s Pairing Menu of seasonally inspired dishes at Saveur or the speakeasy-style Little Jumbo, showcasing local foods and craft cocktails. The health-conscious can sample a vegetarian version of poutine at Rebar Modern Food or try delicious vegan nibbles at Nourish Kitchen & Café.

Destination: Tofino, Ucluelet, and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Next up, take a spectacular 4.5-hour scenic drive along the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 4 from Victoria to the gorgeous villages of Tofino and Ucluelet (or “Ukee” to the locals) on the wild western coast of Vancouver Island.
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Kennedy Lake, Highway 4 | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

 Seaplanes to Tofino are available, but if you drive, you’ll encounter countless postcard-worthy beaches, as well as Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, a well-preserved, old-growth rainforest.

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Free Spirit Spheres, Qualicum Beach | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

 If you want to break up your drive to Tofino after the first 90-minute leg north on the Trans-Canada Highway, stay the night in the historic seaside town of Nanaimo or Parksville. Alternately, about 8 miles north of Parksville lies Qualicum Beach, where you can conjure your inner artist by staying in one of three Free Spirit Spheres — round custom-built treehouses that are suspended in a coastal rainforest environment.

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Cathedral Grove | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

As you travel west from Nanaimo on Highway 4 to Tofino and Ucluelet, allow for sightseeing time at the many parks, beaches, and hiking trails that dot the winding coast-to-coast route. Of particular note is Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, a lush old-growth forest preserve with short, easily trod footpaths through impressive stands of 800-year-old giant Douglas fir trees and ancient Western red cedars.

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Quadra Island oysters at The Fish Store & Oyster Bar, Tofino | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

Tofino and Ucluelet are both laid-back, pretty beach communities with distinct personalities. Tofino is the more upscale of the two and the epicenter for whale- or bear-watching tours in Clayoquot Sound. Other popular excursions include sea kayak and surfing tours and trips to Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park (accessible only by boat). While in Tofino, indulge at inventive restaurants, like SoBo and Wolf in the Fog, for locally foraged and fresh-caught fare. Or, stop into The Fish Store & Oyster Bar to sample shucked-to-order local oysters and other seafood delicacies.

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Schooner Cove, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

Conversely, the rugged beauty of Ucluelet attracts more DIY outdoor adventurers and those in search of a less crowded, quieter respite. It’s at the doorstep of the wild playgrounds of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (the nation’s first designated national park) and the 5.6-mile Wild Pacific Trail.

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View from the Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

Destination: Gulf Islands
Much like the American San Juans, BC’s Southern Gulf Islands on the eastern coastline are an adventure lover’s utopia. They can be accessed by private watercraft or kayak, as well as daily sailings of vehicle and passenger-only ferries from mainland ports at Vancouver, Nanaimo, Crofton, or Swartz Bay, the latter just 20 miles north of Victoria on the Saanich Peninsula. The stunning Gulf Islands National Park Reserve encompasses 15 islands along with 30-plus smaller islets and marine reefs. The reserve was established in 2003 to preserve one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.

Island hoppers have a dizzying array of choices, from Gabriola Island, known as the “Isle of the Arts” for its many arts festivals and events, to the secluded Saturna Island that boasts 45 percent of the National Park Reserve. Galiano Island is a renowned hiking and kayaking paradise, Pender Islands have 37 beach accesses and 57 hiking trails, and there’s world-class kayaking and cycling on Mayne Island.

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Mushroom-topia at Salt Spring Island Farmer’s Market | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

The largest and most frequently visited island is Salt Spring Island. This island is outfitted with three ferry terminals and is a perfect trifecta for those in search of arts and culture, outdoor recreation, and wellness retreats. Plus, there is a fantastic waterfront market on Saturdays, April through October.

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Kenmore Air seaplane in Seattle’s Lake Union | Photo: Tiffany Owens/Modern-Day Nomads

If You Go

Getting to Victoria: There is frequent, daily service from Seattle to Victoria via a 45-minute seaplane flight with birds-eye views of the Olympic Peninsula or a three-hour, high-speed catamaran ride through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. From Vancouver, British Columbia, you can take a 95-minute seafaring cruise, a four-hour whale-watching excursion, or half-hour flight on a seaplane or helicopter.

Note: Seaplanes have strict weight limits (25 lbs.) for luggage. For the best of both experiences, take a seaplane over and a high-speed ferry back, when your suitcase is laden with souvenirs and duty-free shopping.

Free parks admission: To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Parks Canada is offering free admission with the 2017 Discovery Pass to national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas all year.

For more information, maps and event calendars, visit:

Read the original article in its entirety in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Arizona Highroads.

In the heart of O’Keeffe Country, Abiquiu offers a unique glimpse into New Mexico’s beauty

Rio Chama, Abiquiu, New Mexico | Photo: Tiffany Owens, ModernDayNomads.com

Rio Chama, Abiquiu, New Mexico | Photo: Tiffany Owens, ModernDayNomads.com

Abiquiu (AH-bi-kyoo) is an artist enclave and historic village, surrounded by juniper and sage canyonlands of incredible natural beauty. It also has been touted as having the best hiking in all of New Mexico. Settled in 1754 atop ruins of an ancient Tewa pueblo, according to locals, Abiquiu was named for the “northern-most” location one could travel and be protected by the Spanish army.

Georgia O’Keeffe and her paintings of its striking landscapes put the small town on the map, and artists and travelers have been inspired by the shifting hues on the Rio Chama and colorful cliffs throughout history. About 48 miles north of Santa Fe, there’s no shortage of natural attractions to explore around Abiquiu. Here are five of the top must-sees.

Ghost Ranch
A 21,000-acre retreat and education center, Ghost Ranch is where Georgia O’Keeffe had her summer home. Take a trail ride to see the landscapes that inspired her, or hike to Chimney Rock for a spectacular bird’s-eye view.

Plaza Blanca
Near Abiquiu lies an anomalous outcropping of enormous white limestone formations that look like something that would be found in a lunar canyon. Plaza Blanca, or “The White Place,” as O’Keeffe called it, inspired O’Keeffe’s painting series and countless movies have been filmed on site. To get there from New Mexico state Route 554, take County Road 155, and use the Dar al Islam main entrance road.

Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert
The most remote monastery in the Western Hemisphere, Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert, is only accessible by a winding 13-mile dirt road through the Santa Fe National Forest, but the panoramic views are worth the trip. Visit the chapel, meditation garden, or gift shop selling monk-made coffee, honey, and Belgian-style ales.

Abiquiu Lake
Spanning 5,200 acres, Abiquiu Lake has recreation facilities for picnicking, hiking, swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, and camping surrounded by vermillion sandstone cliffs.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs
Dip into the soothing baths at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, one of the oldest spas in the country. The mineral springs at the foot of the mountain are famous for their rejuvenating, healing waters. The combination of lithium, sodium, iron, arsenic, and soda mineral waters of Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Indulge in a private pool with cliffside views and a crackling Kiva fireplace, creating the perfect atmosphere for stargazing soaks.

Where to stay: Conveniently located on U.S. Route 84, Abiquiu Inn makes an ideal hub for exploring. It has 25 comfortably appointed casitas and rooms with Kiva fireplaces and is next door to the O’Keeffe Home and Studio tour office. Year-round camping for $10/night and scenic slot canyon hiking can be found at nearby Echo Amphitheater. Or find rustic guestrooms, plus tent and RV campsites at Ghost Ranch.

Where to eat: Services are few in Abiquiu, but that’s the point. Cafe Abiquiu (at Abiquiu Inn) is the only bistro-style restaurant, with a newly expanded patio to enjoy seasonally inspired fare. Gelato or scones and tea make for a great midday break at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm and Tea House. Grab a pizza or subs at Mamacita Pizzeria. Stock up on fuel and camping supplies at historic Bode’s General Store, open since 1893.

Read the article in its entirety in the September 2015 issue of Arizona Highroads magazine.

Skiffs to Spirits: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Gig Harbor, Washington Now

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Gig Harbor may be just a short drive across the Narrows Bridge from Tacoma, but it might as well be a world away. Because of its rather isolated location on the Kitsap Peninsula, Gig Harbor was only reachable by boat or lengthy drive to circumvent Puget Sound until 1940 when the first suspension bridge, nicknamed “Galloping Gertie” for the way it undulated in high winds, was built. There’s been several reconfigurations of the infamous bridge since then, but the wonderful “hidden away” feeling in Gig Harbor remains.

Today, Gig Harbor remains a working waterfront and home port for commercial fishermen as well as a wide variety of pleasure boats, which gives it a decidedly New England feel. In recent years, the area has seen a demographic sea change with young families from nearby big cities like Seattle and Tacoma moving in that are looking for a quieter, more idyllic place to raise their kids, as well as small business owners that embrace the area’s maritime heritage and tightly knit community that supports its own. It’s no surprise that Gig Harbor is often included in “Best Small Towns in America” lists.

Read the article in its entirety on ModernDayNomads.com.

Feast + Forage: Clam-digging + Wild Mushroom-hunting on Long Beach Peninsula, Washington

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What’s even better than eating locally grown foods? Going directly to the food’s source and harvesting your own. On a recent trip to the 28-mile sandy stretch of ocean peninsula in Long Beach, Washington, we did just that.

Digging for Razor Clams

Next to Willapa Bay oysters, the succulent Pacific razor clam is the Long Beach Peninsula’s favorite and most abundant locally sourced food, with 6 million-plus harvested in 2014. It’s obvious that the town is as serious about its most celebrated seafood (and its preferred method of preparation) from the minute you view the enormous 500-pound cast-iron pan and 10-foot squirting razor clam that stand side-by-side to welcome you to the heart of the city.

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Long Beach locals swear that clam-digging is in their blood (and I believe it). But, for the rest of us newbies, how does one get started on their first clam dig?

Read the article in its entirety on ModernDayNomads.com. All photos: © Tiffany Owens | ModernDayNomads.com

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The Cure for the Common Cocktail: Mixology with Robert Porter at Sanctuary’s Jade Bar, Phoenix

Written by Tiffany Owens | ModernDayNomads.com | May 2014

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Master Mixologist Robert Porter crafts a Pepper Smash #2


 

Whether it be a Dirty Martini or a Moscow Mule, everyone has a favorite, stand-by cocktail that they always defer to. But, what about when you feel like mixing it up a little or trying something different? Be it a celebratory event or simply a shift in the weather, our capricious palates can experience sudden cravings for something new and fresh—and cocktails are no exception. Beyond your standard-issue Bartender’s Guide, where can you discover some great new cocktail recipes that aren’t just a twist on old Prohibition-era favorites or over-the-top, sickly sweet ‘girly drink’ concoctions that will give you intense sugar-overload (and the ensuing headache that goes with it)?

By far, the best craft cocktail class I’ve attended is Mixology at the newly revamped Jade Bar at Phoenix’s beautiful Sanctuary Resort. Held every Saturday at 1:00 p.m., each Mixology course is centered around a different spirit every week, from tequila or whiskey to rum or vodka, and demonstrates how to make three or four cocktails, plus “tips and techniques along with jade bar’s freshness philosophy, spirit details, cocktail history and tastings of your favorites.” Mixology courses are $30 and limited to 10 participants. Due to their ever-increasing popularity, reservations are highly recommended.

Led by Master Mixologist, Robert Porter, our group was led through a variety of delicious cocktail offerings. A few were of his own invention, but all of which incorporated fresh juices (blueberry, blackberry, yellow bell pepper) to aromatic herbs (sage, basil, mint, thyme, tarragon, rosemary) with an emphasis on savory vs. sweet.

Prior to becoming one of Jade Bar’s premier Mixologists, Porter had previously honed his cocktail-crafting chops for several years at the legendary Trader Vic’s. Now, with the introduction of a new “cocktail culture” by Oregon-based mixologist Ryan Magarian (of Portland’s Oven & Shaker), Porter—along with Jade Bar’s other craft bartenders—have been given free reign to develop their own signature cocktails for potential inclusion on the menu. Judging by the throngs that flock to Jade Bar’s ‘The Pour’ premium daily happy hour (4 to 7pm) to peruse the inventive, ever-changing cocktail menu, it’s an experiment that has exceeded expectations, especially for the discerning cocktail enthusiast.

Porter generously agreed to let me share recipes for some of his tantalizing creations. So, break out the juicer and the muddler—and prepare to wake-up your tastebuds. Cheers!

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Pepper Smash #2

This delicious concoction was described by Porter as a “Mojito by way of the Mad Hatter.” The whole time I was watching him make it, I’m thinking, “Why have I never thought of juicing a bell pepper before?”

  • 3/4 oz. fresh yellow bell pepper juice
  • 3/4 oz. Grade A maple syrup (50% water)
  • 1-1/2 oz. Aquavit
  • Lime juice
  • Fresh mint sprigs (for garnish)

The Phoenix

One of Porter’s original creations, The Phoenix is light and refreshing with a high citrus note.

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/4 oz. honey
  • 1-1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • ground black pepper
  • Rosemary aromatic – (Porter creates his own herb-infused aromatics with 50% water + 50% sugar dispensed in a Misto sprayer)

Razzle Dazzle (SW Bramble)

Tired of margaritas? This fruit and ginger-forward drink is a refreshing alternative.

  • Fresh blackberry, ginger, sage and lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 oz. silver tequila

Jade Cucumber Gimlet

Another of Porter’s creations, this Gimlet made with cucumber-infused gin is (in my opinion) one of the best things on the menu.

  • 3 cucumber slices
  • Mint sprigs
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup

Muddle the above ingredients together before adding alcohol:

  • 1/4 oz. St. Germaine (a French liqueur made from Elderflower blossoms)
  • 2 oz. Martin Miller gin (a premium gin from Iceland made from 10 carefully selected botanicals)
  • 3/4 oz. pasteurized egg white

Double-shake ingredients together, using ice the first time. Garnish with sugar-snap peas that have been infused with gin for 2 weeks (Robert recommends Nolet’s Dry Gin).

Serve and enjoy!

Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

For even more inventive ideas, view and print these full-color Mixology recipe cards. You can also sign up for Jade Bar’s complimentary newsletter to receive new recipes as they become available.

IF YOU GO:

To attend a future Mixology at Jade Bar, check out their upcoming calendar to see which spirit will be showcased that particular week. Then, make reservations by calling: 480.607.2300

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain
5700 East McDonald Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85253

Click here for driving directions.