Hi Brad and Debi! (and all other beginners!)
I think you are on the right track joining a local group. It is extremely important to have a mentor or a group where you can ask questions. Definitely buy a couple of nucs from a local beekeeper. Those are the best bees for your area. Ask him (or her) if you can get a hands on experience in their apiary before you get your bees to have an idea how things are supposed to be inside the hive. Try to find a beekeeper that is either Treatment and Sugar Free or at least uses the least treatments possible or uses only essential oils. Why 2 nucs? Because every hive behaves differently and since you don't have previous experience you don't know if they are doing well or not. Having 2 allows you to compare things and fix things if one hive gets in a bad spot (for example the queen accidentally dies). With nucs bought end of May - beginning of June, you have a strong chance for them to get established and have a little surplus of honey for you. I bought 10 nucs and split them in the same year and I got some honey from them too, and I'm in Ontario, which is cooler than BC. If you didn't get the Early Bird deal make sure you have extra supers to place on your hives to give them enough space if you don't split like I did.
About the protection, I always use a suit and even gloves (Princess gloves from Dollarama) so I can work without worrying about stings. I will occasionally get stung through the glove, but the stinger will stay in the glove and very little venom enters the skin so there is no swelling after. The smoker is really useful especially when you want to put the hive back together and the bees look like they're "boiling over" the sides. Smoke them, brush them from the sides and place the box on top quickly. This way you don't squish too many bees.
Depending on the hive's size and queen age, the bees work in 2 modes. A young queen and a nuc work in "developing mode". They will work hard to grow comb, raise a lot of brood and gather as much food as possible for a successful winter. In the second and following years, a strong hive or an older queen will work in "multiplying mode". They will use last fall's pollen reserves and stored honey to have an early spring fast developing of the colony then little before the main flow, usually in May in my area, they will start to make swarming preparations. You need to check the hives at least once every 10 days at this time. You will have to split the colony or give it plenty of room in both the brood box and in the supers to make them think they are not ready for swarming yet. That is why you will see hives that are taller than a man. The bees will not fill all the supers with honey, but they will try hard to do it. With the Flow frames, the technique will change a bit, since you will drain the honey periodically, but you will still need to add an extra super and have at least 2 brood boxes where you don't touch the honey.