After a month and a half of travel through western Canada I finally arrived on Vancouver Island. (It really IS a big island… the largest Pacific Island east of New Zealand!) I ended my last post with an overnight stay in an IGA parking lot after my late night ferry arrival in Port Hardy. The following morning we hit the road early and headed south to Telegraph Cove Marina and RV Park. This place was spacious, the staff was very friendly and helpful, and of course it’s surrounded by water!
As soon as I got settled into my campsite I took the girls for a walk around the harbor. This quaint little cove was once a fishing and cannery village and many of the old buildings have been turned into rental cabins, while others house tourist related businesses. One of those businesses is Stubbs Island Whale Watching, where I stepped in and reserved a spot on the next boat out that morning.
I shared the outing with folks from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany and British Columbia, but no one else from the US! The boat captain and staff were knowledgeable and friendly, and obviously knew these waters and where we’d most likely spot the Humpbacks we all wanted to see. We watched several, but none did more than surface long enough to catch a breath before diving again. No breaching or tail slapping this time around.
A school of Pacific White-sided dolphin joined us and danced back and forth in front of our bow for a while as we cruised back toward the harbor. They were every bit as fun to watch as the whales were.
As we were docking the captain mentioned that the Killer Whale Cafe (with indoor and dock-side seating) served an excellent Seafood Linguini, so I treated myself to a “night out” and went with the captains recommendation. (He was right, it was excellent!) This little harbor town (village might be more accurate) was small enough to go everywhere on foot, so the girls and I got a lot of walking in during our stay.
The following morning we walked into the “village” for a cup of coffee and ran into a friendly young gal, Daniela, who I met on our whale watching tour. Daniela, a BC resident, was working at the Killer Whale Cafe for the summer, but she has bigger and far more interesting plans for her future. I really enjoyed visiting with this young lady and am glad we’ve managed to stay in touch. Best wishes as you move toward your dreams Daniela!!
That afternoon I couldn’t resist dropping my kayak in the water for a paddle. Because of the swirling tidal waters and rolling boat wakes my camera gear stayed in a dry bag which was safely anchored to the kayak (just in case I were to flip), and came out only for these few images.
The rest of my time in Telegraph Cove was spent walking the dogs around the harbor, and doing a few short hikes through the woods. I did meet some fellow Washingtonians in the campground who gave me a few nice size chunks of their fresh caught salmon!
Our next stop was Fanny Bay where I had a site reserved at the Lighthouse RV Park. After settling into my little campsite I was tickled when two women came running over exclaiming in excited voices that I was their hero. Apparently quite impressed by my solo status and maneuvering technique in my monster motorhome. After introductions I was invited to their nightly happy hour. Many of the campers are seasonal and knew each other from annual trips. All were friendly and I enjoyed visiting with several of them during my stay.
While sharing another “happy hour” one evening I watched a mother swallow attending to her nest and ran to get my camera. These noisy little peepers were near fledgling age and very good at making their hunger known.
To get to my next destination I had to drive more than one hundred miles, first south and then across the island on the very scenic (and often narrow and windy) Hwy-4 toward the town of Ucluelet. Even more interesting was the 5 mile stretch of narrow… so narrow I was often brushing against branches on BOTH sides… and rugged one lane dirt road. I saw two black bear while maneuvering this tricky little road, and twice came nose-to-nose with autos whose drivers would stop and wait, as if I might back up out of THEIR way… which I might have done had there been anyplace for me to go! When they figured out that wasn’t an option they tucked themselves into the trees far enough for me to pass.
When I finally reached the Mussel Beach Campground I was thrilled with the site that was waiting for me. It was spacious, very secluded, and the shoreline was literally right outside my door. My only neighbor to the right was a black bear I saw strolling along the beach a couple times a day. I couldn’t even see any of the neighbors to my left.
After a relaxing afternoon, a delicious grilled salmon dinner, and a good night’s sleep I headed out the following morning to do a bit of exploring. After a little poking around in the town of Ucluelet, and a brief bit of work time at their public library, I hiked with the girls on the Wild Pacific Trail.
By late afternoon I was back in my campsite… kicked back with my book and a cold beer and listening to the waves roll in.
The next day I ventured a little further… up to Long Beach and Tofino. This area is a favorite spot for surfers and tourists alike, but I didn’t find it overcrowded.
Jazzy and Sadie were happy to get their toes back in the sand at Long Beach, where we hiked both directions for some distance.
We also enjoyed strolling around the harbor and town of Tofino. Since the girls were with me I resisted the urge to slip into one of the many restaurants for a fresh seafood meal, but we did enjoy standing on a dock in the harbor watching the fishing boats roll in with their morning’s catch and the gulls fight over fish parts they flung in the water while cleaning. I swear I could hear them hollering “Mine, mine, mine, mine!” as they fought over the parts.
My favorite spot was the Tofino Botanical Gardens. It’s a peaceful, pleasant and creative place to stroll through. I got there after their Darwin’s Cafe closed, but I’m guessing it’s very good and no doubt organic. These gardens are part of a non-profit foundation whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s coastal temperate rain forests, the rarest type of forest on Earth.
On our drive back south toward Mussel Beach we made one last stop at Shorepine Bog Trail, part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The girls and I enjoyed walking the boardwalk through the stunted Shorepine forest and bog before calling it a day.
To get to our last campsite on Vancouver Island we retraced our windy route on Hwy-4 and headed south to the town of Crofton. This was a pretty area, as seen in the image below, but much of what I had planned for my brief stay here didn’t happen, as it involved ferry rides and long walks, and the weather did not cooperate. Instead most of my time was spent working… and anticipating my next and final Canada stop… Whistler!
Finally, after nearly seven weeks of travel through western Canada, I was heading to a remarkably beautiful place I’ve visited only once. Many years ago I was honored to be a keynote speaker at the Canadian National Photography Convention which, as luck would have it, took place at the Fairmont Chateau in Whistler. I had four all-expenses-paid days to fall in love with Whistler while still snow covered in the spring. I was about to spend four mid-summer days enjoying adventures and hiking trails in Whistler and nearby Squamish.
I crossed the Strait of Georgia on a rainy day by ferry and headed north toward Whistler. The farther into the mountains I got the harder the rain came down, and by the time I arrived at Whistler RV Park it was coming down in buckets! Needless to say I saw little scenery on the way… not that I would have had much opportunity to stop along this windy mountain highway.
Some of you know what happened next, but for those who don’t… it turned out to be one of the longest and most intense nights of my life. Shortly after settling in and taking the dogs for a walk in the rain I received one of those dreaded phone calls from my ex… our daughter had just been taken by ambulance to an emergency room… in TEXAS! In a matter of moments I went from hoping for a break in the weather to frantically trying to figure out how to get to my daughter as quickly as possible. At this point I don’t care to relive the intense hours that followed, but you can read about it here… Just Another Fork in the Road. The good news is Elissa is doing well now.
It wasn’t until two weeks later that I finally returned to retrieve my motorhome from the campground, and sadly there was no time for me to do anything but crash for the night and head back across the border to Washington the following morning. I don’t know if I can adequately describe how this turn of events left me feeling. I set out into Canada knowing this would be my final seven weeks on the road for awhile, as I was about to “drop anchor” for an indefinite period of time to be near family… my parents in particular. Whistler was to be my pièce de résistance… the grand finale of a three-year solo adventure on the open road! This was not how it was supposed to end! I still find myself regretting… and longing for… total emersion in those mountains!
There is no doubt that I will find myself blogging about my return to Whistler, hopefully in the not too distant future. In the mean time… I’m grateful as can be for the amazing time spent trekking roughly five thousand miles through western Canada. The beauty and wildlife I encountered along the way will always be remembered as some of the best and most cherished moments of my journey… MY journey in focus.
Some of you will be happy to know that, although I’ll be staying close to my home in the northwest for awhile, I will still be blogging. I’ll still be traveling every chance I get so the adventures will continue. I recently joined a local hiking club and have made new like-minded friends there. In addition, there are numerous informative posts I’ve wanted to write that I simply haven’t had time for. Now that I’m somewhat settled… I’ll make time!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say once again how very grateful I have been to have so many of you along on my journey. Even if only virtually, it made a tremendous difference to know that you were there. Thank you all for your comments, private notes, and constant encouragement!
(Note… the Vancouver Island portion of my journey took place in late July 2014.)