British Columbia’s “Big Island”

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.

British Columbia, Canada

Cruise ship shrouded in fog, Johnstone Strait

Johnstone Strait, British Columbia, Canada

Humpback Whale tail


Johnstone Strait and mountains of British Columbia

British Columbia, Canada

Morning fog in Johnstone Strait

Johnstone Strait, British Columbia, Canada

Humpback tail

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.

Johnstone Strait, British Columbia, Canada

Pacific White-sided Dolphin

Johnstone Strait, British Columbia, Canada

Pacific White-sided Dolphin playing along the bow

British Columbia, Canada

Telegraph Cove

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!!

British Columbia, Canada

Harbor at Telegraph Cove

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.

British Columbia, Canada

Bald Eagle atop tree in Telegraph Cove

British Columbia, Canada

from my kayak near Telegraph Cove

British Columbia, Canada

Pacific Harbour Seals from my kayak in Johnstone Strait

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!

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Detail of old truck in Telegraph Cove

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Harbor and campground (above) in Telegraph Cove

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.

Little peepers (baby swallows) keeping mom busy

Little peepers (baby swallows) keeping mom busy




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.

Mussel Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Killer beachfront campsite

Mussel Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Closest neighbor to the right, black bear (black dot in the middle)

Mussel Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

View from my campsite

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.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Locks along Wild Pacific Trail near Ucluelet

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Amphitrite Lighthouse, Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

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.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Surfers at Long Beach near Tofino

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.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Chicken with young under wing



The Evian

The Evian




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.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Shorepine Bog Trail

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!

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

view near Crofton

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.)


14 thoughts on “British Columbia’s “Big Island”

  1. Fran, You made a difference in my life during the short hours we spent together. I have since semi retired and taking time for myself and family. I still enjoy working, I’m keeping the long hours out of site and out of mind. Your inspiring words and photographs are so peaceful and relaxing, showing us how to relax and enjoy life to its fullest. You make me stop and think about the simple things that I take for granted each and every day. I am so blessed to have met you and been able to follow you through your journey. You are an inspiration and have taught me to be more grateful, insightful, and I’ve found a much deeper meaning to my life through your journey. I wish you and your family more happiness than a heart can hold and will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you Fran!

    • Dianne, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful note. Meeting new friends along the way has been one of the greatest joys of my journey. I’m touched to know that you found so much inspiration from my experiences. I hope we have an opportunity to share more time together one day. In the mean time, it’s good to know you’re living life to the fullest and enjoying it’s many blessings! Thank you again!

  2. Fran I have enjoyed following your travels. So many beautiful photographs and wonderful stories (and some rather scary). I haven’t been able to keep up all the time but try to get back and read past entries when I can. Such a wonderful journey you’ve had. Let us know next time you are in the DFW area so we can try to see you.

    • Thanks Marla. It’s been fun hearing from you along the way, and the encouragement is always appreciated. I’d love to see you and Peter when I’m back down that way!!

  3. Fran, enjoyed this post and the beautiful pictures. You are an inspiration! I know your family will enjoy your presence so much and look forward to hearing about many more of your adventures!

  4. Fran,

    We feel so blessed to have met you and your travels inspire us to see more of this beautiful world we live in. I have enjoyed your posts and blogs. I love your pictures. The kids often talk about you and your ‘special’ Kayak especially when we are down in Homosassa, Florida. Here is hoping our paths cross again…maybe in Florida, Canada (come for a visit any time) or somewhere else in this world.

    Gina, Gary, Brent & Brooke

    • Thank you Gina. I enjoy knowing y’all are still following along. It was such a pleasure getting to know you all, and having the opportunity to see you again in Canada. I do hope our paths will cross again. In the mean time… my best to the whole family. Tell Brent and Brooke I’ll be watching for the inspired futures I see in them. They can do anything their hearts desire. I hope they know that. Hugs to all!

  5. Hi Fran,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful photos & memories of Vancouver Island. I lived there for many years before returning to Calgary, and gosh I miss it. We’ll be back to visit with friends sometime soon.
    If you get the chance again to head back up that way, try & make time for Denman & Hornby Islands. You’d love the Gulf Island to, if you haven’t already experienced them.
    But MOST importantly, I’m SO glad that Elissa is back on her feet and doing well. Take care.
    Cheers <3

    • Thanks so much for your comments Lynne. I’ll definitely take time to visit Denman, Hornby and Gulf Island. Haven’t seen any of them. I moved away from the NW in my college years and have had little time to visit BC since then. Enjoy your time there when you go!

  6. Hello Fran

    Well last weekend was our annual Carlsbad State Beach Glampout. I kept looking for you and the girls but knew better because I have been following your blogs enjoying your adventure vicariously. Many of my friends did ask about you so I did fill them in. We had fabulous sunny weather and low tides and of course great food and wine.

    I am glad that you got to see Uclulet. We spent a few days there about 10 years ago and I do remember that road. We stayed in a docked boat turned into a floating hotel. It was so noisy ( our room was under the bar) that i could not sleep so I left Buck a note on the bed and went to our small rental car for a quiet but cramped nites rest. Fortunately I did enjoy the area and we took a fabulous boat tour surrounded by wildlife.

    Glad to hear your daughter is well..Whistler will still be there..
    Take Care
    Sandy and Rocketdog

    • So good to hear from you Sandy! I’m glad you and the “glampers” had a sunny and fun-filled time at Carlsbad. It’s good to know you’ve been along on the journey. Let me know if you feel like glampnig sometime at Whistler!! 🙂 Hugs to you, the gals, and of course Rocketdog!!

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