An Incredibly Beautiful Day

Wednesday August 29, 2018 – approx. 356 km today – approx. 5.872 km total

Today, I actually wanted to drive all the way to Whitehorse – but again, plans are good until reality meets them ;-). Which is by the way especially true when traveling…

I woke up at around 6:30 am since I had left the roof window of my car uncovered in order to wake up with the first daylight. I definitely wanted to see that glacier which completely covered itself in fog and clouds yesterday. However, this morning it was no difference. I could not see a small part of it. It actually reminded me a lot to my trip to Costa Rica where I drove all the way up to a volcano with my rental car just to see a white wall of fog :-(.

Well, I first had breakfast – and especially coffee to warm up a bit as it was freezing up here – and then used the waiting time for improving weather conditions by writing some blog posts offline which I would publish later once there was cell phone signal again. With that passed the time and by around 10 am the situation had not really improved in any way. So I made the very difficult decision to leave and forget about the glacier on this trip…

I woke up my German neighbors and said goodbye to them. They were not that much in a hurry and wanted to wait here until the fog would clear up. I then started my decent down to Stewart. Only a few kilometers further down, I catched a glimpse of the glacier. Down here, the clouds were way not that bad than up there. I decided to return and inform my friends about this finding and then continue decending on the other side of the main viewpoint again to maybe catch a better view from there.

On my way, I met another Swiss woman who I had been talking to yesterday while watching the grizzly bear already. Together with her friend she was on her way to find a good spot for painting the glacier and the landscape surrounding it. She was actually living in Canada and was pretty positive that it would clear up later…

… and actually she should be right and I am so thankful that I made the decision of returning back here! Down here on the other side of the main viewpoint I could see the entire glacier quite clearly! I was even able to decent a rough road by car and walk the final part almost all the way to the edge of the glacier. I spent some time there taking pictures and trying to get some HDR-ready shots which I would hopefully render into amazing pictures back at home.

Again it was quite hard to leave, but I also knew that I had to keep the time a bit in mind since I still wanted to move on to Whitehorse today. When I reached the main viewpoint on my final way back to Stewart again, my German friends were still there and they told me that they had seen the glacier from up here, too. In the same time when I had been down there on the other side, it had obviously cleared up here, too. Unfortunately, it had become foggy in the meantime again. Mona showed me some of her pictures and encouraged me to stay a little more and wait if it would clear up again. And after having seen her pictures, I simply had to wait…

… and again that was the right decision. Just about half an hour later, the clouds clear up again and revealed the view on that amazing glacier just below us! Of course, I also took a lot of pictures and simply enjoyed the scenery. From time to time, the glacier covered itself again in clouds just to clear up again a few minutes later. When it was clear the view was just breathtaking!!! Sorry, the pictures are still on my camara only in RAW format, so I can’t directly post them here.

I probably spent another two hours up here together with my German friends. In parallel we chattet, took pictures together and simply enjoyed the view. Then, when another series of clouds covered the glacier, I finally managed to leave and started my final decent down to Stewart. On the way, I stopped a couple of times to take even more pictures of the glacier which was visible from further down again. There, I met that Swiss womand and her friend again and even my German friends followed me and we again spent some time together watching the scenery.

At around 3:30 pm, I finally arrived back in Stewart. I filled up my car, used the cell phone signal for some blog posts and WhatsApp messages, and finally started driving back to Meziadin Junction and further up north towards the Yukon.

The Bear Glacier on the way to Meziadin Junction.

And then, while driving on the highway 37 it suddenly happened: There was a black bear just on the other side of the road. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough and with my hard braking, I seemed to frighten it and it went way into the woods. I tried to turn around and find it again, but it was definitely gone and I had not even taken any pictures :-(.

However, I did not have to wait that long… just a couple of kilometers further down the road, there was another black bear again, this time even on my side of the road. Unfortunately, the same story repeated: I was too fast and hit the brake too strongly and frightened the bear way.

But somehow, it seemed I was unlimitedly lucky today: Another couple of kilometers further down the road, there was the third black bear and this time, I managed to react in a better manner. Obviously it was much better to just pass the bear at a good driving speed and stop after passing it. This time, was able to take some pictures! However, I had to figure out the best configuration of my camera to make sure they were not too dark, but also sharp enough as the bear was of course moving.

To gain some practice, I even got two more chances further down the road. Once it was a female black bear with two little baby bears, and the final one was just one black bear again. The female one with her babies was of course a lot more shy, so I unfortunately had to keep a way larger distance and could only take some pictures from there. But I could watch them for a couple of minutes! It was just amazing!

Of course all the stopping for the bears had finally ruined my time schedule and there was no chance to reach my destination campground at Boya Lake about half way to Whitehorse. However, the bear watching was definitely worth it! This is one of the reasons why I came to Canada: To see those amazing animals in their natural habitat! I’m so happy that it worked out this time – and even five times on just one single day!

I continued my journey until it became dark. Then I parked in a pullout area directly at the shoreline of a small lake together with two other RVs and one car, finished some blog posts and finally went to bed completely happy about what I had experienced today!

A Fateful Day

Tuesday August 28, 2018 – approx. 612 km today – approx. 5.516 km total

Tuesday August 28, 2018 – approx. 612 km today – approx. 5.516 km total

Today, I wanted to continue to Stewart, the bordering town of Hyder, a little ghost town in the southern most tip of Alaska just aside of British Columbia, Canada. After breakfast and some little chat with my neighbor the Australian guy, I departed from the Meziadin Provincial Park campground and drove the missing kilometers to Meziadin Junction, the cross road of highway 37 with highway 37A. There, I wanted to fill up my car. As usual, I got out of the car, opened the gas tank valve and my purse … and then the shock: My credit card was missing!

I started to empty and search the entire purse. I searched the car and any other location within the car that I imagined I might have put the card. But then it became clear to me quite quickly: I must have left the card at the gas station in Terrace where I filled up the last time just before driving all the way up here through the Nisga’a territory. Terrace was about 250 kilometers away from here – driving there and back here would sum up to about 6 hours on the road.

Before just heading down there, I wanted to confirm that the card had really been found. So I entered the little shop at the gas station, explained my situation and asked for a phone. Yes, I do have a smartphone, and I even do have a Canadian SIM card, but out here in the wilderness there was no cell phone signal at all. The woman in the shop explained me that it might be “more expensive” as the phone is linked via satelite, but she could not tell me what “more expensive” means. When I heard “satelite”, I already expected horrible fees… But it did not help, I had to confirm that the card had been found and otherwise block it as quickly as possible.

Since there was no phone number given on the receipt I took when filling up at the gas station in Terrace, I called the visitors center where I had been just before going to the gas station and asked the guy there if he could go over to the gas station and asked for me if my card had been found. He told me to call back in about 30 minutes. Half an hour waiting with the uncertainty if my card had been found or was gone forever…

In the meantime, I talked about the situation with the woman of the shop. She then came up with the idea to look up the phone number of the gas station in the internet – she obviously had cell phone reception or Wifi, I don’t know. Anyways, she found the phone number and I called the gas station directly. And – a stone fell of my heart – the card had been found!

I gave the women of the shop a generous tip, quickly filled up my car sufficiently – the gas prices out here in the wilderness are horrible – to reach Terrace and started my drive back there.

After about 2 hours and a half, I arrived at Terrace even a little earlier then expected. The calculation of driving times of MapsMe are not always accurate. I picked up my credit card and directly filled up at that gas station again. Then – since I was unvoluntarily back to the city – I quickly went to Walmart and bought a salad for later. In my opinion I deserved a bit of a relief for all that desaster, so I also went to Dominos Pizza and got myself a chicken barbecue pizza for the way back. Then I started to drive all the way back to Meziadin Junction and Stewart respectively.

The entire trip was about 500 km long – so in fact I almost went once from the east to the west of Germany to pick up my credit card! But what should I have done in that situation? I was simply happy that I had my card back!

I arrived at Stewart at around 4 pm, quickly filled up my car there as the gast was much cheaper here than out there at Meziadin Junction, and – with a short stop at the information board in front of the visitors center – drove down to the border crossing into Alaska and the ghost town of Hyder. There, I directly went to the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation and when asking about the entrance fee, I was told that there was a grizzly bear right now down at the river! So I hurried to park my car, get my camera, pay the entrance fee, and go down to the boardwalk. And yes, there it was: A huge grizzly bear being busy with catching salmons! In fact, it was not really catching any fish. The entire river was full of living and already dead salmons which had arrived here at their birthplace to drop their eggs. And that was exactly what that grizzly bear was after for: The eggs of the salmons. It basically “opened” one of the already dead salmons after another and just ate the eggs – in other words: Grizzly bear’s salmon caviar!

Together with a good number of other tourists, I watched the grizzly bear for a long time. It even presented some show to us. After a while of feasting on the salmon eggs, it obviously had enough and needed some sleep. So it was preparing itself a bed – no joke – by collecting grass at the shoreline of the river. Once finished, it lay down and really seemed to try to catch some sleep. It was obviously annoyed by the noise of the seabirds around here. But still, it seemed to sleep for a while and we tourists were simply watching. After a while, the grizzly obviously had slept enough and started to wate around the water again searching for some more salmon caviar. The entire show was absolutely surrealistic! If anyone would tell me that story, I would for sure not believe him. But you can be sure: It’s true – it really happened exactly that way!

Somehow it was really difficult to leave the spot and the grizzly bear behind. Even though I had already spent a lot of time here and it was constantly raining a bit. But it was just so much fun watching that grizzly bear and I also got to know a group of Germans from Aschaffenburg who were traveling three weeks in a rental RV.

Finally, the bear seemed to take the burden of the decision to move on off us and slowly walked upstream the river and step by step out of the perfect view from the wooden boardwalk. With that, I managed to leave the area and said goodbye to the group of Germans. They also planned to drive up to the Salmon Glacier and even wanted to stay overnight there. That sounded appealing to me and I mentioned that I was thinking of going up there, too. They promised me some beer in case they would meet me up there again ;-).

And who am I that I would not accept the adventure of driving the gravel road up there with the intention of staying overnight? So I started driving towards the first view point. Unfortunately, it was quite cloudy, so there was almost no view at all. I continued the road further up and even after the main view point downhill again as the Australian guy on the Meziadin campground had told me that from a point beyond the main view point, you could see the glacier from below the clouds. Unfortunately, that was not true for tonight. The entire mountain seemed to be within the clouds and I could only spot the glacier through some tiny wholes in the clouds. So I decided to drive back to the main view point – and met the group of Germans there.

They were looking for a particular spot which was mentioned in a flyer they had taken from the visitors center down in Stewart. Together we figured that that spot must be the main viewpoint where we just were at that moment. So we decided to stay here and parked our RV and car side by side. We then had some beer while two of them were preparing dinner. I was even invited for dinner within the RV. After dinner, we played Wizard altogether until about midnight.

Finally, I went back to my car and quickly into my sleeping bag as it was already freezing cold up here! With that, a very ambigous day ended: First the entire desaster about the credit card and then the incredible show of the grizzly bear which I never had seen a free one in the wilderness before! This was definitely one of those days on which the worst and the best things of traveling happen shortly one after another!

On the Way up North…

Monday August 27, 2018 – approx. 527 km today – approx. 4.904 km total

Once again, I slept well – even if a bit short – on the McDonald’s parking lot. After getting up, I even had a washroom available ;-). Since I didn’t want to stress it too much, I just used it quickly and went away – to a Tim Hortons where I used the washrooms for the rest of the morning ceremony and got myself a coffee. I somehow didn’t want to set up my entire cooking facilities in the middle of the city ;-).

After the shortened morning procedure, I set off on highway 16 towards Terrace. The drive was beautiful, the highway followed the fjord and I stopped a couple of times to take pictures.

After about one hour and a half, I arrived the small town of Terrace. There, I found a Walmart where I could even complete my morning ceremony more completely and filled up my supplies a bit. Then, I went to the local visitors center since I was still unsure whether to continue the faster route on highway 16 and highway 37, or to take the route via Nisga’a highway through the Nisga’a native reserve and visit some places there on the way. The attendants in the visitors center right away recommended me option two and provided me a whole set of information about that route and what to do there. They even recommended me to drive all the way down to the native town of Gingolx – even if only for having fish and chips there. They were so enthusiastic about that route that the decision was made quite quickly.

I filled up my car at the gas station just behind the visitors center and left Terrace on the Nisga’a highway northbound. I passed the town of Rosswood, which actually was not even a town and finally reached the entrance to the Nisga’a native reserve. Actually, the area is not really a reserve, but a provincial park run by both, the Nisga’a natives and the BC parks association. The Nisga’a have their own government here, so it’s just like a native reserve.

In the visitors center, I was provided with a flyer describing an auto tour. Every couple of kilometers, there was a site marked with a sign and some explanation given for it in the flyer. I followed the Nisga’a highway and stopped at the dedicated locations. The first one was at a beautiful lake with a glacier in the background. Of course, I had to stop here to take pictures!

The second stop was a short path leading onto the lava bed of the 1775 erruption of the volcano in this area. Actually, this erruption killed almost 2000 of the Nisga’a native people who lived here by that time. Further stops included two waterfalls and a small lake, which were all three not that impressive. Finally, I reached the park’s visitors center where I got some explanations about the catastrophic event of the volcano erruption and about the Nisga’a culture and language. The information were given by a representative of the Nisga’a people which was quite interesting. It’s beautiful how the Nisga’a people manage to preserve their culture here even though most of them today of course live and work like any other Canadian.

Further on the tour was one of the Nisga’a villages and a stop with a short walk over the lava bed to a so-called tree cast, which is a lava formation formed by hot lava flowing around a tree and eventually burning that tree. When the lava cools down, a perfectly shaped round whole in a lava rock remains.

After those two stops, I followed the advice of the attendants in the visitors center in Terrace and followed the Nass Road further east towards the Nisga’a village of Gingolx. On the way was another Nisga’a village and a museum with artifacts about the culture of the Nisga’a people. However, since I’m not that much into museums, I did not enter. It was anyways already much later in time that I thought and I still wanted to cover some distance today towards Stewart. However, I continued the drive down to Gingolx – and was almost disappointed.

The first – and on the first glance the only – seafood restaurant was closed. I three other Canadian tourists who were also looking for the seafood restaurant for getting fish and chips. They finally managed to find it and driving around I saw them stopping in front of a building. So I also entered and indeed we got fish and chips in a kind of groceries store. I enjoyed my fish and chips sitting in the car at the waterfront of the village. Actually, the fish and chips were quite delicious – or I was simply too hungry!

Apart from that “attraction” there was actually really nothing to see in the village, so after finishing my dinner, I started driving again all the way back on the Nass Road.

Unfortunately, the only gas station in the village of New Aiyansh was already closed when I arrived there, so I had to continue without filling up again. From that village, I turned onto the Nass Forest Road which was a gravel road, the attendants in the visitors center in Terrace told me some “horror stories” about. But that’s anyways my experience so far: The locals make a big thing out of the driving on those gravel roads. Well and yes, of course, you have to go much slower than on a normal paved highway, but on the other hand it’s also nothing that bad.

On my way on the Nass Forest Road, I even witnessed one of the locals turning with his oversized recreation trailer on that narrow forest road. He simply pulled the trailer back into the woods, turned the car around and drove away in the oposite direction – just as if it’s nothing special to drive with such an oversized combination on a road like this. So this does not really match with all the concerns the locals seem to have about the gravel roads.

Eventually, I reached the junction of the Nass Forest Road with the highway 37 towards Meziadin Junction. Since it was definitely too late already to reach the city of Stewart just at the border with the most southern tip of Alaska, I decided to stay on the Meziadin Provincial Park campground where I got to know and chattet a bit with an Australian guy who was on a road trip with his motor bike.

Since I had my fish and chips already, I was almost ready for bed. So today, it was quite easy to get ready and I went to bed when it started to get dark.

Inside Passage – An Incredible Ferry Journey

Sunday August 26, 2018 – approx. 26 km today – approx. 4.351 km total

I did actually not sleep that well on the ferry dock since there was always some action going on: Car doors being opened and closed, people walking around an shouting. But anyways, I had to get up early since at around 5:30 am the action for boarding already started. Of course, it still took a while, until I was allowed to board, but the loading officers were already checking the cars and scheduling the order of boarding.

At around 6:30 am it was my turn to board the ferry. There, I parked my car and tried to get up to the passenger deck as quickly as possible to find a good seat just in front of the windows in one of the passenger seating areas. Of course, for the Aurora lounge directly in front of the ferry, you had to pay extra. I saved that money which turned to be a good decision since I would anyways be out on the sun deck almost the entire time of the journey.

More or less in time, we departed Port Hardy at around 7:30 am. The weather was still quite cloudy, so we could not see that much of the islands we were passing. I spent the time planning my upcoming trip through Northern British Columbia and Yukon a bit more in detail. While doing that, I also got to know Thomas and Dina, a German couple from Munich and chattet with them. They were going just to Bella Bella for the sake of the ferry ride and would thus get of the ferry at around noon. We talked about the trips we have done so far, traveling in general and the work and life back there in Germany. We also spend some time out there on the sun deck once the weather cleared up a bit and later even spottet some whales together. One of them was actually weaving at the ferry for a couple of minutes – no joke!

At around 10 or 11 am, the weather had cleared up completely and revealed the beauty of the Inside Passage we were traveling along. It was already incredible and we were just at the beginning of that great journey. About an hour before arriving at Bella Bella, the crew even prepared some barbecue on the sun deck. I got myself a Bratwurst – they really call it that way here – and spent the rest of the time to Bella Bella with Thomas and Dina on the sun deck. In between my name was called via the intercom and I was informed that in Bella Bella I had to rearrange my car on the car deck since I was blocking a trailer that had to disembark there. We arrived at Bella Bella around noon and there, Thomas and Dina left the ferry. Since I had to be on the car deck anyways, I said goodbye to them there once they actually disembarked.

Bella Bella in the distance

On my own again, I spend some time on the upper deck watching the scenery around the ferry dock. We spend about half an hour there while the loading officers were unloading the cars and trucks. Around the ferry dock there was some wildlife to watch: Otters (which I unfortunately did not see), eagles, and flying fishes. I even watched the departure from the upper deck and then went down to explore the ferry a bit. It was a huge ship with a lot of ammenities: Several seating areas you could choose from, a cafeteria, and even a restaurant. I got some hot water in the cafeteria for my instant noodles that I brought for lunch.

One of the seating areas on board.

Eventually, I got to know one of the crew members, a young man who obviously enjoyed the life working aboard the ferry a lot. We worked there in two weeks shifts, so two weeks living on the ferries, and two weeks off from work. In that time off, he was always traveling, so we had some stories to share and chattet a bit about different places and the life of traveling.

I basically spent the rest of the entire trip somewhere on the upper deck of the ferry and just returned to my seat from time to time. The entire scenery we were traveling through was just breathtaking! Was passed narrow fjords in the middle of nowhere. The entire landscape consistet of forest. From time to time, the captain announced some whales we passed and I was even able to see some of them. It felt just a bit surrealistic smoothly traveling through that huge area of nowhere – I can hardly express it in words here! It definitely felt great as an opening for my trip through the more remote areas of Canada and Alaska!

At several points of the passage, we passed some important points which were then always announced by the crew and which were also described on a map of the trip you could get from the central information desk. A couple of times those were lighthouses, once a abandoned little town of a sulfur mine of which only a chimney remained, and another time it was a fish hatchery which was still in operation. As often here in Canada, the journey was well prepared and a lot of information was given.

Shortly before sunset we reached the last one of the important points of the passage: A really narrow fjord we were traveling along with walls of mountains on each side. It was definitely an experience to float through that passage on such a big ship!

Once the sun was gone, it became cold on the outside deck quite quickly. So I returned to my seat indoors and also to the cafeteria where I had my second portion of instant noodles 😉 and chattet a bit more with that crew member, I had got know earlier.

At around 23:30 pm, we arrived at Prince Rupert and together with all the other passengers, I disembarked the ferry. Since it was already late, I simply tried to find a spot to stay overnight, which turned not to be that easy as I thought. All the parking lots of Walmart and other supermarkets were marked with “No overnight parking” signs and I didn’t really want to violate that directly. However, I also didn’t want to go to the local RV park just for staying the night. I would not have used any of the ammenities there anyways. Finally, I noticed two RVs just parking on a McDonald’s parking lot. I talked to them – they were Swiss and German people – and in the end, it was me asking at the McDonald’s drive through if we could stay the night here. That was approved and so I once again found a spot to stay the night for free ;-).

Back to Civilization and Into the Wilderness Again

Saturday August 25, 2018 – approx. 541 km today – approx. 4.351 km total

Originally, the plan was to get up really early today to maybe have the chance to spot wildlife in dusk on the way back to Gold River. However, my smartphone resigned its reliable service as an alarm clock and I woke up shortly before 6 am. There was already light, but it was heavily raining. I got myself ready in a few minutes and left the recreation area where I had stayed the night.

Unfortunately, I was not that lucky spotting wildlife on my way back to Gold River – or at least not the ones, I expected like bears. I just saw two deers crossing the street in front of my car and quickly disappearing into the woods. I was not even able to take pictures of them :-(.

On the way back to Campbell River, I just stopped once to have breakfast. In the city, I wanted to find a shower, wash my clothes, and fill up some supplies before driving all the way up to Port Hardy, from where I would take the ferry through the famous Inside Passage tomorrow early in the morning. For the afternoon, I still had the idea of backtracking a bit to the south and visiting Mt. Washington. However, since it was raining, the view would most likely be quite limited. So my idea was to first finish all the “household work” and afterwards decide if it was worth it driving down there or not.

Unfortunately, the search for a shower ended with a clear “No, I’m sorry” when I asked for it at the RV park in Campbell River. I did not expect that since Paola and I were quite easily able to use the showers of a campground in Toronto after staying a night in the car. Well, I had to rely once more to my “friend” Walmart and use their washrooms instead of having a real shower. In the same shot, I also filled up my supplies and afterwards went to a coin laundry to wash my clothes. There, I even met a girl from Germany, identifying her as being from the “Schwabenland” when she was on the phone. Since she was on the phone the entire time, we did not have the chance to do some small-talk, so I did not get to know what she was doing in Canada and Campbell River respectively.

Once my clothes were ready, I decided to give Mt. Washington a try. The weather had cleared up a bit, but I still did not expect a really good view from up there. But somehow, I wanted to try it and so I just did it. That’s actually, the thing I like on roadtrips: You just go wherever you want to go. No shopping for tickets, no schedules, almost no limits that keep you from doing whatever you want!

During the drive up to Mt. Washington, I actually passed through the clouds. But there was still another layer on top of those, so the view from the base station of the cable car was quite limited. I could see the top of the mountain in the clouds and asking in a local mountain bike shop, I got the confirmation that there’s almost not view from atop. So I decided not to climb up there or take the cable car, but to visit the nearby Forbidden Plateau and walk a bit on the hiking paths there. Those were mentioned in my travel guide as a highlight of Vancouver Island.

Mount Washington covered in clouds

I walked along the boardwalk of the Paradise Meadow Loop trail for about an hour. That loop is actually just a quite small part of the entire network of hiking paths up there – almost all of them along wooden boardwalks. Some of the boardwalks were even prepared for disabled persons, which I appreciated a lot as a very consequent form of a “barrier free” mindset. The walk up there was nice, but also nothing that spectacular. But I can imagine that the hikes might be much more appealing in good weather conditions.

After finishing the short walk, it was already turning 5 pm. It was time for me to leave and get myself going towards Port Hardy. After leaving the region of Mt. Washington, I followed the Trans-Canadian-Highway all the way to the north of Vancouver Island. Up to Campbell River it was a two-lane highway, but beyond the city it became way less frequented and with each kilometer the feeling of going into the wilderness increased. The past days, I have quite often been to remote areas on Vancouver Island already. Loosing the cell phone signal was nothing special to me anymore. But somehow this time, it felt different: The highway was just going on and on through forest and from reading my travel guides, I figured that there would not be much up there in Port Hardy either. And then there was the feeling that I would even continue traveling into the wilderness by ferry. It was actually a strange, but very good feeling somehow marking a cut between my past journey through the west of Canada and the upcoming journey through the more remote regions of the country.

I arrived to Port Hardy shortly after dawn. First of all, I checked out the ferry terminal and figured that there were some cars and RV already lined up obivously planning to spend the night there. For curiosity reasons, I drove the almost 5 kilometers to the city of Port Hardy, but as already imagined, there was nothing to see there – especially not at night.

So I returned to the ferry terminal and got to know that I could already check-in for my ferry ride. In addition, I was told that I had to pay 23 dollars for staying overnight at the ferry dock. What a mean form of capitalism! Well at least there were quite nice washrooms provided. I prepared myself a salad for dinner and afterwards got myself ready for catching some sleep. The boarding for the ferry ride would start at around 6 am the next morning.

Waiting for boarding…

Waterfalls and Caves in the Middle of Nowhere

Friday August 24, 2018 – approx. 257 km – approx. 3.810 km total

From the Strathcona Dam Recreation Area, I set off this morning on the road along the Upper Campbell Lake and Buttle Lake. The drive was quite nice especially since I was able to enjoy good weather with blue sky again – the second day in a row already! My plan was to visit the Myra Falls at least and then see where the way would lead me.

On the way, I stopped a couple of times to take pictures of the beautiful scenery around the lakes. I could even see a glacier on the other side of the Buttle Lake and got some of the shots I missed on my entire trip through Canada so far because of the wildfire smoke situation. At the Myra Falls, a short path led down to the falls which I followed and climbed a bit on the rocks around the falls while taking pictures of them. By the way: The ones I’m posting here in the blog are mostly taken with my Smartphone. The real “diamond” ones are hopefully on my camera in RAW format and will be processed after returning back home.

From the Lower Myra Falls, I continued a bit further down the road until I arrived at an information board about the hiking trails in the region. Since for all the trails hiking times of a couple of hours were scheduled, I decided to rather return to the northern tip of Buttle Lake and continue from there down to the town of Gold River. Actually there was no particular reason for visiting that town – I was just somehow curious what was going on there so far into the wilderness and it was just about a 80 km drive which is nothing taking the usual distances here into account.

The highway down to Gold River partially followed the western arm of the Buttle Lake and was also quite nice. Arriving in Gold River, I figured that there was indeed nothing special to see in the town, so I headed further down to the Gold River Water Aerodrome and watched one plane arriving and shortly after departing again. It was obiously bringing mail to the town of Gold River which somehow gave me the feeling of indeed being somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

From the aerodrome, I returned to Gold River and actually wanted to return to Campbell River, but I shortly stopped at the visitors center and noticed an information board about the road down to Tahsis. It declared Tahsis as the origin of British Columbia and advertised the drive down there was very beautiful with even some chance to spot wildlife. I confirmed that information in the visitors center where the attendant even suggested me to stop at the Upala Caves on the way. Those limestone caves can be visited on a self-guided tour. So I decided to give it a try, quickly stopped at the local gas station to replace the obviously bad batteries which I bought in Calgary for my headlight (thank you Walmart in this case), and started driving down to Tahsis.

After about 15 km I arrived at the trailhead to the Upala Caves – at least that was what a sign told me. However, I somehow did not understand that sign first and drove a couple of minutes along a logging road into the wildernis until realizing that something was obviously wrong. Finally, I figured that the trail to the caves was actually a hiking path which started right after the parking lot. As always when walking into the woods, I armed myself with my bear spray and set off towards the caves. I entered all of them for a couple of meters, but when it came to crawl down I was somehow too scared to continue on my own. The information boards explained that you could follow the path through the caves for up to 20 minutes! Of course that sounded like an adventure, but somehow I was simply too scared. After checking the first and main cave, I met some other people on the trail who had done the 20 minutes walk through the main cave and told me that it’s really fun – but it didn’t help: I could not find enough courage to go on my own :-(.

Back to the car, I continued to drive down the road to Tahsis. Since it was already later than calculated, I figured that I would not make it out of the park today, so while driving I tried to identify possible spots for spending the night along the road. I even found a really beautiful spot at a lake about 10 kilometers before Tahsis which became my favorit.

Finally arriving to Tahsis, I drove a bit through the small town and figured that there was nothing special to see here. It was nicely located in the narrow bay, but apart from that it was just a small town. I stopped at the local RV park and asked about the price for staying the night there. However, somehow I did not feel like staying there and set of for leaving Tahsis again. But then I noticed some action going on at a restaurant in the local fishing harbor. There was obviously some party with live country music. I watched the ongoing action for a while but somehow did not feel like joining. There were anyways mainly elderly people…

Since I felt hungry, I started my way back to Gold River. My idea was to stop along the way for preparing dinner. After that, I wanted to either continue or catch some sleep and hit the road again very early in the morning. My idea was to hopefully spot wildlife in dusk or dawn. I stopped at the recreation area that I noticed on my way to Tahsis and prepared dinner there. As there was a notice posted at the entrance to the recreation area that a coughar has been seen around there, I did in fact not feel that comfortable being alone there. So after dinner, I went back to the safety of my car and decided to catch some sleep and start the drive back to Gold River and Campbell River respectively early the next morning.

Hidden Paradise

Thursday August 23, 2018 – approx. 172 km today – approx. 3.553 km total

When waking up this morning, I saw it the first time: Blue sky! Unbelievable, but I haven’t seen blue sky since I’m in the west of Canada, I think. All because of the horrible wildfires and the smoke they produce. Checking the situation in more detail showed that it really seemed to become a very sunny and friendly day. So I followed the yesterday’s advice of the campground manager and right away after getting up and ready drove to the Hornby Island ferry terminal. I was of course the first car there in the line and even had some time to prepare myself a breakfast sitting there on a bench in the sunshine. While waiting, I got to know a Canadian woman who was on her way to Hornby Islands, too. We chattet a bit about the wildfires and some other things while waiting for the ferry to arrive and be ready to board.

Just arriving to Hornby Island…

On Hornby Island, I first discovered a bit the island by car. I went almost along all available roads – which aren’t that many, hehe – and visited the small harbor on the west side, as well as the coastline of the south-east side. I even went to the interior to the Mt. Geoffrey Nature Park, but since I had the Helliwell Trail in mind, did not do any hikes there.

Finally, I went to the Helliwell Trail and walked along the coast for about an hour and a half. It was a very nicely prepared trail along the cliffs and bluffs with really beautiful views – especially that it was really good weather today! I really enjoyed the walk and was even able to spot some seals in the water just some hundred meters away from the coast – unfortunately too far to take pictures.

After completing the walk, I went to the Tribune Bay Beach which was also recommended to me by the attendee in the Atmosphere shop back there in Vancouver city. There, I chilled a bit on the beach, took a bath in the sea – which was surprisingly warm for being the Pacific Ocean – and just enjoyed some rest.

Eventually, I made my way back to the ferry terminal and took the two ferries back to Vancouver Island. I was surprise that I did not have to pay again. Obviously, the fare was valid for the return trip as well.

Arriving back on Vancouver Island, I right away starteted driving towards the city of Campbell River. The drive was just beautiful since it was still clear and I could even see some mountains in the distance! I have not been able to see them so far because of all the smoke.

In Campbell River, I took a left to continue towards the Strathcona Provincial Park which I wanted to visit as one of my last stops on Vancouver Island before boarding the ferry to Prince Rupert. Just before entering the actual park, I found the Strathcona Dam Recreation Area by chance and took advantage of it to camp the night for free on a spot that was basically equipped the same way as all the provincial park campgrounds I’ve stayed so far.

Back Again to the East Coast

Wednesday August 22, 2018 – approx. 251 km today – approx. 3.381 km total

I did not sleep that well on my hidden “campground” in the wilderness. But I don’t know why. It was surely not because of noise or disturbances since the place was fairly quiet.

However, at around 7 am I woke up and noticed some cars already passing me. So I eventually also got up and drove back to Long Beach since I knew there were some good washrooms. There I also enjoyed breakfast and had a wonderful encounter with an older couple from Victoria. They are around in that region quite often for surfing and are also staying in the wilderness in their modified camper van. They knew the meetings happening here on the parking lot of Long Beach for using the washrooms and having breakfast already well. And surprisingly, Paul had also been into computer science before retiring! In addition, they have been traveling a couple of times already to South America. I chattet a bit with them while enjoying breakfast – it was really a nice conversation. This is what I like about traveling: You meet different people from different places and have a lot of short conversations about a variety of topics. I already know that from my backpacking trip back then to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.

Since the weather was really not good today, I stayed a couple of hours here on the parking lot in my SUV waiting for it to clear up. It was quite foggy which apparently is known for this beach. In the meantime, I updated my blog and the map.

Chilling in my self-equiped camp-car right on the beach 😉

At around noon I drove up to Tofino again to walk a little bit around the town. And the funny thing is that up here – just a couple of kilometers away – the weather was much better. No fog, just the omnipresent smoke in the air, but at least some sun. I strolled around a bit in the town. As already said, it’s mainly a tourist spot. But the houses and the view to the surrounding islands was quite nice.

After about an hour or so, I decided to drive down to Ucluelet again and try another part of the Wild Pacific Trail. However, already on the drive down there, I realized that the weather had not cleared up yet in the southern part of the peninsula. I still started walking a bit on the trail, but eventually cancelled it since the view was quite limited.

Unfortunately way to much fog 🙁

Since my time was limited on Vancouver Island by the already scheduled ferry ride up to Prince Rupert, I decided to move on and make my way back to the east coast of the island. There, I wanted to follow a hint of one of the guys in the Atmosphere shop in Vancouver who was sending me to the Hornby Island just offshore of the Vancouver Island east coast. To get there, you first have to get to Denman Island by a 10 minute ferry ride and from there use another ferry to get to Hornby Island. So I started driving back along the Pacific Rim highway. On the way, I just stopped for a coffee break in the Sproat Lake Provincial Park and for filling up some supplies in the Walmart of Port Albani.

Arriving at the Buckley Bay ferry terminal, I just saw the unloading process starting. Since there was a cheap gas station right next to the ferry terminal, I decided to fill up quickly – and almost missed the ferry because of that. But the attendee let me hop on as the last vehicle and so I was on my way to Denman Island without any waiting time :-).

Just in time on my way to Denman Island

Since the last ferry to Hornby Island already left, I directly drove to the only campground on the island, the Fillongley Provincial Park campground. Of course all sites there were already full. Just when I wanted to use the washroom quickly before leaving on my search for another spot in the wilderness to spend the night, the manager of the campground came along to collect the fees. I talked to him and he adviced me to stay on the overflow area which was the turnaround of the campground. Of course, I still had to pay the regular fee. But I had checked the campground already and it is really nicely situated directly at the waterfront, so I decided to pay for it this time.

As always, the Provincial Park was nicely prepared and I could even gather a bench right at the waterfront to write these lines. Again, I had the best spot of all visitors here even though I was staying on the overflow area ;-).

Map updated

So now, I finally managed to update the map of my route. I struggled a bit with the limitation to 10 layers on the free Google Maps version. However, I found a way which should work for this trip.

And here it is even embedded into a blog post. If you click the small rectangle symbol in the upper right corner, it will open in a separate tab or window.

You can even find this map now at any time in the left main menu below TravelingCanada 2018Route Map.

Ucluelet und Tofino

Tuesday August 21, 2018 – approx. 371 km today – approx. 3.130 km total

It’s been almost two weeks now that I’ve been on my roadtrip together with my loyal 4-wheeled traveling partner, my Hyundai Tucson SUV, and today we broke the 3.000 km mark together! He has always been there supporting me on my trip, he serves me as a transport medium, a safe shelter, and a sleeping place. Only all that makes the entire trip possible – thank you so much!

Today, I drove from the Pine Point Recreation Site where I spent the night all the way back to the east coast of Vancouver Island and once more to Ucluelet and Tofino on the west coast. It was necessary to cross the islands twice since there are almost no roads along the west coast of Vancouver Island. I passed Duncan, where I filled up some supplies in the local Walmart and used their washrooms, Nanaimo, the other big city on Vancouver Island, and Port Albani in the island’s interior. On the way, I visited the Little Qualicum Falls Provincal Park where I walked for about an hour along the trail taking pictures of the falls. I also stopped for a short stroll through the ancient rain forest at Cathedral Grove in the McMillan Provincial Park and had lunch on the shore of the Cameron Lake. The entire drive over the island along the different lakes and through the mountains was really beautiful – I enjoyed that a lot!

Little Qualicum Falls

Arriving to Ucluelet after a long drive through the mountains of Vancouver Island, I walked along the Wild Pacific Trail and even watched some young deer on the parking lot and a white-tailed eagle. The trail is really beautiful and I got the idea to do the other part of it along the west coast of the Ucluelet peninsula tomorrow – let’s see…

View from the Wild Pacific Trail
The Amphitrite Point Lighthouse

Later, I drove all the way to Tofino, but stopped for a short information inquiry about campsite in the Pacific Rim Visitors Center. Like some other campers before me, I got the same information: If all the campgrounds are full, the only option we have to spend the night are two forest roads, one called the West Coast Landfill. Since those roads are property of British Columbia, anyone is allowed to use them – also for overnight camping. This general rule was of course a valuable information for this night and also for all the upcoming nights! So far, I always struggled with the problem that most of the campgrounds are already full when I stop there for the night at around 5 or 6 pm. And actually that’s a shame since sunset is at around 8:30 pm and until then I can easily go on driving and visiting places. I don’t really want to be on the campgrounds early just to reserve myself a spot. And calling in is sometimes not even possible or at least kills some part of the spontaneity: Sometimes, I decide late to change plans and that would not be possible with a certain campground reserved in advance.

On my way to Tofino, I passed the famous surf spot Long Beach and figured that there are quite well-maintained washrooms and even an outdoor shower for the people visiting the beach. So, I had an idea of how my night and the next morning could look like: Stay for free on that place mentioned by the ranger in the Visitors Center and come here for breakfast in the morning and for having a shower ;-).

Tofino itself is mostly a tourist spot. A lot of accomodation, restaurants, and small shops for souvenirs, and beach accessories – nothing that is particularly interesting to me. However, there were some nice views on the harbor and the surrouding small islands. Since it was quite late already and the light was not that good anymore, I decided to come here tomorrow again. Anyways, the sun had suddenly disappeared behind some fog or haze so my plan to watch the sunset here did not even work out.

For dinner, I drove back to Chesterman Beach. There I prepared myself pasta sitting right on the beach and enjoyed the upcoming darkness and the almost full moon rising over the beach. Who actually needs a campground where you’re sitting hidden under trees if you can have dinner in such a scenery? And I was not even the only one here… There were some other groups, some of them even had a campfire set up.

Dinner at the beach!

Eventually, I made my way to the West Coast Landfill road to stay the night there. What I found there was again a surprise: It almost appeared to be a campground! There were at least 15 other vehicles, some of them even large RVs obviously preparing to spend the night here. I even had a hard job to find a reasonable spot to park without blocking the entire road. So from now on, I know how to escape the problem with overfilled campgrounds and even save the money for something I don’t really need – thanks to my loyal traveling partner, my Hyundai Tuscon SUV ;-).