Alexander Supertramp And The Great Northwest ~ Final Chapter

Atnarko BLOG

We awoke to the music of the Atnarko River, its rhythm throbbing with life. It’s a wonderful joy to wake up so excited about exploring a beautiful place that you’ve never been before. At first light, I ducked through the small camper doorway and scampered down the steps, Camera in hand and bear spray on my hip. Bears before breakfast? We only had one neighbor in the campground, a couple who we had met the previous evening. They were in a hard sided truck camper and pulled a trailer with a canoe and what looked like every camping gadget imaginable. I had beat them to the punch and I stood all alone on the banks of the river. The low morning sun streamed through the forest, illuminating the mist that hovered the surface of the water and the Salmon that spawned below. All alone, I stood there and marveled at being in one of the worlds most beautiful places without throngs of tourists.

Salmon Run

Salmon Run

Tagging Salmon

Tagging Salmon

During our four day visit to the Bella Coola Valley, we quickly became acquainted with a cast of characters whom we would bump into repeatedly while searching for Grizzlies. In no time at all, we were on a first name basis with the couple I previously mentioned, then there was the young couple from Vancouver and a German Couple who had been there for a week and had not seen a bear. We also got to know the river guides, the forestry agent and few other locals who completed our network and steered us toward places to go and things to see. From everything we gathered, it was determined that we were a week to ten days early for the full swing Salmon feeding season.

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Our Bear Guide, Fraser

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root bear float BLOG

“Root Bear Float”

Ultimately, I didn’t find in Bella Coola what my mind was expecting, it was better. While we didn’t find Grizzlies around every bend but we did have encounters that we will always remember. We had discovered the absolute magnificence of a very remote coastal rainforest that is filled with glaciers, waterfalls and old growth forests. A Valley that rivals Yosemite, Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Park, only here you have a highway almost all to yourself. This is one of those places that you just know you will go back to.

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hind quarters FB

The long, long, long drive home to Colorado took us through Jasper and Banff where the smoke from Washington State Wild Fires was so thick that photography became a waste of time. While not quite as thick, the smoke persisted almost all the way back to Denver. We had been gone for 20 nights and had driven almost exactly 5000 miles. The summer of 2015 will always be remembered as the summer of Alexander Supertramp and the Great Northwest.

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Ft. Mcleod in Southern Alberta

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Smokey Sunset in Southern Alberta

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Sunset over the Bighorn River in Montana

Alexander Supertramp And The Great Northwest – Part 4 ~ Whistler and Beyond

Goodbye Vancouver Island

Goodbye Vancouver Island

We left Vancouver Island on a full ferry, crossed the Straight of Georgia and connected with the Canadian mainland at Horseshoe Bay. Seeing Vancouver was on the trip checklist and we found ourselves on the winding four lane road heading directly into the city. Something didn’t feel right. Really seeing and experiencing Vancouver would require at least on overnight stay. Before we even got a glimpse of the skyline we grabbed an exit and came about back toward what we craved most, to get into the wild.

Hello Vancouver (almost)

Hello Vancouver (almost)

Arriving at Horseshoe Bay

Arriving at Horseshoe Bay

The Sea to Sky Highway followed the shore of the Howe Sound for 28 miles where we found ourselves being drawn into the parking lot of a tourist gondola at Squamish. We were in the land of Fjords and Glaciers and the idea of getting a birds eye view was irresistible. I grew up with Gondolas in the ski town of Vail, Colorado. In fact I was in high school in 1976 on the day that two of the cars fell to the ground. Details of three dead and nine critically injured were broadcast over the school intercom and every since that day I have been cautious about trams. The Sea to Sky Gondola was a good experience. Tammy and I had a car to ourselves on the ride up. We snapped “selfies”, gawked at the scenery and yawned to pop our ears as we quickly gained over 2400 vertical feet. After eating lunch on the observation deck, we strolled across a cable suspension bridge and through the forest, taking in our first up close views of the precipitous and glaciated coastal mountains.

Sea to Sky

Sea to Sky

tam on bridge 4 BLOG

There was a long line at the upper tram terminal for the ride down which we were able to circumvent as the lift attendants were in need of two for a car that was loading. We were kept company by a pair of grim faced women who said nothing the entire ride down and a family of four who I judgmentally guessed could not speak English. It turns out they were from Toronto and as Canadian as maple syrup. When we told them that we had driven from Colorado and we were heading 12 hours north to see Grizzly Bears, they asked “Why do you want to do that, Eh”. All in all, the day was incredible. After all of the tough times we had been through in the previous year, it was good to just feel like we were two kids on a date.

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A couple of hours later, we found ourselves driving through the villages of the Whistler Ski Area, contemplating a place to park for the night. It was interesting to see what Canada’s world class resort looked like, how it felt in comparison to Vail and the large Colorado resorts. It didn’t take much of that however and we found ourselves heading on down the road in search of “The Wild”. We ended up pulling into a rustic campground at sunset, parking Alexander Supertramp next to a picnic table and a river. For the first time on our journey, we had escaped civilization and the masses of humanity, we were finally alone.

Alexander Supertramp in the Wild

Alexander Supertramp in the Wild

“Nocturne”

Alexander Supertramp And The Great Northwest – Part 2 ~ Washington

“Cutting Chase”

When Tammy and I began the process of plotting out the course of this journey back in mid-July, our plan went something like this. Take the fastest route possible from Denver to Portland, spend a day or two exploring the Columbia River Country before zipping on to the Seattle area for two nights to visit a long lost Cousin and an old college friend, two visits that were long overdue. From Seattle we would go to Vancouver Island for three or four nights, then proceed up the Adventure Coast of British Columbia to the end of the road at Bella Coola.  Grizzly Bears eating Salmon or Bust!  Our route back to Colorado would likely be through Jasper and Banff, Alberta. All in all, we had ambitious plans for our 20 day sojourn.

You already know that the wild fires diverted us straight to the coast of Oregon. The best laid plans oft go awry don’t they? After breaking camp at the Kathy Bates rabbit sanctuary, we headed north on 101, anticipating a leisurely coastal drive with lots of stopping. As we progressed however, we began to realize that we had become a little too numb in our coastal euphoria. Dinner had been planned and prepared at the home of our host in Kingston, Wa., and we were anxious to get there. We were trying to fit a seven hour drive into six hours and we kept moving at full pace across the Astoria Bridge into Washington State and then on up the wooded Olympic Peninsula.

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“Good Conversation”

gamble bay sunset blog

Gamble Bay Sunset

We arrived at the home of Bruce and Laura at dusk and right away we felt welcomed by their Family and Friends. We ate, drank and visited around a warm fire in the back yard until well after midnight on that perfect late August evening. We were mesmerized by the tranquility of their waterfront property on Gamble Bay and we had our own private campsite in paradise, a level spot for Alexander Supertramp, our tiny condo on wheels. Not surprisingly, we decided we wanted to stay forever but would be lucky enough just to spend one more night there.  As the voice on the GPS says, we found ourselves “recalculating”.

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Stars Over Gamble Bay

The next morning, Tammy and I walked on to the Shelton to Bremerton Ferry for the 30 minute trip the mainland.  We would meet my Cousin Danny for lunch.  Born less than a month apart, Dan and I were very close growing up. It had been roughly 25 years since we last met and there was a lot to catch up on. I think we were both a bit shocked how much our lives have changed since we last were together, and it felt awkward to say goodbye again so quickly. Somehow, the visit with Dan, just as with my old college friend Laura was a wake up call. It comes with the realization that we aren’t close to a lot of people in this life and we can’t afford to delay the re-connects that really matter.

gamble bay touch and go

Gamble Bay Touch ‘N Go

After catching the afternoon ferry back to Shelton, Bruce handed us life jackets and rowed us out to the “Aksala” (Alaska spelled backward). He paddled vigorously I might add, as the transfer boat was leaking at a fairly steady pace. Bruce and Laura have had many adventures aboard the Aksala, up and down the coast from Alaska to Mexico.  Aboard the Aksala we set out on a private evening sail up Gamble Bay to the edge of the Straight Of Juan De Fuca. It was really special to vicariously experience the life of marine navigation, watching Bruce play the role of the Captain, and Laura the Skipper. That short evening cruise was a bucket list moment for me and I still smile inside when I re-live it in my minds eye.

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“Alaska Backward”

Visit Laura and Bruce, Check! Visit Danny, Check! The next morning, we drove to the north tip of the Peninsula, where we were first in line for the Ferry to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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Leaving Washington State