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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tip toes fbstepping out BLOG

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.

On the Bella Coola BLOGmossy branch over river BLOGold cabin fbboat wreck wide FBbella coola by the sea 2 fbEagle Eye fbAlmost Home fbdriftwood tangle fb

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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.

main steet fort mcleod BLOG

Ft. Mcleod in Southern Alberta

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Smokey Sunset in Southern Alberta

sunset on the bighorn p BLOG

Sunset over the Bighorn River in Montana

Alexander Supertramp And The Great Northwest – Part 3 ~Vancouver Island

Hugging the Shoreline blog

“Hugging Shore”

Something about driving your vehicle onto a ship to cross an international border is intriguing and so we had altered our plans once again to do just that. We arrived in Port Angeles, Washington about two hours prior to departure and had no problem getting a place in line for the popular Black Ball Ferry to Victoria, British Columbia. We even had time for a sit down breakfast at a busy main street diner, an authentic gathering place for working locals who apparently had hearty appetites. The portions were huge and the people watching and eavesdropping was enlightening. We had such a great experience while in coastal Washington that we would have delayed our departure had it not been for the anticipation of what was yet to come.

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Hello Canada

Nanaimo collage blog

Nanaimo

The 23 mile crossing of the Straight went quickly. After going through customs “drive through” style, we found ourselves being pushed and pulled right through downtown Victoria in the congestion of traffic coming off the ship. It was late in the day and a two hour drive to Nanaimo was ahead of us. We would come back to Victoria another day when we were fresh we thought and we pushed on up the coast highway. Vancouver Island is not small. The main north and south road is over 300 miles long and the highest point is over 7000 feet. The majority of the island is not reachable by road so there is a ton of wilderness. Some doomsayers say that Vancouver Island is not a safe place to live in the event of earthquakes. After seeing how beautiful it is, I say “who cares?”. I’d live there in a heartbeat if circumstances allowed.

On the way to our reserved camp site in Nanaimo, we stopped at a farmers market to replenish our food supply. A small metal building was stocked to the ceiling with locally grown fruits and vegetables, we learned that almost everything grows on the island. In its offerings, this place made Whole Foods look like a small town convenience store. We arrived at our wooded seaside campsite in the late afternoon and we popped up Alexander Supertramp, ate produce for Dinner and turned in for the night. Fires were not permitted due to dry conditions on the island so we laid in bed and read as we discovered that our campground was anything but peaceful. I kid you not, dozens of french speaking children were shouting and screaming at the top of their cute little lungs. They were apparently having the time of their lives at some sort of youth camp nearby. Plans are meant to be changed, right?

We did end up staying in the campground one more night, enduring not only the Mickey Mouse Club but the addition of family reunion next door and one particular woman who never stopped talking. We needed a day of rest anyway and we rode our bikes into town and ate dinner. Nanaimo is a port town, pretty rough around the edges and very industrial. The harbor is a hub of activity with people coming and going by private vessels, ferries and float planes. As the day progressed, we decided that we would leave our reserved campsite and drive to the remote west side of the island in the morning.

Cathederal Grove blog

cathederal quiet blog

Cathedral Grove

I still had warm coffee in my cup as we arrived at Cathedral Grove, an old growth Cedar forest in the interior of the island. We spent an hour or so walking among the giants and snapping pictures, before continuing up route 4 to Port Alberni and the next 60 miles through the wilderness to the coast. The fog was thick when we arrived at a seaside village called Ucluelet and contrary to the rumors we heard, there were campsites available. We pushed on up the coast past Long Beach to the end of the road at Tofino. All of the bonafide campsites in Tofino were taken, reserved months in advance. Fortunately for us, there is a campground there that is something like a hostel for tents and R.V.’s. The rule seems to be that if you can find a place to put yourself, we will gladly accept your $60 and “no we don’t do windows..or bathrooms”. Oddly, it turned out to be the quietest night yet..go figure.

Tofino Dock blog

Tofino Marina

a walk before sunset blog

A Walk Before Sunset

Tofino Green blog

Tofino Sunset

In the afternoon, we rode a couple of Kilometers into the village of Tofino and had sushi on the patio of an Inn. We watched seaplanes coming and going and eavesdropped on a table of four Vancouver “Valley Girls” talking about how they “Soooo had to do this again”. Yea we do a lot of people observing, please don’t judge us for that. After dinner we photographed and pedaled our way back to camp just in time for sunset. The beach at Tofino has dozens of tiny timbered islands just off shore which adds up to fertile subject matter for the photographer. When the golden hour hits and there is that much to photograph, I can take my tripod and become entranced, losing all sense of time. As darkness fell, a crescent moon appeared over the horizon and people huddled around bon fires to stay warm.

"In The Bag"

“In The Bag”

Not crazy about staying another night in a parking lot and having to get up very early in the morning to make the long drive back to Nanaimo, we opted to head back across the island and we found ourselves that night in Qualicum Beach. We had now spent seven nights in a row in Alexander Supertramp and we longed for a hot shower and a running toilet and needed to do laundry, we rented a room for a night. It felt ok to have all the luxury but we both admitted that we missed sleeping in the camper. Early the next morning we headed for the port at Nanaimo to catch our reserved spot on the ferry to Horseshoe Bay on the Canadian mainland. We never did make it back into Victoria but no worries, we know we will go back some day, perhaps we will also go back to Tofino to watch the monster surf during a winter storm.

Moon Island blog

“Crescent Moon Over Tofino”