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”

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”.

stars over gamble bay blog

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.

Goodbye Washington State copy

Leaving Washington State