This vacation was an old dream of mine, therefore when I finally got the opportunity, I was more than thrilled to get going. After a lot of research, Internet and tourist agencies, I was certain that BC ( British Columbia, the most westerly province in Canada) would fulfil my expectations. From the start I knew that it was impossible to see more than a fragment of Canada in a month - the time available - not even BC could possibly be paid the attention it deserves, in a month.
After the area was decided, the way to do it was the next question. This I played the sissy way, and allied me with a friend and colleague to accompany me - and settled for car rental. The shuttle system between the hostels is a perfect alternative - and way cheaper, hence I'll most likely use this opt, or Greyhound, next time.
Landed as scheduled in SeaTac International Airport. The weather was much warmer than expected, mind that Denmark hadn't had any summer this year, so for us it was quite a surprise to be met by so much heat in September - so close to the "Cold Canada" :-)
We picked up the car, a Plymouth Breeze, and drove to Seattle, where we checked in at Green Tortoise Hostel. Luckily they had free 24x7 Internet access that I hardly closed an eye the whole night due to the heat - especially since my bunk was the upper one.
From now on we're basically only wearing shorts and T-shirts - and the AC had to be used from 9 AM in the car. Checked out from Seattle. We went for a bit of sightseeing before we took the ferry to Victoria, BC - Vancouver Island. A wonderful and scenic sail.
Seattle looks great from seaside, but the downtown that we had seen wasn't so special - to be polite. Victoria is on the other hand definitely a city that deserves more attention than we paid it - some other time. We just passed through it, up the coast to Nanaimo, where we checked in at a real 'hillbilly' Hostel. The pub was definitely a place where it was easy to start a fight.! We headed basically for Vancouver Island from the start, due to it's reputation as a spectacular beautiful place - which turned out to true, eventhough we only saw a percentage of the island.
We're leaving Nanaimo for now, and driving towards Port Alberni. We made a halt at the banks of Cameron Lake, next to Mount Arrowsmith. To emphasise how warm and nice the weather were, I can inform you that people were bathing in the lake. By coincidence we found Waters Edge B'n'B at Sproat Lake, a cosy and friendly place to stay. The garden went right into the lake, both with a beach and a bathing/boat jetty - which we had to use, and where else than in the cold Canada can you bathe in September.? ;)
Rightfully, we were told that the weather was warmer and drier than usual, and had been like this the whole summer, with the result of some rather serious forest fires - and some abnormal hungry bears, due to the lack of berries etc.
After advise from our hosts, we made a trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island: Long Beach, Rain-forest and Tofino. On our way there we accidentally spotted a little black bear at a lay-by - snuffling for crumbs and leftovers in the garbage, left by stupid people. It is NOT normal to see a bear this close to people. Caused by the dry summer, as previously mentioned, there were basically no berries for them to be fed from this year - hence they sought down from the mountains, and closer to civilisation.
Long Beach, is as the name states, a long beach..... Really a great experience from an Danes point of view. Though Denmark is surrounded by 6.000 KM coast line, not one has the remotest resemblance with a coast directly at The Pacific Ocean - the largest on this globe. Watching the swell, smelling the salty wind - it can't be explained, it has to be experienced. I had never expected to sense The Pacific Ocean for real - so for me it was a special experience to 'pat' the waves, rolling in.
The Rain-forest is hard to describe - it's beautiful..!! The way the trees are covered in 'curtains' of moss, caused by the misty air from the Pacific Ocean. Unique biotope.
Tofino is a unique little fisherman/tourist-society that is 100% accustomed to the life at The Pacific, taking precautions against the tides etc.
The town is not positioned right at the ocean, but on the lee side of a peninsula, with view towards some nearby islands. The cab up there is a boat....
Same evening we went to a salmon festival in Port Alberni, to get a few beers and see some people. The reason for this event was that they held their annual fishing competition these days, at the same time as the salmons travelled up the rivers to spawn. We had the beer all right - and the best tasting grilled salmon we've ever had. For close to nothing you got a full side from a salmon, in a size that would have made us poor back home. We got two portions - each....
To no ones surprise, since there were beer around, we bumped into a Dane. To make a long story short, we accepted his hospitality, and stayed at his place a few days. Cheaper than Waters Edge BNB.
We did a trip up Mount Arrowsmith, positioned between Port Alberni and Nanaimo. Nice tour with a lot of good views - but it was almost too hot.
It was overcasted and misty but that we were told it would clear up around noon, we chose to do the boat trip we'd planned the day before: From Port Alberni to Ucluelet, Ucluelet, and back. In spite, the clouds and mist were persistent and wouldn't leave, it was a pleasant day trip.
From the boat we could see hundreds of boats, trying to get the biggest salmon, this year, that there was quite a lot of money on stakes as reward. On this trip we saw our first American/Bald Eagle - though it's much more common in BC, than anywhere in the states, it's still called the American Eagle. It's funny to watch it, sitting there trying to be invisible, which is absolutely impossible due to it's big white head. The sun startled to peek through the clouds, when we entered the port of Port Alberni, by then the day were basically gone.
The weather were absolutely great again, so we decided to do a trip to Cowichan Lake, via forestry roads - beautiful tour where we had to stop now and then to take some pictures. On our way back we checked out Englishman River Falls, which unfortunately suffered from lack of rain for months - and therefore wasn't much of a fall.
In the evening our Danish host took us to some of his friends - cosy evening where we got some advises for what to see, and where to go. I would have loved to see the Della Falls in Strathcona Park, in the middle of the island - but due to the bear danger, we were heavily advised not to go, so we didn't.
Even though we hadn't seen all that was worth seeing on Vancouver Island, we decided to head for the Mainland. It's time for goodbye, and thanks, to our host. We took the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver. Wonderful boat trip - spectacular to watch the Mainland coast rise almost vertical, right from the waterfront. It looked as if there could be no roads there.
Well - there were roads, so our route continues from now on, on Highway 99 for quite a while. A highway number we wont forget. It took us up Howe Sound - need I say it's worth doing this trip during daylight that you don't miss a single view.
We pulled over at Brittania Beach, to see an old copper mine, B.C. Museum of Mining, that was transformed into a museum and exhibition centre. Interesting place that by the way had been used in a few movies.
|We slept in the car that night - we tried to get lodging in Lillooet but there were no vacancies, which suited our wallet at least. So somewhere between Lillooet and Clinton, we pulled over for the night at a picnic-area.|
|Next morning I promised my self that this was the first, last and only night I would sleep in the car. So I bought myself a sleeping bag at 100-mile House - yes, we drove a bit too far, co-driver were to blame, me.! Before we got that far we went for river-rafting on Clearwater River - but due to the dry summer it was quite a dull trip, there were simply not enough water. This night we spent on the road again, close to Mount Terry Fox, but this time I was sleeping in the grass on the verge.!|
The approach to Jasper National Park is quite spectacular, the way you seem to be driving straight into the mountain - Mount Robson, highest mountain in The Canadian Rockies, 3954m. The mountains seems to elevate almost vertical right in-front of you. Amazing.
We went to see Miette Hot Springs. The spring wasn't too much of a spring, but the path continues higher up the mountain - to some real good viewpoints. Next stop was Medicine Lake and then Melinge Lake - it's absolutely amazing to see the colour of the water. On, or near the roads, we spotted the obligatory wapiti (Elk) and goats.
In the evening we ate at Jasper Pizza Place, in order to celebrate my follower's birthday - just a pint or two more than usual, and a cake on the house.
We checked in a Beauty Creek Hostel, highly recommendable if you're into primitive conditions, we loved it.! Shower under a bag, you've filled with water, which you had carried from the other side of the road, and heated over the stove.
We woke up to see the sun rise over the mountains the next day. Splendid way to get startled.
After we'd checked out, we headed for Columbia Icefield (touristy snowmobile tour on the glacier). This ice field drains into three oceans, Pacific, Polar and Atlantic through Hudson Bay.
Later we had the time for a hike up Parkers Ridge and a swing around Abraham Lake. This night we stayed at Lake Louise Hostel. Pure upper-class..!! The 'town' it self is destroyed by commercial interests - tourism. Luckily the nature around hasn't been ruined, it's still beautiful. We didn't hike there, but it's said to be great.!
Next day, after breakfast, we checked out and continued towards Yoho National Park. Beautiful area, as everywhere in the Rockies. We made a detour to Takkakaw Falls, the spring of Kicking Horse - a serious river for river rafting, even this dry summer. On our way further south we followed Columbia river. This valley has a lovely alternation between river, moor, swamp and meadow.
The entrance to Kooteney NP, at Radium, is quite spectacular: You literally drive through the mountains via a short canyon. The hot springs here is unfortunately turned into a commercial touristy attraction and swimming pool - we didn't even bother to take a photo.
We drove through Kooteney NP, and checked in at Ribbon Creek Hostel, in Kananaskis. Great place, apart from shopping possibilities. Since this basically is a winter-sports area, almost everything is closed during summer.
Frost during the night, nonetheless it's +20 C around noon. I decided to hike Mount Allen (2991M). Hard but worth it - I spotted a grey wolf up there. It was stalking for a raven, otherwise I wouldn't have had a chance to see it.
Left Ribbon Creek next morning, heading 'home', which means approaching Vancouver. Part of the ride took us east of The Rockies where we experienced some open farm land, all the time with The Rockies as background. The ride for the day ended in Nelson, by Kooteney Lake. Here we stayed at Dancing Bear Inn Hostel.
I decided to spend a day on the lake, in kayak. Inspite my soaring shoulders later, I don't regret. I saw bald eagle and osprey, the latter on it's nest with a young one. The lake is very cold, which is about the only danger about paddling there - paddle where you're sure you can make it to the bank, if you can't roll up again after an accidential capsize. The day I was on the lake, there were people out looking for a guy, who disappeared the day before. I asked to him the next day but the receptionist at the hostel hadn't heard anything.
In the evening we're told that there is a guy that is pretty determent to speak with us. Hi's the editor of the local paper - it turned out that he used to have a Danish girlfriend, and stayed a couple of years in Aarhus, Denmark.
After breakfast we checked out from Dancing Bear Inn, and continued further west. A place halfway to Vancouver was Penticton, so that's where we stopped for the night. Penticton is positioned in Okanagan valley that produces the majority of the fruit for BC - it's very warm and dry there, there is even a little desert in the valley. Pen-tic-ton means something like "a place to stay forever", in native Indian speaking. In the evening I noticed a fresh'n'cute little swiss girl, whom stayed at the same hostel as we did.....
I went for a hike to the city's freshwater-reservoir - nothing special, but something to do in this heat. In the evening we had a cosy time with some of the other tenants at the hostel - again I noticed that little swiss thing.....
We left Penticton the next morning, heading for Vancouver. By coincidence the little swiss girls lift had changed plans - so we could just as well give her the lift instead, very much to my pleasure of course.....
On our way to there, we actually used the wipers - for about 30 minutes or so - for the first time during this vacation. On our way west, we noticed Manning Provincial Park between Princeton and Hope. I'm sure it's worth to pay a visit some other time. After we had sat Irene down at the ferries, we headed for Vancouver Hostel at Jericho Beach. The hostel has it's origin in military barracks.
Next day we did some of the touristy things: We went up to Grouse Mountain, where we among other things watched a log-team competition - quite good fun. Suspension Bridge was an other attraction on our way up there - very touristy.! We also went up the great sight-tower - expensive view.... Later we shopped a bit in downtown Vancouver - beautiful city.
More shopping, gas-town etc. Visited the store behind www.toyota4x4.com, in case we needed their service at some point.
Checked out from Jericho Beach, and headed for Port Townsend, USA. Here we found a hostel at Fort Worden - former military base. Absolutely OK.!
Next day we drove along the northern end of Olympic NP, a bit further than Seiko Point. With no luck we looked for some 4WD tracks that should have been around there - wanted to know how a 2WD Breeze performed off road. No, we hoped to se some action on the tracks, or at least see what kind of tracks they were using. Our way back we made at the coastline.
This turned out to be the first rainy-day in all of our vacation. Though it didn't stop us from taking a walk in the huge bunker area of Fort Worden, used to be used for air-raid-shelter, with several pillbox' and heavy cannons. There had never been fired a single shot from there, still it had been manned up until around 1980.
Grey and misty - took a ride south, but when we finally got up in the mountains, we couldn't see more than a few metres into the fog/cloud. In the afternoon we walked on the beach into Port Townend. It turned out that there a few days ago had been a big kayak symposium, all that was left for us was some brochures.....
Left Port Townend, heads for Seattle. We faught a little to find the hostel, we had booked in advance via e-mail, because the desription to get there was made for non-cardrivers - a car can't take many flight of stairs.... Anyway, it turned out they had ignored our booking, due it still was high season. So after a bit of complaining we finally left to find the hostel we stayed the first night: Green Tortoise Hostel.
We checked out at 04:00, in order to catch the plane. At the airport we got a bit of a shock when we saw the price for the car rental - it turned out that the guy at National Car Rental had us conned.! Nothing you could do about it - we're just a whole lot smarter next time, we hope.!
The plane took off 08:30 - landed in Copenhagen Intl. Airport 13:00 local time, 25 hours since we got up, 21 hours since we took of from SeaTac. The reason that it took so long, the flight, was that we did it the cheapest way - which involved one touch down in Newark and one in UK.
We could have commented a whole lot more about the sceneries, ferry-boat trips, size of trees, standard of roads etc etc... But why bother..?? That kind of info is all over the place, you could i.e. start here, where you'll find a few useful links. An other splendid source of information would be to subscribe for some relevant newsgroups.