We did not have the best start for our travels on Vancouver Island as it was a long weekend holiday and Canadians love to go camping - which is a good thing, of course, but made it hard to find any available campsites at all. Finally we found a place at an overflow camping at Sproat Lake Provincial Park. It is also in this area that you can find the biggest trees on the island, at Cathedral Grove.
Walking in between them is amazing! The tallest is more than 75 meters tall, and the trunk is almost three meters in diameter. Quite different from the arctic spruce… (and any Norwegian trees…).
Next day was spent in Tofino, which was packed with people. Long weekend strikes again… From Tofino we decided to try a gravel road going to Bamfield a little bit further south, also on the coast. Here we found a road that took us to Pachena Bay. Here we could camp on the beach, and the best of all was that they had a camp site available for us. After travelling inland and in the Arctic for a loooong time it was great to spend a day at the beach. The weather was not the best as there was some strange local fog, but when laying low on the beach the temperature was perfect to read a book.
From Pachena Bay we tried out some logging roads to find our way to Cowichan Lake. Our map was not the best and we would recommend the back country map book if you want to try out more logging roads on Vancouver Island. We had to turn around once (that cost us an hour) because we were stopped by some active logging and the road was closed.
Luckily we only meet one logging truck and that was on a wide part of the road. We managed to find our way to Cowichan Lake, but we wanted to continue and that night we ended up at Jordan River at Juan De Fuca Strait.
Steve, who is a pilot Malin worked with in Patriot Hills, Antarctica, was going camping with some friends on Salt Spring Island for two days and we were invited to join them. Salt Spring Island is a beautiful place with many artists and local producers of vine, vegetables, cheese and bread. On Saturday we went to the farmers marked in Ganges which had a great selection of it all.
One day we bought fresh crab from a local fisher and we cooked it at our camp at the ocean side, drinking white wine and eating a great crab dinner.
Luxury camping. Thanks to Steve, Kristy, Laura and Andrew for a great camping trip in Ruckle Provincial Park.
It wouldn’t have felt right to drive through Vancouver and not stop to take in some urban impulses. So we pitched our roof top tent in a RV campground in Vancouver city and jumped on a bus heading down town. Well, actually, we had a soft start to our urban days by getting off the bus at Stanley Park, and walk along the beach towards the city center. On our way we even stopped for a couple of hours at the aquarium, where there is about 70 000 creatures swimming, crawling, jumping, and flying around behind glass walls. A highlight was all the arctic marine life they had collected, as Malin just came out of the arctic, where she worked as a field chef for a research project studying some of the creatures living under the ice.
Beluga whale playing with his pet...
The evening and the next day we spent wandering around downtown. Stopped by the Chinese garden, but didn’t feel like spending the bucks to go in. We have put in on the list of things to do when we get to China… From Chinatown we headed for the “old Vancouver” and got a table at the place serving Vancouver’s best cheese cake for a coffee and a, believe it or not, cheese cake!
Vancouver has very modern and “big city” like skyline compared to our home city, Oslo. Walking around looking up at the architecture felt a little like walking in Cathedral Grove looking up at the big trees. It is a busy place, of course, but it was also easy to find a quiet place for a break.
And maybe the most important thing of them all is absolutely present for the city of Vancouver: it is really close to beautiful, fun, and relaxing places. Which is where we are on our way now.... ;-)
Thanks for comments everybody!
And we would definitely like to spend more time in BC driving offroad trails... But time races ahead, and we're struggling to keep up. North America is BIG!! Now we have just crossed the border to US and are driving south...
After enjoying city life the last few days, we got back on the road and headed east. Wanted to spend a little more time in Canada, so we drove towards Okanagan, The Rockies, and a possible detour to check out dino-land in Drumheller. But first: The Whipsaw Trail!
This is a nice offroad trail south east in British Columbia that starts and ends near Princeton. The circuit is about 85 kilometers, and of these, about 25-30 kilometers are slow, slow and slow. Not a very technical trail (at least not when it is dry, it hadn’t rained for two weeks when we were there), but a LSD or a locker is nice to have. We spent two days on the trail, and we didn’t see a soul…
The first part of the trail is a forest service road that takes you up along the Whipsaw Creek. You start at just over 800 meters above sea level, and this road takes you all the way up to the alpine meadows at almost 1900 meters. Fantastic views!
From here the road gets gradually worse. Not difficult, but with a heavy car filled up with touring and camping gear it doesn’t allow you to go very fast.
Some places you need to crawl up a ledge or two. Passed all but two without using any locker. I guess you don’t need a locker if you bother to back up a meter or so and give it some more throttle, but as we like it nice and slow I engaged low range and a locker a crawled up. The last of these was Falcon Hill. The trail was very dry the days we were there, and I would guess that this trail can be quite a bit more challenging when wet.
Malin clears out a different kind of obstacle..
Lined up for this little hill, but without lockers engaged and with 25 psi in the rear tires. The front end came dangerously high when the tires lost friction, so I left it at that and drove around. Had some regrets afterwards, it wasn’t THAT steep… But I do notice that we have a LOT of weight far back in the vehicle. Imagine a line through the center of the rear wheel and straight up. A 145 liter fuel tank, full size 35” spare, jerry cans, high-lift, and most of the stuff in the cargo area in the car (our cargo barrier is set up between the rear door window and the rear window), are all ending up “behind” the rear axle when it gets steep. And if that isn’t enough, there is also the roof top tent and a steel roof rack. No wonder the front end feels light. If we add another fuel tank it will definitely be placed between the axles, and I would like to see the water tank(s) there as well.
First “proper” obstacle: Falcon Hill (search youtube!) This hill is STEEP. Lots of loose rocks, and it looked as some has been struggling a bit… Engaged rear locker and crawled up. No problems, but I think I would have had significant pulse if the rocks had been wet…
Camp! Since a grizzly scared us away from a camp in a previous post we have tried to be a little more “bear aware”, and when we camp in areas where we believe there are bears we try to cook and eat away from the tent. This is up at about 1800 meters, and the as the forest is not so dense, we had great views from the tent in the morning!
Some washed out road, but a nice and easy start on day two..
Considering the jerry-can-carrier-f..-up-risk…
The last “proper” obstacle is The Ditch. This would normally be the most difficult part (I’ve read) as it is a steep (but short) climb out of a mud pit. However, when we drove through the trail, it hadn’t rained for more than two weeks and The Ditch was pretty much dried out. Cruised right through it without even thinking about lockers, and for a little while we actually discussed if we had got to the right place yet.
From here the road gradually improved. Found a couple of spots where some extra articulation came in handy.
The trail eventually ends up on a logging road that take you back to Coalmont a couple of miles north of Princeton. And we drive towards Okanagan for sun and wine!
After two days off-road driving on the Whipsaw trail and camping out in the mountains, it was time to do something different. Next stop was Okanagan valley and the Wine yards. This valley has some of the highest average temperatures in Canada and it gave me a Mediterranean feeling, part of the reason could be that the novel I was reading was set in Southern France and Italy.
We decided to try out three wine yards, and the first one out was Quail’s Gate. Were we tried some good wines and ended up buying some bottles for our “wine cellar” in the Patrol.
The second, Mission Hill, is the largest and the showcase wine yard in BC, and we thought it would be a nice place to eat lunch. Unfortunately, when we got there their restaurant was closed for some reason. Second best place then for lunch was our car where sandwiches were served on the road shoulder...
Grey Monk had an open restaurant and we decided for a little compensation after our sandwich lunch and ordered dessert and coffee.
Lemon crème brulè, biscuit, chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries topped with cream, and a cherry dipped in dark chocolate was the result, and it is by far the best dessert we have had in North America. After this light refill it was time for some more wine tasting. Since our “wine cellar” now was filled up it was time to hit the road again.
The last thing to do in Canada before crossing back into US was to visit the Dinosaur museum in Drumheller. Driving across the plains and suddenly drop down into a strange looking canyon is a magic experience, and even more so when spending a day at the Royal Tyrell Museum to get the 65 million years or so old story…
The Drumheller area is known for all its dinosaur fossils, and its rather special rock formations. When seeing and walking in between these formations, it is almost so you have to look over your shoulder to check if a dino is peaking out behind one of the HooDoos.
One of the most famous dinosaur fossils found in this area is “Black Beauty”. This Tyrannosaurus Rex is a young, or just small, but fantastically detailed skeleton. The minerals that over time replaced the organic material from the skeleton were of a type that gave a dark color, and from this came the name. And these creatures are truly an amazing part of our history.
And are kind of scary… Glad I don’t have to hide from these beasts.
Drumheller is a must stop for all travellers (and I guess, for locals as well…). And of course, they have the biggest dinosaur in the world.