Friday, May 24, 2013

So long, BC - hello, Canadian Rockies!

The Vancouver ferry ride was uneventful and we made our way (quickly) through the city in search of dryer land.

No such luck.  But Rolley Lake Provincial Park was shelter enough for the night, so Patrick rigged a fairly solid setup and we hunkered down for another twelve hours of tent time and popcorn sounds on the tarp.

other than the rain, it was a lovely little park

Heading northeast in the morning, we enjoyed a blessedly dry drive through Sasquatch Provincial Park...

Sasquatch took the photo

we have finally mastered lunch on the run

... and also through Hells Gate where we skipped the touristy airtram but definitely enjoyed the views.

taken from a shaky bridge
not pictured: the gorgeous gorges we drove through on the southern end

We considered plowing onward but it had been a long day so we landed at Skihist Provincial Park for the evening.  It was dry.


The camp host was really friendly and gave us some great tips for the rest of our cross-Canada adventure.  Patrick begrudgingly joined me for a quick hike up the mountain for a view of the other mountain.  I had been sitting all day and wanted to walk, he wanted a campfire - but with at least three hours of daylight left we both got our way.

from Stein Lookout

we have a nice picture too
in the end he was glad we did this

On the way back down to the campsite we saw what was either a black bear or a raven.  It all happened so fast, and it was in the bushes, so we can't be sure.  Other than that and the very loud campers nearby, we had a really peaceful night, a warm campfire, and a sky full of stars and a moon to enjoy.

The goal for the next day was Glacier National Park (Canadian style).  It was quite a slog and we pulled it off... but everything was still snowed under and camping was not a possibility.

see you next time, Glacier National Park

So we ended up in Golden, BC at the municipal campground next to the river and across from the train tracks.  It was warm, it was dry, it was fine... except for the trains.  Nothing but train after train after train.  The campground office even had t-shirts for sale, "Yes, it's the train."  Or something like that.  We only heard one or two train whistles, though, and the lovely views (and the celebratory wine in honor of an anniversary of sorts) helped us to not care about the noise.

celebratory wine: best enjoyed from Oregon beer festival plastic mugs

the river views really were quite lovely...

... note the rare absence of trains

There wasn't a whole lot to do, so we took an evening walk by the river and through part of the town where we noticed a sign for a birdwatching gathering the next morning.  I love bird people - they're observant and quiet and interesting - so we decided to check it out.  The next morning at the marsh, also right by the train tracks, we chatted with one of the leaders of the bird outing and she also gave us some great tips for eastern Canada as well as Turkey (which we can't even begin to think about right now).

As an aside, all our interactions with locals have been so pleasant - they wave at you when you pass them on the road, they give you helpful and useful advice, they don't rag on you too much about the Bush eras (but they also don't hesitate to remind you that those years sucked for everyone outside of the US - yes, we know, they sucked for many of us in the US as well).

various ducks in the marshy distance


Yoho National Park was not too far from Golden so we were able to score a good campsite at the Monarch campground, and a killer spot at Kicking Horse which opened the next morning.

We opted for Yoho instead of Banff just to get a lesser traveled view of the Rockies, but we did spend some time in Banff too.  Here are a few highlights - the rest can be found on Flickr...  Suffice to say, we need another six months just in the Rockies.

we've had worse campsites (Monarch)

Wapta Falls hike (Yoho)

Mirror Lake hike (Banff)

attempting - and eventually giving up on - Little Beehive lookout (Banff)

mandatory photo of Lake Louise (Banff)

the best campsite in the world -
or at least at the Kicking Horse campsite

Hamilton Falls lunch spot (Yoho)

Emerald Lake just before we got rained out (Yoho)

spring has sprung

And now we are outside of Calgary helping a hard-working couple on their bison ranch.  Quite a drastic change from the farms on Gabriola Island and a week in the Canadian Rockies, but it's been great so far.  More to come on the ranch, but for now we're looking forward to seeing some old friends tomorrow and getting out to dinosaur land on Sunday!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Soggy but (generally) happy times at Pacific Rim National Park.

Our first WWOOF hosts couldn't say enough nice things about Tofino, so when our hostess sent us a link to a tsunami beach cleanup registration right off the Pacific Rim we jumped at the chance. 

As the day to depart Gabriola Island got closer, the weather on the west side of Vancouver Island looked grimmer and grimmer... and grimmer.  But hey - we're Portlanders, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we wanted to visit Pacific Rim National Park - what's a little rain?  Right?  (Riiiiight.)  So we headed out early Friday to try to catch some sun before the impending gloom.

and catch we did

Patrick even found a man cave

and almost a year later,
Canadian National Park passes - check!

The beach at Green Point campsite was lovely and we enjoyed a long walk and then dinner by sunset.

rough life, we know

We woke the next morning to a spattering of rain...  Fine, no problem.  On the way to the cleanup site on Flores Island, we were treated to a Zodiac ride while everyone else got rides on small or covered boats.  Fun for about five minutes, then the rain really kicked in and it was not so fun (at least for Jen - too many memories of that crappy day off the Antarctic peninsula!). 

Despite the rain, turnout was great and the beach cleanup was a success.  We heard that we salvaged at least a barge of trash. 

including intact light bulbs

kill your television (or toss it ashore)

The season hadn't started so the island was empty and we got to explore some beautiful trails through hundred-years old cedar trees.  Afterward we were treated to a wild salmon barbeque.

old school grilling

The volunteers were pretty worn and soggy by that point, though, so we all tore the salmon apart and headed for the covered boat.  We retroactively apologize profusely for our collective behavior.

Sunday morning we were treated to nice weather for a beach walk.


When the afternoon rain kicked in again we did a quick bog walk, visited the impressive (and dry!) Interpretive Center, and headed to Ucluelet for lunch, laundry and internet.  On the way back to camp we stopped at a short but lovely rain forest trail loop.  Cedar trees 800 years old and 200 feet tall towered above us and fallen cedars planked the boardwalk path. 

Ocean City, eat your heart out

Rain let up for dinner, briefly, and we retired to the tent for another night of popcorn popping in the form of raindrops on the tent tarp.

holding down the fort

Monday we hit the local surf shack showers and stopped at a few tourist spots before heading to the Nanaimo-Vancouvery ferry.

Cathedral Grove

Little Qualicum River Falls

award for best use of space goes to...
Goats on Roof

As I type, Patrick is trying to figure out where we will camp tonight.  The weather still looks grim but sunshine is in our future... at some point.  And so is Sasquatch Provincial Park!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Friday five: Gabriola Island WWOOFing.

Yes, yes – we spent two lovely rain-free nights in Olympic National Forest and one fun evening in Victoria, BC seeing a favorite band.  But then the real journey began. 

I wanted to keep a good record of our first couple of experiences WWOOFing so that anyone unfamiliar with the concept could understand why we chose to travel this way across Canada.  I had every intention of blogging every detail - every ache and pain, every barnyard animal’s back story, and most importantly, every new sustainable practice we’ve learned. 

We’ve been on the road almost three weeks now and I have no idea where the time has gone.  Oddly, it feels like we’ve been on Gabriola Island for at least six weeks… in a good way, I mean.  We’ve done so much and seen so much already that another year of this almost feels overwhelming.

Almost.  We’ll get over that overwhelmed feeling soon enough!

Anyway, more on sustainability later.  We have lots to share but I want to put more thought into that.  For now here are five things we did over the last two and a half weeks at Laughing Woodpecker Organics and Just Another Weed Patch, in no particular order:
  • Weeded, composted, mulched and otherwise prepped gardens
hand sifting beautiful compost and mulch

and carrying wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow to various parts if the farm

  • Helped with spring planting

  • carrots



    nut trees
    not pictured: beets, kale, artichokes, licorice mint

    • Tended to the animals, including but not limited to…

    feeding time

    socializing the pigs

    fence duty

    mucking the barn 
    in stylish yet affordable boots

    chicksitting in the RV

    yolkswagon patrol
    • Enjoyed lovely accommodations and meals thanks to our gracious hosts
    we really need...

    ... a fifth wheel

    hot tubs under the stars

    sailing around the island
        delicious ...

        ... meals ...
      ... fresh and wholesome
    • Made the most of what this beautiful island has to offer

    • eagles and other wildlife
      not pictured: otters, heron, sea lions, orcas

      Newcastle Island day trip


      sunsets galore
      not pictured: Elder Cedar walks, marsh birdwatching
    Next stop: Pacific Rim National Park for a beach cleanup and well-deserved vacation!