<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 34
Little Log


Stephanie is one of those persons who can fit a lot of words onto a standard size postcard -- usually by writing sideways, around corners, and even upside down if she can find some extra space. Most of these go to family and friends. But some of them -- those which document our RV adventures -- find their way onto this portion of our website.

Postcard: Getting Away from It All: Tourists and Temperatures

July 26, 2003

Summer has come to our little corner of the world. The thermometer has hit near all time highs for our Islands, and the annual influx of tourists is also topping the charts. Time to leave for a week or so. Time to seek out cooler coastal climes. Time to get away from it all.

We started our journey by attending a wedding. Not your traditional come-down-the-aisle-with-6-bridesmaids type of wedding; Page is as creatively independent as they come. Her wedding will take place on the tidal flats near her family's home in Indianola, a small village just west of Bainbridge Island, on the Olympic Peninsula.

It's not easy to travel from San Juan Island to Indianola in the heart of the summer season. For starters, the ferry service from our Island has been severely curtailed. One of the large boats, so necessary in the peak summer months, is out of service, and waiting its turn in drydock. It has been replaced by a smaller vessel, with the consequent loss of 600 cars a day! More than ever, it's necessary to take the less popular runs, either early morning or quite late at night.

Once off the Island, you have a choice of other ferries en route to the Peninsula. Driving to Seattle is not an option we'd consider in tourist season, and the wait there is several ferries long. So we opted for what we thought would be a lesser known run, from Keystone, on the northern end of Whidbey Island, to Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula. The boats are smaller, but there should be far fewer persons waiting to take them. Right? Wrong!

We figured that we could easily catch the 11:15 ferry if we arrived about 2 hours early. We enjoyed a leisurely drive along the north side of Whidbey Island, appreciating the beauty of the open fields in the early morning sunshine. This is berry season in Washington, and we were tempted to stop for raspberries or blueberries at one of the farmer's markets lining the road. Had we succumbed to this desire, we may never have made the ferry.

We arrived at 9:45. The lot was full, the boat, (only one serving this run this morning, and battling dense fog), was late, and all the passengers were early. There was a line of cars stretching at least a mile down the road from the entrance to the parking lot. Given the full lot, and no boat in sight, the ferry workers had temporarily cIosed up shop; they wouldn't reopen until there was room to squeeze in more cars. Tom stayed with the rig, and I went to reconnoiter the situation. I went to talk to the woman in the entrance kiosk. The bad news was there was no 11:15 sailing (we'd somehow misread the schedule). The good news was that we would definitely be on the 12 noon sailing (which would be somewhat delayed due to the fog). And, what the hey! we're a motorhome with two people who haven't yet had breakfast. First order of business, turn on the generator, make some coffee, scramble up some eggs, and plug in the toaster. By the time breakfast was finished and the few dishes washed, the line had started to move again. By 10:45 we were settled in the lot to wait for the noon boat.

While we waited, we noticed that about half the cars in the lot were from British Columbia, and were filled with Native American families. Small children were playing games on the sandy beach adjacent to the ferry dock, with older children taking care of the younger ones. Teens were listening to car radios, or had their ears buried in headphones. Parents were chatting with each other, with no need to worry about the kids -- they were well taken care of. Many of the Indians were wearing bright red t-shirts, with the words "Canoe Journey 2003" imprinted on the back. The car next to us had a sign prominently displayed in its rear window, "Support Staff for the 2003 Canoe Journey". We just had to find our what was going on.

What was happening was the annual tribal canoe races. Bands (as they are more commonly called in Canada) and Tribes (U.S.) were competing in a series of races. Each year the races take place in different areas -- usually crossing open water at least once. (Scary -- open water around here can get pretty rough). 22 different boats entered this year's races. Each boat has two 8 person teams. Each has its own support team following along to set up tents, to provide food and refreshment, and to act as logistical handlers. Each member of the racing canoes, and each member of the support teams brings along his family, aunts, uncles, grandparents and children. The 2003 journey started at Point Roberts, WA and will finish with a race to the Tualalip Reservation, hosts to this year's celebration. Following the races, there will be a potlatch that will last several days. More than 3,000 are expected to attend. There is quite a bit of history and tradition behind these journeys. One man told us that his great uncle had been on these odysseys up and down the coasts of Brithish Columbia, Washington and Oregon when "all the land was Native land".

We spent the night in Poulsbo, WA, a "quaint little Norwegian" town. The city center is still quaint, it has a definite Norwegian flavor, but little? That word surely is no longer accurate. Scarcely anything to do with the greater Seattle metropolitan area is "little" anymore, and we were just a ferry ride away from the city. We could see the tallest buildings on the horizon from the tideflats as the wedding took place. Guests at this wedding wore mostly traditional attire -- that is from the knees up. Below that point the only way to participate in this event was with bare feet and rolled-up pant legs! Moreover the ceremony had a very exacting time/tide clock: It had to be completed before the tide flats were flooded with the unrelenting rising waters of Puget Sound. But the timing was flawless, with the tide reaching the wedding party and attending guests just as the ceremony was concluding. By the time the last guests had walked the 300 yards back to the lawn, the bases of the posts which had been decorated with flowers and placed behind where the bride and groom had said their vows were well submerged. It was a beautiful ceremony -- not one to be merely "attended", but one to be "experienced". And then it was time for us to move on. We were headed to the coast, away from the temperatures and tourists.

We had a reservation at a park we thought we had seen before, Friends Landing RV Park. The description in Trailer Life fit it almost to a "T". We weren't sure if it was the right park, and we didn't remember Montesano, but decided to try it anyway. What a great discovery it was. Friends Landing was a bit hard to find. We took highway 3 from Poulsbo to Shelton, and then followed 108 to its junction with highway 12. From there it was only a few miles to Montesano, a small town about 25 miles from the coast. That's where we made our mistake. We were to turn south on Devonshire road. Fearing that we would completely bypass Montesano and miss the road if we stayed on the highway, we got off and drove straight through the center of town. No Devonshire. To make driving more interesting, Montesano was hosting its annual Festival of the People, and the town fathers had attracted people in abundance.

As a last resort, and just as we were about to head back to the other side of town and try again, I called the park. We had played telephone tag earlier, but this time the park host came right on the phone. "Don't go back toward Olympia," he warned. "From your description of your location you should be on Devonshire right now." And there was the sign, Devonshire Road. "Now it's easy," he said, "just stay on Devonshire until you get to the big corn field. There will be a sign directing you the rest of the way". There was, and it did.

By this time, we were certain this was not the park we remembered. But it is certainly one we'll come back to again. It's small, only 19 sites, each set well apart from the other, all with level asphalt pads, 30 amp hookups and water. The Chehalis River is on one side of the park (the park boundary includes a full mile of the river front), and a 32 acre lake, Lake Quigg, on the other. A 1.7 mile bike/walk trail completely encircles the lake, and there are several places where you can get off the trail, read an interpretive sign, or sit on a bench and just enjoy the view. The trail is partially blacktop, with the remainder made up of several long stretches of well maintained board walk that spans areas of pristine wetlands. The park was initially conceived as a recreational hub for disabled campers and RVers, so that they could participate with others in outdoor activities. It was developed in phases, the first one including the building of a fishing pier, boat launch and parking lot. Next came part of the paved pathway, viewing docks and piers on the lake. Finally were added the 19-site RV park and 11-site tent areas, restrooms with showers, and accessible playground equipment. It is all done by volunteer hours and funding obtained by Trout Unlimited, owners of Friends Landing.

Making this park even better for our purposes was its location. We could take the tow jeep either north or south along the coast. Just west of Montesano is Grays Harbor, a large ocean inlet. To the north along highway 109 are the seaside towns of Ocean Shores, Copalis Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips. After Moclips, you enter the Quinault Indian Reservation. The road comes to an end at Taholah. If you go south from Montesano, you can make another loop, this time to Westport, Grayland and Raymond, along the north shore of Willapa Bay. Two loop trips! I was in my element.

We left the rig at Friends Landing, and headed west toward Ocean Shores. Sunday morning, and we expected to see hordes of campers and motorhomes heading home from the weekend festivities. What we did not expect were hordes of motorcycles -- Harley Davidson motorcycles -- vrooming down the highways. This was the weekend of the Sun and Surf run. Motorcycles driven by tattooed and bearded men with Hell's Angels emblazoned on their leather jackets. Motorcycles driven by clean shaven men who looked like they were just out for a spin. Motorcycles driven by women, a few of whom were just a bit wobbly on their bikes. Motorcycles everywhere. We had to wait for more than 50 bikes before we could to pull onto a road near the Ocean City Casino. Motorcycles in the Ocean City State Park. We had contemplated spending a night in this state park, but it was completely full -- of campers, bikers and kids. We later learned that there were more than 2,000 motorcycles participating in this "run", and I'm sure we must have seen every one of them -- some twice.

Tourists everywhere, but the temperatures stayed comfortably cool due to a heavy cover of ocean fog. As we drove along, we alternately got into the fog, at which point we needed our sweatshirts (our Jeep Wrangler is without top for the summer), or came out of it, and took the darn things off. Back into it again, back on they came. We headed north, up the road toward the Reservation. The further north we got, the less the traffic became. And it seemed to disappear altogether by the time we arrived at the Indian town of Taholah. There was almost no one here at all. One elderly man and his wife, in matching gray and blue outfits, were slowly cycling through town on quiet Honda motorcycles, but the noisier Harleys were refreshingly absent.

This was as far as we could go. The road continued on a short way to the northernmost tip of this peninsula, but it was now gravel, and a sign warned that Reservation land is private land. So we turned toward the water, drove past several homes and one small convenience store, and arrived at a small lagoon formed by a rocky spit. Right in front of us was a berm consisting of huge boulders, dwarfed by even larger tree trunks, tossed up by winter storms, and bleached gray by the sun. We parked and watched the tide coming into this picturesque inlet. Several buoys indicated the presence of nets, set to catch whatever fish might enter with the tide. We climbed over and around the huge tree remnants on our way to the beach. Here several Native families were doing their Sunday surf fishing. As we watched, one young boy caught a large perch. He was immensely proud, and waited with his fish while his father ran to get his camera. I asked to see the catch, and he opened the cooler. There were at least 8 perch inside, all sizes, with his fish by far the largest of the lot. "She was a mom," he explained. "She had babies while I was bringing her in".

As we left the quiet beach for the bustle of the towns down the coast, we were joined by another couple -- the only other visitors to this village at the moment. They were camped at Pacific Beach State Park, (there is no place to camp in Taholah), but every year come to visit this particular beach. The gal explained that she collects one rock each visit, and takes it home to place in her garden. Her rock this year was a large oval gray one, with holes the size of those found in bowling balls all over one end. "The grandkids will love to stick their fingers in the holes", she explained.

Back to the quiet of Friends Landing for the evening. Tomorrow we will try the southern loop, to see if we can find some respite from the temperature and the tourists. So far, we don't feel we have exactly "gotten away from it all". But then we'll see what tomorrow brings...

Postcard: Back to School

July 15, 2003

School starts tomorrow. At the University of Idaho, Moscow, almost 500 RVers have gathered for the annual Life on Wheels Conference, a one week series of classes on the RVing lifestyle -- what it is and how to live it. Every type of RV is gathered here, small campers are snuggled up next to large diesel motorhomes. Those with electric hookups are parked in rows on a grassy soccer field, or scattered between the white lines in an adjacent parking lot. If an RVer chose the more economical "no hookups" when he signed up for the conference, he's parked in a gravel lot just down the hill from the Kibbe Dome, home of the U of I football team.

Some of these RVers have been here a while. Several came as early as a week before classes started, both hoping to get a premier parking space and for the opportunity to take driving classes in their own rigs. Most arrived over the weekend, and the place is packed. A large tent occupies one corner of the grassy area. The nerve center of this conference is located under the canvas. On one side of the tent a bookstore has been set up. It features various volumes on RVing, some of which have been written by those teaching here. What is not here is equally important: There are no RV products for sale here at all. The purpose of this Conference is unique -- it's to learn, not to listen to sales pitches. The only exception is an area set aside for the sale t-shirts and polo shirts, fleece vests and aprons, coffee mugs and pins, all bearing the logo of Life on Wheels. Judging from the number of sacks coming out of the tent, these items make popular mementos for those attending the Conference.

Along one side of the tent is the check-in area, where each RVer will find a packet of materials with his or her name on it. In the middle of this area is a large bulletin board, where important notices, such as class changes and evening events are prominently posted. On the other side, chairs are neatly arranged, waiting some of the classes and get togethers that will start tomorrow. A festive air pervades the tents, with people settling in and getting to know each other, or meeting old friends they see occasionally on the road or at other rallies and events. Mingling instructors and students form one big, happy, chattering crowd.

It's a colorful group, as well. Everyone has been issued a name badge, blue (for the students), yellow (for instructors) and orange, (the staff). The shirts in the tent are bright blues, reds and pinks, and each staff member seems to have a shirt in every color. To add to the rainbow effect, and in addition to the Life on Wheels bunch, the University of Idaho is hosting a huge soccer camp. On the playing fields around the RVs, hundreds of high school kids are learning the finer points of this game. And they are all wearing their school colors. Orange and black, blue and green, red and white, color combinations everywhere. I was reminded of our daughter, Cathy, when she was in high school. All the girls look exactly alike. They may have different colored uniforms, their hair color may be different, but every one of them, on every team I observed, has a pony tail!

Tom and I arrived on Sunday, the day before school started, expecting to be one of a long line of RVers waiting for parking. We are teaching three classes here this year, so we knew that a place would have been set aside for us, but where? Most of the spaces allotted for the school instructors had already been filled. We followed the man with an orange vest to the center of the grassy field, a perfect spot. We weren't near enough to the generator to be bothered by its noise, and we had a small bit of open space right in front of us -- not big enough to park another rig in, but plenty large enough so we would be able to leave at our leisure.

Sunday afternoon was the first event of the conference --a pre-conference opening session. It was preceded by a short instructors' meeting. Gaylord Maxwell, founder of Life On Wheels, gave us a coach's pep talk -- advice on handling our classes over the next 5 days. That is, he tried to. This group of instructors is serious but can also be slightly irreverant, interspersing hugs and welcomes to old friends with witty answers to Gaylord's comments. He didn't mind -- the tone of this conference is that RVing is fun, that laughter is always the best medicine -- especially if you get in a jam.

Then we went down to the floor of the Kibbe Dome for the pre-conference meeting. After several remarks from University officials, a representative of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, and introductions of each of the instructors, several of us fielded various general RVing questions. "What type of rig do you have and why?" "How much do you travel?" "What one piece of advice would you have for RVing wannabees?". Most of us were similar -- long time RVers, starting in tents and trailers, once with children and now by ourselves. Only one instructor couple had no camping background; indeed had worked in New York City before quitting their jobs and taking to the road. Two couples were like Tom and me, happy to have kept a home base, but enjoying our life on the road as well. The rest either were now, or had been, full time RVers.

The number of courses given at this conference is staggering. There are four 90 minute periods each day. In this time, more than 180 classes will be given. There are so many choices that no student can possibly cover them all in one -- or even several -- years. Perhaps that is why this "school" is treated somewhat like college; at the end of the 4th year of attendance, students receive a diploma. There is a section reserved on the daily bulletin board for those who qualify as "seniors" to list their names, and they look forward to getting their degrees (a "BS" according to Gaylord).

We'll give three seminars over the next five days, a very easy schedule compared with some. One instructor will cram 13 courses into the same time frame. But we are excited about our three. We'll present one on our favorite techno-sport, geocaching, complete with a cache for the students to find. Another class recounts the happenings of our year on the road; and the third will be on how to select a campground or RV park, along with a side bar on campground courtesy.

School started at 8 AM Monday morning, and some instructors were heard to complain about the early hour. Too reminiscent of old college days, when an 8 o'clock was something to be avoided at all costs. The students don't seem to mind though. They are genuinely interested in learning about this lifestyle, where your home has (at least) 4 wheels, and your next adventure is just down the road. Never mind that not all adventures are straight out of OZ. Often, a misadventure has a happy ending, and certainly becomes more humorous in the telling.

It will take some time before one couple can laugh about their misadventure, however. Tom and I went to lunch one day at the nearby University Inn. As we drove into the parking lot, we noticed a 5th wheel (not one of the Conference attendees) parked haphazardly across several parking lines. The gal was climbing up the ladder in the back, stepping carefully over the lawn chairs secured there. I looked at the top of her rig and understood her concern. Everything -- skylights, air conditioners, TV antenna and satellite dish looked as if a giant hand had reached out, grabbed it and crunched it -- hard. We looked at the covered entry way of the Inn, and saw telltale marks -- scratches, holes punched into the roof, and a large chunk taken out of the entry way itself. The 5th wheel had just a bit too tall to pass safely underneath. In its current state, it would probably now fit. All this under the noses of the 400+ RVer students who were here to learn, among other topics, how safely to drive an RV!

One benefit to having as few classes to "teach" as we do is that we are free to attend other classes. This year, I have attended such disparate classes as RVers Fitness, Following the Lewis and Clark Trail in Idaho, and Hosting in NW State Parks. Tom has caught up on the newest ideas on batteries, state tax issues for full timers, and supplemental brake systems for towed vehicles. We'll be updating our class notes over the next several days.

The weather has been very warm, typical for Idaho at this time of year, so when school ends tomorrow, we will head home to the relatively cooler San Juans. But we always enjoy our time at Life On Wheels, catching up with friends we seldom see except on occasions like this, comparing notes, not only on RVing activities, but also on family, kids and grandkids. It's a great learning experience both for those who come for the first time, and for those of us who have been here many times before.

Postcard: The Hill -- and Points West

June 16, 2003

The road from Anahim Lake to Bella Coola is only 136 KM miles long -- you might think an easy trip. But this section of Highway 20 is home to a notorious piece of road called "the Hill". Over an 11 mile stretch, there are grades of 14, 15 and 18 %. I first learned about "the Hill" from a brochure in the ferry terminal at Port Hardy, and the idea of a grade so steep was frightening. When I looked for these brochures this year, they were gone. Perhaps the city fathers at Anahim Lake, on the east end, and Bella Coola at the west, thought it would be better if tourists weren't aware of the Hill. If they don't know about it, they won't be so nervous about driving it.

In our experience, we had found "the Hill" to be more bluff than substance. Certainly, short sections are steep, and you'd be well off to have a good braking system on your rig. There are some parts of the road so deeply cut into the hill that it forms a overhang, demanding RVers strict attention. Our first experience with it came in 1998, when we drove east -- up the hill. At that time we didn't find it so bad -- steep yes, terrifying, no. But we found the surface to be well graded gravel, and each switchback had a shoulder wide enough to pull off and admire the scenery. Straight up and down scenery. A couple of days later we changed our plans, returned to Bella Coola, and didn't mind the drive down either. We drove it once again in 2001, and felt ourselves old hands at this game. But this year held a new surprise -- the Hill is "under construction".

As we turned west onto Highway 20 at Williams Lake, we passed one of those "you better stop and read me", bright orange signs. The Hill would be closed to all traffic from 7 am to noon, and again from 1 to 5:30. And driving at night is definitely not recommended. OK, we'd just plan our trip so that we would be at the construction barrier sometime between 12 and 1. As it turned out, that interpretation of the sign was not the correct one.

We left Anahim Lake RV Resort early enough to stop for breakfast at Mack's (the best (and only?) place for breakfast in the village of Anahim Lake, and drove slowly toward the construction zone. We stopped a couple of times to admire some small nearby lakes, wishing we had time to stop, inflate our little boat and do some fishing. We got to the construction zone about 20 minutes before noon. We were waved to a stop, and sent to a holding area. The most pleasant flagger told us we'd only have to wait until, "a loaded truck goes by". Could it be this easy?

At this point, we had crossed Heckman Pass, only one of the 15% portions of the Hill. The steepest parts lay ahead. Even so, we noticed one couple detaching their 5th wheel in this holding area. They had planned to drive to Bella Coola, spend a night or so, and then return to Williams Lake. But on the trek over Heckman Pass, they heard their 5th wheel brakes squealing, and they were concerned about the rest of the hill. Prudence dictated that they spend a night in a motel in Bella Coola, and retrieve their 5er the following day.

About 5 minutes later, the truck passed, and we were waved on. As we left the pull out area, the flagger warned us not to speed or pass anyone on the hill; the RCMP would be waiting at the bottom, and we would be ticketed. We assured her that, as old hands on the hill, we had no intention of either speeding or passing, and off we went -- for about another mile. Then we joined a group of 7 other rigs to wait for a pilot car. It still wasn't noon.

After another short wait, the pilot car arrived, the barricades were removed, and we started down a much changed Hill. The goal of all this construction is to remove the overhanging rock and widen the road a bit. The project is due to be finished by the middle of July, and an easier route for all should be the end result. Now, to use Tom's words, "it's a mess". At the top of the construction area, the road has been coated with a calcium product to make the surface harder. Today the road surface was still wet with this product, producing a slippery, slimy goo. Further down, in the blast zone, the rocks had cascaded down the hill, landing on the roadbed below, eliminating any hint of shoulders and making the road extremely rough. The overhang problem hasn't yet been addressed, and with a narrower, bumpier road the overhang was such that, even in the camper, Tom was forced to drive away from the cliff and toward the very edge of what there was left of the road. My view was a nerve wracking straight down.

As we descended, we made four transits across the face of the Hill. The last grade is fairly gentle, only about 10%, and a straight shot to the bottom. Here, pulled over at the side, was an ambulance. For those cars which could not negotiate one of the turns? For those faint-of-heart drivers who seize up and simply refuse to drive another inch? It was fun to speculate, though we later learned that the ambulance is for the construction workers, and they are so careful that the job of ambulance driver is one of the most boring on the crew. (We also found out that the nice "flag lady" who had cautioned us about not passing, has another job. She is also a trained EMP.)

There were only 8 vehicles in our piloted convoy. But there was another group of vehicles behind us -- even with no pilot car to lead them, they had been let through. They had arrived just after we had started down, and contrary to what we thought, there would be only one group of cars let through for the day. But they were close enough to our group that they were allowed to tag along. Even though they had arrived right on the dot of 12, they were almost too late. That's not how we had understood that orange sign, and we were glad we got there when we did.

At the bottom of the grade, we saw a long line of cars waiting to be led up the hill. By the time they reached the top, it would be one o'clock, or even later. Next transit, 5:30. Don't be late.

It was an interesting trip, and one we'll take again -- after the construction is over. For now, we were off to re-visit Bella Coola, and to catch the ferry, Queen of Chilliwack, the next morning.

We spent the night at a brand new park in Hagensborg, 10 miles east of Bella Coola, and were off to the ferry loading area early the next morning. We had been told the ferry would be full, but there were only about 15 cars to be loaded this morning. Our own private ferry for one of the world's most beautiful rides.

Leaving Bella Coola, the ferry slowly slid between the perpendicular granite peaks lining each side of the inlet, down North Bentinck Arm to LaBouchere Channel and on to the larger Dean Channel. It was a beautiful morning; only a light breeze ruffled the waters of the inlet. But we were looking forward to some Chilliwack breakfast -- the food aboard this vessel is fabulous. No powdery eggs or breakfast sandwiches which taste like the bag they came in. Here a buffet with multiple choices, cereals, pancakes, eggs anyway you want. Poached? Over easy? Omelet? Fine. Three special choices for lunch, along with the regular selection of sandwiches, and Friday night dinner featured chicken, salmon or steaks barbequed by the captain on the back deck. Not your typical ferry fare.

It's not only the food, the scenery or the trip through some of the most beautiful, unspoiled country anywhere. It's also the crew. Large numbers of ferry personnel apply to work the Discovery Coast aboard the Chilliwack. Not because the work is easy; they work 12 hour days, 14 days at a stretch, before having another 14 days off. They are here because there is a camaraderie aboard Chilliwack which exists nowhere else. Where else would the crew give a birthday party, complete with strawberry cheesecake, for one of the passengers? We were called into the cafeteria to sing "Happy Birthday" to Dan, celebrating his 38th. Later that afternoon, another party, this time for Shirley, one of the crew. She didn't give out her age, but everyone got a slice of delicious carrot cake. While we enjoyed our cake, one of the crew, Clive Quigley, serenaded us with songs from his BC ferry CD, "Manager Overboard". He has an excellent voice, and his songs are most humorous -- often a bit risque. I was sorry when the singing and the party had to end.

The weather was cooperating, the passenger load was light, so everyone was invited to visit the wheelhouse, and ask any questions they wished of the bridge crew. The ship took a short detour up Cascade Inlet, just so everyone could take pictures of some spectacular falls. The captain pointed out wildlife as we passed -- mountain goats on the high reaches of nearby cliffs, a school of dolphins playing in the wake of the ferry, the spouting of a humpback on this mid-coast passage.

At one point, the ferry came to a halt to lower an inflatable rescue boat with three crew members to give them practice in case of emergency. But then the boat, and the crew, sped away. They would spend the next hour enjoying the hot waters of a nearby natural hot spring before rejoining Chilliwack. Let me sign up for that job!

We went on to Elko Harbor, to the granite monument commemorating the passage of Alexander MacKenzie. Almost 200 years ago, the explorer came through these water, looking for the ocean. Using a mixture of bear grease and vermilion, he painted his name, the date and the words "from Canada, by land" (BC wasn't yet part of Canada) on a nearby rock,. Later the words were cut out of the rock and filled in with a more permanent substance, to keep them for future generations. At this point, the inflatable, with a refreshed looking crew, rejoined the ship. Next stop Ocean Falls.

There is a sign prominently posted near the ferry dock at Ocean Falls. It depicts a duck, wearing rubber boots and holding an umbrella. The words read, "Welcome, from the Rainy People of Ocean Falls". Aptly named, as the beautiful weather had changed, and squalls of pouring rain swept across the water. But that didn't keep several townspeople from coming out to welcome the ferry. This was the first boat of the season, and they were happy to see the passengers and crew. Many of the crew come back year after year, and we could hear cries of "who's on the ship this season" and "Gavin's back". Hugs all around. Flowers all around too -- wildflowers grow rampant in this area. Rhododendrons, Queen Anne's Lace, pink and blue hued lupine and yellow tiger lilies, all mixed with other flowers unknown to me.

Ocean Falls was once a bustling community of 5,000 people, with the third largest hotel in BC. With 505 rooms, it ranked right behind the Empress in Victoria, and the Vancouver Hotel in Vancouver. That was before the mill closed. Now only a handful of people stick it out year round, though their numbers swell somewhat with a small influx of summer residents. We heard that this is a popular place for reunions. Those persons whose families used to live here often return, to remember the "old" times. The people who do still live here live in a small community about a mile east. But Ocean Falls town is falling into disrepair. You are warned against walking on the boardwalks, the old hotel has no windows left intact, and vines are crawling up its walls. It appears the process has begun by which nature will reclaim most of the town.

We spent three hours in Ocean Falls. We hiked to the top of the dam over which the water pours, making the falls. (The old pictures of the falls before the dam show the falls as less forceful, but, in my mind much prettier.) The lake behind the dam looked like good trout fishing to Tom. A young couple intended to camp somewhere ("we'll know it when we see it") along the shore this evening. They had backpacks and a tent, but the rain was relentless, and camping out in a downpour didn't appeal to me a bit. Not to mention the fact that Ocean Falls is well known for two commodities in addition to rain, an overabundance of porcupines and bears.

Our last stop of the day was MacLaughlin Bay, just outside the Indian town of Bella Bella. It seemed most of the town was taking the boat for the overnight trip to Port Hardy, and whatever reclining chairs hadn't been already claimed were quickly snapped up. By morning, there were no free chairs and very little free floor -- it seemed someone was sleeping in every square inch of available space. This was apparently the first saiing of the season from Bella Bella to "the big city" of Port Hardy -- and the townspeople were obviously anxious to have a change of scene.

We docked in Port Hardy around 9 AM, and prepared for our trip south. We'll drive down Vancouver Island, stop once again at Ripple Rock RV Resort, then head back to the US and our Island. We'll drop the truck and camper off at one of the kids' homes, and turn over the keys to them. It's been a great last trip. A bit crowded in this tiny space perhaps, but we worked out a schedule for everything from who gets into the bathroom first, to passing each other in the narrow corridor between the closet and the dinette table. That's how life is lived in the back of a pickup truck!

Postcard: The Road to Anahim

June 12, 2003

We had planned our trip to include Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK, then to travel east through Williams Lake. We'd turn west on Highway 20 and drive the 456 km to Bella Coola. There we'd catch the BC ferry back to Port Hardy. But first we'd stop at Anahim Lake,100 km short of Bella Coola, for a day or so. Tom is an avid fisherman -- just about anything that swims, anywhere, is fair game, and he has had some very good luck at Anahim Lake. But our road to Anahim took us in some interesting, and unforeseen directions. It tempted us with the Queen Charlotte Islands. It almost took us north instead of south. Our road would be one of spectacular scenery, colorful characters, and contrasts in weather.

We traveled west and north out of Meziadin Junction toward Stewart and Hyder. This was the weekend of the Stewart Rodeo. A small town, in the last few years out of the rodeo loop, today Stewart would shine. Participants would earn points toward the overall BC rodeo championship for competing here. Participants get ribbons, Stewart gets recognition.

As we turned onto highway 37A, I noticed the sign " The Glacier Highway". This was a beautiful trip up an ever narrowing canyon, its steep sides streaked with cascading water. Some small streams only made wet smears down the steep rock faces of the hills, others were full-blown, cascading waterfalls. Towering above all were the glaciers.

As the road climbed, we could see some of the glaciers for which this road is named, perched atop the surrounding mountains. One glacier appeared squeezed -- rock walls along the sides of the ice made it look like the rocks were holding in the ice, imprisoning it with rocky pincers. I found myself rooting for the ice, that it would eventually win and split the narrow crevice holding it back.

At the top of the hill is the Bear Glacier. Bear is right at road level but across a small icy lake. There's no obvious access to the glacier, but if you could somehow cross that lake, you could walk right out on the glacier itself. It would be a dangerous hike, however. Pale blue ice, cracked and crenellated, 50 feet high; the edge of the glacier extends into the water. We saw no "calving", no pieces of ice breaking off to fall into the water, but the presence of several icebergs proved that this often happens.

From Bear Glacier, we followed the Bear River down to Stewart, where it joins the Portland Canal. This canal goes all the way to the ocean at Dixon Entrance, the border between Alaska and Canada. Until just a few years age, you could take a ferry from Stewart/Hyder to Fairbanks, but the BC ferry system decided it was not economical, and closed the service. Since few people even knew this service existed, it possibly wasn't much of a loss to these two communities, but to listen to the local's talk, it is one of the reasons for the declining population in both towns.

How did we know? The gal manning a souvenir shop in town told us so. She came to Hyder to live near her son, and stays here all year long. There are about 80 full time residents in Hyder, and there has been a bit of new building -- vacation homes for summer Alaskans. However, Hyder, once heavily dependant on mining, is a ghost town in the making. Most of the stores are shuttered, with no visible sign of reopening. The small Greek Orthodox Church is closed, its front steps rotted and fallen down.

Our new friend told us stories about the Hyder bears, how once when she was baking, she left her back door open for ventilation. Spying her son going by the front door, she went to call him, and found a large brown bear on her porch. It had smelled her cooking and come for a treat. We asked her about wolves, curious to know if perhaps we had spotted one. She doesn't like the "wuffs", as she calls them, but has often heard their howling on winter nights.

Before we went to the rodeo, we stopped at the Stewart bakery for rolls and coffee. The gals who run the bakery (which makes the most delicious, flaky pastried, sausage stuffed rolls) were looking forward to closing early today. "The rodeo's in town", she explained, and nothing much else ever happens here".

The rodeo was an afternoon only event, but several contestants were already practicing. One young girl was taking her horse through its paces in preparation for the barrel races. Around and around one barrel set at the end of the arena, then race down to the other end, stop as fast as possible, and back up. Do it again. And again. According to a dusty pickup parked nearby, " Barrelman, the rodeo clown" would add some laughs to the afternoon. There were two small corrals -- one holding some anxious looking cattle, the other two large bulls. A concession stand was doing a brisk breakfast business, and others were setting up. Horses were tethered to their trailers, awaiting their saddles. There was a definite feeling of expectancy in the air -- for man and beast alike.

There is only one road into and out of Stewart/Hyder. As we retraced our path back toward the Junction, we debated whether to turn south and go back toward the Cassiar RV park, or go north toward Dease Lake and the Alaska Highway. The truck made our decision for us. As we rounded a turn, there was a loud bang -- was it another tire? We stopped, checked, and determined it was probably just a rock thrown from a tire and hitting the truck body. But after the events of the previous day, this decided us. There was just too much empty road stretching north. We'd go south.

We spent one more night at the Cassiar RV park. Our Good Samaritans were still there, and we had a chance to thank them once again for their help on the road. They make it a point to notice the condition of other rigs as they travel, and this was not the first time they had stopped to offer help or advice. What great folks.

Now we were facing another decision. Should we stick to our original plan to go to Anahim Lake? Or, should we go west to explore the Queen Charlotte Islands? This would mean a 14 hour ferry ride, and a return within two days. What was there to do once you got there? Was two days too long or not long enough? Again, the decision was made for us. The couple in the site next to ours had lived in these islands for 8 years, and had just returned from a week's visit with old friends. By the time they were through telling us where to go and what to see, we knew the answer to our questions. We simply didn't have enough time, or done enough advance planning, to make the trip this time. The Queen Charlotte Islands would have to be the focus of a future trip. East it was.

We started east on the Yellowhead Highway. What a romantic name. In Southern California, natives talk about taking "the 60" or "the 15", using freeway numbers, (there aren't any names), when they describe directions. Here it's "the Yellowhead" or the "Crowsfoot". Quite a difference, but then a lot of things are different up here.

About 50 km down the road, I spied a sign inviting us to explore the Indian Village of "old" Hazelton. We often pass by such places, but this morning we drove into visit the old town. It's a charmer, and well worth the detour. The town is laid out in a triangle, with one side on the Skeena River. Just outside town is the restored "Ksan" Indian village, situated at the confluence where the Bulkley River flows into the Skeena. There is a museum, gift shop and several longhouses, which can be toured with a guide. The Gitxsan people are opening an RV park here too, with full hookups, level sites and large enough for any rig. Today, there was only one RV in this park, but it would be such a good stopping place for caravans, I expect next time we'll need a reservation. It's an easy walk into town, or to the cultural center grounds. In July and August, there will be a Performing Arts Group, and on Friday evenings you can hear the ancient songs and dances.

Among the items we did not bring with us on this trip was our copy of TrailerLife, and the BC accommodation book does not distinguish between places -- all sound similar. We had come as far east as Vanderhoof, and were beginning to think we'd have to go all the way to Prince George for the evening, when we saw the sign on the road simply reading, "Dave's RV Park". An arrow indicated it was only .8km off the road. Great spot for the evening. Attractive sites, carefully landscaped grounds, a putting course set up in the center of the park, well maintained restrooms, and modem friendly as well.

Our road to Anahim continued the next day with a distinct change in the weather. We had been griping about how hot it was; now that ended with a flash of light, a boom and a simultaneous roll of thunder. We were passing through a thunderstorm. The lightning flashed and the thunder crashed -- so loudly it was like a weight had been dropped on my head. I have never been that close to the center of one of these storms before or heard a noise like that. Next came the hail. The temperatures had been in the mid 70s, but in the space of about 15 minutes, they dropped to the mid 50s. We stopped in Williams Lake for groceries and diesel fuel, and the rain continued to pelt down. We left and climbed west on Highway 20 toward Anahim, the rain stopped, the clouds disappeared and the temperature soared back into the 70s. We passed under a cloud, down went the temp again, back came the rain.

We stopped this evening at Bull Canyon Provincial Park, just outside of Alexis Creek. The little, (about 20 sites), park is on the Chilcotin River, now swollen to several times its normal size. I was reminded of a camping trip I took with Tom when we were first married. We pitched our tent on a bank overlooking the Clearwater River in Wells Gray Provincial Park, and went to bed. Sometime in the night, the water level rose, and a large chunk of bank broke off. In the morning, we were much closer to the water than we had been the night before, and much closer than we wanted to be. Tom assured me that these sites were set far enough back that I didn't have to worry about that. (I worried anyway).

About 6 PM, the gal came by collecting for the night's stay. As she knocked on our door, the skies opened up and not-too-distant-thunder could be heard. We invited her in to collect for her payment and to escape the weather. For 15 minutes or so, we learned about life in Alexis Creek. By that time, the rain had let up, and she was off to dinner with a friend. Only then did it occur to me how unusual was this situation. How many people would enter a camper with two people they had never met, and let them close the door?

The road to Anahim is a birder's paradise. We stopped at a rest stop near a small lake and I could hardly put my binoculars down long enough to eat the breakfast Tom was nice enough to make. I saw Red-Necked Grebes, Mallards and Blue-Winged Teal. There were Ruddy Ducks and Ring-Necked Ducks. Swimming in the reeds was a pair of Greater Scaups. I saw dozens of American Coots. In one corner of the pond, a female Mallard had 10 tiny chicks following her around. We drove to the next small pond, and there were a dozen or so Black Terns swooping for minnows.

Before the end of our road to Anahim, we would meet another colorful character. On a previous visit here, we had stopped at One Eye Lake, and Tom was curious to see if it would be fishable from our small inflatable boat. As it turned out, the day was much too windy for launching, and the campsite we probably would have chosen was already occupied. By Mel and Thelma Schmidt. We never did get to meet Mel, as he was out fishing, but his wife told us all about him and their life in Crofton, BC. Somehow, the conversation got around to politics. Thelma let us know that she doesn't much care for the current provincial government. Then we discussed the differences between the BC and the Washington State ferry systems. (Crofton is on Vancouver Island, and when Islanders get together, the talk often turns to ferries.) Thelma doesn't like the new passenger-only BC ferries -- they go so fast that their wakes cause bank erosion, and she feels their seats are uncomfortable. She did agree that the BC ferry system is efficient and reasonably inexpensive.

"Now comes the commercial", she warned us, and proceeded to show us the workings of a pellet stove she was using (and her husband sells). This stove/oven/all 'round heater is a sheet metal box, about 18" x 12". It stands about 4' high on detachable metal legs, and has a chimney on one end. A door in one side opens into oven. One woman raved about the performance of this oven. "It works so well, I baked a pie in it last night," she said. "And Thelma baked 4 potatoes in 40 minutes". This contraption is powered by pellets, and its pellet consumption is fairly high -- the hopper was re-filled at least twice in the half hour or so we spent talking. The stove puts out a lot of heat, and comes in various models, including one that can be used in a tent without fear of asphyxiation. Its only drawback is that, if you have it up and running, and then decide to change campsites, it will take about three hours to get it cool enough to move. What a difference from some of the fancy microwaves and convection ovens in today's big rigs!

We got to Anahim Lake and the Anahim Lake Resort in the late afternoon. Like many of the resorts in this area, it caters to fly-in fishermen in spring and summer, and hunters in fall. You can stay in one of the several small cabins, or park your RV along the lakeshore. Jack Madsen is another colorful personality of the area, his forte is friendliness. It has kept us coming back -- that and the fishing.

We have come to the end of our road to Anahim. We have seen the spectacular scenery of the Glacier Highway, and the boiling currents of huge rivers. We have traveled the rolling hills of interior BC, crossing the area known as the Chilcotin, west from Williams Lake. We have met some of the most colorful people anywhere. We'll spend a couple of days fishing in this area, and then head down to Bella Coola, and the last leg of our trip, all in the back of a pickup truck.

Postcard: A Bear, Two Coyotes, and One Blown Tire

June 7, 2003

We spent two days on Vancouver Island at Ripple Rock RV Resort. Being a bit ahead of the season has its advantages; many of the sites were now empty (later they'll be occupied for multiple nights or even weeks), and we got a choice one, right on the water. Ripple Rock is 12 miles north of Campbell River on the banks of Seymour Narrows, another of those (in)famous stretches of tidal water. The currents may not be as strong as those at Skookumchuck, but here there is a lot more boat traffic. Everything passes through these Narrows, from small, highly powered life rafts, filled with whale watching tourists in orange life vests, to huge cruise ships en route to and from Alaska, and every sort of watercraft in between. You can spend hours just watching them running the Narrows. And if you're lucky enough to spot a cruise ship passing by at night, you're in for a treat. All lights blazing, these behemoths come so close to shore you can hear their dance music!

Our boat wasn't going to be nearly as fancy as those we spotted at Ripple Rock. We were taking the ferry, the Queen of Prince Rupert. The boat was due to leave the town of Port Hardy on the northern end of Vancouver Island, and it would take about 18 hours to get to Prince Rupert, ("Rupert" to the locals), on the northern BC coast. Today, there were fewer that 50 cars to board, but for some reason known only to the ferry personnel, only about 5 boarded at one time. Then the gates would be closed as if that were all that the ferry could hold. We'd wait a few minutes, the gates would be reopened, and the next few cars let on. I could only wonder how long this would take in high season; maybe they were just learning how to load a ferry. Finally, all were aboard, (I was surprised to see it all had been accomplished in about 30 minutes), and we were off to "Rupert".

One of the most interesting things about RVing is the people you meet on your travels. At the terminal, we were put in the "camper lane", an extensive lane of two other campers plus us. The people in the first camper were from Los Angeles, en route to an extensive tour of Alaska. Jeff plays bass trombone for the LA Symphony, and is head of the music department at Long Beach State. With his wife, Jean, he has done a lot of boondocking in the California deserts. They were sure that their experiences would prepare them for their Alaska experience, although, in our opinion, they are going to have to learn to slow down. Jeff told us his normal speed, (in his fully loaded camper), is 75 mph. He will fairly sail from frost heave to frost heave if he tries that up here. Also, they have a fairly optimistic itinerary. They want to drive the Dalton Highway at least as far as across the Arctic Circle, go to Homer, and see most of Alaska's other attractions. They will soon realize just how vast this state is, how far it is from one point to the next, and how long it takes to get anywhere.

We debarked in "Rupert", stocked up on groceries at the local Safeway, and headed toward Kitwanga, the town at the southern end of the Cassiar Highway. The weather was glorious -- if anything, at 85&Mac251;, it was way too hot. I had packed rain gear, two pairs of jeans, two turtleneck shirts, and my heaviest casual shirts. Tom brought along his dark blue long johns, two sweat shirts, and several long sleeved shirts. I had set up our electric blanket so we could turn it on whenever we found a campground with hookups, and borrowed one of the warmest quilts from home for the camper bed. As it's turned out so far, however, we haven't used any of this stuff. Every night, we take the quilt off the bed and store it on the sofa near the table. We are wearing shorts and the lightest shirts we can find. If this weather doesn't break soon, we're going to be out of clothes. And I don't know what I'm going to do with all that soup I got for cold weather lunches!

When we got to Kitwanga, we were dismayed to find that the big Petro Canada station on the highway was closed for the periodic maintenance of its storage tanks. There was one other gas/diesel station in town however, a small Chevron station. Here we got a surprise, and a taste of yesteryear. The service man actually left his office, came outside with a smile, and performed old time service. He filled the tank, washed our bug laden front windshield, and the price was less than that advertised at the temporarily defunct station on the highway! It's been a long time since we didn't have to do those things by ourselves, and then go into the office and pay for "service". His comments on the weather were priceless. "It's so hot, I'm about to melt into my socks", and, "its time to take the woolies off".

This unseasonable weather has caused the BC rivers to run at capacity. The Skeena is flooding, creating small islands where none existed before. On a wooden, one-way bridge over the Nass, I noticed a sign reading "don't stop on the bridge". I looked down and saw we were exactly over the middle of the rain swollen, silt laden, boiling current. Don't stop! Perhaps don't look would have been more appropriate.

The rivers' flooding has caused several small lakes to form where lakes would not usually be found. This still water is perfect for mosquitoes, and we have been making good use of the repellent we brought with us.

We spent the night at the Cassiar RV park in Kitwanga. Situated at the foot of the Cassiar Highway, it's a perfect jump off spot for those intrepid, Alaska-bound RVs. The Cassiar has a reputation, in our opinion greatly undeserved, of being the "highway from Hell". True, there are long stretches where you pass no towns, no restaurants, nothing but as occasional bear, or perhaps a moose. True, there are a couple of places where the road is gravel, and a "ding" in the windshield is a distinct possibility. But the road has less traffic than the Alaska Highway, it's shorter, and absolutely spectacular.

However, often the rigs coming down the Cassiar have a goodly layer of over all dust, and that's one of the reasons this park is popular. It has a vehicle wash, and those rigs coming off the Highway head right to it. They check into the park, but the vehicle wash comes first, before they go to their sites, before they clean anything else. The guys, (its a guy thing), wash the rigs, the gals put in one or more loads of laundry, and then they both head to the showers. It's amusing to listen to them when they discover that the water pressure here is extremely high. One man from South Dakota was heard to exclaim, in very loud tones," it's going to take the paint right off my car", or words to that effect!

Next morning, we were off to Meziadin Junction. As we were leaving, about 8 am, we noticed two rigs pulling into the park. We commented that it seemed a strange hour for anyone to come into a park, but thought nothing of it until later. About 50 km up the road, I spotted a bear close to the edge of the pavement, nose deep in some old tree stumps. He stayed where he was as we turned around for a better look, paused to see him, continued down the road until we could turn again, and came back to take his picture. This third stop made him nervous, and off he went into the underbrush.

Two coyotes, or was one a wolf? The first we saw crossing the road ahead of us, and could tell from his posture that he was indeed a coyote. He was quite small and ran with his tail hanging straight down, . The second animal was much larger and paler, and when he dashed off into the woods, he held his tail upright. I'd like to think we saw a wolf, but until I know differently, he'll have to count as the second coyote.

About 40 miles south of Meziadin Junction, Tom suggested that perhaps there was a little more coffee in the pot, and pulled off on a wide shoulder. The car behind us, a small white sedan pulled over too. It was the toad of one of the rigs we had seen that morning in the Cassiar RV Park! RVers being the helpful folks they are, he had stopped, as he explained, "I think you have low pressure in the right inside dual." Did we ever! It was completely flat. We were lucky though, we were within 25 miles of help. On the Cassiar Highway; indeed on many of the roads in this area, you can be a lot further than that from vehicle assistance. And your cell phone probably won't work either! But at km post 157, the corner of the road to Stewart and Hyder (AK), there is a small restaurant, gas station and tire fix-it shop. We limped in, and there were Jeff and Jean, the couple from the boat. Jeff offered to help, but the mechanic had everything under control, and by the time we had eaten breakfast in the little restaurant, a nail had been extracted from the tire, the tires were back on the truck, and we were ready to roll.

Not that we were rolling far. Tonight we are camped at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, only 2 km away. Our view this evening is of a peaceful lake, an island only a few hundred yards offshore, and the pine laden hills on the other side of the lake. If we walk out to a small vista point and look west, we can see the snow capped peaks near the twin towns of Stewart, (BC), and Hyder, (AK). There's a rodeo going on there this weekend, and we're thinking of taking it in. Unless, of course, we do something else.

Postcard: In the Back of a Pickup Truck

June 1, 2003

We're off on a northerly adventure. Over the next two weeks, we'll explore the "Sunshine" coast of British Columbia, from Vancouver to Powell River. Next we'll cross the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island, and head to Port Hardy at its northern tip. There we board a BC ferry bound for Prince Rupert, taking the "mid-coast" route. Then we drive up Highway 37, the Cassiar, as far as Meziadin Junction, with a side trip to Hyder, Alaska. This little town prides itself on the large number of bears that frequent the area, so many that its citizens built a "bear watching" boardwalk, but, if you want to see the bears, an autumn visit will be more productive than a spring one. Finally, we will drive to Willliams Lake, BC, and head back west to Bella Coola. There we board another ferry and take the "Discovery Coast" route back to Port Hardy. By the time we get home, we will have had 8 ferry rides. This trip will be our last however, the last trip in our Dodge dually, topped with its Alpenlite camper. We'll have spent two weeks in the back of a pickup truck.

We bought the camper in 1997, and it has seen a lot of use. Each summer for the past three years, it has been put on the Dodge truck and been taken all over the west -- by our kids. The kids have taken the truck and camper into the mountains, and down to the deserts of western Nevada. Truck and camper have been seen at RV resorts or dry camping in some very out of the way spots. The one thing this combo has seldom done is take us anywhere.

So, this year at Easter, we decided to give the truck and camper to the kids, to do with whatever they wished. But we asked for one last trip, one swan song before we said good-bye to some very happy times. We were off to Canada.

From the State of Washington, there are several places where one can cross the border. While the Peace Arch crossing at Blaine is surely the most picturesque, even the most beautiful gardens, with the most impressive statuary, can become downright frustrating if you are forced to view them from the windows of a non-moving, stuck-in-traffic vehicle. Therefore, we usually cross quite a bit further east, either at Langley or Sumas. This morning, almost no one was using the Sumas crossing; we sailed through and were off for our first Canadian ferry ride -- from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale.

Spring weather in coastal Canada. Temperatures in the mid 60s, but with wind coming off the waters of the Strait of Georgia, it felt 10 degrees cooler. Some hardy folks were wearing shorts and t-shirts (perhaps showing off their ability to stay warm in a cool breeze), others, like me, were happiest in jeans and a sweatshirt. But, cool or no, the sun was out, making the water a beautiful dark blue, and the small islands on either side of the ferry were a mixture of greens. The ride only lasts 50 minutes, short by our Island standards, and we could hardly drag ourselves away from the rails of the outer decks.

Once off the ferry, we followed highway 101 ( the same 101 that stretches south through Washington, Oregon and ends up at the Mexican border) north. It is 95 km from one ferry dock to the next, and the boats are spaced so that you can get to the second without racing. But we were in no hurry, we wanted to spend the first night on the Sunshine Coast, and catch the next ferry the next day.

We drove through Roberts Creek, the small artist community depicted by brochures as "a holdover from the 60s". Artisan signs were more common than house numbers, here a pottery maker, there a weaver and glassblower, and, down the street a bit, the sigh just read artist. As we approached Sechelt, a few kilometers further north, we noticed a greenbelt added at water's edge, complete with walking paths and benches for the weary. Children were playing in the water -- here the Japanese current comes very close to shore, making the normally frigid water very swimmable.

We were headed to the Sunshine Coast Resort in Madeira Park, about 60 km north of the ferry dock in Langdale. The owners have terraced the very steep hill of this park and created several levels where RVs can camp on grassy level areas. We had stayed at this small park on previous trips, and remembered it as a quiet place, seldom fully occupied, where it was an easy walk down to the water's edge. But when we arrived, we found that progress had caught up with this resort. Several buildings had been added, subtracting from the available RV areas. An extensive children's playground took another couple of sites. Add to this, the park was almost completely full. The very pleasant park manager came up and offered to check her reservations to see if there was room for us this evening, (it was almost 5 pm), but we opted to continue on.

But now we had a problem. We had missed the next ferry, from Earl's Cove to Saltery Bay, and there were no other places to camp. Should we wait for the next boat (about a two hour wait)? Or perhaps dry camp near the dock itself? But we were wrong, there was one more place to go. 1 km before the ferry dock, we passed a sign directing us east to Egmont. The sign said we would find lodging, restaurants and, most importantly, a campground in Egmont. We gave it a try...and found one of the most colorful characters of a campground we'd ever seen.

Although paved, the 6 km road to Egmont was narrow and winding road. This is the "lake country" of the Sunshine Coast, and we passed two of these pristine little waterways. North Lake has a few homes scattered around its edges, and one launch ramp, but the only activity here was one boat, floating far out on the calm waters, while two men tried for a fish dinner. There was a lot more activity at Waugh Lake where 5 canoes filled with Indian children were just coming back from an excursion.

Egmont Campground is small and very rustic. No manicured lawns with cement pads here. You park right at the edge of the water, looking down across an oyster bed to a small boat float. Each of the 20 or so small sites has electricity --20 amps -- neither water nor sewer. Not a campground for RVs over 25 feet, but just right for our 23 foot camper.

The other side of the coin is that the people are incredibly friendly, there's a restaurant if you don't feel like cooking, and the views are to die for. We were one of only 3 rigs in this campground, so had our choice of spots. We looked out across the entrance to Skookumchuck Rapids, to the islands on the far side of the water. The evening sky was painting them with a lavender luminescence. At the a small marina you can get a water taxi and tour Princess Louisa Inlet, fabled in these parts for its waterfalls, rapids and breathtaking scenery. Two couples from Alberta had hired the taxi to take them to their access-by-water-only cabin, and were scurrying back and forth loading large ice chests, sleeping bags, sacks of groceries, and a generator into the small boat. When it pulled away from the dock, I noticed they had managed to get four mattresses in the boat as well.

You can also take the same taxi to the Skookumchuck. Skookumchuck Rapids is one of the largest saltwater rapids on Canada's west coast. The rapids force their way through Skookumchuck Narrows, sucking billions of gallons of water into whirlpools and whipping them up into standing waves. The currents can exceed 30 km/hr. Tom and I hiked out to see the rapids on another visit, and were surprised to see a tug with tow navigating the rapids with the current. The tow was being swept along parallel with and slightly ahead of the tug!

After dinner, Tom and I went over to the Backeddy, the pub above the marina, and enjoyed a beer and a friendly chat with the cook and pub-mistress, Heather and Diane, and learned a lot about life in Egmont. This small marina, RV park and cafe/pub, have been here for over 20 years, and, while we have been on the Sunshine Coast countless times, we had never found them. A situation we will try to remedy on our next visit.

Tomorrow, we're off on stage two of our travels -- up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy and the "mid-coast" segment of our trip.