One day we might have an uneventful flight! Not this time though.
We were returning to Calgary for the last time to visit Simon & Laure, Manolo (3½) & Millie (15 mths) there, as they are shortly returning to Europe for Simon to study at Geneva for a year.
We’d been home for just over 3 months, and had just seen all the rest of the family – Tom had come over from Spain for his friend Tim’s Stag ‘do’, and with him we had visited Paul & Nicky & Louisa (14 mths) in Chantmarle, and Emma Felix and Ruby in Otterton for Felix’s 9th and Emma’s 40th birthdays. After that, we had spent a couple of pleasant relaxing days at Henley, with the HCC.
We’d also had good times in Wales and Yorkshire, and had left the garden looking really lovely.
Adrian had ordered the taxi for 2.40, for the 3.15 bus from Calcot to Heathrow – our first time flying out from Terminal 5. He had asked me whether we should aim to arrive with 2 or 3 hours before the flight, and I had said three.
It was strange to be leaving in the afternoon – usually it has been early morning. We spent the morning packing, and had a lovely walk in the woods. I had also cycled around Oare.
For the first time with this taxi firm, the taxi arrived late – 20 minutes late. Adrian had phoned after 5 minutes, to be told that it would be another 5.
We’d moved the bags out to the road, but had to move them back under the shade of the fir tree, as it had started to rain. The driver arrived rather hot under the collar, and it was a fairly silent journey to Calcot, along the M4. We arrived soon after 3.15, but the bus must have already left.
We caught another bus at 3.35, but this only went to Heathrow Central, as it was then scheduled to go on to Victoria. Just as the bus started off, there was a rattling noise from the front. The driver pulled on to the hard shoulder as we reached the M4, and both men got out. They decided that the noise was the driver’s seat belt, which had broken, and scattered its parts with great force. They carried on, but terminated the bus at Heathrow.
We got out there, and found our way to the tube to T5. As we reached the platform, a train was pulling out – the next was 13 minutes. The time passed quickly, as we chatted to a lady of about our age, who was on her way to Africa for 6 weeks to work with a children’s charity in Uganda & Nairobi.
We felt pleased that we had allowed plenty of time before our flight, but after finding our way to Departures, the bombshell dropped – we looked at the Departures board, and saw a flight to Calgary at 17.25 – it was now almost 17.00 – and nothing for 19.25, which Adrian had thought.
Adrian had booked us in online, so we just had to hand over our bags – we dashed over to the desk, and the girl worked as fast as possible, and told us to ‘run through security’! Not an easy thing to do!
We downed our bottle of bought drinking water as we dashed along, and I searched for my couple of ‘liquids’ – lens solution and case – before we ‘jumped the queue’ to almost the front. Unfortunately not far enough, as a man a little way in front objected to the search carried out on him, and brought our line to a halt. After a bit, ladies were let through, but this wasn’t much help to us. I got through, but it was a while before the trays did, because of the hold up. When they did, I grabbed 2 computers and bags, but when Adrian arrived (minus belt, shoes, and a pocketful of change), we had to gather up all these things – he had also been searched.
I had seen that it was estimated 15 minutes to B departures, so we tore along – Adrian grabbing his belt and holding up his trousers, and pushing on his trainers. It was a long and varied dash – escalators, lifts, a train. I felt an impulse to get there, but my mouth was raspingly dry, despite having drunk the bottle of water.
We just ran past everyone, and finally got to B37 about 10 minutes before the advertised departure time. We saw the lounge quietly filled with passengers, and no sign of movement. I dashed over to drink from the fountain, and to fill our bottles. We sat in the lounge for about half an hour, recovering from our ‘ordeal’, and felt pleased that the plane wasn’t leaving on time.
Adrian had just gone off to try to buy a computer magazine, when they called out for people to board! Luckily he arrived back before too long, we boarded, and found our seats.
It was then that the captain said that we would be delayed some time more, as the variable weather had caused a backlog of delays. We were so glad that we had brought a sandwich to eat, as we didn’t start moving until 19.25 (perhaps Adrian knew something!) and didn’t actually take off until 8 o’clock.
The flight itself was fine – we flew right over Iceland, and then more frozen wastes as we neared Canada, but I actually dozed for much of the time.
It was light for the whole journey, and the sun was just setting eerily when we reached Calgary at 10.00 pm local time.
Simon was there to meet us, but the annoying thing was that Adrian’s bag had arrived, but mine hadn’t. We were told that it would be delivered between 10.00 pm and 2.00 am the next day. As I only had minimal hand luggage, I was not pleased!
There was a wonderful full moon as Simon drove us back to his house, where Laure greeted us (Manolo had been really excited to know that we were coming, and would have come to collect us too, had we not been delayed)
We got to bed at 11.30 – 6.30 am to us – and amazingly slept really well.
The next day Adrian phoned many times to find out when the bag might be arriving, but always received an answerphone. When we finally did get some one to ring to say that the bag had arrived, I said that I had vital medication. I was told that the bag would be sent out straight away. We were all really tired, but I stayed up until midnight, trying to read, but falling asleep.
I then went to bed, and the bag arrived at 1.30 am, with a loud ringing on the door bell, which Simon answered.
8th-11th July A few days in Calgary
We had a lovely few days with Manolo and Millie, enjoying some of the fun of Stampede Week, while Simon and Laure got on with their tasks of packing up their home before their return to Europe in a couple of weeks .
Manolo was full of his usual exuberance and enthusiasm, and Millie was toddling about, dancing and clapping happily, and showing what a sociable, and determined little girl she is.
We joined in the ‘pancake breakfasts’ – especially when Simon was cooking downtown, had a free ride around town on an ‘old time wagon’ pulled by horses, and took the children to the Stampede ground, where Manolo enjoyed a good few rides. His highlight was sitting on a police motorbike – everybody is so good-natured during Stampede Week, and the Police were really friendly.
Sunday 12th July To Queen Charlotte Islands
I was awake before 4.00 am, which was lucky, because the alarm didn’t go off! At first light, with the last couple of stars and a fat moon in the sky, Simon drove us to Calgary Airport. I had very mixed feelings, as I remembered all the good times we had had in and around Calgary over the past few years. Now with Simon & Laure moving back to Europe, we don’t imagine that we will be coming again.
There was almost no traffic at this early hour. We said our goodbyes to Simon and went on our way.
After the hassle of Heathrow, we had a leisurely passage through security, with no rush. The hour’s flight to Vancouver was really pleasant – I was amazed at the vast extent of the Rockies, looking quite spectacular with the early morning sun shining on the bare and then the snowy, peaks. We made our descent to Vancouver, and put our clocks back one hour before our onward flight to Queen Charlotte Islands.
This was in another small plane, with fantastic views down over the dramatic coastline of western British Columbia. It was cloudy for the last part, over the sea, but clear again by the time we reached the small airport at Sandspit.
This sort of flying is really pleasant, and apart from me having trouble with my ears, everything was wonderful.
We had booked a shuttle bus to the town known as Queen Charlotte City (pop 1,000), and were greeted by our very cheery driver. There were only 2 other passengers – a young chap from Calgary who intended hiking & camping, and an English woman called Sue, who was coming to visit her sister Rosemary, who, although crippled with MS, had recently moved to a small dwelling next to where we were going to stay.
After a beautiful 20 minute drive along the coast, we had a short ferry ride across to Skidegate, and then on to Queen Charlotte.
We soon saw that this is one of the most gorgeous places on earth, and we were lucky in having a perfect day – rare on these islands, it would seem. There were forested islands and headlands wherever you looked, all linked by the calm, blue sea. Everything was very low-key, with no extravagancia to spoil things. There were a lot of foxgloves beside the road, and honeysuckle like we’d never seen, with huge and prolific blooms.
Our accommodation, Spruce Point Lodge, was situated on a little point. A humble place, but what a situation! Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so Mary, the manager, drove us back the short way into the town. She had been born in Scotland, but her parents had emigrated here when she was small. We looked into the Visitors centre, in a superb location beside the water, and then we ate a hearty soup for lunch at delightful ‘Queen Bs’, again with exquisite views across the water. By the time we had walked back, our room was ready, and we tried to take in its fantastic situation.
Looking out from Queen B’s
We soon walked back along the beach – the tide was coming in, so we had to be careful not to get ‘stuck in the mud’ – to the edge of the ‘town’, where there was a small supermarket. As we made our way up from the beach, we came across our young lad from the bus, filling in time until his next bus north.
Walking out from Spruce Point (red roof)
We didn’t find the shop very forthcoming – we’d wanted to buy a few items for lunchtimes, when we might be away from civilization.
We walked back and enjoyed our view, as we phoned Simon to tell him that we had arrived safely.
Wanting to make the best of this lovely day, we walked along the shoreline in the other direction, revelling in the peaceful tranquillity. The water felt warm, so on our return, we both braved a dip in the sea – which wasn’t so warm as you got deeper! A seal popped up to see what we were doing.
It was quite breezy in our first floor location, so we sat on a seat near the water’s edge with our aperitif. More people had arrived, from the ferry from Prince Rupert – 2 couples from the Okanagan, and a couple from near Norwich.
Once more we set off along the road – this time to find something to eat. We stopped by the Chinese restaurant we had seen, and had a lovely view as we ate our seafood chow mien, and drank a beer. The sun was going down behind the hills as we returned.
Monday 13th July A great day on the Pacific side of the island 101 km
We woke to our beautiful view, and ate our breakfast on the ‘deck’.
Early morning from our balcony
At 9 o’clock we set off for the car hire, around the corner – in fact Mary gave us a lift there. We had booked a car for the next few days, but as we were filling in the info, saw that cars couldn’t be driven on the gravel logging roads. We’d hoped to go across to the western side of the island today, which is only accessible by logging tracks. The genial lady sorted it that we had a 4x4 for today, exchanging it later for a normal car. Therefore, by 9.30 we were heading off on the unserviced logging road towards Rennell Sound.
At first we drove on a level road through the forest, passing one or two deer – later we saw many more, and a few dark coloured ground squirrels. After about 20 km, we began climbing on a rough road with lots of potholes, but no traffic at all. It made us think of our drive with Piri in Ou Pou. We passed several land slides – one looked just like the one in the film of the ‘railway children’.
After driving for an hour, we reached Rennell Sound, and started on the 15 km north to Bonanza Beach. The road had been washed away here in many places, and they were working on restoring it. Luckily we were able to get through, although at one place, a large road truck reversed along the road towards us, with no recognition of having seen us. We pulled over!
At Bonanza Beach we walked a trail through ancient forest with moss covered trees, reaching the sea at a lovely double horseshoe beach. As we got to the beach, we saw a small tent and then a couple with a boy of about two, and a baby girl. The woman greeted us with ‘what a lovely day’, which we didn’t think it was, being cloudy. They were obviously camping here, with minimal facilities, and a long way from anywhere.
We walked along both pebbly/sandy bays, thinking of how it reminded us of Long beach on Vancouver Island. A couple of bald eagles flew over – there are a lot on Queen Charlotte Islands.
Beaut Bonanza Beach
We walked back through the forest, and drove back a short way, stopping at Cone Point to eat lunch. Two chaps we had seen at Bonanza beach were here, looking for oysters on the rocks, they said, but they didn’t know where to look, or what to look for! We ate the tortillas we had bought, with ham and cheese, and some Branston pickle brought from England.
At Gregory Beach there was another trail through the dark primeval forest. We came to a deserted shingle beach with bald eagles flying overhead.
I walked yet another trail to 5 mile beach, where the rocks formed horizontal sharp lines across the beach, which were hard to walk over.
Now it was time to retrace our steps across the mountains. As we descended the other side, we came to blue sky and warmth. We turned off at the sign to Yakoun Lake, and drove down a track which became increasingly narrow, with the vegetation attacking us from both sides. Adrian kept going, as there was nowhere to turn round. Signs warned of dangers to drivers – such as hidden dips - and they weren’t exaggerated! Eventually the road came to a stop, with 2 cars randomly parked.
From here we set off on a 25 minute trek through the most primeval forest yet. There were just one or two enormous trees standing, but many trees of all sizes were strewn across our path. We had to climb over and under, and through boggy areas, with the odd stepping stones.
We managed to find our way, helped by the orange markers on the trees, and eventually came to the lovely isolated lake. There were just the few women and their dogs, from the parked cars, then all left except one. We wandered along the beach a bit, and then both ventured into the cool water for a pleasantly refreshing swim.
Adrian testing the water at Yakoun Lake
Then it was the 20 minute trek back through the forest, and then the drive back along the track, which was only about a mile long, but seemed much longer. After that, it was the drive back through the forest, finally reaching the surfaced road just before Queen Charlotte. We headed for the Car Hire, where our lady exchanged our 4x4 for our regular car, ready for tomorrow.
It was now after 5.00pm.
Back at our lodging, we soon got chatting to the two couples from the Okanagan – Mike & Jill and Harvey & Norma, as we supped our wine at the picnic table by the shore. They were all great travellers, so we had stories to swap.
Eventually we left and drove to the Raven Hotel, where we both ate halibut and chips, with a nice beer. The English couple were eating there too, so we chatted to them before heading back.
Tuesday 14th July We drive north to Masset on the only road 170 km
It was a cloudy morning, but we still ate our breakfast outside on the deck. We received an email from Nicky with 2 photos of Louisa.
By 9.00 am we were on our way – through Queen Charlotte and past the ferry and on to Skidegate. We pulled in by the shore, and the Totem Pole attached to the Haida Building. There were glorious views past the purple fireweed across the water to Moresby Island, the southern island of Queen Charlottes. It was delightfully sleepy and tranquil.
A bit further on we stopped to walk a short way to see Balance rock – a large erratic rock perched on the shore. Again it was the peace and quiet which we enjoyed.
The road now went beside the sea up the eastern side of the island to Tlell.
We aimed to walk the Anvil Trail here – so named as it leads to an anvil shaped meander of the Tlell River. We had a lot of trouble in finding the trailhead, but once we had, we set off on a superb walk through ancient forest. There were a few huge trees standing, but many downed trees made the going interesting! You certainly couldn’t hurry! In fact the 5km walk took us 2 hours. The sign said 1½-2 hours and somebody had written underneath ‘more like 2½-3’!
Of course we saw no other people. There was some lovely birdsong, and we saw 2 frogs – a large one with a stripe down its back, and a small bright green one.
Often the trees and the ground were covered in moss, and there was plenty of fungi on the dead trunks.
We came to the river, and looked down to the reflections in the brown tannin water as we followed it to a huge log pile 250 metres long, caused after a fire in 1840. It was all so peaceful. Attempts had been made to maintain the path – bracts of fir tree had been laid on the boggiest parts of the path – but sometimes the fallen trees made it difficult to find our way.
Moss, ferns and the brown Tlell River
We returned to our car at Mariners Point, and drove on a short way, hoping to find something for lunch at the Bakers, but this had a ‘Closed’ sign outside, so we returned to the simple picnic area beside the long sandy beach and ate our cheese and chutney wraps.
Our route (the only paved road on the islands), now crossed the peninsula to Masset Inlet, which we reached at Port Clements. We drove on through the small town, and then south for a few miles, on an unsurfaced stretch, so that we could walk to the site of the former Golden Spruce. This renowned tree had been chopped down by a protester in 1997, but had been of such significance to the local population that the trail is still popular, although there is no tree to see! It was another walk through ancient mossy forest – but only for about 10 minutes, until we reached the Yakoun River, and the spot on the other side, where the tree used to stand.
After our walk, we drove back into the town, stopping to walk onto the recently renovated ‘town wharf’, and then to go into the small unpretentious museum, where there was much stuff, particularly related to logging. After that, we stopped to view the small seedling replacement Golden Spruce, grafted from the original tree, in the little Millennium park.
Now it was on northwards to Masset, and Jean’s Beach House, where we are staying for the next 3 nights. The place is actually 7 miles east of Masset, so we didn’t drive into the town, but headed to the house. This is indeed beside the sandy beach, but we were disappointed not to have a view of the sea ourselves, as the dunes hide our view.
We soon walked past the bungalow, and onto the beach, where we could see the volcanic plug of Tow Hill a few miles to the east.
Later we drove back to Masset, and were pleased to find a supermarket open, so that we could buy some more food for lunch. We dove across the bridge into Masset, looking for somewhere to eat. We came to Mile Zero pub – this is the end of the Yellowhead Highway, which continues from Prince Rupert eastwards to Winnipeg. Next to it was a liquor store, so we bought a bottle of wine. We found that the restaurant attached wasn’t open on Tuesdays, so went into the large and uninspiring pub, where we ordered breaded pork ribs and oysters, with chips and a beer – hardly healthy fare!
Wednesday 15th July Tow Hill and North Beach 27 km
Breakfast was brought to our room, all nicely packed up in a large basket. It included a type of crab quiche which Jean had made – very nice, but not our usual breakfast!
We left at 9 o’clock on a cloudy morning to drive along to Tow Hill on the unsurfaced but maintained road. We drove through the ancient moss covered forest, a delight in itself.
Driving through the ancient forest
We parked by the Hiellen River and walked through the ancient forest to the beach, where there was supposed to be a blowhole. Once at the beach, we wandered over wonderful black worn basalt rocks, with rock pools, which would have been wonderful had the weather been hot! Although the water splashed up against the rocks, we didn’t really see a blowhole, despite being there at the right time – mid tide. The English couple from the other day had not been able to find it either, but as this coast is known for its rough waves, and today it was like a mill pond, we presume that the ‘blow’ wasn’t happening. We just loved the situation anyway, beneath the steep ‘roche moutonee’ of Tow Hill.
From here, we began the ascent of Tow Hill – on a board walk through the swampy ground – well, the path was made of two parallel planks covered by a non slip material, and worked very well. There were two look outs near the top – one to the north, looking up along North Beach to Rose Point, and one to the south, looking back over Agate Beach towards Masset. We chatted to two nice couples, one from Prince George, and one from Kamloops.
We made our way back down, stopping to watch a small squirrel feeding on a pine cone, completely undeterred by us, as the deer here are. We collected our lunch from the car, and ate at a picnic table looking out over the mouth of the tannin coloured Hiellen River.
We then drove across the bridge, stopping in the campsite, where there is access to the huge sandy North Beach. People come here to collect crabs, by just walking into the sea with nets. We knew that our 2 couples from Queen Charlotte had wanted to do this, and as we pulled in, there was their large red pick-up. Harvey & Jill drove us onto the beach – they had no waders, so had got very cold in the water. We reached the others, and looked at the large crabs they had caught.
Crabbing on North Beach
We wandered on along the beach a bit more, me having a little paddle, but the water was not very warm!
Paddling by Tow Hill
We left them, and drove back a short way to Agate Beach, which we walked along right to the end and back. The sandy beach was strewn with rounded pebbles of all colours and patterns. You are supposed to find agate here, but we didn’t really know what to look for, but there certainly were some lovely stones.
We now drove back to our room, stopping by a small bakery/gift shop where we bought a couple of cakes, one of which we had with a cup of tea on our return.
We ate seafood lasagne for supper, which we had bought yesterday, with the wine bought at Mile Zero liquor store, which was OK. Afterwards we had a pleasant walk along the deserted sandy beach, with just a few seabirds for company.
Thursday 16th July Masset old and new 81 km
Our breakfast was brought again by Jean’s genial husband. It was carefully packed into a basket, and beautifully presented, with a small viola flower decorating it.
After breakfast we had a long walk along the sandy beach, strewn with pebbles, shells and seaweed, until we came to a river. We saw some seabirds, but no other people at all.
Our deserted beach
Back at the cottage, we left by car for Masset, stopping first to drive into Delkatla wildlife sanctuary. It was a long drive in, on a tarmacked road between tall trees, but the road ended in sand, which we almost got stuck in. We came to a pleasant beach – a continuation of where we had been walking earlier. There was an ancient moss covered cemetery nearby.
I drove back to a small parking area, and we walked out towards the inlet. It was really peaceful, but we didn’t see any wildlife.
We continued now through Masset, and on to Old Masset, which is on the site of 3 former Haida Villages. There were several totem poles in the village – all fairly recently constructed.
A recently erected Totem Pole
Like many places, the old culture has had to be rediscovered. The eagle and the raven feature importantly in Haida culture, and we have seen plenty of both. We hadn’t realized the strange noise which ravens make.
The museum in Masset wasn’t open until this afternoon, so we decided to drive a few miles south to visit Pure Lake. As we pulled into the small parking area, a truck with the two workmen who had been chopping branches at Tow Hill yesterday pulled in behind us to work here!
We walked on a path through young mixed conifers until we reached the lake. There were several recently erected picnic tables here, but the wind was blowing straight across the lake, so we didn’t stop long.
On our way back to Masset, we found a little track going along beside the deep tannin coloured Watun River. We followed it down, and came to the mouth of the river, where it joins Masset Sound. It was delightfully peaceful here. We saw a kingfisher, 2 bald eagles, and some ducks.
Peaceful tranquility by Masset Sound
We drove back to Masset, and stopped to have lunch of halibut and chips in ‘Singing Surf’ restaurant, which doubled as an ordering place for Sears catalogue company.
The small nature centre on the other side of the inlet wasn’t yet open, so I had a boggy walk beside the inlet. Thimbleberries fringed the path, and I saw a red sapsucker (like a wookpecker) and an ‘LBJ’, which was very unafraid. We then went into the Delklata Nature Centre, and discovered that the reserve had been started by an Englishman over a hundred years ago, when he realized the importance of this area. We were ‘between seasons’, so there wasn’t much to see today.
By now the museum was also open, so we made our way there. The building it was in had started as a hospital, and had then been a school. There was much local stuff, particularly relating to the fishing industry. There were a great many albums of photographs, put together by a man called Howard Phillips, who had been born in England, and had died in 2005. They showed many aspects of life here.
We also saw examples of agates (we had found a lot on the beaches), and found that the large coiled shells which we had picked up were called Lewis’ moonsnails.
Having seen all there was to see of Masset, both Old and New, we drove back to our room, where soon it started to rain.
Friday 17th July Back south to Queen Charlotte 155 km
It was a wet morning – the sort of weather we know happens here a lot, but which we hadn’t seen.
Mike came over with our breakfast basket (and our bill!) We found out that he had lived in Sudbury, Ontario, but it wasn’t the place for him. He had joined the Navy, and had spent some time in Portsmouth. Adrian chatted more to Jean, as we left, and found that they had lived in other places too, including Chesapeake Bay. They have two daughters, who Jean sometimes travels with, as Mike isn’t keen on travelling anymore. Jean had been born in Scotland, and it was she who had painted the pictures on our room – one of Tow Hill, and one of a deer.
We set off to drive back south, the rain giving us a chance to see the misty trees, like so many pictures we had seen. We had found a CD left in the car, and the church music fitted our lovely journey.
We pulled in at Tlell, where the walk to the wreck of the Pesuta ship leaves from. I walked a short bit of the trail, through forest beside the Tlell River, but the whole walk is supposed to take about 4 hours.
We did have a short walk to the beach at nearby Misty Meadows campsite, enjoying the birdsong, and the pretty harebells.
The Rising Tide bakery was open today, so we went in for a coffee (me) and chocolate cookie. It was an arty place, like many here, with some lovely stain glass pictures of an eagle and a whale.
Now we followed the scenic road beside the coast to Skidegate. Bald eagles flew above and one passed just in front of our car.
At Skidegate we visited the Haida Museum and Heritage Centre. This was situated in expensive new buildings ($26M!), and although there was quite a lot of stuff about the Haida, we didn’t feel that it told us enough. We saw some of their crafts, particularly cedar basket weaving, but didn’t feel that we got to the essence of the people. We did find out that smallpox and other diseases had reduced the population from thousands to just a few hundred. Here, as in other places, children had been sent to residential schools, where they were punished if they spoke their own language. For some years now, the Haida people have been trying to ‘resurrect’ their language and culture.
The views out from the museum were wonderful. By now the day had cleared. We both ate a lunch of soup, before driving back a short way to walk to Spirit Lakes. This was a delightful walk, up through forest to two lakes. We walked a trail between the two lakes – at one point we crossed on a large fallen log to a little island. The water was filled with dead trees, and we had passed many large slugs on the path, but it was beautifully warm, and there was nobody else about.
We made our way back down again, and drove back towards Queen Charlotte. We were surprised to see that the road was now lined with balloons. These are ‘Skidegate days’ – festive days to celebrate the anniversary of the erecting of the totem poles.
We stopped to buy a bottle of wine, and some goodies, before arriving back at Spruce Point Lodge. Our delight turned to dismay, when Mary said that all was OK for our trip on Sunday. We leave on Sunday, and had booked our trip to Skedans for tomorrow!
We came up to our room, hoping that something could be sorted out, and chatting to a nice young couple from Oliver, BC who had been camping at Agate Beach.
We drove into Skidegate but nothing seemed to be happening except a couple of kids ball games. We drove back to Queen Charlottes, and ate in Howlers Bistro, where we had a cosy table for two, but no view of the sea.
We drove back to Spruce Point, where we found that Mary had had no luck with finding us a trip for tomorrow.
Saturday 18th July We explore a bit of Moresby Island 156 km
It was a grey morning, and breakfast outside was a bit chilly, even though we sat downstairs on the deck. There was still no luck in getting a trip booked for today, so we took our little car back to ‘Rustic Rentals’ and managed to get another 4x4. We had decided to do our own bit of exploring of Moresby Island. We saw that there was a 25 mile loop that you could drive, plus side spurs, almost all of which was on gravel logging roads.
We left to catch the 10 o’clock ferry to Alliford Bay, which we had so enjoyed when we arrived 6 days ago. There were only 2 other cars for the 25 minute crossing. There were some ‘hitch-hiking’ birds on the front of the boat, like we had seen before – black with white sides and red feet, and a high pitched whistle – we will be glad to get back to the Bam, and our bird book! (They were pigeon guillemots)
Once landed, we began our quiet and peaceful circuit, passing almost no other cars. The views were lovely, and we could stop and wander where we wished.
We drove first along beside Skidegate Channel, which divides Graham Island from Moresby Island. We then turned south, stopping to eat our bread and sardine lunch at Mosquito Lake, where the only thing wrong was the name! There were lots of wild flowers here, and foxgloves in profusion beside the track, also pale blue forget-me-nots.
Rosie at Mosquito Lake
We drove on down to Moresby Camp, where our boat would have left from, had we been on it! It was a lovely spot, set at the end of Cumshewa Inlet, which we would have travelled down to Skedans onLouise Island.
We drove back to Skidegate Lake, where there were a lot of old wooden pilings. I walked around and had a ‘conversation’ with a young deer.
We now took the long track to Gray Bay, through trees which encroached from both sides. All of theses roads were really pot-holed, and we bumped from one hole to the next. Gray Bay was a huge sandy bay, with a delightful campsite set beside it. We walked out along the beach – there were killdeer and plovers.
Driving back from here, we reached Copper Bay, a pleasant bay with lots of shorebirds, and also a collection of derelict shacks and caravans. A bald eagle flew to the top of a fir tree, making its uncanny noise.
We soon found ourselves at Sandspit, where we had landed last Saturday, and a tarmacked road. We had one last walk – the Onward Trail, which went through woods and round a point, supposedly a whale watching spot in season.
Then we just had time to head for the 4.30 ferry back to Skidegate Landing. There were 4 cars this time, and the sky looked dramatic! We drove on into Skidegate, where it is the end of ‘Skidegate Days’. Not much was happening – just a few bedraggled stalls, the results of a raffle, and the end of a roller hockey game.
We drove back to Spruce Point Lodge, where there was no luck with a trip for tomorrow morning, but Mary had arranged a meal for us tonight at a Haida home, at her own expense.
This proved to be really enjoyable. Keenawii’s Kitchen looked out on a marvellous view of the water. There were 7 other guests – all good company. The man next to me had run in the ‘Totem to totem’ marathon today at Skidegate, and had actually won the race. Another couple, Betty Anne & Merv, were staying at Spruce Point Lodge. They had been with several others on a 4 day boat trip down to the bottom of Moresby Island (the reason that we couldn’t go on a trip yesterday, as the boat was still out).
After a Haida ‘grace’, we were served various different foods, starting with little appetizers of dried fish and seaweed. Then, after soup, different types of salmon were brought, also herring row on kelp (very tasty), venison with wild cranberry (really good), crab, and vegetables. Dessert was fruit pie and cream, or a variety of fruits. We were served by several people, including 13 year old Cohen, Keenawii’s grandson. He had sung grace, and afterwards sang 3 songs to us outside – one for the raven, one for the eagle (the two Haidan ’clans’), and the Haidan National song. He accompanied himself on a Haidan drum. He was moving on to High School this year, and had opted to study Haidan instead of French.
Keenawii and Cohen
Back at Spruce Lodge, we sat with our wine and our lovely view, before Betty Anne persuaded us to join them and the others from their boat trip on the lawn by the water. One young couple were from England. We swapped travel stories with Betty Anne and Merv until late.
Sunday 19th July Goodbye to Queen Charlottes and back to the Bam 4 km
No trip had come forward for today – Nancy told us that bookings in general were really down this year. It was a calm morning as we sat on our terrace for the last time, enjoying the exquisite view as we ate breakfast. A bald eagle flew above, and a heron strutted in the water.
We had wanted to walk across to the island, but the tide was coming in. Instead we drove into Queen Charlotte to the Visitors Centre, where Adrian bought a hat and we each bought a T-shirt. We returned the car to Rustic Rentals, where annoyingly we found that Nationwide had stopped Adrian’s visa card transactions, and we weren’t able to sort it out today. We realized that yesterday’s trip had proved rather expensive for the car hire, so we were glad that we had enjoyed it!
Back at our room, we packed up, and got ready for our 12.15 shuttle bus to the ferry and then the airport. We spoke to Simon and the children on the phone, just before we left.
We were picked up in a small mini bus by Marilyn, the large lady who runs the shuttle service. Even this wasn’t straightforward – the morning flight had been delayed, so the shuttle bus collecting the passengers from the airport was on the ferry which we were catching. At Skidegate Landing, we swapped buses, plus luggage and passengers in the few minutes while the ferry docked. We now had driver Bill, who had collected us last week, to drive us on to Sandspit airport. We had an interesting collection of passengers, including two chaps who had been working on logging research, and a young fellow with a high pitched voice, who was a storyteller and writer.
The small airport was pleasant – the sort that I can cope with. You handed in your luggage, then they closed the security room for a while, opening it in time for us to go through to board. All pleasantries and none of the agro of large airports.
We had a few moments of misgiving, when our plane was late in arriving, as we had a bus to catch in Vancouver. All was well, and the plane ‘turned around’ very speedily (in about 20 minutes!), and we left only a little late.
We could see a bit of the coast of Moresby Island from the plane, recognizing places from yesterday, but then it got a bit cloudy, as we veered away from the island. Once more we enjoyed the fabulous coastline of western British Columbia and Vancouver Island as we headed towards Vancouver.
There was clear blue sky, and it felt beautifully warm as we walked across the tarmac from the plane to the terminal at Vancouver. We took a long time in finding the bus stop, and when the bus came, it got really full – 38 passengers, whereas the driver only had 10 yesterday. We worried that it would take us a long time to get through U.S. customs at the border, but there were no delays. We enjoyed great views of magnificent Mt Baker, caked in snow.
We were the only passengers to alight at Bellingham Airport, the others going on to Seattle. We had quite a wait for a taxi to take us to Hidden Village RV Park, at Lynden, where the Bam has been sitting for 9 months. Our large young driver with long, unkempt hair, was a pleasant chap who had been born in Port Townsend.
We reached the Bam, which looked very unloved and grubby, but we were pleased that it immediately sprang into life when Adrian started the engine. We drove across into the RV Park, which was much busier than when we had been here in October.
We found an empty spot (the office was closed), and familiarized ourselves with everything in the Bam – it look us a long time to remember where things went, as we unpacked.
We’d snacked on sandwiches which I’d made up, with the last of our food, during the day, and now we ate a simple meal of tuna and rice. At bedtime we discovered that a bottle of beer in the ‘under-sofa compartment’ had exploded – presumably frozen at some point – but there was luckily no smell. [15 years later I accidentally found out that if you freeze anything fizzy, as the gas can't freeze, it generally explodes! - Adrian]
Monday 20th July Off in the Bam, to Vancouver Island 55 miles
Nice to be back with the Bam
It was lovely to wake up in the Bam again. There was a clear blue sky, but it had been a cool night. For breakfast we ate the scraps of bread which I’d brought with us, toasted, sitting outside, before we set about sorting the Bam. When Adrian went across to pay the lady for the last couple of weeks of storage, she said not to bother about that, and also didn’t charge us for last night’s camping.
The unfortunate thing was that the internet wasn’t working, so we still weren’t able to sort out our credit cards – later today mine was rejected too.
We both had a swim in the pleasant pool, and then a shower. The sun was really hot (85°F) when we had coffee with some forgotten shortbread biscuits brought with us – welcome after our frugal breakfast.
Late morning we left, and drove into the pleasant town of Lynden, stopping first at Safeway, but being careful what we bought, as we are going straight into Canada, so no fruit and vegetables (just one pear, one tomato and one nectarine for lunch!) People in here were really nice, including the young lads at the till.
We got some more fuel. A lady passing had said ‘I like your rig’.
I spotted a ‘Radio Shack’, and we were delighted that Adrian was able to get a piece to make the Ipod work – all our music is now on Ipod, and we needed a wireless connector for the Bam radio system as it doesn’t have an input plug. We had talked about it in England, and thought that it would be OK (Murray said he was sure it had one!). Also we had mislaid a piece which enables us both to listen with earphones, and Adrian was able to get that too. We had deliberated about going south to Bellingham to try to buy these pieces, so it was a real bonus.
We located the car wash which we had used on our last visit here, but before cleaning the Bam, we needed lunch. I spotted a sign to ‘City Park’, and here we found a nice shady picnic table to enjoy our lunch – the French bread with ham and butter tasted good!
Then it was back to the car wash, where we put in a total of 28 quarters, but finally Adrian got the Bam looking more like its usual self! I was kept busy putting in the coins, before the last lot ran out, and avoiding the heavy spray!
Now 3.00pm we headed for the Canadian border, where we were asked very few questions – none about food!
We headed now for the ferry at Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver, to go to Vancouver Island. There was too much traffic for me – it seemed so busy after the Queen Charlottes. We stopped to buy some local blueberries and cherries – we hadn’t bought any in USA, in case we’d had to hand them in.
We reached the ferry, and didn’t have to wait long to board. It was a really scenic crossing, passing close to lots of the Gulf Islands.
Off to Vancouver Island
As we wouldn’t be landing until 6.45, we thought that we’d better have supper on board, but the chicken and chips weren’t great, so we needn’t have bothered.
We had wondered where we would be able to stop tonight, but almost as soon as we landed we turned off to McDonald Campsite (marked only on a very old map of ours) and found a really nice forested site – formerly a Provincial Park, but now part of the Gulf Islands National Park. We pulled into a spot, upset that we hadn’t got any firewood, until we discovered that there was a total fire ban.
We didn’t have to get a meal, so sat outside with our drinks, enjoying the stillness, until it got dark.
Tuesday 21st July A revisit to the Butchart Gardens after 20 years 80 miles
It was a nice morning. We ate our breakfast, including the blueberries and cherries, sitting at our picnic table, where it was warm, despite the tall trees.
We left at 9.o’clock and drove via the west of the Saanich peninsula to the Butchart Gardens, which we had visited in 1989 when we came to Vancouver Island with our boys. When we arrived at 9.30, it was already busy, with several coaches. We had noticed how neat and affluent everywhere looked. Although beautiful, it was very different from the Queen Charlotte Islands, where nothing was pretentious.
We knew that the entrance fee to the gardens was expensive, and we survived the crowds, but still the gardens were really beautiful. Both the individual plants, and the colour combinations were a real inspiration. For such beauty to be achieved from a former quarry is inspiration itself. We wandered around for the rest of the morning, and our cameras worked overtime!
The always superb Butchart Gardens
We left at lunchtime, and needing somewhere to stop for lunch, we headed for Elk Lake Regional Park, which we reached at the second attempt – the road had been blocked off at the first try. We had stopped at a fruit and vegetable market, and stocked up with fresh goodies, which we enjoyed at the shady picnic table by the lake. We still had no cheese or ham, but corned beef, with salad, particularly fresh carrots, went down well. Afterwards I had a lovely swim in the lake, while rowing teams practised nearby. The little beach area had become really busy by the time we left.
The drive on now into Victoria wasn’t pleasant – much too busy for me – but we arrived at Beacon Hill Park – which we had visited in 1989 – and photographed the start of the Trans Canada Highway.
The start of the Trans Canada Highway
There was a statue to Terry Fox here, and also a plaque to a man who was able to complete running across Canada in 1985 – Terry Fox had died in 1981 while trying to complete his run across Canada when suffering from bone cancer.
From here we climbed down to a little beach, with everlasting sweet peas growing in the cliffs. We could look across to the Olympic Peninsula.
Back in the van, we got an internet connection and received messages from Lena and Simon, and also one from Wanderlust magazine, inviting me to apply for tickets for the awards ceremony for the best travel guide, as I’d nominated Diego from our Ecuador trip, and he was amongst the 3 finalists.
As we drove out of Victoria, we viewed the magnificent Government Buildings, and the superb Empress Hotel.
It was then a long and horrid time getting out of the town. Finally we found ourselves on the West Coast Highway towards Sooke, where we stopped and got some grocery shopping, which now means that we are well set up for food.
We were heading for a free camping place that we had note of, at Jordan River, but when we reached it, there was only a packed fee paying site which didn’t entice us. Luckily we had seen a spot just back along the road, so at 7 o’clock we pulled in there, and spent a pleasant evening, cooking our fish outside, along with lots of vegetables, and eating outside as the sun went down.
Wednesday 22nd July A circuit from Port Renfrew 92 miles
The night had been cool, and the morning was too, especially when we went into sea mist. It had been sunny at our spot, but we had decided to move on for breakfast, which wasn’t a good move, as you could only access the sea at a few points. The whole coastline here is a Provincial Park, with the 47 km Marine hiking Trail culminating at Port Renfrew, where the West Coast Trail also starts from, in the other direction.
We reached Port Renfrew at 9 o’clock – just too late by the time we’d logged in to do anything about our cancelled visa cards – in England it was 5.00 pm, and they had just closed.
We had our breakfast at the parking area by Botanical Beach before setting off to walk a lovely trail down to Botany Beach, and then along to Botanical Beach. The walk took us the rest of the morning – we walked through old forest to the beaches where there were pools amongst the rocks. A deer came onto the beach, quite unafraid, and then we saw it at the next beach – perhaps it had followed us because it seemed to be the same one.
We ate an early lunch when we returned, sitting at a picnic table where we expected to have a lovely view, but only looked over a tree filled valley.
There was not much at Port Renfrew - just accommodation for those walking the trails, and a pub. We walked to the end of the jetty, seeing a bald eagle on our return. There were a few simple dwellings further on. A plaque said that just a few descendants of the original settlers of the 1880s still live here.
On the jetty at Port Renfrew
We were hoping to drive on to Duncan by a circular route, expecting some of it to be a gravel road. We passed Fairy Lake, and stopped briefly at Lizard Lake, busy with family groups, but spoilt by an offensive loud-mouthed male.
We crossed deep Harris Canyon, and were really pleased to find that the unsurfaced stretch of the road had been chip-sealed, making for an easy drive. We had seen several places where we could have overnighted, but it was too early to stop. Then, before we had expected, we were at Cowichan Lake – and civilisation!
We turned left to drive the short distance to Honeymoon Bay, and then on to Gordons Bay, where there was a Provincial campground. There were one or two places left, but the whole place was so busy that we decided not to stop. The lake was certainly pretty, but far too busy for us!
We drove back along Lake Cowichan, turning off to Cowichan River Provincial Park, where there were more campsites. When we’d orientated ourselves, we found that one of the campsites was closed. The next was along 5 km of corrugated gravel road, and then on to Stolz Pool campsite. This was light and airy, and there was space to stay.
We settled on a spot, and then walked out on the Stolz Pool Trail, which supposedly went around the campsite, but often had to be imagined, as we found ourselves in a river bed, climbing over and under downed tree trunks.
We ended up by the Cowichan River, which was shallow, stony, cool and fast flowing, so we didn’t venture in. There was a memorial nearby to the Burma Star, recognising a local man who had been killed in 1944.
We got back to our pitch at 6.30. There was a complete fire ban, but barbecues were allowed, so Adrian barbecued a good T-bone steak, which we ate with baked potato, squash, courgette and mushroom.
It was really warm. We came in at 9.30pm.
Thursday 23rd July A beautiful walk by the Cowichan River 26 miles
It had been a warm night, and although the sun was still behind the trees it was pleasant as we sat outside for breakfast. We worked a bit on the website before setting off. We had planned to meet up with two of my former schoolfriends tomorrow evening at Parksville, where they now live, so we were in no rush today.
It gave us the chance to walk the Cowichan River loop, so we set off back along the gravel road, stopping at Marie Canyon first, where we walked down to see the river rushing through and over huge rocks and boulders, rather like some places in Australia. We walked back up and had coffee and some of the gooey rice krispie/marshmallow gunge which I had made. It was so beautifully warm, sitting under the huge trees, while a woodpecker hacked away in the distance, that we could have stayed longer.
We drove on a bit further, to park by the recently restored 66 mile trestle bridge of the abandoned CNR Railway. This bridge made it possible to do a loop walk, using the Skutz bridge a few miles upstream.
We set off, crossing the bridge first, to walk mostly high above the dramatic canyon, with the river far below. Sometimes the path went closer to the river, necessitating steep assents and descents. Going was slow because of the terrain – tree roots across the path, but with the smell of hot pine needles, it was wonderful.
Adrian hiking above the Cowichan River
Early on we’d stopped to watch a squirrel throw down pine cones from the top of a tree, then scamper down the trunk to collect them. We were nearly knocked off our feet by a boisterous dog, whose female owner was running the trail. Another man was more considerate, and held his ‘over-friendly’ dog back while we passed. These were the only people we passed.
We reached Skutz Bridge, where several people had parked to ‘tube’ down part of the river. We now took a short stretch of the disused railway track, which was infinitely faster than the river trail, but we used the river trail for the last part of the walk, arriving back at the Bam at 1.15. It had been a lovely walk.
There was no sign of the marked picnic table here, so we used our own, and sat behind the Bam for a welcome lunch. Two vehicles pulled in with a large group of handicapped young men, who all went off quietly for a walk, the driver apologizing for stirring up the dust as they drove in.
We drove back to Skutz bridge, taking the river trail until we reached a part of the river where we had a delightful swim, amongst the potholes and whirlpools.
Rosie swimming in the Cowichan River
Now we drove on to Duncan. We wanted a bank, so that we could exchange travellers cheques. We had very little Canadian money left, due to Nationwide stopping our visa cards. We found a bank, in a pleasant little shopping street, and the friendly assistant got into big conversations about passports – she had got her first one yesterday, and was really excited about it. She was going to a wedding in Las Vegas – usually she went no further than Alberta or Toronto, she said.
With some difficulty, we found Canadian Superstore – Adrian was hoping to get some wine, which had been good value in Calgary’s Superstore, but this one didn’t sell liquor. We did buy one or two other things we wanted – Branston pickle and baked beans! As we walked across the car park, a tiny bird was being anxiously called by its worried mother, as it crouched behind a car.
Then it was on to Walmart – a new one, so not where we’d first looked. We wanted to stay in town, so that we can hopefully get an internet connection early tomorrow, to contact Nationwide about our visa cards.