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British Columbia by Ferry

Author: Amelia aka ibfern
Date of Trip: September 2008

We just returned from a 23 day trip to British Columbia, the US Pacific Northwest, and even a little Alaska! It was awe inspiring at every turn, I couldn’t stop sketching and painting everything I saw. I really liked the BC Visitors Centers. Whether we needed a recommendation for a place to eat, an idea of what to do and places to hike to, or just a rest stop, The BC Visitors Center were all tops. I found some wonderful hand made wood bowls at an outrageously good price at the Visitors Center in The Hazeltons, go if you can! I love Vancouver, I think it’s probably my favorite all time city so far. Not only is it set in a magnificent environment, the planners really took advantage of the natural elements so abundant. There are miles and miles of sea walk (sea wall), and lots of beautiful neighborhoods and Cafes. The Classical Chinese Gardens of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in Chinatown were wonderful, and there is a free Chinese Garden right next to it that is also quite nice. We enjoyed the ambience of Gastown, with its steam clock, while we ate at a delightful outdoor cafe. We had perfect weather.

We visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge, no doubt a tourist attraction, but who could resist walking across a swinging suspension bridge, built 230 feet above the Capilano River back in 1889? My husband Ken, who is forever being dragged to very high places despite his fear of heights, crossed the bridge several times. The second time he even looked over!

Vancouver Island was incredible. We spent a half day visiting the quaint towns of Duncan and Chemainus. Duncan is the self claimed Totem Pole capital of the world, but these Totems are not old, nor historic, although they are interesting to see. We found a wonderful Gourmet Health Food store with fresh salads that started us on a trend of health food and vegetarian eating for most of the trip. Chemainus is an interesting seaside town known for its murals; we followed the walking tour offered by the visitors center. They also have an interesting museum.

We stumbled upon a wonderful place in Campbell River called “Painters Lodge.” We loved this place, got a fabulous room for $69, and took their free water shuttle over to their sister resort on Quadra Island, where we had the best Sushi I’ve even tasted. Our hotel in Port Hardy, The Glen Lyon Inn, was right over the water with very nice rooms. At low tide, we had 13 or more Bald and Golden Eagles right in front of our room, feeding and scavenging for food. We sat there dumbstruck for hours, never having witnessed these magnificent creatures at such close range, and in such abundance.

We took the Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, 15 hours up the Inside Passage on the “Queen of the North,” I did not get bored for one minute. I spend the entire time out on the deck because the scenery was so beautiful and I was afraid I might miss something! We rented a room, thinking we would want to rest and grab a nap but that turned out to be a waste of money since we never used it. Still, the room was not bad at all, it had a window and a private bath and shower and I can easily see myself ferrying instead of cruising. See, I’m already thinking about next summer’s trip! Aren’t we travelers all like that?

Prince Rupert is a great town; it is basically in a Rain Forest. I kept hearing about the endless rain but for the most part we had nice weather. We stayed at the Crest Hotel, I highly recommend it. We visited Terrace in search of the famed and rare Kermode Bear, a white colored “brown bear” particularly abundant in these parts, but of course they eluded us completely! We did spot several Brown and Black Bears, and I swear I saw a Grizzly cross a road, but no Kermode bears! We also visited the North Pacific Historic Fishing Village in Port Edward, it was quite lovely and informative at the same time. Lots of great places to sketch and relax!

Something very interesting happened to me in Prince Rupert. I had read a travel article, almost 15 years ago, about the fun of searching out the weird and wonderful on road trips. In this article they discussed their search for an oddity called the “Shoe Tree”—a tree filled with residents old shoes. This article (and the advent of the internet) inspired me to always look for the weird and the wonderful on road trips, and in my family I am famous for finding just that! So when we discovered the infamous “Shoe Tree II” right out of Prince Rupert I was thrilled. It is called “The home for lost soles” and it is located four kilometers from town, on the coastal side of Kaien Island. Shoe Tree I is located on northern Vancouver Island, west of Port Hardy on the road to Holberg.

The road to Stewart (BC) and Hyder (Alaska) is called “Glacier Highway” and it proved to elicit many gasps from both of us since we had never seen Glaciers up close. Bear Glacier is a drive up glacier that sits on a small lake filled with Icebergs, it’s very scenic! We also passed several hanging Glaciers before we reached Stewart, BC. This beautiful and very isolated town sits right at the mouth of the Portland Fjord, and it is filled with very proper and trim gardens. We ate a great restaurant called “The Bitter Creek Cafe.” It was fantastic. We were endlessly surprised at the excellent restaurants we found in the most isolated places. We spend the night at the best hotel in town, called The Kind Edward Motel. They put the non-smokers on the fourth floor, a good thing, but with no elevator it was a bummer to schlep the luggage up those stairs. This is when I wished I had packed a little lighter ?.

A mile up the road from Stewart is Hyder, Alaska, billed as the friendliest Ghost town in Alaska. It is a stark and humorous contrast with its hand painted “Welcome to Hyder” sign and wild and messy gardens, not less beautiful but certainly different. We are a month too early for the Salmon, so we cannot watch the bears feed at the Bear Viewing Area, but we do visit it as we head up to Salmon Glacier, another accessible Glacier that is enormous. We only see the thumb of it and have to turn back because the snow is too heavy still, but I can only imagine the size of the whole Glacier. Some curious things about these two towns are that they share the Canadian Mounties (no US police anywhere), as well as Canadian Money since there are no American banks in Hyder, and its weird paying because you pay in American dollars, but use Canadian money! While Stewart is on Pacific Time, Hyder is on Alaska Time. And finally, we had to pass through a Canadian Border as we left Hyder to go back to Stewart, although we did not pass an American Border as we entered Hyder. All our border crossings were easy and quick since we had our Passports, thanks to Ziners good advice!

We visit all of the Gitksan Totem Pole Villages along the Skeena River, including Kitwancool, Kispiox, Kitwanga, and Ksan. These Totems are authentic and old. In one Village they turned the Totems to face the road so people can just drive by and never get out. This amazes me, the original Tribe had the Totems facing the river so passersby could see their stories. I hate to see these things altered in any way. In the Hazeltons we spend some time discovering Ksan, a re-creation of a Gitksan community that has some great Totem Poles, Longhouses, Museum, and a Gift shop.

Farther along the Yellowhead highway we came to Smithers, a quaint and scenic town at the base of several chains of mountains. The main street is lovely, with its Bavarian Motifs, and lined with quaint stores and restaurants. We were able to take some nice hikes since the Sun goes down after 11PM, we usually stayed out hiking until dark most nights. Twin falls is beautiful, it is an easy hike up to the viewing area and we have the trail all to ourselves. I carry my whistle in case we meet a bear, but no such luck! I have mixed feelings about that ?. W also hike to an ancient fossil bed at Driftwood Provincial Park, but it is too hard to see the fossils on the shale from where we are, and we don’t want to disturb the site and walk where we weren’t supposed to go. We always respect the natural resources.

Now I have this notion that I will be able to see the Northern Lights from up here, and I make it my business to get up every night and look. Although this interrupts my sleep, and I never see anything, I continue to get up each night and look! I really want to see those lights.

We make a decision to not go to the Rockies after we calculate that it would require us to drive almost 400 miles a day for the rest of the vacation and we want to relax a little. We take the Caribou Highway at Prince George and stop in Quesnal for a nice Greek meal and a little walk around town. We end up driving on to Williams Lake and find a great Bed and Breakfast type Inn right on the Lake. We do some Bird watching from our patio. We also spot our second Moose here, having spotted the first one right out of Smithers. It was a funny experience, I was on the phone making reservations somewhere while we were driving and all of a sudden Ken spots a Moose. I have to squeal and of course tell the person on the phone “I have to go now, there is a Moose in the road!”

It was so hot in the Caribou, almost 90 degrees everyday! I live in southern California, it’s always hot here, and I was so looking forward to cool weather. It seems that every time I go to the Pacific Northwest, it becomes unseasonably warm. We decide to head back to Vancouver, and the somewhat cooler air. Its terrible how with age, I cannot tolerate the hot weather at all. We drove the Sea to Sky Highway past Whistler, following the Glacial Fjord that leads to Vancouver. What an awesome drive, we were blown away by the magnificent views and sweeping scenery. We stopped in Whistler but it seemed like such a built up place, and it reminded me of Vail and Aspen in that it was very commercial, very fake, and very expensive. Not my kind of place at all, unless I am skiing.

On our way back to Los Angeles we stopped in Post Angeles ( take the ferry folks, the drive is chalked full of traffic jams and takes all day). We visited Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc falls, and of course the Hoh Rainforest. We also stayed at our favorite Seaside city in Washington called Ocean Shores. Ocean Shores smells wonderful, and there is a beach here that you can drive on, an oddity for us since we never get to do this in California. We also visit Fort Canby where they have a Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center which was very interesting.

We cross the Columbia River at Astoria and head for Fort Clatsop, another Lewis and Clark historic site which we find very interesting. We are already thinking about a trip that follows the Lewis and Clark trail, why we even bought a touring book! We found a to-die-for pizza in Cannon beach called Pizza a’ fetta that I must recommend: Pizza à fetta 231 N. Hemlock 503-436-0333

I’ve written a lot about the Oregon Coast, if anybody is interested in this information I will be glad to share, email me privately. I’ve also written a lot about the Redwoods in Northern California , and I’ve probably hiked a good 3/4s of all the trails so feel free to ask about that too.

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