The much anticipated and long-awaited visit of my brother and sisters finally became reality.
They arrived at Vancouver airport with a huge banner to wish me a happy birthday 🙂
Trying to ease my special guests into the different time zone, we visited (what seems to become a tradition with our visitors) Alouette Lake and the Lower Falls at Golden Ears Provincial Park. Lazing at the lake and a hike to the falls. Not a bad start of our vacation together.
We always, always! take our visitors to the MOA (Museum of Anthropology) in Vancouver. This is such an amazing museum. And every time there is something else to discover.
I didn’t take a picture of it, but I do want to share with you the smallest totem pole in their collection.
This time there was a special exhibition “Without Mask, Contemporary Afro Cuban Art“.
Between the First Nations treasures, the Afro Cuban art and all the other exhibits, old and new, we just had to soak up what we could within a day and leave the rest for another time…
June 12 and 13
We took an early ferry to Vancouver Island where we started with a visit to Victoria.
A charming city, full of life and history.
Our kids treated us to a horse and carriage ride through the heritage part of Victoria, Beacon Hill Park and many other interesting places. We took a harbour tour in one of the many water taxi’s and we saw a tall ship of the”SALTS” organization, a learning experience for youth aboard a heritage tall ship. We had a view of our timeshare from the water, admired the float homes with on occasion yachts moored next to the home. One of them had a bird of prey sitting on the porch. Our captain was very knowledgeable and loved sharing his stories with us. Later we had lunch at my favourite “RedFish Bluefish” restaurant. A half cargo container, converted into a very successful eatery. We wandered by the Inner Harbour, the downtown area and Chinatown, had very bad espresso coffee at Murchie’s, and checked out the totem poles at Thunderbird Park. And between all that sightseeing we managed to touch base with our kids and had dinner with them as well as our cousins, one of them surprised us by flying in from Prince George.
We left Victoria and drove towards the south coast of Vancouver Island, stopping first in Sooke, where we had very good coffee at The Stick coffee house. We also discovered agricultural murals in this, in our eyes, sleepy little town. Our journey continued, following the Juan de Fuca trail. We stopped at French Beach, saw the logs floating in Jordan River, descended to China Beach and explored the amazing rocks at Botanical Beach. We also spotted a Sea Lion and some River Otters on a rock formation. We left reluctantly and only because we still had to drive to Lake Cowichan where we had a reservation at Kidd’s B&B.
The only road taking us there (Pacific Marine Road), formerly a logging road but now paved and in reasonably good condition, offers not much more but asphalt and trees and we didn’t want to get stuck there in the dark. We reached Lake Cowichan, checked into our B&B and were, upon our question of where to go for dinner, recommended to eat at “Jakes at the Lake“. It was quite noisy when we first got there, but the service was excellent and so was the food. And the noise kind of dwindled to an acceptable level after a while.
Our B&B was very comfortable. Breakfast next morning was a feast. Host and hostess David and Beth were very engaging, sharing some of their travel experiences and giving tips for things to see and do on the way to the east coast.
June 15 and 16
Off we went again, direction Duncan, city of the totem poles. It was a drizzly day but we stopped for a short walk anyway. The same for the next town on our list: Chemainus, the murals town. A bit wet so we cut it short. The next stop was Nanaimo, for a delicious lunch with our dear friend Joanne. And then it was time to hit the water again. We caught the 3:10 pm ferry from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, meeting up for a quick hug and a father’s day gift from our son and his family at the ferry terminal. A beautiful crossing with an amazing sky and view of the Vancouver skyline. From Horseshoe Bay we drove the Sea to Sky Highway to Pemberton, where we met my husband, daughter and son-in-law for dinner at Mile One Eating House. Our stomachs satisfied we drove to Poole Creek, residence of aforementioned daughter and her husband.
An evening full of fun, laughter and music followed and then it was high time to hit the hay.
Next morning Geoff prepared a delicious breakfast, enjoyed by one and all.
The hummingbirds put up quite a show. Capturing those minuscule, very fast birds, is not easy, but perseverance pays off they say. We enjoyed the laid-back day, venturing out on the 5 acre lot later in the day, splashing through the creek, enjoying the mostly undisturbed forest. Next morning, after breakfast prepared by our daughter and a walk with the dogs, we dropped my husband off in Pemberton, where he was going to catch the Greyhound bus back to Vancouver and the WestCoast Express train back home. We continued our journey north on Duffy Lake Road, a winding, at times fairly steep road with gorgeous views.
As I mentioned before, we are now on our way, via Duffy Lake Road, to Lillooet.
On the way we stopped at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, where, at the first lake (there are 3 at different altitudes) you have a fantastic view of the glacier.
Just before reaching Lillooet is Seton Lake with its impressive dam project.
A coffee and gas stop in Lillooet and we go north and east towards Lone Butte, on the “Fishing Highway” (hwy 24) and our next B&B, “Sunshine Cottage B&B, beautiful location, great house, welcoming, hospitable hosts Katalin and Alex and lots of mosquitoes.
June 18 and 19
After a truly sumptuous breakfast, we say good-bye to our host and hostess and continue to Clearwater. Our next B&B is inside Wells Gray Park and we are looking forward to our stay there. Wells Gray Park has been on my bucket list for a while and I am anxious to check it out. With a stop-over at “Cappuccino and Espresso on the Lake” in Lac des Roches, we are sufficiently fortified for the rest of the drive. Not a long one this day. Approximately 118 km. We were advised to stop at the Wells Gray Park Information Centre in Clearwater before entering the Park, so we did and we picked up a handy map as well as some tips there. Across the street was a small restaurant where we had a bite to eat. Back on the road we past a bakery; a perfect place to stock up on some “goodies”. The first stop on our list were the Spahats Falls as this was on our way to our B&B anyway. A short walk to what we expected to be “just another waterfall”, but my goodness! We all stood and stared! Wow and amazing!
The immense rock formation, the falls, the whole magnitude of it. It was awe-inspiring.
The story of Spahats Canyon was written in three chapters, each by a different author: 400.000 years ago.
The first chapter was written by the volcanoes of Wells Gray Park.
Half a million years ago, these began to erupt sending river after river of bubbling lava southward through the Clearwater Valley. As each lava flow cooled and hardened, yet another layer of volcanic rock was added to the valley floor. Today you can still distinguish these separate flows in the layered rock of Spahats Canyon.
By the time the last flow had hardened, the valley floor stood 150 metres above its original level. You are now standing upon that elevated valley floor.
Info: sign at Spahats Falls, Wells Gray Park.
We took our time soaking it all up before driving to the Blue Grouse Country Inn.
Another marvelous place with a very outgoing hostess, Regina. Hummingbirds galore, as well as mosquitoes. Apparently Wells Gray Park has 30 different kinds of mosquitoes. And I always thought that a mosquito is a mosquito is a pest….now there are 30 (or, heaven forbid more!) species…Never mind, we focused instead on the antics of the hummingbirds. They zoomed noisily around us and the feeders. Regina told us she goes through approximately 25 kg of sugar in a season.
We saw a bear on the adjacent land and were told that in winter moose come to nibble on any shrubs that are unprotected.
We had dinner at Helmcken Falls Lodge that evening, passing a bear very close to our car.
In total we have seen 6 bears on this trip.
After a good night’s sleep in our comfortable rooms and a delicious breakfast, we headed for the Helmcken Falls, the fourth highest waterfall in Canada. Needless to say, we were intimidated by the sheer beauty of it.
We walked the West Lake Loop trail, starting at Bailey’s Chute. You stand there and try to imagine salmon attempting their tortuous swim against those forceful rapids.
Below the rapids of Bailey’s Chute, the Clearwater River begins to meander as it forms the curving loops known as “The Horseshoe”. Here are gravel bars and beaver dams; a kind of glacial sandbox. In the autumn, spawning salmon fill these waters and it is in the Horseshoe where these fish are most vulnerable to predators like bears, eagles, coyotes and ospreys who gather for a brief feast before winter.
In late summer and early fall Chinook salmon can be viewed as they struggle against the force of Bailey’s Chute en route to their spawning grounds.
Info: sign at Bailey’s Chute, Wells Gray Park.
The trail meandered through the woods and along the Clearwater River passing small falls, like the Myanth and Marcus Falls. Ups and downs and muddy stretches. We stepped over and around quite a bit of droppings of, what we found out later, were elk droppings. Either a huge herd or a daily pit-stop for a few.
The Clearwater River challenges canoeists and river rafters in ways befitting its wilderness origins in the ice fields of Wells Gray. Born in the Braithwaite Glacier, the Clearwater is wild and untamed, tumbling past volcanoes, rugged mountains, primeval forest and wildlife that has never see man.
Some of highest mountains in the park, Huntley, Garnet and Buchanan on the north side of Azure Lake, are sometimes visible in the far distance. Much nearer and easily visible is Green Mountain on the southern edge of Wells Gray Park. Accessible by road, a viewing tower on its summit provides a spectacular panorama of the southern half of the park.
Info: sign at lookout over Clearwater Valley, Wells Gray Park.
That evening we went to the Black Horse Saloon for dinner. We had to collect our food ourselves from the BBQ outside after the waitress informed us that “dinner was ready.”
Wells Gray Park, even though I have only seen a small portion of it, turned out all I had expected of it and more.
We left Blue Grouse Country Inn, Regina’s wonderful breakfast, the hummingbirds and the mosquitoes, and started south, towards our next destination in White Canyon.
But first we made another stop at Spahats Falls. The light was different, so of course we had to check it out again!
Then we drove south on hwy 5, near Kamloops west on the 97 and near Cache Creek we turned south towards Lytton. The Kamloops area we drove through was scattered with blackened trees as far as the eye could see.
Our destination was Kumsheen Rafting Resort where we had reserved a yurt. When we told our daughter we were going to camp, she laughed and said “that’s not camping but glamping“. Whatever it was, it was fun. A gorgeous location above the Thompson River, surrounded by rock formations and 2 train tracks, CPR and CNR.
Constructed between 1880 and 1885, the railway linked Canada coast to coast or the first time. The CPR and CNR were fiercely competitive until March 2000. Finally, after almost 100 years, they share the same tracks –this side of the river (CPR) for eastbound travel, and the other side (CNR) for westbound trains.
Sign: White Canyon
Flood Control Ditch
To deflect spring runoff water away from the tracks, the CPR hired Chinese laborers to build thousands of miles of ditches. Water is channelled into ravines and then through culverts under and away from the tracks.
Info: White Canyon sign
At night it sounded as if the trains were rolling right through our tent. No wonder earplugs were supplied!
White Canyon is a magical place. I never tire of the sight of those rocks and now we had the chance to see them at different times of the day.
Kumsheen’s restaurant was not open yet for the season so we ventured direction Lytton to find some place to eat. About a 5 minute drive away we saw a general store and something that looked like a Chinese restaurant. We first checked out the general store to stock up on basics for breakfast. It truly was a country general store. They had everything from (toy) guns to cheese, from chairs to vegetables, clothes to tools and everything else in between, displayed haphazardly throughout the store. The Chinese restaurant looked rather shabby but our only other choice was driving into Lytton. Not knowing what we would find there we decided to give the Chinese a try. We had a great meal!
Again proven that appearances don’t mean a thing (usually).
Our glamping night was quite comfortable, in spite of the fact that the temperature dropped to 8 degrees (that is Celsius) and trains kept thundering by throughout the night.
Next morning started with breakfast on our “porch”.
Today we are driving back to Maple Ridge. First another walk over the resort grounds, enjoying the canyon by quite a different light. A bird had built a nest in the top of a teepee and was apparently claiming the tent for his sole use.
Our south bound drive took us through the Fraser Canyon, a beautiful drive.
We stopped in Boston Bar as our eye caught a display of something strange. It was an aerial ferry. This ferry was used years ago to transfer horses, buggies, cars, people, across the river to North Bend.
We viewed the air tram at Hell’s Gate and hiked to old Alexandra Bridge, places I have mentioned in earlier blogs.
We walked through the very dark Othello Tunnels near Hope. Quite a history here, based on railroad building. Lives lost and not much gained, except for a tourist attraction.
It is quite impressive though, thinking of all the work done there, and how it was done.
In constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald feared that if the line ran too close to the border it risked the danger of being captured by aggressive Americans. As it turned out, it was an economic invasion in the 1880s which proved to be more of a threat. The competition from American railway companies to establish a line into the mineral rich Kootenays was strong. A personal grudge intensified the battle. After quarreling with CPR President William Van Horne, James J. Hill, vowing revenge, left the CPR and went on to be the president of the U.S. Company Great Northern. With CPR sponsorship the Kettle Valley Railway proposed to build a line through the Coquihalla Pass. Such a route would be more challenging but more direct than the roundabout alternative of going north to the Nicola Valley.
Running along the north bank of the Coquihalla River, the line used a 2.2% grade over most of the 36 mile climb from near sea level at Hope to the 3646 foot Coquihalla summit. But only 4 miles from Hope, the Coquihalla River presented this straight walled canyon, rising vertically from the riverbed to a height of more than 300 feet. This was one of many difficult obstacles Engineer Andrew McCulloch encountered as he designed a railway which would cross 3 major mountain ranges.
The Kettle Valley Railway also earned the distinction of being the most difficult railway in the country to operate. Rock, mud and snow slides caused disruptions to service, particularly on the Coquihalla section, which was shut down more that it operated it its first seven winters. So hazardous was the terrain through the Coquihalla that many people believed that trains in both directions were scheduled to cross after dark so that passengers would not see the terrifying canyons far below.
For 48 years the railway provided both freight and passenger service between the Kootenays and the Coast. Eventually better roads and air travel drew more and more passengers away. Then, in November 1959 heavy rains dealt a crushing blow, washing out sections of the Coquihalla line. The damage was never repaired, and in 1961 the Kettle Valley Railway’s Coquihalla line was officially closed.
Info: sign at Othello Tunnels
Some films have been shot here, like Rambo First Blood, Fire With Fire, The Adventures of Yellow Dog, and Shoot To Kill.
Early evening we arrived back in Maple Ridge, where my husband was happy to see us.
A pizza dinner at the Billy Miner Café was a nice closure of our trip.
The 22nd was a “do nothing” day, but today the outdoors are calling and we are heading to Jerry Sulina Park in Maple Ridge for a walk on the dykes. Having done that we drive to Pitt Lake, to the Pitt Addington Wildlife Management Area. We were planning on continuing to Buntzen Lake near Port Moody but got side-tracked by the stores in Newport Village and on top of that we found a good coffee shop.
As the weather didn’t look too good we decided to drive to Burnaby, to Metropolis at Metrotown. A huge shopping mall where it is not difficult to spend hours looking around and where you can buy anything from bananas to Gucci bags.
As it turned out, the weather did clear up but we didn’t notice until we finally got back outside. No harm done. This was fun for a day.
Taking advantage of the good weather forecast we take the WestCoast Express train into Vancouver. The train brings us right to the waterfront. From there we wander around the city. From Canada Place to the new Convention Centre, built for the 2010 Olympics. From the beautiful Marine building to the skyscrapers fighting for space on the expensive Vancouver footage. We took the seabus into North Vancouver for a walk through Lonsdale Quay Market and back on the water with a beautiful view of the Vancouver skyline. We checked out Gastown, the Law Courts and the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. There was supposed to be a replica of Captain Vancouver’s ship in the lobby, but it was nowhere to be found. I inquired at the reception and the receptionist told me that in all the years that she had worked there, this ship had not been at the hotel. She figured we had a very old guide book, which we didn’t. But she believed the replica ship had been moved to the Vancouver Maritime Museum. We did not check it out. Some other time perhaps.
A delicious lunch at the patio of the The Mill Marine Bistro, overlooking the water, was just what we needed to rest our tired feet and fill our stomachs.
Late afternoon we caught the train back to Maple Ridge. Very tired but also very satisfied with what we had seen and done.
On the 26th we stayed put; suitcases were partially packed; a walk for some; quiet time on the wharf for others. A nice dinner to finish this fantastic, very special holiday.
And then it was time to say good-bye…tot ziens!