Driving West

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North America » Canada
September 19th 2018
Published: August 23rd 2019
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Across Canada

If one was to calculate the size of a country by landmass, Canada would rank number 2, at almost 10 million square kilometers. While much of that remains almost completely uninhabited, especially above the Arctic circle, that's still a practically inconceivable size to wrap your head around. This vastness makes visiting much of the country a difficult and time consuming endeavor, yet one that beckons to the inquisitive and adventurous traveler. From the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, using the Trans-Canada highway (the world's longest national highway), is an incredible 7821 kilometers covering (with slight variations) all ten Canadian provinces. And that doesn't even take into account the northern Territories, much of which do not have adequate roadways.

Two years prior I had the privilege, with my girlfriend Beverly, to explore some of the eastern Maritime provinces in what culminated into an epic road trip. Since that time we had discussed the possibility of one day heading west towards the Pacific Ocean. The idea for this trip remained on the bucket list until finally end of summer 2018 approached, and we had enough time off work to make the journey into a reality. I've always wanted to visit more of Canada and this would be the grandest attempted road trip for either of us. Bev's Chevy Sonic hatchback was only three years old, so in theory would be a reliable ride that shouldn't have any unexpected break downs despite the prolonged distance we'd be asking of her. We packed up the car with a stove, cooler, camping gear, our backpacks, hiking gear, and whatever else we figured we might need. We'd had this setup in the past and knew it worked well. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon as we left Montreal behind us, along with some arguments as we packed everything up in a frenzy. We reached Ottawa in the late evening, and pulled into Bev's sister's home in time for dinner. Her parents and sisters family were there and we enjoyed some good barbecued food amidst the late summer weather. Fall would be upon us soon, and I welcomed it with open arms as it is my favorite season. We unrolled a foamy mattress and slept in the living room, with two friendly golden retrievers keeping us company.

By early morning we were awake in anticipation of the beginning of the trip. I had recently got a Spotify account, so we loaded up some playlists and then reorganized the car. The weather had turned gloomy with intermittent rain. It was late morning by the time we said goodbye to everyone and continued west, passing through Canadian Shield scenery. A few hours we were in North Bay, the gateway to Northern Ontario. We stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some things we needed and stopped at Subway for lunch as we were starving by this point. From there we drove north on Highway 11. We had started our day late, so it was getting dusky by the time we reached a campsite just passed Iroquois Falls. We quickly setup camp and had some leftover sandwiches for dinner.

The next day we continued on along Route 11. We were passing through small towns along the way, some that seemed comical in name, such as Beardmore which happened to have a giant (fake) snowman for some reason. We enjoyed our Spotify playlists as we headed west. I had heard from certain people that the drive across Ontario was more of a slog than anything else but both of us were enjoying the scenery quite a bit. We passed by numerous lakes, and stopped for lunch at one called Klotz lake. As would become our tradition, we would always prepare peanut butter and jam sandwiches during breakfast so that we could eat on the go later on. Cheap, quick, and nutritious, albeit could become a bit boring as time wore on. As we approached Nipigon, we passed by impressive looking escarpments that looked ideal for climbing. The weather was becoming increasingly cloudy. There was rain in the forecast. We were getting close to Thunder Bay. But our destination for the evening would be falling short. We headed south on a peninsula, with our first views of imposing Lake Superior, as we approached Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. The drive down the peninsula itself was about a half-hour. We saw some sand cranes as we went. We set up our camp and quickly began cooking some pasta. We took a short walk to the beach and saw the series of mountains that really did look like a sleeping giant, hence the park's namesake. The rain began soon after and we retreated into the tent.

We woke early. The sky was cloudy but no rain. We had another long driving day so we broke down camp, cooked breakfast, organized the car a bit and then made our way back up the peninsula. We reached the Trans-Canada and headed south west into Thunder Bay. As we approached, just off the highway, we found the beautiful memorial to Canadian hero Terry Fox, who's incredible Marathon of Hope for cancer research came to a heartbreaking end. The memorial overlooked Thunder Bay and lake Superior. Bev and I had been to St. John's, Newfoundland two years earlier and had seen Terry's start point, immortalized with his statuesque likeness. In Thunder Bay we resupplied on some groceries and got more fuel and then off we went again, back on route 17. The road was a simple single lane on either side, so passing slower vehicles was sometimes a tactical challenge. The legal speed limit for all of Ontario was 90 km/h. Our journey through western Ontario was littered with gorgeous lakes as we passed through the towns of Dryden, Vermillion Bay and Kenora, and many smaller ones. Towns are few and far between in these parts. We stopped to take a break and eat some sandwiches along a beautiful rest stop, along a lake of course. The sun had come out. We carried on and within a half hour we had reached the border to Manitoba! We were now officially at the start of the prairie provinces. Interestingly, the landscape became as flat as could be, with golden farm fields everywhere. The speed limit increased to 110 km/h and the Trans-Canada became a two lane highway with a large divide from oncoming traffic, definitely felt safer! We noticed a sign to the right and went to check it out. It turned out that we were at the longitudinal center of Canada or at 96°48'35"W. We took some photos of the giant sign. We made our way up to Birds Hill Provincial Park, to the northeast of Winnipeg. It was a nice campground with wooded sites. We cooked up some Angus beef on the stove for dinner. Afterwards we headed over to the main building to take some showers. We were almost back to our site when we started feeling drops. Soon enough we were caught in a complete downpour and rushed back to the tent, quickly zipping the tent flyes. I realized we hadn't set up our tent in the best possible spot, the ground below us was turning to mud and water was pooling around us. Bev became stressed. I figured this would be a good test to see how the tent could hold up under these conditions!

By the next morning the rain had ceased and the sun was back out. Our tent had held up admirably, and I was confident that it could handle some crazy weather. For the first time in our trip so far, we wouldn't be having such a big driving day. Bev and I had decided, as we planned out our route, that we would try to maximize out time in the western provinces. We weren't there yet, but we wanted to spend a full day in Winnipeg and see what this prairie city had to offer. After breakfast we drove into the downtown area and found some paid parking. We would be visiting the Human Rights Museum, recently constructed with artistic architecture, but already having a reputation as a must see when in Winnipeg. We ended up doing a short tour with a guide of the place and then went outside to have our packed lunch before going back in and checking things out at our own pace. There were many interesting and interactive exhibits throughout and I was pretty impressed. After that we walked over to the nearby Forks area where the Red and Assiniboine rivers intersect. There was an indoor market that we checked out and then walked the river fronts. We then returned to the car and headed back to our campsite, stopping along the way to pick up some perogies for dinner, a Winnipeg staple food.

We packed up and left our campsite early. We drove around the highway belt surrounding Winnipeg and continued west on the Trans-Canada. By this point we had decided to name Bev's car "Jolene", inspired by the Dolly Parton song we had been listening to. Jolene was doing a bang up job so far. A few hours later we reached the city of Brandon and stopped to resupply. We also hit a book store and picked up more reading material for our nights in the tent. Manitoba only had a 5% tax on goods, a stark contrast from Quebec's 15%! Soon enough we found ourselves crossing into Saskatchewan. The golden prairie flats continued, and I really liked them. We continued on, circumventing Regina, and soon after arrived in Moose Jaw. There was a giant moose on display and also a pretty good visitor center with lots of info about Saskatchewan.
It was getting late so we decided to search for a nearby campsite and found one just outside the city limits. It was a crappy RV site that seemed to cater towards crews of workers, and it was right off the highway. I think we might have been the only people tenting. We set up the tent on a slight slant then cooked some pasta and corn for dinner. The wind howled strong into the night as did the sound of passing trains.

The day began slightly cloudy but very hot. We carried on, making an impromptu stop in Swift Current at a Casino. Bev ended up winning 25$ on her first slot spin. Subsequently she ended up blowing it all within minutes instead of cashing out but I guess it was money she was prepared to lose. Eventually we reached the province of Alberta, the scenery very much still prairies. We were heading towards the south of the province, hoping to reach our first national park of the trip. We stopped in the town of Taber to stock up on some food. There we saw people who seemed to be dressed quite differently, almost old-fashioned like. The men with dress shirts and overalls, women with long skirts and kerchiefs. We discovered that these people were Hutterites, Anabaptist Christians who live a communal way of life. By the late afternoon we reached Waterton, and were wowed by the towering mountains around us! We were now within the Rocky Mountain range, which is said to stretch 4800 kilometers, from northern British Columbia to New Mexico. We would be intersecting this range several more times along this trip. For now our first impressions of Waterton were blowing us away, with beautiful vistas wherever our eyes were drawn. We went to the Parks Canada campsite and set up the tent in a wide open area. The campsite itself was more of a parking lot but the mountains and lake surrounding us is what made the place special. It was windy as hell, apparently it usually is, but luckily there were plenty of sheltered stations available to take refuge. We cooked up an amazing meal of corn, potatoes, chicken and vegetables.

As I awoke in the morning, I could hear the strong wind gusts battering our tent. Dark clouds filled the sky. We had to move our tent to a new site as the one we were in was reserved for that evening. We went to the visitor center to see if one of the pleasant Parks Canada staff could give us some information about the park. Unfortunately we learned that the previous summer a fierce wildfire had destroyed most of the park, and that the town of Waterton had only just been saved thanks to the valiant effort of the firefighters and a stroke of luck when the wind changed directions. Evidence of the destruction could be seen everywhere, with the charred remains of trees littered all over the mountain sides. As a result, most of the hiking trails in the area were off limits, as was most of the park. We toyed with different options and then made a rash decision to head south over the American border into Glacier National Park for the day, technically connected to Waterton but within a completely different country. Fires were raging in Glacier at this point and we could smell smoke even from Waterton. Soon enough we found ourselves handing over our passports to a border agent at the Chief border crossing, and then we were in the state of Montana. Glacier, named for the multitudes of glaciers that can be found here, although most are shrinking away at alarming speeds, is a decent sized park. We headed to an area called Many Glacier and had beautiful views are we drove to the trailhead. Along the way we spotted a bunch of cars pulled over and people looking at a black bear foraging on the hillside. We were going to Hike toward Glenn Lake, which was supposed to be a fairly easy trail with few steep inclines. As we began there were warning signs for Grizzly bears. Being the genius I am, I had forgotten my bear spray at home, so now that we were in Grizzly country and really needed some, well we wouldn't have any if the need arose. We noticed a woman near us who seemed uneasy about the hike due to the bear signs and asked if she could stay near us. Her name was Ella and she was a middle aged woman who was recently divorced and decided to buy a camper van and drive around the country for a while. She was really nice and I discerned that she was probably rich (due to the type of camper van she owned amongst other things) and that she was a Donald Trump supporter. The entire hike consisted of amazing scenery. We saw many moose along the way, including a mother with a baby. We reached the lake and were blown away. We saw more moose on the walk back. Ella decided she wanted to give us her bear spray and holster despite my uneasiness with her gesture. She reasoned that she wouldn't need two bottles, or at least she hoped it would never come to that! We then returned to Jolene and then drove down to St. Mary and up an incredibly scenic road towards Logan's pass. It was freezing at the top. We stopped often at viewpoints as the sun went down. Back in St. Mary's we stopped at a badly stocked grocery store and picked up bread and cold cuts, they would be our dinner. We drove back across the border and towards Waterton as night fell.

We were up early and ate quickly before walking to the nearby marina. We would be attempting the famous Crypt Lake hike and needed to get across the lake to the trailhead. The captain of the ferry gave us a preview of this hike and did it in hilarious style. I've never been so hyped up for a hike before. We reached the other side and then the few dozen of us began the hike up some switchbacks. Bev was suffering from the ill effects of a cold and was having a lot more trouble than usual, coughing sometimes uncontrollably until everything warmed up. The scenery was marvelous and got better and better as we rose in elevation. The hiking itself was physically easier than back "home" in the Adirondacks. We don't have anything like the switchbacks they had here. Along the way I met a younger German guy who was hiking with his family and we chatted for a while as we went. The sky was as blue as can be. The elevation continued to rise as we went along a ridge and then climbed up a ladder and through a tunnel before reaching beautiful Crypt Lake. We found a place for lunch and then walked around the lake, technically dipping into Montana at the far edge. Then we made our way back towards the start point. All told the round trip hike was about 17km. We waited for the next ferry and after we boarded and began the journey back, we spotted a black bear with two cubs along the shoreline! Back in Waterton, we walked through the small town and then stopped at the visitors center, where we chatted with some knowledgeable Parks Canada staff about bears, the fires of the previous year, and some other topics. Back at our campsite we made a quick and easy dinner...some Kraft dinner.

We woke up and packed everything up right before the rain began. We bid farewell to Waterton and drove north. We stopped in the town of High River for a resupply. The temperature had dipped and it was only 6 degrees, the coldest we've experienced yet. We reached Calgary and made our way towards the northeast part of town near the airport, along Covepark way. We pulled up and saw my brother Shawn sitting outside on the front porch with one of his roommates. My brother has been living out here for the past two years and this was the first time I made it out this way for a visit. We brought our stuff inside and chilled out for a bit. Then we went out to a nearby Walmart to pick up a few things. In the evening we went into the downtown core and tried a restaurant called Naina's Kitchen, which is famous for homemade stuffed gourmet burgers. They were awesome! That night we settled into a bed for the first time of the trip.

We prepared breakfast and ate with Shawn. He was going to meet up with his girlfriend who was in town for the day on a layover, so Bev and I decided that we'd check out Drumheller, an area of Badlands about an hour and a half east of Calgary. But first we had to make a stop to get an oil change. Jolene had been trucking along well but the change oil light had gone on a few days earlier and we figured it'd be a good idea to take care of that and keep our ride optimal. We ended up going to a nearby Canadian Tire and although an expensive option for an oil change, they at least threw in an inspection as well. Then we made the drive out to the east through beautiful prairie landscape before the road descended into what seemed like a canyon and then quickly turned into Badland scenery. The town of Drumheller seemed like something out of the wild west. Plenty of tributes to dinosaurs could be found throughout. In fact the area is famed for its high density of dinosaur fossil findings. We were heading to see the Royal Tyrell Museum, which was all about dinosaurs. We spent a few hours checking it out and it was pretty impressive. Then we went for a short hike around the museum through the prominent Badland vistas. After this, we drove a short distance to see some Hoodoos, which are tall spires of rock formation that are visually very interesting to look at. We drove back out of the badlands and into the prairies once more as the sun was going down. We made a quick stop at Costco once back in Calgary and bought some thick grade AAA steaks. Back at Shawn's we fired up the BBQ and had a meaty feast.

We woke up early and made some room in Jolene for a third passenger. We were going to take a day trip to Banff National Park on this beautiful sunny day. From Shawn's place in Calgary to the Banff village was about an hour and a half drive. The rocky mountains quickly came into view. At the village we stopped at the information center to get some ideas for some short hikes. We decided to hike up Tunnel mountain, short hour hike within the Banff village that offered lots of great views. We had lunch while up there. Then we descended back to the car and drove towards Sunshine Meadows. We had to take a bus up to the top and then a short chairlift ride even higher. It wasn't really a hike per se but the views were absolutely breathtaking! Gorgeous high altitude lakes surrounded by foliage could be seen far into the distance. This is also where Bev and I took our first steps into the westernmost province of Canada, British Columbia. The provincial motto is "Beautiful British Columbia" and I could easily understand how they chose it. I had now been to all ten Canadian provinces. We hiked and took photos for a few hours until we had to return before the last bus departed back down. Back at the car we decided to drive a little more and eventually reached a junction where we backtracked along a parkway drive and spotted some deer and babies. We listened to loads of music on spotify on the ride home, and looking back there was a fiery sunset over the mountains. We stopped and picked up Little Ceasar's pizza for dinner.

The next day we decided to visit more of Calgary while we had the chance. First we drove into the downtown and Shawn pointed out the building he used to live in. We made a quick stop at a camera store to see if they could take a look at my 14-150 mm lens, which I had noticed seemed to have a speck on the glass. It wasn't such a big deal but there were some photos, with the right lighting conditions, where this speck would cause a noticeable blotch. The camera guy didn't seem to think there was much that could be done unless the lens was sent in for repair, and I decided not to do anything for the time being. Then we went to the nearby Studio Bell to check out the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. It was pretty good with a lot of interactive displays and voice booths and playable instruments. After spending a few hours here, we headed uptown and stopped at a liquor store to pick up some beer. We would need it because our next stop was at a place just off the Bow River called paddle station. We were renting an inflatable raft and would be floating down the river over the next few hours. Despite the fact that it was now early September, the weather was sunny and seemingly perfect. This was the final week that rafting would be happening so we were in luck. The dude who ran the shop was hilarious and soon enough the three of us were floating along and drinking beers, with occasions of paddling when we either hit a rapid or the current was too slow. And then the sights of downtown Calgary came into view. This was a unique way to see the city. Shawn and I were sharing an eight pack and on several occasions we had to literally piss off the raft. I guess the alternative would have been to piss IN the raft. When we got to the end point, we helped one of the shop guys lift the raft to the truck and then we took an Uber back to the car. It was already evening by this time and we were starving. We drove to a popular downtown street and ate and drank at a place called Ship and Anchor, which Shawn knew well.

Our time in this region was coming to an end and we had to move on. Shawn was flying to Montreal and left in the early morning. Bev and I packed up our things, loaded up the car and were off. I really enjoyed Calgary overall and think it's a nice city in a strategically interesting location. I will be back. We made a few stops to resupply including a new burner from Canadian Tire, as our old one had a malfunctioning element that we weren't able to fix. We also stopped at Costco and got stuck in an epic traffic jam trying to get cheap fuel. Then we were on our way towards Banff again. We made a quick stop at the world famous Lake Louise and then continued towards the Columbia Icefield which separates Banff and Jasper National Parks. Over the next few hours I would experience one of the more epic drives that I have ever done. The mountains were stunning. We checked out the Columbia Icefield and walked towards the ancient and receding glacier. We stopped a bunch of times for photo ops and saw a bunch of mountain goats. Then we continued into Jasper and entered Whistlers Campground. We had a campsite waiting for us as well as some company. My good friend Martine and her friend Erik had arrived earlier and were setting up their tent. Marty and I had met in nursing school and had become good buddies, often studying together for hours on end. She had lived about five minutes from me back in Laval. We even worked at the emergency department of the same hospital (which I'm still at!) for a year before she packed up her things and moved out to Edmonton. While Bev and I weren't planning on visiting Edmonton, Marty and I decided that we had to meet up for some camping and Jasper seemed like a good choice. We chatted and caught up as we set up tents, tarps, and the fire. Then we prepared supper of kebabs, potatoes and corn over the fire. We had some alcohol as well!

In the morning we had some breakfast and then decided to go for a hike. We settled on checking out the valley of the fire lakes which was about 10 km and had five turquoise coloured lakes to view. We had rain on and off but overall the weather held. Then we went to see the Maligne Canyon and walked around for a bit. Then we checked out the Jasper village and picked up some groceries for dinner as well as finding a Tim Hortons self serve station, in which we had a few serving mishaps and then somehow were given our coffees on the house. Still haven't figured out why the lady behind the counter decided to do that. Back at the campsite by the late afternoon, we took a ride to the shower house. When I emerged from the shower house I realized we had just missed a crazy downpour and rainbows were out in force. That evening we got a fire going and cooked some steaks. Bev and I helped out some people who showed up at the campsite across us and who couldn't figure out how to get their tent up. We spent a few hours around the fire and met Scott who came up to us with his dogs and started chatting. We went to bed super late and talked a lot about crazy work experiences that we could all relate to since we are in the same profession. We had rain overnight.

We decided to have breakfast at a restaurant in Jasper. Then we bid farewell to Martine and Erik and continued on our journey west. Before we knew it we were crossing into British Columbia and then headed southwest towards Kamloops. We had a decent amount of rain, which seemed fitting for BC, and saw a black bear by the side of the road. We blasted an 80's playlist for most of the ride. In Kamloops we stopped at a grocery store and then went to nearby Lac Le Jeune, a provincial campsite where we met a weird hippy ranger who checked us into our site. We made sure to set up a tarp over the tent as there was rain overnight.

It was a beautiful drive along the scenic route 99 the next day. The road weaved through passes and valleys. We passed through some interesting landscapes where the BC goldrush took place. We eventually passed through the resort town of Whister, world renowned for its ski and snowboard runs, which of course we wouldn't be seeing at this time. We quickly moved on and arrived in Squamish soon after. My cousin Bea is studying in this town and we were messaging about possibly meeting up. She was at her university campus and our paths never would cross as we arrived late and had to find a campsite and set up our gear and cook. It was already raining like crazy when we arrived at the Stawamus campground. We cooked some veggies, meat and pasta in a rain shelter. It continued to pour through the night.

We woke up to rain and packed our stuff up and retreated back to town. We had breakfast at Timmies while we contemplated our next move. Although the weather was miserable, I had my heart set on climbing up The Chief, a granite dome monolith, at the base of which we had just been camping. Bev wasn't interested in giving it a go so she dropped me off and I set out on my own amidst the wet weather. The hike began with plenty of stairways and then steadily rose in elevation until becoming pretty steep before the final push up to the peaks. I only went up to the first peak but once I got there I was lucky to get a break in the clouds and had some great views of Squamish and the surrounding areas. Once I got back down the sun was out in force, at least for a while, so we reorganized the car and lay our soaking wet tent to hopefully dry out a bit. Then we resumed our drive along beautiful route 99, heading towards Vancouver. I have always wanted to visit Vancouver, as it has a reputation for being a beautiful and being surrounded by the sea and mountains. Although there is a dark side to the city that I'll talk about shortly. We approached the city from the north and hit some rush hour traffic. From there we left Vancouver proper and reached Surrey, where we had an Air BnB booked. It was a room inside a nice residential house, with it's own entrance and bathroom and felt like a nice hotel room. After chilling out in the room and taking showers, we headed off towards a nearby Korean restaurant. My buddy Sean, who I had known for many years from my (initial) college days was now a Surrey resident. He had moved out to the west coast about two years ago. We spent an awesome evening catching up over beers and spiced chicken. We then gave him a lift home and headed back to our place.

The next day we woke up quite late. We headed into downtown Vancouver and ended up in Stanley Park, spending several hours walking the trails and seeing the seaside. Then we drove to a different section and walked along some upscale buildings and a marina. Some impressive totem poles stood nearby. Then we jumped back into the car and drove to Gastown. We found the famous East Hastings street, known for its rampant homelessness and drug abuse, and marveled at the sights that went on for blocks. I was quite fascinated with the phenomenon, as I'd never seen such a concentration of homeless in one place. Practically all the buildings seemed to be boarded up. Vancouver (and Victoria) are known to be beacons where many junkies and homeless people find themselves. I suspect that the biggest reason is the favourable climate compared to most other Canadian cities. You can live year round on the streets and not necessarily freeze to death. I cringe at the thought of trying to do the same in my hometown of Montreal, although I'm sure many souls do just that. Untreated mental illness is the main culprit for many people that end up here, and I also noticed a high representation of Aboriginal people. Apparently East Hastings has been this way for decades. We found a parking spot and then decided to walk through East Hastings, because we were both interested in seeing things up close. I felt quite safe walking along to be honest. We saw people at makeshift markets, beggars, groups of people drinking and smoking and even some people injecting drugs into their veins. Some people were nodding off and we looked to see that they were still breathing. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is mainly used to treat pain and is much more potent than Morphine, has become an epidemic among the population here. It carries a high risk of addiction and overdose potential. I could have got some good photo ops but felt uneasy about shoving my camera into people's faces here. We spent some time walking up and down the street and then walked into Chinatown, which has apparently seen better days. At this point it was dark so we made our way back to the car and drove back to the room, stopping to pick up a pizza along the way.

We checked out of our comfortable Air BnB room and drove through North Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, where we hoped to catch a ferry to Vancouver Island. We reached the ferry terminal and were told we'd only be able to get on the 1300h ferry. We parked the car in the queue and then went for a walk into the nearby town. There we found a really cool shop selling all sorts of indigenous artwork, including a lot of iconic Haida artwork which can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest. I ended up caving and buying a beautiful whale design carved into cedar wood. I've always thought Haida art was amazing so I figured it was more than worth it. Our ferry left on time and took about an hour and forty minutes to reach Nanaimo. We stopped at a superstore to resupply and then headed towards route 4, which would take us across to the western part of the island. This is yet another beautiful drive, I was starting to lose count at how amazing west coast scenery was! We made a stop in Cathedral Groves, a protected park right off the road consisting of massive Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock tree species. Some are a few hundred years old. It was calming to walk along these giants for a bit before heading back to the car and resuming the journey. We reached the western terminus of road some hours later. The sky was cloudy and we knew that rain was in the forecast. We went to the only National Park here, named Pacific Rim national park but were shocked to find out that they were so full this late in the season! So we had to backtrack and drove to the close town of Ucluelet, where we found a campground called Surf Junction. We set up our tarp and tent and heated up some Chef Boyardee for dinner. The dinner of champions.

There was plenty of rain the next morning but our tarp kept our tent relatively dry which made it easier to pack away. Ucluelet isn't a big town and we were near the town center. We decided to check out some nearby beaches during lull's in the rain and then back into town to try to find some indoor activities when the rain came back in full force. We found a laundry shop and we sure had a ton of laundry to do by this point. We spent a few hours doing just that. Then we went to see the Aquarium. There was plenty of different fish and sea creatures on display with loads of interesting info to read about. We even got to see an Octopus feeding, which was as cool as it was frightening. It was now mid afternoon and we decided to head back to Pacific Rim National Park. We had lucked out and found an available campsite in the backpacker tent section campsite for two nights. So we had to park the car in the nearby parking lot and then walk our gear over. It wasn't a far distance, just a little annoying because of the incessant rain. We set up a tarp to go over the tent, and another across the picnic table so we could cook. After dinner we walked over to put our cooking stuff back into the car and then on the way back we passed the amphitheater that had a Parks Canada staff person giving a presentation about whales. So we took shelter from the rain for that next hour and learned all sorts of things about this region's whale populations.

The next day we decided to go to the Parks Canada office and trade in all our receipts that we had collected so far from previous day passes in other parks during our trip so far. It turns out you really only need to be in National Parks for about a week to make the pass worthwhile. Then we went to Long Beach, as there was a beach cleanup that Bev had heard about. We spent about an hour and a half cleaning up whatever garbage we could find...and there was a lot! We didn't even cover a very large distance so it was disheartening to see how much trash washed up to shore or is discarded by people on the beach itself. It helped that the nearly incessant rain gave us a reprieve for a few hours. After that it was off to Tofino, which is considered the terminus of the Trans-Canada highway and for many is the most west they will get within Canada. It was for us. We had driven more than 5000 km to reach it. I was proud of Jolene for getting us here in one piece. Tofino was quite a tourist town but nice nonetheless. We spent a few hours walking around and then headed back to our campsite to cook an awesome pasta dinner. That night we went back to the amphitheater to listen to a presentation about bears, wolves, and cougars. The guy giving the talk was hilarious. And of course we fell asleep in our tent to the sound of rain.

It's safe to say I was getting tired of the rain, but I had to remind myself that we were in British Columbia. It was time to pack up and leave Pacific Rim National park, we backtracked along Route 4 towards the eastern part of the island. We saw a peculiar sign near the town of Coombs and decided to check it out. It's not everyday that you see goats on a roof, but this is exactly what we found ourselves looking at! There were several of them occupying the thatched roof that covered an indoor market. Apparently goats love to be in the highest places so they just live on the roof and don't seem to want to jump off or run away. Inside the colourful and bustling market, we bought some smoked fish and some goat magnets. One of the people behind the counter was telling us how the idea for the place came up during the seventies, when the owners were sitting around drinking alcohol. After our impromptu stop, we continued on and soon turned towards the north on route 19. For several hours we traveled along this highway, eventually reaching Campbell River, then we continued some more. We were on our way to the northern part of the island. Specifically to a small village called Telegraph Cove. We found a nice campground there and set up in a peaceful campsite surrounded by trees. Sausages were on the menu for dinner.

We had to get up early and make the short drive to the village marina. The sun was shining and the sky was completely blue. I hadn't seen this type of weather for many days now. We were going kayaking out on the Queen Charlotte Strait for the next six hours. Bev and I were going to be sharing a kayak and head out with two other couples and our guide, Tom who was originally from Coaticook, Quebec. There was no wind and the water was as calm as it could ever be. Plenty of whales were out and we could see countless blow holes all around us. Tom heard there was a group of orchas making their way along and we tried to intercept where he thought they would be, although we never did see them. We kayaked to several islands including a small island filled with sea lions. We had lunch on top of a barren island overlooking the straits. All in all it was a great day of kayaking. We got back to the campground and took a walk to a nearby beach. That night after dinner we sat by a fire.

The next day we woke early and made our way back down Vancouver Island towards Nainamo. We made sure to eat a Nainamo bar as we passed through. We stopped at a Tim Hortons to figure out some logistics. Then we continued south towards Victoria. We stopped at a provincial park about a half hour north of Victoria called Goldstream. It was dusky as we arrived. We parked at a potential site, just as a few U-haul trucks pulled up and people piled out. Then I noticed a news crew walking around so I went to ask them what all the fuss was about. I learned that this group of several dozen people had been living in parks in Victoria and were being pushed out from park to park until they no longer had anywhere to go. It appears, much like in Vancouver, that it's very difficult for people who don't earn much money to find affordable housing. As well there is a big problem with drug abuse, homelessness and mental health issues. The news guy told me that most of the people here seemed to fit into these criteria. I relayed this message to Bev, and we had to decide if we wanted to set up our camp amidst this group or just go to a more remote site. We ended up deciding to move down to a different site, away from almost anyone else. Now some people, myself included might be wondering did we unfairly judge these folks and miss out on an interesting opportunity or did we make the right call? Well I just went with my gut feeling, something that usually puts me on the right path. There was just something off as I observed the people mulling about. I won't know if the right call was made but during the late night we were definitely seeing weird things like headlamps going through the forest and looking down at our camp. Although I'm sure most of the people here were completely fine. The government was allowing the group to remain here for two weeks, the most amount of time they could legally stay. As for any other campers, the grounds were going to be off limits for that time period.

I woke up before Bev the next morning and went for a short hike down to a small waterfall and stream. Then I got back and we made breakfast and packed up. It was a bright sunny day so far. We headed into beautiful Victoria which is the most southern city in all of Canada. We first drove through some nice neighborhoods, I noticed a lot of flowers and greenery. I had in fact studied for my nursing Bachelor's degree at the University of Victoria, although I had never actually been there in the physical sense. I had done that whole degree through online correspondence. I figured though that I may as well check out the campus, just for the hell of it since we were so close. So we got there and drove around the large circular road that connected most of the faculties. The campus was beautiful and students were out and about, enjoying the nice weather. We found the nursing building, so Bev pulled over and I walked in and strolled through the hallways. I had no aim really, but since I was taking classes for the past three years based out of this place, I guess I was just curious to see what it looked like. Back in the car, Bev drove is toward downtown Victoria. There we parked the car for a brief moment and walked a few streets around Chinatown. We both agreed that this was a city we would have liked to spend a little more time in, but alas we wouldn't be sticking around for long. We drove over to the nearby port and presented our tickets before being processed by immigration. We were technically on our way home now, but we would be saying goodbye to Canada for a few weeks and heading back east through the United States. Soon after we drove Jolene onto the ferry and were on our way toward Washington State.

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