Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Almost 2 weeks? Has it really been that long since I last blogged?  Shame on me….

As of the last blog, I've come a long way in miles – now I'm in Glennallen, Alaska, at one of those 4 favorite campgrounds I blogged about earlier. This one is Tolsona Wilderness Campground, and I got a spot to die for!  Right on the creek, with my picnic table looking over the water to a rustic bridge; if only there weren't so many mosquitos, I'd be in heaven! Luckily, I found a mosquito repellent in Canada that works really well, and I'm going to stock up on it on my way home! 
Muncho Lake -- passed it on the way, and loved the reflections! 

There have been lots of bears by the roadside – up to 23 now, and I finally saw a moose about 5 days ago, unconcernedly munching away on the side of the road. She even looked up at me as I took photos, almost like she heard me asking "Look this way, look this way."  
4 Grizzly bears, Mama and 3 cubs

Let's see, what have I done in the past 2 weeks?  Well, first was Liard Hot Springs, a place I was looking forward to spending some time.  It's a beautiful hot spring (very hot in spots) and it's been constructed to seem like it's just in the middle of a river. There is a gravel bottom, so you can even go barefoot, and there are several concrete benches in the middle, below the water, so when you sit on them, you are about up to your neck. It's a wonderful place to unwind after several days in the car. 
Liard Hot Springs

Buffalo have flourished near the hot springs, and I saw 2 herds relaxing on the roadside at various spots on the highway.  We even had to stop for a short while for a buffalo block – several of them in the middle of the road just passing time!  

A little way further, some stone sheep (related to mountain goats) were licking up salt on the side of the road.  Apparently this is a very common activity, and they are often found in just this situation. I didn't see any rams, but a lot of ewes and lambs. 
Stone Sheep licking salt

By the time I got to Whitehorse, there was a lot of smoke in the air from numerous forest fires to the west, the way I was going.  After restocking, laundry, showers, etc. I pushed west.  At Haines Junction, less than 100 miles down the road, I could hardly see onto the sides of the road, and the beautiful mountains that I was hoping to see again, the Kluane mountains, were only there in my imagination.  What now, I asked myself?  

I had never been to Haines, and although the tour books didn't have much to say on the subject, I decided that going south and toward the coast would at least get me a little bit away from the smoke. It was a fun little side trip.  It meant crossing the border into the US for a little while, and having to get out my US money and put the Canadian money away. But they had a hammer museum there! A museum full of only hammers – all sorts of hammers, from huge sledge hammers, to those that hammered around a corner (really!) to little tiny hammers that were used in the 1920's to signal for another drink at a nightclub (including the Cotton Club in Harlem!) to a child's Playskool hammering bench like my kids had when they were little! IT was fascinating to see all the variety of hammers the originator had collected. 
Hammer Museum

And there were eagles! Haines is home to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, and although the greatest gathering of eagles takes place in the fall, I saw quite a few of them, some sitting on sandbars in the river, others soaring overhead. The smoke had mostly disappeared as well, and that made breathing easier. 
Eagles fishing from a sandbar

The next morning I resumed my westward ramblings, but the smoke got worse.  At one rest stop, I talked to a couple of men who had just come from the direction I was going, and they said it got much worse, all the way to Tok, which was a very long drive.  I debated long and hard with myself, but ended going back to a campground I had seen about 30 miles back, and boy was that a good decision.  I was given a campsite right on the water of Kluane Lake, the campground had a place to wash dishes with hot water (yippee, clean dishes for a change), and that night there was a gathering on the deck with a husband/wife country western duo entertaining for about an hour. What a kick that was – most of the campers came and sat on the deck singing along, or clapping, and eventually dancing to the music! And that night it rained, and reduced the smoke significantly, enough that driving to Tok wasn't too bad. 
Smokey skies, but pretty meadows of fireweed along  the highway. 

But I'm going to stop here, and promise to start up again very soon.  I've got a lot more to tell! 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Whistler and Beyone

Whistler continued to be a source of fun new experiences.  Although I had ridden the gondola before, I had never seen a bear on the mountain.  This trip I saw three of them, although I only got a photo of two. They were feeding right near each other so I was able to get both bears in one photo! The scenery from the mid station of the gondola is spectacular, with snowy mountains, lakes, and pretty valleys. The town itself was quite crowded with people because it was a long weekend for Canadians – Canada Day.  Sort of like our 4thof July (which is today!). 
View from top of Gondola

The next day we went to the local lake, a very popular place to be on that beautiful warm day. The family had learned to paddleboard, and everyone took a turn (not me, though, my balance is really not good enough to do that). Even the dog (Hercules Mulligan) got into the act, especially after being bribed with a piece of salami.  
Ted and Hercules
The boys had been playing in the water when they came up to me and told me about some tadpoles they had seen in the water and they wanted to show me.  I used to catch tadpoles when I was about their age in the small pond that was just down the road from our house, and I was excited to see them.  There were a few here and there in the water, but as I looked around the lake, I saw a patch of water grasses not very far away, and thought we might find even more there.  The boys were thrilled to see great schools of them, enough to make a black streak on the water.  They caught (and released) handful after handful of the critters. 
George catching tadpoles, the black streak near the weeds at the top is a school of tadpoles.

Handful of the critters

The next morning I had to get on my way, and drove on the Sea-to-Sky Highway that goes from Vancouver BC to Cache Creek.  It's a beautiful drive through mountains and alongside rivers.  At one spot, I caught sight of an eagle in a tree, and as I looked closer, realized that there was another eagle, sitting on a nest that was perched on top of a power pole.  It was amazing to see it right out there in the open. 
Eagle on a nest
View of the mountains north of Whistler

That night I camped at a spot called Lac la Hache, a very pretty Provincial Park.  The only drawback there was the mosquitos, which flew around in huge herds!  I put on bug spray before I got out of the car, but a few still got me.  And the next morning, I discovered that either they were biting me through my pants, or several had gotten under the covers with me and done their dirty work.  My backside itched all the next day and night! Not the most pleasant day of the trip, I'm afraid!  

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The rest of Vancouver Island

I had been looking forward to visiting Tofino, Ucluelet, and Pacific Rim National Park.  I had been there 25 years ago and was entranced by the scenery. Sadly, those 25 years have played as much havoc with this part of the island as they have with me! Gone were all the pullouts on the highway to revel in the beauty; in their place were huge resorts with plantings of tall shrubs or trees to provide privacy for their guests. Tofino had become streets full of shops and restaurants, without much beach to see.  I did find one beach in Ucluelet that I remembered, and it was just as pretty as before.
Little Beach, Ucluelet

Long Beach in the National Park is just that, a long sandy beach, some not too high waves, and lots of families playing on the beach and surfers and paddle boarders in the water.  It's a great place for people watching!   There was a family building something with logs that had washed up on the beach, and a little girl who really didn't like the sand on her feet, so every so often she would stop and wash the sand off with water from the bucket she was carrying. I watched her doing this several times and couldn't help grinning each time! 
Long Beach
Log Construction

Sandy Feet!! 

But as great as my disappointment with the changes, I had a great time on one of the days, because I took a bear viewing cruise.  Bears live on the uninhabited islands that are dotted off the coast and during low tide, they come out of the forest to dine on whatever they can find on the beach.  The cruise I was on was small -- about 20 people -- on a very comfortable boat with a naturalist on board. We found two mama bears, each with a very small cub, on the beach at two different places. The boat stayed at each location for quite a long time, allowing everyone to get a good view and great pictures.
The bears are in the shadows

The last night that I was there, I shared a campfire with a couple from Quebec -- they were each 21 years old, not much older than my grandson Zach -- and were a delight to get to know.  They had worked their way across Canada to vacation for a while on the island, and were about to head back to the Okanagan Valley in BC to pick cherries and earn enough money to get back to Quebec in time for school to start. I was thrilled that they asked me to share the fire, so I took the makings for s'mores to share with them!

Yesterday (Saturday) I arrived at Whistler BC where Ted and Carrie have a vacation house.  In the afternoon we went on a hike to a train wreck! This is the site of a train derailment that took place in 1956; several of the cars were unsalvageable and over the years they have been painted with bright graffiti.  they are fun places to visit and climb on and around. There is even a suspension bridge you must cross to get there, and with my grandsons' encouragement, I was able to cross.

Ted, Owen and George on top of one of the train cars. 

Today I'm sitting at Ted's dining room table, the house is quiet, everyone is still sleeping, and I'm looking forward to some fun activities later in the day, to include the Farmer's Market (maybe more strawberries?) and a trip up the mountain.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Vancouver Island

I hardly know where to start describing this beautiful place!  I've been here for a week now, and haven’t even had time to write a blog!  I've been camping in Provincial Parks, the equivalent of our State Parks. They have all been beautiful, but primitive – pit toilets and no showers (I've managed to find places to shower, though!). 

The first was China Beach on the southern shore of Vancouver Island. It's a relatively new park, and although it says it's on the beach, the beach is down a cliff about ¾ mile away.  It's not the ¾ mile, it's the cliff – all 289 steps, plus lots of other uphill parts of the trail. But it was well worth it in the end.  There were several tide pools, which is what I love to see, and lots of driftwood on the beach.  The most fun part of this campground was a friend that I made!  Occasionally I run into other women traveling alone, and I met Jocelyn on the beach.  We talked for a while, then climbed back to the campground together (it's so much easier when someone else is doing it with you!).  The next day we both had plans to go to another beach (Botanical Beach) down the road in Port Renfrew, so we teamed up and went together.  More great tide pools, more trails from the top of cliffs, more steps, but great companionship.  
China Beach

Some of the 289 steps

Botanical Beach
The tide pools were full of baby crabs, mussels, and anemones – lots of anemones, including some really tiny ones! It was so much fun to go from pool to pool to see what might be there! 
Mussels, anemones, and baby crabs
That evening, we had a campfire together, with wine and s'mores – what more could you want?!! 
Jocelyn eating a s'more! 
From the south part of the island I came north and east to the Courtenay area, about half-way up. From there I was able to explore north, south, and east.  Campbell River is a town that was recommended, and it did not disappoint! On the way up, I passed a crowded spot on the sidewalk with some traffic congestion, and when I glanced over, I saw that it was a chainsaw carving competition.  Well, that is something not to be missed!  And it was great fun.  My favorite among all the fabulous carvings was one that a woman was working on of a wolf. As I looked at it, I could almost hear the wolf howling at the moon!  There were other wonderful carvings, including one that was the head of a woman on one side and the head of an eagle catching a fish on the other. It was quite amazing.  
Howling Wolf

Side one
Side 2

I also hiked to a pretty waterfall called Elk Falls.  At the end of the trail is a suspension bridge that goes to a viewing platform on the other side of the river.  I looked and looked at it, but in the end I chickened out and stayed on my side of the river!  Suspension bridges just freak me out!  I found a lunch place too, that had great clam chowder, at a time when I had been craving clam chowder for several days – what a find! 

Elk Falls

The next day was a little more restful – a trip to the farmers market for strawberries and tomatoes, some of the best strawberries I've ever eaten!  Then a short hike to Nymph Falls in a small town to the east. 
Very tasty strawberries
The campground I'm staying in is really pretty – my site is right on the ocean and I can watch tides in the Salish Sea, several nights ago a cruise ship went by at high tide and the water lapping up on the rocky shore actually woke me up.  When I realized that there was also a beautiful sunset, I got up and got dressed again so I could go out and take photos. One of the fun things about this campground is that there is an eagle nest in one of the trees behind me. I've learned to distinguish the eagles screech, and also learned to dislike the crows that harass the eagle and also steal my food and get into my garbage.  
Campground view


Today is a day for housekeeping – laundry, car wash, shower, clean the camper – one of those days that you need every so often!  But it's a great laundromat, with an entertaining owner, and it's a good place to write a blog.  Till next time……

Friday, June 14, 2019

Olympic National Park

Note:  I've spent way too much time trying to get the layout of this blog just right, and I can't do it.  So I hope you can relate the photos to the text --  sorry.....

For nine years I lived in the Pacific Northwest, only a 3 hour drive from this park, but this is the first time I've been here. I decided to give it the full treatment, spending a whole week here. I had a list of things I wanted to be sure not to miss, and I've been going through them pretty systematically. 

These guys were fishing on the way to my first stop
The first on the list was Cape Flattery – the northwestern most point in the lower 48 states. It's been on my bucket list and, oh my, it did not disappoint! Getting there is a challenge – it's a short trail, only about ½ mile or so, but it's full of tree roots, rocks, and very big steps. Not recommended for someone with weak knees (mine are metal, and not the strongest!). The trail is on Native American land and local residents have thoughtfully made available a supply of walking sticks (very nicely decorated, although I forgot to take a photo).  For this trip, I purchased a pair of trekking poles, and I was SO glad I had them. The trip to the end of the trail is mostly downhill, which means that coming back is uphill.  Tough – when you want something bad enough, you make it happen!  The return trip is supposed to take 20-25 minutes.  I made it back in one hour!  But I made it!  The ocean here is incredibly blue, and the day was clear and sunny.  I couldn't have asked for anything better! 

Further down the coast are some National Park beaches, some beautifully smooth sand with lots of families having fun, and a few with rocky stacks partway out in the water. This was my goal; the best tide pooling is around the base of these stacks at low tide. I had printed out tide tables at home before I left, so I knew when to go.  Again, I wasn't disappointed – lots of starfish and anemones at the base of the largest stack, and some other interesting formations around other stacks. Unfortunately, the best critter viewing was on the other side of a very large, deep puddle.  Thus my dilemma, do I go barefoot and end up with shoes full of sand, or just wade on through in my shoes (and jeans, water almost up to my knees!).  I chose the latter, but wish I had chosen the former. It's now more than 24 hours later and my shoes are still wet through.  I'm down to hiking boots or sneakers without heels (I don't know what they are called, but I wear them all summer). 

The stacks
Critters, lots of them! 

The stacks up closer

The Hoh rain forest is a very famous part of the park, and I spent some time there in the morning, including a hike through the Hall of the Mosses. The trees are heavily draped with moss, making them look very old and kind of spooky.  The moss is not a parasite – it feeds on the air and rain (and there is a lot of rain here!).  But the walk was beautiful in it's own way. There is a stream running through it and one of the photos below shows how clear the water is.  It's a picture of what looks like sticks and grass, and the water is about a foot deep. 

Taken through about 12" of water

Moss in the trees. 

A tree fell across the trail.  It's really huge!!

Today I'm on the Strait of Juan de Fuca side of the park, Hurricane Ridge. I got another stamp in my National Parks Passport (that's 4 for this trip!), yesterday I did a short hike around the meadow at the visitor center, then went into town and got a shower at the Y (a badly needed one!!)  A good day indeed! 
Wildlife on Hurricane Ridge

View from the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge.