Missed Parts 1, 2 and 3? Read “When Can We Go?”, “And So It Begin…” and “There’s More of Canada to See”.
We woke up to a cloudy Day 27 and took a quick walk to the showers, with an eye open for bears who were spotted in the vicinity. Then coffee and cereal for breakfast, before we drove out towards the park exit, first stopping in line for the sani-dump. I was filling up the freshwater tank when I noticed another LTV pull up. Of all the people, it was Sharon and Phil whom we met twenty-five days ago in Wiarton! They had already been to BC and were on their return trip. — they’d seen lots of wildlife and wildfires! Hopefully, our paths will meet again.
After farewells, we finished up and got back on the Icefield Parkway towards Mount Robson. We stopped at the visitor centre at the foot of the mountain. Being the highest peak in the Rockies it was certainly humbling to see, unfortunately, the visitor centre was closed for the season. We stayed a while and enjoyed a nice picnic savouring the view of the snowy peak in front of us anyway.
We continued on our way and passed many mountains and valleys before switching to Highway 5, which would take us to the town of Clearwater. We were now in British Columbia! Once there, the signs for our next destination indicated another 20 km. The road was up, and most of it compacted dirt. The drive was not for the faint of heart, and was full of dogleg twists and turns all the while with a steep incline, and no guardrails! When we finally reached the gates of the campground, the Alpine Meadows Resort, I wiped my sweaty brow and prayed it wouldn’t rain.
The camp host had informed us via email that there was no one on duty, but they’d leave key cards under the office front doormat. We drove down the only road which led us to the RV sites, and the place was immaculate! Flat, paved pads with utility posts all lined up perfectly, each pad with an adjoining rustic, timber picnic table. There weren’t many trees separating sites (saved but a few maple saplings), and a fellow mowing the grass told us to pick any site (we were the only guests). He also mentioned morning bear sightings on the property, which made us both felt edgy thinking about being in total seclusion. Time to test the bear spray canister!
After breakfast and showers, we returned the key cards to the front stoop of the office and began our trek back down the mountain. Would we see the end of this, our 28th day? Thank you, Ford and Leisure Travel Vans for making us a safe and true vehicle. My knuckles were definitely white. Cliche? Not at all! The road was slick by the evening rainfall, and the switchbacks seemed more enhanced. We hugged the mountain the whole way, down-shifting, all the while my right foot wanted to hit the brake pedal. Wonderwheels got us down to paved roads without a scratch and a sigh of relief. We are headed for the town of Merritt where we’ll be Wallydocking. When we got there, we shopped for a bit then rested for the remainder of the day.
Day 29 was another long day of driving on the Coquihalla Highway. We stopped at a rest area near the town of Hope and had lunch in the RV. We then dove through the burbs of Vancouver: Abbotsford, Surrey, and Burnaby before ending up at our destination, Horseshoe Bay. We planned to Wallydock in North Vancouver but found out it wasn’t allowed. I tried putting out an ask for help on social media, but we decided to wing it. We parked the Wonder on a side road and went exploring the town. Then we saw the ferry terminal had a large parking lot and talked to the security guard who let us stay the night in an oversized parking space. Yay!
As dawn came around on September 13 — Day 30 — we set off to the terminal and then parked along with the other vehicles and waited to board. After three hours (two of them sailing), we arrived in Nanaimo. It looked much different than it was twenty years ago on our last visit. We wandered around a bit and even voted as the federal elections were underway, then we drove to the Living Forest Campground.
After checking in, we followed the map to our campsite. What a beautiful location. Tall trees everywhere and private serviced sites. As with all camps, we have our routine; I first park the RV in a level position and then go about hooking us up. I hook up the freshwater hose to the spigot and start loading the plumbing system, and then I get out the 30 amp cable, hook it up to the RV, and attach it to the receptacle on the post. This time when I flicked off the fuse switch an awful shrieking scream shot at me. I quickly unplugged, and raced to the entrance of the RV thinking I just electrocuted my wife. With my heart in my stomach, I got there as the screen door flung open with Robyn thrusting the blue bin at me screaming, “there’s an (expletive) mouse in the RV!” Apparently, we picked up a passenger, who jumped out of a drawer as Robyn was opening it. It was still dazed — probably from the prior blood-curdling scream — but quickly ran away as I up-sided the bin in the forest, surely wondering where the heck he is.
On Day 31, we explored the campground, and also drove to a nearby grocery store to stock up on necessities.
Day 32 was laundry day. I took our laundry sack to the main entrance where the facilities were and did a few loads. We get a lot of people admiring our rig when we’re out and about, and one such couple camping in a Navion struck up a friendly conversation with us, inviting us over for a happy hour drink. After the laundry was done we went on the cliffside hike. It was pretty good and gave us some great views of the harbour. We saw another LTV parked nearby. We also talked to some young guys from Oregon that were camping whilst renovating a school bus. They even gave us a tour. After our happy hour get-together, we returned to Wonderwheels and enjoyed an amazing stew that Robyn prepared earlier. After dinner, we sat in bed watching ‘the Office’ reruns on Netflix. We watch streaming shows on the iPad hooked up to the TV via an HDMI adapter.
September 16, Day 33, and Robyn’s birthday. We left Nanaimo and headed toward Port Alberni. We gassed up there and gathered info from the tourist centre. We drove through Coombs and wanted to stop but opted to do so on our return trip. We stopped at Cathedral Grove to see the old-growth forest. A boardwalk has been built since our last visit two decades prior, probably to protect the trees from huggers. Like us! There was an opening where we could get up close and hug one. It’s a magical place and a definite must-see. Some trees have been dated for over 800 years.
Our destination was Ucluelet on the coast. There is only one road to get there and due to its reconstruction, is closed from 11 am to 3 pm. Luckily we heard about this from other travelers and so we only waited over an hour in the long lineup. We stayed at the Wild Pacific Campground. I think there are only six sites. Pretty small campground attached to the Pacific Rim Trail. We ventured into town stopping at the local brewery, then it started to rain.
In fact, it rained hard all night. Day 34 would be a wet one! It poured like a monsoon until afternoon then slowed down so we decided to make a dash to Tofino. The rains certainly put a damper (sorry) on our visit. Kind of took away the vibe of the town that we had expected. Nonetheless, we were glad to be there finally! Driving back, we stopped at the Zed Hotel, a retro-chic designed hotel with a nice little resto-bar. We had a great seafood appetizer at the bar whilst conversing with the husband and wife bartenders. Nearing our campground we saw a soaking wet black bear loping alongside the roadway. It was quite big and our only bear sighting of the trip. To top it off, the campground lay hidden in a mist. Robyn got out to help me back in. Standing in our site nonchalantly grazing was a young deer. So cool!
Leaving the area we drove towards Tofino. We stopped at Wickaninnish Beach, parked the RV, and walked along the wet sands admiring the kelp and seashells washed up by the tides and the driftwood structures left behind by previous visitors. As for surfers, the waves weren’t cooperating. We saw a few students trying their best, and also an adept surfer who told us the current was moving in the wrong direction. Perhaps the wind and rain contributed to that. The Pacific waves certainly created a lot of mist along the beach as we walked back to the parking lot. We left only to be halted by the highway construction again. It didn’t seem as long this time and after a few days, I noticed quite an improvement in the reconstructed road.
With all that rain happening, we decided to book a night at the Coombs Country Campground. When we reached Coombs, we parked near the Coombs Old Country Market famous for their grass roof and the goats that graze there. It’s definitely set up for tourists, but you must check out the eclectic market that sells everything from salmon jerky to birdhouses, different kinds of pasta to Indian saris.
There’s also a one-of-a-kind donut shop next door, that has a never-ending lineup to get in. The Campground was nice, quiet, and established with fenced-in private sites and helpful hosts. We stayed indoors for the night due to light rain.
At around 10 am on Day 36, we packed up and left Coombs and drove to Victoria. It was cloudy and drizzly after we checked in to the Salish Seaside RV Haven. Tucked away between marinas and floating houses, Salish is the tidiest campground yet and boasts perfectly flat concrete pads. Even the picnic tables are concrete, and the landscaping is properly manicured.
When arrived we saw a Unity parked on the other side of the campground. By the time we left, another would arrive, plus another Wonder. With a break in the weather, we chose to walk the West Bay Trail, a mixture of paths and boardwalk that takes you all the way downtown. We stopped to take a water taxi to Fisherman’s Wharf, a touristy floating plaza of fast food eateries and houses. Barb’s Fish and Chips was supposedly famous for their food. I’m from the UK, you can’t kid a kidder! After scoping out the entire wharf we walked to the Empress Hotel, and into the lap of luxury. We got to the lounge and ordered a glass of something cold. Let’s just say that for the price of Robyn’s glass of wine, we could have bought a whole bottle at the liquor store! But hey, we don’t come here every day. We returned to Salish via a water taxi that took us right to the campground. The sun was going down as we sat outside, and a hummingbird flitted above us as the sounds of a guitar and singing wafted across the campsite. Seems we have a talented camper nearby.
September 20 was cloudy with the sun peeking out. We will walk to Chinatown, as we had been looking forward to a dim sum meal at Don Mee’s Restaurant for the whole trip. It was a longer walk than anticipated. Once in Chinatown to went to Fan Tan Alley, famous for its converted opium dens into retail shops as the narrowest street in Canada. We did a lot of exploring here, as the neighbourhood has many interesting alleys and shopping courtyards like Market Square that surrounds the Whistling Buoy Brewing Company.
We walked around the opulent Parliament buildings where the steps were decorated with reminders of the past residential school system. Very sad and sobering, but we were soon cheered up by a garden of totem poles. An awesome sight! Our walk had a purpose: to see the ocean. Well, not quite the ocean, but the Salish Sea with Washington State peering beyond the haze. We made it to the Dallas Rd Waterfront Trail where the Steve Fonyo Mile Zero Monument sits along with a statue of Terry Fox. We were tuckered out, and after a few minutes to catch our breath and watch the cargo ships anchored offshore, we started the long walk along the trail that took us to Fisherman’s Wharf where we deserved a nice cool drink and a water taxi ride back to camp.
After breakfast and our teardown drill, we left Salish to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, and wait for the ferry off the island. As we know we are in a small world, it was a surprising moment to see one of our friends from London walking toward us. After a flurry of waves, we got their attention and had a chat. Too funny. Our campground reservation was at the Capilano RV Resort in North Vancouver. Thank goodness for GPS, because that was a frustrating drive from the ferry terminal.
When we got there, the campground looked old. Our site barely fit our rig, and the sani-drain was too far for our macerator hose to reach. Luckily there’s a sani-dump by the park entrance. Sitting right next to us was a Unity, and it looked like they were about to leave, so we didn’t disturb them. The camp staff told us where to catch a bus that would take us downtown. Just a short walk and we were on our way. We got off the bus and noted where we should pick up the return bus later on. Our goal today was to see the ivy-covered Sylvia Hotel where we stayed 18 years ago right along English Bay. It hadn’t changed one bit, though the other buildings along the seawall certainly had. We walked some more around the Bay, and then went inland looking for somewhere to eat. We ended up at an Indonesian/Malayan restaurant. The food was good! By the time we got back to the RV we had walked 7 km (4 mi) and were beat.
Day 39 started out gloomy and drizzly, though, by the time we left mid-morning, it stopped. Today we legged it to Granville Island, which is definitely a must-stop destination for any traveler heading to Vancouver. We loved coming here 18 years ago, and it was still great! The Market still sold giant berries as we remembered before, and the food and shops were still great. We capped the visit with a pint at the Granville Island Brewery, then made our way home, stopping for groceries before we could relax at the RV.
September 23rd, day 40 of our adventure. We took the bus after breakfast to Stanley Park, which had been in the news lately due to coyote attacks. We walked the Seawall Trail, which was stunning. The glistening tide pools shone in the morning sun as the cargo ships rocked in place, and there were lots of people riding bikes or rollerblading on the path beside us. Even though it was a fun hike, the warm sunny day made us stop more often. No coyotes around, fortunately! It was a long walk — at least 8 or 9 km (5 or 6 mi) — and we did it… the wrong way. We wondered why passers-by would pass us with a smirk, but either way, all the walking created a major appetite, so we veered off to the Stanley Park Bistro. Overpriced, naturally. It’s the only place open for miles!
We figured that while we were downtown we should check out Chinatown. After taking the bus there we were disappointed to see how run down it was; there were so many vagrants and shuttered establishments. We turned around, and after a long wait, caught a bus back. It was a 12.9 km (8 mi) day. We were sore and exhausted. Luckily we had leftovers for dinner and crashed into a long early slumber.