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Life In The Slow Lane With Eric & Laurel

~Because it’s all about the journey~

Telegraph Cove, BC: So Many Whales!

Telegraph Cove, BC: So Many Whales!

Posted by on Nov 8, 2017 in British Columbia, Canada, Gallery | 40 comments

Nestled into a peaceful inlet on the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island lies a tiny, picturesque boardwalk village with a reputation for outstanding whale watching. This would be our furthest northernmost adventure on Vancouver Island, and we had been looking forward to it since we arrived on the island.

Leaving Campbell River, we found ourselves suddenly removed from all trappings of civilization. After a two-and-a-half hour drive on a two-lane road through a forested, mountainous landscape, we arrived at our destination: Telegraph Cove.

Pulling into our site, we were delighted to find that despite the total lack of privacy in the wide-open RV Park, we had a wonderful view of the Johnstone Strait. In mid-September, there were only a handful of other travelers.

Our site at Telegraph Cove Marina RV Park, with a view of the Johnstone Strait

The boardwalk town of Telegraph Cove is about a five-minute walk from the RV Park. Fishing villages built on stilts and connected by boardwalks were once a common sight in western Canada. Telegraph Cove, with a year-round population of 20 hardy souls, is one of the last remaining. More than 120,000 people make the trek to Telegraph Cove each year, most of them during July and August. Which is why we came in September.

A view of Telegraph Cove from across the harbor

In 1912, the town began as the northern terminus of a telegraph line originating in Campbell River. Through the ensuing years, Telegraph Cove has seen a salmon saltery, sawmill, and the Royal Canadian Air Force come and go. Many of the original buildings still stand, now housing travelers accommodations, adventure tour operators, a restaurant, pub, and a fabulous whale museum.

The picturesque boardwalk village and harbor of Telegraph Cove

Exploring the Crayola-colored buildings of Telegraph Cove

Apparently it ran out of gas…a long time ago

Afternoon reflections

Orcas are the star attraction here

A commercial fishing boat arrives in Telegraph Cove

The pristine, wildlife-rich waters of the Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago sit at the doorstep of Telegraph Cove. This is home to more than 260 orcas, the largest resident pod of killer whales in the world. Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau called it one of the best places in the world to view orcas in their natural environment.

From mid-July through mid-September, the orcas are attracted by the annual salmon run that funnels through the narrow glacier-carved channel between the Canadian mainland and northern Vancouver Island. We had a whale watching trip booked for Eric’s birthday, and I was hoping the whales would come by to wish him a happy birthday. And they did.

Our whale watching tour boat, the 60-foot Lukwa

The birthday boy ready to go find whales

A pod of orcas, such a magnificent sight!

For three hours that afternoon, we were in the company of orcas. It was glorious. They are magnificent creatures.

Getting closer; they move almost as one through the water

Although they’re called whales, orcas are actually dolphins—really big dolphins, up to 30 feet long and weighing up to 6 tons (about the size of a small school bus, but much sleeker). These glossy black-and-white creatures are intelligent and social. They hunt together, care for each other, and have a highly evolved, complex social network.

Orcas travel in family pods consisting of 5 to 30 whales. Each pod consists of the matriarch (the eldest female), her offspring, and her daughter’s offspring. Males leave the pod to mate, but return to their mothers and siblings. Family pods live within clans that share a common language. They have different accents, but they understand each other’s clicks, squeaks, and whistles.

Male orcas have straight dorsal fins up to five feet tall; females have curved fins

The shape of the dorsal fins and the saddle patches are unique to each individual orca

Each orca can be identified by the unique shape of their dorsal fin, their gray and white “saddle patch,” and telltale nicks and scars. Researchers use these identifying marks to track and study the whales.

Orcas are divided into two distinct groups: residents and transients. Residents eat only fish (primarily salmon), while transients hunt marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, and whales. Residents are very vocal and travel and hunt in larger groups, while transients travel in smaller groups and are stealthy, silent predators, which helps them sneak up on their larger and smarter prey.

We saw both residents and transients on our whale watching expedition. They moved gracefully, fins knifing through the water in a tightly choreographed water ballet. We were hoping to see the whales spyhopping, feeding, or tail slapping, but they just peacefully cruised along. “They’re resting,” explained the naturalist. Whales rest with one half of their brain awake, one eye open, while the other half of their brain sleeps.

Pacific white-sided dolphins on a mission to annoy orcas

The Pacific white-sided dolphins put on a hilarious side-show act, zooming through the water and taunting the orcas. The lightning-fast little dolphins are preyed upon by transient orcas, so of course, they’re not fond of the whales. Gangs of little dolphins mobbed the resident whales, chasing and bugging them, just like a flock of small birds will mob a hawk.

The dolphins are hilarious and relentless

Pacific white-sided dolphins travel in large numbers and are insanely fast

The Johnstone Strait is also the summer home to humpback whales, gentle toothless giants that filter seawater to feed on plankton, krill, and small fish. They spend 90 percent of their time underwater, surfacing just enough to take a breath every 10 to 15 minutes. The blows of the humpbacks surrounded us as we ran from one side of the boat to the other, each time capturing just the rounded back, the tiny dorsal fin, and the mist of the blow lingering in the sunlight.

A humpback whale spout

The mist from the spout hangs in the air long after the humpback submerges

Large colonies of Stellar sea lions haul out on rocky prominences in the Johnstone Strait. These guys are huge and strong and are near the top of the marine food chain—their closest land relative is the grizzly bear. But they’re no match for a hungry orca.

Large numbers of Stellar sea lions haul out on rocks

These guys are noisy! And stinky.

A bald eagle observes the activity from shore

We enjoyed excellent educational talks on our whale watching expedition

Back on shore, we continued our marine education the following day with a couple of hours at the Whale Museum. Lots of whale and other marine mammal skeletons here, and lots of information that’s well presented. The museum guides are wonderful—when they offer to give you a personal tour, take them up on it!

At the Whale Museum on the boardwalk with a replica of an orca dorsal fin

Lots of marine mammal skeletons and interesting information

Charting the orca community

Our delightful tour guide sharing songs of the whales

Our visit to Telegraph Cove was all we had hoped for, and more. We’ll definitely return. On our wish list: additional whale watching cruises (the best option for photography), and an overnight kayak trip, because it would be extraordinary to kayak with the whales!

About the campground:
We loved it! The views and location are terrific at Telegraph Cove Marina RV Park. Full hookups, concrete patios, level sites, and decent internet for a small fee. Stock up on groceries before making the trek here. There’s a general store with a random assortment of stuff; the books and souvenirs looked more appealing than the grocery items. Note: There are two campgrounds in Telegraph Cove and it’s easy to confuse the two. The other campground is deep in the forest and about a half-mile from the harbor.

We highly recommend Stubbs Island Whale Watching. The first whale watching outfit in BC, they’ve been around since 1980 and are ethical and passionate about protecting the orcas and other wildlife. We learned a tremendous amount and had a fantastic time on our tour.

Telegraph Cove Marina RV Park

Next Up: The Wild West Coast: Tofino, BC

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Campbell River And Quadra Island, BC

Campbell River And Quadra Island, BC

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in British Columbia, Canada, Gallery, Hiking | 25 comments

We’re back in our hometown of Ashland for a three-week visit before heading south for the winter. In addition to seeing friends and enjoying the beautiful fall weather, for the first time in months we have reliable internet. Before life gets away from me, I can catch up on our backlog of posts from our adventures on Vancouver Island.

Although it’s contrary to my nature (just ask Eric!) I’m going to speed things up and post more frequently than usual. My preference is to linger over experiences, both as they’re occurring and when reflecting and writing about them. But I really don’t want to be blogging about this once we take to the road again in late November. So without further ado, here we go!

Arriving in Campbell River, just 95 miles from our last stop in Nanaimo, we both felt for the first time that we were glimpsing a hint of the wildness that we anticipated in our travels on Vancouver Island. The town of Campbell River, midway on the east coast of the island, is civilized—but it’s also the gateway to the wilderness of the remote north and western regions and the rugged Discovery Islands just offshore.

Because we were moving quickly to catch the prime whale season further north, we had only a couple of days to explore. It was barely enough time to get a taste of this interesting town and nearby Quadra Island, the closest and largest of the Discovery Islands.

Vancouver Island, the Discovery Islands are in dark orange (courtesy of BC real estate website)

For thousands of years, beginning with the First Nations villages, the rhythm of life here has followed the movement of the salmon. Campbell River is unique in that it is a migration route for all five major species of Pacific Salmon—Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink, and Chum. Legend has it that at one time, the salmon run was so thick it was possible to walk on the backs of the fish in the river.

The fishing is still legendary here, and Campbell River has held the title as the “Salmon Fishing Capital of the World” for at least 100 years. In our afternoon walk along the waterfront, I was tempted to rent fishing gear. If it hadn’t been so late in the day, I would have tried to catch our dinner from the pier. Instead, we bought salmon on the dock. Not as exciting, but still delicious.

The Rotary Waterfront Walkway

Campbell River harbor and five kinds of salmon, drawings by a First Nations artist

Discovery Pier on the Campbell River

Fishing from Discovery Pier on a chilly but beautiful mid-September day

We stayed at Elk Falls Provincial Park, just two miles from the town of Campbell River. A beautiful hiking trail from the campground winds along the river. Leaning over a bridge, we could see hundreds of salmon gathering on their way home to their spawning grounds.

On the Canyon View trail, heading the long way to Elk Falls from the campground

Fly fishing on the Campbell River

Crossing a bridge high above the Campbell River on the Canyon View Trail

Salmon heading home on the Campbell River

The hiking trail meets up with the trail to Elk Falls. The falls are rather modest, but the suspension bridge crossing the river is pretty spectacular. Built in 2015, it crosses Elk Canyon, with a dizzying view of boulders and rushing water 200 feet below. It was a great hike, we figured about seven miles in total, including hundreds of stairs (no exaggeration).

Elaborate stairways lead to viewing opportunities for Elk Falls

Crossing the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge

Elk Falls, most of the water is diverted for power

We finished up the day with a tapas style meal at Beach Fire Brewing and Nosh House. It’s a fun locals scene, with very good craft beer and a menu that changes daily—the salmon potato cakes and salad with marinated lentils were delicious.

Beach Fire Brewing and Nosh House

No IPA’s here, but the High Tide Pale Ale was very good

A Visit To Quadra Island
Only a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Quadra Island is the largest of the Discovery Islands. We started our day with a hike that turned out to be a bit more than we bargained for, given that we had a full day planned for exploring the island. Chinese Mountain is the highest point on Quadra, and starts off with a relentless steep uphill rocky trail and some interesting rock climbing obstacles. The view from the top is spectacular! It’s not a long hike, but it’s definitely a good workout. Three miles and three hours later, we returned to town.

Heading up Chinese Mountain, we chose to go counterclockwise; it’s steeper but easier going up than down this direction

The scrambling was a surprise, but fun

It’s a gorgeous trail all the way along

The views from the top are spectacular

Heading down the trail and ready for lunch!

While on Quadra, we intended to visit the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre, home to a unique collection of repatriated First Nations cultural items that had been seized by the government during the years when the native peoples were displaced and not allowed to practice their traditional ways. The items were sold to collectors and museums, and only in recent years have been returned to their rightful owners.

As it turned out, the museum was unexpectedly closed for the day. But we were able to enjoy the garden outside with the wonderful welcoming totems. Welcome poles were traditionally placed on village beachfronts to hail visitors. Today, welcome poles are placed at important sites, such as museums, to welcome visitors onto First Nations land.

Welcoming figures at the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre

Wonderful totems at the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre

An offering

About the campground
We really enjoyed our stay at Elk Falls Provincial Park. It was peaceful, beautiful, and well-located for our explorations of Campbell River. The sites are spacious and private, and although forested, most have plenty of light. No hookups and the facilities are primitive, but water is conveniently located throughout the campground. We had cell coverage close to the entrance station, but no internet, of course. In September mid-week, all of the river sites were reserved but we found a lovely site without having reservations.

Elk Falls Provincial Park campground

Next Up: Telegraph Cove And So Many Whales!

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Nanaimo, BC: The Harbour City

Nanaimo, BC: The Harbour City

Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in British Columbia, Canada, Gallery | 27 comments

Canadians spell it “harbour,” we write “harbor.” It doesn’t sound any different, but that extra “u” certainly gives the word more panache. Noah Webster didn’t think so, though. When he compiled the first American dictionary in 1828, he ditched the extra “u” in color, flavor, humor, neighborhood (and many more words) in favor of spelling words like they sound.

Seeing words spelled differently in our travels on Vancouver Island was just one of the reminders that we were, indeed, in a foreign country. Another reminder was the road signage. We were delighted to realize that Nanaimo was only 80 miles from Sidney (the sign said 130 kilometers); not so thrilled when we realized that we were speeding along at 60 miles an hour when the speed limit was actually 60 km (37 mph).

After our half-day enjoying the farmers market and totem tour in Duncan, we continued on another 31 miles to Nanaimo, also known as the Harbour City.

With two nights, but only one full day in Nanaimo, we spent the next morning strolling several miles of the beautiful walkway that borders the scenic waterfront and harbor. Along the way is a random but entertaining assortment of artwork. The pieces include an enormous gilded picture frame, an orca made of recycled metal parts, a giant crab carved from wood, and a statue of the former long-time mayor of the city, Frank Ney, in pirate regalia.

Apparently Ney was quite a colorful character. He enjoyed dressing up as a pirate for civic events and initiated bathtub races in the harbor. Also a real estate developer, he allowed his eleven kids to name some of Nanaimo’s streets. If our address was Dingle Bingle Hill or Tiggly Wiggly Road, it would be hard to say it and feel like an adult. Which may not be a bad thing.

An orca made of all kinds of recycled metal stuff

An enormous wooden crab on the Nanaimo waterfront

Swashbuckling Frank Ney, long time pirate mayor

The lovely Nanaimo waterfront walkway

The downtown area of Nanaimo is undergoing an appealing revitalization. We found an excellent little café for lunch, where the chef’s salad was made right: smoked chicken, roasted tomatoes, beautiful greens, and most important, eggs cooked perfectly with no green ring around the yolk.

Downtown Nanaimo, small but interesting

Hopefully the new buildings will be this colorful

The Modern Cafe, with a very cool retro vibe

Two Chefs Affair, down the street and owned by the chefs of Modern Cafe

A perfect chef’s salad at Two Chefs Affair

Piper’s Lagoon and Neck Point are two favorite local spots for hiking, and were recommended to us by our server at the café. We headed there after lunch and enjoyed the trails at both. The one-mile loop trail at Piper’s Lagoon involves a leisurely walk down a lovely spit, followed by some rock scrambling at the headland, where there’s a great view of historic Shack Island and the southern point of Neck Point Park.

At Piper’s Lagoon

Just up the road is Neck Point Park. It’s easy to see how the park got its name when you see the gravel bar that connects the park to a large rocky outcropping at low tide.

On the trails at Neck Point

Boardwalk trails and great views at Neck Point

Easy to see how Neck Point got its name

Shack Island separates the two parks and can be walked to at low tide. Despite their rustic appearance, the small buildings are not abandoned but are summer cabins originally used by fishermen in the 1930’s before motorboats were common.

A view of Shack Island

Colorful shacks on Shack Island and a reminder that we’re in Canada

About the campground:
We scored a perfect site at Living Forest Oceanside RV Park in Nanaimo. The expansive views of the estuary from our site were gorgeous. It would have been an easy place to stay longer.

A very good campsite at Living Forest Oceanside RV Park

The sites are relatively spacious with trees and shrubs for privacy. Sites vary dramatically—apparently some people prefer being deep in the forest, which looked depressing to me. If you want a waterfront view, book early. Because we were traveling after Labor Day (that would be Labour Day in Canada, also celebrated the first Monday in September, just with that extra “u”) we were able to get a waterfront view site with just a few days advance reservation.

The park offers full hookups, very nice tiled coin operated showers, and wifi at a central location. No Verizon here, though. There’s lots more to do in Nanaimo, but we needed to head north on our mission to find whales.

Views of the estuary from our campsite; it really couldn’t be better

Next Up: Campbell River and Quadra Island, BC

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The City Of Totems: Duncan, BC

The City Of Totems: Duncan, BC

Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Art, British Columbia, Canada, Gallery | 26 comments

We sailed away from Vancouver Island on Friday, after five weeks of adventures, British Columbia style. You would think five weeks would be enough time to cover every inch of an island 290 miles long and 62 miles wide. Not quite. But we did our best.

We explored the length and breadth of the island, discovering treasures around every bend. We found whales on the north coast and bears fishing for salmon in the interior. We kayaked in pristine waters, took a mail boat cruise to a remote village, hiked trails through moss-covered ancient forests, visited beautiful gardens, and walked stunning beaches on both coasts. We immersed ourselves in the First Nations culture and the vibrant local art scene. We indulged in a bounty of local foods from farmers markets, vineyards, breweries, cheese makers, fishmongers, tea houses, and bakeries.

The entire experience was pure magic. Except for the lack of internet connection, which was pull-your-hair-out frustrating. If you can’t live without internet, you don’t want to go to Vancouver Island. Your phone might work (sometimes), but your internet connection, never. I’ll share more about this in an island wrap-up post, but for now,  let’s talk about the little town of Duncan, a mere 40 miles north of Sidney.

Leaving Sidney, we envisioned small towns and wilderness ahead. Instead, we found ourselves driving through stop-and-go traffic on a highway lined with strip malls. And then it started to rain. It wasn’t exactly an auspicious beginning to our explorations of Vancouver Island.

But then we pulled off the highway in Duncan, also known as The City of Totems.

There were two things that drew us to Duncan: the large collection of First Nations totem poles, and the farmers market. Both were outstanding, even in the rain.

Totems created by First Nations artists by the railway station in downtown Duncan, BC

The Duncan Farmers Market takes place year round, rain or shine. Every Saturday, 150 vendors gather in the heart of downtown Duncan, laying out a cornucopia of island bounty. The Cowichan Valley is blessed with as close to a Mediterranean climate as you get in Canada, and has become a slow-food mecca for organic farmers, artisanal cheese makers, foragers, fishermen, vintners, brewmasters, chocolatiers, coffee roasters, and chefs. For food lovers (like us!) it’s heaven.

We knew nothing about the Cowichan Valley before stopping in Duncan, but immediately put it on our list for an extended visit later in our trip. As for the farmers market, we came away with feta and Brie from grass fed happy cows, beautiful organic berries and greens, fresh roasted coffee, and local smoked salmon. If our fridge hadn’t been stuffed full of Lopez Island goodies, we would have bought a lot more.

A little rain (or a lot) won’t stop us from visiting a good farmers market!

A local jazz band provides entertainment on a rainy market day

The surrounding Cowichan Valley is known for its Mediterranean-like climate (yes, really)

Along with hosting the largest farmers market in the Cowichan Valley, Duncan has a superb collection of totems in the downtown area. Totem poles are unique to the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast. It’s not unusual to find totems in British Columbia—many communities raise totem poles as a sign of respect to the First Nations peoples.

It is unusual to find such a rich concentration of totem poles, though. In 1985, the mayor of Duncan initiated the totem pole project to celebrate the close ties between the City and the Quw’utsun’ (Cowichan) people. He also hoped the totems would attract visitors, but that’s not the primary message that comes through (there’s nothing amusement park-esque about the totem poles, fortunately).

Today, 39 totems, all created by aboriginal carvers, are placed throughout the town. The signs accompanying each tell the story of the totem pole from the carver’s perspective. Totem tours are offered during the summer, or you can follow the yellow footprints of the totem trail on your own.

Downtown Duncan has an outstanding collection of First Nations totems

Carved from cedar, totem poles tell stories of individual clans, and communicate history and legends. Each animal symbolizes human traits, personality and values. For example, Bear represents strength, family, and courage. Mischievous and curious Raven embodies creation, knowledge, and the unknown, while Owl signifies wisdom and intuition. Otter is one of my favorites, symbolizing friendship and family, as well as happiness and never ending curiosity.

The Eagle Totem, the first totem created for the Totem Project in 1986

Each totem has unique symbolism and tells a story

The Transformation in Life Totem

Eagle represents wisdom, great vision, and healing, and this totem tells a story of transformation. An eagle carries away a man on a vision quest. He returns as a young person wrapped safely in the eagle’s wings, representing his Guardian Spirit. Now, his life begins again, with a second chance to change his ways.

Totems against a background mural in downtown Duncan

The mythical Thunderbird, bringer of great storms, thunder, and lightning

A bronze water fountain totem, including a frog fountain for pets

If you get hungry wandering in Duncan, the Duncan Garage is a gathering place for locals and visitors offering homemade soups, salads, and lots more, all focused on local foods and with a definite retro hippie vibe. While you’re at it, you can browse the excellent little bookstore and shop the little natural foods store. It’s a cute, colorful place, right along the totem trail.

The Duncan Garage offers everything but gas, oil changes and tires

Hippie comfort food is on the menu at the Duncan Garage Cafe

Ten Old Books Bookstore

We spent several hours in Duncan and then resumed our journey northward. It was a great stop, and well worth the short detour off the highway.

Next Up: Nanaimo, BC: The Harbour City

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Vancouver Island: A Bucket List Item

Vancouver Island: A Bucket List Item

Posted by on Oct 5, 2017 in Canada, Gallery | 36 comments

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, has been on our bucket list for years. Truthfully, it would have stayed on our bucket list had it not been for the fires raging throughout much of the West this summer.

We had plans for Glacier in early September, but scratched that idea because of uncontrolled wildfires. Washington, the Canadian Rockies, Idaho, and Oregon were also choked with smoke. In mid-August, just a couple of weeks before we were due to leave Lopez, we had no idea of where we were going. And then we came up with the brilliant idea of exploring Vancouver Island.

Brilliant, and also a bit overwhelming. We don’t know anyone who has spent time RVing on Vancouver Island. We’ve visited Victoria, the capital of BC on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, twice—once on a tent camping adventure 20 years ago, and again recently while staying in an Airbnb. However, hauling our trailer to the island felt a bit daunting. Not because of the ferry crossing; with all of our travels in the San Juan Islands, we’re accustomed to traveling by ferry.

The Challenges

We had no reservations for places to stay, weren’t sure about campsite availability in September, and we wondered what it was going to be like crossing the border with our trailer. Plus, we didn’t know much about the island (except Victoria), and had no clue about where to go and what to do. With no easy access to internet on Lopez to research our options, for the first time in 15 years we bought a travel guidebook. It wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped. Despite the fact that the internet is a time-sucking vortex, it is infinitely better than any other way of researching travel plans. Being without internet drives me crazy. But I digress.

There were two things we knew for sure we wanted to do on Vancouver Island: Whale watching in Telegraph Cove, far north on the island. And exploring Pacific Rim National Park, on the wild west coast. We would fill in the blanks for the rest of our journey as we learned more along the way.

Border Crossing Trauma

Deciphering information about border crossing restrictions is an exercise in futility. There is no way to determine precisely what is and what isn’t allowed. I spent a couple of hours trying to make sense of the rules only to discover this disclaimer: “the requirements may be adjusted at any time.” Not helpful at all.

It’s not that we were planning to haul drugs or guns or plants across the border. Or even large quantities of alcohol. But we had a freezer stuffed with local Lopez Island meats and salmon, and a fridge filled with two dozen local eggs and fresh vegetables from our favorite farm stand. I didn’t want any of our beautiful, organic, island-grown food confiscated at the border. (Of course, the easiest solution is to travel with an empty fridge and freezer. But we had stocked our freezer in preparation for our trip to Glacier.)

I wasn’t being completely neurotic. We’ve heard horror stories about border crossings, including a tale from a close friend who was threatened with stiff fines for neglecting to declare a dessicated lime lolling about in his fridge drawer.

I called the RV Park in Sidney where we would spend our first night, asking if they had any idea of current border restrictions. The woman tried her best to help, searching the same official website that I had tried to sort through. “Hmmm…this is confusing,” she finally said. And we both agreed that essentially, the ease of our border crossing would depend on the mood of the border guard, and whether or not the guard fancied lunch from our well-stocked fridge.

It Was A Piece Of Cake!

On September 8th, we loaded our trailer onto the ferry, sailed away from Lopez, and caught another ferry in Anacortes to Vancouver Island. Two hours later, we cruised into the port of Sidney and queued up for our turn with the customs agent—while watching the trailer next to us get pulled over and searched.

Our agent asked where we were headed and how long we planned to be on the island. Her only other question was whether we had weapons (only bear spray, which is allowed as long as it’s labeled as such). We then had a pleasant conversation about our plans to head north to Telegraph Cove for whale watching. “That’s the best place on the island for whales—I saw orcas there!” With a smile, she waved us on.

A Brief But Fun Visit To Sidney

We made a good choice to stay in Sidney the first night instead of hitting the road and immediately heading up island. The waterfront is a beautiful place to walk, with sculptures and a picturesque harbor.

A colorful welcome to Sidney, British Columbia

Strolling the Sidney waterfront walkway; about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) one way

Flowers along the waterfront

Hanging out with the bronze fisherman by the pier

An orca mosaic at the Sidney Marina

Our entertainment in Sidney consisted of walking along the waterfront, visiting the sweet little aquarium (our docent at the touch tank was probably 12 years old, and very knowledgeable), and enjoying happy hour at the excellent gin distillery. All very wholesome activities.

Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, a delightful local aquarium on the waterfront

The doors to the inner sanctum of the aquarium; very Jules Verne

Inside the fascinating Salish Sea Aquarium

Dancing sea nettles

Our wonderful young aquarium docent, keeping watch over the touch tank

Treasures of the Salish Sea; fancy pink anemones and blue sea stars

The fabulous Victoria Distillers, right next door to the aquarium (how convenient!)

Gin tasting at the distillery; three different gins, two tonics, two bitters, and garnishes

Purple gin created for the Empress Hotel; the color comes from dried butterfly pea flowers

About the RV Park:

Oceanside RV Resort, in Saanichton, is only 15 minutes from the ferry terminal in Sidney. It’s beautifully maintained, with a mix of seasonal and overnight sites. Our site backed up to a wetland with trails to a small beach. Paved roads, level gravel sites, full hookups, erratic wifi, immaculate showers and laundry. It has the reputation as the nicest RV park in the area, and from the looks of a couple of the others we passed by, I’d say there’s no question about it.

Oceanside RV Park, Saanichton, BC

Next Up: A  Couple Of Days In Nanaimo, BC

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Summer In The San Juan Islands

Summer In The San Juan Islands

Posted by on Sep 22, 2017 in Biking, Family, Food, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Kayaking, Music, San Juan Islands, Washington | 34 comments

We left Lopez Island two weeks ago, waving goodbye from the deck of the ferry as we sailed away. Although we were on the island for two months, our parting is always bittersweet. Are we excited about continuing on to new adventures? Yes! At the same time, it’s hard to leave a place where we feel so deeply connected.

The first year we arrived as volunteers at Spencer Spit State Park, we met a couple that had been hosting there for 15 years. “Fifteen years?” I thought. “I can’t imagine.” Well, we just finished up our seventh summer at the park, and we’re planning to return next summer. There’s something about Lopez…

We’re drawn back year after year by the natural beauty, our delight in teaching the interpretive programs, the diversity of interesting outdoor and cultural events, and the wonderful friends we’ve made on the island.

We feel extraordinarily fortunate to have discovered Lopez, and to have the opportunity to settle in for the summer in a place we love, with people we love, doing volunteer work that we love. We’re also fortunate to have friends and family visit us on the island each year. And with several other islands in the San Juan Island archipelago just a short ferry ride away, we never run out of things to do. For us, life doesn’t get any better than Lopez in the summertime.

I’ve written a lot about Lopez and the San Juan Islands over the past several years, so I’ll keep this simple by just posting photos of some of our island adventures. These photos come with a disclaimer: I could post hundreds of photos, and I still wouldn’t be able to adequately convey the beauty and magic of this special place.

The only real downside to life on Lopez is the almost complete lack of internet, which exacerbates the usual challenge I have of keeping up with our blog. Hence, you’re getting one GIANT postcard. (Sorry about that!)

oxoxo Laurel & Eric

Ferry sailing by Spencer Spit

Settling into our new site at the park; it was a bumper crop year for Dungeness crab

A visitor to our campsite; a Red-breasted Nuthatch comes to bathe

Our favorite farm stand, just a short bike ride away

Inter-Tribal Canoe Journey lands on Lopez en route to Campbell River, British Columbia

Dusk at Shark Reef is always in shades of purple and orange

Views of Mount Baker

Adventures On San Juan Island

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island

Adventures On Orcas Island

Raven sculpture, Orcas Island

A Day Trip To Sucia Island

Peaceful bay on Sucia Island

Next Up: A Bucket List Adventure: Vancouver Island, BC

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