A 6:00 a.m. start to catch the ferry to Vancouver was the order of the day so off we cruised. We discovered that Big Blue drove pretty sweetly for such an old and bulky beast, which was kinda nice to confirm. (Don't want to think too much about the gas consumption though). Rolling down The Island Highway to Nanaimo brought back a lot of memories. We were a bit surprised to see the amount of snow still clinging to the peaks, which are only short things compared to what's across the water in the Coast Range.
Here is a photo looking out the front window of Big Blue as we are leaving the Comox Valley:
The plane on the left is a reference to the Canadian Defence Force which has an airbase in the valley. Not a great photo but you get the idea of how much snow they get on the island.
The ferry system in B.C. is very extensive with lots of ferries running regularly out to the various islands that lie off the mainland. Here is a photo of the vessel we caught from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay:
On the ferry we met this amazing guy named Eric, who runs his own wild mushroom business called Untamed Feast. They pick, dry and sell wild mushrooms that cannot be farmed or cultivated. He was on his way with his crew to the Northwest Territories in one quick push to pick Morels.
When we got talking and mentioned that we had seen lots of Amanita Muscana (which they don't pick!) when we were hiking in the Dolomites, Eric told us the story of why those of us of European descent celebrate Christmas the way we do. Di was so taken with Eric's story that she had to write about it in her journal.
After a stop in Vancouver at the Great Gear Shop In The Sky for some new climbing shoes and a few other climbing road trip necessities we headed east. It was overcast, with varying amounts of rain but it mattered not. We were on the road and anticipating fun times ahead. As anyone knows who's done one, there is something special about an extended road trip; something even more special about an extended climbing road trip, and something especially special about an extended climbing road trip in North America!
We know our best climbs are behind us, but the destinations are pretty special and varied and there's still lots to do. But the journey itself is such a buzz, especially in THE WEST, and the sense of anticipation you get with your partner beside you as the miles roll by under your wheels, heading for fun times is such a kick! Di took this shot through the windscreen as we were driving along the rich alluvial plain of the Fraser River nearing the historic mining township of Hope and the mountains that rise up around it:
And yes, those are raindrops on the windscreen!
Leaving the freeway and arriving at Hope - the gateway to the interior of B.C. - we really felt our trip had started. Di insisted we stop in Hope because she wanted to go to the Blue Moose Cafe. If you're going past make sure you stop in. All you have to do is drive up the main drag (Wallace Street) and look for this sign:
Di remembered that the last time we were through Hope, the Blue Moose had these sexy blue pyjamas with moose all over them and had it in her mind to buy Doug a pair. Luckily they were fresh out.
It's surprising that Hope doesn't make more of its history on the web, as it's a pretty neat little town full of friendly folk and it showcases its history and connection to the natural environment for those who pass through.
This sign pays homage to the prospectors who opened the route into the mountains:
And one of the animal carvings:
(we had to have that one in for the grandkids!)
After a great cup of coffee and a bit of shopping so we could cook ourselves some dinner we continued east on the Crow's Nest Highway, a must-do drive if you want to tour B.C. Climbing up towards Allison Pass Summit (1342 metres), which is the gateway to Manning Park, we suddenly noticed that there was still a great deal of snow on the ground on either side of the highway. Memories flooded back of the ski touring we did in the park with our great friends Adrian and Mary during our year off in 1992. The Gibson Pass downhill ski area soon appeared and it looked like you could still cut a few turns (take note, Alan!) if the lifts were still running.
As you traverse the park you drive alongside the Skagit, Sumallo and Similkameen Rivers for many kilometres. It's rich in wildlife and, if you're up for the challenge, where you'll finish the Pacific Coast Trail (they say south to north is the way to go!) which runs all the way from the U.S. border with Mexico to the Crow's Nest Highway.
Di was sure we'd see a moose, but it wasn't to be. We did see a beaver ...
... before we stopped at one of the campgrounds in the park to cook our dinner in Big Blue ...
One thing that they've really stuffed up in B.C. is what they are charging for an overnight stay in their parks. We thought it was expensive the last time we were here, but now it's got to be ridiculous: $21 per night for a site with a picnic table and access to a pit toilet. Not too good if you're on an extended tour! We had our meal and moseyed on down the road. As dusk started to fall we saw lots of Mule Deer - including one herd of about a dozen - but the conditions weren't great for stopping and snapping photos.
Soon we were tired enough to want to stop so we found a place just off the highway that was $21 cheaper than the park sites. We pulled the curtains made up the bed, got in and ... nothing exciting happened except that we discovered that we actually did fit into the rather small bed!
This morning we had a leisurely breakfast, packed up the van and drove through to Penticton and our friend Jon's place. It was still raining, so we went for a coffee and then a walk up to Skaha Bluffs in anticipation of climbing in the sunshine and to remind ourselves of past fun times. The weather doesn't look too flash for tomorrow, but we should get a bit of cragging in on Thursday. If it's still raining it doesn't matter, we've got plenty of time ...
... in the meantime, here's what the journey looks like so far: