Report from the road #3 – O Canada!

From 8/16 to 8/28 my mom joined me from South Carolina for a Vancouver Island exploration and I fell head over heels in love with the island.   So beautiful and wild the people were wonderfully outgoing and friendly.

On 8/16 I picked up my mom from the Seattle airport.  She had flown from South Carolina to join me for a trip to Vancouver Island.

We spent the first 2 nights up in Skagit Valley, at an airbnb on Samish Island.   We poked around Edison, hit the Bow Farmers market, took Roo for a walk at Samish flats, checked out the Braezelle Center and their small aquarium.

On day 3 we caught the ferry from Anacortes to Sidney, BC.   It’s a beautiful, scenic ride, winding through the San Juan Islands.

Qualicum Beach, about 2 hours north of Victoria on the east coast was our first stop for 3 nights.   The town was charming, small and quaint and quiet.  A lovely walk on the water front was the perfect place to watch the sunset. We caught a sand sculpting competion in Parksville,  ate a ton of cheese at BoMe Market and hiked to Illusion Lakes where Roo enjoyed some swimming time.

Illusion Lakes - Qualicum Beach area

fullsizeoutput_e20
Yes, that’s Neil Young sculpted in sand! Keep on rocking in the free world!

fullsizeoutput_d43

While staying in Qualicum Beach, we day tripped to Tofino, a popular surf town on the West Coast of the island.  To get there you take a windy, scenic highway up and over the mountains that bisect Vancouver Island, passing thru towering forests and by clear lakes and rivers. In Tofino we enjoyed lunch at the recommended Sea Monster noodle bar and then after poking around the town a bit we plopped ourselves down at Chesterman beach for a couple of hours of relaxing on the beach and surfer watching.

On the return drive, we stopped in Port Alberni where we saw our second bear of the day, and enjoyed good beer at the newly established Twin Cities Brewery.

On our last morning in the Qualicum Beach area, we started the day with a hike through Cathedral Grove and then watched the eclipse from the patio of the Old Country Market in Coombs, famous for their goats on the roof of the market.  We then proceeded to make our way South to Sooke Harbor, stopping at wineries in the Cowichan Valley along the way.

fullsizeoutput_e18

We spent 2 nights in Sooke at Gordon’s Farm Bed and Breakfast which was a funky and fun BnB.  4 goats,  30+ chickens, Nelly the dog, a cat and  our hosts, Diane and Mike, made up the farm.  Jimmy the Nigerian dwarf goat  (aka the free range goat) thoroughly entertained us as he proved to be quite the escape artist and kept wriggling his way out of goat pen to roam the property, and seemed especially interested in tagging along after the cat.  The view from the BnB was spectacular, looking across the Straight of Juan de Fuca at the Olympic Peninsula.

For our last day in the Sooke area, we day tripped up to Port Renfrew and sampled some beers at their brew pub, stopping on the way to and from for more beach walks and romps with Roo.

From Sooke we headed to Victoria for 4 nights.  Victoria was a pleasant surprise.  I expected it to be very touristy but I found the city to be really charming.

Butchart Gardens was AMAZING.  I went in with pretty low expectations.  Someone had described it to me as the Disney Land of gardens so I was expecting a bunch of crappy topiaries and beds of petunias.   I could not have been more surprised and delighted.  I LOVE it when something exceeds expectations and Butchart Garden did 100 times over.

It was quite a treat to have my aunt, Barbara, join us in Victoria.  The sisters ouldn’t help themselves and jumped on the carousel for a quick spin at the garden.

We enjoyed a formal tea service in the grand house at Butchart and all total spent more than 6 hours strolling around the grounds.

Abkhazia Gardens was another amazing garden treat that we enjoyed in Victoria.  Large Garry Oaks, arborized Rhododendron that were 70+ years old anchored the garden.  This garden was truly a gardener’s garden and labor of love.

We took one of Victoria’s adorable little water taxis to Point Ellice House, an amazingly well preserved step back in time to the step back in time to the late 1800’s, early 1900’s.

A walk around Beacon Hill Park, cocktails at the Empress Hotel, and a splurge dinner at Nourish Kitchen and Cafe rounded out our time in Victoria.

Our return ferry ride  to the States was equally as beautiful as the first leg.  We spent one last night in the Skagit Valley in the adorable town of La Connor and had a fabulous last dinner at the Chuckanut Manor.   From our table we could see that we have our own version of the Lochness Monster in the waters just at the south end of Chuckanut Drive,   called Sammy (a nod to Samish Island).

I dropped my mom at the Seattle airport on 8/28 and went immediately to the garage with Greta as she developed an enormous appetite for coolant during her Canada trip.

The trip just whetted my appetite for what the west cost of Canada has to offer and I cannot wait to get back to Vancouver Island for further exploring.   On the list of 2018!

Report From the Road #2 – Oregon Coast

From 8/12 to 8/15 I road tripped down to the Oregon Coast from Seattle and back.  Along for the ride was my friend, Carey, the first friend to act as co-pilot and the first human Roo had to contend with for shot gun.

IMG_0195Carey’s neighbor’s cat, Oreo seemed very interested in joining the road trip.

IMG_0167

We stayed at my friend Fran’s super sweet, cozy cabin just outside of Manzanita.   On the ride down, we stopped at Astoria, OR to check out the scene and grabbed a bite at Fort George Brewery.  Dug the scene in Astoria, OR. Hope to return in September to take a deeper dive and see if it deserves to be on the list of possible places to land permanently after road tripping comes to a close.

Sunday morning we drove into Cannon Beach to get lattes at the Sleepy Monk coffee house (YUM! the long line was worth the wait) and rent some wetsuits and a surfboard.

For the next 2 days, we boogie boarded and surfed at Short Sands in Oswald State Park, one of the best beaches for beginner surfers as well as top notch people watching.  The beach is reached by taking a short trail thru old growth forest that winds along a stream.  The stream lets out into a half moon bay.   Once you arrive at the beach you’re treated to the ‘scene’, made up of surfers and boogie boarders of all shapes and sizes, kids and adults romping in the ocean and dogs happily running about getting into the action wherever possible.   It’s a circus and a HOOT.

Carey rocked it with the surf board, caught a couple of waves, and earned ‘stud’ status for carrying that big ass board up and down to the trail to the beach 2 days in a row.

IMG_0178

I stuck to the boogie board (aka the ‘Beater’) and was thoroughly humbled.  Swallowed a lot of salty water, got a couple of full on face shots and got tossed around a few times.   Also got a few good rides and couldn’t have been happier.  Playing in the surf was cathartic!

IMG_0180Relaxing in the wood fired sauna and around the campfire back at the cabin rounded out our evenings and I don’t think Carey or I were really ready to leave when 8/15 rolled around.   Roo certainly didn’t want to leave.  She LOVES running on the Oregon Beaches.

IMG_0175

On our way out of town we hit Sea Level in Cannon Beach for delicious lattes and baked goods and I had my first kouign amann pastry.  Holy hell they were good.  Don’t miss Sea Level if you’re a coffee and pastry snob like me.

The Oregon Coast is magic and I will be back.

 

 

 

Report from the road #1

It’s 8/1 and I am finally getting around to my first blog post.

It’s been 62 days since my last day at work.

34 days since I sold and moved out of my house.

34 days of being a nomad and calling Greta my home.

IMG_1864
First stop – Bob and Robin’s in Skagit Valley.

Most of the time so far has been spent at friends’ houses,  going through cycles of organize and purge, organize and purge, over and over, as the van and life on the road gets dialed in.   The trip started off with WAY too much stuff and I quickly tired of constantly shuffling things around.  There is no room for redunancy or duplicates or deep supply stashes.  As the load has lightened, van life has become more comfortable.

In between organizing/purging cycles, I got a a couple of camping trips in. Headed to the Salmon La Sac area outside of Rosyln, WA and scored a a great spot at Lake Cle Elum.

IMG_0045
Goldie at Cle Elum Lake

Camped 3 nights on Cle Elum Lake in ‘Goldie’ while Greta was in the shop.

Each day started off with a quick drive into Roslyn to grab coffee and breakfast. (If you ever make it there be sure to track down some landjaeger at Carek’s Market.)

IMG_0030IMG_0031

Roo and I spent the afternoons poking around along the river and lake and romping in the surrounding meadows.

IMG_0024IMG_0037

Roo was wiped at the end of each day.  She was so tired that when mice invaded the van on the second night to raid the lazily stored dry goods (lesson learned!) Roo was no help at all at keeping the invasion at bay.

IMG_0044

Our time in the Roslyn area was not all peaches and cream, though, as Roo was attacked by two dogs in two separate incidents which was a little stressful to say the least.  Fortunately no harm done.  Another lesson learned – expect and be prepared to come into more dogs running loose in rural communities.

Returned to Seattle to pick Greta up from the shop and then spent several days in the Skagit Valley again, relaxing and exploring the area and continuing to get the van set up and dialed in.

Got out to the Olympic Peninsula for 4 nights.  Camped at Crescent Lake at a super little off the grid campsite right on the lake.

IMG_0090

IMG_0092

Crescent Lake is when I started to suspect that the universe may be conspiring to humiliate me.

First, a man walking his two dogs was witness to my spastic freakout as a snake slithered under my camping chair.  So embarrassing.  Second, Crescent Lake was the first outing for my potty solution, a fold up camping toilet.  My hard fast rule initially was no camping toilet inside the van.  Gross, right?  But I had yet to devise a privy for privacy solution.  I figured no big deal.  I’ll just wedge it between a rock and a bush which made it semi hidden and besides, nobody had come by in over an hour.  Partial coverage should be fine.  What’s the chances?  Well, chances turned out be pretty good because I was caught in the act each time, by 2 cars and then by a kayaker at 6:45 am coming around the bend for a early am paddle.  Dang it!

Met a fellow road tripper at Crescent Lake who gave me a tip on another off the grid campsite out on the coast.  So I headed for that the following day after driving up past Neah Bay and hiking out to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point of the contiguous US.  Beautiful spot but it was overwhelmed with tourists that seemed more interested in getting their selfies posted to Facebook than actually appreciating the surrounding scenery.  I didn’t stick around long and got back on the road quickly to hunt out my next camping spot.

The camp site tip panned out and I secured a spot which appeared to be an abandoned day use area that looked out over the ocean.  Destruction Island and its lighthouse were visible in the distance (although not in the picture below).  I suspect the day use area had been abandoned due to bluff erosion issues.   I hopped over the fence with the ‘closed’ sign to go look at the view from the fence on the bluff and quickly backtracked when I realized I might actually be standing on a sand cornice.  (Duh!)

I shared the space with a couple traveling in their large RV who had spotted this site as a potential off the grid site via Google maps satellite view.  We enjoyed cocktails as the sun set and swapped travel tales.  I was happy for the company as the abandoned day use area had a bit of a creepy feel to it after the sun went down.

After the humiliating camping toilet experiences at Crescent Lake, I decided to put up the tent room that extends off the side of the van to provide some privacy.  However, the humiliation continued as I discovered a guy, bird watching or whale watching, standing not 20 feet from my set up in the early am.  I cringe to think what sounds interrupted his morning communion with nature.

Spent day 3 and 4 of the Olympic Peninsula Tour at a friends house in Port Angeles.  This was a very welcome respite from the road as it was becoming apparent that Roo wasn’t digging van travel.  She seems to be a getting a bit car sick at times which could put a crimp in future travel plans.   On recommendations from my friends, Roo and I explored the Elwha River (highly recommend it!), from the point where it lets out into the ocean to the point where the Glines Canyon dam was removed.  We also spent some time poking around the towns of Port Angeles, Sequin and Port Townsend as potential future landing spots.

IMG_0138

IMG_0113

Back to Seattle for a few nights to visit with friends and to take Greta back to the shop for a day to continue the fine tuning.

IMG_0141

A planned trip to the Methow Valley was delayed due to the smoke from the British Columbia fires and so I remained in the Skagit Valley area.   Did some reconnaissance of the National Forest Service land around Baker Lake and plan to return at a later date to explore further.  Looks pretty nifty up there.    Also did some reconnaissance of the brewpubs in the area and highly recommend the Birdsview Brewing and The North Fork Brewery. 

IMG_0155
Hiking the Shadow of the Sentinels Trail featuring 680 year old Doug Fir.
IMG_0156
Reddish sun from all of the smoke in the air from the BC fires.

So far the the trip has been a lesson in patience and keeping faith that stuff will work out in the end.  Few things have gone completely to plan or schedule and there have been many curve balls and unexpected diversions.   But so far everything has panned out in the end.  Even things that started off kind of horrible or stressful, ultimately turned out ok and sometimes even turned into wonderful surprises.

IMG_0159

Hopefully Roo will get over the van sickness issues and will come to love life on the road.

Up next in August is the Oregon Coast and Vancouver Island.

Signing off for now… keep the faith folks.