Long Beach and Tofino, British Columbia


August 8, 2006

I would have been a fool indeed if I had NOT driven to Tofino.  The drive alone was worth the trip, even if I found mediocracy [unsure if that’s a word] at the end…which I didn’t.

It only took 10 minutes inland from Parksville for the wow factor to kick back in.

Spectacular.  Picturesque rivers, lakes, mountains.  Lots of stopping and picnicking.

This part of the island is only around 100 miles wide, however, the drive takes much longer than you’d expect.  Most of the road is very narrow, twisty/windy, up and down mountains, lumpy/bumpy…driving between 30 – 40 mph.

I’ve seen a few logging trucks on the road, not too many, and only saw one small spot where they clear cut the trees.

On the way I saw a sign for “pot sale”.  A week ago I would have known it was for plants, but it made me laugh with a different vision.

There was sign to check your fuel – next gas station was 55 miles away.  Right after that, there was  “closed” sticker on the gas station sign.  I knew to fill up.

Long Beach is on the west end of the island, and then Tofino is about 10 miles beyond that.  Between mid island and Long Beach, the temp dropped 30 degrees.

The area along the coast, including Long Beach is a Provincial National Park.  I hiked the Wickaninnish Trail, which they call the Bonsai Forest – due to the little trees/vegetation.  Hiked down to Florencia Bay where there were surfers in wet suits, surfing in the cold [60’] and fog.  Lots of white drift wood on the beach and people building fires.  Very misty/foggy…mystical.  I hiked thru trails of huge cedar and fern trees.  All I had heard about is Long Beach, Long Beach, Long Beach, which I thought was just ok [but I’m not a beach person].  More people in wet suits surfing, LOTS of driftwood, fog.  I think without the fog it wouldn’t have been as cool.

I had thought of taking a passenger ferry to Ucluelet and then cycling over to Tofino. I would have been sooo disappointed if I had done this.  First it’s far away, and second, there are no trails for people to cycle/walk on [narrow road], and thirdly, from the road you can’t see the water…you have to park and hike in.

I had done all I could do at Long Beach.  I decided to drive the remaining 10 miles to see Tofino.  Unsure if it would be worth the drive, but what the hey.  I drove past a few areas where there were 5 older wooden buildings, and wondered if this was the village of Tofino [ie Lake Louise], but kept going.  I thought I’d go until the road literally ends.  I turned a bend, and literally yelled out  “HOLY F*#%”. Immediately pulled over to take photos.  There were already quite a few cars there with people taking photos…and more cars stopping.  It was that initial POW.

What took away from the beauty was a huge tourist bus, other machinery/equipment, and the workings of a working logging/fishing area.  I spent the next hour meandering my way to areas where I could get a photo without the added “junk” in them.  However, I did attach the photos of my initial wow moment.  Of course, seeing it panoramically is more impressive.

Tofino is a working fishing/whale watching/logging town with a lot of young people who could use a good warm shower.  There is a dichotomy…lots of people/housing who seem in need of money, and then there are the resorts and the $25 personal small pizzas.  Meals at a small café are $25 – 30.

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Glacier National Park and Vernon, British Columbia


July 28,2009

I am in Vernon, BC. 

I had a very visually appealing day yesterday.  Bottom line:

Vernon, BC is the city with the most attractive outdoorsy looking people.

The drive on Transcontinental Highway 1 from Golden, thru Glacier National Park, thru Revelstoke to where I went south on 97A [Sicamous], was better than driving NORTH to Jasper.  Spectacular.

Re Vernon, Canada Man has been spot on re his suggestions.  There is a more efficient driving route to Vancouver that would take me thru Kamloops, which he doesn’t care for.  Instead, he has sent me south on another route, and told me to stop in Vernon.  I asked a woman at bfast yesterday, whom I really liked, what she thought of Vernon/Kamloops, and she too didn’t like Kamloops, and really liked Vernon.  She told me that I HAD to go to a certain coffee shop, and she didn’t even know I dug coffee shops.

So I booked a room, sight unseen in this town.  I’m jumping ahead, but basically there are very attractive people sitting in and outside the coffee shop, I heard acoustic music being played in a Mexican restaurant across the street, went over and it was packed full of [what I consider] incredibly attractive people.  Good looking couples out walking their dog along the lake.  Just everywhere. I have no idea how many live here vs people on holiday, or why they have settled here, but they are here.

This morning has just flown by, so I will have to make this quick.

Glacier National Park is beautiful.  There are a lot of what I call tree covered baby mountains, which look like “humps”…valleys between these, and then the taller barren mountains in the back/distance.  So, you see one or two tree covered humps, and then the bigger mountain in back.

As I drove further thru the park, it rained a lot, so there was cloud cover and couldn’t see the tops of some mountains.  It was foggy, cloudy, misty.  Some mountains with lots of snow/glaciers in the distance, VERY green, lots of waterfalls.  It rains and snows A LOT here, and so it really looks like a rainforest. 

Later I read that this is the only place in the world where a temperate rain forest exists this far from an ocean coast line.

I hiked thru the Giant Cedar Trail, the Hemlock Grove Trail, and against my better judgment, the Skunk Cabbage Trail [that goodness it blooms in the spring].

They have a lot of tunnels here, but they don’t go thru a mountain…they were added on as an extension of the mountain, and has trees/vegetation growing on top.  I believe they started to do this to protect the roads from avalanches.

Revelstoke is a cute little town, with the visitor center people really helpful.  They even sold me a stamp to the US [$1].  Just on the east side of Revelstoke, the river/lake water is back to a regular color blue again.

The weather yesterday was:
Dark, cloudy, rainy and 62’
Sunny, rainy and 68’
Sunny and 80’

The woman at bfast mentioned that the Vernon area [and south] is desert.  I was thinking of this when I was driving thru what looks like a rainforest, knowing that Vernon is about 2 hours away.  And sure enough, I turn south on 97A, [and see beautiful Lake Mara], the landscape becomes baby mountains and farmland.  The more south I drive, the more arid it is.  In the hour drive south, I reach Vernon, and it’s half “green”. Along the way, there are fruit stands everywhere.  None of these farms have their own silos.

Vernon is known for the amount of snow it receives and apparently is “heaven” for cross country skiers.  It’s bound by 3 lakes.

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To and From Jasper, Alberta

July 26, 2008
I have been encouraged to send more photos.  Of course the attached doesn’t capture the beauty. I needed a panoramic camera.

It is Saturday morning.  Yesterday I made the drive to Jasper and back… you pretty much know how I felt about that.  The remaining 2 hours going south was also “better” than driving north, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as the first hour.

Only comments left to add:
* Slower moving vehicles refused to pull over and let others pass

* The town of Jasper was just ok.  The mountains looked so far away AND the mountains were just mountains, not “pretty” – both reasons why I like Canmore.  The downtown area was bigger than one would think for a town of under 5,000 [but lots of tourists].

* I would have enjoyed the view and drive a whole lot more if I wasn’t on the constant lookout for animals.  I saw 2 deer, 2 white sheep [that blended completely into the mountain], and the guy in front of me saw a black bear cross the road.

* LOTS of cyclists.  Their stamina must be amazing.  None of them had overnight gear on their bikes.

* I did take the tour/trip and play on a glacier.  They take you out in this big bobcat sort of thing and let you walk around for 25 minutes.  It was neat, but unsure if it was $38 worth of neat.  But I couldn’t make this trip and NOT do this. 

* Folklore has it that the glacial water is the fountain of youth, and it’s ok to drink it.  I did……then filled my water bottle up.  It tastes just like melted snow from your backyard.  That may be a “duh” comment.

* They have really small print on their signs [which I’ll comment again below].  I saw a sign that stated “Visibility May Be Low” in print that I could read it just as I was passing.  Sooo, if visibility IS low, there is no way you can read the sign.

* It’s more dangerous to drive at dusk [and at sunrise…but that doesn’t affect me] cuz that’s when the animals are more active.  I asked the ranger what she considers “dusk”.  She looks over to the board and says “the sun sets tonite at 3 minutes to 10”.
So what time do you consider dusk?
3 minutes to 10.

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Drive South from Jasper, Alberta

July 25, 2008

i am at the glacier center 1 hour south of jasper.  i had to stop becuz i was feeling as though i was in a daze and dreaming, and needed to “wake up”.


the drive south from jasper IS more spectacular than the drive north.  i know you have read all these words like: spectacular, stunning…


but this is out of the world.  off the map re adjectives [i think that’s right].


take a single beautiful mountain, with it’s formation/shape in general, the trees vs barren rock, the rock formations.  put a bunch of these together, right next to each other and then throw in a splash of turquoise river/lake water…and you have out of this world.


and it’s panoramic.  just fills up your entire view shed.  i am totally overcome.  and i have 2 more hours to go.


i have read that this drive made National Geographic’s top 10 scenic drives in the world.  on the way up?  ahhh…maybe the top 50.  on the way down.  yes.  i need to google to see if they mention driving north vs south.


this has just bumped Gaspe In October off the #1 spot on my list of beautiful places.

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Kananaskis & Canmore, Alberta

July 24, 2008

I had the most wonderful day yesterday.

I drive an hour to Kananaskis.  Went to the ranger/info center. The rangers there were 2 young women.  Bears are no big deal.  They are always active…this is their home, after all.  Basically, clap/yell/sing and I’ll be ok.  If I do see one in my path, slowly back up, don’t turn my back, don’t run [they’ll want to chase me], talk softly and sweetly to it, talk softly and sweetly to myself to calm me down.  Don’t make yourself look “big”, unless he’s being aggressive.  Don’t blow my whistle along the trail – instead of yelling – it frightens them, only use the whistle in case it becomes aggressive.  I knew most of the above, but it was nice to hear it again.

A bear attack is rare.  And I know that I have more of a chance dying in a car accident than having a bear attack me, BUT it is the talk of everyone here.

Later, I was reading in the local newspaper that a young woman out jogging at 6 pm got attacked by a bear.  The bear didn’t attack her, but was nearby.  However, she did the ol’ play dead routine, which I find impossible to pull off, and the bear sniffed her, started licking her and then biting.  They note that one should only play dead once a bear attacks you…NOT before.  I suppose he licked her first to see if she tasted good!

Right before the ranger station, I’m thinking it’s pretty here with the mountains, but not outstanding. The mountains are pretty – with green trees up to a point, then barren rock.  30 seconds from the station, the wow kicks in.  In the valley next to the road are lakes/rivers…and the water is a bright turquoise/aqua color, with the mountains right there on the edge.  Simply stunning.

People are driving slowly, taking the beauty in.  Everyone pulled over to let the car behind them pass.  I didn’t listen to music at all, all day.

I hiked along Ribbon Creek, and hour round trip.  The creek is just gushing down with rapids everywhere.  It is sooo clear, with a tint of blue.  Really pretty.

Later I realized that the reason the water has a blue tint is due to glaciers…you know how they look a blue-ish color?  Well, it just makes sense that the water off it is blue-ish also.  Probably most people know this, but I never really thought about it before.

Then I hiked up Scoggins Pass to see the water falls.

I was in dire need of food – no big deal…I’ll eat lunch at Kananaskis Village.  Well, what this is is a ski village.  A ski lodge, with food you’d find at a small airport, and resorts.

So, starving…I was off to Canmore.  And you already know I had the most spectacular salad.  The crimp in my plan to eat there again?  I wasn’t hungry again.  Sheesh.

The other reason I wanted to stay in Canmore, is becuz it is not touristy/commercial…yet.   Lots of building going on.  I haven’t been to Banff, but I suspect it is touristy.  There were 3 older women at lunch and I sought their advise, and without a doubt, stay in Canmore.

In Canmore, I hiked to the Grassi Lakes.  Super aqua in color.  On the way I went by spectacular waterfalls.

I really wanted to hike Ha Ling – which takes you to a peak with a great view.  However, it had been raining all day and too much cloud cover.  I’m NOT hiking up in the rain for no view.

Lots of people here say “eh” and “no worries”.

It is REALLY beautiful here in Canmore.  It seems as though the mountains are right here, and in fact, they are.  Right now it’s 48’, sunny except for clouds “mid air”…one can see the top and bottom of the mountains, but there are clouds in the middle.

Today, I will hike around Banff, Lake Louise, and depending upon the day, head my way to Jasper and the Columbia Ice Fields.

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Ely, MN – Day 2

July 19, 2008


As you probably expected, I ended up having the most delightful day today.  Mostly because I enjoyed the company of Rob a little too much.


The deal here re canoeing or kayaking is that you go to one of the 22 outfitters in this small town.  They set you up with a canoe, other rigging, and a map.  They put a removable [temp] canoe carrier on your car, and off you go.  You go to the launch area of the lake your of choice.  Canoe it and head towards a tree that has a reflective orange diamond on it.  That is the portage – trail where you carry your canoe to the next lake.  Tool around that lake and look for the orange diamond.  Carry your canoe to the next lake.  Do this over and over again, and stop to camp wherever.


Great concept, but I don’t want to do this on my own.

Having Rob with me was perfect.  Besides his great company, he has the truck, the canoe, can remove and put the canoe back on top of his truck [which I’m not sure if I’d be able to do by myself – without scratching up my car], has the map and “plan”, provides most of the paddling/speed, steers the canoe [especially into the portage] AND carries it to the next lake.


I…ahh…paddled all the time, took in the sights, took photos, and carried the paddles/ backpacks to the next lake.


Great gig, huh?


So, I had much more fun than I thought I would have.  Or would have if I was by myself.


Rob laughed at me cuz I was almost 100% covered in clothes [including the ole pants tucked into my socks look].  This was due to the bug issue, and also the hot sun blazing down on me.


He said that when you are on the water, moving, the bugs won’t bother you. He was right.  It’s the time on land moving the canoe to the next lake where the black flies swirl all around you.


No mosquitoes.


The sun went behind clouds and in fact, looked like it was going to blow up a nice storm, but didn’t.  So, no hot sun beating down on me.


We saw a couple loons, but no other wildlife.


It really is very pretty.


We went to 3 lakes, and of course back to the truck.  Took us around 2.5 hours.


Then we had lunch next to a lake, and then hung out at the hip coffee shop for hours.


Side note – I hope all my clothes wearing paid off in a round about way – Rob found a tick on his foot.  I don’t see anything, but he said his was the size of a pinhead and black –   it looked like a freckle.


Re music tonite, yesterday I saw a poster with 2 guys who are supposed to be playing music outside 6.30 – 8.30 pm.  It was really one guy [but the poster shows him twice – 2 different photos].  He is playing in a 3 sided [with roof] log cabin.  They have comfy chairs and Adirondack chairs for people to sit and listen.  Right next door is …a homemade ice cream shop.  Sheesh.  So, I got some ice cream and listened to music.


It’s that semi-karaoke thing again.  He is a one man band [an ex mayor]…with recorded music of other instruments and backing/harmony vocals.


He’s probably around 60 and playing Golden Oldies.

There is myself, a woman who is probably his wife, and a hippie couple in their late 50’s.


He keeps asking for requests, and the hippie couple are mentioning artists.  After a while, he looks at me and asks me for a request.  I say “Neil Young”.  He says the only song of his that he knows is “Cinnamon Girl”, but that song is too rock and roll and it’s too much for others in the audience.


The hippie woman, who has dyed a patch of her gray hair purple, tells him: “We are children of the 60’s…PLAY IT!”


He does.  They then request Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”.  He plays it.


Then he plays something else NOT Golden Oldies.  That fast [snap of my fingers], we completely changed his act.


Then I went to The Boathouse to listen to a band.  They were a bunch of 25 year olds, and a bunch of 25 yo dancing.  Between that band and the next, I realized that the hip “dance”, at least in MN, is “running in place” –  kinda bend forward, run in place while swinging your arm wildly from side to side.  Just about everyone, including the guys on stage were doing this.


Tomorrow, I’m going to hike to another waterfall, then am off in the direction of Fort Frances, Ontario, where I will most likely spend the nite.  Then head west in the direction of Winnipeg.


Once I hit Canada, I won’t have my computer aire card for internet and will need to find wi-fi.  When I was in Canada before, I could get Canadian service on a monthly basis, but AT&T changed that up, and now I have to sign a 12 month contract.


I did sign up for the “discount” on using my cell phone – 60 cents a minute, vs 80 cents.  This I could get on a monthly basis.

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Fairbanks, Alaska – Day 4

June 21, 2008

Yesterday Jen and I went to Denali National Park. It is a 2 hour drive south of Fairbanks. We’ve been told, and I’ve read how busy the park is during the summer months. I was expecting a traffic jam, or behind RVs going super slow on the 2 lane road. However, to me, there were hardly anyone on the road – I think we saw less than 20 cars going our way, each way. So, if we were behind a slow moving vehicle it was easy to pass them.

I actually think WE were the slow moving vehicle, since we were taking our time, in order to take in the beauty of the scenery. The drive to Denali was just as beautiful as Denali. Very green, and so many shades of green. It really is “wow”.

At first we thought there were no mile markers along highway 3, which doesn’t make any sense, but then noticed the little signs along the other side of the road.

There is pretty much nothing, housing or business wise along the road…just nature. There are a couple very little towns…a gas station, one or 2 other businesses, and a couple houses. You do see a dirt road intersect with the highway, with either 1 or up to 4 mailboxes, but no houses [behind the trees]. But, overall, not too many of those.

Pretty much all mountains and trees.

Healy is about 12 miles north of Denali. We saw a gas station with $4.82 gas. And a mile or so further, we saw one at $5.22. I suppose if you’re in a bind…

At Denali , it was 60′, partly sunny with really cool cloud cover. The whole time I’ve been here there’s been cool cloud cover – different shades of white and gray and funky shapes. Very pretty.

We had full cell reception.

There is a bus service that can take you on various tours. There is a free one that is 2 hours. Then the next one is 5.5 hours. We chose the 2 hour so we can get out and have time to hike along the Savage River and other places. The guy at the visitor center was incorrect – one can hike [which only makes sense]. However, there were a lot of bear warning signs. And do NOT feed the squirrel signs. Actually a bunch of do NOT fee the animals signs, but separate signs specifically for squirrels.

The bus took off on time. It was near capacity. We saw about 15 dall sheep, 5 caribou and a baby moose along the way.

A lot of the area in the Park and along the way has what I would call these little trees. The bus driver said they are dwarf spruce and dwarf willow trees. Each moose eats 40 – 60 # of these dwarf trees a day.

The day was too cloudy to see Mt McKinley.

When we packed at the car for the bus/hike, I decided to forego my fleece jacket and raingear. BUT I chose to take my hat [I don’t want that dratted sun on my face!]. Sheesh…note to self: if in the mountains and getting on a bus to hike, take the fleece! And if the clouds look dark, take the raingear. So we get out, and it’s cold, windy and looks like it’s going to rain. But I have my hat!! Which did help keep me warm. But here I am hiking around as it’s about to rain with a straw, sun hat on!

The hike along the Savage River was supposed to be one mile along one side of the river, cross a bridge and come back along the other side.

The trail was a “maintained” trail, which means that it was a flat, paved path. We immediately were at the bridge. I looked at the time and we had been out for 15 minutes.

We kept going along the “un-maintained” path, and had a blast hiking all around and taking in the scenery. We hiked up to what I called a glacier that hadn’t melted yet, but Jen just called it a patch of snow.

We had so much fun. Jen is more of a daredevil than I and would climb/craw out of big boulders just above the very fast moving [savage] river just so I could take her photo on the edge. I’ve got sweaty palms right now just writing this, so you can imagine how I was when she’s doing this. I didn’t want to look, but then I’m the one who was supposed to capture this on film.

After we had our fill of hiking, and it was starting to rain harder, so I flagged down a bus and it took us back to our car. We started off on a hike near our car, but it was lame. We were tired and hungry, so decided to leave to eat at Rose’s Cafe in Healy, which was recomm to us.

On the way home at around 9 pm, the sun looked at though it was 2 in the afternoon. I had my sunglasses on.

Misc thoughts:

One of the kiosks/little buildings in the parking lot is “bun on the run”. It a cute building, and also has seating outside, in the parking lot. We were told that their cinnamon buns were good. Jen had one and said it was “friggin amazing”.

There are an unusually high number of Thai restaurants in Fairbanks.

I’ve been drinking “ice rages” here, and I do think they are better than sbux’s mocha frappes. They have a slight malty taste to them.

During the cold winter months, people here plug their cars in. The cord is in the front. So, a lot of cars here have the cord sticking out from under the front part of their car. It looks like a tongue hanging out.

Our house is colder than outside. I can’t imagine how cold it gets in the winter. In the bathroom, in the middle of the floor is a heat vent. However, it is a light weight aluminum [??] wall vent, not a floor vent. Did I mention that this is in the middle of the bathroom floor? Somehow Jen manages to miss this, but I keep stepping on it…and suddenly feel as though I’m going thru the floor! Needless to say it is very bent up. A stop to Home Depot is needed before I leave here.

Today we are going on a hike near Fairbanks, and then go to North Pole, looking for Santa Claus.

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