Out to Vancouver Island

Although my beautiful bride Sharon is a proud Canadian, it has fallen upon me to actually transport her around to all the places in her glorious country. She was born in Manitoba, grew up in Ontario, and headed for the States as soon as she was old enough. I took her to the Maritimes, including Newfoundland, but we haven’t covered the west much. I’ve been hearing about my failure to take her to Vancouver Island for a few years now, so we decided to rectify this deficiency before it got much later in the season and the Pacific Northwest drizzlies descended upon this part of the world.

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These ferries don’t have a bow and a stern, they have “end 1” and “end 2”.

We were in Seattle, visiting family, and getting nervous at all the urban sprawl. Remember, we’ve been out on unpopulated stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway since April, looking at the Milky Way every night, so a city that size was traumatic. We said our goodbyes and headed north on I-5 to Tulalip, and spent a night at the casino there before heading up to Anacortes to catch the ferry.

In contrast to the Port Angeles to Victoria ferry, the Anacortes to Sidney ferry weaves through the San Juan Islands. We stowed the Roadtrek on the lower deck, told Fiona to behave, and spent two hours sightseeing, spotting orcas, Friday Harbor, and exotic wildlife on Spieden Island, a misdirected effort to populate the island with fallow and Sika deer and Mouflon sheep and hunt them, which ran afoul of the safety concerns of the many inhabitants of nearby Shaw Island, well within rifle range. They’re easy to spot with binoculars as you pass by.

van2We drove through Sidney down a few kilometers to Victoria, a lovely little town that is the provincial capital, a selection made when water transport was the only game in town. We hunkered down for a couple of days of rain at the Walmart in nearby Langford ( the Victoria Walmart is no overnight parking) and a casino, then headed north up the island’s one and only major highway, along the east coast to Nanaimo, where Highway 4 cuts west through the interior to Tofino, the famous resort area on the Pacific.  Sharon just had to see the ocean this far north.

The interior is amazing – it’s fjords and snow-covered mountains and giant stands of Douglas fir as you snake along rivers and lakes with beautiful clear water. Don’t expect to hurry through this, though. We averaged a blistering 40 miles per hour on our trip across the island, with the narrow road hugging the shores and impressive rock overhangs on the other side of the road. No exciting wildlife was seen, except a few giant slugs, but there are plenty of bear, mountain lions, and other creatures all over the place on this island. It’s a vast patch of wilderness, with very few people.

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The forest comes right down to the beach here.

We overnighted at the Walmart in Port Alberni, a town 60 miles from the open Pacific, but nevertheless a deep water port, because it’s at the head on one of those amazing fjords that dissect the island. This comes in handy, except during major Pacific Rim earthquakes, when the fjord funnels the tsunami straight toward you.  They have had to rebuild on a fairly regular basis.

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I got a kick out of these 10 foot by 10 foot camping spots, where city folks fly in and pitch their tents.

The next morning we drove the rest of the way out to Tofino through some very winding roads, and are now in an RV park for a couple of days, just steps from the beach. I know you’re disappointed in me for being in an RV park, but out here there’s no choice. It’s all national park land except for the town itself, a UNESCO heritage site, and heavily visited by people from all over the world.  Judging by the signs everywhere warning of prosecution for extemporaneous camping arrangements, this is the only way to spend the night here. Heck, I may even plug in!




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  • Sandy Moran

    Hey you should have stopped in at Whidbey, we have great Milky Way views and no traffic! You are welcome to the driveway on your return