Home Again

September 3, 2015

And now the conclusion of our tale….

We were up before the sun. It felt so magical to be the only things that felt alive and moving through the mist that tangled the trees. I prepared an actual breakfast instead of my usual instant oatmeal: cherry clafoutis. Or rather, a camping version of it. By the time the people in the sites around us began to stir, we had already eaten and packed up. One last walk on the beach and away we went east on the Transcanada Highway.

We stopped at the Agawa Bay Tourist Centre, mainly so that I could grab a coffee. Problem is there are three different buildings: one is a grocery, one has souvenirs, and the other one has souvenirs. Yes dear reader, you read that correctly: two buildings dedicated to souvenirs.  Thinking coffee would be with food, I started  at the grocery. Nope. Go to souvenir building one. Nope. The third building held a beat-up looking coffee carafe with nearby packets of pre-ground bargain coffee.  No cream in sight but plenty of “coffee whitener”.  I decided to forgo the caffeine and hit the road, after we had a walk of course.  There is a pet area there with some pens.  The pens are small but at least they are something.  The dogs were unimpressed and stood at the door to be let out.  So I took them for a jaunt around the lot

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This sign is hung at the Agawa Bay Tourist Centre.

Around noon it was time for lunch so we stopped at “Bobbers” in Bruce’s Mine. Whenever I go to a new place, I always ask if they have a specialty or something that they are known for, something that people say “you gotta get this” and every time I get blank stares and confused looks and this time was no different. As the woman at the counter basically listed off the entire menu, I decided to order the fish and chips and this time it was for me. I wasn’t going to get the dogs another fish fillet.  I mean I’ve bought them burger patties; I think that’s pretty generous.

I carried my food container down to the park behind the restaurant.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day and it felt amazing to sit in the warm sun as I (and when I say “I” I really mean we) had our lunch.  The dogs were kind enough to help me finish my fries and then we had a walk around the marina park before we went back to the car. We passed by some of the women from “Bobbers” on the way to the car and they had to have the obligatory dog snuggles. I’d get everywhere so much quicky if they weren’t so damned lovable.

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Fish and chips from Bobbers. The view was the best part.

As we passed through Sudbury finally, finally, I got a decent cup of coffee and a really good ginger molasses cookie. To fortify me for the rest of the drive. Yeah…that’s it.

And then, at 6:42 pm on September 3, we arrived home after driving 9619.9 kms over the span of 14 days.

 

We had met people from all walks of life. We met expats, tourists, and people that had uprooted their entire lives in search of a better one. People who invited us into their homes. People who needed an ear and to feel that there was someone out there that would lend them one. People who looked at the dogs and wanted for a moment, for just one moment, to reconnect with the dog they used to have. Yes it slowed us down, but one look at the wagging tails and stumps and I made sure that we would make the time.

We had crossed mountains and prairies, badlands and farmlands. We had dodged mosquitoes and wildfires. We had played in the sun-tinged waves of the Pacific Ocean and the fog-lined shores of Lake Superior. We had waded through mountain streams and ocean outlets. We had been buffeted by the winds of South Dakota, braved the cold darkness of Montana, and felt the sun warm our faces in Manitoba.  We had watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and watched it rise the next morning over far-off mountains.  We had listened to loons and foxes, wolves and bison.

But mostly it was just the four of us passing through a world that would never know we had been, seeing what we could see. Together.

And for now friends, the adventure is over…or is it?

Lake Superior

September 2, 2015

After the hoopla of Wednesday morning, we…ok me…slept in. We went for a quick stroll around the campground and saw our deer friends again. I think the chunks of salt lick I found tucked away among the trees around my site may have had a little something to do with that. And back on the road.  I hadn’t decided at that point if I was going to drive straight home or have one more day on the road but I figured I had some time to decide.

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Starting mileage. That number just keeps going up.

A thick fog began to roll off of Lake Superior and was so dense in some places visibility was actually impacted. It was almost like being in a movie watching it suddenly close in around you.

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The fog. I’m sure this has been the inspiration for movies.

Around midday we rolled into White River which is the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh. Directly across from the park is a small restaurant called Catz. If you’re in the neighbourhood, eat there. We had burgers and they were fantastic!  And I know my burgers. And what I mean by that is I had an amazing bacon cheddar burger and the dogs had a patty. Yes they’re spoiled.  We covered that already.

The weather was so nice that I made a deal with myself: if I was able to get a campsite in Lake Superior Provincial Park then we would spend one more night on the road.

The last time I stayed at this park was two years ago when I was returning from my first trip to my grandparent’s. I had a site right off the Transcanada Highway in the Agawa Bay Campground. When I say off the Transcanada I mean exactly that; the only thing that blocked my view of the highway were a few trees.

When we stopped this time? Lakeside. Literally. Right off the beach. The only downside was that the dog area was at the far end of the camp ground. Oh well. We’ve hiked mountains. We’ve hiked prairies. I think we can handle a little walk through a campground.

And one other downside. Almost directly across the road from me was a family of two parents and their three children. I get you want to get your kids outside. No problem with that at all. But the youngest of the children, so young that dad was wearing her like body armour, would let loose with these screams that sounded like she was possessed. I mean the kind of guttural growls that seemed to come from the very bowels of Hades. I was sitting in my site staring out over the lake, and behind me the calm was punctuated by the Exorcist.

So after a play in the water and a leisurely dinner, we went to bed with the sun. And were waiting for someone to call for an old priest and a young priest.

Back on the Road

September 1, 2015

I left my grandparent’s cottage Tuesday morning . The trip back up the road to the Transcanada Highway was no better north than it is south. Once on the highway it’s smooth sailing eastbound.

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Starting mileage.

It never ceases to amaze me how suddenly the terrain changes once you get to the Manitoba-Ontario border.  I didn’t need the sign to tell me I was in Ontario.  It is that obvious.  I’m sure it reflects differences in development and all that but the whimsical side of me has this image of a guy walking through the bush and just drawing out a line and saying “Yup here’s a border.”

The stretch east of Kenora is my least favourite part of the trip as we drive towards Thunder Bay. We stopped briefly at a coffee house/bakery on the outskirts of Vermillion Bay. It’s a nice alternative to Tim Hortons and a definite treat in a remote location. Having said that, the peanut butter cookie I bought was one of the blandest I think I have ever had. At least the coffee was good.  There is a giant statue of a sasquatch next to the highway and I was tempted to stop and get pictures of the dogs with it but the last time I did that, poor Piper got scared of it and kept trying to climb into my lap.  With the statue being so close to a busy road, I decided to forgo this photo op.  Just once.

The scenery starts to improve the closer you get to Thunder Bay and I decided to send the night at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  It’s a little out of the way which is why I’ve never gone there before but I am really glad that I did as it is one of the nicer campgrounds we have been to; but then after the campground in Regina just about everything looks better.  As we pulled into our site, I saw a couple of deer walking right through.  The campground is well-wooded with very spacious sites and I was able to get a really nice spot.

After I set up camp I took the dogs for a walk and on the road behind our site I saw a buck casually strolling along right next to a little girl that was maybe six years old.  I had to pause and shake my head at this bizarre sight.  No one seemed in any way concerned that these two would just be walking next to each other down a road in a campground with tents and trailers everywhere.  I was too busy keeping the dogs calm to get a picture.  Damn.

We walked to the beach and as we were going through the closest parking lot, I see something odd in the failing light. I moved closer to check it out and saw that my eyes were not playing tricks on me: it was a fox curled up in the gravel in the middle of the lot. He ran away as we got closer.

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A quick dunk in Lake Superior.

We wandered around the beach for a bit.  The view across the water was spectacular and it’s plain to see where the legend of the Sleeping Giant came from.  We could see the profile across the water and enjoyed a moment of quiet as we watched some teens fishing on the dock.  The water was calm and the wind was barely a suggestion.  We stayed there as long as the fading light would allow before making our way back to our site.

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The Sleeping Giant.

I made some dinner before we were off to bed. Then in the middle of the night Jack all of a sudden woke me up in as frantic a way as he can. At first I thought there was something outside the tent. I listened for a bit…no. Ok. He has to pee. So I put everyone on their leashes and out we go. Jack doesn’t need to pee; he makes a beeline for the waterbowl. I check the time when we got back in the tent. It’s 3:00 am. He has this incredibly annoying habit of suddenly needing water at 3:00 in the morning. The problem is that sometimes he’s having an emergency “I have to get outside” moment and you can’t tell them apart until you get up. I’d rather stand there and wait for him to drink than have to change the blankets. I have done that one time too many.

Everyone went back in the tent and were just settling down again when I heard something making a ruckus really close by. Eventually I figured that it was the fox. And he has a friend somewhere else in the camp and they were talking to each other. At 4:30 in the morning. How sweet.

I looked over at Jack and Leo and they were both sitting right up facing the door, totally on the alert. I looked past them at Piper. She looked at me, gave me a derisive snort she does so well, and puts her head back down with that “let the little things come I got this” attitude.

And that was our night.

Time for a Rest

August 29, 2015

I could not leave that campsite fast enough. Over the past few days I’d gotten pretty good at breaking camp so this was a whirlwind tear down. I even set my alarm and was up before it went off. Awake and on the road.  No time to eat, I’d do it later.  I put food out for the dogs while I packed but they seemed just as eager to get going as I was.

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Starting mileage. It’s a little fuzzy. I was in a rush to get started.

A few hours down the road and I stopped at the Red Barn just in Moosinin (I think that’s how it’s spelled) and ordered a meat lover scramble. When I picked up the box, I almost dropped it because it was so heavy.  I sat in the passenger seat with the door propped open and the leashes clipped to my sandal so the dogs had a little space to move as we ate our breakfast in the lot. Well I ate and they stared at me waiting for something to drop while they ignored their bowls of food. Then a short walk around the edge of the property and back on the road.

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That’s a lot of meat. And egg. And cheese goodness.

And we drove and drove and drove. Just before Winnipeg is the statue of The White Horse. My grandparents used to live a few minutes away and I always liked to see it when I was out for a visit. So of course we had stop. You know you’re grown up and an equestrian when you look at this beautiful monument and after a few minutes start to notice conformational flaws.  Ah the passage of youth.

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The White Horse.

Hey there’s Winnipeg.  There goes Winnipeg.

At least in the southern part of Manitoba there are trees. And when you turn off the highway, it goes through a little town and the drive is going well and then wait where did the road go? And for the next 65 km it’s dirt road. No businesses. No houses. No cell signal.  The only traffic on the road is at shift change at the peat processing plant which happens twice a day.  The first time I made the drive I was so confused I thought I had missed a turn.

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The only thing you see for 65 km.

My grandparents were expecting me and were waiting on the porch when I parked the car.  I hadn’t told them about Leo and could not wait to see their reaction.  I undid everyone’s harnesses and let them jump out in one big tangle.  Piper and Jack knew exactly where they were and nearly knocked poor grandma over. Leo was right in the thick of things and he very quickly made himself right at home.

We took the next few days to relax and recharge.  And shower.

Enter the Prairies

August 28, 2015

If I had thought the trip the day before was rough, well my friends, we put some serious road under the tires this day.

It was quite cold when we woke up that morning. The Rocky Mountains…who knew it would get cold. Funny thing was it was still not as cold as that one night in Montana. We went for a short hike then packed up.  I tend to want to just keep waking but we were on a bit of a schedule and would have to get going at some point.

Fortunately Jack seemed to be moving better, but we still kept the walks easy just to be on the safe side.  And if I had stopped at every pretty outlook or stream or view, I never would have left British Columbia.

 

We did stop quickly in the town of Banff. Talk about the polar opposite of Whistler. I could have wandered around there for hours. But a coffee and snack from Whitebark Cafe and away we went.

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This is what I pictured the Rockies to be.

And we went. It’s amazing how quickly the terrain changed. One minute I’m driving along going “Oh look pretty mountains. Look at the snow. Look at the….wait… Where did the mountains go? There’s some big hills. Did I fall asleep or something?”

And then the prairies. The view was severely reduced by the smoke from the fires still burning to the west, so I couldn’t even get the full “I saw my dog running away for five days” effect.  I felt like I was driving in a bubble.

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Would anyone guess we were in Saskatchewan?

I decided to stop for the night around Regina. I thought briefly about a hotel but the cost of the “pet fee” in the hotels I looked at would have almost been as much as the room! The rest were either too expensive or no pets at all.

So when I saw a sign for a private campground just off the highway, I figured problem solved. I mean, it’s just a place to lay my head for the night.

As I was driving up I saw rows of RVs crammed in tight together. Uh oh. I went into the office and spoke to the woman working behind the counter.  They do have tent spots available but they aren’t sites. It’s just a grassy corner of the lot. It was getting late and I was getting tired so I went to set up my tent.

It could have been worse. There weren’t too many people there and the people that were there didn’t seem to be too concerned with me at all. I found it to be a little weird since almost every where I had gone, people at least say “hi” to the dogs. I figured that’s fine. I didn’t stop to make friends.

As I was pitching my tent, the mosquito swarm found us. I hadn’t dealt with mosquitos like that since we left home. And I didn’t want to use any bug spray since I’d be sliding into my sleeping bag soon.

I took the dogs for a walk in the “dog area” which is the only place that you’re supposed to walk your dogs.  The area turned out to be a gap just inside the front perimeter fence of all of maybe two metres.  Or 10 feet.  Whichever you prefer.  Another thing I really wasn’t impressed with was one particular clause in their dog policy.  No aggressive dogs allowed; that I get.  Saying that a dog could be labelled as aggressive based on breed alone, well that boggled my mind.  I am familiar with breed-specific legislature and am completely opposed to it.  This oblique way of saying that certain breeds are not welcome made my blood boil.  Just say what breeds you don’t want and have that posted right in the front office.  If I had seen that before I got my site I likely would have moved on and tried to find somewhere else on principle alone.  I would have rather slept in my car (again) than give this kind of business my money.

But this place did have running water which we had not had in a few days and I was thinking  about a having a shower in the morning. A nice long hot shower to wash away the road grime and then I see a sign that says I have to pay $2 for 8 minutes of water.  Are you  kidding me? Because you know you always spend the first minute getting the temperature right. And not just $2. It was very specific that it had to be two loonies. Well forget about that.

I knew that I’d be at my grandparent’s cottage the next day. One last drive then a chance to relax for a few days before heading home. So I decided to ignore the jingling of change in my pocket for a little bit longer and just go right to sleep.

I remember looking up at the tent above my head and seeing the swarms of mosquitos and thinking “Well…I guess it’s an adventure now.”

Through the Rockies

August 27, 2015

This was a day of hardcore driving…sort of.

After a short walk and some tropical oatmeal, you know to mix things up, we hit the road. We actually got going a little later than I had wanted to. Taking our time seems to be a recurring theme but it IS the a major part of the trip.

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Starting mileage.

We had a couple of quick stops but Jack’s hike in the mountains the day before had taken its toll on him and he was a bit slower than normal.  So whenever I stopped the car, I would get them out for easy walks to help the old guy stretch his muscles.

I also stopped at a couple of farmers stands and picked up some nice bread and cheese and more cheese and jerky and some more coffee. At least I stayed away from the sweets this time. Mainly because I was still working on the fudge (almost all gone by this point) and some cookies I had made before we left that I was planning to bring to my grandparents.  I considered it quality control…to make sure they were still up to my standards.

I was in awe when I finally started seeing full on Rockies. The mountains we had been driving through did not have the same impact. These mountains were magnificent. These were the mountains I had seen on TV and in magazines.  There were several places to pull off the road and I took advantage of many of them; for Jack of course.  In truth, if I had stopped at every scenic overlook or river or lake we would still be in the Rockies.

We ended up stopping at one of the campgrounds in Yoho National Park between Glacier National Park and Banff National Park. The first campground we stopped at was nice and in a protected sunny spot, but it was almost crammed full with trailers.  Just not my thing.

The next campground we found was quite a drive up some very steep and sharp switchbacks that snaked up a mountain.  I loved it before I even saw it.  For a moment I was disappointed when we arrived at the parking lot and it was full of cars until I realized that most of them were parked at the trailhead for some extensive hiking trails.  The actual campground had quite a few vacant sites.  This was another cart in campground and I can tell you that maneuvering a wheelbarrow full of gear and three leashed dogs is quite an experience.

The site that I ended up picking was out of character for me.  Usually when I have options, I like to go as far from main pathways and other campers as I can.  This site was one of the first ones that you came to and was right beside the path.  It was also as far as you could get from the huts that housed the toilets and sink.  I figured that the huts would be the busiest places and the sounds of movement in the dark would likely set my little noise makers off and the sites further away were not as nice.  Besides, I picked a site that was almost directly across from a huge waterfall spilling down the side of  a mountain.  It was true wilderness that we had finally found.  For the first time, I felt as tiny as we truly are.

Setting up camp had gotten almost mechanical by this point.  We walked around the grounds, then had a quick dinner before crawling into the tent.  They had all established their own little spots in the tent and they quickly curled up on their blankets; after a few good night kisses of course.

The sound of the water pouring down the mountain was so loud it almost drowned out the sound of three snoring dogs.

Eastward Bound

August 26, 2015

I could have stayed on Vancouver Island forever. Unfortunately the road was calling. It wasn’t calling so loudly that I didn’t stop to watch the sun rise over the mountains to the east.   I sat at the picnic table while the dogs ate their breakfast waiting for the water to boil for my now standard breakfast of instant oatmeal with a wide selection of dried fruits and nuts and a cup of tea.  All I have to do is get the water boiling and in less than five minutes, I’m chopping away next to the dogs.

As I broke camp I saw that the campground was not much better than it had appeared in the dark. To be fair, it did look like it was a new campground so once it has a chance to establish itself, I’m sure it will be better.  One of the things that I hope would be better were shower facilities.  I didn’t mind having to use a port-a-potty but not having access to a shower was a bit of a bother.  I never minded going for, well, a very long time in the backcountry; I guess it’s different when we were still in and out of civilization.  Never mind; we’re tough and we’ll work with what we have.  Finished packing and on the road we go.

We made two stops on the way to the ferry. The first was at a gift shop where I could pick up a few souvenirs to bring back for my nephews. It turns out it’s owned by a couple from Sarnia, Ontario.  One of the owners was working the counter and he told me there are a lot of Ontario expats in BC. Not surprising at all.

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On the wall of the souvenir shop.

The second stop was at Coombs Country Candy. I bought fudge. I bought a lot of fudge.  It was good.

We had to wait a bit for the ferry out of Nanaimo so I took the dogs for a stroll. And as I was sitting talking with a man about the dogs, a woman just walked up with her furry little shoebox of a dog on a (shudder) retractable leash. Now we were out of the way of the ferry terminal traffic and there was nothing behind us which meant that she made the conscious decision to walk directly to us.  I had not really been paying attention so I did’t see her come from behind where I was sitting.  Leo jumped towards the dog then Piper did as well. I’m sure it looked really aggressive and she just turned and walked away. I called out “sorry about that” even though I wasn’t and didn’t even get a response. People like that drive me nuts because I try really hard to make sure that my dogs don’t bother other people.  I know that not everyone likes dogs and not every dog likes other dogs so I go out of my way to keep mine out of trouble. Fortunately I didn’t have time to stew about it as it was time to board.

My irritation was quickly forgotten once we settled on board.  I’m still surprised at how well the dogs have dealt with being on the different ferries. This time it seemed like they were actually bored. I walked them around as much as I could but we spent most of the time sitting at the…aft? Stern? The back of the boat.

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Another boat ride.

Once we got off the ferry we headed to Whistler. I’ve never been there before and wanted to check it out. And I couldn’t get out fast enough! I’m sure had I been on my own it would have been a nice place to meander but with three dogs, we do tend to take up a bit of space; space that is apparently very valuable because no one wanted to give us any.  Add to that the mountain bikers that insisted on riding through the Village even though there are signs posted everywhere saying they were supposed to dismount.  And I heard a few people muttering under their breaths about dogs so it was obvious that we would have to move on.  The women working at the visitor’s centre were just the nicest people and they more than made up for the rest of the people walking around the Village.  They gave me directions for some dog areas we could go visit and so with maps in hand we left Whistler.

By this time it was well into evening and I had learned my lesson about getting a campsite when you have the opportunity. I did not want to spend another night sleeping in the car so the next park I saw, I went in.  We never did make it to the dog areas but I figured that having a safe and comfortable place to sleep was a higher priority.

Nairn Park is another pick your site campground. I picked a fairly decent site and set up camp. Leo kept trying to get into the tent every chance he got. I’d turn my back to go get something from the car and when I turned around, he’d be inside as far as his tie rope would allow with what I can only imagine was a smile.  Little city boy is doing well in the outdoors.

Then we went for a walk. There’s a gorgeous river that runs alongside the camp and we waded across to a rocky island in the middle. The water was cold but the dogs handled it with no problems at all. We wandered for a good long while and then headed back to camp.

I actually cooked dinner for the first time on the trip. I wouldn’t normally touch packaged pasta but once you add some dried tomatoes and mushrooms and dine al fresco…well it doesn’t get much better than that.  I talked with one of the park staff who came around checking site permits.  We actually talked for a very long time as I not so subtly plumbed her mind for information about the area.  When I asked about shower sites she told me it was a “primitive” campground and I could go and use the community centre down the road if I wanted to.  I guess all the campgrounds close to home had me spoiled.

It was quite warm in the mountains that night. The dogs were asleep almost as soon as they lay their heads down.  I wasn’t far behind them.

Vancouver Island

August 25, 2015

When we woke, we had a wander around Goldstream Park. It’s a good mix of trails with easy gravel and really rugged so whatever you’re looking for, you can find it there and so close to downtown Victoria.  We broke camp as some of our neighbours stopped by to visit.  Children especially love the dogs and a few were chatting away as their mother was trying to feed them breakfast.  I even had one offer to help me carry supplies to the car.

We were soon back on the highway. I accidentally sort of broke the no chain rule by stopping at Serious Coffee but I figure it’s a regional thing so it’s ok. The brioche that I had with it may have been a bit of overkill though.  It was mighty tasty…

We were driving along the highway when I decided to stop and the dogs let the dogs play in the amazingly blue waters of Cameron Lake. It was so pretty and even though we were right next to the highway, you could barely hear the traffic.

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Cameron Lake.

A few hours later we cruised into Tofino. I parked the car just off the beach and we walked to a local seafood joint called Wildfire Grill. After grilling (get it?) the locals in line, I ordered the fish tacos which were the best I had ever had. And after talking with a few more locals, they pointed me to the nearby Tofino Chocolate. As if I needed to be told where to find chocolate. They also sell ice cream and gelato. What better way to wash down tacos than with salted caramel gelato?

We were on our way to the beach when we were waylaid by a group of surfers.  They mobbed the dogs as we walked by them and we ended up standing there talking for a long time.  Many of them had left their dogs back wherever home was and they were getting their dog fix.

I had often been told about the beach in Tofino and when got there, we could see that it was pretty. And it was the farthest point west in Canada that you could drive to so it made sense that we would go there. After we walked around a bit and sat watching the waves, we jumped back in the car.

I had tried to get a site in Pacific Rim National Park but it was full.  The park staff had recommended a private campground which was back the way we came so that was the way we headed.

On a whim, we stopped at Combers Beach and am I ever glad we did. There was not a soul to be seen as I let the dogs play in the waves that washed relentlessly onto the shore.  As I walked along edge of the ocean with the dogs, we just enjoyed the simple pleasure of being together on the sand. Our westward trek had been halted by the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean and we stayed to watch the sun set over the waves.  There was a slight feeling of sadness, that our journey westward had ended, that now every kilometre we drove would take us that much closer to home, that now the trip was winding down and coming to an end.  But we weren’t done yet.

When we started to walk back to the car, a small problem became apparent: I had walked so far that a small outlet we had crossed was now much deeper and to avoid swimming I had to backtrack a bit. The dogs are all excellent swimmers but being this close to the ocean, I was worried about them getting swept out in the current. We finally found a spot that was shallow enough to wade across and then the only obstacle left was a tumble of trees blocking the beach. I dropped the leashes to let them find their own way through the twisted pile of logs. Leo jumped on top and walked across. So did Jack. Piper? No no no. She was completely out of sight when I heard a splash then looked to see her swimming around the trees.  None of them bothered to crawl under the trees which to me looked like the most obvious path.

We got back to the car and started to make our way to Secret Beach Campground.
Now it was almost 10:00 pm by the time we got there and no one was working but they have a sign that basically says go pick a site and let us know. Problem is there are no lights and no signs saying where the sites are. I used my investigative skills and found two campgrounds down the road. One had some empty sites but was mostly trailers. The other seemed to be fairly empty but from what I could see the sites were not that great. Didn’t matter. Just a place to lay our heads so I picked a site near the top, went back to the office, and then back to set up the tent.

The dogs were getting really comfortable with the tent since I barely had it up and they were trying to get in. I was so tired that I didn’t even eat anything before falling asleep.

Back into Canada

August 24, 2015

When I woke up I was actually a little sore from my pseudo gym session. A quick walk with the dogs and to the lobby for my breakfast. No waffle machines here. Oh no. Only the finest in toaster waffles. And not a piece of fruit to be seen. Seriously no apples or oranges or even bananas. Wow.

Now as I sat chewing my syrup and jam soaked waffles I plotted a route for the day. I had toyed with heading to Astoria Oregon but that would take us further south and through wildfires and really I only wanted to go to say that I went. Anyone who is a fan of the movie “The Goonies” would understand.  So north it was.

Washington state is the most extreme example of complete opposites I have seen so far. From the verdant mountains I drove through yesterday to what looked like sage brush desert. The desert-looking parts really shocked me since I had this image in my head of never ending orchards and vineyards.

We stopped at a scenic overlook called Wild Horse. It was absolutely gorgeous. And of course the dogs were quite popular, getting their attention fix and giving people their dog fix.

As we continued through what I can only describe as a desert I see a sign: FRUIT. Oh. Hell. Ya! I loaded up on plums and peaches and cucumber. I was going to get a watermelon but I wasn’t sure about getting across the border with fresh fruit so no going over board. Some of those plums didn’t even make it out of the driveway.

We kept going north and, now this is important, when the GPS gives you a route, double check it and I’ll tell you why:  we ended up taking not one but two ferries to Victoria island. I knew we’d have to take one but the second was a bit of a surprise. Lesson learned.

I was a little concerned about how the dogs would react to being on a ferry but they handled it like they have everything else on this trip: like total champs.  They sniffed and watched and visited with anyone that came within petting range.  I tried to keep them from accosting people but there were always a few that just could not resist coming closer for a visit.

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Ferry? No big deal.

On the second trip over to the island proper we chatted with a lovely couple that had spent the weekend in Seattle. I basically plumbed their brains for things to do and see and visit and as we were waiting to off load, she came and tracked me down to give me her name and number if we got lost or needed a place to crash. I was flabbergasted that this woman who had known me for less than an hour would open their home to some stranger and her dogs.

We drove onto the island and as usual, my trip through Customs was awkward.  It seems that no one can fathom the idea of driving across country with no set points of interest to stop at.  Or maybe the border guard, who looked like he was barely old enough to shave, was just teasing me.

We made a quick stop at Fishermans Wharf. We had the best fish and chips at Barbs. And we were quite the attraction, especially since I may have shared a few little pieces of fish with the dogs. People got a kick out of watching that and more than a few asked to have their pictures taken with the dogs.  Not too far from Barb’s, as in almost directly across from, was a place selling ice cream.  Are you noticing a pattern here my friends?  Not only ice cream but also treats for dogs.  I could not walk away without getting something for them so I bought them a cup of “Icy Snouts” for later.

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Because they get treats too.

Our ferry friends had suggested we stay at Goldstream Provincial Park for the night. We got there after dark but it seemed like a lovely site. It’s another cart in site so we are off the main road a bit which I like with my little guard dogs.  I’m lucky that they aren’t bad barkers but they do take their guard dog roles quite seriously.

Besides, there’s an entire island to check out so I usually didn’t plan on staying put too long.

Montana

August 23, 2015

Where were we? When last we saw our intrepid…quad-uo? Double duo? The pack? They were in a nameless rest stop in Montana. And now the story continues….

After a few hours I headed back out into the darkness. And with the sky lightening behind us and the car warming up, another rest stop beckoned.  I figured that I would stop at the next one but that was closed so we kept going.  The one after that was open.  When I parked, I tried to get the dogs outside but they would have none of it.  So I tipped my seat back and caught a few more minutes of shut eye.

After a quick nap I opened my eyes to see that we had parked directly in front of the first fenced dog area I had seen on the entire trip. Great. I figure the dogs can have a boot around. They sniffed. They sauntered. They stood at the gate. Ok I get the hint.  They had their breakfast while I had a leftover granola bar.  One more attempt to get them playing in the fenced in spot and back on the road. 

 

A short drive down the highway and I stopped in the little town of Livinston. Not only did I get gas, but a cute little coffee shop called Rx Coffee filled my tummy with caffeine and a mixed berry white chocolate scone. Breakfast of champions.  It was so unexpected and if I ever found myself in the vicinity again, that would be one of my “must go” places.

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Amazing find. Well worth the trip from the highway.

Finally I found a campground and the ranger pointed out a pasture where I could let the dogs run. Great! He’s a dog guy too and spent a few minutes fussing over my little ones as I told him about my trip.  When I mentioned that we were going to Spokane (which I learned is pronounced Spo-kan) he seemed surprised and asked why: “That’s where all the wildfires are.”  Wildfires.  Right.  I had forgotten about the fires.  Travelling by the seat of your pants is fine but sometimes a little research is a good idea. I put it out of my head and let the dogs have a play and back on the road we go.

Another stop for gas and I found a coffee booth in a parking lot. Seems to be quite common here.  I did not realize it was a drive thru so there I went walking up and which totally threw off all the locals.  Oops.

We found another trail quite by accident and what a find it was! We didn’t go far but it was amazing.  I’m not even sure if it was an actual trail.  It was well off the main road and I saw what looked like a spot to park the car.  We walked across the rough dirt road to a small river.

I stopped at the side of that nameless river and looked up at the mountains around me, the water rushing beside me, I felt the warm sun on my face, and the gentle wind blowing against my skin.  I looked at the dogs eagerly poking their noses into every nook and cranny as they followed every tantalizing smell.  I sat down on a log and felt the urge to keep moving, even to keep walking, leave me as the three dogs each sat down with me and I thought “Here.  This moment.  This moment right now is my forever moment.”  I don’t know how long we sat there together; it could have been a minute, it could have been 10, but eventually we stood and made our way back to the car.

After another short drive on the road I stopped at another trail. Unfortunately they had an event going and I couldn’t take the dogs on the trail but I ended up talking to some people and when I told them where I was going they mentioned the wildfires as well. I hadn’t forgotten about them I just didn’t think the haze that I saw in the mountains was from smoke. Looking back I can’t believe that I didn’t make the connection but we don’t have much experience with fires of this size in southern Ontario.  And that is why I was glad I booked a room. For reliable and up to date info that I would likely not have if I were in a forest.

We were back on the road and almost out of Montana when I passed a sign for cherries. Now the only vegetable matter that I had up to this point in the day was a piece of lettuce on a turkey sandwich so I headed down a short section of road and bought a pound of cherries. And an ice cream cone. Yes I like ice cream.  I consider it part of the dairy quotient for the day.  And it was a local variety so I had to try.

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Local cherries and some local ice cream to boot.

We cut through a corner of Idaho and the smoke was getting thicker. I started seeing signs that were a little disconcerting: “High fire danger.  Use caution.”  I did see one of the best signs I have ever seen: “Working fire ahead. Do not call 911”. Awesome.

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All right then. I will.

We got into Spokane and booked into the Rodeway Inn in what looks like a very industrial part of town and then we went for a walk. Not the worst place I’ve ever stayed but also not the best. It turned out I was in the room next to the exercise room. Terrific. Then I go into the exercise room. Stairclimber: doesn’t work. Airbike: doesn’t work. Gliding ski thing: almost wiped out. Didn’t even bother with the cable stack.

Feeling at something of a loss I MacGyvered a solution: I loaded up my backpack and I use that for a workout. Oh and leave the AC off. Not pleasant at all.

180After actually working up a bit of a sweat, I climbed into bed and was soon enveloped by sleeping dogs.