From Jasper - West toward Vancouver. Driving down the highway, we saw yellow guitar shaped signs advertising free camping. Probably too good to be true, but we decided to check it out anyway. So we followed the signs waayyyy back into the mountains and came upon a hippied-out music venue called Serenity Music. We figured that the “Free Camping” was for music events, but we didn’t want to be rude, so we knocked on the door. We expected some ‘free spirit love child’ to answer. To our surprise, a fairly normal looking business lady came to the door and confirmed that the free camping is only for music events, but we could camp there for $15. She was nice and offered toilets and free firewood, so we paid her and set up camp. The moment we finished eating dinner, seriously dark clouds rolled in.
Since this was a music venue, there were a few canopies in the main yard with picnic tables and lights underneath. So we packed up our wine and cups and played scrabble under the canopy while it stormed all night long. It was great.
In the morning, headed to Helmcken Falls (spelled correctly). Supposedly two times the height of Niagra falls. It was pretty tall, but not that impressive from where you have to view it. On our way out, we met a girl who suggested we try Moul Falls. Excellent suggestion! The hike out takes about an hour and it is by no means easy, especially on the way back up , but totally worth it. We hiked down to the falls, walked around behind it and got soaked. It was a blast!
Now, we head to Vancouver Island! But first, a quick stop in Vancouver for more poutine and beer (brunch of champions). There must have been some kind of climbing event, or maybe it’s just a really good climbing spot. Either way, all of the campgrounds in the area were full, so we stayed the night just north of Squamish at a small campground inside of a rec area next to a bmx park. The drive from Vancouver to Squamish is breathtaking. Sweeping S turns and stunning views (would be great for a motorbike). To date, it’s one of the most beautiful roads we’ve driven.
Got breakfast and groceries in the morning and took the ferry to Vancouver Island.
We set up camp early afternoon at Englishman’s River Falls with plans to find the TCAT early the next morning. This place looks like a jungle. There is moss on everything, giant trees stretching up to the sky, deep rich greens and dark browns. Beautiful.
In the morning, we set out to find the trail. It was mostly winding gravel road leading up into the mountains. We stopped at a dam and walked around for a bit. There were several camp spots, probably mostly for fishing in the dam, and some pretty creepy tree stumps scattered across the low parts of the lake. Then, (dun dun dunnnn) we saw bear tracks! Carley high-tailed it to the jeep. Brian laughed and marveled at the number of tracks. (Turns out, they were dog tracks. But it was probably a big dog!) Man, we’re easy. Definitely saw some bear scat, though. It was everywhere. Eeek! Let’s get out of here! Back on the trail.
We were less than a few miles from the end of that day’s portion of the trail when we came to a dead end – gate closed. So we backtracked and took a round-about way to get to the other side so we could find camping. Got to the other end of the trail – gate closed.
By this time, the sun was going down and the clouds were moving in, so we drove in circles for a while before finally coming to a campground on the other side of town. It was late. It was raining. We didn’t really feel like paying $35 just to park the jeep for the night, so we ended up camped at a Walmart. It was actually pretty great. There were several RVs and a few vans. It looked like some sort of gypsy camp. We bought a bottle of wine from the store and rented a movie from the Redbox. Drank wine and watched the movie in the tent. Good times.
Considering that every attempt at the TCAT resulted in a flood, dead end or road closed, we completely abandoned the trail and opted to get some pizza instead! Goats on the Roof (it’s a place), there are a hand full of live goats living on the roof of a market in Coombs, is a tourist attraction and well worth the visit. There’s an excellent pizza place just behind it (can’t remember what it’s called) so if you’re ever in the area, try it out. It’s touristy, but it’s cute and fun. So do it.
After lunch, we hit the road to Tofino. Someone said that you can sometimes watch bears catch fish right out of the water up there. Obviously that is something we wanted to see.
Got in late and snatched a campsite near the beach. It was a Friday (we think) and the place was packed. Once the sun went down, we walked on the beach. It was littered with campfires. Magic.
In the morning, we searched around for those fishing bears, but couldn’t find any so we drove a few miles south to Ucluete and roamed around for a few hours. Beautiful landscape. Took a hike out to a lighthouse and climbed around on some serious seashore rocks. Brian had been to this area before and was excited to show Carley all of the starfish that covered the rocks with bright orange and purple hues. Unfortunately, we only saw a handful of starfish. There is a debate about what is causing it, but millions of starfish are simply melting away and disappearing. Some say climate change, some say bacteria. Whatever it is, it’s shocking and disappointing.
Knowing that camping anywhere near Victoria would be packed and pricey, we stopped at a state campground about 30 miles north of the city. That evening, we sipped wine and planned our trip to Victoria, which would be our last stop in Canada before heading back to the states. We wanted to really enjoy it.
In the morning, we drove into town and got a coffee and breakfast sandwich at Wild Brew and then walked around the city. As far as we knew, it was pretty much like being in England. No, we’ve never been to England, but it’s on the list and we hope that at least some small part of it is like Victoria. It is a beautiful place and should absolutely be seen if given the chance.
Early in the day, we made arrangements for the ferry to Port Angeles, WA. Our trip to Canada had come to an end and it was a bittersweet good bye. We boarded the ferry around 7:30pm, excited to be back in the states to prepare for the next part of our journey: The West Coast.
A side note: People in The States told us that folks in Canada don’t like American’s and that they were going to be rude and disrespectful. That was rarely the case for us. Nearly every person we met was kind and polite and went out of their way to make sure we felt welcome. If you don’t mind emptying your pockets, Canada is a lovely place to visit.