Vancouver Island was going to be our last stop in Canada and we look back at it with mixed feelings. It was really great to travel together with our friends from back home, but the Island was so very busy at the end of August. After all the peace and isolation up North this was quite a shock for us. We decided to flee across the border to the USA earlier than foreseen. It felt a bit bad to say goodbye to Canada in such a way…But the country was not going to let us go like that and still had a very nice surprise for us on our last day.
Our trip to Vancouver Island had a bit of a false start, we messed up our ferry booking and were stuck waiting for a ferry for 9 hours. We drove to the closest beach and had a really nice and relaxing afternoon.
For four days we travelled together through Vancouver Island with Griet, Arnout and their kids and it was really cool. They had been travelling in Canada for a couple of weeks already and we spent the end of their holidays together. After 3 months on the road it felt so great to spend time with people we know from home. Our kids were hyper excited too and threw themselves on our visitors with all their stories of the last months.
Together we visited Pacific Rim National Park on the west side of the Island. On the way over there, we had our first traffic jam in North America and it was not going to be the last one on the island. We did a couple of nice hikes on the wild beaches of the Pacific Rim park. We were also keeping an eye open for the wolf packs that roam the park but they did not show themselves to us.
We crossed back to the east side for a visit to the Strathcona park and a last hike with our friends, followed by an emotional goodbye. The next morning, we woke up with what felt like a ‘collective hangover’. The travels of the last weeks had been so intense and we were running out of steam. This is not abnormal and we had experienced it before on other long trips. So we know there is an easy solution: find a beach and do nothing for a couple of days until the wanderlust returns. The problem here was that we could not find a spot in the area where we could spend more than one night. This part of Vancouver Island has closed nearly all ‘wild’ campsites and since the Island was so busy, all the ‘official’ camping grounds were full too. We could have gone to the more remote North side of the island but we did not feel like driving 400 km again. We got very nervous of this whole situation and while stuck in yet another traffic jam, we decided to give up and drive straight to the port of Victoria to catch the ferry to the USA. However it was too late to catch the ferry that day, so we drove a bit further and hoped to find a place to sleep somewhere outside of town. But it was Friday evening and again everything was full, so we ended up sleeping (illegally) on a parking lot right next to the sea in the Juan De Fuca strait.
But that’s when Canada decided to work its magic one last time. It started with a fantastic sunrise. But that was just a starter. The next morning, I woke up by a blowing and splashing sound. I got out of bed to check it out. It was coming from different places at sea. I could not see much because of the mist in the bay. I woke up our main wildlife spotters (Caro & Leon): “Good morning, I think, I hear some whales not far away”. I never saw both of them get out of bed quicker. And soon enough they spotted a first humpback whale. For an hour we all (in pyjamas) watched several (4-5?) humpbacks popping up just in front of us. Some seals and dolphins also joined the party. What an amazing morning this was! And the ‘firm warning’ that we got from a law officer for illegal overnight parking could not change anything to that.
That evening we were allowed to sleep in the ferry parking lot in Victoria harbor. This allowed us a small ‘hit and run’ visit to the town before a very short last night in Canada. At 4.30 am we woke up when the custom officer started his inspection round. It went really smooth and a couple of hours (after another phenomenal sunrise) later we drove off the ferry into the United States of America.
Fresh off the ferry, we drove right into our first National Park on ‘mainland’ USA: Olympic National Park. If we had not been looking for a quick escape from Vancouver Island, we probably would never have seen this park. And that would be quite a pity because it is by far the most diverse National Park we have visited. We started with a visit to the mountains at Hurricane Ridge. From there we went to the wild Pacific Ocean beaches for hikes along the coast with big waves, cool rock formations and plenty of Pelicans. The scenery seemed very familiar, not so strange as we found out that a lot of movies are filmed here.
From the beaches we headed inland again for another biosphere: the rain forest. We were greeted by massive trees covered in all kind of mosses: the ‘witch forest’ according to our kids. The next days we were travelling some more between rainforest and beach landscapes, wondering how it was possible that we had almost missed this park. A nice start to our travels in the ‘contiguous’ USA.