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Destination Alaska Part VII: A 66-Day Trek to the Last Frontier

Butchart Gardens, Water Taxis and Vancouver Island

Water Taxi, James Bay, Victoria (Sheryl Gallup photo) Water Taxi, James Bay, Victoria (Sheryl Gallup photo)

By: Sheryl Gallup

This is Part VII of a nine-part series

Click here for Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday we traveled all day and got into camp around dinner time. We were both exhausted so we just made dinner, looked at maps to plan for travel and went to bed early. The only really fun thing that happened yesterday is that we pulled into a roadside rest to stretch and make some lunch and we saw an RV in the parking lot that we recognized.

As soon as we got out of the truck, we saw Ingrid and Clarence from Ontario that we had cocktails with back at Muncho Lake around June 19. It was fun to catch up and find out that the path they took was very similar to ours and they even stayed in some of the same campgrounds that we did. But, our paths didn't cross again until now. Since we are going to some of the same spots as we all work our way home, there is a chance we may cross paths again. Many of the campgrounds that we have visited we have seen some of the same people we saw at other locations.

Today we continued our route on the Cariboo Highway, which is Highway 97 going south into British Columbia. The Cariboo Trail is historically an old wagon gold mining route. There is lots of history on this route and we came across many towns that still had some of the original log buildings. We thought about going to the towns of Likely and Horsefly, which are full of gold mining history and fun things to do, but it would have put us an hour out of the way, and we were just anxious to keep on moving down Highway 97.

We stopped at 108 Mile Ranch Heritage Site, which is a visitor centre and museum. The site has 13 historical buildings including the 105-Mile House. The site has a roadhouse that accommodated miners and wagon travelers as they worked their way along the Cariboo Route to the gold fields. The house, built in 1905, is two-story Victorian style clapboard that had a parlor, bull pen, nursery, several ladies rooms and several gentlemen rooms. It was used as a roadhouse until 1912, and in 1979 it was moved to the 108-mile location.

The site served as a post on the Cariboo Trail in 1867 and then in the 1900s it served as a horse and cattle ranch. The self-guided tour of the site was interesting and we were both amazed by the historic value of each building. We found it very much worth seeing.

Here are a few of my favorite buildings.

108-Mile Ranch Site Schoolhouse


108-Mile Ranch Site Trapper's Cabin with Sod Roof


105-Mile Roadhouse

Tonight we are staying in the town of Clinton at a very “green” RV park. By this I mean it is full of vegetation. Most RV camps are parking lots.

Admittedly, we are both growing road weary. We have been on the road now since June 2 and the travel days are long and make us both irritable. We are trying to cover at least 300 miles a day now on our journey home, but we often find even a roadside rest, grocery store run, or a tourist attraction help to break up the day. But, the cost of that is longer on the road and less time in camp. We are seldom in camp before 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. and that leaves little time to relax. Once we get into camp it is set up, dinner, dishes, showers, and work or journaling before bed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Yesterday was one of those days when you have to keep pinching yourself to see if you are really awake. I was absolutely mesmerized by the beauty that we saw as we drove through the Frasier River Canyon in British Columbia.

We are in southern British Columbia and we followed the Frasier River for most of the day. The drive through the canyon did have some eye-closing moments as we wound our way around some of the sharp curves and rocky cliffs, but after driving on the Top of the World Highway in the Yukon, I believe that I am growing more accustomed to mountain driving. Most of the time yesterday my eyes were open and it would have been a crime to miss any of it.

The highway through Frasier Canyon is excellent, a few bumps but mostly great blacktop. Clearly, Canada spends its money on British Columbia roads and not in the Yukon.

Frasier Canyon Train

The road to get to the Frasier Canyon Highway is called the Cariboo Highway and it was fascinating to watch the terrain change as we traveled. It was all high country, but down in the valleys it was farmland and we saw grazing cattle and thousands of acres of pastureland. A little later down the road, the scenery changed to more arid, almost desert like. Once we picked up the Frasier River, then it was almost like a rainforest with lush greenery covering the mountainsides. It was just amazing how much it changed in our four-hour drive.

We pulled into Hope, British Columbia, late afternoon, and when we saw a campground right on the shores of the Frasier River, we knew we would call this home for the night. The scenery was amazing and looking down on the swiftly running Frasier River was hypnotizing. Just by standing on the shore looking at the canyon and the water it melted away all the road travel stress for the day. It was magical.

Frasier Canyon, Hope B.C.

Today, we are headed to Vancouver. We are already booked for the next three days at a campground in Vancouver and we have plans for Vancouver Island already in our notes.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What a stressful drive yesterday was. Not frightening, just exhausting. Driving into Vancouver, at rush hour, hauling a trailer, through construction, was not something we had been looking forward to on the way home. We had made reservations to camp for three days so we were not worried about that. It is just after living in the wild for so many days, what a shock it was driving in heavy traffic.

After we set up camp, we decided to venture into the beautiful little community of Tsawwassen, B.C. We had lunch at a cute little pub called Rose and Crown on the main street in town. Great food, fun patio vibe; I strongly recommend it if you are ever in the area. After lunch, we decided to check out some beaches that were recommended by one of the campground residents. The town is called Port Roberts and is only about 10 miles from our campground. Ironically, this little peninsula is part of the U.S., so we had to go through customs. Port Roberts is actually part of Washington, and neither Woodzjoe, nor I, even knew about that little piece of heaven. If we ever win the lottery, we decided we are buying a summer home there.

As we drove around the peninsula we marveled at the gardens, the charming little cottages, the big elegant homes on the beach and all the parks. We stopped at a place called Lighthouse Beach, and my breath was taken away when I saw miles and miles of beach – a rocky beach. Oh delight! I grabbed my rock bag and happily sprinted my way all the way to the beach.

A Rock Hunter Heaven, Port Roberts, Wash.

I gathered about 10 pounds of rock from Lighthouse Beach in Port Roberts. When I got back to the truck with my treasures, I looked inside my rock bucket and realized that I really didn't have much room in the bucket for 10 more pounds of rocks. So, I made the ultimate sacrifice and removed the 50-pound block of quartz and sadly left it at the beach. RIP beautiful rock.

We stopped at another beach on Port Roberts peninsula called Lilly Point Marine. We hiked to a nice overlook and had a great view of the ocean, Vancouver Island and some beautiful mountains. It was only a short hike to the overlook and worth it.

Port Roberts, Wash., Lilly Point Marine

Tomorrow we are booked for a great tour. We will take the ferry over to Vancouver Island, hop on a bus for a tour of Victoria then off to Butchart Gardens.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Today I made the decision to return home to Minneapolis, sell my house and everything I own and move to Vancouver Island. Okay, so it might just be a dream, but for a little while today it was fun to drive around the island and decide where I might like to live if I actually could make the move. Unfortunately, I think I am destined to live out my life being landlocked. Well, at least Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 lakes.

Our tour bus picked us up at 9:00 this morning and since we are only seven minutes to the British Columbia Ferries terminal, we were pretty much on the water less than 30 minutes after we got picked up. Neither Woodzjoe nor I had ever been on a ferry before so we were both glad that we didn't have to venture out on our own and figure out where to go, what the rules are, and what to do when we were parked. He was mostly grateful to leave the driving to someone else after being on the road for 56 days and finally get a chance to just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

The1 ½-hour ferry ride to Vancouver Island was amazing. The ocean was relatively calm and because of this, we were able to walk around the deck, lean over the railing and just breathe in the fresh salt air. It was heaven to me.

British Columbia Ferry

Just before getting into port, we all re-boarded the tour bus and waited for our turn to drive off the ferry. Our driver, Gordie, took us for a tour around parts of Vancouver Island as we worked our way over to Butchart Gardens. The history of the Butchart family and the garden is interesting. The Butchart's were the founders and owners of Portland Cement and their company was the first to market cement in paper bags. In the 1900s, Robert Butchart's limestone quarry had been depleted and his wife, Jennie, came up with the idea to beautify the quarry by making it into a garden.

Butchart Gardens covers 55 acres of the 130-acre estate. It is an artful display of rare and exotic shrubs, trees and the most beautiful flowers. The grounds are divided into sections including: Sunken Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Star Pond, Italian Garden, Piazza, and Mediterranean Garden. It also includes multiple fountains, Totem Poles, dining, and gift shops. We stopped and talked to one of the gardeners and asked her how many gardeners it took to maintain these magnificent gardens. She told us that it takes 70 during the summer, and 50 offseason.

I took dozens of pictures of the garden, so I am hard pressed to find just a couple that do justice to the garden. Woodzjoe liked the architecture and design the best and I liked the flowers. So here is one from each of us.

My pick from Butchart Gardens


Woodzjoe's pick from Butchart Gardens

We spent two hours at Butchart Gardens and it really wasn't enough time to truly enjoy the gardens. We will just have to go back some day.

From the gardens, our tour took us around the city of Victoria as Gordie narrated what we were seeing through the bus windows. Vancouver Island is very historic and it was nice to see that they put so much importance on the old buildings and they were preserved. I really liked the area called Sidney Waterfront. It was right on the ocean and the cottages were quaint and colorful.

For several more hours, we were given the opportunity to tour a part of downtown Victoria called the Inner Marina. The tour bus dropped us off right in front of the famed Empress Hotel and we poked around inside for a little while, then went back down to the marina to watch the yachts and sailboats come in.

Empress Hotel, Victoria, Vancouver Island, B.C.


James Bay, Vancouver Island, B.C.


Water Taxi, James Bay, Victoria

We were tired by the end of the tour and we were looking forward to getting back on the ferry. On the return trip on the ferry, we decided to spend our 1 ½-hour ride in the dining room for some dinner. The view with dinner was most impressive. We were able to sit next to the large windows and watch the ocean as we sailed and dined. We sat for about 45 minutes just enjoying the view, when the ferry seemed to lurch and grind a little. Then, a few moments later, we heard the announcement that the reason the ship had to take a sharp turn was to avoid some whales. We had the opportunity to enjoy our dinner and see a whale resurface. It was very exciting.

I was sad to get off the ferry tonight. I really could have stayed on board for another few hours. But, it was time to go and now it is time to leave Vancouver and start heading home. We have three weeks to get back to Minneapolis and we hope to see far more sites, learn more about the history of the U.S. through museums and historical sites, and talk to people who have great stories to share.

Our tour guide told us that anyone can move to Vancouver Island, a city of 600,000. He said that all it requires is a background check, medical exam, $1,500 for processing the paperwork and about a two-year wait while they check you out. Maybe a move there isn't so unattainable.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We were sad to leave Vancouver Island behind us. It took us 1 ½ hours to get through the line of cars and trucks at the U.S. border, but we both let out a sigh of relief to finally be back on U.S. soil. Ah, home sweet home.

Our plan for today was to make up some miles because we feel that we got a little behind schedule with our trip to Vancouver. We traveled long and hard today and our goal was to get at least half way across Washington. We stopped in Wenatchee, Wash., and saw quite a few hotels and decided that tonight we really wanted a little civilization. Unfortunately, all the hotels were booked so we bolted out of town and hit the highway.

It was getting late in the day and we needed to find someplace, any place, to spend the night. We finally found a campground about an hour or so away and we spent the night at Swauk Campground in the Wenatchee Forest. It was a beautiful site, primitive, but with only three campsites in use, we felt like we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The enormous trees in this part of Washington provided a very dark site and the temperatures were far cooler than what we had suffered with all day. We sat outside most of the evening and were amazed that we had no encounters with bugs, animals or Sasquatch. The campground hosts stopped by to check on us and told us to be on the lookout for mountain lions. I have to admit, that spooked me a little. But, we both rested easy tonight and slept well.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

We packed up early today and hit the road. We were anxious to put some more mileage on the truck and try and get back on schedule for the trip home. We got as far as Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, late in the day today and decided that we still wanted to treat ourselves to that hotel room and steak dinner we didn't get the night before. We did find a nice hotel and a great steak dinner in town, but sadly, that and a visit to the laundromat was the only excitement for the day.

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