Ed, from somewhere on the road
If you have time to read only one posting, click the following link to read the entry for the last day of our journey.
days 40-43, Monday-Thursday, September 23-26, Camp Quatse River at Port Hardy, north Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, plus Cape Scott (the end of the road)
This is the posting that belongs with the photos, below. Let me try this post again and try to avoid the pothole the iPad pulled me into last night. I am using my add-on Logitech keyboard which allows me to type with four fingers instead of the one finger the iPad's screen keyboard allows, and with fewer mistakes, mostly corrected grotesquely by the iPad's auto-spellcheck. I am also writing this on the campsite picnic table which seems to have been made for those husky lumberjacks (logging is big here) in that the distance between the bench and the table top at a DC restaurant would not pass safety inspection as it is vast. I solved that problem by ripping out the seat of my driver's seat and I am sitting on that, hoping that I do not lean back to think. But since there has not been anytime of this trip to think, there is no danger of that. The risk I should worry about is from the bears on the nearby river fishing for salmon, fearing that they will learn that the dogs' meals are made partly from canned salmon.
As i wrote earlier, we arrived at this wonderful river park on Sunday night in the pouring rain, so Monday was spent drying out the little that got wet, setting up the rest of the camp, going into town to run a few errands, and looking for a garage to service and repair the Defender. The garage could not take us till Wednesday, which was fine by me. I also bought another tarp pole to improve my pathetic skill of setting up a tarp, and I can now be endorssed on Linkedin for "tarp setup skills." I also bought a rubber floor mat to improve my "getting a paralyzed big dog into a small tent" skills, another skill i wish someone would endorse me for on Linkedin.
Tuesday morning turned out to be an absolutely magnificent day , most of the time anyway. This was the day, I decided, that we would make our assault on the end of the road in this corner of Canada, Cape Scott, an easy 45-mile drive from Port Hardy. I was warned that dogs were not permitted in the park because of the presence of dog-attaching wolves, but since my goal was only to drive to the end of the road, shoot a photo or two as proof that we made it, and then head back, I shrugged off the warning.
After the terrible Denali Highway road experience of one week earlier, I swore that I was finished with dirt and gravel roads for the remainder of this trip. How easy vows are broken when one has a goal to meet. Three miles of wobbly paved road quickly morphed into dirt and gravel, or should I say, dirt, gravel and potholes, mostly the latter. This road ties the Denali Highway and the road to Labrador City from Quebec as the worst on the continent. Vladivostok's roads in Russia qualify for the worst ever. There the potholes are five feet wide, five feet long and five feet deep. The road is made for the huge logging trucks which are not bothered by the potholes and have the right of way. Once a timed the distance between logging trucks, three-four miles, every four miles I would park the Defender in a cutoff and wait for the next one to go by. The best way to describe the very narrow road would be by comparing it to an industrial strength ribbed washboard. My guess is that those knot holes you see in the nice cedar-paneling in your den were made by the shock treatment the felled cedar trees get during this 45-mile ride.
We made it to Cape Scott just as the magnificent weather appeared, after having gone through at least eight weather systems en route. My question about dogs was answered immediately when a say a couple, Les and Sue, sitting in the pavilion after a hike along the trail having lunch with their dog Luke, who was very much alive. Les took the photo of my family in front of the old cedar tree, which marks the end of the road. After an hour there, I decided it was time to head back to camp, and so we packed up and left.
The ride back to camp was supposed to be predictable since I was taking the same road back. But a new hazard appeared on this near empty highway at 5:00 p.m. Going out, the Ys in the road, of which there were many considering that this is logging country, always had a Cape Scott direction nearby. But there were none on the way back. No big deal, I could always look behind me. But new Ys appeared that were not evident on the way out. When in doubt, mu rule is to take the more-heavily traveled road, but twice that rule failed me. No big deal, I just sat in my vehicle waiting for the next vehicle to arrive and got put onto the right road.
On the way back I stopped at three different remote campsites along the road, San Josef, San Josef Heritage Camp, and Nawitti Lake. These sites were not only remote but primitive, and gave even me pause to ever camp there unless I was surrounded by other humans on all sides so the wildlife would get them first.
We made it back to camp by 6:30, but before we did, half mile from camp, I spotted to juvenile black bears scampering up a slope beside the road (see photo.) When I got to camp, some young man I met proudly boasted that he had just scared away a mother bear and her two cubs from the river near the camp. I could only wonder how insensitive someone could be in that this is the bears' home and they were fishing for salmon to store up fat for winter, and they did not have the option of walking into the local supermarket for their food.
Later that evening, a pleasant woman named Gigi wandered into my campsite looking to borrow a hatchet to chop up some of the wood to build a fire. She obviously was not an RVer since most RVs I've seen on my trip are large enough to be mobile Home Depot franchises. Well as it turns out, she and her companion Adrian are biking with their beautiful 15-year old rescue greyhound Frankie. But not only biking, biking from California (3000 miles already since March) with Frankie , a 50-pound fellow, riding in his cart being pulled by the bikes. Unlike Leben and Erde, who sleep the whole drive, Frankie rides on his own volition standing up, taking in the scenery. You can see their blog at www.ofpedalsandpaws.com.
Wednesday morning was another easy day with little to do except rest up for the return trip (I have regained my original energy after those terrible five days on the Alcan and ferries), service Leben's own Defender, and take my Defender into OK Tires for servicing. Steve, the mechanic, was quick to note that the oil in my rear differential was milky when it was supposed to be amber in color. This was a sign that it had taken on water somewhere, probably through the leaky seal I know I have during the Cape Scott drive when I had to cross puddles that resembled stifled rivers Had I driven far on this, I would have destroyed the bearings at some point on the way home. Steve drained and then refilled the differential, and we were all set to go after he told me the good news that my transfer case oil level was fine, meaning I should be able to avoid a repeat of the Dawson City crisis on the way home.
That night at camp, I succeeded in making a huge fire with the ample supply of wet firewood available in the camp. How nice it is to light a fire for warmth, light, protection and cooking instead of for ambience as we do at home. One does not need ambience camping where I am and have been these last 43 days when you are not only living in it but part of it. Meeting the people I have met along the way (with one exception in Fairbanks) is oneof the joys of these trips.
Today, Thursday, was another day of regaining my strength with little else on my schedukle. Initially, I hadplanned to stay for o kore than four days, ut I added an extra day because it is so pleasant here. Pleasant, convenient, relaxing, etc. The complete list of positive adjectives that fit this quaint town and camp would require more battery and cellular megs than I have left.
(As I sit outside writing tis, Its is raining now, but not a drop is falling on us thanks to the canopy of trees protecting us. How nice. The onky thing destroying the peace other than the rain is the sound hunters' guns going off not too far away. Avoid hunting, I say, by going vegan. Hunters, of course, are honest enough to know what it is like to take an animal, and I give them credit for that. But not sport hunters, for whom God has reserved a special place in hell.)
Around noon, I paid my daily visit to the Market Street Cafe to see what they had left from the morning's bakings, which was little. This unpretentious place is noted for its baked, and if you ever visit there you will understand why. I complained to the owner-baker Dan that the flax seed bread does not last long with my family. When I arrived today, there were three pumpkin muffins left, which happened to be my favorite. Fearing that the lovely young woman, Marnie, in front of me was there to by them, she told me she only wanted one, which made my day. (I bought the two remaining.) She and I started chatting and the subject eventually turned to Sonntag's story in the National Geographic. I have never met anyone so delighted about the appearance of that story as Marnie was, more delighted than I was. I invited her to my welcome home party, as all readers of my bog are, of course. (Be forewarned: The menu will be the same stuff I and the dogs eat on the road.)
Before I left the cafe, I asked the affable Simone, who works there, about the barber shop across the street. She then said, "Why don't you ask him," pointing to the man for whom she was holding the door open, the town's barber. An hour later, I was getting my hair cut for the first time on this trip y ther equally affable and very inexpensive Chris Hunter. This is how convenient this town is.
After a walk in the towns's lovely park overlooking the ocean, I visited the nearby information center, where Kari the hostess was helpful in planning my remaining Vancouver Island stay. I then picked up a clipboard at the nearby hardware store to replace the clipboard that I had fashioned into a vehicle iPad holder, which Erde today stepped on and it broke. I then searched in vain at the nearby supermarket for more pipe tobacco as I have only one ore day's supply, which is one of the reasons this trip must end soon.
Tomorrow, we head south. Where to, I do not know yet, but south. Staying in this town and camp without any schedule to keep made the stay very pleasant, especially having an opportunity to meet so many nice locals and fellow travelers with the same mindset as mine.
Ed, from somewhere on the road