Following 19A along the shoreline through neat little towns and beach areas, I parked in a Campbell River day-use park and wished for my bike. Locals relished their delightful four-kilometer Rotary Beach Seawalk. I spent the entire day chatting with people and watching glaciated mountains grow on the mainland across the Strait of Georgia.
North of Campbell River, one of many informational signs revealed that in 1792 Capt. George Vancouver discovered the worst marine hazard on the British Columbia coast while navigating Seymour Narrows. In 1958, blasting the Twin Peaks of Ripple Rock eliminated the problem. Sometimes the wheels of progress move slowly.
I turned east to Kelsey Bay, where rusted hulks huddled against piers, with decommissioned ships being used for breakwaters. Isn’t recycling great! I would have loved exploring on foot but “No Parking” signs warned of dire consequences. I know when my rusted hulk is not wanted!
From Museum to Cafe
The Cable Cookhouse on Sayward Road is a steel-frame building wrapped with 8,200 feet of two-inch, used logging cable. The Glen Duncans spent many years finding old logging camp locations and gathering history and equipment to display in their cable-wrapped museum. Eventually, they turned it into the Cable Cookhouse. Food brought in more people than the museum. Glen died six years ago, before cataloging their extensive research. It is an interesting history stop. The restaurant’s hamburger and salad was as delicious as it was messy.
Ann and Robin from Powell River, one of those isolated mainland places that you can only reach by ferry or plane, pulled into the rest area in a bread truck. Robin had converted the truck, and they invited me to look inside. Beds were on either side with a bathroom and a kitchen. It wasn’t expensive or expansive but it encompassed everything they needed, including each other. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Beyond the end of Highway 19 at Port Hardy, a dusty, bumpy logging road continued. A cedar snag with the “lost and worn-out soles” of nondescript shoes and boots nailed all up the side held a board with this question, “Have you given your soul to Jesus?”
Sunset found The George parked on a level gravel spit on the water’s edge. At 4:30 a.m., I opened the window. No stars twinkled in the overcast sky. A fish broke the mirror-like surface and the silence of Nahwitti Lake, only a few feet from George’s tires. No insects conversed. Birds hadn’t awakened. At 8:30, trucks passed, a helicopter flew over, and I heard distant logging operations. To the north was Lake of the Mountains, Queen Charlotte Sound, and unseen Roosevelt elk, cougars, black bears and other critters. My huge mug, filled with coffee, hot chocolate, Splenda, non-dairy creamer, and sugar-free Torani coconut syrup, kept me company in this great place for sipping, thinking, and writing.
The logging roads bore red signs if they were active, warning you to stay out. Green symbols gave permission. Signs proclaimed the harvest year and the growth since the year I was born and when I graduated from high school. A truck driver motioned me to stop, saying, “ A lowboy is coming.”
“What do you want me do?”
“Pull off on the left side behind me.” The berm was a steep ridge of freshly graded mud, but I didn’t argue. I cautiously worked my way into it.
“I’ll tell them you’re here.”
Shortly, the lowboy and tractor barreled by.
In the Wilderness
In Holberg, the lumbering company engineer came forth with a map, showed me exactly where to go, and suggested the road was probably better the rest of the way. It wasn’t! Workers were friendly and curious as to what I was doing there. I get that a lot.
At their recommendation, I hiked through the forest to Ronning Gardens, truly in the middle of a wilderness nowhere. Bernt Ronning, a Norwegian, in 1910 established a homestead and gardens of exotic trees, shrubs and plants from all over the world. It reminded me of an Indiana author and naturalist, Gene Stratton Porter, who wrote A Girl of the Limberlost, the story of a swamp garden. It’s a small world.
I turned left over a narrow bridge and up the hill. I had arrived, with no idea where I actually was, but The George was level and I could hear the ocean. That was enough for me. I knew I was north of Raft Cove Provincial Park but still south of Cape Scott Provincial Park, a premier hiking destination.
Two friendly Ontario couples “on holiday,” who had been whale-watching off the Queen Charlotte Islands, were now tenting in the rocks before going home. They insisted I share their hors d’oeuvres. I couldn’t refuse a campfire invitation on this isolated beach with the Pacific thundering beyond the tide line. It didn’t take long to discover we were five Presbyterians gathered in His name. You just never know.
In the morning I wandered through the mist and eerie rainforest trees to hunt for fog-bound tidal creatures. When The George and I took off, a furry black bear ran in front of us. I couldn’t stop fast enough for a photo before he was in the gravel pit peeking through the bushes. As he waved goodbye to me, so I’ll do the same.
“Canada has one of the world’s largest ferry systems, with more tonnage than the Canadian Navy,” an island tour guide once told me. Vancouver Island provides ferries to many islands along its 7,000 coastline miles. In another column, I’ll take you to a secluded (What else?) camping place only a few feet from the waters of the Queen Charlotte Strait. God Bless.
For information on travel on Vancouver Island, you might want to consult Canadian Customs at www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca, BC Ferries at www.bcferries.bc.ca, Vancouver Island tourism at www.islands.bc.ca, and British Columbia Lodging and Campgrounds Association at www.camping.bc.ca.
Autographed copies of Revised RVing Alaska and Canada ($16.95); Adventures with the Silver Gypsy ($14.95); Full-Time RVing: How to Make it Happen $14.95); In Pursuit of a Dream ($8), and Freedom Unlimited, The Fun and Facts of Full-timing ($9) are available through author Sharlene Minshall, Box 1040, Congress, AZ 85332-1040, www.full-time-rver.com or Amazon.com. Postage and handling are $4 for one book and $1 for each additional book.