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Three Weeks in British Columbia #5 – Port Hardy

BLOG #47, SERIES #8

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

THREE WEEKS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA #5

THE LEGENDARY HIGHWAY 4

November 22, 2017

The Travelers

It’s time to pick up on our three-week exploration of British Columbia. We breakfasted in Port Hardy in the Lyons Café (we were about the only non-locals there–everyone else knew each other). Port Hardy, like Lund on the Sunshine Coast, is the end of the road. For those who wish to travel further north, BC ferries leave Port Hardy, on a regular basis, for their spectacular sixteen-hour cruise to Prince Rupert.

After gassing up, we headed back south on Highway 19 down the spine of Vancouver Island. The smoke from over 200 fires engulfing the province was at last beginning to thin out. Mountains towered up on both sides of the highway, but low visibility kept us from seeing the higher peaks. They get quite high; in fact, Victoria Peak is 7,484 feet high. The island range gets plenty of snow during winter months, but due to the prolonged dry period, we saw no snow ourselves.

We were disappointed by the sprawling town of Campbell River, as it was wrecked–at least for us–by strip-malls and unlovely development. Guess we’ll have to return another time, and perhaps we may find aspects we missed.

Highway 4 to the Pacific Coast is being discovered by the world. So much so that you jolly well better have lodging reservations made weeks ahead of time for the coast. In the summer, it seemed to us like a good share of B.C. residents had fled the mainland for Vancouver Island. But not just Canadians–there were visitors from around the world! Not too long ago, comparatively few travelers had even heard of Tofino at the end of Highway 4. And we wondered just what there was on the Pacific side of the island to make it such a tourist Mecca.

As we neared Port Alberni, we couldn’t help but notice hundreds of cars parked on both sides of the road. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to join them. At the west end of Cameron Lake is Cathedral Grove, one of the last remaining easily accessible stands of old-growth forest remaining in British Columbia. The tallest trees are protected by MacMillan Provincial Park. Though the stand is small, it is precious to all those who treasure those few remaining stands of old growth not yet wiped out by the lumber industry barons. A 0.3 mile trail leads visitors into a majestic stand of 200-800-year-old Douglas firs that rise a “neck-straining” 230 feet from the forest floor.

Next week we’ll move on to what Canadians call “The West Coast.”

 

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Three Weeks in B.C. #4 – Telegraph Cove and Port Hardy

BLOG #43, SERIES #8

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

THREE WEEKS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA #4

TELEGRAPH COVE AND PORT HARDY

October 25, 2017

We got up early next morning as we wanted to make sure we wouldn’t be late for the ferry at Powell Junction. It was a big one (hour and twenty-minute cruise across to Vancouver Island). Plenty of time for a good breakfast. On the fourth deck, who should we meet but our shipmates from Heidelberg, Germany, and little Matthew?

The 4 Explorers

Once disembarked on Vancouver Island (the largest populated land mass between western North America and New Zealand), we wasted no time in hitting the road north. Towering mountains all around us—but still partly obscured by smoke. Both Byron and I had done a lot of research on the island before we arranged our itinerary. One place that kept popping up was the tiny town of

Telegraph Cove

Telegraph Cove. It was mid-afternoon before we neared the junction. We decided to check it out. Population 20. But that population skyrockets during summer tourist season. It’s one of the last remaining “boardwalk” communities on Vancouver Island. It was used as a hospital village during the World War I Spanish Flu Pandemic. The plague killed more people world-wide than World Wars I and II combined.

Fortunately, for the little town’s continued existence, it was built around a deep sheltered harbor. Many of the colorfully painted structures were built on stilts. The main tourist activity is whale watching. Unfortunately, there were so many people vying for boat tickets that we missed one boat and decided to drive on to Port Hardy at the extreme north end of the island, checked in to our motel, then returned to Telegraph Cove in time to board the 5:00 p.m. whale watching boat. This boat too was full (about 50 passengers).

Whale Watching

In our entire lifetime, Connie and I had never seen anywhere near as much wild life from one boat ride as we did here out of Telegraph Cove. Bald Eagles, fields of Orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, porpoises, dolphins, seals, deep-diving birds, etc. Orcas especially were leaping all around us, and even right next to the boat. And who could forget when the captain lowered a listening device into the water so that we could hear the whales talking with each other! It was almost surreal! And there were also excellent wildlife lectures onboard. This evening cruise alone was worth the price of the entire trip.

Dock at Port Hardy

It was late before we got back to our rustic cabins overlooking Port Hardy’s harbor.