Whistler, BC (May 28/22) – Leaving the Wild West Coast behind, this trio yearning for further off-road exploration traveled inland through mountain passes along rivers and lakes found themselves back in the Port Alberni region. Upon arriving at Sproat Lake, N&J took the first right turn off the main highway (Hwy 4) onto Taylor Main Forest Service Road (FSR) that leads to the south side of the lake. After 4kms they came upon a ‘freestyle’ camp area along the Taylor River, about 6kms from the mouth of Sproat Lake…
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Nothing formal in these ‘pop-up’ campsites, no tables, fire-rings or washrooms… usually remnants from previous ‘freestylers’ is evident with a a collection of rocks forming a fire pit. Envisioning who might have been here last sparks curiosity with little hints left behind. In this instance the fire pit was preloaded with tiny twigs and some larger pieces of wood neatly lined up like soldiers waiting for their turn to be part of something bigger. A small rock poking its neatly painted surface with the words “one life, all life right here” added to the mystery and intrigue providing a sense of belonging without interaction.
Spying a deep protected part of the river where it would seem fish might hang out, N tried her luck once again at fishing, nothing came from it but a nice day by a river is just about better than anything else. Meanwhile, in between dancing rays of sun particles flowing through the trees and moments of sputtering rainfall Jesse enjoyed his walk-about through the forest and along the river.
The next morning N&J were greeted by something very rarely seen in the past month or two… true sunshine!!! With the knowledge that a ‘long weekend’ was upcoming, they set out to get a spot on Sproat Lake in the Snow Creek Rec Camp further down the gravel road. Getting out of their ‘freestyle’ spot was a bit worriesome (sandy mud, deep potholes, etc…), but the new Syncro conversion (4×4) made it easy… Hobbes just walked out effortlessly and J looked like a proud kid mastering a new found skill.
Arriving at the Snow Creek camp before the weekend usually means a guaranteed campsite, but alas the Hobbes crew was thrown a curve ball… now reservations are required … Arrrrgh!!! Fortunately there were a few ‘first come, first serve’ (FCFS) spots available, the one chosen was spectacular, lots of privacy, close to the lake and near a beautiful waterfall & river torrent.
Camp was quickly established, the weather was getting better by the minute…
N&J’s friend Michael came up from Nanaimo to camp for a couple days, bringing some ‘extra dry’ firewood and refreshments… while N created some amazing gourmet camp meals. The banter around the campfire extended late into the evening with warm & dry conditions making for outdoor comfort.
After a peaceful and relaxing Victoria Day weekend, the traveling trio headed east to Port Alberni to visit N’s friend Sharon and see her newly acquired 1930’s home that abounds with nostalgia and history. Standing amidst the huge undertaking to bring this 1930’s house up to modern standards, N&J seeing the vision, shared in Sharon’s excitement of what will come to be.
Taking a break from Sharon’s work, they met up at an outdoor patio in ‘The Port’ for food & beer, needless to say ‘growlers’ all around. Hobbes was parked adjacent to the patio table outside, Jesse was not too pleased, glaring accordingly.
Sharon had kindly offered her home in Qualicum Beach to N&J, so after a couple hours they set off eastbound towards Georgia Strait…
Nothing like a hot shower to start the next day off… right. Thanks to Sharon for letting N&J stay at her beautiful ocean front house at Qualicum Beach, although N&J slept in Hobbes, they did take full advantage of the shower & hot tub… clean and happy, in this beautiful setting, feeling so spoiled N&J were in bliss!!
After absorbing as much of the ocean air as possible, N&J continued their journey heading towards Lake Cowichan. The drive south along the Island Highway through Nanaimo & Ladysmith was uneventful other than the road was ‘chock a block’ filled with trailers and RV’s returning from their holiday weekend. Once off the main thoroughfare, the traffic eased considerably heading west. A long sigh of relief filling Hobbes as it meandered along a quieter stretch of road.
First time in Lake Cowichan for them, a beautiful lake setting, homes perched along the shoreline all with their own docks… and idyllic setting nonetheless.
It was here that the trip turned onto the Pacific Marine Road to Port Renfrew. Once a rough, gravel forest service road, is now paved inviting travelers who would normally not venture off the ‘beaten track’. Again Hobbes is making his way west over the Vancouver Island mountain range that separates the ocean from the inland.
Stopping near a 1 lane bridge overlooking Harris Canyon where a spectacular display of water cascading through a narrow gorge of rock was pleading for attention. After taking numerous pics/videos, J brought out the drone (DJI Mavic Mini) to get some up-close video of the water fall & rock canyon. All was going well until the drone decided it wasn’t going to return back to safety on the bridge, a technical glitch would not permit forward or reverse commands Needless to say after much consternation (and attempts to rectify), J attempted to move the drone into the forest away from the river, but the waning battery condition took control & force landed the drone.
Fortunately the controller keeps track of the GPS coordinates of the drone, after much bushwacking J found the drone, unfortunately the drone ended up on an unstable, moss-laden rocky ledge 15-20 metres above the raging river and 3 metres below J’s position & unable to retrieve safely 🙁
The drone footage however was still saved & will appear in the video seen below…
Proceeding onward the team checked out numerous freestyle & forest rec sites along the route for future camps. The terrain became more ‘rain forest-ish’ the further west they drove, finally coming into Port Renfrew. This is the southern ‘jumping off’ point for those hiking the West Coast Trail & the northern terminus for the Juan de Fuca Trail… the huge amount of hikers walking around with heavy backpacks is very apparent.
Port Renfrew feels like Tofino thirty years ago, still fresh & underdeveloped, a walk on the pier near The Renfrew Pub gives a great viewpoint of the harbour, the brisk winds, the tidal action scouring the rocks of the shoreline. A multitude of vacation rentals available with grand vistas of the ocean & inlet.
The sun was shining and the views over Juan de Fuca Strait overlooking the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State while driving south made the task of looking for a campsite with water views & access all the more important.
The Provincial Parks along the way are beautiful, but are hidden in the trees… waterfront is usually a 10-15 minute hike down to the ocean. It wasn’t until they reached Jordan River (and their waterfront regional campground) that a ‘perfect’ camp spot was found… right on the ocean, footsteps away from the surf.
The drive into Victoria was both beautiful & stressful; beautiful vistas of the ocean, stressful driving the crazy road system surrounding the Greater Victoria area. After driving in the ‘boonies’ for two weeks, it takes a few days to re-sync back to urban driving.
N&J were graciously offered to park Hobbes in N’s aunt/uncles driveway in Oak Bay (a small enclave south of Victoria)… 1 block to the ocean (unbridled paradise). Beautiful, lush neighbourhoods filled with manicured lawns & gardens bursting with spring colours made for extended walks around the area (Jesse was keen).
N was able to catch-up with aunts & cousins, beach walks & a pizza feast at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel outdoor patio to end the visit… all told, a delightful visit with the family!
The last day of this island road trip ended in Nanaimo where a quick visit to Michael’s (remember him from the Sproat Lake campout) new house currently under construction… mostly by himself! Located on a 5 acre property to the west of Nanaimo, sits the beginning stages of his house & massive garage/shop perched on a steep slope with views of Georgia Strait… quite an undertaking!
TO VIEW VIDEO BELOW, CLICK ON ‘WATCH ON YOUTUBE‘ BELOW…
Just enough time to catch the late afternoon ferry back to Horseshoe Bay & onto Whistler. All told a busy 15 days, 1600+ kms traveled… and home safe 🙂