‘Friday, Sept 15 - British Columbia
Heading south again, before Cache Creek, we turn off onto the Sea To Sky Highway which ends outside Vancouver CA going thru Whistler. The landscape is definitely ‘western’ -conifers, log cabins, ranches. The Fraser River cuts thru and makes a tiered Canyon- steep sided pine and basalt with a large plateau on either side half way down the mountains that we are driving upon. Lush green irrigated fields are on both sides. The irrigation pumps must have to pull the water up 800-1000’ to water these fields. I've never seen terrain like this and we postulate what might have caused it - perhaps an ice dam broke like along the Columbia River back in Oregon/Washington- causing the quick erosion of the second tier while leaving the former wide river bottom edges as plateaus?
Our camp is the at the BC Hydro Seton Lake Campground- free camping in a nicely appointed campground. I rush to the creek, ready to float for the first time since the trip up. When my feet hit the water, I change my mind- it's freezing! Probably the water from the bottom of the dam. I paint the scene from the creek’s edge instead until my cold wet feet and sandals take me back to camp.
Cayoosh Creek | Pastel | 6x6
Saturday, Sept 16
We go back into Lillooet to explore the area a bit more. Collin tells me we are back in the northernmost Basin and Range area that we are so familiar with in California and especially driving across Nevada. We are in the High Desert. The vegetation and flora is familiar- poison oak exists here! - along with ponderosa pines. Seton Lake is emerald green in color.
We first drive NW thru an upper canyon whose dirt road soon dissipates into a roller coaster of washboard. No wonder as every one is hailing a** over it which only serves to pit it further. We can't take sixty miles of this so it's back to Lillooet. Heading south we hit Duffey Lake, an emerald green beauty with the mountains around Whistler at its end. I make a quick sketch using my Gray Tombow pens.
A bit further down the road, in the Joffre Lakes area, we hit a mass encounter of humanoids! Apparently it may be one of the last great balmy sunny weekends that Everyone from Vancouver has decided to come up to take the short 3 km hike up to a glacier. Later our camp ranger tells us someone recently posted a photo of four people standing on a log with the glacier in the backdrop - it went viral and now everyone is here to do their Selfie! Two large parking lots are full and cars are parked lining the roadway for a kilometer. Rough estimate - over 400 cars each filled with 4-5 people! When we arrive at the junction for the main road, we purposefully turn the opposite direction and end up driving up the other end of the washboard road we had taken from Lillooet. We pass thru an Indian village where the small longhouse/ Community Center has written in large letters on its side: ‘WE WILL NOT BUY BACK THE LANDS THAT WERE STOLEN FROM US’.
Several more lovely lakes await us. Nairn Falls appears suddenly and we decide to camp there. The campsites are all large, and spaciously separated. The ranger comes by that evening and tells us more about Pemberton where he lives. I make another not an sketch before bed, this one of an alpine scene from several nights ago up above Salmon Glacier.
Sunday, Sept 17 - British Columbia
We return to explore Pemberton and are instantly in love with it! A wide valley greets us surrounded by high peaks. The town is clean and upscale (which translate to - modern tasteful architecture, lots of local businesses that appear to be successful, and many locals out and about. In fact, today is their annual tribute - Terry Fox Fun Run. Adults, children's and a lot of baby carriages are out to salute the famous Canadian who did his Cancer Awareness Run across Canada many years ago and unfortunately succumbed to his disease before finishing.
We travel from the town along Pemberton Meadows Road which our ranger last night mentioned as being speckled with ‘Vancouver-Priced Housing’. Definitely some pricey spreads - log mini-mansions and estate farms! When the pavement ends, we continue up until the road becomes Lillooet South Forestry Road and is the end of the outer loop from Lillooet to Pemberton that we turned back on. A side road leads us to a man standing at the edge of his property. We talk for over a half hour to this entertaining, friendly, lively man who tells us his story: 83, he's from Holland, having come here in the late 1950s when he and his wife were offered a fabulous deal of $20k for 40 acres provided they grew seed potatoes. Here they raised their five children and now have 12 grandchildren. Their home is for sale (3000’ sq ft + 3 acres for $949,000 CAD) as his wife has fallen and they are leaving tomorrow to spend their remaining days in a home. We wish we could buy it even tho we cannot see the home which is surrounded by the dense woods he purposely left in place for privacy. He is funny and delightful and makes our day special: ‘I told my doctor- ‘I'm here but I'm not all there!’ We relate! Serendipitous meetings like this make travel worth every minute. Laughing and smiling all the way I imagine thru his long life, this stranger helps put ours in perspective.
Down the road some 13 miles, we pass thru Whistler which is now huge - way beyond both our memories of decades ago when we each visited it. Huge and pricey real estate!! We are headed for Vancouver which also fits that description. Getting there reminds me of the hairpin turns of the Hwy 17 from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz- driving at 80 miles an hour in narrow lanes with a slender concrete divider between us and oncoming traffic. It's raining, clouds are swirling above and in front of us and our interior pace quickens as we near ‘The Big City’.
My desire is to make a quick spin thru Vancouver Art Gallery to see Emily Carr’s works. She's pretty much the BC Artist Laureate if there is such a thing. Years ago, I read a library book called (I think) ’The Forest Painter ‘ not realizing until half way thru that it was a true story of Emily Carr. Having an early art desire, when of age, she went to Paris where she studied with a famous Fauve (high color) painter and was a part of the art scene of that time. Returning to her beloved Canada, she spent years painting the dense forest interiors, the totems of the natives among many other themes. She even journeyed by canoe up as far north as she could reach, staying at native villages and absorbing their environs. I remember a scene in the book where she sat for a long time, easel up and paint ready, just taking in the surrounding forest and honing in on the emotions the scene conveyed to her before taking brush in hand and painting what she felt….,sigh! it's an artists dream! Her works have a dream-like quality to them.
The current Monet show is also touring and the main attraction today. The majority of his works were his latter, partially blind days where his impressions are truly best seen from Way Back!
All the while Collin is walking around downtown Vancouver. We meet back at the van and it's off to pass thru the Border again- this time going east first to drop down near Mt. Baker in Washington to find a campground. Our campsite is lovely - right on the river, carpeted by fallen needles. A few others are here to but I feel like I'm Emily Carr in the woods, inhaling the feeling of this gorgeous forest!
Monday, Sept 18 - Washington
Mount Baker is in the rainforest. We are at the Douglas Fir Campground. We drive up to the Mount Baker Ski Area and a must-see for me called the Artist's View. Alas, it is rainy, cold (we even get snow at 32 degrees), and at the viewpoint we can hardly see our hands in front of our faces! Still, the alpine scene keeps me happily snapping photo references!
A wonderful sculpture of two ravens is at the Mt. Baker Ski Area entrance. If I could sculpt, I would like to do so like this!
We stop at a lovely waterfall, then in Gig Harbor Washington to eat lunch at Anthony’s- my sister Jo and her husband Ken’s favorite seafood restaurant. I send her a photo knowing that the memory will bring a smile to her, even tho she will always grieve for her beloved husband who passed away just four years ago. Lunch is delicious - Collin deems it the best BLT he's ever had! No oysters available today, which is my main reason for stopping but the avocado stuffed with bay shrimp and their tasty clam chowder make me smile too.
We arrive in the evening at Bernie’s. Bernie and Janet are +40 year best friends of Collin. Janet is currently in Brazil and Argentina touring with friends of theirs. We spend two lovely days visiting with Bernie who brings us up to date on all that has been happening while we were gone. Not having a working phone and being in the wilderness most of the time, we are shocked to hear of the hurricanes that have swept thru the US and Caribbean as well as the ridiculous bully fight going on for such incredibly high stakes between Kim and Donald. They both need a long time out!
Wednesday, Sept 20- Washington
A long hot bath is never to be overrated for me. At Bernie’s, my first bath in over four weeks is such a pleasure! We reluctantly leave Bernie’s just before noon to head home. First stop is down the Olympic Peninsula at Hamma Hamma Bay Oyster company where I purchase a dozen Xtra Smalls from a nearby bay where the water is cold. Tonight, they are my dining pleasure as I have not one but two Oyster knives I keep in the van…just in lucky case I find oysters along my way.
We set our sites for Mt St Helen’s but we arrive to learn it is totally invisible due to rain, clouds and fog. We head further south and turn in at Woodland, OR for Merrill Lake, a small dot with a tent to represent camping on our map. We arrive there to find we are the only ones camping there. Lucky for us, the Camp Host is gone for the season but his RV pad is perfect for us as the rest of the sites are walk-ins. The moss is dripping from the trees and we discover their Interpretive Old Growth Trees Trail. It is a very well done one mile loop through fabulous old growth - we're talking trees that are 800-1000 years old! Doug firs, stumps from western Cedars that were demolished in an earthquake in the 1400’s, and mushrooms! I'm a newbie at mycology but avid since my January visit to Mushroom Camp - a three day event I attended in Sonoma County. There, I was especially thrilled to learn that it is okay to pick the mushrooms-their mycelium root system is left in tact so it is akin to picking the fruit off a tree. I find a tree fungus called an Artist's Conk because one can draw on its underside and it leaves an indelible mark. It becomes my Daily Painting. Chicken in the Wind is a first siting for me as well as a varnish polypore which is shiny like it has been varnished.
Thursday, Sept 21 - Oregon
We take I5 all the way through the state today and make it over the border into California by night fall. At Redding, we turn west towards Weaverville. Our destination is Whiskeytown Reservoir. We visit a waterfall at French Gulch. It's dry chaparral terrain and the first night since first leaving the US on our trip that it is warm enough to sit outside at the picnic table!
Friday, Sept 22 -Home again
We left on this Bucket List Journey exactly five weeks ago today. It's been a daily wilderness experience as we always choose the backroad to travel on. Alaska was spectacular in the extremes it possesses- the highest mountains in North America and yet the most inaccessible ones - they always seem far away and there are no roads to most all of them! We spotted 36 species of wildlife from the Alaskan Wildlife List, even tho some were in Canada. We saw several grizzlies (none up close!), black bears that wandered across our roads, moose everywhere, caribou, a lynx, a red fox, and, we think, a black wolf. Fortunate for our timing, the salmon were running so we got to witness them trying to jump up a waterfall, in their final matings, and some already dead in the water. While Alaska was amazing, we loved British Columbia as much and will travel there again and again we hope. The Yukon Territory was interesting and also very beautiful. The Milepost Guide described our journey as having ‘miles and miles of miles and miles’. Yes, there were long stretches but we did not ever tire of the scenery nor of the wildlife and the flora. At the end of the trip, the journey proved worthy of being a Bucket List Trip, one that we heartily recommend for any and everyone. I am thankful most of all for the our wonderful Mercedes Sprinter van that Collin created as our ‘tiny home’ and for his companionship, his driving skills (he drove the entire 10,000 miles!), and his love, even when it stretched thin as often happens on a long journey!