The Olympic Peninsula
A cabin in the woods: Some good friends of ours hooked us up with a cabin on the Olympic Peninsula and we were excited to spend a weekend in the woods and out of the city. It was a marvelous couple of days where we did nothing but read and nap and watch movies.
Olympic National Park: We had been treated to snow-peaked mountains at various occasions during our trip (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon) and the Olympic Mountains in north-west Washington were equally amazing. After driving uphill for 45 minutes on the Hurricane Ridge Road, we found ourselves looking out upon a panorama of magnificent white-tipped peaks. We spent the afternoon walking mountain-top trails among dozens of black-tailed deer and adorable (but endangered) marmots. We even caught site of a few black bears (through binoculars). The sky was really clear and by looking north we could see Vancouver Island and Victoria in surprising detail while to the east, Mount Baker towered over the surrounding countryside. As the sun set, we drove down the mountainside and camped in one of the park’s many beautiful forested valleys.
The Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria: Taking the ferry is almost always a great experience (weather permitting, but even then..), and we had another gorgeous day as we crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca. While the beer was expensive, it was pretty sweet to drink a pint while sitting on the top deck looking out at the ocean and mountains in the distance.
Bonus: The Galley and Pub at the New Pleasant Harbor Marina (nice little spot in the middle of nowhere to have a coffee or beer and check our email).
Victoria, British Columbia
Friends: It’s always nice to run into friends on the road and unsurprisingly we have more friends scattered around Canada than the States. We spent a good week relaxing in and around Victoria reconnecting with some of these folks and will spend another week here before we leave the Island.
Goldstream Provincial Park: Our pal Seamus drove us to Goldstream with the goal of getting our photos on “the trestle”. Running alongside the park is a currently inactive rail line, and after a short but steep hike up to the rail line, we walked out onto the railway trestle 100+ feet above the creek and below. It was somewhat terrifying, but by staying in the middle of the tracks there wasn’t really anything bad that could happen. We enjoyed the view, took some photos, and then hiked back down again.
Disc Golf: While Amalia had played some ultimate frisbee previously, Ben had only thrown frisbees in the most casual of circumstances. But neither of us had ever played disc golf. Essentially, it’s golf with frisbees where the goal is to navigate your disc around different obstacles with the goal of hitting a specific pole or getting the disc in a basket. We played our first game with friends on a guerrilla disc golf course in the woods. It was awesome!
Sombrio Beach: Despite having driven up the coast all the way from Los Angeles, we had yet to find a place where we could camp right on the beach. When the opportunity presented itself, we couldn’t turn it down. After picking up food, beer, and a bunch of friends, we drove along the south coast of Vancouver Island to Sombrio Beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. The beach was beautiful, camping there was awesome, and staying up drinking beers around the fire while eating chili-dogs made the experience just about perfect. The coolest part is that, at the east end of the beach there is a small stream that flows down into the ocean. By following the stream inland for only a hundred feet, we suddenly found ourselves in a thin slot canyon with towering walls and the stream running along the bottom. By walking in the stream a bit, the canyon quickly reveals a spectacular hidden waterfall streaming down from above. It’s the type of thing we would never have discovered if not for some awesome local hosts.
Reading on the rocks at low tide: When the ocean tide goes out, the rocky tide pools left behind are something beautiful. Pulling a chair out onto the rocky flats and reading in the early morning sun brings a special kind of peace.
Shirley Delicious: A legendary gem of a café near Sooke. We stopped here on the way back from camping. The food was amazing and the overly-enthusiastic service was equally enjoyable.
Taking a dunk in the lake on a hot day: Our first week in Victoria was wicked hot and we were so excited when (after a lovely hike in Francis King Regional Park and giant sandwiches from Red Barn Market) we were taken by our friends JoAnne and Kelly to Prospect Lake for a swim. We probably haven’t done enough swimming on this trip (water is cold!) but lounging on the rocks snacking, drinking, chatting, and swimming made for a lovey afternoon.
Lotus Pond Vegetarian Restaurant: We’ve had no shortage of vegetarian food to be found on our trip, but it’s nice to find a pure vegetarian restaurant with an extensive menu of delicious Chinese food. Happily for Amalia, all the food was also onion-free. It was really, really good!! We have already made plans to return here at least one more time before leaving the Island.
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites: We had such a great time visiting National Parks in the US that we decided we should try to do the same in Canada. The closest site to us was Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse so we headed there on our way to explore the rest of the Island. What a contrast. It became pretty clear pretty fast that Canadian Parks just aren’t being funded on the same level as their American counterparts. There were cobwebs and debris throughout the Fort, the Lighthouse was in better shape but not all the exhibits were functional, and there were only enough staff to manage the welcome centre (cuts to Parks Canada run very deep and have been so destructive to the workers). Despite that, we learned a lot about all the efforts invested in Pacific maritime defense (even if they were never required).
Bonus: Habit Coffee (good coffee but no wifi), Charlotte and the Quail (a lovely café beside a small botanical garden), The Drake Eatery (bar with great West Coast beer), The Jam (delicious brunch spot), outdoor concerts (drinking beer on a barge with live bands is great), Brickyard Pizza, Parsonage Café (great coffee and Ben had his first cold brew but also no wifi!).