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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

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Bears Do Sleep in Trees!

Sep 18, 2015
by John
in: Canada, USA

We rolled off the ferry in Prince Rupert at 2 in the morning, Wal-Mart becoming our nightly camping spot. It was surprisingly quiet except for the group of rowdy youngsters that cut across the lot shortly after we parked. The decision was made to skip Vancouver Island and drive the 900+ miles to Washington. After all of the miles we laid down in Alaska, we weren't entirely enthused.

Roughly halfway through the second day we noticed a couple backpackers on the side of the road holding up a sign for 100 Mile House. We were headed through there so we turned the van around, shaking hands as we were tossing their packs into the van. Geoffrey and Juliette, a young french couple, are Pan-Amers too...albeit quite a bit tougher than we are as they are doing it on foot.

The ride was spent getting to know each other, eventually passing 100 Mile House as it was determined their goal was Vancouver, ours was the Washington town of Sumas. Getting tired, we pulled into a campground to drop them off. They graciously offered to share their campsite which we whole heartedly accepted. Mandi whipped up a hearty, soupy stew to warm everyone up and to get some fresh veggies in the youngsters. We all were required to pre-taste it as she wasn't sure all of the random ingredients would meld properly, Geoffrey barely spoke as he wolfed dinner down, it was delicious. Caring is sharing.

After dinner, as darkness set in, we stood around exchanging wildlife encounters, me blathering on about the tiny black bear cub we encountered while driving to Eagle, Alaska. Just as we were joking about how Mandi and I seem to always see bears, Geoffrey blurted out something about two cubs. Focusing on where his headlamp was pointed, we could see two black bear cubs hanging around the tree at the edge of our campsite. A little looking around found mom, who greeted our inquisitive selves with a step-the-eff-back guttural growl.

From the safety of the van we discussed our options. Geoffrey was positive all three bears climbed the tree at the end of our site, the one directly above their tent. Move sites, move the tent, or figure out how to sleep four in a van we designed for two, hmmmm. Juliette was concerned about the food in their packs which were in the tent. Backpacks in the front seats, tent moved to the side of the van and three black bears sleeping in a tree, that is how that night would be.

Goldpanner Campground, BC, Canada

Neither too hot nor too cold, this tree was just right

The following morning the bear family was gone so we all packed up and headed to the nearest town for coffee. A couple hours later we were dropping off our new French friends in Abbotsford and hugging farewell. We know we'll see each other again down the dusty road. What a great couple and a remarkable wildlife encounter, all because we pulled over to offer a ride.

Crossing back into the States was uneventful, besides forgetting it was Labor Day and waiting in line for almost two hours to re-enter. We eventually made our way to Mt. Vernon to spend a couple of days resupplying and figuring out our route down the west coast. While there, we finally got around to joining TrustedHousesitters, $96 for an annual membership. Even though our profile needs a bit of work we reached out to a home/pet owner near Portland regarding a 10 day stint. Our luck was strong, we landed the gig and had about a week before it would start.

A little deliberation later had us scrapping plans for Seattle, it is the place that initiated our original plan 7 years ago and one we will always hold dear, heading for Olympic National Park. We side tripped to Anacortes then jumped a ferry to Port Townsend. Olympic is almost as diverse as Yellowstone, we decided to run its west side to experience the mountains, beaches, and rainforests that comprise it. We stopped at the visitor center, receiving a blessing from a ranger regarding our internet based plans, before hiking Hurricane Ridge.

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

Cue Marlboro man

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

Oh, it gets better than this if you drink a real beer

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

Trunk Monkey was so yesterday, we always travel with our Pocket Chipmunk

Resigning to the fact that campgrounds in the national parks are entirely the best option, we grabbed a site at Sol Duc for a couple of nights. The waterfall is definitely worth the short hike, the hot springs are really expensive for what they are. Never-the-less we did both, while soaking we spent over an hour talking to a couple who had driven almost the exact route through the Yukon and Alaska as we had. They recognized our van so we all shared in the delights and dilemmas of long term travel, it's not all Mai Tais and hammocks.

Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

We're chasin' waterfalls, we can't stick to the rivers and the lakes we're use to

Andrew, a Westfalia owner a couple of campsites down from us, asked if we'd toss his wood on our van to bring it back to the campground from the hot springs in exchange for a glass of wine. Of course! The evening was spent sharing stories and checking out each others' rigs. Tamara, Andrew's better half, prepared an assortment of finger food for all of us to enjoy. Thanks for the hospitality and for the route suggestions! Van people, some of the best on earth.

The following morning landed us in Forks, WA, during the Twilight Festival. No, not leisurely evening strolls as I originally thought it to be, think teenage vampire love story with a werewolf crush. Expecting a zoo, instead finding a well mannered and organized event, we topped off our diesel and hit up a local joint for some old fashioned breakfast before heading towards the beach.

The west coast shoreline is nothing like what we know of the east. It's the warning about trees in the surf that keeps us perplexed. Seeing the size of what washes up on shore has us wondering why anyone would ever get in the water. Yet, it is rather astonishing to behold. There is no question why there were so many tents strewn along Second Beach. The waves parting around the giant boulders before crashing ashore, the crisp air stinging the ears each time just a little more, and the lightly misting ocean spray blanketing the beached deadwood who will live a prolonged decay.

Rialta Beach, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

Dead Ent, Dead Ent...

Second Beach, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

When does Sean Connerry come clucking by with his umbrella?

Leaving the lure of the ocean we heeded the call of the rainforest. Ironically, we love rainforests even though we're not fond of hiking in the rain. Their allure escapes our prose, maybe it's their sensation to our eyes and nose. Wandering the spectrum of green, drippingly draped ever so, invokes the essence of being inside a fairy tale. The startling contrast of colorful fungi sparingly sprinkled, follow the trail left by Hansel and Gretel or skip along enveloped within a red cape to Grandma's house.

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

Nutolas of the Woodland Realm

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

She killed my Jabber-baby-wocky

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park, WA, USA

Hoh, Hoh, Hoh. All these years Snoops been spellin' it wrong

Say what? (2)
Sep 18, 2015 at 07:35 PM
Oh. My. TLC reference! Sad we missed your passage through the Seattle area, but it looks like you're having a blast! xo- tiff mike and the doggies
Sep 18, 2015 at 08:16 PM
You know we got to be representin' the MTV generation, even though neither of us had cable back then. We feel the same, we'll be outside of Portland until the 27th...haven't figured out where from there yet, possibly the Oregon coast. We miss you guys! xoxo
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