Washington and Canada – Victoria to Osoyoos

Poor Cody struggled with the ferry ride from Port Angeles to Victoria. The water was rough and there was a lot of movement in the boat that Cody didn’t understand. He was allowed in the passenger compartment above the vehicle deck so he could stay with me but he was constantly up and down and very stressed. There was little I could do for him. Kye, on the other hand, did just fine and slept most of the way.

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Customs and immigration in Victoria was the toughest I’ve been through and apparently my answers didn’t inspire confidence in the Canadian Border Agents as I was told to pull aside and wait. Eventually I was asked more questions. Without a fixed address and permanent job in the US apparently I come across as a possible illegal immigrant (2-3 weeks planned in Canada without permanent ties to the US other than a passport and 90% of my belongings still in Washington). The border agent was perfectly nice and just doing her job and after a quick search and a few more questions we were permitted to go.

I let the dogs run free at one of the many off-leash dog parks along the coast and then headed inland a way to see the city. I parked the truck in one of the free parking garages in Victoria and left the dogs to sleep. Sometimes I wish I had a van for roadtrips but when it is hot out the truck is better for the dogs as they have shade under the toolbox. The only spaces were on the fifth level and it certainly took some maneuvering to get around some of the tighter turnings to get there with such a large truck and my vertical height was pushing the limit…I kept ducking involuntarily when the beams got close. I wandered downtown and the harbor area and eventually stopped at what looked like a very British pub for lunch…sadly it wasn’t as English as it looked and certainly didn’t list any kind of English/ Irish/ Scottish food on the menu.

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With the weather looking pretty unpleasant I decided to make the longer journey north to Black Creek rather than wait it out in a local Provincial Park. The three hours north on the Inland Island Highway was fairly unpleasant due to the constant rain and dark clouds. I stopped briefly at Cabela’s for a short break and debated staying but was completely over the constant rain and continued on.

An old friend of mine from the UK had put me in touch with a friend of hers on Vancouver Island and it was to their place I was heading. I arrived just as dark was settling and I drove past the place once. The house still had lights on and I had been told to “head on in” when I arrived…which I did. It was chilly but very homey and I quickly got a fire going in the wood stove to drive out the damp chill.

The house was wonderful and reminded me of several places in the UK, and my host was a great collector of fabulous clocks. I made myself at home and drank a couple of local beers…something I enjoyed very much after a stressful drive. The dogs made themselves quite at home with the massive dog bed in the living room.

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My host arrived home and we spent a couple of hours talking, drinking and getting to know each other, and talking about fond memories of a very special friend. It was a wonderful evening and I completely felt at home…probably too much so. I went to sleep that night in one of the most comfortable beds I have ever laid in and passed out into the most wonderful dreams.

The next week passed in a blur. Andy and his girlfriend, Emily, took me to dinner at a fabulous Chinese buffet one night and I was introduced to his daughter, Kelda, and her boyfriend. They were wonderful hosts and great conversation for the evening. Over the next few days I explored the local beaches with Emily and the dogs, the city of Campbell River, and a really great brew pub with a whole lot of very cute bearded lumberjack-types eating dinner…it was a good time.

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I checked out a couple of hikes to waterfalls in the area. Elk River Falls near Campbell River was the first I did as it was close to Andy and Emily’s place. A mile-long hike from the parking lot, it was easy to find but the path was certainly steep after the first half mile. The views once out of the trees were incredible and the roar of the falls was deafening. To get the best view of the falls you have to cross a slightly-scary suspension bridge that moves A LOT; not recommended for nervous dogs or people with a fear of heights. Even for someone without those fears it was a slightly disconcerting experience but the up close and personal overlook of the falls was worth a few uncomfortable steps.

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All too soon a week was gone; I didn’t want to overstay my welcome and I headed out. I made a brief detour to Port Alberni, driving past/through Cathedral Grove (the place was way too busy to make me want to stop) with the intent of camping in the area. However I didn’t find the town too inspiring and we didn’t do much except play in the park and check out the boardwalk.

On the way back from Port Alberni we stopped at Little Qualicum Falls. It was a lovely two mile hike that followed the river up one side and down the other and crossed a couple of bridges. It was a dog friendly trail although not as easy to navigate with dogs on leashes, which is required, and my two are used to being able to get out from under my feet and climb rocks without a 6ft limitation.

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The last set of waterfalls we stopped at I did alone and left the dogs in the truck. Englishman River Falls. The most notable thing about the upper falls on this river is that it flows sideways into one of the narrowest waterfall canyons in British Columbia. The narrowness of the canyon also makes it difficult to establish the exact height of the waterfall but it is somewhere between 75-100ft. It is an easy hike and below the lower falls is a great swimming hole that is popular during the summer.

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BC has a nice website to show camping locations and I found one not too far from Naniamo where I would be taking the ferry from in the morning. I camped one night in a horse camp before hopping on the ferry to Vancouver. Thankfully this was a much bigger boat and I asked for a top level location to park the truck; I was able to stay with the dogs and the vehicle, but being larger the ferry had so much less movement that Cody didn’t care.

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Vancouver was a brief stop for lunch and to let the dogs out and play before we headed for the Canadian crossing of the Cascade Mountains.

A decent campsite outside of Princeton, alongside the river, was our home for the night. I gathered some great firewood and got a wonderful fire going in the afternoon and kept it going as dusk came upon us. With bed in mind and as darkness fell I dropped off some extra firewood I had collected to the people in the Class A that had pulled in behind just behind me and was invited to join them for a fire. I made the mistake of grabbing an extra beer as I thought they would be social for a while but alas they hung out for 20 minutes and then headed inside….and I was no longer interested in finishing my beer.

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I awoke with the sun to a light dusting of snow on the ground and on the truck. The dogs’ water bowl had a decent layer of ice on top of the water. I dismantled the truck camp quickly in the cold and was ready to head down the road. It was a beautiful albeit cold and damp morning as we headed for the US border in Oosoyos and covered some amazing terrain.

The border crossing in eastern Washington back into the US was far less painful than the crossing into Canada. I think that the minor border crossings are far less strict and worrisome than the major ones and would highly recommend finding the less-busy locations, especially in the height of tourist season or weekends. Of course I am a US citizen which makes it a lot easier to cross this way than the other.

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Washington and Canada – Yelm to Port Angeles

Mail always seems to take forever to show up when you are waiting on something specific, in this case a new day pack. It was something I needed to take with me.

Now that the RV and most of my belongings had been sold it was just back to the dogs and me in the truck on the road and we headed out on a beautiful Monday afternoon. I bid my friends farewell and headed south from the Mt. Rainier area towards Portland. A quick stop at the bank and to grab a salad for lunch from Safeway was all the break I took on the way to Astoria, Oregon. Scenic views and port river bridges provided the background to the country music on the radio I listened to as I drove.

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A less-than-pleasant bridge across the Columbia River dumped me on the Oregon side of the Columbia River and we followed Hwy 30 for an hour before reaching the quaint town of Astoria.

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When I reached Astoria a sign pointed me to the Astoria Column and I thought “why not?” and drove up some crazy-steep hills and followed roads that weren’t well sign-posted (sound familiar?) to finally find the column and the 30 acre city park. There was an entry fee that I didn’t think was worth paying just to look at a carved column and the view so the attendant permitted me to drive in to turn around.

I shot a few pictures of the column which was built in 1926 with financing by the Great Northern Railway and Vincent Astor, the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, in commemoration of the city’s role in the family’s business history. Patterned after the Trajan Column in Rome (and Place Vendôme Column in Paris), the Astoria Column was dedicated on July 22, 1926. In 1974, the column was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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After checking out the tower I parked along the main road and headed to the local brew pup for a pint of the local ale which was a pretty decent IPA although slightly too citrusy for me; I could have drank another but decided it was time to move on. I wandered downtown briefly but saw little of interest and then followed the river back to the truck, pausing to take a couple of pictures of yet another dreaded bridge that would be taking me back into Washington and the massive ships on the river.

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The rest area we spent the night was not ideal but it was a safe place to park. I got some sleep but it wasn’t the greatest…too much traffic and we were parked on an angle. As soon as it was reasonably light I was packing up and driving again. The fog made for some dreary driving but it made for a pretty amazing sunrise over the river.

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The clouds finally lifted near South Bend and it was nice to pause to allow the dogs to run for a while. Even the cobwebs on the trees looked amazing in the sun.

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I hadn’t planned on driving so much but there was little to do with the colder weather, and there were few to no camping locations along the coast…at least no free ones. I continued to drive north, taking a break at one of the beaches with the dogs…their first time to experience the waves of the ocean. I kept them back from the surf as the waves were pretty hefty and I didn’t want them to get dragged in. I let them run for a while and pose for pictures on some driftwood before heading back to the truck.

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A quick detour through the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park was gorgeous but the trails didn’t feel particularly inspiring and I just played with the dogs in the picnic area. The highlight was the herd of elk along the highway that were happy to pose for a couple of close-up pictures.

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From the Hoh we headed to Forks (home of the dreaded “sparkly” vampires of Twilight) where I grabbed a bite to eat and drink beer before heading to a campsite near Beaver Lake. It was a wonderful quiet night even if it was chilly and I slept well.

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I was up later in the morning and had slept better than the night before, but we were still back on the road by 8am.

We passed the beautiful blue Crescent Lake and found ourselves in Port Angeles much earlier than expected. I found the ferry terminal and the lady recommended I book my ticket online as it was cheaper so I headed back to the truck and booked my ticket for Friday morning.

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I spent the rest of the day exploring the local area and visited the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge where you could look down from the bluffs to the sandy beaches. I didn’t make the hike along the sand spit to the lighthouse but I did make the drive to the town of Dungeness and saw the lighthouse from a beach there. We also headed to Port Townsend and then to Ironwood County Beach Park where we took a long walk on the beach…it was a great time for the dogs and they could get out and stretch their legs after being mostly stuck in the truck for the better part of three days.

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I ate a terrible BLT in Sequim before heading to the best campsite yet above Blyn. Rain threatened so we hunkered down in the truck for a while as it sprinkled a few rain drops on the roof as we listened to the radio.

The morning dawned chilled and damp as we packed up and headed back down the rough dirt road and headed for Port Angeles. I checked in with the attendants early and then went in search of a mail box to mail my sister’s birthday card while I was still in the US. It was definitely chilly and a guy almost ran us over as we crossed a street, honky and yelling at me despite the fact that I was in a crosswalk and had the right of way. Some people are just jerks.

Soon it was time to head back to the truck and get ready to take the dogs on their first boat ride.

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RV No More

After arriving at my friend’s place in Washington I was still feeling that same feeling I had in Arizona…something was missing. I was surrounded by the things I wanted….water, trees, grass, more water, and some snow, and I had friends here…but there was still something that didn’t feel right.

I had spent the last seven years in Wyoming with a good job, quite a few good friends, and family I saw for three months a year when they visited from England…and that is what I was missing. My reasons for moving to and living in the US were no longer the same reasons I had left the UK and stayed in the US.

I realized that my adventures in the US were coming to end after 20 years; it was time to move back to the UK and make memories and create new adventures with my family and old friends, not to mention explore Europe. It was a decision that I had already started to make before I had gone back to the UK in 2017; I knew eventually I would move back as family got older…I just hadn’t expected it to be so soon. I had thought I would be in the US as long as my dogs lived, and to complete a thru-hike of the PCT when they were gone…and THEN move back to the UK after a four month trip to New Zealand. My, how things change.

With my decision mostly made and 95% certain I chatted with my mom and the decision became 100% after hearing myself talk about it. I booked my ticket home for October 3rd so I could enjoy one last summer in the US and get in more road-trips, a wedding and as much backpacking as possible.

Somehow I managed to pack up everything I owned and wanted to keep and sell the RV within 6 days of arriving in Washington. I didn’t get what I wanted for it, especially with all the upgrades (and the 200W of solar I had JUST installed 3 weeks prior) and everything I let go with it but I did get more than my minimum. I was also able to sell the hitch separately which helped. Everything was either then stored in the hay shed or donated to the local Goodwill.

My friends graciously let me stay with them while I had my truck checked out for a couple of issues. During that time I started getting my travel itinerary and summer organized and packed up almost everything to be shipped to the UK. After a month I knew I was over-staying my welcome. I was also itching to be traveling. With no RV and just my truck, and the dogs and me, I was ready to embrace freedom and on March 19th I headed to the coast and then on to Canada.

So my RV life is over but my nomadic travels with the pawprints in my life are not. Do I regret it? No; I loved the 6 months I spent with the RV but it was also too big for what I needed, although perfect size for what my original plan had been (work in one place for 8 months and travel for 4). There have been many times over the past few months since selling it that I have felt relief at not having to haul it. I do miss the space when the weather is crappy and the three of us are stuck in 36sq ft of truck cab, or the days it would be nice to just chill and watch a movie and do nothing. I miss the fridge and having my own bathroom and shower, but the convenience of being able to randomly and easily find campsites with just the truck more than makes up for it, not to mention using less fuel.

So it is farewell to RV life and hello to truck life