During the rainy afternoon of Monday, August 22nd, we drove to the border control station, ready and excited to spend a couple of days in British Columbia. Our excitement was dampened a bit when the agent at the booth started asking more questions than we expected. Apparently, being unemployed and just driving aimlessly in a van raises some suspicion (who would have thought?), but we made it through and started to drive north!
Our plan was to head in the direction of Whistler first and then come back south to Vancouver the next day. So, we stopped at Alice Lake Provincial Park to camp for the night. It was a beautiful campground with huge sites…and the nicest picnic tables we’ve seen so far (picture below)!
It continued to rain through the night, but the sun peeked through in the morning, just in time for us to make the rest of the drive up to the beautiful mountains of Blackcomb and Whistler, the setting for the 2010 Winter Olympics. We wandered around the villages at the base of each mountain, grabbed some breakfast and then drove south a bit to where some of the events took place in 2010, such as the ski jumping and cross country skiing. It was interesting to think of what it must have been like to be there at the time of the olympics with the crowds and the snow. We hope to return one day to ski in the area!
We started south again and stopped at a Starbucks for a little while to get some work done (and that’s where we found out about the earthquake on the east coast!).
A little while later, we hit the road again for Vancouver and on the way, experienced the amazing views of the ocean and mountains from the Sea to Sky Highway. On our way up, there had been too much rain and fog to see past the edge of the road, but we lucked out with sun and clear skies on our way down and thank goodness!
On Tuesday evening, we checked into our hotel, which was in an area of Vancouver with a large Asian presence. Consequently, we ate an awesome dinner of Chinese food – delicious!!
On Wednesday, we set out to explore Vancouver and get a one-day introduction (as with most places we’ve visited, you can only scratch the surface with a one or two day visit. That’s why we have so many places to return to!). We started at the Granville Island Market, a must-see on the list of Vancouver’s sights. Its many stalls of local produce, homemade products and delicious food can keep you wandering for hours. We had lunch (and dessert) there! While we were outside taking pictures, we also had our second (and final) celebrity sighting (we think) of the trip…Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame. He walked right past us, but only Kaitlin saw him. Sooo, if you’re keeping track, we have seen the side of Mena Suvari’s face and Sam Neill. Epic.
After leaving the market, we drove to Stanley Park, the Central Park of Vancouver, which is a beautiful and peaceful haven within the city. It includes walking and biking trails through trees and past lakes and amazing flower gardens to wander through. Within the park, we came across a collection of totem poles. Totem poles are tall sculptures carved from trees that tell a story of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest. The ones displayed in Stanley Park were created by a number of different artists over the years, some replicas of previously created structures and some original.
From Stanley Park, we got biodiesel and then drove up to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The admission fee was a little out of our budget (it’s on our return list and is another must-see in the area), but we walked the ground exhibits, saw a bit of the campus and took in the views of the water below. It was time to head back to the U.S. then, so we got on the road and crossed the border into Washington in the early evening.
We stayed at Birch Bay State Park that night and woke up on Thursday morning ready to head east for the first time in four months…until we realized that Kaitlin had left a folder of important documents in the Starbucks we had visited two days prior…in Canada. We needed the paperwork and the Starbucks was about two hours away over the border, so we decided to go and get the folder instead of have them send it to us (we called and they told us they had it locked in their safe! Wow!). So, it was back to Canada! We arrived there in the late morning and then started back and crossed the border again into the U.S. in the early afternoon. We won’t bore you with pictures of our second border crossing, but they were very similar to the first, just a day later.
We then drove south through Washington to hook up with the major highway which would take us east. We stayed in Lake Easton State Park that night.
The next day (Friday, August 26th) consisted of lots of driving through the rest of Washington (which became very desert-like), then beautiful Idaho and finally into scenic Montana, where we stayed in Lolo National Forest. We’ll pick up from here in our next post, where we’ll talk about Yellowstone National Park (did you know that it sits on top of one of the world’s largest active volcanoes?) and Mount Rushmore (did you know that it was carved specifically to increase tourism in the area? And, it has a little-known “secret” behind the mountain.)!