(Photo, Port Renfrew tide pools)
We began the longest road trip of our lives the last two weeks of July from Southern California up to seven hours (driving time) shy of Alaska!
There is literally so much to take in along the way to see it's mind boggling. I think Northern California coastline all the way up to Seattle is a month journey in itself. Since Vancouver Island was our final destination, we basically drove inland up to Washington with hotel stays along the way.
While staying at one hotel, Jerry noticed a brochure for North West Trek Wildlife Park
in Washington. I highly recommend it. (Find it on Facebook) Situated in deep forest with enclosures so natural for each species, it's often difficult to find them mid-day while most are resting. They do offer up a tram ride through the facility which we found quit lovely. There were photo opps around every turn. Species include Dall sheep, Elk, Bison Big Horn sheep, Deer as well as water fowl in a absolutely gorgeous colorful pond. In the separate enclosures there were Wolves, Black Bear, Bobcat, Cougar, Lynx and too many more to mention.
Here is one shot of a juvenile Big Horn Sheep. It's hind leg looked to be broken or injured in some way. They do have an interesting way of managing the herds within the park. They do not intervene if an animal becomes injured. They let nature run it's course. It's often difficult for many to find this just given most parks are considered caretakers. However, This facility leaves most of it's inhabitants alone as if in its natural habitat.
Onward up to Canada with Whistler being our first day of exploration. The highway offers some of the most beautiful views of scattered Islands however, since the road was re-done for the Olympics, there are no turnouts for photo opps.
We found Whistler just a bit too much like Vail and Aspen Colorado. There were too many shops, hotels and touristy stuff for us outdoor enthusiast. We drove there and turned right around. Jerry took a side road off to the right on the way back down. There along this two lane road we are both seeing scat probably 10 feet in distance each on both sides of the asphalt. BEARS! OK, now I'm thrilled and eyeballs scanning as much territory as possible! We only saw one juvenile nibbling bits on a ridge. Grizzly!
Nope, won't be getting out of the car for any hiking along this road. I shot off a number of photos not expecting much given the brush and distance. Nope, a quick check of the screen and marginal at best. Nothing I could use for a painting. But not disappoint either.
We set out for the Ferries to Vancouver Island early next morning. Once we arrived in Sidney we made for our temporary hotel and then off for discovery. We began our drive up through Sooke toward Renfrew.
It was difficult taking scenic photos along this two lane road. The forest is so dense and few open areas along the way. And with the Islands 14 or 15,000 black bear along with Cougar (I'm not sure of the cougar counts), somewhere in there, I would not be hiking through any unmarked trails. The photo here shows a small opening. I took this one of course with a flash. It was literally black and so dense with vegetation, it would be difficult without a machete to even enter. And, that's just not my style! I did take a number of photos on trails however. Most of the images I took accompanied a thought about my friend and photographer Mike who always harps about me not using a Tripod! A Tripod would have been especially useful here! I found the very low light challenging in taking clear photos ! "Yup, Mike you were right!"
The sounds in the forest were also interesting. crunching, snapping and occasional unidentifiable bird chirps. It was the lack of sounds that made us particularly nervous at times being that we were seemingly the only humans for miles. Jerry and I were sure this should have been the forest used in Lord of the Rings movie. And surely, there should be a fairy or gnome popping out and any given moment.
Banana Slugs were everywhere! We were amazed at the size of many of them. I think they might have been around 4 inches in length or longer!