Our first stop back in the United States was Whidbey Island, Washington, in the shadow of Mt. Baker the northernmost volcanic peak in the Cascade mountain range. We parked the RV just a mile south of Deception Pass, and the scenic bridge that crosses it. The Navy has a jet base here and at times we felt like we were back in Virginia Beach, with the sound of freedom. The nearest town of Oak Harbor has a scenic waterfront dominated by an old fashioned windmill. A few days after arriving back in the USA we took the ferry back to Canada to visit friends who live in Sidney, on Vancouver Island. The scenery on the trip over and back was fantastic. We saw many beautiful boats along the way and there were hundreds of them docked at Friday Harbor. It was also neat to see so many float planes coming and going.
Upon arrival in Sidney our friends Tom and Diane Murphy met us at the dock and escorted us to our hotel. They are another Canadian couple that we have become friends with while wintering at Pueblo El Mirage in Arizona. As with Gerry and Myrna in Vancouver, Tom and Diane went out of their way to show us the sights. On our first evening in Sidney we went to the weekly downtown market on the main street. We picked up a few homemade Jams and jellies and Josie found a bracelet she could not live without. The next day we drove into the scenic city of Victoria. We had been here before but Tom and Diane showed us all the great things we had missed. From the downtown dock we took the brightly colored Pickle Boats across the channel and had a great lunch at Spinnakers Brewpub. The harbor was very active with float planes, and boats of all sizes. The Empress Hotel along with British Columbia Legislature House dominates the skyline. They took us to Beacon Hill Park where we saw the tallest totem pole and a sprinkler can water feature for the kids to play under. We also did a little browsing in the local stores and Tom tried on one of the fashionable Irish golf hats. As in the National Parks we again found the red chairs and Josie and Diana tried them out. We made one last stop in Sidney to pick up some famous Roger's chocolates before we had to catch the ferry back to the USA. We are looking forward to seeing all our Canadian friends back in Arizona in October.
I took a whale watching trip out of the port of Anacortes, Washington one afternoon. Not so much for the whales but to see a few pelagic birds without having to go out into rough waters and risk getting sea sick. For the first hour we had rain but it did stop and we were treated to Orcas and a Sea Lion. I also found a few birds along the way but had a hard time getting pictures because this was a whale watching trip and they did not stop for birds.
We spent our final three days sightseeing around Whidbey Island. We drove south down to the Admiralty Head Light House on old Fort Casey and were impressed with both the "cute" lighthouse as Josie called it and the Forts large cannons, which were never fired in war time. From the cliffs over looking Admiralty Bay we saw three Sea Lions just floating with the current. Walking back to the car we scared up a mother California Quail and her covey of young who took off in all directions into the bushes. Mother Quail stayed behind and watched to see what we would do and then she too ran into the brush. Later we saw a mother deer and her fawn grazing by the side of the road. The Western Red Cedars here grow to great heights and the one below is in Deception Pass State Park just across the highway from our site. One afternoon we had lunch at Seabolts Smokehouse, the number one rated restaurant in Oak Harbor on Trip Advisor. After our lunch of Cod and Chips and Steamed Prawns we agree with the rating. Not only did we eat well but we took home two Dungeness Crabs, a nice piece of smoked Coho Salmon and a two pound Wine Cured Salami. We ate the crab the next evening and I have a piece of the salmon with a beer every evening. We will save the salami and have it with Tillamook Cheese while we spend the next eleven days in Portland, Oregon.
We have spent the last week in the Canadian City of Vancouver, not to be confused with the city by the same name in the state of Washington. This was our first visit to Vancouver and vicinity. It is a very large metropolis of over two and a half million, with a very diverse ethic population. Like any other city of this size the traffic was horrendous. We had to get used to driving in bumper to bumper traffic again since we have not seen this much congestion since leaving Phoenix 5 months ago.
On our first day in town we went to the Granville Island Market just south of downtown Vancouver. It is a bustling shopping area with many produce, meat, seafood stalls. We ate our way through the market and bought cherries and Rogers' chocolate truffles to take home. The island at one time was an industrial area and there is still an active cement plant on the island. In keeping with the transformation from industrial area to market place they did a great job of decorating the cement towers to blend in with the festive atmosphere. That evening I attended a Vancouver Canadian's baseball game. They regularly sell out their games but I was able to get a single ticket.
One of the main reasons we decided to visit Vancouver was to visit our friends from Arizona, Gerry and Myrna Smith. Gerry got us a tee time and we played one of the courses where he is a Marshall. I was very surprised to see Sandhill Cranes all over the course. Here in this area of Canada, Black Berries grow everywhere and are considered like weeds. I ate many of them as we played our round. We had a great round followed by a nice lunch at the clubhouse with two of Myrna's grand children and her sister Darlene. The next day we met at their high rise, which has beautiful views of the city. Mount Baker in the USA seemed to tower over the city but in reality was over 60 miles away. From there we went to Grouse Mountain Park and took the gondola to the top. In the winter this is a ski area and it was where the Snow Boarding events were held during the Winter Olympics of 2010. The Mountain has adopted two orphan Grizzly Bears and we were able to see them in their enclosure. We then had a few drinks and a gourmet meal at the restaurant in the lodge, with great views of Vancouver below us. Myrna and Gerry were fabulous hosts and we had a fantastic time.
On the suggestion of Myrna and her sister Darlene, we took the Skytrain into downtown Vancouver and then road the Sea Bus over to the North Bank to the Lonsdale Quay Market. Once again we ate our way around the market, tasting quiche, lemon crepes, craft beer and cheesy bread. I also bought some smoked barbecued salmon, which is very tasty. We also picked up more fresh fruits and vegetables, including Asian Pears and White Peaches. It was a great way to spend our last day here.
Tomorrow we go back into the States for a 10 day stay on Whidbey Island, Washington.
We drove north from Banff on the Icefields Parkway one of the most scenic roads in the world according to National Geographic. It has over 100 active glaciers and you can see many of them from the road. We decided to take a tour from Jasper so we could get out onto the ice. From the Icefields Center our tour bus took us up to the edge of the Athabasca Glacier and there we boarded an Ice Explorer designed specifically for driving on the glacier. There are only 28 of them in the world and 27 are here in Jasper National Park. The other one is at the Research Station at the South Pole. Our driver and guide "Super Kyle" took us at a rapid pace of 10 miles per hour, up and down a 35% grade through a tire wash, so as not to take anymore gravel onto the glacier, and past other ice buggies on our way to the parking area on the glacier. Of course we had to have pictures taken and we even found another pair of the Red Chairs. Josie filled up her water bottle with the clear and very cold water. All around us were other hanging glaciers that at one time had connected with Athabasca glacier. It was a great adventure.
The second part of our tour took us to the Glacier Skywalk. A glass bottom walkway suspended 1000 feet out over the Athabasca River George. Even if you are not afraid of heights it is a little unnerving walking when there seems to be nothing below you but air. One of our guides then pointed out a young Mountain Goat who was sitting under the superstructure of the walkway. How he or she got to such a precarious spot on this 1000 foot cliff is baffling. As we were walking back to our pick up point for the bus we saw a beautiful male Big Horn Sheep just over the guard rail. He was not bothered at all by everyone taking his picture and seemed to pose for us.
One day we went to Miette Hot Springs and enjoyed the 105 degree waters. This made up for us not being able to get into the springs at Banff. Here too we found another pair of the red chairs.
Once again I was able to enjoy a round of golf. This time at the scenic Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course.
We had a great camp site here in Jasper with beautiful views only a few steps away. We had a female Elk and her calf walk right through our site one morning. Then later in the week a herd of 45 to 50 came through one evening. The dominate male was quite a majestic looking fellow. There is a exceptional berry crop here in the mountains this year. They say since there has been so much rain, almost every night, the berries are early and plentiful. This means there has been a lot more bear activity. The bears love the Bear Berries and the Bunch Berries and we were told a bear can eat enough in one day to equal the calories there are in 400 Big Macs. There are a few cool birds also hanging around the campground, including the Oregon race of the Slate-colored Junco, Red-breasted Nuthatch and my favorite the Gray Jay.
The final day in Jasper just happened to be Josie's Birthday. So we browsed the shops in town looking for a birthday present. She picked out a nice set of Peridot earrings, which happen to be here birth stone. Later that evening we celebrated with a fine Italian dinner at the Jasper Lodge. Tomorrow we head southwest to Kamloops, British Columbia.