Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest, WA, USA - 41st and Final Stop on our Trek North to Alaska

Gerda our GPS said, "Welcome to the USA" as we left Canada and entered Washington, the Evergreen State.  Some welcome we got--road construction and major traffic all the way on Highway 5!  Oh well, check-in at Denny Creek Campground within Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest was not until 4 p.m., and they were adamant that no early arrivals are allowed.

Denny Creek Campground is a beautiful, wooded park. Unfortunately, the pull thru sites are problematic for long rigs like Big Boomer.  Although the sites are paved, they are on a curve and have boulders as boundary markers.  Plus the electric hookup boxes are sometimes set too close to the parking pavement, making it an easy object to hit.  We squeezed into the spot eventually and were delighted with the size of our picnic area, complete with table, fire pit, and platform if you wanted to put up a tent or canopy.

The last thing we wanted to do was buck traffic to visit Seattle, especially since we toured there on a previous trip.  So my family opted to relax around the campfire and enjoy the hiking trails that originate in the park, including the historic Snoqualmie Wagon Trail.

The Franklin Trail is known for being very family-friendly.  It is an easy hike with a water fall and water pools, top on the list of fun for kids and doggies, too.

Denny Creek Trail is more moderate, with some very rocky areas, but the payoff is terrific:  water pools, stepped falls, and apparently an area sun lovers come to soak in the rays.  I was all ready to join some old geezer with a pot belly wearing a g-string, but Mom put the kibosh on my plans.

Look at the sun's ray shining down on Dad!

We turned around shortly beyond this point, making our outing a 6+-mile hike.  But real adventurers can continue uphill about another mile to enjoy the alpine Melakwa Lake.

Last night we shared our campfire, remembrances, and Mom's popcorn with Claudia/Mike (and Little Chip, too!).  Alas, this is our final stop together on this joint journey to The Last Frontier.  And a good trip it was!  A 5-cheeser, for sure!  We are so blessed to have had the opportunity to see this gorgeous part of our country and some lovely areas of Canada as well.


This trip of a lifetime definitely earns my coveted                5-cheese award!

To all the folks in RVillage, we thank you for sharing your trips with us and for allowing us to share ours with you!   It was a pleasure to meet many of you in person, too!  I hope you'll check in with me from time to time as I continue to write my blog.  I plan on doing an Alaskan fiscal budget recap and "what I would do differently" summary in upcoming editions in an effort to assist RVers who plan to be the "North to Alaska Class of 2017".

Well, we are heading back to Texas--and not a moment too soon.  I've got a hankering' for some BBQ and rib-eyes.
And so friends, until we all meet again, safe travels on your future journeys!


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fort Langley, BC - Stop 40 on our Trek North to Alaska

We had a very scenic drive from Whistler on Wednesday as we headed to Vancouver, taking in the glacial views at Tantalus Lookout and the refreshing, cool waters of Howe Sound.

As we approached Vancouver, we learned we must cross the Port Mann Bridge, a cable suspension bridge with a toll.  We had no idea what the cost would be for our 4-axle set-up.  We said a little prayer that it would be cheaper than the George Washington Bridge (GWB) crossing from New Jersey into New York City, since we only have $35 Canadian left in cash.  As we edged closer, we learned there is no toll booth to pass through to pay your money.  You must pay on-line within 7 days or in person at one of two service offices.  We were relieved when we learned it cost only $6.30 for Big Boomer and the rig one-way, a bargain compared to $84 US cash (or $62 US with EZ Pass) for the GWB!

We took the recommendation of our BC friends, Steve and Dianne, and stayed at Fort Camping Park on Brae Island in Fort Langley, BC, just outside Vancouver.  And they did not steer us wrong.  The Park offers full hook up (30 AMP), spacious sites with trees and foliage to give you the full camping experience within walking distance of Towne Centre.  It is very family oriented with planned activities for children (it was Christmas in August when we stayed), a swimming pool, and a café and general store where you could use free Wi-Fi.

Since my family visited Vancouver and Victoria previously, we decided to explore areas we did not tour on our prior trip.  So we spent considerable time right in Fort Langley.  It is a quaint river town with a unique and tasteful blend of historical buildings/homes and modern, luxurious housing developments within a pastoral, canopied setting.  It has a terrific trail system, giving you easy walking/hiking access to rivers, streams, woods, fields, and urban areas.  We particularly enjoyed the Fort-to-Fort Trail along the Bedford Channel and Fraser River, which connected the original site of the historic Hudson’s Bay Company Fort to the location of its replica, and it linked to other trails along the way.  I filled my belly with wild blackberries, apples, and even pears from a tree that dated back to the 1890s!  Talk about heirloom plantings!  The trail offered awesome views of Mt. Baker and Golden Ears.

Fort Langley Community Hall, Built 1932

St. George Anglican Church, Built 1901

Canadian National Rail Station, Built 1915

Holy Redeemer Church, Built 1897-1902 on First Nations' MacMillan Island.  Golden Ears Mountains in background.

Modern, luxury riverfront condos

PoPo's palatial waterfront dream home, complete with personal aircraft and boat (too big for picture!)

Quaint home near Towne Centre in Fort Langley

View of Washington State's Mt. Baker

View of Golden Ears Mountains

Lovely walking trails

We visited the replica Fort free of charge through our Parks Canada pass.  Only one storehouse, built in 1840, is from the original site.  The Hudson’s Bay Company first traded in furs, then salmon, and eventually in agriculture, and encourage its staff to marry aboriginal women just to open more trade outlets.  What people won’t do for a buck!  When gold was discovered in the Fraser River in 1858, the Fort evolved into a retail operation and from its Big House, Great Britain announced the establishment of the colony of British Columbia.

Dad standing in front of the storeroom, the only building from the original Fort

I wouldn’t have minded overnighting in a yurt-type tent at the replica Fort!  Yes, for $120 Canadian/night, these tents have everything you need--fridge, fan, heater, dishes, and outdoor grill to use.  You just need to bring a sleeping bag/bedding and your food!  And you get the exclusive benefit of roaming the outside grounds of the fort and feeding the barnyard animals.  How cool is that!

This guy would love for you to provide him dinner!

After walking 11 miles in one day with temperatures in the high 80s/low 90s, we were running on empty, our bodies needing fuel.   I am a champion of small, family-owned/operated businesses.  So it seemed fitting to eat at Mangia e Scappa, an Italian bistro and market specializing in homemade pastas and brick-fired pizza.   I fell in love with the inexpensive, but tasteful décor.  The lovingly displayed family portraits adorning the walls matched the faces of the people working there, although all have aged.    Gotta love a paisano!

Family portraits--from the old country to the new

If you have read my blogs before, you know I am a very harsh food critic—nobody, I say nobody, makes pizza like the whole-in-the-wall joints in New York and New Jersey.  So rather than experience another pizza disappointment (read my tirade "Popo's Pursuit of the Perfect Pizza" from South Dakota in 2015), we opted for the fried calamari and their daily special of chicken and pasta in a pesto cream sauce.  Surprisingly, it was quite good and reasonably priced!  It's worth a visit just to drool over the homemade Italian pastries, cookies, and other delicacies.

Speaking of paisano, look who I ran into in town!  My cousin twice removed, Gus Gus!  His owners are evicting him!   They will give him away for free if you take him off their hands, but for him to keep his worldly possessions, it will cost you $25 Canadian.  I asked if we could adopt him, but my parents said one rat in the family is more than enough!

Can you find it in your heart to adopt Gus Gus?

We hopped on the motorcycles on Friday to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Rainforest.  The first bridge was built in 1889 of cedar planks and hemp ropes by George MacKay, whose sole purpose of building a bridge was to find out what was on the other side of his 6,000 acres on Capilano Canyon (sounds like “why did the chicken cross the road”, doesn’t it).  The bridge construction as well as ownership has changed several times over the last 127 years; but interestingly, this bridge has always been a privately-held attraction.

With a name like Capilano, I was perplexed that none of the owners were of Italian heritage.  Then I learned the facts:   the First Nations’ name for the Canyon and Bridge were Kia'palẵno.  The Europeans just “Anglofied” the name, hence it being called Capilano.

At 230 feet above ground and 450 feet long, the current bridge is an engineering delight in its simplicity yet stability.   I am happy to be numbered among the “Capilano Tramps”, as those who ventured over the bridge called themselves back in the day.  The Park also had a cliffwalk and tree top walks.  Mom did pretty well with her fear of heights, although she freaked out a few times when the bridge swayed heavily.  Speaking of Mom, her tailbone is still swollen from her bobsled fall in Whistler.   It is so bruised and black and blue, it looks like she has a giant Smurf tattoo on her butt!

Rambling RV Rat rushes across the bridge

This bridge is freakin' high in the sky--no wonder Mom freaked out with her fear of heights.

I stayed away from this rainforest inhabitant--he looked at me like I look at Swiss cheese!

A rainforest miniature waterfall

Dad would have liked to fish in these waters--they were stocked with trout.

We completed our tour of the Vancouver area with a visit to Stanley Park.  Although entry to the Park is free, they nab you for parking at $3.25 Canadian/hour or max of $11 Canadian/day.  Usually, we can park both bikes in one spot, thereby saving ourselves money.  But no can do in Stanley Park—they do not number their spots and instead identify payment for parking by license plate number.  And the meter police are watching, so don’t try to screw them!

Stanley Park is lovely, with something for everyone, from gardens to beaches, from an aquarium to sporting activities.  During our prior visit to Vancouver, we visited Stanley Park’s aquarium and gardens, so this time we decided to walk the Seawall Trail, an easy and picturesque 9-kilometer walk around the perimeter of the Park that gives you access to cultural, historical, and natural wonders.  We were excited to see raccoons, squirrels, seals, and blue herons while enjoying the sights of seaplanes, ships, trolleys, and horse-drawn carriages.  We watched a game of cricket, which was interesting.  And we were amazed that the leaves are already changing colors!   

A seal sunbathing!

Blue Heron

Dinner time for Gary the Gull!

Rocky Raccoon realized he had company!

The leaves are already changing colors

It was an enjoyable day, despite the white-knuckle city driving.  Traversing through Vancouver on a motorcycle is no easy feat.  Between dodging pedestrians, bicyclists, construction zones, cable cars, heavy traffic, and red light cameras, you need to stay alert.  Good thing we come from New Jersey, and can handle crazy driving conditions!

Sadly, this was our final stop in Canada.  We enjoyed visiting our North American neighbors and the country’s abundant beauty.  Tomorrow we head back to the lower 48 of the good, ole U.S.A.  Talk to you soon!