Camping Orcas Island

Camping Orcas Island, Washington

Summer is just getting into full swing and we are already planning our fall get away trips. The crowds will have taken the mosquitos with them and gone home. It will be time for us to enjoy some of those beautiful and less crowded campgrounds in the San Juan Islands. Orcas Island camping can be a full week experience or you can island hop and enjoy some of the great camping on Lopez or San Juan Island.

Where to Camp on Orcas-

  • There are more camping options on Orcas than other islands and if you are a tent camper this is the place for you. We like Moran State Park with its 5000 acres of hiking, biking and great camping for tents and RVs. The Mountain Lake campground puts you right at the start of many trails. Make reservations in advance.http://moranstatepark.com/
  • If you are a tent camper and want to be on the water be sure to check out Doe Bay Resort and Retreat Center. They rent cabins and yurts but also have some very unusual walk in tent sites with stunning views.https://doebay.com/
  • West Beach Resort has a few tent and RV sites but their biggest attraction are their west-facing shoreline beach cabins.http://www.westbeachresort.com/
  • Families with children should check out Mount Baker Family Campground. This is a relatively new campground with several walk-in tent only sites. They have a full gage railroad that runs through the property and several farm animals to entertain the whole family.https://mountbakerfarm.com/

Camping at Doe Bay

 

Chuckanut Westfalia Moran State Park

Moran State Park

Activities on Orcas-

  • If you are a hiker there are 30 miles of trails in Moran State Park. Challenge yourself by hiking up to Mount Constitution from Mountain Lake. Walk through a beautiful forest on your way. The top of the hike is 2409 feet and while others usually drive up, you will enjoy a great sense of accomplishment if you hike to the top. Pack a lunch and enjoy the view.

Hiking Mt. Constitution

View from the top

  • There are five lakes to explore in the park. Rent one of the boats, paddleboards or canoes at the park concession on Cascade Lake.

  • Drive toward West Sound and take a hike in the Turtleback Mountain Preserve. The reward after a gradual 800 foot climb is a beautiful view to the west looking toward Victoria B.C.
  • While you are near West Sound be sure to stop at Orcas Island Pottery. This beautiful gallery has been open since 1945 and their collection is astounding. They bring in visiting artists from around the country and their resident potter regularly adds to the collection.https://www.orcasislandpottery.com/

Orcas Island Pottery

  • Make a picnic lunch and drive down to one of the few public beaches on Orcas located on the southeast tip. Obstruction Pass State Park has a great walk in campground with beautiful views to the south and a pebble beach.  Watch the seals and shore birds as you eat your lunch.

Obstruction Pass State Park

Where to eat on Orcas– The restaurants on Orcas feature local, organic foods prepared with great care and at very reasonable prices. Here are just a few of the places to eat on the island. Discovering new places to eat makes this island a food lovers paradise.

  • Drive toward Olga and stop at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm. You select your own oysters stored in fresh seawater. Take some home to grill or buy a glass of their wine and use one of their oyster knives to have fresh oysters on the half shell. You could continue down to Obstruction Pass State Park and have your Oysters there.http://www.buckbayshellfishfarm.com/

Buck Bay Oyster

  • Stop at Island Hoppin Brewery and taste some locally made beer. We usually bring our own snacks to eat with the beer but they also have a small selection of food available. You will enjoy the small town atmosphere of this great little brewery.http://www.islandhoppinbrewery.com/
  • Our van rental customers always return with rave reviews of Hogstone’s Wood Oven in East Sound. They are only open for dinner but their farm-to-table menu with specialty pizzas will give a nice break from camp food.http://www.hogstone.com/
  • Another East Sound favorite is Roses Bakery Café. Be sure to make time to have a late breakfast or lunch here. Their café is attached to a gourmet shop and their wine selection ranges from local wines to a wide variety of European wines. Their food is all locally sourced and reasonably priced.http://www.rosesbakerycafe.com/
  • If you are camping at Moran, the Doe Bay Resort and Retreat Center is nearby and has a great little restaurant and bar. Try their Grilled Asparagus with fried wild mushrooms and poached duck eggs all covered with Hollandaise Sauce.

Doe Bay Cafe

A sign at one of the campgrounds says “Slow Down…..You are on Orcas now” That certainly sums up the island experience. The locals are friendly and always ready to make suggestions about where to camp, eat or hike. Take some time to “Slow Down” and spend a weekend or a week on Orcas. Let us know if we can help you with your vacation plans.

 

Bob and Maureen Jorgenson

Chuckanut Westfalias

 

Camping with Dogs

Chuckanut Westfalias

Camping with Dogs

( as told to Bob and Maureen by Bailey )

First let me say that I am one camp loving dog. One of the hardest things for me is when one of our rented vans heads down the driveway without me. It is not that I never get to camp. I spent over 120 nights sleeping in a van last year but I can’t seem to get enough! There is nothing better than sleeping on the floor of the van so close to Bob and Maureen and knowing that our next walk full of new sights and smells is just a few hours away.   As a fellow dog traveler I want to give you some sound advice that you should share with your owners when they take you van camping.

 

Bailey, packed up and ready to vacation!

Riding in the Van

  • I ride on the rear seat. Bob and Maureen bought me a really nice sunbrella cover and I am only allowed on the seat when the cover is in place. They get really mad if I get up on the seat without the cover and sometimes they have to shampoo the upholstery so the next renters don’t have to sleep with their face in my hair and dander. It takes two hours and they forfeit some of their deposit. I hate listening to Bob carry on as he cleans the seat.
  • I know that I am in the front seat for photos sometimes but I am so afraid to get up there that they have to bribe me with cookies. Bob and Maureen do not allow me up in the front seat….ever! (except the time Maureen broke her foot and there was no where else to sit).
  • When it is hot Bob puts little white fan on and points it toward me so that I don’t overheat. Sometimes he even closes the curtains on the sunny side of the van. Every time we stop I am allowed to get out of the van, do my business (usually at a McDonalds because they always have grass) and get a drink of water. We never ride with the overhead vent open because the plastic will break in the wind.

Chillin on the back seat!

All Alone-

  • I am so glad that we have a rule that I can never be alone in the van.…even for a quick stop. The van is my part time home and I still worry that I will be left alone in there. We were parked next to a van on the ferry once and the dog in the van next to us was left alone while the owners went up on deck. I felt so sorry for that little guy! He ran back and forth inside, barked constantly disturbing us as we were relaxing on the ferry. He had licked the windows, was scratching at the doors and I think he did a lot of damage. He might have even peed on the seat in his anxiety.
  • I am too big for a dog carrier but if I was smaller having a place I already know would ease my anxiety and I would not bark so much.  I don’t know why but small dogs sure get nervous.
  • Not being alone means that Bob and Maureen really don’t eat out much because there is nowhere for me to be while they are gone. I am lucky that they look for restaurants with outside seating because sometimes I can wait out there with them. I know I am an inconvenience but that is what they signed on for when they decided to take me camping. In Switzerland I can just go in the restaurant and lie on the floor if I behave but not in the U.S.A.

In the Campground-

  • I go everywhere on leash with Bob and Maureen when we are in a campground. It is against the rules but sometimes Bob even sneaks me in the men’s bathroom. One time we were at Kalaloch and Maureen let me off leash for just a couple of minutes so I could do my business in peace and a ranger came around the corner, gave her a lecture and a ticket for letting me be off leash! It was just for two minutes! Honest! Those rangers drive around in the early morning looking for dogs that are off leash! You can’t even pee in peace in State Parks and National Parks. Private campgrounds are much cooler and I can usually just run free.
  • Some beaches don’t even let dogs on the beach. When we go to California we need to be really careful because they think I will chase their birds (my favorite!). They even let motorcycles on their beaches but not dogs! It is not fair at all because we are the coolest animals on earth. Bob and Maureen always carry a long rope that I am tied to when we are in camp. Once I walked around the fire pit and my rope was burned in half. It is a hard adjustment for me but Bob says that it is for my safety because the raccoons in the campgrounds and the Fog Wolves on the coast are really dangerous. Once when we were in Banff a wolf walked right through the campground. There are groups of coyotes in some remote areas that try to get me to play with them and to have me for their dinner.

Why Don’t Other Van Rental Companies Allow Dogs?-I asked Bob and Maureen why other van companies don’t allow dogs (service dogs excepted). Here is what they told me.

  • A rental van is a new place for dogs and they are nervous. A perfectly calm dog that is accustomed to being home alone will bark, chew even pee in an unfamiliar enclosed van. A van ruined by a dog also ruins the next persons vacation and that is not fair to them.
  • Some people are allergic to dog dander and hair. Even the cleanest dog leaves hair and dander behind and most often the van seats are shampooed after a dog rental. This is a lot of extra work and the $50 fee doesn’t cover it.
  • People leave their dogs in the van while they go in the store or on a ferry or in a restaurant and the dogs wind up in the front seat scratching the dash board and door panels, barking and slobbering all over the windows. Re-painting a dash board is a $500 project that is done by their detail shop and renters are responsible.

Dogtini for my birthday.

I hope that you bring your dog because there is nothing cooler than camping with a dog but be sure that you know the responsibilities that go along with the experience.

Camp On!!

Bailey

Animal Coordinator

Chuckanut Westfalias LLC

 

You rented a great van! Maybe you should buy one!!

 

“We rented one of your vans and now we want to buy one…they are so cool and we see them on Craigslist for not much money” here is the real truth about owning one of these great pieces of German engineering!

These vans are cool but are the vans as “road ready” as their owners say? This actually depends on your tolerance for surprises on the road and what the phrase “road ready” means to you. Here are some things to look for before you buy your own Westfalia Van.

 

Honu- before and after shot one year later.

Age-Most of these vans are at least 30 years old. We think that the best age van to purchase is a gas powered Westfalia Vanagon from 1986-1990. These vans have larger front suspensions and will accommodate brake upgrades without searching for new front spindles. They also came with a larger stock engine a 2.1 Liter (95 hp) rather than the old 1.9 Liter (83 hp). We know that the difference in horsepower is small but every little bit helps. The water cooled version built since 1984 has several advantages not the least of which being that the windshield defroster actually works which is a plus in the Northwest. Any van you buy will have a “rebuilt engine with um……20,000-60,000 miles on the new engine…..” Sometimes you are good for many miles with these exchanges but it all depends on who did the build and how honest the seller is. We have a savings account for an engine exchange for each van and I will probably build a Subaru over the winter to put in VanGogh.

Our Rental Fleet!

Power Train-We own one van with a manual transmission and one with an automatic. The advantage of the manual transmission is gas mileage and simplicity. Our manual transmission van with a standard engine gets 20mpg up hill and down. Shifting the van is like rowing a boat but once you learn where the power curve is you won’t find yourself to be the slowest vehicle on a hill climb….usually. Our friend has an automatic transmission on a similar van and only gets 14-16mpg. In addition, his van is dependably last up the hill. Our other van has an automatic transmission paired with a Subaru engine and a modified transmission. The power curve is significantly different for a Subaru than a Wasserboxer (the standard VW engine) and stepping up to 175 horsepower requires several expensive modifications to keep the transmission running cool and the engine RPM below 3000 when cruising. The powertrain combination for this van is amazing….but the transmission alone was $4000 and unless you do the conversion yourself the engine replacement is in the area of $18000 by the time you are finished. (see NorthWesty of Small Car Performance) That van is a dream to drive and with a low slip torque converter, 3:27 rear end and Peloquin limited slip rear end it will go anywhere…..sorry I got carried away…. What to avoid? Do not buy a diesel Westfalia, don’t even take one for free. They came stock with a 48 hp. Engine and have been described as “slower than a turtle on Valium”. Can you imagine pushing a fully loaded 5000 lb. vehicle with a 48hp engine? Guess what….they have a following and the previous sentence will certainly offend someone.

 

Cooling– Vanagons came with either steel or fiberglass cooling lines that run the length of the van from the engine up to the radiator and back. After 30 years these lines can become the source of a catastrophic leak causing an engine melt down. We replaced our cooling lines with stainless, replaced the radiator, front and rear heater core and controls and our vans are truly “road ready”.

Coolant Lines…The old and the new.

Fuel-Guess What? Vanagons catch on fire! They do it all the time! The fuel lines run right over the top of the hot engine and add to that a nasty little fitting on the firewall that is made of 30 year old plastic and can fail sets you up for trouble.  Every couple of years we replace the fuel lines using a kit available from GoWesty.  Now while you are working on the fuel you should replace the fuel filter, CLEAN THE GROUND TO THE FUEL PUMP, and drop and either re-seal or replace the fuel tank and maybe even the fuel sensor.  It is a nasty job the first time but you will not be stuck on the side of the road because you sucked up rust into your fuel injection system.  VanCafe and GoWesty both sell re-seal kits and also tanks.  There is information on VanagonFAQ to help you with the install.

 

Suspension-I will never forget the drive up the freeway after we purchased our first Westfalia Van. A truck passed me and our van literally changed lanes without warning. The suspension was extremely worn, the previous owner had replaced the tires with trailer tires (no lateral stability) and the sum of these suspension problems made the van terrifying to drive. We have replaced all of the bushings in our front suspensions with polyurethane, we have installed larger Audi front brakes, Koni adjustable shocks, new springs, larger 16” SUV rated tires and have the vans aligned by a company in Seattle who know how to align these vans. They handle better in a wind than any other Westfalia van on the road and they still are not a pleasure in a strong crosswind.

 

Refrigerator-we removed the Dometic that came with our van and put in a Truck Fridge from the company that supplies Peterbilt Trucks. Dependable, makes ice and is energy efficient.

Truck Fridge

Camper Wiring– It seems like the only people who work on Westfalia wiring do so with a roll of electrical tape and a pair of wire cutters. One of our vans had been so poorly modified by the previous owner that I just started over with a new camper fuse box from Blue Seas. That van does not have voltage leaks and the installation of a house battery under the rear seat saves on kitchen space. Many vans have auxiliary batteries installed under the sink and that takes valuable storage space and the battery components are not compatible with cooking supplies. Our batteries are under the rear seat, closer to the engine and alternator. We remove radio power amplifiers and also power inverters because they suck power and will kill your auxiliary house battery. A friends van did not come with an auxiliary battery set up and he needs a jumpstart to leave the campgrounds after two days. We only buy AGM (glass matt batteries) because they can be located in any position and last longer. We also install LED lighting because that type of lighting is brighter and does not drain the battery. We buy our stereo equipment from Crutchfield and install it ourselves. Our first stereo was professionally installed and cost over $1000.

 

Sink and Water Tank-Plan on replacing everything but the tank. Both of our vans have required new drains, new water pumps and we decided to replace the water lines after we looked at them.

 

Solar Panels-We buy rigid panels that are portable from GoWesty. You can move them to follow the sun and unlike the new flexible ones they will stay in place in a wind.

Solar Panels work in the rain in Alaska

Damage and Rust-All vans have some rust but how much is too much? Look under the van to see if suspension parts are rusty. Avoid buying a van from the east coast because of the salt used on roads during the last 20 years. A small rust seam needs to be carefully inspected before you buy. Avoid buying a van that has been painted unless it was a full window out paint job. Lift up the window rubber and look for a paint line. A vanagon paint job is about $14000 because of the rust issues on windows and the number of flat panels that need to be carefully faired.

 

Social Media is full of “Van Lifers” who live on a shoe string and it looks like their life is just one big campground. If you look carefully, nearly every one of these individuals really knows their way around a toolbox and has a tolerance for breaking down on the side of the road. Everyone who owns a Westfalia Van has a subscription to AAA premium.

A sad day…needed help from Peace Vans to fix the problem with VanGogh

Let us know if you are considering a van purchase and would like us to help you do an evaluation. It might be money well spent….or you can do it the way we did…..go in blind and learn as you go….and as you watch your bank balance go….

 

We love Westfalia Vans and would love to own a third. They are amazing vehicles, the best for camping, always bring a nostalgic comment from people you meet and are just plain cool. We spent over 100 nights in one van or the other last year and they can’t be beat!

 

See you out there,

 

Bob

What is Included when you rent from Chuckanut Westfalias

What is included in the price?

Incluso nel prezzo, Inclus dans le prix, Im Preis inbegriffen….in any language the question is the same. When you rent a van are there hidden costs? At Chuckanut Westfalias we include everything you need for a great outdoor experience at no extra charge. Here is the list:

 

Your Ride: Our vans are completely safety checked before every rental. We know these vans inside out and make sure that the upgraded suspensions, Audi brakes and oversize tires are in top shape. The van you rent from us is road trip proven. Both vans have new three point seat belts front and back and will be a pleasure to drive.

Your Meals on Wheels: Part of camping is keeping your food cold, dry and easy to access. Every van has a large high efficiency electric refrigerator. No ice chest to step over, no drippy blocks of ice, and no added charge! In fact, our refrigerators will keep your ice cream cold and make ice for your evening sundowner. We supply two plastic boxes to keep your food organized, dry and safe from those four-legged creatures that can make your life miserable in a camp ground. All plates, bowls, wine glasses, and quality cooking pans and utensils are included. At Chuckanut Westfalias we have a wealth of camping experience that we are happy to share with you. Great meals are possible in a Westfalia Van! Try some shrimp tacos and a little Spanish wine.

Your Creature Comforts: When you rent a Westfalia Van from us you do not need to bring anything but clothing. Our vans come with as many freshly laundered North Face Homestead Twin (40” wide) sleeping bags as you need for your group. These can be zipped together to make a double or used loose as a comforter. Is your van chilly in the morning? Just reach up, turn on the built in forced air furnace, start your coffee water and climb back under the covers. We supply you with clean pillows, a set of towels for every member of your party and of course dish towels and a supply of paper towels.

 

Your Outdoor Life: Your van rental comes with chairs for every member of your group, small foldable table and even a portable solar panel if you plan to stay in the same place for a week. If you like to cook outdoors we will send you with a small portable stove. Every van comes with an axe, small saw, shovel, fire starter and extra dish pan in case you find washing dishes outside easier. It is all-inclusive and at no extra charge.

The places you will go: We are your northwest camping source. We camp the sunshine coast of B.C., Banff/Jasper, Highway 20 and the North Cascades, the West Coast of Vancouver Island and of course the Olympics. We will help you with an itinerary and give you advice on reservations at no extra charge. We have many resources and they are at your disposal when you reserve one of our vans.

When you rent from Chuckanut Westfalias there are no extra charges….. Incluso nel prezzo? Tutto ciò di cui hai bisogno!

The sun is out! Lets go camping!

Bob and Maureen

Chuckanut Westfalias

 

Camping San Juan Island, Washington

Camping on San Juan Island-

Travel to the San Juan Islands used to be an all day affair.  The new Washington State Ferry Reservation System  makes access to the San Juan Islands both easy and economical. It takes the stress out of ferry travel and allows advance planning and full use of time on the island.  A trip to San Juan Island takes about an hour and if you are lucky you will see members of our local Orca pod, seals and even dolphins during the crossing.  Plan ahead, make your reservations and enjoy beautiful campsites, great hikes, and enough food and spirits establishments to satisfy the most discriminating epicure. We like to chose one island per trip and set up a base camp making day trips in the van or by cycle and hikes from that location. 

Where to Camp-

Make reservations so that you are able to secure a nice camp site on San Juan Island.  Consider the San Juan County Park as your first choice.  Gather shells on the beach, use the no bank shoreline to launch your kayak or take a short drive with a picnic lunch to Lime Kiln State Park to watch for Orcas that often frequent that shore.   You can also camp at Lakedale Resort which is located on the northeast end of the Island and has a variety of nice campsites that can be reserved in advance. 

Activities on the Island-

  • Be sure to stop at English Camp to walk the grounds, visit the formal garden at Garrison Bay.  Try to envision island life at this small outpost in the mid 1800s. If you are there in early July you may be able to pick some of the tiny wild blackberries that grow along the trails to the beach.
  • Pack a lunch and take a short drive to the other end of the Island for a day on the wild beaches of American Camp.  Walk the shoreline out to Cattle Point and view the over 150 nesting pairs of eagles present at this National Park Site.  If you are there in spring you may be able to view one of the nests of fledglings through a telescope at the interpretive site.  Pause during your walk through the open fields to the beach to look for Black Foxes on this part of the island.
  • Make time to go into the city of Friday Harbor and visit the nationally acclaimed Whale Museum. You will enjoy looking through the shops and restaurants in this little town that has a population that ebbs and flows with the arrival and departure of the ferry.

 

Where to eat and drink on San Juan Island-

  •  Downriggers Restaurant in Friday Harbor is top on our list of places to eat if you are tired of camp food.  They have fully recovered from the fire that devastated the restaurant in 2013. They have great views and a wide assortment of Northwest seafood.
  • For a variety of ethnic menu choices in a beautiful garden setting make reservations for dinner at the Backdoor Kitchen.
  • Stop by San Juan County Distillery and taste their latest spirits.
  • Make time to visit Roche Harbor.  We enjoy walking the docks, looking at the yachts and hiking around the grounds of the old estate. Enjoy lunch at the Lime Kiln Cafe out on the end of the dock.  This is also a great place to get a hot shower if you feel the need.

San Juan Island is just a short ferry from Bellingham but the “island feeling” makes it feel miles away. A trip to the island is a great camping experience with each coastline offering a different view of life on this island.  There are opportunities to study the history of San Juan Island, appreciate the marine life and as you explore the island you will have many opportunities to visit the variety of farms that sustain the full time residents.  A camping trip to the islands is a great chance to slow down, smell the salt air, listen to the birds and appreciate this part of the area known as the Salish Sea.

Let us know if we can help with your camping plans,

Bob and Maureen Jorgenson
Chuckanut Westfalias

Camping the Wild West Coast

Camping the West Coast of Vancouver Island

If you love to camp and have not been to the West Coast of Vancouver Island this trip needs to be your next outdoor adventure.   Vancouver Island is easily accessible from Bellingham.

Make early ferry reservations and take the BC ferry from Tsawwassen to Duke Point/Nanaimo. Plan to have breakfast on the ferry and keep an eye out for whales and other marine life during your two hour crossing.

Be sure to stop at the MacMillan Cathedral Grove on your way to the Long Beach peninsula and walk through the type of forest that transforms you into a dark world that makes you feel tiny. Next stop is Port Alberni where you can pick up any supplies that you have forgotten to pack before continuing your trip to the coast. Farther down the road to the coast you can eat a picnic lunch at the Taylor River Rest Area. It is a nice stop with clean restrooms and a river next to the picnic tables. Feel like doing some cliff jumping or swimming in a giant river pool? Stop a few miles farther toward the coast at a spot marked as “cliff diving” on Google Maps.

When you reach the Long Beach Peninsula information center you are almost at your destination. You can turn left and explore the fishing town of Ucluelet or turn right and continue on to the surfing town of Tofino.

Ucluelet

 Camping in Ucluelet

If you are ready for wild beach camping with pit toilets and outdoor showers make reservations at Mussel Beach Campground. The road in is six miles of washboard dirt but the reward at the end of the road is your own beach fire, great kayak access and a beautiful view of the broken group islands. Be sure to bring your own water!

 

Hiking in Ucluelet

Plan to spend an hour or two hiking out to Amphrite Lighthouse and walking along some of the Wild Pacific Trail.  Take photos of the ocean between wind shaped trees and look for stairs down to hidden driftwood-covered beaches.

 

 

 Eating in Ucluelet

If you are tired of camp food be sure to make a reservation for Norwoods Restaurant. Their menu item “A Taste of the West Coast” offers a gourmet approach to great West Coast seafood.  If you are an Oyster fan be sure to reserve a table at Raven Lady Oyster Forte. You will not be disappointed.

 

Tofino

 Camping in Tofino

If you are interested in forest camping with access to a beach that you can walk six miles in either direction then Parks Canada Green Point is your campground. Each site has electricity and there are four large new tiled bathroom toilet facilities with room to clean dishes, take showers at no extra charge. Simply the best facilities we have ever seen. Reservations are open now and they go fast.

Another great campground is closer to Tofino on Long Beach where you can walk six miles on a flat sand beach is Bella Pacifica. At least check out their list of things to do in Tofino.

 Hiking in Tofino

Be sure to take a shuttle out to hike the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island. This island is part of the B.C. conservation history and the opportunity to stand among these giant cedars is something that reminds us of our place in natural history.

 

Eating in Tofino

Plan ahead and find a way to eat at Wolf in the Fog. This is a very famous restaurant with outside and indoor seating. West Coast ambiance plus! Stop off and buy a bag of Rainforest Blend coffee at Tofino Coffee Roasting Company on your way into the city. Rainy day? Find The Pointe Restaurant Wickaninnish Inn Tofino for a great lunch with a view that consists of a 200 degree window to the waves of the West Coast. We park in their lot, have a great lunch and then go down their stairs and walk the beach in front of the Inn. You can walk for two hours in one direction on a low tide.

What else to do in Tofino?

The list ranges from Salmon Fishing to First Nations Art Galleries. You can rent Kayaks, go on a whale watching tour or spend time at their farmers market and craft shows on Saturdays. It is a great community that gets more interesting every year that we visit.

Please let us know if you would like more information about travel on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and of course, if you would like a comfortable, safe restored Westfalia Van to use during your trip. All of our vans have heaters and a built in electric refrigerator.

It is time to plan your summer adventure!

Bob and Maureen

Chuckanut Westfalias

 

Time to Reserve a Campground

Planning for your Summer Camping Trip 2018

It is the middle of winter but it is time to start thinking of those summer reservations and itineraries so that you are able to spend your spring, summer and fall camping time planning where to find that great micro-brewery or coffee shop instead of driving around hoping to find an empty campground. There are many great places in Southern B.C., Washington and Oregon to park a van, set up camp, get out your fly rod and enjoy the outdoors. Here is information on the 2018 reservation windows for parks in Washington, Oregon and B.C. We can help you with an itinerary if you simply mail us, info@chuckanutwestfalias.com. We have some really great four day itineraries for spring and fall that get you outdoors enjoying the beaches near Tofino or Mountain biking in the Whistler/Pemberton. Even if you already own a van or plan to use your tent and need advice for camping, mountain biking or hiking in our area simply drop us a mail and we would be happy to help you out. (as long as we are not busy getting one of our vans ready for the road).

Reservation Windows:

BC Provincial Parks– Make your reservations up to four months in advance of your anticipated camping date.  The campgrounds on the sunshine coast and near Quadra Island are perfect for your salt water beach adventure.    http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/reserve/frontcountry.html

 

Canadian National Parks (Banff, Jasper, Green Point on Vancouver Island and many other great parks on their web site) Reservations open on January 8, 2018 and they are sites can be reserved from April 2018 until March 2019. Now this seems crazy to us but that is the direction they are moving.

http://www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/reserve

 

United States National Parks-Kalaloch is booking now and reservations can be made 6 months in advance. https://www.recreation.gov/camping/kalaloch/r/campgroundBookingWindow.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=70944

Sol Duc Hotsprings resort camping reservations can be made a year in advance. This is a great place for a day hike in the rain forest followed by a soak in a modern hot springs.  This is not the log lined hot springs that we visited in the 70s.

https://www.recreation.gov/camping/sol-duc-hot-springs-resort-campground/r/campgroundSeasonDates.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=139890

 

Washington State Parks – For these parks you need to go to the reservation site https://washington.goingtocamp.com and check out availability. Extremely popular sites like Spencer Spit on Lopez or Fort Casey book out early.

 

Lake Chelan City Park-They take reservations 9 months in advance and this is a park with tight camp sites but the walks around the city, wine tasting, swimming in the lake and the quiet vibe of the city of Chelan, wine tasting and makes it tolerable for one or two nights on a North Cascades loop trip. https://cityofchelan.us/departments/parks-recreation/rv-park/

 

Oregon State Parks-Reservations are available up to 9 months in advance. The most recent check of our favorite location at Beverly Beach had several nice tent sites (the type of site that we use for our vans) left for mid July. These campgrounds always have some first come first served sites but so often people already camping in the area will run up and “occupy” those walk up sites until their friends arrive.

Camping Resources for Wild Camping or the unusual private campground:

Hipcamp– We have had customers use this site to find some really interesting campgrounds. www.hipcamp.com A known favorite is a little spot on Whidbey Island called Whidbey Island Sheep Camp.

 

IOverlander– This is the site that we use to find free campsites and DNR/Forest service camping. They do not have much listed for the North Cascades National Park but there are many sites on the Olympic Peninsula. http://ioverlander.com

 

Travel Resources:

GasBuddy– we use this handy app to help us find gas stations when we are on the road. This is especially useful when driving VanGogh as that van only runs on premium gas.

We hope that planning your summer adventure will give you some respite from the short days and grey skies of winter.  Meanwhile, we are looking forward to Baja camping soon,

Bob and Maureen

Chuckanut Westfalias

Pemberton and Whistler Mountains and Bikes

Marble Canyon to Whistler

June 21-23

Driving South from Prince George, through Williams Lake and south nearly to Cache Creek we made the decision to turn off of Highway 97 and head southwest on highway 99. We set up a peaceful camp at Marble Canyon Provincial Park. The campground itself is just off the highway and is not very aesthetic but a short walk down the hill toward the lake brings you to a beautiful tent camping and swimming area. The road through Marble Canyon is covered with fine marble dust that will cling to underside of the vans until the next major rainstorm.

This highway opens up some of the most beautiful scenery in southern B.C. The drive through Fountain Valley, past Lillooet and over a pass to Pemberton at 30mph is stunning. The trees change from the east side pine tree cover to the coastal Douglas Fir and Hemlock.  There are BC Natural Resources campgrounds the entire way. They are near streams, have great views and are largely unoccupied. We could have spent a week there. The highway has sharp corners, grades of 15% and there are views of glaciers on nearly every corner. We had to stop half way down the pass to let the brakes on the vans cool.  I would hate to see what a Westy with standard factory brakes would do on that pass.

The city of Pemberton is a real mountain bike hub for the interior. There are many options including helicopter or floatplane drops into the interior for a multi day ride out staying in hosted cabins along the way. www.mountainbikingbc.ca/vancouver-coast-mountains/pemberton one of the most exciting bike destinations is a trip into the Chilcotins .   http://ridespots.com/destination/chilcotins A friend made the trip and she thought it was one of the most difficult but amazing bike trips of her life. Check out this video:     https://instagram.com/p/BWrVBZeFead/

We headed down the road from Pemberton for a day in Whistler. A favorite of our van renters is to head up and spend a week hiking and riding in Whistler. It is so close to our base in Bellingham and renting a Westy to use as a base is a really cost effective way to enjoy all of the mountain biking in Whistler. http://bike.whistlerblackcomb.com Plan to head home from Whistler by noon or you will find yourself in traffic on one of the most congested highways in B.C. The increased housing density in B.C. without increasing the highway capacity has resulted in a real rush hour mess twice a day.

We had an amazing trip from Bellingham WA to Skagway Alaska despite the weather. Our friends from the Netherlands are used to adverse weather but they did not anticipate hats and gloves for three weeks.  There was not a complaint the entire trip….that is until a mouse was running around in their van at 2:00AM eating all of Kees last rationed Mento candies.  Would we do the trip in June again? Probably not! The promise of nice weather didn’t pan out. By the way, I am writing this in mid July and it is still raining in Skagway….maybe September? June is just so darn cold! Would we travel in two vans with our friends from the Netherlands again?  You bet!  They had never been camping before and were the perfect travel companions.  We all lost a little weight (maybe staying warm) despite the nightly G.&T. attitude adjustment sessions.  We celebrated our trip with a great breakfast at home skillet

http://www.homeskilletinsunnyland.com

Great to be home and thinking about our next adventure.

Bob and Maureen

Chuckanut Westfalias

info@chuckanutwestfalias.com

The Cassiar Highway toward Prince George

June 19-20

The beautiful campground at Boya Lake was our first stop on the Cassiar Highway. It is an amazing turquoise lake set among small old growth fir trees. (see our previous post) We wish that we could have stayed another night and rented canoes from the people who have a seasonal canoe rental business. They also sell the best firewood that we have ever purchased. (small things make you happy when you are camping).

It was time to head south.  The website Milepost www.themilepost.com has a great mile-by-mile description of this beautiful highway: “The Cassiar Highway was completed in 1972, and is asphalt-surfaced with the exception of a few short gravel breaks. The highway is generally narrower than most 2-lane highways, with little or no shoulder. It has easy curves and some long straight stretches. Although not particularly hilly, there are a few 8 percent grades and 2 switchback turns. There are no passing lanes, beyond one in the first few miles of the highway. The centerline and edge line markings may be missing along some northern sections of the highway”

We spent our day on the Cassiar Highway following rivers, lakes and small streams driving 320 miles south toward Meziadin Provincial Park on the lake. It takes a full day to cover those miles in a Westfalia if you include a nice lunch stop. There are several campsites right on Meziadin lake and it is a beautiful campground. They even have Wifi! (for $6) There were quite a few mosquitoes when we were there so a bug tent would be nice to have. This lake is supposed to have great fishing and I would like to have spent a day trying my luck. There were several fly fishers camped there.

The next morning we were up early and headed further down the highway to one of our previous campgrounds at Beaumont Provincial Park. As we left the Meziadin campground we knew that we were reluctantly passing up a visit Stewart and Hyder. The highway to these two villages pop. 100 each (one in BC and the other in the US.) passes the Bear Glacier and that have always been on Bob’s list of places to visit. This is a great destination in late July because the bears come to feed on the salmon. Since the salmon runs had not begun we decided to continue south. As we headed down the road we suddenly came upon a glacier that comes right down to a lake that is just across from the highway. We slowed, took pictures and continued on toward Beaumont Lake…..or so we thought. We soon encountered signs for Stewart and Hyder and suddenly realized that we had turned the wrong direction leaving the campground and had taken a 30 mile detour out to Hyder.  We made a U-turn and headed back to the main highway stopping to take some photos of the bear Glacier along the way. The drive to Hyder is beautiful and winds through rock canyons and follows a wild river. The scenery is among the best along the Cassier and is not to be missed. It was a lucky detour.

Juneau to Skagway to the Cassiar

Juneau to Skagway to the Cassiar

June 16-18

We were up early in a massive rainstorm to catch the ferry to Skagway. The ferry LaConte had refrigeration problems so the menu selections were minimal but the scenery between Juneau and Skagway is beautiful. We saw several dolphins and whales along the way despite the 30 knot winds. Skagway is Tlingit for “big seas caused by strong winds” and the city lived up to its name. Our landing in Skagway was a wild one in the wind but the ferry captain made the landing despite being blocked in by two massive cruise ships. We had originally planned to head up to Dyee campground but after a week in the rain we decided to stay in the city at a private campground. The only advantage to camping at Pullen Creek RV Park is that it is a 3 minute walk to town. The reviews on the campground are a solid 3.0 and everyone complains about no hot water in the coin operated showers. We discovered that in this campground absolutely every faucet is reversed and hot is where cold should be and cold is where hot should be. Want a hot shower? Simply set it to cold! The campground is dirty, full of locals living in anything with a roof and their personal items encroach on all of the overnight spots.

We booked a 4pm National Park Tour of Skagway on the national park web site and it was one of the best presentations that we have seen. The ranger gave us the true feeling of the city of Skagway during the gold rush days. The tour takes 45 minutes and is great. Like Juneau, the city of Skagway has been taken over by cruise ships and their associated jewelry shops. Thankfully everyone returned to their ship at 5:00pm and that left the city to us. After the tour we walked up the street to Skagway Brewing Company for some great local beer and onion rings. Up at 7am for one of Marijke’s great yogurt and fruit breakfasts in 40 degree weather and 30 knot winds. Marijke and Kees kept smiling but what a first camping trip for our friends from the Netherlands! We decided to head for warmer weather and as we climbed through the fog and snow toward the Cassiar highway we had to use our imaginations to see the beautiful alpine environment that rests just above Skagway.

We cleared customs at 3000 feet with snow just above us and as we stopped we heard what sounded like a muffler rattle from Honu. Well keep calm and carry on….down to the Cassiar highway.  The Cassiar is very isolated and there is not even a center line for the first 100miles.  We did not see one other car as we made our way to      a beautiful camp at Boya Lake Provincial Park. This is a beautiful campground set on a turquoise lake with many lakeside campsites and virtually no bugs. It was not raining and the sun even made an appearance. A great foil tent dinner followed by smores by the fire and we were really living the camping life.