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.

 

 

A Week in Juneau

June 11-15
A week in Juneau
We spent a week in Juneau and there is so much to do. First, camping in the forest service campground with a view of Mendenhall Glacier is amazing. They have great facilities including showers, the sites are well spaced and very clean. It was so wet when we were there that we had to source dry firewood but that was available at the local Home Depot store. Juneau has a Costco and Fred Meyer were we bought hats, gloves and replenished our happy hour kits. Our outdoor activities included a hike up near the Mendenhall Glacier, a cruise up Tracy Arm to see the whales and glaciers and a floatplane excursion into Pack Creek on Admiralty Island to see the Brown Bears. Bring your warm clothing and be prepared to dodge the raindrops. One afternoon we stopped downtown where the cruise ships dock.

On any given day Juneau swells with the populations of three to five cruise ships. Each carries nearly 3000 people and they all seem to be interested in purchasing jewelry. The cruise ship companies have purchased nearly half of the property in Juneau and when the season ends they close their doors and a large part of the downtown core becomes a ghost town. The passengers are given certificates that give them a “special gift” if they visit the shops on shore owned by the cruise ship lines. The on shore excursions turn Juneau into Disney Land. At one point we saw 8 helicopters hovering over the Mendenhall Glacier as they prepared to land and take a Glacier Sled Dog Ride all for the mere price of $1000. It is sad to see how Juneau has sold out its local population by allowing the ships to run the town. The cruise ship lines are run by foreign companies and little of this wealth comes directly back to the U.S. with very little returning to Juneau. People getting off the ships were always asking to pet Bailey and we heard their entire family history with dogs during these petting sessions. Mr. B ate it up! People from the south wanted to talk about our opinion of this great president and “America First” even though all of ther vacation dollars were heading overseas. We deferred comment emphasizing our great appreciation for the outdoors as people from the Northwest. It was funny to hear them introduce themselves as “not cruise ship people”. I think that being on a ship with 3000 people must be one big stand in line…..but how would we know??? “we are not cruise ship people” We were up at 5:00AM on Friday morning in a huge rainstorm to catch the ferry up to Skagway.



Mendenhall Lake Campground

June 12, 2017
We landed in Juneau and after quite a while were allowed to drive off the ferry (wouldn’t you know, they decided that they would keep our vans on the edge of the ferry deck to use as ballast.) Every time we were on the car deck with other drivers they asked about our vans, our rental business and ask for a card. We hear so many cool family stories about people driving these vans all over the U.S. and even Eastern Europe. Ourt vans have drawn so much interest and started many really nice conversations.

The rain finally found us so and settled into bed for more reading and early sleep. It could have been the rain or maybe the Gin and Tonics that made us ready for bed so early. We spent the day hiking around the base of the Mendenhall glacier and enjoying a great video on climate change. Tomorrow we are flying into Pack Creek to view the Grizzly bears. Only a 90% chance of rain tomorrow so we are thinking about bringing our bathing suits. Darn….will this rain ever stop?…oh wait….it just started. We went by Fred Meyer to stock up on umbrellas for our trip tomorrow in the float plane. The tide will be very low so we will put on our Tevas, roll up our pants and wade ashore to the viewing area.

Bob and Maureen
Chuckanut Westfalias

Ferry Fun!

June 10, 2017
Today was our first full day on the ferry. We made shorts stops at Wrangell, Petersburg, Kake and at 2AM at Sitka. We took Bailey off the boat at every stop and he forced us into walking for the half hour time that we could be ashore. When I took him off the boat in Sitka at 3AM Baily ran in circles for a long time. When I returned to the boat the purser asked me if we had seen the three bears in the field where he was running. The only bears on Sitka are Grizzlies…glad we did not meet any.
The weather has been cool and cloudy but thankfully no rain. We have seen whales, sea otters and dolphins all from the window in our room and the deck above. A trip on the Alaska ferry is not a cruise ship experience and that is what we like about it. For a small additional fee you can rent a “stateroom” with a window and a small bathroom with shower. The ferry is full of fishermen, tourists from the U.S.A., Canada and Europe. There were also plenty of 60+ year old men on the ferry who are so happy with the direction that our country is taking. They are getting their pictures taken with the flag and one man was wearing a shirt with the stars and stripes. It was interesting for us to hear them talk the glory of bringing back America. Hmm…..a diverse country we live in! The food is not expensive and if you don’t want to buy your food in the cafeteria you can still eat there with your own food. In all a great experience and being able to go to our little state room with a window view made it great for very little extra money.

Bob and Maureen
Chuckanut Westfalias

Late Ferry? Yup….4 hours late….

June 9, 2017
Laundry day, shower day, gear sort day and get ready to catch the 4:30 ferry to Juneau day. Bailey had two quite long walks to get him ready for three days and two nights of inactivity on the Alaska ferry. This should be interesting….we get to visit him a couple of times a day and we can take walks when we are in port. Waiting in the ferry line we met people from all over the country. Some were driving vans, others were pulling trailers but the most conspicuous are the people who drive 40 foot busses and pull Cadillac Escalades behind. We can’t imagine the cost of a trip like that because 15 feet of ferry space cost us over $400 from Prince Rupert and would have been over $1800 from Bellingham. They spend here months up here and then return to Florida, Utah or Arizona for the winter. The vans seem to be the center of attention in every parking lot. People told us of past family adventures in these vintage vans. Alaska must have been wall-to-wall Westfalia Vans in the 70s-90s. The ferry was 4 hours late so by the time we loaded we were all quite sick of waiting in line. The ferry crew did not keep us informed and we learned of a mechanical problem after we boarded.

Bob and Maureen
Chuckanut Westfalias

Vans in the Mud

June 8, 2017
The weather turned wet today and we made our trek in high winds, plenty of rain and after 6 hours of driving arrived at the RV “campground” in Prince Rupert. It is a necessary evil but we paid $30 for the worst campsite that we have ever visited. It was raining hard and there was mud everywhere! People had made fires directly on the parking pad and if you were clever, like us, you could have a used fire pit right in front of the door of your van. UGH! Everyone went to bed early and we read books, listened to the steady rain on the awning and roof and were very thankful that we have a great built in furnace to dry things out and keep us warm.

Prince George and Beyond

June 7,2017
After a day of 85 degree weather, road construction and more trucks than you could count, we finished up past Prince George at Beaumont Lake campground. It is a great, un-crowded campground with very few bugs and like all provincial parks $20 CDN per night. As soon as Bailey saw the lake he began to race around in circles and promptly dove in. He seemed so relieved to get some exercise after a long day in the car. We were up pretty early the next day to travel to Prince Rupert to catch the Ferry

The Road to Lac La Hache

June 6, 2017
The first day of a trip like this is always nerve wracking. Even though we have worked on the vans all winter, the first long trip of the season is always a mechanical worry….so far so good!
We had a great first day on the road. Kees has completely adjusted to driving a 30 year old Westy and things went very well despite the 88 degree heat. He loves driving Van Gogh and having a couple from Holland at the wheel of that van is very appropriate. They brought cups from the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, a tea towel with an image of Vincent (before he removed his ear) and a post card that gives a different view of him when you change position. We proudly put that card on the side of the cabinet in the van.

The drive through the Frazier/Thompson River gorge was stunning. The Frazier was running hard with the spring melt and the steep sides of the gorge made us wonder how the whole thing doesn’t cave in and block the river flow. We finally stopped at Lac La Hache Provincial Park for the night. Bob bought a bug tent at REI as a last minute purchase. What a lifesaver! We think that La Hache is French for the big mosquito hatch! Even Bailey took refuge inside the tent. He had ten bugs on his nose at one point. We are in training for our camp near Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. As we settled down to sleep and listened to the loons calling on the lake we realized what a great trip that this will be and how lucky we are to have two great vans for travel. There is no experience better than a camp in the woods next to a lake and made all of the work worth it.
Bob and Maureen
Chuckanut Westfalias