Any trip, no matter how exotic, begins the moment you lock the door and head out. Our recent trip, which included driving to and from Seattle, a train trip, a cruise, a flight and visits with friends, was enjoyable from start to finish.
Concerns about road conditions at the end of January, plus not wanting to share John’s cold with friends further south, we waffled about our departure date, eventually leaving right after I had participated in the Alzheimer Society’s “Walk for Memories” in Clearwater. Reaching the junction of Highway 1 and the Coquihalla, the driver had to decide which route to take. John made a last minute decision and swung south on Highway 5. Things were looking great, though wet, until we were close to the tollbooth site. High snow banks and deep slush made swinging into the tiny parking space at the rest stop a challenge, and here we changed drivers. Edging back into the traffic we could see what the truckers had been complaining about. Two lanes had been reduced by half a lane; a truck could not fit past a small car, let alone another 18-wheeler. Impatient drivers pushed me against snow banks, tires rumbling on broken compact snow and sloshing through pools of water. Fog came next. Although we’ve had worse experiences on previous wintry trips, lower altitudes were welcome.
Reaching the Fraser Valley, we saw evidence of a tough winter: tree limbs lying on piles of snow; water pooled everywhere, and, despite the farmers’ best efforts, animal enclosures were muddy and getting muddier. Signs by rock bluffs warned: Watch for falling ice. Small piles of brown soil on otherwise green lawns showed the industry of myriad moles. More inviting was a swan family: pure white mom and dad, plus three large cygnets still wearing lots of grey feathers. Although we crossed the international border at Sumas, the countryside changed little as we headed to Bellingham and beyond. More Trekking Tales about southern adventures will follow.
Some three weeks later, warm sunshine now just a memory, we returned to B.C., ferried from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo and drove under a damp cloudy sky to Courtenay. Here our friends and their doggies provided a warm welcome, and “dragged” me out to walk by Courtenay River and its outlet into the salt water and elsewhere. Trumpeter swans abound; I was thrilled when five flew overhead, and I heard their trumpeting sounds for the first time. As in the North Thompson River and Fraser River valleys, bald eagles and many smaller birds kept us company. Waterfowl crowded the estuaries. In Comox, a mural titled “Whaling Wall” depicted huge mammals like those we had seen so recently in warm Hawaiian waters.
After leaving Vancouver Island we visited our way eastwards, seeing cheerful primroses and bulbs sprouting until winter found us once more. Boots replaced running shoes in Hope to cope with sloshy white stuff falling fast. “Which way should we travel home?” we asked each other. Driver’s pick. Wet snow and pouring rain greeted us the morning we left Hope, so the Fraser Canyon was my preference – not that we could see much until after Lytton when we were beside the Thompson River. We saw that impressive canyon clearly.
Back in Clearwater, stuff had accumulated. “Serves you right for going away,” friends teased. “Serves us right for coming home!” I retorted. But we were happy to unlock our front door once again….