Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A drive up island

March 18th of last year we decided to take a drive 'up island'. Initially, when we had planned this trip, I had wanted to go as far north as Port Hardy and had checked to see if there was an RV park open there, in mid-March and had found that there was - however, my elder daughter told us in no uncertain terms that we had to be out of our minds to think of travelling the north island at that time of the year, so we decided to 'take a drive' and see if our daughter was right.

I've never been much further north than Campbell River. We lived on the island during the 1980's which, of course, was a time of economic recession. Although I never had a problem finding a job, in fact worked at two and even three different jobs at times - my husband, who is a steel fabricator by trade, wasn't so lucky. In those days, you took any job you could find, which is how he found himself working as a 'tree spacer' and is how he became quite familiar with most of the north island.

So this day we packed a lunch and pointed the truck north. As you can see, it was a nice sunny day as we started out. This is Union Bay, just south of Campbell River on the 'old' highway. Incidentally, if you are travelling on the island and you want to 'see' and experience the island, from at least Parksville northwards, you travel the 'old highway'. The 'new' Island Highway is designed strictly to get from A go B and takes an inland route away from the water. There is a nice rest area at Union Bay where you can go for a bit of a walk, or just sit and enjoy the area.

Union Bay is known to birders because of it's well established Purple Martin colony. Of course it was too early for Purple Martins. The tide was out and all that was visible was this flock of Dunlin.

This Double Crested Cormorant was enjoying the morning sunshine, just off shore. We travelled northward, through Campbell River where the old and the new highway merge to become one, and continued on. As we reached territory that my husband had worked in, he wanted to show me a spot he had fond memories of - sitting eating lunch while watching whales playing. This required turning off the highway onto a forest service type road. Something I am always leery of when we are driving our present 2 wheel drive pick up truck, but it was a beautiful sunny day, so figured it couldn't be too risky.

I can't remember the name of where we were headed, but on the way we passed this large, scenic lake named McCreight Lake. There were a number of forestry sites on the lake and we stopped at one of them in order to use the facilities and take some pictures. The road would travel along the side of this lake, through that little 'notch' just to the right of the middle of the photo. The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful and we arrived at the destination with no problem only to find it was not as it had been in the 80's - in fact felt like a bit of a 'deliverance' moment - to the point we couldn't get turned around and out of there fast enough.
Back to the main highway and on we went. The area along the highway was actually quite nice. Lots on neat and tidy farms. I think it was an area where mainly Mennonites lived. By lunchtime we had reached Sayward so we turned off the highway into what we thought would be a small town. My husband pointed out a pub that apparently was renowned in the area - can't remember what for.....

And so we reached a pier which was the end of the road. Sayward is where the B.C. Ferry to Prince Rupert used to leave from when it was first brought into being. Now, of course, the ferry leaves from Port Hardy. The ferry would have pulled out and rounded that little peninsula and then headed northwards.

As you can see, the weather had deteriorated somewhat by this time but there was a rest area with informational signs, so we sat here and ate our lunch - in the rain. We had passed a large estuary area as we came in that looked like it could be an interesting place to walk around in better weather.

There was an area where you could drive out, so we did. This shot is looking southwards while the one above would be looking eastwards. There was an abandoned building at the entrance to this area with the spray painted sign that read ' we live here, you don't, now go away' - not the sort of welcome that makes you want to stay or return to an area, so Sayward has now be relegated to the 'been there, done that' list.
Back to the highway and northwards once more. This is where the country really started to change, become much more rugged and mountainous.

and as these pictures show, it was still very much winter in these parts. My daughter had been right. We stopped at one filthy and disgusting rest area at the side of a lake that was still completely frozen and still had snow banks all around the edge.

Continued on a bit further until we came to another rest area, this one in a bit better shape, but by then we had decided that was it, time was passing, so we turned south and headed back to the trailer, with a stop in Campbell River for some fast food Chicken for supper.

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