Monday, July 24, 2017

Still In BC

I suspect most of our readers give our pictures a quick look and move along. So here are a few. The usual narrative follows the pictures.

 The Skeena River near Prince Rupert

 Oops, the clouds lifted for a moment and we got a peek

 Lots and lots of cool totems

 All the men in masks. That's a raven with the long beck. A bear below him.

 Does this not look Mayan like?

 Another bear

I see Mayan here

 Another mountain we caught a glimpse of.

 Typical Provencial Park camp site. This one was open to the sun

 Our view at Lake Babine

 Chicken Races! 

 Dorothy won $3 

 Lake Stewart - Fort St. James

Part of Hudson Bay Company Fort St. James

Tuesday, July 18
It’s been a week since I have taken the time to blog. I know we did something during the week. But, I can’t recall much. Nothing all that exciting.

We escaped the hot weather in the valley and found the typical Pacific NW weather on the coast. Our colds on top of that has disturbed our enjoyment of this phase of the trip.

The weather on our first after retirement trip, 2007, was perfect for 8 months and 16,000 miles. We have not been able to repeat that.

A lot of folks are going places to see the solar eclipse next month. The eclipse will last about 2 minutes. We have not seen the sun in a week. I just don’t understand going somewhere to see nothing. If that turns you on, come to BC.

We started this adventure in killing heat. We had hookups every night and did not leave the rig. When we finally escaped the heat, we found clouds and overcast. Meanwhile, the fires rage in the south which will alter our return route. Not a big deal, but we did leave some property in Kettle Falls, WA, so we have to go back there.

We made it to Prince Rupert. We were not impressed because once we left Smithers, the cloud gods hid the mountains. The fact is, we did not know there were mountains around us. I think all the roads in Canada run along rivers. They don’t bother with engineering feats of putting roads over the mountains, they just follow the river path. So with the clouds covering the mountains and the road near sea level, you have no clue about your surroundings.

We enjoyed two meals at Dolly’s in Prince Rupert. Dorothy had Halibut both days and I had Halibut and Ling Cod.

They have oodles of rivers. They have even more lakes. Not much access to them, but they are there. The road to Prince Rupert follows the Skeena River and hundreds of rivers empty into it. By the time it gets close to the Pacific, it is as wide as the Mississippi. After a shower, waterfalls are as numerous as fire flies.

The First Nation people are changing place names from British to something only they understand. One tribe likes names that start with the letter K. Another favors names that start with G. Both liberally sprinkle X’s into the names. It makes navigation more challenging as the map may have the British spelling, but the roads signs have the First Nation name.

Factoid - There are more Canadians flags than there are Canadians. They love their flags.

Anyway, we are just east of Smithers at a Provincial Park. Most of the parks are dry camping, but every one of them is well maintained. The gravel is racked when the site is vacant and the table is washed. Pristine. We prefer an open site for the solar panels, but many of them are under a tree canopy.

Wednesday, July 19
Since we have not won any battles with the weather, we figured we would lose all battles with forest fires. We got to Houston and learned from some folks that were evacuating from Williams Lake that we might as well head back west with them as the smoke was drifting north. We then heard a reporter in Jasper saying she could taste the acrid smoke. That longer route was our second choice to return to the states. We stopped at a rest area and saw a billboard for Babine Lake only 49 km north. We took it as an omen and turned left.

We landed in Granisle in a Lions campground. They lease from the Crown. We are lakeside and have the sun for the solar panels for $8 a night. It’s close to nothing, but we have five bars of LTE.

Babine Lake is over a 100 miles long - the longest natural body in BC.  We can see some smoke on distant hills to east. We will hang here and see what happens. I saw a map that shows the smoke reaching all the way to the east coast.

Most Canadian radio is government sponsored and presents a very liberal POV. We lucked on a station that actually plays music here.

Thursday, July 20
Dorothy decided that her cold had gone on too long and wanted to see a doctor. The clinic here has a nurse practitioner two days a week and would not be back until Tuesday. A nurse took a look and said she could benefit from seeing a doctor so she could get a script. So we drove into Burns Lake and found she has bronchitis. He gave her some antibiotics and a puffer - Canadian for inhaler. Turns out the doctor just moved here and has a place in town and an RV where we are parked. He said he would take us out on his boat this weekend. Small world.

Monday, July 24
Gee, nothing written in a few days. Let’s see, we napped, ate, chatted and Dorothy recovered from bronchitis. That’s about it. 

We left Granisle Sunday and made it Fort St. James. Got a place in a Provincial Park right on the lake. Before we could park, the neighbors came over to greet us. They live in town but wanted to spend some time with the 7yo GD in the camper. So we gabbed for an hour and solved all the world’s problems. We learned how to use phrases, such as Bloody Hell and Piss Off.

The wind was howling, so we did not paddle the boats. With the tree cover we discharged the batteries more than I like to do, so we found an OK private campground for only $9 more today.

We toured the Hudson Bay Fort. It was quite well done. Hardy guys, the trappers. They would sail up the Skeena River to The Hazelton’s, portage everything several miles to Lake Babine, go all the way down it, and do another short portage to the north end of Lake Stewart. Fort St. James is at the south end of Lake Stewart. That’s how supplies came from England and San Francisco and how the furs went back to England.

We went to the "World Class Chicken Races".  You bet on a chicken to win each of three races and the betting is free.  If you win, you get paid off in "chicken bucks".

Had a zesty lunch at the cafe at the Fort. Yes, good food in government park. Dorothy had Tandoori Chicken and I had Chili and cornbread.  We received $3 off from our "chicken bucks". 

Restaurants are far and few in BC. Most towns have a Tim Horton’s, Subway, A&W Root Beer and a Chinese place. No fish or steak places, which we find odd.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

North of the 45th

How our mornings typically go

I asked Dorothy if she knew what the 45th was? She said she had heard of it, but did not know. So if you don't get the reference, no big deal.

It seems that anytime we have encountered the Snake River, a few miles later there it is again. Hence it’s name. We are parked in a COE park where the Snake meets the Columbia.

The Snake River is a major river of the greater Pacific Northwest in the United States. At 1,078 miles long, it is the largest tributary of the Columbia River, the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean. Rising in western Wyoming, Yellowstone, the river flows through southern Idaho, then through the rugged Hells Canyon area via northeastern Oregon and the rolling Palouse Hills, to reach its mouth near the Washington Tri-Cities area, where it enters the Columbia.
The COE has numerous parks along the Snake. Since we do not fish and the scenery is not much we have no interest in them. Still a great resource. We got done what we needed doing, an oil change and stocking the larder.

We are parked at a COE campground on the Snake in Washington. The is a $24 a night park, which means $12 on the geezer card. BUT, the attendant said because Dorothy is handicapped, it was half off the half-price or $6. We have used COE dozens of times in many states, but this is the first time we have encountered this. New policy?  Does she misunderstand the policy?

When we checked out at Costco, I was asked if I was a Washington resident. I said No, then she asked if I was an Oregon resident. I said I was from Alabama. We paid no sales tax. Again, another first. I asked about this and it works that if you buy it in Washington, but use it in Oregon, there is no tax.

We took a short drive up the Snake and found HUGE tracts of land under cultivation. Corn, onions, potatoes, all kinds of apples, grapes and blueberries. We picked a pound and half of berries for $3. Still early for cherries and melons.

We chatted with a couple opal diggers at the hot springs in Nevada last week. Both around 30 and both teachers She taught HS math and he did History. We were surprised and gratified to learn that history was still being taught. And get this, he writes his own curriculum. And the shocker, they live in Spokane. Yes, liberal Washington, a sanctuary state where the Governor, Jay Inslee, mocks the President daily.

There is too much daylight. Damn DST. I can barely stay up to 9:30 and it’s still light. It’s light at 4:30 am. It will be worse the farther north we go. Now as the days are getting shorter, perhaps I will get some relief.

We enjoyed two days of temperate weather, then the heat wave returned. One might think a park three miles from the largest power generation in the US would have electricity. But, no. We endured the heat the last day of June, but left the otherwise delightful park on the Columbia River and headed for Kettle Falls and electricity. Only one night available here, so I guess we will head into Canada July 2. 

There are a lot of rednecks in Washington. Most have loud trucks. The other day one parked next to us. Young kid, about 30 I guess. We noted a construction generator in the truck bed and knew we were in for it. Sure enough, at 5:30, he fired it up. I went out and he turned it off before I got close to him. His excuse was “The dog took a shit and I wanted to charge my batteries”. He went back inside his trailer and did not come out until after we left at 8.

We parked our weapons and a case of wine in Washington.

Dorothy was talking to a guy a few weeks ago who self-identified himself as Spanish. He came here legally from Mexico as a young man. [Most American’s think of those in Mexico as brown. The only brown ones are those the Spanish did not murder] He said he was an entrepreneur and will be leaving California for Arkansas to start a new business. The taxes are too high and the regulations too cumbersome for him.

Sunday, July 2
Holiday madness is over, for us anyway. We crossed into Canada this morning at the Cascade crossing. This is a low use crossing - there was no one ahead or behind us, so he asked us every question in the book - except about liquor. Then he called someone and said we needed to have our kayaks inspected for zebra mussel infestation. So we stopped at a marine inspection station and waited about 45 minutes while they inspected, detected…. our boats. No mussels were found.  They conferenced and decided to give them a much-needed bath inside and out using a pressure washer with steaming hot water. They really needed a bath after going through all the dust, a thousand miles since Lake Powell. Then they filled out an 8 x 14 inch three-part form describing what they had not found and said we could show it to any other inspectors to certify our crafts are mussel-free.

The heat wave followed us across the border. It’s hot. So we have to have hookups. That means $40+ a night. There is no break in the heat for the next 10 days so we will move north fast to Prince George where the temps may be tolerable in the afternoons. The park in Vernon was plush, owner lots like Jojoba Hills. 

So far, this section of BC looks like Montana. But it is filled with people. The number of Harley’s per capita is at least triple that of the US. Perhaps, because gas is $3 a gallon? But, the lakes are full of boats. So maybe not?

Monday, July 3
A short jump to Cache Creek and a Provincial Park on the fast running Thompson River. No remarkable scenery noted along the way. Surprisingly gas is less here than it was close to the border.

Tuesday, July 4
We drove four hours, a long day for us, to get to a cooler clime. It was only 84 at 3:30, so it was worth the effort. 

The scenery, so far, remains unremarkable. It looks a lot like northern Arkansas to me, just swap out the conifers for leafy trees. North of the town of 150 Mile, the traffic thinned out and the drivers were MUCH less aggressive. The principal difference in the scenery is that there are lakes and lakes and lakes. We parked on one lake in the town of Quesnel. Boondocked in a field for $20. Shade trees and a
light breeze. 

Since everything is metric here, why are towns named for miles?

Wednesday, July 5
I saw a picture of Lake Bowron and it looked like just a lake I was looking to paddle. A family from Wales parked close to us and chatted us up. They, the couple and their daughters, 18 and 20, had just completed a 10-day circuit around the several lakes. He showed us the place we could go for access.

Our colds were no better today, so we opted for a short drive to Prince George and got hookups for two days. It looks like the heat will break Saturday for 10 or more days. Our dry hak-hak cough is getting old.

This is as far north as we will get. The rest of the trip will be to the west.

I had forgotten how “chirpy” Canadians are. They always seem to be in a good humor. If you say Thank You, they respond My Pleasure.

The denizens or Prince George bear no resemblance to those in other towns we have come though. These folks would be right at home in downtown Las Vegas. A sketchy bunch.

We tried to buy The Original Bug Shirt as the forecast for biting bugs west of here is grim. Alas, they are sold out.

Gas is 37 cents less a gallon way up here than it was near the border.

Saturday, July 8
The day broke cool. YEA! We have not had a cool morning in weeks. The high was 82. I felt better too.  
We tried to buy bug shirts, but they were sold out in Prince George.

We wondered if we would have a problem getting a site moving on a Saturday. It was not a problem at Beaumont PP on Lake Frazer. A huge lake, 20 miles long, but dwarfed by the adjacent Francois Lake, five times as large. It takes big lakes to hold all the snow melt.

We got a decent site, but none are on the water. I had thought we would finally put the kayaks in today, but due to the size of the lake it just did not look inviting. I am so difficult to please. 

We think Canadians RV more than American’s.

Bell Canada services Verizon here. You are limited to 500KB a day.

Sunday/Monday, July 9/10
As we approached Smithers we finally found some mountains. Some with snow. We parked for two days at Tyree Lake PP. Expensive for dry camping, $21, but the sites are large, level, private and manicured. Drycampimng is more in Canada, considering we we pay zilch in the US. But hookups are less in Canada.

We finally got the kayaks wet and had our first encounter with loons. Our colds continue to make us feel drained of energy. The hak-hak cough has been with us for over a week and I expect it will be two weeks before we shake it. So not feeling all that perky, we found a decent waterfall, that was only 15 minutes up a steep trail. I figured I had a 50/50 chance of catching the falls in the sun. I lost the wager. It was an eastward facing falls.

I missed some great shots of the Loons while figuring out why it would not focus. The macro focus switch has been flipped. Meanwhile, the loon was going bananas because Dorothy was so close. It would dive, surface, extend herself and flap her wings.

Tuesday/Wednesday, July 11/12
Parked on the Skinna River near Hazelton. A First Nations operated campground. The Indians here do not compare at all to the Plains Indians. The lands are communally owned but may be bought and sold to another tribal member. They want no assimilation. Things are going well for them. Nice homes. Educated. No junk cars in the yard. They are friendly, polite and speak British. Well, it sounds different to my ear than Canadian.

We were car touring and wound up on a dead end street. Dorothy was driving, so the turnaround was slow. One of the men got out of his car, greeted us and asked if he could help us find our way.  An hour later we heard a car horn. Dorothy thought she was being honked for going slow. Nope, the same guy, he wanted to make sure we had found our way.

Maybe the sun will pop out tomorrow and the clouds will lift off the mountains. Even better would be the damn cold goes away.