Okay, so last October I booked a special excursion for my my birthday weekend - this weekend. We're doing a four-day, three-night trip with Orca Dreams from Telegraph Cove in the northern part of Vancouver Island.
I've loved Killer Whales since my days as a toddler living in southern California where my parents took me to Sea World and Marineland. I've studied whales, I wrote reports for school on Orcas, and I've dreamed of spending time with them in the wild.
We saw one close-up pod in Alaska in 2004, but it was a brief encounter and my camera battery had died. So, though there are no guarantees, I'm hoping that this trip will fulfill a lifelong desire. Fingers crossed for lots of sightings.
Now for our day of travel. We've had this trip planned for a long time, but we never really picked a day to make our way over to Vancouver Island. I anticipated we would ferry over from Port Angeles after visiting Olympic National Park, but we just weren't sure when.
When we finally decided about a week ago to ferry over today, all the reservable spots on the ferry for the morning and afternoon sailing times were already booked. They hold 30% of their spots for first come, first served, but in order to assure you get on, you have to arrive well before the sailing time. There was no way we were going to make the 8:15 a.m. sailing, so I had called to see when we needed to arrive for the 12:45 sailing with the motorhome. Their answer was "8:20", four and a half hours early. Well allrighty then.
We got up at 6:00, Linda had one cup of coffee, and we pulled out of our site at 6:45. After dumping tanks and filling the motorhome's fuel tank (gas is much more expensive in Canada), we arrived at the Black Ball Ferry terminal a little too early. They wouldn't let us in until the 8:15 had left the dock. So, we found some street side parking a couple blocks away to wait.
Actually, Linda waited. I walked to the terminal so I could call her and tell her exactly when to drive over. Never done this before, and we really needed to be on the 12:45 sailing. That worked out just fine.
She pulled in and the measured the combined length of the motorhome and Jeep.
Now, we could have taken the motorhome on with the Jeep attached, but their pricing system charges for extra length over 18 feet, and it was about $50 cheaper to disconnect and board as two separate vehicles. So that's what we did. Still, it was $187 for both.
The problem with going on separately is that we would be parked in different places on the boat. Also, we would each have to go through customs separately, and figure out how to and where to hitch up after leaving the ferry terminal in Victoria. But not really that big a deal.
They sent Linda to the front of the line in one lane, and parked me at the front of another.
Those with reservations board first, and then large vehicles - RVs, semis, tour buses, those towing boats - board in the middle, and those in cars without reservations board last.
But we were definitely getting on the 12:45 boat. Once you are parked in line, you can leave your vehicle, and walk through town, go get a bite to eat, or whatever. With the motorhome, we just hung out in style having breakfast, getting some things done online, and later having lunch.
As time passed, the lanes around us filled in.
Eventually, everyone had to get in their vehicles as the Coho Ferry arrived.
We waited as everyone disembarked. They all had to go through customs/border security which is set up in four or five lanes at the terminal. Once they all cleared, we started boarding. I was a little slow with the camera, but here is Linda driving on. Oh, she had to make sure the propane was turned off.
We were sort of hoping we could just hang out in the rig during at least a portion of the 90-minute trip, but that's not allowed. We managed to find each other up on deck and found a couple of seats.
There was plenty of seating inside and out, and everyone was pretty well spread out. They have a cafeteria, gift shop, and concierge (to book tours in Victoria) on the boat.
I walked around outside and took a couple of photos as we left the U.S. and the Olympic Mountains behind.
The upper deck in the back was sunny and sheltered from the wind.
The front was windy and cold, and I didn't get any shots of pulling into Victoria as we went down to our vehicles to get ready for a quick departure.
Linda got through security first, and they asked her very few questions. The young lady in security came out to check my license plate which is still Kentucky as we're in the process of changing it to Florida. She questioned me a little when my residence - Florida - didn't match up with the plate. And I got the usual questions about alcohol, tobacco, marijuana products, and firearms.
Getting out of the terminal is no easy feat. There are pedestrians everywhere and there was no one directing traffic. Linda managed to pull off in town and wait for me, but then we got separated.
All of Victoria seems to be under construction, and traffic was a nightmare. It took us forever to get out of the city and find a place where we could hitch up.
Finally getting on the trans-Canada Hwy 1 helped but it's like an interstate with stoplights. Every time we would get up to speed we'd have to stop. It took us three hours to go 90 miles. After Nanaimo, the traffic decreased and the trip was more relaxing, especially once we got on Hwy 19. The roads were in great shape and the warning lights that tell you when a stoplight is getting ready to change are very helpful.
I had originally thought we would stop in Campbell River, a little over half way to Telegraph Cove, but we ultimately decided to drive the full 280 miles to Alder Bay Resort.
The surprising thing was how hot it was. It was over 90 degrees in some areas and in the upper 80s most of the way until the sun started to sink.
As we turned toward the coast, the fog was rolling in. We could barely see the Alder Bay Resort entrance as we arrived around 9:30.
There was no after-hours check-in procedure, but the owners live on site, so I called and Ellen met us at the office. We're dry camping for one night, then going in storage for three nights, and then we'll have full hook-ups for a few nights when we get back from our Orca Dreams excursion.
We're only 15 minutes from our meeting spot in Telegraph Cove and not far from another excursion we are doing on August 2 out of Port McNeill.
I don't have any photos of our campsite or the RV park due to the fog, but maybe I'll get those in the morning.
Whew. It was a very long day, and we're definitely NOT looking forward to going back through Victoria and doing the ferry thing. But we don't have to worry about that for several days, and we're really looking forward to our time in the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island.
So, we'll be offline for a few days, but hopefully we'll have lots of great photos to share when we get back. Again, fingers crossed.