Northern Vancouver Island: June 21-25, 2004
Okay, so we didn't travel all the way to Cape Scott but we did travel to the end of the Island Highway in Port Hardy. We pulled a 24-ft. 5th-wheel trailer, a unit that we share with our son and his family.
North from Campbell River, traffic is light and there are no traffic lights unless you detour into Sayward where you'll cross a single-lane bridge with blind approaches.
We set up the trailer at Alder Bay RV campsite, located between Port McNeil and Telegraph Cove. From there it was no more than 75 km. to the sites of our several excursions.
The campsite offered excellent views of the narrows between Vancouver Island and smaller islands, such as Cormorant, seen behind Holland America's Volendam as it heads South to Vancouver.
An American couple at the campsite said this is the sixth year in which they will spend the entire Summer there. Fishing for Spring Salmon, Halibut and crabs has been excellent, and they much prefer our weather to the 115F they can experience at their home in Arizona. (Does anyone have an antonym for Snowbird?)
Storey's Beach, located near Fort Rupert, just South of Port Hardy, offers a vast expanse of packed, grey sand. Solitary Great Blue Herons wait patiently for a catch and numerous eagles scream in the nearby trees. Eleanor picked up a collection of shells that she cleaned in a tidal pool.
Some people think the installations in Beaver Cove are a blight on the landscape, but it's really a highly efficient industrial operation. Logs arrive by truck or on Canfor's logging railroad where they are sorted by species, size and quality. Merchantable timber sorts are securely bundled with steel cables and towed to sawmills, pulpwood is chipped and moved by barge to pulp mills, sawdust and bark are shipped as hog fuel to pulp mills where it is burned in efficient boilers for cogeneration and process steam, and the remainder is shipped by truck as mulch.
Port Alice is a tidy little community on the West coast of Vancouver Island. For several years, times have been tough because the Sulphite Dissolving pulp mill has frequently been shut down due to a lack of orders. Recently, an American company bought the mill for $1 (surely a US$) out of the Doman Industries bankruptcy and the residents are hoping for better times. The mill is a real stinker, (thankfully located some distance from the town), that is badly in need in major maintenance and improvements. The insatiable appetite of pulp mills for capital has led a number companies such as Kimberly-Clark and Abitibi-Consolidated, to shed these assets through spin-offs or income trust funds.
The view from Port Alice includes numerous small islands in Quatsino Sound. Some people would refer to the "scar" on the distant hillside as an unsightly clear-cut, It's not a clear-cut; it's a cut-block and, in a few years, it will be as green as the rest of the hillside.
Although Port Alice is well supplied with recreational and cultural facilities, as are most company towns, it's depressing to see so many "For Sale" signs as you drive through the community. It appears that at least 20% of the homes are for sale.
On the road to Port Alice, we almost struck a fawn that headed to the road, away from its mother who was feeding in the ditch.
For the most part, Telegraph Cove is a quaint collection of old buildings, now housing businesses that cater to tourists. It has historical significance as a Morse relay station established in 1911, and it continued in that role through WWII. On the left in this picture is a new building that houses the Killer Whale Cafe where Eleanor and I had a very good meal of baked salmon.
The elderly rust bucket, Quadra Queen shuttles alternately between Port McNeil and Alert Bay, and Port McNeil and Sointula.
Alert Bay is a small, mostly Aboriginal community on Cormorant Island. It is fondly remembered by Dave Stothers as part of the area of his youth.
- no fast food joints and good food in seemingly unlikely places, BUT a 55-minute wait for our sandwiches at the appropriately named Passin Time cafe in Alert Bay
- generally good service from friendly people
- light traffic, uncrowded campgrounds and restaurants
- best campground bumper sticker, "Keep Honkin, I'm Reloadin" - and it was under a B.C. licence plate! Unbelievable! Alberta, I could understand.
Near sunset, 2140 hours, June 21st, from our campsite