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Canada: River Jordan, Vancouver Island

September 25, 2010

I hopped on the Victoria Clipper recently for a jaunt to Vancouver Island.  The idea was to meet a friend and disappear into the woods for a day of tramping through the rain forest, birding, and avoiding bears, although not necessarily in that order.

The fast ferry, with a cruising speed of thirty knots, left Seattle bright and early.

1) Leaving the dock with another ferry about to make its departure behind us

Sunrise over Seattle made for some nice special effects and promised a rare dry September day, a promise that was by no means made good.

2) Seattle fades into the backdrop of Puget Sound

The ride was uneventful as the sea was flat calm, even in the notorious Straits of Jan de Fuca.

3) Ferry interior with bulkhead and door leading to after deckThe TV screens reminded the casual passenger of a sports bar, although a couple of them showed the craft’s position in real time, plotted with GPS on a marine chart

We arrived in Victoria on schedule and made fast to the dock in a foggy drizzle.  I escaped the vessel, which held 300 passengers, with alacrity and so avoided a long line for Canadian Customs and Immigration.  They say if you doddle the wait can stretch into an hour.

My friend was at the dock.  Ben presented me with a bag of potato chips and we skipped town, only getting turned around once when exiting the Trans-Canada Highway for the road to Port Renfrew and mistakenly heading back toward the city.

Getting gas was interesting.  A helpful attendant offered us three grades of petrol in a jargon neither of us understood.  Between two highly-trained and multi-lingual world travelers (one of whom has a PhD) we found ourselves speechless.  Finally Ben suggested, “Give us the cheapest gas you’ve got.”  That’s why he has the PhD.  Snappy answers are his forte.

Eventually we arrived at River Jordan.  We stopped at the river’s outlet to watch surfers frolic in the three-foot waves.

4) Beach at the River Jordan

I was hoping to spot Charlton Heston; Ben wanted to see Moses.  Neither august personage made himself visible.

But not matter, our real task was to get into the rain forest. We proceeded to a parking area and headed into the woods.

5) In the woods; this close to Victoria one finds mostly secondary growth and a constant drizzle.  Note the stumps of the old trees, logged 20 years previously, give or take

One aspect of temperate rain forests I enjoy is the extreme conditions under which the trees  thrive.  Here is an old growth Western hemlock recently felled by nature, in the form of a microburst during a severe storm

6) Tree stump

7) Another mature tree, knocked flat

At the end of the trail we found another beach and more surfers.

8) The beach

9) Surfer

We wanted to hike a small section of beach to the northwest but were soon stymied by a fast-running creek and high tide.

So we made our way back to the road and drove to the trailhead of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. Again we plunged into the forest.

11) This tree, another hemlock, refusing to die

We discovered a delightful, vertigo-inducing suspension bridge that traversed a creek 100 feet above the forest floor.

12) Suspension bridge fun

But the mist rolled in and soon we reached our turn-around point.  Reluctantly we returned to the road – thankfully our vehicle hadn’t been towed since we didn’t like the idea of putting a credit card into a wireless machine so it could spit out a parking permit – and headed back to the city, stopping for a hearty meal at an old-fashioned pub with a new-fangled menu.

13) Late lunch

Before I knew it Ben and I said our farewells and I was back on the Victoria Clipper and making way toward the United States again.

Fittingly, we left the dock at sunset.

14) Departing Victoria Harbor

The only excitement that occurred during the return journey happened when a sailboat crossed our bows just north of Elliot Bay and Seattle.  “Farmers go to sea,” a friend of my grandparents used to call the authors of such nautical maneuvering.

The Clipper had to apply its brakes in a hurry.  But no harm done and we docked safely in port.  A starry night illuminated the Emerald City.

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