Living in our converted Sprinter van comes with basic conveniences and challenges. Let's discuss those as we tour the west coast of Vancouver Island and start our journey east. The best part of living in a van is the ever changing scenery, this particular photo is looking out over the Straits of Juan De Fuca.
We camped at Cultus Lake until after Boxing Day. Cultus Lake is just south of Chilliwack, which seems to be a thriving city. The average home price is $800k and the gas and food prices were comparable to California's. The beauty of this area is breathtaking, completely surrounded by snow capped mountains. If you ever find yourself in Chilliwack you must go to breakfast at Cookie’s Grill. I’m telling you their breakfast potatoes are pure Heaven and Bonnie was fantastic! On our way out of town we stocked up on supplies and headed for the ferry to Vancouver Island.
We’ve driven the west coast of the US to as far NW as possible and have wanted to get over to Vancouver Island to do the same. Now that we are in Canada, why not? We’d been told that British Columbia has the most mild winters in Canada. Since Chilliwack was covered in snow and ice we decided to head west to Victoria. Once the ferry docked in Schwartz Bay and we drove off the boat, onto the highway we found ourselves in yet another snow storm and the sun had set. We are not fans of looking for spots to sleep for the night after dark but we do what we have to, right? The iOverlander app has proven to be an incredible tool. We found a nice level spot in a quiet neighborhood and settled in. On the menu for the evening was Van-Pho.
What is Van-Pho, you ask? Basically noodle soup with some meat and seasoning.
The next morning, we ventured out and looked around Victoria a bit before getting on Hwy 14 to cruise north along the coastline. As it turned out, this area was as cold, snowy and icy as Chilliwack if not more so. No worries, we have four-wheel drive and used it a few times. We routed ourselves to China Beach Provincial Park, just to find that it was closed. On the way there we saw the Jordon River park and campground.
It too was a Provincial Park (think state park in the US) we had a waterfront view of the Pacific Northwest tip of Washington state and enjoyed a Charcuterie board for dinner.
The next morning we made our way to Port Renfrew, which is basically the end of the line on Hwy 14. We took a nice hike to see where the snow meets the ocean, truly a sight to behold. Pictures absolutely do not do it justice, here’s our attempt at showing you just how breathtaking this winter wonderland is.
After our hike and taking in a few more sights we decided to stay at the Jordon River Park again instead of driving in the dark to find a place to sleep. Besides, it is hard to beat the view.
Since we are not used to this weather and have no actual plans we thought it best to get started picking a few points of interest. Cell service is spotty in this area so we ventured back to the Mainland. I should mention that if we didn't have our custom made rear-door blanket, our comfort level would not be tolerable! Those rear doors have a draft that won't quit. So we solved that problem. Click HERE to learn more about that.
Cultus Lake for the win! We headed back to this campground to make plans. Rumor had it that the Canadian/US border was once again closed. This means if we leave Canada and go back to the US, we may not get back in for a long while. So, back at Cultus Lake we needed to do laundry, shop for a few supplies, get in some sight-seeing and route out a path east. The laundry facilities in the campground were closed due to frozen pipes so we drove into Chilliwack. We found a laundromat with two of the nicest ladies at the counter. The machine had a sign that said "4 Loonies per load". I of course ask, "What is a Loonie?" The ladies smiled and one held out her hand to show me a Loonie, which is a gold-toned dollar coin. Ok, 6 loads later we were done with that and saw a Mexican Restaurant across the way. Someone in the laundromat said it was good. Darin and I like to seek out Mexican food on our travels to compare it with our favorites in San Diego. This particular spot in Chilliwack was called Alicia's Flavours. I can't really recommend you go there unless all you want to eat is their chips...
One of the points of interest we chose was Bridal Veil Falls. The hike to the frozen falls was snow covered and absolutely stunning.
As far as route planning goes we needed to decide between the Leaf Hwy 1, the Bird Hwy 3 or the Tree-Face Hwy 5. We picked the Leaf to the Bird. I do love Canada!
Mapping routes can be a challenge, which one is well maintained? Which one is scenic? Which one is best for your purposes? As it turns out, Hwy 3 has proven to be well maintained, scenic and has taken us to some great little towns.
Our next stop was Osoyoos. At this point in our travels we were considering a visit to Banff and Lake Louise. The road conditions were just fine, if you are ok with driving over compact snow and ice, and more snow and more ice. Since being in Canada the temperature has only been above freezing for a brief moment. This allowed some snow to begin to melt, then the temps dropped again and that slight melting became glassy ice. The temps do make for some beautiful scenery though. Take a look at these frozen waterfalls along the hwy.
With this much snow trees take on a magical appearance to me. They can also snap under the weight apparently. As we cruised along Hwy 3 we followed along behind a driver pulling a 5th wheel camper. This guy was not messing around!
We stuck with this 5th wheel all the way up and over this pass. When he pulled off the road at a gas station I wanted to follow him and shake his hand!
We didn't stop when he did, we had plenty of fuel and wanted to get to our next sleep spot before dark. The iOverlander app had a few suggestions for us in Osoyoos, we picked one near a frozen lake and called it a day.
We haven't gotten out of British Columbia yet, for reference, we haven't crossed the Washington/Idaho line. There is no hurry, there are no deadlines, we are taking it slow and enjoying the scenery. Here are a few more pictures from this leg of our journey. Please join us again as we make our way to Alberta.