Tod and Lisa’s Year of Adventure

Life on the Road to Central America

Cultural Re-entry August 14, 2007

Filed under: Canada,USA — todandlisa @ 1:20 pm

It’s amazing how quickly the weeks go by. There’s so much that happens when you have the time to open yourself to new people and experiences. Currently we’re back in the states down on the south coast of Oregon in a beautiful little campground on bluffs overlooking the ocean. We’ve covered a lot of ground (for us) since last writing at the north end of Vancouver Island. Fortunately we’re here for the week as Lisa is doing her first full work week of the trip.



This view is a 10 minute walk from our campsite.

When last we checked in we were enjoying the cool maritime climate of the Johnstone Strait area. We had a great weekend with our new friends Greg and John who we met on our whale watching excursion. They live out on Malcolm Island and we mostly spent the days on their porch discussing the nature of the universe and watching boats and marine life drift by. My most powerful memory of the weekend was of sitting around their firepit on the bluff with another new friend Craig, listening to a humpback whale and her baby blow just off shore. The town parade they took us to was a treat too. It had about half the town in the parade, lasted about 15 minutes and the anticipated band from Vancouver never arrived! These guys reminded me of an old saying: “You’ll know your friends better in a moment than your acquaintances in a lifetime.”

Greg, Craig and John

Greg, Craig and John



One of the many waterfalls in Strathcona Park

During our excursions around Vancouver Island we kept hearing people talk about Strathcona Park as one of the most beautiful spots on the island. We felt obligated to check it out and they weren’t exaggerating. We spent four days of relaxed camping and hiking on the shores of Buttle lake which is nestled amongst the snowcapped central peaks of the island. Although we were loathe to leave, I felt a real need to at least visit the legendary granite cliffs of Squamish so towards the end of the week shoved off for the mainland.



Just made it! Boarded the ferry with 2 inches to spare!


What a shock! After weeks of relatively remote environments, the urban environs of the mainland felt jarring as if they were clawing at our souls. It’s amazing all the “needs” that pop up once you get around shops and stores. We managed to resist, for the most part, and caught the Nanaimo ferry to the mainland and battled our way up the construction choked highway to Squamish. To our dismay the camping scene at the base of the Chief, the major climbing area, was overwhelming with bodies packed in every corner of the campground and parking lot. We paid $9 for a parking spot (read: camping) right above the highway construction zone. Fortunately, it was made worthwhile when the next morning Tod joined a group of Quebecers and spent next two days sampling some of the areas excellent climbing and learning French. Lisa, whose knee is slow in recovering from a spring injury, meanwhile explored the bookstore, farmers market and surrounding area of Squamish with the dogs.


We knew that coming back to the states was going to be a rude awakening as we had many errands to run and miles to make. In preparation for our cultural re-entry we spent the night before crossing the border in a Walmart parking lot, where we dined on McDonald’s and shopped at Home Depot until 10PM. I think we overdid the indulgence a bit as we both felt a bit strung out from the sugar and grease as we rumbled across the border the next day. Fortunately the friendly Border Patrol only confiscated all of our dog food (we had just stocked up) and sent us on our merry way.

Walmart camping!




Once back in the US we first stopped by the beautiful town of Glacier to visit an old friend of Tod’s; Sally Hewitt. In the small world category Sally went to the same high school as Lisa and actually graduated with her uncle Dave. We had a fun evening of catching up on Jackson Hole days, where Tod, Sally and a bunch of other great people worked, and perusing Sally’s yearbooks.


After that it was mostly business as we ran errands in Bellingham, Seattle and Portland for three days. The best part was we managed to catch Lisa’s sister Kim at home, she’s a flight attendant, so we stayed with her outside of Seattle for two nights and got her to chauffer us around on some of our urban errand running. Thanks again Kim, we wouldn’t have survived without you!


Sisters shopping in Seattle


So that brings us to here. Cape Blanco state park is tucked away just north of the mouth of the Rogue River and is a classic stretch of north pacific coastline. A lighthouse, tall bluffs, whales, seals, seastacks, windswept trees, the works! Today we took a two hour hike in between some of Lisa’s phone calls and tomorrow I’ll ride my bike to town to see if I can post this entry before it get’s to much longer. ‘Til next time!



The Island Life July 28, 2007

Filed under: Canada — todandlisa @ 12:53 pm

And the Tofino-Long Beach exploration continues with a mass of tourists and backpackers flooding the area. Apparently our first week there was right before the main tourism season got kicking so we had a bit more privacy at the start. The travelers are from all over the world, and we were invited to Israel by one family we met and Alli made friends with two kids from Holland on Wickinnish Beach.


Part of what makes the Tofino area so amazing (and it has a UNESCO protected status) is that not only does it have the intact temperate rainforest, but it also has both access to the ocean on the west and inlets and bays on the east. Perfect for sea kayaking and learning to surf if you don’t mind 100 other people who don’t know what they’re doing out there with you (i.e., duck and swim away).


We’ve explored some of these beaches via different hiking trails – Schooner Cove, Rainforest Trail and the Wild Pacific Trail. All had amazing flora – from giant trees to overgrown skunk cabbage and huge bushes of huckleberries. Put it this way, this side of the island gets over 10 FEET of rain per year! The other side of the island gets half of that.

Monkeys in the Jungle


So after one last night of fine dining at the local botanical garden’s restaurant SOBO (sophisticated bohemian) and a last pour of rain we decided to try and dry out on the other side of the island.

We spent the night at Little Qualicum Falls Campground and came to the decision that people working for the Provincial Parks in Canada ARE THE NICEST CAMPGROUND HOSTS we have ever met. Everyone says hi, tries to help, waves, checks up on you. Hate to admit it but at first it seemed just plain weird and we wondered what was wrong with everyone being so overtly friendly all the time…a bit stingy, eh?

But then we got into the groove and really spent some time with Bob and Lynn. They are a wealth of knowledge about the North Island and gave us all kinds of history about it. Did you know that Canada used to shoot Nazi officers at a place called THE WALL in Coal Harbor (apparently the government won’t own up it) or that the military facility at Comox probably had (has?) nukes in it? All sorts of yummy local info that the official Information Centres don’t give you. When we left, Lynn admonished us to stay in touch and that she would be out BC mom anytime. We LOVE Canadians!

So the next morning we were off, heading north. We drove several hours and stayed at Elk Falls Campground outside of Campbell River (with the World’s Largest Superstore – and a huge ethnic foods section). That night I (Lisa) woke up gasping for air – I was dreaming that it was a gigantic flood and we were being swept away….imagine, it was raining again! Big, beautiful water drops like you just don’t see down south.


More beachside dining

Once we arrived up here (here being our campsite at Cluxewe beach on the north end of Vancouver Island) we spent a day drying out, doing laundry and generally trying to keep the mold at bay. Today, as it was beautifully clear but still a bit cool I asked a local if this was normal and she answered “No, it’s a bit warmer than usual.” Still, it beats the heat and fires we’re hearing about back in Hailey. Our campsite is about as good as it gets; Betty is parked amongst the trees about 100 ft from the edge of the bay. Allie can swim (Taku mostly just gets his feet wet and barks at rocks) in the seawater right off of our beach then rinse off in the river water 100 yards behind us.

The big event since arriving up on the North Island was our whale watching excursion yesterday. The Naiad Explorer and her crew took us 85 miles down Johnston Strait amid beautiful mountains and forests in search of two pods of Orcas. Once we found them we had almost two hours of watching the three males and four females feed and travel east down the straight. What graceful and majestic creatures they are, our photos couldn’t do the experience justice. When they lowered the hydro phone into the water to hear how they communicate; the haunting, lonely cries almost brought tears to my eyes.


imgp1292.jpg Aghhh! Missed the shot!


Captain Mackay, Nicola our Naturalist and Lisa


It was a full day of wildlife viewing! Lisa woke at 6am hearing the sound of a blow amidst crystal quiet water. She grabbed the binoculars as we watched as a humpback whale mom and calf played in the water just off the beach. It was so special to have that happen from right where we were staying, on shore. A local we met on the whale watching tripping told us that he thinks it’s more powerful to see whales from shore because we’re grounded to the earth, where we’re meant to be. Part of me agrees.

Later in the morning as we walked to the board the Naiad, we discovered an abandoned bear cub with an injured leg. We reported it and hopefully they’ll find a place for it to heal.


We continue to have the chance to have great long conversations with local folks. Moving slowly seems to provide the opportunity for that as does camping in the regional campgrounds as opposed to “out in the bush.” In fact we’ve been invited out to dinner on one of the neighboring islands for tomorrow and to a wedding next week if we’re around next week! At this rate we may never get off the island!


Dereliction of Duty July 27, 2007

Filed under: Canada,Stories — todandlisa @ 11:07 am

4:15 AM

“What was that sound?”

“Something’s out there.”

Peering into the darkness I see a small patch of darker darkness moving away from the van. Too small to be a bear, a raccoon maybe or a Canadian version of one at least.

“Grab the flashlight.”

Huddled in front of the window Lisa and I are blinded as the bright beam reflects off the glass. As our eyes adjust…

“It is a bear!”

A big blackie ambles out of the bushes calmly nibbling at the berries, sniffing the firepit and the old WWII era ammo can we store our dog food in. Not the least put off by having the spotlight, she wanders around casually as if invited. I say she because at this point that two little blackdots roll out of he busses as well. Bear cubs! That’s what I had seen earlier in the darkness . These little guys couldn’t have been more than four months old.

While the family surveyed the scene Lisa gives me a nudge.

“Check out the kids.”

I glance over my shoulder at Allie curled up in the drivers seat and Taku sprawled out on the floor. Our guard dogs, both out cold.

Only after the family wanders off a few moments later and I open the door to go pick up the water container do they wake. Allie does a great job of barking at me and warning the world.


From the Mountains to the Sea July 17, 2007

Filed under: Canada,USA — todandlisa @ 2:06 pm


Since we last checked in we actually feel like we’re traveling now, We’re currently camped just outside of Tofino, a surf resort on Vancouver Island. Lisa is working today by phone in the van and I’m in the tent (mosquitoes are bad here in the temperate rain forest) with the laptop and a few books. More on our current location later, though.

For those of you that want updates in an orderly fashion I’ll attempt not to wander around to much in my remembrances. I will take some poetic license though.

4th of July on Moses Lake

Anyhow, after a great 4th of July (that’s us on the lake above) we left Lisa’s parents in Moses Lake and headed to rendezvous with our friends in the Cascades: Winthrop, WA to be specific.

It was great to catch up with everyone, Dave and Danielle are friends of mine (Tod) from Jackson days and as our lives and families have grown and changed we’ve still made a point to stay connected.

Hiking with the gang in Winthrop, WA

After a few days of visiting, hiking and swimming we were ready to head over the mountains towards our goal of Vancouver Island. Before leaving though I visited Danielle in her professional role with a stop at the Country Clinic where she is a Physician’s Assistant. Some of you may know that shortly before leaving Hailey I injured my big toe while barefoot dancing at a sendoff evening. It continued to bother me some so the X-rays Danielle took confirmed that it was a slight fracture and that there wasn’t much to do other than let it heal. With that taken care of we were off, of course we were in no rush so along the way we stopped for a beautiful hike on Washington Pass. In spite of my toe I’m still hiking and running, it only really hurts when Taku steps on it which he has managed to do several times. Lisa’s knee is still healing too from a horse riding incident awhile back so we’re keeping our ambitions low. What a bunch of gimps, Allie is about ready to dump us for new owners. By the way, you can see more photos from this hike and others on our Picasa Web Album, the link is on the side bar.


Blue Lake, Washington Pass

Blue Lake on Washington Pass


Back to travels…Canada is different from the states in many ways, some more subtle than the obvious “eh” and price of petrol ($4.60/gal). I noticed the pace of life slowing down from the moment we crossed the border. Tourist shops all closed up at five pm, cashiers who take their time bagging your groceries and chat with you about your trip, lots of people out for strolls in the evening. We are getting glimpses of a life Lisa and I hope to rediscover, or possibly learn for the first time.

Another of the goals of our journey is to reconnect with the commonness we share with the world, to challenge our fears and stereotypes in a way that only travel can, and to reaffirm the basic human generosity we all have. In the last week we’ve been given bags of cherries twice. One time by a migrant workers wife, camped nearby with her girls, who smilingly accused us of being “neat freaks and health freaks.” Those of you who know us well will find the first one laughable.


In addition to the many generous suggestions about sites to see and places to go we also had a local fellow offer us a hike to the coast on his own personally maintained trail behind his house. It’s important to understand that maintaining trails is a big deal around here as they say if you stand in one place too long you’ll become a part of the landscape. Unfortunately the maintenance was only limited to the first half mile and after that we were doing more up and down over the deadfall than forward and still couldn’t hear the coast so we decided hiking on the beach rather than to the beach was more our speed. It’s this kind of spontaneous kindness and exploration that we love about travel.


4th Anniversary dinner at Tough City Sushi, Tofino

4th Anniversary Dinner at Tough City Sushi, Tofino, B.C.

So how did we find Tofino? Word of mouth mostly, starting when Lisa met a flight attendant in Tulum, Mexico two years ago who said it was a must see. It kept coming up and now that we’re here it’s easy to see why. Miles long white beaches pushed up against old growth forest with bays and inlets at every turn. A gentle surf and mild current make this a destination surf and tourist resort. It’s also, understandably, a designated UNESCO world nature site and a federally protected park…kind of a Yellowstone by the sea. We’ve been here four days now. It took a few days to figure out the scene as it can be a bit touristy and campsites are hard to come by. It’s been well worth it though. We’ve had dinner on the beach twice now, last night cooking fresh salmon, corn and potatoes over a fire while watching the tide go out. (insert photo here) We agreed as we returned to our little campsite out by the landfill (it’s prettier than it sounds-it’s actually a logging access road into dense forest and no landfill in sight) that we could get used to this!

Beach Dining:

Beach dining:imgp1137.jpg