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Anticipation & (some) Trepidation -- Travels North

Fulton River Kingfisher, BC

If you have been following my blog and photos, you know I love traveling, and that British Columbia (BC) and Alaska are two of my favorite destinations. Proximity to those areas was one major reason I was happy to move to Bellingham so many years ago, and why I have so often visited Wells Grey, Bella Coola, the West Coast of Vancouver Island, the Great Bear Rainforest, the Yukon, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Denali. Scroll through my blogs and website to see images of these trips and more.

Sockeye Mosaic, BC

So, heading north for an extended photography trip was ‘Plan A’ when I retired from the Whatcom Land Trust. But like so many, that plan didn’t work out with the Pandemic. Looking at those who have gotten sick, lost jobs, lost friends, and relatives, had their businesses close, or dealt with depression, I am thankful that I’ve had it easy with my travels around the West.

Driftwood Canyon Wheat Fields, BC

But I was none-the-less stoked to hear that the Canadian border was opening on August 9th. That date was just three days after my daughter Danna was married (the reason I didn’t post a blog two weeks ago) and while I was spending post-wedding time with family members from around the country. As it turned out, we booked a sailing trip for that Monday, and we managed to get across the border and up to the Gulf Islands on opening day. But we had to come back that afternoon.

Reflections, BC

So, I began prepping for a longer visit north. And this is where the trepidation began. Would they let me cross the border? Would there be a huge line? Would Canadian’s be happy to have me visit? Could I avoid the numerous fires burning in BC? Would my newly replaced starter leave me stranded in the middle of no-where?

Swimming Mink, BC

I did my homework, I got my on-line documents in duplicate, I read every article on the border opening, and I made sure my phone was fully charged. At the border, the BC customs people were super helpful in figuring it all out and getting me on my way. No line at all at 7am at the Sumas/Abbotsford crossing, and, four-days-in, I have yet to see another license plate from the US. And everyone I have met so far has been friendly – that hasn’t changed in Canada and is one reason I am always so happy to be up here.

Smoky Morning, BC

The fires, smoke, several landslides, and road construction were more of a problem. Going north, the Sea-to-Sky highway above Whistler was closed (fire), Route 1 was closed at Hope (landslide), Route 5 and Highway 97 were closed (fire). The only option was taking Route 3 east almost all the way to the Okanogan (which has had fires all summer), going north and then looping back west to Kamloops and Cache Creek (at least a five-hundred-mile detour) before I got to Prince George and the Yellowhead Highway (BC-16). I actually saw only one small fire coming into Cache Creek, but almost all southern BC had poor visibility and air quality.

I was ok with that detour as the other option was to drive all the way up to Jasper on the Continental Divide and then drive the entire eight hundred+ mile, fourteen-hour loop back to Prince Rupert. I could have gone up and taken the Alaskan Highway, but while getting to Alaska is important, it is not nearly as important as getting there after visiting all the amazing places along the BC interior and coastal mountain.

Good Morning Lakeside! Red Bluff Provincial Park, BC

Last evening, I got lost on the backroads along the Babine River. Maybe not lost, but some of these dusty dirt roads can go on forever. My Garmin was no help, phone reception was nonexistent, I saw only a few quail, several bear-poos, and not one car or truck. Eventually I turned around to find a campground that I had passed hours before. There at Red Bluff Provincial Park, I met Dave. He runs the park. ‘Runs’ means he is the only employee, he works seven days a week, and he is on-call at all hours. He is a photography buff, loves his two dogs, and we had plenty to talk about. He gave me the scoop on some of his favorite local camera spots, and Thursday morning I spent a few hours with sockeye salmon, eagles, mergansers, and a mink (no bears!). It was a great morning on my own, in a special happy place. Thanks Dave!

A Brace of Mergansers, BC

Today, after three days of driving, I am north of the fires (hoping the light rain will keep things quiet on the fire end?), writing my blog from Prince Rupert on the BC North Coast, and looking at the Ferry options to Alaska, Vancouver Island, and Haidi Gwaii. I will catch my breath here today and tomorrow, and then drive back up along the Skeena River (what a wonderful river drive), north on the Cassier Highway, across the Stikine, up to Whitehorse in the Yukon territories, and eventually turning west to Alaska. I haven’t forgotten about that starter!

Skeena River, called K-shian (Water of the Clouds) by the Tsimshian and Gitsan peoples. BC


This morning, the US extended its travel restrictions at the border for another thirty-days. I have no idea why the US hasn’t reciprocated by opening the border to Canadians? It makes no sense to me, and the year-and-a-half border closure has been devastating to so many communities on both sides.

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