The Lower 48 – what the hell is that? Easy. It means the Lower Contiguous 48 States of the United States, usually in comparison to Alaska, which is separated from the first 48 states by Canada. Of course, Hawaii is not part of the game – who bothers for small islands. Ok?
Our long journey thru the rather non-descript west of Canada. Back to the US. Washington State. A visit to Olympic National Park and Mount St. Helens.
Prince George, 15th July
On 14th July we leave tiny Stewart, British Columbia. But not before we quickly cross the US border to learn that the salmons in the eponymous river still are on their way up. What a pity – no bears fishing delicious salmons.
We head further southwards. Towards the US border. Some 1500 km to the Lower 48. A journey not known as incredibly interesting – for most of the time. Nevertheless, the Inside Passage, this ferry connecting northern British Columbia with Vancouver Island is renowned for its beauty and fully booked until the sea will freeze again.
What to do. We’re on the way to Smithers. Never heard? No problem, more about that a little later. On the way 1 of the few highlights of the next 1500km: the Bear Glacier. Probably the world’s most visible glacier on the roadside.
A little later a severe warning at the roadside becomes reality: a munching Black Grizzly.
There are even more sights on the way: the Totem Poles in Gitanyow . Interesting place. Unfortunately the surrounding looks pretty sad.
A few km further some more poles. The place, the village of Kitwanga, even looking more miserable that the 1st 1.
And we’re definitely on the way to Smithers.
Smithers: a strange mix of absolute nondescript and dead weird. A guy from 1 of Europe’s alp republics must have settled here – or a Canadian tourist visited 1 of these countries and misunderstood something. Whatever, a strange backbencher’s stronghold with a wooden alphorn player.
On to Prince George. Just a day-long-drive. Nothing special.
The town: modern buildings, everybody goes sleeping at 8pm or watches soap operas the whole night.
Maybe except the few costumers at the Crossroad Brewing House.
Osoyoos, 18th July
The next morning: we have 1 of these famous all-Canadian- American breakfasts. The usual stuff, nothing special. Just these delicacies nobody in any other country would even look at. Maybe except Monika’s great idea to get some cereals. Of course there’s a huge choice. All kind of names, brands, specific characteristics. We don’t know them and cannot imagine what it might be. Well, she just takes the 25th special proposed by the overzealous waitress. And she gets it.
These guys in North America always insist that nowhere else in the world you have such a choice. Especially concerning the variety of foodstuff offered. We know that. Every Walmart offers 243 different brands or varieties of coffee. With vanilla flavour, or hazelnut, with caffeine or cholesterol, with vitamin B27 or baconless strawberry flavour. You think it’s a great choice. Just there’s no coffee tasting like coffee. Somehow a pity.
Back to the breakfast. Of course the same applies to cereals. And Monika got some of them. Well, we know them too. But not in a variety of different flavours and colours.
And we never serve them to humans. They feed our beloved dogs.
Enough. We drive on to Quesnel. On the way a visit to Barkerville. A place where they celebrate the life of the old miners for the sake of the odd tourists. Well, Barkerville was the capital of the Cariboo Gold Rush some 150 years ago. But times have changed and after a long period of decline some clever guys discovered its potential as a tourist destination. Some renovations, some people squeezed into old fashioned costumes, some shops celebrating grandma’s style and restaurants selling all kind of stuff’n’goodies. And historic Barkerville is converted into a kind of Disneyworld for old–time–mining–and-living addicted tourists. Well, they restored everything pretty well, no kitsch. Still, somehow it reminds us to Disneyland. Whatever, if there’s nothing else to admire on this road to the Lower 48 it’s worth a visit.
Quesnel. You don’t know it. Could be you even won’t find it on Google. Just remember it’s pretty hot there. 25° more than a few days ago in Stewart.
On to Kamloops in south British Columbia. The landscape changes considerably. Less forests, more agriculture. And much more populated.
Kamloops – non-descript as usual for this kind of towns. But ok, just for the night.
Then further southwards. To Osoyoos. Not a Greek village on sun-kissed Kreta. No, it’s simply a tourist hotspot in Canada’s Okanagan Valley.
But back to the road. Still passing thru agriculture land, …
… later becoming a kind of desert. Temperatures accordingly. Now we’re at 38° C. At least not freezing.
The tourist town of Osoyoos. Somehow a kind of Mallorca, Barbados or Jeffreys Bay at Lake Osoyoos. Well, maybe without their famous counterparts’ nightlife. That’s more Canadian like: next to zero. What a shame.
Nevertheless, a chance for a lazy afternoon at the beach. 38-40° Celsius, not Fahrenheit. Sunbathing, swimming. And admiring Canadian beach life: running behind a considerable number of kids, digesting greasy food and emptying numerous beer cans.
After a while the sun disappears. A nearby wildfire. Must be pretty violent. Brownish, yellowish light, all starts to be covered with ashes. People are used to that. Thus no reason to change daily routine of beach life.
Evening: Despite the numerous tourists no nice eatery or watering hole. It seems the guys drink so much beer at the beach that they limit their evening activities to watching soap operas on TV.
Whatever. We take an effort to escape this miserable destiny. Find a watering hole/eatery. A slightly strange place but ok. At least until the food arrives. Since then we know it: the Sage Pub in Osoyoos has the most awful food we ever had in North America. It’s simply not possible to munch that. Even if trying hard. And even worse – they don’t accept our recommendation to feed this stuff to their cook – probably he would immediately commit suicide.
By the way this ugly gourmet delicacy dripping with fat on the left is called fish’n’chips.
Dear reader, please spread this cruel experience to everybody you meet during the rest of your life and afterwards to avoid a continuous flow of precious dollars from the odd customer’s (victim’s) pocket to the guys of this place. Please do so. Should you be in Osoyoos even don’t think about going to the Sage Pub. Remember it’s the Sage Pub.
Port Townsend, 19th July
The last morning in Canada. All still smells of fire. It’s smoky, hazy. We drive the few km to the US border. Expect the worst. Yes, the immigration officer is unfriendly, even rather impolite. Probably just because he’s instructed to behave like this. So it may not be his mistake. But 5’ later we enter Uncle Don’s Empire.
We head for the North Cascade Highway to reach the Pacific coast. A rather small road renowned to be very scenic.
A pretty mountainous landscape, many signs of former wildfires, …
… passing North Cascade National Park with the spectacular Washington Pass.
Along Diablo Lake – a large reservoir changing its colour according to the content of silt of the river flowing into it.
In the evening we reach the Pacific. We’re in Anacortes. Just a few km north of Seattle. An opportunity to get again used to the all-American-way-of –life. A visit to the San Juan Lanes Bar&Grill. Weird, but somehow a reality. A genius mix of bowling and a pub’n’grub.
The next day on to the Olympic Peninsula. A short ferry ride – quite a crowd: the weekend is not far and it’s holiday season at its worst. Fortunately we’ booked yesterday.
Pretty soon we’re in Port Townsend. We spent a couple of days here last year. So not much to do.
Except a visit to Siren’s. To have an Indian Pale Ale (or 2) and …
… some healthy, but dead fish.
Silver Lake, 23rd July
A visit to Olympic National Park. Most of it we visited last year. Remains the Hurricane Ridge. A drive quite far up. On the ridge a visitor’s center and a large parking. We’re not alone. Well, overlanders cannot always avoid peak tourist seasons.
Mt. Olympic remains pretty distant – a 10 days hike thru bear-infested countryside would change that.
Nevertheless, great views and …
… an opportunity for some short hikes to admire some picturesque mountain forests.
The next day we head for Mt. St. Helens. This volcano had a huge eruption in 1980 destroying everything on hundreds of km2. Nowadays vegetation starts recovering.
In the west a newly opened, definitely over dimensioned road allows tourists to visit Johnston Ridge.
Due to the excellent road it’s pretty crowded. Even on the trails along the ridge.
The next day we try the road up in the east. Much longer, less developed and only few visitors.
Nevertheless, Mt. St. Helen is even more visible.
On the way a hike to Spirit Lake. During the eruption the lake received full impact of the blast. Huge avalanches deposited 1000s of uprooted trees into the lake. Nowadays, some 40 years later, the remnants are still visible.
A step path leads down to the shore.
On to Windy Ridge. The end of the access road. And steep stairways up the hill.
Well, it’s all about the panorama …
… and the nearly 40 years old trunks still swimming in Spirit Lake.
And that’s it for now.
More of the same, more different issues, more observations and more strange encounters soon in our next post from the land of formerly limitless opportunities.