We crossed the border into British Columbia in early April and started the very long drive, approximately 4400km back to Ottawa. There is lots to see in BC, it is a beautiful province and we have only started to explore there. Last year we spent lots of time in North Western BC; Smithers, Prince Rupert, Stewart and the stunning Salmon Glacier but this was our first time driving through the southern area. We really liked the drive on the 5A between Merritt and Kamloops-gorgeous, we even saw a couple of Bald eagles close to the road.
We spent a couple of very enjoyable days with friends in Nelson, a cool, quirky town with some lovely shops. It is always nice to break up long driving days with a couple of stationary days. As we worked our way East we stopped in Grasslands NP in southern Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is a province we drive through with few stops but we had the time and inclination to visit Grasslands and Big Muddy Valley. Grasslands was beautiful and we saw plenty of wildlife including Bison, which we were both very excited to see. This animal is big and impressive, Joe spent spent a long time happily photographing a group that was right by the road. In addition to Bison we saw Pronghorns, Prairie Dogs and we think we saw either a wolf or a very big coyote. We also saw the most beautiful group of horses we had ever seen, big, strong, healthy and beautiful coloring, each one very different. We saw them in the distance so Joe pulled over and they came running, they must belong to someone. They stayed by the truck, probably sheltering out of the wind as it was crazy windy there, and allowed us to photograph them.
I had read about Big Muddy Valley, in fact, National Geographic put it on their “Places of a Lifetime” list for Canada. It sounded neat but sadly after visiting so many incredible places in North America Big Muddy Valley was underwhelming. It is neat, not what you expect to see in Saskatchewan but it just cannot compare to, say, Alberta’s badlands.
Northern California to Seattle is hard to describe in few words. Beautiful. Stunning. Amazing. From the Coastal Redwoods to hundreds of sea lions, incredible waterfalls and jaw dropping glass blowing, we loved it all!
After leaving Sausalito we spent a couple of days in Point Reyes National Seashore, a beautiful area with more elephant seals although they were not nearly as close as they were in Piedras Blancas. Then it was on to Redwood National Park, we just could not get enough of those giant trees. The Tall Trees Grove trail is a must see, I don’t think we have been in such a beautiful forest! Fern canyon was also a pretty neat spot and Redwood National Park is the park to see lots of Elk.
Although it was cloudy and grey for most of our time along the Oregon coast it was still stunning. We stopped at a pullout with no signs and just happened to look down to see hundreds and hundreds of sea lions. WOW, we had never seen that many all together. We then detoured from the coast to drive part of the Historic 30 Highway as far as the Bonneville Dam. There are so many waterfalls along this strip and because of all the rain they were incredible, Multnomah was the most impressive.
In Washington we wanted to see Olympic NP, Seattle and because it was the right time of year, the daffodils in Woodburn. The only disappointment was when we were not permitted to enter Olympic NP at Hurricane Ridge, just too much snow. We did however get to do some hiking in Hoh Rainforest and the coastal trail in Ozette was great. Our reduced time in Olympic NP allowed us to spend more time with friends in Seattle. Great city, fab food and cool shops. We really enjoyed visiting the Hot Shop in Tacoma’s Museum of Glass and absolutely LOVED the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum in Seattle.
In Southern California we skipped LA and headed straight for Piedras Blancas to see the Elephant Seals, WOW, they are huge! The volunteer on site was a wealth of information, we learned a lot about these amazing animals. Elephant seals are incredible divers, they can even sleep underwater. The volunteer on site explained to us that we have to consciously hold our breath while elephant seals have to consciously breathe. When they are sleeping on land, they are NOT breathing, what ?! The deepest recorded dive is 5788 feet and the longest recorded dive is just over two hours. Elephant seals are a noisy bunch, the pups are especially vocal and moms wean them after only four weeks. We spent two days at the rookery, it was fascinating to watch all the activity. We had to laugh at one adolescent male trying to “get it on” with any seal within striking distance, mostly pups-not going to get anywhere with that!
Next stop was Monterey to visit the world famous aquarium and it did not disappoint. The Open Sea, the Jellies and the Tentacles were our favourite sections. Before getting to San Fransisco we had to stop in Carmel, could not afford to do any shopping but loved drooling over the ever so charming houses. We spent two days walking around San Fransisco, boy is that a workout! There is some fantastic architecture in San Fran and of course we had to ride the cable cars. A friend highly recommended visiting the cable car museum and it was an unexpected delight, it was fascinating to see the cables at work and learning how the whole system operates, did you know that the primary braking system on the cable cars are pine blocks that are pressed against the rail to stop the cars and they have to be replaced every four days!
We also got to spend a few days in Sausalito with new friends who were also fantastic tour guides. The Golden Gate Rec Area is beautiful with great hiking and fantastic views over the bay. Our friends also drove us up Mount Tamalpais, I did not think the views could get any better but they did, WOW. I don’t think we can honestly say that “we left our hearts in San Fransisco” but it is one of our favourite cities. Please click here to view our March flickr album.
This is long overdue but I felt it was time to acknowledge those of you that have taken the time to write to us through our blog. I do not post any comments but we read every single one of them and I can honestly say that each one has made us smile. Your words are always kind and we cannot thank you enough.
I had no plans of keeping a blog when we first set out but friends encouraged me to do so and I am enjoying the process, it is like keeping a digital scrapbook. I really enjoy re-living our experiences when I sort through our photos and check my travel journal for facts and details about a particular place. However those of you that have left us comments seem to be strangers that we have not even met. You have seen the truck parked or driven by us or past us on the roads and have written to us welcoming us into your towns and cities, given us words of encouragement and have also told us that we have inspired you to set out on your own journeys. All this kindness has overwhelmed us with feelings of happiness and appreciation.
YOU make our time in North America a joy, we laugh and smile every time we get a thumbs up, a friendly wave or honk of the horn and that happens almost every day. Thank you.
Although not an ideal time of year to visit Yosemite NP, the views were spectacular and with all the snow and rain, Yosemite Falls was full and fierce. The trail up Half Dome was closed but we did manage to get in a couple of nice hikes. We spent three days in the park, our last day it rained all day so we had an indoor day. What do we do on a rainy day stuck in the truck? More often than not we work on our photos, mostly editing and getting them down to a reasonable number. We also spend several hours reading, retirement is a great time to catch up on reading. We brought our Kindles with us but also several books and I find it very satisfying to donate books along the way as we finish with them. Our pile of “someday” books has shrunk significantly.
As we made our way South towards Baja we also stopped in Kings Canyon & Sequoia NP‘s, lots of the longer trails were inaccessible due to snow. We chose not to rent snowshoes, instead we layered up with thick socks, gaiters and rain pants and walked until we were sinking up to our thighs. We were really excited to see the giant sequoia‘s and they did not disappoint, I don’t know if our photos can truly capture their size. These trees are so much bigger than anything around them, they are like the dinosaurs of the forest. Although our cities are full of giant structures the giants made by nature seem to have a bigger impact on me. We LOVED these trees. We spent two hours on a half mile loop just in awe, only leaving when our necks got too sore from looking up all the time. Click here to view our Feb Flickr album.
We just had to come back to Baja to see the whales. It was a quick visit, only two weeks. We spent our time in Ojo de Liebre, San Ignacio lagoon and our favourite town in Baja, Loreto. February is your best chance of seeing both Grey and Blue whales. We have done a few whale watching trips in Canada; Quebec and British Columbia and nothing compares to the whale watching in Baja.
Petting a young Grey whale
To get this close to a whale is so special and the respect given to these whales by the guides make it that much more enjoyable. The friendly whales are choosing to approach the boats, there is no harassing or chasing. Our guide was as excited as we were in San Ignacio when, at one point, he counted seven whales around our boat! Tourists and guides alike seem to appreciate this unique and precious interaction. I was lying in bed giddy, I kept saying to Joe “I touched a whale, a whale!!!” Click here to view our Feb Flickr album.
We started January in Canyon de Chelley in NE Arizona. It is indeed a beautiful place we especially liked the views at Spider Rock lookout. From there we drove South to Petrified Forest NP and I fell in love. Petrified wood is a fossil and a lot of pieces show remarkably preserved details of the bark, wood, and cellular structures. These amazing fossils are formed when “plant material is buried by sediment and protected from decay due to oxygen and organisms. Then, groundwater rich in dissolved solids flows through the sediment, replacing the original plant material with silica, calcite, pyrite or another inorganic material such as opal.” It is these minerals that give petrified wood its stunning colors, the contrast of the oranges in the wood with the purples and greys of the landscape in the national park was very photogenic. The Large Logs/Agate House and Crystal Forest trails were our favourites, very scenic with lots of incredible logs.
We first visited Grand Canyon almost fifteen years ago and I have since been back but this was Joe’s first trip back since 2002. A lot has changed in the last fifteen years, the visitor center is completely different and several of the lookouts are more built up with railings and paved areas. It was nice to see that none of the changes have affected the stunning vistas and views. We have seen several canyons over the years and I can honestly say even on my third visit here that Grand Canyon still takes my breath away and that nothing else comes close to its’ magnificence. We stayed for several days exploring the whole rim from Hermits Rest out to Desert view/Watchtower. It is worth it to stop at each and every lookout, every view is slightly different.