BC Overview, The Plan

Road trip to coastal British Columbia. Take ferries to visit Bourne Island and Vancouver Island. Take the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert to enjoy the Inland Passage. Visit the valleys of the Skeena River and Nass River in hopes of finding some good fishing and visiting First Nation people. Take the ferry to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). Take a local motor boat to visit the south Islands to enjoy the scenery and visit with native people. Return to Prince Rupert and drive to Smithers and try fishing at Rainbow Alley. Drive to Hope to camp with friends on the Skaggit River. Then, after about eight weeks, return home.

Route plan for BC Road Trip

Route plan for BC Road Trip

Vancouver Island

Drove through Seattle and crossed the border into the city of Vancouver. Took a ferry from Horseshoe Bay to visit friends on Bourne Island. Had unseasonably warm weather, warm enough to swim in the ocean. Returned to Horseshoe Bay and took the ferry to Nanaimo and drove to Port Alberni. Drove a rough logging road for 82 km to Bamfield and took a water ferry to the west side. Enjoyed Brady Beach, especially walking at low tide. Had a wonderful boat ride with our hosts and saw humpback whales and unusually large jelly fish. Drove to Campbell River and visited Strathcona Park with snow-covered mountain peaks. Drove to Telegraph Cove and stayed in Port McNeill. Visited Alert Bay with its wonderful totem polls. Drove to Port Hardy and visited Cape Scott Park and San Josef cove. This concluded about 1,100 miles of driving. We then boarded the Northern Expedition for a fifteen-hour cruise to Prince Rupert.

Ferries

The BC Ferries are an extension of the highway system.

BC ferry

BC ferry

cars on BC Ferry

cars on BC Ferry

BC Ferry in transit.

BC Ferry in transit.

Brady Beach at Bamfield

The low tide at the full moon nearest the solstice produced some exceptional low tide conditions.

Terrain at Brady Beach

Terrain at Brady Beach

sand dollar at Brady Beach

sand dollar at Brady Beach

starfish at Brady Beach

starfish at Brady Beach

surf grass at Brady Beach

surf grass at Brady Beach

rock at Brady Beach

rock at Brady Beach

kelp air bladder at Brady Beach

kelp air bladder at Brady Beach

dead starfish at Brady Beach

dead starfish at Brady Beach

tide pool at low tide at Brady Beach

tide pool at low tide at Brady Beach

Bamfield, town

old building at Bamfield

old building at Bamfield


dock on west side of Bamfield

dock on west side of Bamfield

Wildlife at Bamfield

eagle at Bamfield

eagle at Bamfield

fledgling eagle at Bamfield

fledgling eagle at Bamfield

humpback whale blowing at Bamfield

humpback whale blowing at Bamfield

humpback whale diving at Bamfield

humpback whale diving at Bamfield

moon jellyfish at Bamfield

moon jellyfish at Bamfield

starfish at Brady Beach

starfish at Brady Beach

Brady Beach walk

haystack at Brady Beach, Bamfield

haystack at Brady Beach, Bamfield


low tide at Brady Beach

low tide at Brady Beach


tide rushing in at Brady Beach

tide rushing in at Brady Beach


washed up log at Brady Beach

washed up log at Brady Beach


sea grasses at Brady Beach

sea grasses at Brady Beach

Found art at Bamfield

Our dust covered windshield was streaked by a light rain.

dirty windshield

dirty windshield

Northern Vancouver Island

Drove to Campbell River and visited Strathcona Park with lakes and snow-covered mountain peaks. Took a ferry from Port O’Neill to Alert Bay. Alert Bay has an aboriginal museum, totem polls, a big house and a thriving population of First Nation people. Drove to Port Hardy and visited Cape Scott Park and San Josef cove in the northwest. This concluded about 1,100 miles of driving. We then boarded the Northern Expedition for a fifteen-hour cruise to Prince Rupert.

Lake scene at entrance to Strathcona Park.

Lake scene at entrance to Strathcona Park.

Lake scene in Strathcona Park.

Lake scene in Strathcona Park.

Alert Bay

BC Ferry crossing from Port O'Neill to Alert Bay.

BC Ferry crossing from Port O’Neill to Alert Bay.

Old double-decker English buses at Alert Bay.

Old double-decker English buses at Alert Bay.

Three totem poles at Alert Bay.

Three totem poles at Alert Bay.

An old camera washed up by the sea.

An old camera washed up by the sea.

Detail of wood from a shipwreck.

Detail of wood from a shipwreck.

Big house at Alert Bay.

Big house at Alert Bay.

Found art, objects on the beach at Alert Bay.

Found art, objects on the beach at Alert Bay.

Port Hardy

San Josef cove near Cape Scott, north west corner of Vancouver Island.

San Josef cove near Cape Scott, north west corner of Vancouver Island.

San Josef cover near Cape Scott, north west corner of Vancouver Island.

San Josef cover near Cape Scott, north west corner of Vancouver Island.

Eagles in estuary at Port Hardy.

Eagles in estuary at Port Hardy.

Harbor area at sunset, Port Hardy.

Harbor area at sunset, Port Hardy.

Rainbow in harbor area, Port Hardy.

Rainbow in harbor area, Port Hardy.

BC Ferry, Northern Expedition ready to sail, Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, a fifteen hour passage.

BC Ferry, Northern Expedition ready to sail, Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, a fifteen hour passage.

Eagle overlooking ferry.

Eagle overlooking ferry.

Midsummer Days Ferry Ride

Took the BC Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert on the Northern Expedition. Left at 7:30 a.m. and arrived about 11 p.m.  It was a wonderful trip though the inland passage from southern BC to northern BC. At times the passage was very narrow. It rained on and off with wonderful clouds punctuating the wild scenery. It was very comfortable and the time passed relatively quickly.

Both the bow and stern opened to allow vehicle loading.

Both the bow and stern opened to allow vehicle loading.


View from our front row seats.

View from our front row seats.


The front window in the rain.

The front window in the rain.


Windswept clouds.

Windswept clouds.


Dramatic evening light.

Dramatic evening light.


Our wake.

Our wake.


The smokestack of the Northern Expedition.

The smokestack of the Northern Expedition.


Guests looking for whales.

Guests looking for whales.


An old lighthouse.

An old lighthouse.


A porthole view.

A porthole view.


Canadian flag.

Canadian flag.

Skeena River

We arrived late in Prince Rupert, had a cappuccino at Cowpuccino’s Café and headed east toward Terrace. The drive through the Skeena Valley is spectacular with soaring peaks surrounding the wide, green-glacier colored river. In Terrace, we tried to catch some salmon and enjoyed the downtown restaurants. But, after a few days, we headed north to the Nass Valley. We drove through the Skeena Valley twice more; we drove back to Prince Rupert to catch the ferry to Haida Gwaii and then drove back to again drive to the Nass River.

A lake on Kaien Island east of Prince Rupert.

A lake on Kaien Island east of Prince Rupert.

Part of the Skeen River estuary, just east of Prince Rupert.

Part of the Skeen River estuary, just east of Prince Rupert.

Clouds covering stone peaks.

Clouds covering stone peaks.

Blue sky and rock faces.

Blue sky and rock faces.

Yellowhead Highway bridge reflects on Exchamsiks River near confluence with Skeena.

Yellowhead Highway bridge reflects on Exchamsiks River near confluence with Skeena.

Flowers in bloom on cedar tree.

Flowers in bloom on cedar tree.

Red berries.

Red berries.


Fishermen on north end of Ferry Island, Terrace, B.C. looking for springers.

Fishermen on north end of Ferry Island, Terrace, B.C. looking for springers.

Nass River

We headed north to the Nass Valley and the traditional home of the Nisga’a people. They lived here for centuries until European settlers upended their way of living. Several hundred years ago, a volcano erupted and the lava flow covered villages and killed many thousands of people. More recently in 2000, the Candadian government negotiated a treaty that returned the ancestral land and many artifacts to the people.

Highway sign north of Terrace.

Highway sign north of Terrace.

Totem pole in Nass Valley.

Totem pole in Nass Valley.


Kincolith aka Gingolx
In Kincolith, we stayed at a B&B and met many local villagers. It is the home of the Eagle Band. The town of about 300 people is at the mouth of the Nass River and has wonderful views of the estuary. Until the completion of a road in 2003, the only access to the town was by boat. We went for hikes on an overlook and up the valley. We tried fishing for salmon in the river that runs through town.
The town of Kincolith looking down from the overlook.

The town of Kincolith looking down from the overlook.

Looking across the estuary from Kincolith.

Looking across the estuary from Kincolith.

River scene upstream of Kincolith.

River scene upstream of Kincolith.

Looking north of Kincolith.

Looking north of Kincolith.

Panorama showing fishermen along the river in Kincolith.

Panorama showing fishermen along the river in Kincolith.

Panorama showing estuary and the town of Kincolith.

Panorama showing estuary and the town of Kincolith.

Hiking trail north of Kincolith.

Hiking trail north of Kincolith.

Looking downstream where the Nass River enters the estuary.

Looking downstream where the Nass River enters the estuary.


New Aiyansh aka Gitwinksihlkw
We camped at Nisga’a Memorial Lava Beds Provincial Park that is managed jointly by the Nisga’a and the province. The park includes the lava flow that erupted in the 18th century. New Aiyansh is the capital of the Nisga’a Nation. A totem pole stands here, the first raised in the Nass Valley since the late 19th century.
Lava beds stretching for miles.

Lava beds stretching for miles.

Snowy peaks behind lava beds.

Snowy peaks behind lava beds.

Lava beds and glaciers at New Aiyansh.

Lava beds and glaciers at New Aiyansh.

Lava beds, trees and mountain peaks.

Lava beds, trees and mountain peaks.

A glacier in Nass Valley.

A glacier in Nass Valley.

Eagles

There were lots of eagles everywhere we went. We saw hundreds, maybe even a thousand eagles on our trip. I spent time watching them and studying their movements. They tolerate humans up to a certain point and then fly away. In the Tseax River in New Aiyansh, the eagles would fly through the narrow, tree-lined canyon. If they saw me, they would turn around and fly the other way. It was hard to creep up on them; they saw me first. When I reached a certain distance, they flew away. One day, I put on my boots and waders but instead of fishing, I photographed eagles. I waded into the river and stayed low in the shadows below leaves and branches. I left enough open space to focus my lens when the eagle came in view and waited. I had a lot of misses, but I got some good photos. I tried again another day, but the conditions had changed. When we were in Kincolith, I watched where eagles liked to perch and what time of day the sun could lighten the subject. It took three days, but I finally saw an eagle perched on top of the eagle totem pole with the light shining on it.

Eagle perched on a branch on Tseax River.

Eagle perched on a branch on Tseax River.

Eagle flying through canyon on Tseax River.

Eagle flying through canyon on Tseax River.

Eagle on eagle totem pole in Kincolith.

Eagle on eagle totem pole in Kincolith.

Eagle soaring in front of mountains.

Eagle soaring in front of mountains.

Two young eagles playing. Their color is more mottled than full adults.

Two young eagles playing. Their color is more mottled than full adults.

Eagle flying overhead.

Eagle flying overhead.

Eagle in front of mountain surveying the landscape.

Eagle in front of mountain surveying the landscape.

Author waiting to photograph eagles.

Author waiting to photograph eagles.

BC Fishing Survey

In between sightseeing, boat cruises, camping and driving, we did some fishing.

Thank God for trout.
On the last two days of our trip (before driving home), we fished the lake with the proverbial fish on every cast with rainbows averaging fourteen inches. We didn’t catch them on every cast, but we did get a bite. Joe, the owner of the Nechako Lodge directed us to Cicuta (aka Rum Cache) Lake.

Dawn fishes Cicuta lake on a cool August afternoon

Dawn fishes Cicuta lake on a cool August afternoon

Dawn with a Cicuta Rainbow.

Dawn with a Cicuta Rainbow.

Typical Cicuta rainbow.

Typical Cicuta rainbow.

Forgot my sledgehammer.
We drove along the Skeena River from the mouth to Terrace on Father’s Day. There were lots of fishermen and families. Most people drove their trucks on the gravel bar and set up camp for the day. Although we didn’t see anyone catching fish, the tackle shop in Terrace reported the springers were in the river and fishing was excellent. After stocking up on 10 ounce weights and spin-n-glows (clowns and lettuce and tomatoes), we headed off to the gravel bar and followed the example of the local fishermen. Perhaps because we forgot our sledgehammer, we did not catch any. But Dawn did hook and play one. It showed itself, a large fish, and then broke her line. The locals use a hand sledgehammer to drive their road holders into the gravel and then to bonk the fish. A couple of them caught a fish.

Time lapse photos set to one per hour show fast action plunking for springers on the Skeena.

Time lapse photos set to one per hour show fast action plunking for springers on the Skeena.

She took my fishing spot
A few years ago, we had a memorable time fishing for salmon with a fly rod on the Xnukw. We passed over it four times and didn’t see any salmon. The last time we stayed for lunch. The tide was about to turn. Hungry looking eagles were sitting in trees. We watched a porcupine and enjoyed the weather. Sure enough, after lunch we saw a few salmon working their way upstream and then a pod and another pod. I was about to get my fly rod when Dawn said. Look at the bear. There was Mama Bear walking into the river exactly where I was going to go. Then we saw two cubs. I decided fishing with Mama was a bad idea. As we drove away, we saw yet another cub.

Mama Bear looking for salmon.

Mama Bear looking for salmon.

River near Kincolith.

River near Kincolith.

Canada Day BBQ
Downstream of New Aiyansh, the Tseax meets the Nass. The sockeye run up here. Based on the number of eagles, it seemed promising. After a hike through the lava and through bear territory, we found a pool full of sockeye. I began casting my fly rod. Soon after, a local showed up with a boom box blaring from his knapsack. I hooked a sockeye and began playing it. The local joined in with the fishing. I caught another one and decided to keep it for Canada Day dinner. A half-dozen more locals showed up, also with large boom boxes. By then, it was crowded and the locals were intent on filling their freezers. As we hiked back and looked at all the signs of bears, I wished I had a loud, boom box.

Casting to sockeye.

Casting to sockeye.

Sockeye at confluence of Tseax and Nass.

Sockeye at confluence of Tseax and Nass.

Bottom fishing.
We went for a marine tour of the Haida sites in the Gwaii Haanas Marine Park. We did some bottom fishing and caught ling cod and other fish by jigging large spoons over pinnacles in the Hecate Straits. We had some good dinners.

Dawn with a colorful catch.

Dawn with a colorful catch.

Me with ling cod.

Me with ling cod.

Cranberry River
As we were leaving the Nass River Valley to start our long drive home, we took a look at the Cranberry. People were catching fish. In the evening, I managed to catch one. We drove 1.5 hours to a motel and returned the following day, but conditions had changed (again). We did meet Leonard and Lauren. Leonard worked for the tribe in Canyon City. He tags fish at the fish weir and then drives around and catches fish to see where they have gone. Lauren lives in Prince George and has been fishing the area for twenty-four years. He says the best time is July 10 to August 10.

Fighting a springer on the Cranberry.

Fighting a springer on the Cranberry.

Me with a springer on Cranberry.

Me with a springer on Cranberry.

Fishing Closed
Our original plan was to meet up with a friend at the Skagit River near Hope to camp and fish for a week. We have done this several times before and really enjoyed it. But drought and heat took their toll. Basically anyplace south of Prince George is closed to fishing in an effort to conserve the fish due to extreme conditions. Maybe it will reopen toward the end of September.

Haida Gwaii

From Prince Rupert, we took the ferry to Skidegate in Haida Gwaii. Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii is the home of the Haida people, a much revered northwest aboriginal tribe. The southern islands have been returned to the Haida people and are now managed as Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. We drove around Graham Island in the north and visited Massett. We took a boat throughout the marine park, visiting all five Haida village sites.

View from anchorage in Gwaii Haanas.

View from anchorage in Gwaii Haanas.


Clouds above the water.

Clouds above the water.


Anchorage scene.

Anchorage scene.


Low tide scene.

Low tide scene.


Unusual clouds form a pattern above evergreens and driftwood.

Unusual clouds form a pattern above evergreens and driftwood.


Skungwai totem poles standing in original position.

Skungwai totem poles standing in original position.


Detail of bear claw on totem pole, Skungwai.

Detail of bear claw on totem pole, Skungwai.


Detail of man on totem pole, Skungwai.

Detail of man on totem pole, Skungwai.


Detail of commemorative pole celebrating logging protestors in 1977. The protests ultimately led to the return of the islands to the Haida people.

Detail of commemorative pole celebrating logging protestors in 1977. The protests ultimately led to the return of the islands to the Haida people.


The Haida Gwaii black bear is a distinct subspecies of the American Black Bear.

The Haida Gwaii black bear is a distinct subspecies of the American Black Bear.


Scarred back of Risso's  dolphin.

Scarred back of Risso’s dolphin.


Lions Mane Jellyfish, a yard in width.

Lions Mane Jellyfish, a yard in width.


Bird footprints in sand.

Bird footprints in sand.


Low tide scene.

Low tide scene.


Morning dew drops on sea grass.

Morning dew drops on sea grass.


Detail of rusted logging chain.

Detail of rusted logging chain.


Detail of rock on small island in southern Gwaii Haanas.

Detail of rock on small island in southern Gwaii Haanas.


Boat harbor in Massat.

Boat harbor in Massat.


Seashore at Naikoon Provincial Park at northern end of Graham Island.

Seashore at Naikoon Provincial Park at northern end of Graham Island.

Nechako

Before driving home, we spent an enjoyable time in a cabin at Nechako Lodge in central BC and west of Prince George. We fished, hiked and visited the Cheslatta Falls and the Nechako Canyon.

Making hay while the sun shines.

Making hay while the sun shines.

Nechako Lodge dock.

Nechako Lodge dock.

Cheslatta Falls.

Cheslatta Falls.

Cheslatta Falls.

Cheslatta Falls.

Cheslatta Falls.

Cheslatta Falls.

Pine cones.

Pine cones.

Fireweed in front of trees burnt by forest fire.

Fireweed in front of trees burnt by forest fire.

Nechako Reservoir.

Nechako Reservoir.