What a feeling to be finally back on the road. Two and a half years in the Comox Valley is the longest we have lived anywhere together, and while it was a great place to be waylaid, we are happiest exploring new places. Not to mention that we now have at least five months off work, that does help too!
North Vancouver Island
The first couple of weeks of our Western Canada road trip were based in North Vancouver Island – a region we had already seen some of and loved for the quiet, space and plentiful free camping.
You may wonder why we headed North first, over the much warmer southern half of the Island. Trust me, we did too after realising just how cold camping in April can be!
Cold and wet
Well, I’ll get to the why later, but camping in early Spring was most certainly different to what we were used to. Campfires? No longer just for entertainment, we often had one going all day just for warmth. I don’t think either of us took off our thermals during these two weeks.
And the rain. Boy, do you notice the rain when you’re camping in it! We knew it would be cold and possibly very wet, but it’s hard to imagine while you’re planning inside a nice warm condo.
Finding space in the van
Aside from the weather, we’ve also had a problem with having way too much stuff in the van. We hadn’t finished sorting our belongings by the time we left our home on Mount Washington, so the van has been in bit of a jumble.
A substantial part of this is food from our condo, including about 2kg of frozen edamame beans which I’d forgotten were still in the freezer, oops.
Needless to say, we had quite a few edamame bean based meals over the first week or so! We’re finally getting there now though, maybe another week or so and things will be looking a lot better.
Sticking to the budget
Weather and organisation aside, life is good. We’re finally doing exactly what we’ve saved, waited and planned for. We’re outside, paddling, hiking, caving, exploring and living.
Best of all, we’re stuck to our budget of ten dollars a day. That’s the total for both of us, excluding gas for the van. In fact, we would have been able to save money if grocery stores in the North of the Island weren’t so expensive! We took advantage of free camping at the many northern recreational sites almost every night.
We paid for a campsite near Telegraph Cove ten days in to experience proper showers (our solar shower can be a lacking at this time of year). Here’s some of our highlights from the first two weeks on the road, around North Vancouver Island.
Cape Scott Provincial Park
Here’s one of the reasons we went North first – the $10 camping fees per person per night in Cape Scott Provincial Park starting May 1st. Cape Scott is the north-western tip of Vancouver Island, and it’s a muddy 47km return hike to the Lighthouse at the end. We looked so happy at the start!
Considering it’s one of the wettest parts of the Island, we were very lucky to hike into the Park on such a beautiful day. We still couldn’t escape the mud though! 3 days, 50km, one 6.6 magnitude earthquake and a whole lot of mud later, we made it!
Caving on North Vancouver Island
We were continuously surprised by what can be found just off the main highways. Above is Huson Caves near Woss, and below Jean Robert explores a cave in the Upana system near Gold River. Both completely free and usually deserted!
Weeks 1 & 2 – Comox Valley to Cape Scott and back.
Kilometres driven: 1402
Kilometres hiked: 50.4 – Cape Scott Trail
Money spent: $160 (right on budget!)
Lakes paddled: 3 – Atluck, Alice and Muchalat plus ocean canoeing on Johnstone Strait
North Vancouver Island campsites
Top level L-R: Little Bear Bay, Atluck Lake, Pinch Creek (Alice Lake).
Second level: Kathleen Lake, Nissen Bight (Cape Scott Park), Nels Bight (Cape Scott Park)
Third level: Alder Bay (paid camping near Telegraph Cove), Muchalat Lake, Miracle Beach.
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Wednesday 13th of October 2021
This cabin should not be mentioned in here. It clearly states on the door to “Please keep this wonderful place off social media”and if you’ve been there yourself you should realize how special of a place it is and respect that request. And I’m sure that everyone who visits would like it to remain this way. When hidden gems like this are posted online it ruins the feeling of knowing you’re one of few that know about the place, they become overrun with tourists, and people ruin it. Please reconsider placing this cabin in your blog.
Wednesday 13th of October 2021
I visited this cabin way back in 2014 and there was no such note (and social media was a bit of a different beast!) I absolutely take your point though and have removed my mention of it. I will also delete your comment in a few days, after i assume you will have seen this reply! I'm very aware of how important it is to ensure sustainability of vulnerable places (it's one reason I don't use Instagram). This post has received very little traffic over the years - it's a relic of the days when our site was primarily for friends/family.
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Friday 2nd of May 2014
Great post! I love seeing people exploring the far reaches of BC - although I can only imagine how cold it must be right now, especially at night. And an earthquake to top everything off? You guys must have some great stories to tell now. I especially love " The Magic Cabin" - there aren't many places in the world where campers can find a fully outfitted cabin offered for free to anyone who reaches it. :)
Friday 2nd of May 2014
Hey Calli, the "Magic Cabin" is now one of our favourite places on the whole island. It's definitely worth the effort to get there. The Earthquake really was quite something too, and to think we were originally going to finish the hike the day before! I'll be writing more about the Cape Scott hike next week, it was a very eventful trip. Thanks for your comments!