Mo & Terry Smedley


Vancouver Island by Rail - 2006 Edition

As we've done for quite a few years now, we took a four-day mini-vacation on Vancouver Island in early November.  The itinerary is our usual one:  Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, VIA Rail Budd car to Parksville after a night on the town in Victoria, exploration of the up-island area around Parksville, then return by the same route.   Incredibly, we've never run into rain on one of these trips - until this time!  We encountered heavy rain in Port Angeles, Victoria, and Parksville.   Previously, we've explored the Parksville area strictly on foot.  This time we decided to rent a car so we could see some new territory.  We were rewarded with fun exploration of several Provincial parks in the area.

You can find pictures from earlier trips on our web site:  click here for 2004, here for 2003, or here for 2002

Sister Pam gave us a night's stay at a bed & breakfast of our choice.  We chose the Red Caboose Inn in Sequim.  Our caboose was themed the "Orient Express", and was elegantly furnished.  A jacuzzi bathtub was at one end. Mo is checking out comments left by previous guests in this caboose. Orient Express memorabilia is found everywhere in the caboose. On a rainy morning, you can see we were in a nicely restored Sante Fe cupola caboose.  It was originally fabricated at PacCar in Renton (according to the builder's plate).
I got better wireless reception up high in the cupola.   Breakfast is served in a restored Zephyr dining car.  And the breakfast was something else - four complete courses, including dessert!  When we get home, I'll scan the breakfast menu and attach it here. There are four cabooses fully restored at this B&B, with two more in various stages of repair for future use.
This poster decorated the small bathroom.   You can't easily read the brass plaque to the left in this compressed photo, but it offered the usual railroad admonition:  "Do not flush toilet while train is in station."  Nowadays, that warning is no longer required.  But pity the gandy-dancers of days gone by! After our extensive breakfast, we drove through Dungeness Meadows, where Mo's mother lived for quite a while.  We stopped in to see her neighbors Langdon and Elaine Gardiner, who still keep in touch frequently.   Elaine's house looks good with a new coat of paint.  The roof and skylight repair that Mo orchestrated in order to sell the house still look very good.
  I have no picture of this, but needed space for a comment.  On Friday night, we attended dinner theatre at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel in Victoria.  We timed this trip to visit the Oak Bay Hotel on its last weekend of operation before closing for a major renovation that will take two years.  The theatre show was a Celtic group from Victoria, The Ecclestons.    Their take on Celtic music is decidedly non-traditional.  They call it "Full Contact Folk Music".  It was high-energy and great fun, and included the men in sequined kilts. Our up-island train departed on a misty, gray day from the Victoria waterfront.  The passenger load was low today - about 25 persons in a single RDC (Budd car).  VIA will run two or even three RDCs on this route to handle the 200 or so daily passengers that are typical of the summer tourist season. Upon arrival in Parksville, we picked up our rental car and headed to Macmillan Provincial Park.  We enjoyed a walk in the wind and rain through Cathedral Grove.
We saw hundreds of carved pumpkins decorating the Port Alberni highway.  Some of the carvings are very intricate. Even the Cathedral Grove trail was decorated with pumpkins. More interesting pumpkins, including one that is clearly French. Lots of large trees, mostly Douglas-fir or Western Red Cedar. 
The Big Leaf Maple had....well, it had very big leaves! A 1997 storm blew down many of the oldest trees in this area.  You can see many examples of the wind damage from the trail. I call this "Helter Skelter".  Look at all the different angles at which the trees lie in these pictures. Very heavy rains today gave us swollen rivers, very muddy with runoff.
Interesting angles on some of the trees that (barely) survived the 1997 blow. Tall trees.  This area is similar to what we find in the Quinault and Hoh Rain Forest near our home.  Although our familiarity with this kind of forest makes this scenery not surprising, it doesn't make it any less impressive to walk amongst these giant trees. That's one big tree stump I'm standing inside. This is thought to be the largest tree in this area.  The recent windfall makes it impossible to get right next to it, but you can see how large this tree is from my wingspan.
A nice example of a temperate rain forest nurse log. A few miles up the road, we visited Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.  As you might have guessed, there's a lot of water in the river today!   As we walked along the river and falls, the sky started to brighten a bit.
The river makes its way through a narrow rock canyon. The largely abandoned rail line to Port Alberni runs right through the Park.  You can see these tracks haven't seen maintenance in quite a while. When we arrived at the Bayside Inn in Parksville, the rains had temporarily given way to patches of blue.  This is Parksville Bay from our hotel room balcony. Just before dinner, we had the gift of moonlight on the bay.
One of us was up early enough on Sunday to catch this beautiful sunrise over Parksville Bay. We took a short drive to Englishman River Falls.  The rain-swollen river put on an impressive show. Upper Falls on the Englishman River, taken from the bridge. Upper Falls.
Looking downstream from the bridge.  The Englishman River cuts through a rock channel much like the Little Qualicum River we toured yesterday. The bridge is a long ways above the canyon floor.... I had a hard time walking on the bridge because of the open view.  My vertigo is triggered anytime I can see down from my feet. Is this sign really necessary?  Why would you be tempted to jump from a bridge high above a steep, granite canyon?
Big trees at steep angles. It was damp and foggy on our walk along the river. The Lower Falls at Englishman River. After considering all the possibilities, we think that aliens from outer space planted these trees in a special geometric pattern.
Our rental car was a Toyota Yaris.  It's a new 2007 model (replaces the Echo).  Tiny, but quite fuel efficient and more than adequate for our touring needs. The Qualicum Bay train depot is nicely maintained.  There's an old Bloedel logging locomotive in the distance. This is the road on the way out to Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park.  The fall colors were striking to a pair of coastal low-landers.  I suppose that people who live where there are more hardwood trees with their vibrant fall colors would find this pretty tame. On our walk at Rathrevor, we saw a swan swimming alone.
I don't think I've ever seen a park with so many picnic benches.  I couldn't easily get a picture that showed them all.  I'd guess there were more than 100 picnic benches at the park, with nice views of the Georgia Strait, but sheltered by tall trees. Sounds a little like a pig farm.  Seek, slip, slap, slop. The restored water tower near the Parksville station. The garden was just planted this year.  It's in anticipation of celebrating 100 years of railroad history on Vancouver Island in 2010.
It was a cool, wet wait for our train back to Victoria.  We turned the rental car in an hour before train time just to be sure we could get to the train station with no rush.  Then we had to wait for 45 minutes outside in the rain (the building is not open on Sunday).  Mo was especially pleased with how I planned this part of the trip.  Thankfully, the train picked us up in Parksville right on time. We spent our final night in Victoria at the Marriott (using reward points built up with all of those road trips I made to Portland last year).  It is located just a couple of blocks from the Royal BC Museum.  Here is Mo taking a quiz on some of the more bizarre reproductive habits of the animal kingdom that are featured in the Museum's "Fatal Attraction" exhibit. The sign said to "embrace the snail", and to watch for its "love dart".   You can see what happened here when Mo rubbed this snail's belly.   Hmmh..... The museum's HMS Discovery exhibit highlights one of my favorite sayings: "Back when men were steel and ships were wood."
We saw many examples of this in downtown Victoria - trees that had been paved right into the sidewalk.  That's asphalt surrounding the tree. Here's another view of pavement surrounding a tree.  I don't understand how the trees survive this encapsulation.  Where do their water and nutrients come from? The MV Coho departed Victoria at 4PM for our return to Port Angeles.  There's wind and rain ahead on the crossing of the Straits.