June 21, 2013 - Day 27
Stewart, British Columbia is remarkably picturesque and I wanted to stay longer. However, for the first time in weeks, I actually had a deadline. Shudder! I had to be at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in four days and I didn't want to rush.
On my way east from Stewart, I stopped on Highway 37A for one final glimpse of the majestic Bear Glacier before reaching Highway 37 proper. One black bear greeted me beside the highway just west of Meziadin Junction and another crossed the road a few hours later near Kitwanga. The latter was an obviously wounded individual; it hobbled across the highway into the forest without putting any weight on one of its hind legs. It was a good reminder that many animals struggle daily with mere survival. Comfort is strictly a human invention.
I spent most of the day driving and had no particular camping spot in mind when the day began. The monotony got to me around 6:00 PM so I considered my options. I wasn't far from Prince George when I spotted a roadside park. Blue Cedars RV Campground fit the bill so I stopped, paid for a site, and put up my tent. I soon realized that my entire site (and, in fact, the entire campground) was covered in thousands of unwanted visitors.
Tent caterpillars were everywhere! They wriggled all over my picnic table's legs and crawled on its benches. It's saying a lot that I was actually unable to enjoy Kraft Dinner due to the overabundance of caterpillars. I was hopeful throughout my meal that every bite would not result in a mouthful of busted caterpillar guts. Thankfully, none did. It's one thing to minimize the goodness that is Kraft Dinner. It's quite another to mess with my precious sleep. But that's exactly what the caterpillars did. How dare they!
June 22, 2013 - Day 28
I normally sleep soundly but I couldn't this time. Maybe it had something to do with the caterpillar that was crawling on my face? When it woke me up, I picked it off my nose (thankfully, it was on the exterior so I didn't have to pick it out of my nose) and threw it to the far end of my sleeping bag. I then realized that caterpillars were all over my tent. They cavorted about on its poles, moonbathed on the underside of its mesh fly and generally had what appeared to be a raucous caterpillar party all over the place. I think they probably pumped some Taylor Swift from their caterpillar iPhones to their caterpillar speakers and I can't begrudge them for that. I didn't think any more were inside my tent or on my person but there was no way to confirm my suspicions. One's mind can play evil tricks and make anything feel like a writhing insect!
After my eventful night, I couldn't wait to get out of the campground. I noticed far more caterpillars in the morning - I couldn't take a step without crushing at least a few caterpillar dreams. I packed up by 7:30 AM and looked for a breakfast stop, hopefully one devoid of infestations.
My wishes were granted at Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park. I continued further south and stopped at Lac La Hache Provincial Park for lunch. I was getting closer to civilization. I stopped at a fruit stand and bought my first local fresh food in ages - BC cherries and potatoes.
One of the great things about not having reservations is that you inevitably discover lots of places that you wouldn't otherwise. Marble Canyon was such a place for me. I hardly knew anything about it but it turned out to be gorgeous. My map showed aptly named Marble Canyon Provincial Park beside the highway so I stopped in, liked what I saw, and got a campsite right on the small lake beneath a towering cliff.
I drove around to check out the scenery and restock some supplies (the nearest store was more than 30 km away!) and I was suitably impressed. Interesting geological formations dotted the skyline and spectacular views of canyons and valleys were visible all along the highway.
I fried up my potatoes for dinner, had a peaceful paddle in the extremely calm lake that I shared with a pair of loons, and retired for the evening.
June 23, 2013 - Day 29
With lots of time to spare, I opted for a full-on breakfast of pancakes and hot chocolate rather than my traditional and quick breakfast of oatmeal and hot chocolate. I don't know why hot chocolate hasn't become normal fare for mornings in civilization but it's a darn good idea when camping.
I packed away all my gear, put my kayak on my SUV, and left Marble Canyon at 9:30 AM. I stopped at Duffey Lake for some great vistas.
I got to the parking lot at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park around noon, fueled up with an orange and a couple of peanut butter and honey sandwiches and hiked in to Upper Joffre Lake. The lake was the gorgeous blue color that glacial lakes are. It was an 11.1 km return hike with a decent uphill section and my legs felt it when I got back to my car.
After the hike, I drove further south and encountered an aspect of civilization that had thankfully eluded me almost my entire trip - traffic. Ugh. I started to look for a place to camp around 6:00 PM near Squamish and eventually followed signs for Paradise Valley Campground.
I fried up the remaining potatoes and ate them with salmon salad sandwiches for dinner and did the dishes just before it started raining. Remarkably, precipitation had been another foreign concept on my trip. I had encountered almost no rain for four weeks so I figured I could endure an overnight shower.
June 24, 2013 - Day 30
Alas, this was no overnight shower. Leaving a campsite in the rain is no fun so I valiantly tried to wait it out. I gave up around 9:40 AM, got out of my tent, packed it up into a soaking mass, threw it in my car, and got out of dodge. I needed a place to eat breakfast and I couldn't resist the overly-Canadian option of Tim Horton's in Squamish.
Soon I was in Vancouver, anxious to replace my smashed iPhone screen. Google Maps took me to Pineapple Repairs and I started to search for a parking spot. There were none. I'm notorious for not parallel parking but even that option wasn't available. They were simply no open spaces. I drove around the block a few times and eventually found a spot about 25 blocks from the store. I put coins in the meter but nothing happened. I put more coins in the meter and more nothing happened. Then I saw the "Cards Only" sign on the meter. If it's a cards-only meter, then why have coin slots? I guess that's one of life's great and frustrating mysteries.
Not wanting to get a parking ticket, I abandoned roadside parking and found a downtown garage. Perhaps my frustration impacted my memory because I apparently forgot that I had a kayak on my roof. I pulled into a place with very low clearance and my kayak hit the clearance bar, thankfully at very slow speed. I was stuck and felt unbelievably stupid. My kayak wasn't damaged but I needed help from the attendant. He stopped traffic so the dumb guy from Ontario could back up and find a garage with higher clearance.
I eventually found one with slightly higher clearance, chanced it, and barely fit under the bar. I parked and walked to the supposed location of Pineapple Repairs. More frustration. They had moved and their new location was not on the door or their website. I was within walking distance of iRepair so off I went, guided by Google Maps on the very phone that was to be repaired.
iRepair had the screens for my phone but I was told that many in the batch had been defective. The only way to know for sure was to replace my screen and see if the new one worked. I had to come back hourly for three hours to check on the progress. The first two times all screens had been defective. The third time, the guy had finally found one that worked but it was the wrong color. Whatever. I took my working and unmatched phone, ready to return to my car.
That's when it hit me - I had no idea where I parked. I wandered around Vancouver for a couple of hours, hoping to see something familiar and failing miserably. I walked inside about ten parking garages but not once did I see the familiar orange and red of my kayak. Eventually I got help from a very nice parking garage attendant and we found my vehicle. Was it the same guy who stopped traffic for me earlier? I was too dazed and confused to tell. I was simply elated for the afternoon to be over.
That night, I uneventfully stayed in a Vancouver hotel and the following day was the start of my staff training for the Shad Valley enrichment program at UBC. It was incredible! I got to meet and work with ten exceptional staff members that became my friends. I met 54 amazing students from across Canada and around the world and helped teach them important life lessons - reach for the stars, befriend everyone (especially parking garage attendants), remember where you park, and use a slow speed if you're going to get stuck under a clearance bar with a kayak on your roof. My month with Shad Valley was the most fulfilling job I've ever had and my journey with Shad Valley continues to this day.
Thanks to a chance encounter during the program, I landed a job doing outreach. Now I get to travel around the country to promote the program to students, parents, educators, and business leaders. My drive to Yukon and the work I did in BC on my way home changed my life for the better so let that be a lesson. Get out there. Explore this fantastic world. Who knows what you'll find?