Vancouver Island - Not Hiking

Sandy shopping at Uptown Yarns in Courtenay

From my last three posts it probably seems like the only thing that we did on our trip to Vancouver Island was hike. That isn't true. After our Ripple Rock hike we took the scenic route from Campbell River to Courtenay. On the way up we had driven BC28, a high speed highway that was a few miles inland. Since all the towns are right on the coast in this part of the island, it meant that we could go fast but didn't see anything but trees. This time we took BC28A, the equivalent of taking the "Business Route" in the US. It was a lot slower but it followed the coast and often had views of the water. There were homes and businesses along the way as well. At one point we stopped at a fruit stand for more fresh blueberries and apricots. Eating fresh fruit every day was one of the enjoyable things about the trip.

By the time we reached the Comox Valley it was midafternoon and we were really hungry. We took a short drive to Comox, a nearby seaside town that claimed to have a large marina and a downtown with interesting shops. For lunch we decided to try the Blackfin Pub, where we could eat on the patio overlooking the marina. I had good English-style fish and chips while Sandy went for the hamburger. While we were eating we watched what looked like a class for about twenty miniature sail boats who went up and down the bay in a line.

After lunch we stopped at a drug store for eye drops. Something was really bothering Sandy's eyes, to the point where she could hardly see. She had used a different sunscreen than usual and thought that maybe with all the sweat on the hike it had gotten in her eyes. Fortunately the eye drops did the trick and she was ok.

Visiting 40 Knots Winery

On the way back to our car we found that the Farmer's Market had been set up along the main road in Comox. Apparently they do this the third Thursday of every month. Some local wineries were there but we didn't taste any wine. Most of the wineries this far north did fruit wines, which Sandy and I don't really care for. But we did buy some delicious raspberries and discovered tayberries. It's a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry and boy were they ever good.

Eventually we went to our hotel in Courtenay. We were staying at a brand new Holiday Inn Express. After the Strathcona Park Lodge it was quite a change - a king size bed, air conditioning, refrigerator and wifi. We were back to civilization. There was a nice walking path right behind the hotel and we took three walks on it during our stay there. The entire path was lined with berry bushes and every once and a while we would sample one as we walked.

We had a chance to do some more exploring of the Comox Valley the next day. Since our hike at Paradise Meadows was fairly short, it was only midafternoon when we finished our lunch at Boston Pizza. We were right at the local mall so Sandy did some functional shopping at Target. Then we checked out the Red Barn Quilt Shop. Paired with a Fabricland store, it was conveniently located right across the street from our hotel. Unfortunately Sandy wasn't impressed. Next we tried A Bird's Nest Quilt Shop which was in downtown Courtenay. Was turned out to be the correct tense - it wasn't there anymore. Sandy was ready to give up but searching online the night before I had found another quilt shop. I found a blog by a quilter who had been visiting the area with her husband and hitting all of the local quilt shops (just like us). She didn't care for the others but raved about Huckleberry's Fabric. It was a bit of a drive and hard to find. They don't have a sign out front. They don't even have a web site. But it turned out to be a great quilt shop. I think Sandy spent an hour there. And quite a bit of money too. Once again it was a good thing that we had our car along and had room to take stuff home.

The main street in Courtenay is closed off for Market Day

Not far from the last quilt shop, we visited 40 Knots Winery. Unlike the wineries at the farmer's market the day before, they did several whites that were quite good. We ended up buying half a case.

Wait! We're not done yet. We went back to downtown Courtenay to Uptown Yarns, a (duh!) yarn shop. Sandy got to talk to the owner and sign up for their knit-along. She gets the pattern and instructions for her project from the shop via email and started on it as soon as we got back to Boise. Unfortunately by now it was closing time and Sandy really didn't have time to shop for yarn. She was especially interested in locally made Canadian yarns. This shop was one of only two stores that carry Sweatermaker Yarns, made right on Vancouver Island. We solved the problem by resolving to come back as soon as they opened the next morning.

Ok, now we're finally done. It was back to our hotel to enjoy some of the delicious fruit that we had bought, drink one of our bottles of wine, and get a much needed Internet fix. Hey, I'd been offline for three days!

I find a spot to eat my pizza at Market Day

Next day was Market Day in Courtenay, their biggest community event of the year. The lady at the yarn shop said that they were opening an hour early at 9 am because of Market Days. We had no idea how crowded it would be so instead of driving we took the path behind the hotel. It was 1.25 mile so we got our morning walk in and avoided traffic and parking hassles. Sandy had lots of time and was able to find all kinds of yarn that she liked. Another bag for the car!

Afterwards we walked along the street checking out the rest of Market Day. We found one stand with nice hand made jewelry at reasonable prices. The local shoe store had a large outdoor display with hiking sandals 40% off. I have always wanted to get a pair for canyon hiking in Utah. Some hikes there require wading rivers or streams (like on my last trip). That has always limited me. But we could see several people in line to pay outside the shop so we figured it wasn't worth it.

After Market Day we wanted to make one more stop before leaving Courtenay. It was Saturday and we wanted to go back to the Farmer's Market in Comox to get more tayberries. They had a different location for their normal Saturday market. After driving around Comox for fifteen minutes we couldn't find it and gave up. It turned out that Comox was a lot bigger than we thought. But by then the stuff at Market Day had been tickling the back of my brain. We decided to stop there again on our way out of town. I went to the shoe store and picked out my sandals. By then there was no line at the door so I figured that it would be quick and easy, right? Wrong. When we went to the door we found that the line inside wrapped all the way around the shop. There had to be thirty people ahead of us. They even had a guy at the door who only let so many people in at a time. He told us forty five mintues to check out. Whoa. But by now we felt committed. We decided to wait. Turns out the wait was only thirty five minutes but it showed what I would do to save forty bucks.

View of the Nanaimo marina as we eat dinner

After that I made another stop to pick up some more jewelry. I figured that it would make nice gifts. Then we got some food. First we got hot dogs from the stand set up by the local pub. Then I found a pizza stand selling by the slice. Shopped out and filled up, it was time to move on to our next destination.

Nanaimo is the second largest city on Vancouver Island. Or it's the largest, depending on who you ask. Both Nanaimo and Victoria have over eighty thousand people, pretty close to the same size as Boise. Nanaimo is also the terminal for ferries to Vancouver on the mainland. In fact, TransCanada 1 runs from Vancouver to Nanaimo across the Georgia Strait (by ferry) and continues from there to end in Victoria.

We were staying at a Travelodge near the ferry terminal. From our hotel we took a walk to check out shops in the Old Quarter. Our primary goal was Mad About Ewe, another yarn shop. It turned out to be another good shop and Sandy found a lot more yarn that she liked. She did show restraint next door at the lavender and lotion shop though.

Next we walked down to the marina. It was very pretty along the waterfront. Although there were clouds over the mountains it was sunny here. We found a pub restaurant where we could eat dinner on a patio overlooking the marina. A pleasant way to end a long day of walking and shopping.

My kind of pizza place - Nanaimo

Next morning we got a text from our friend Sara that Abby had a problem. She had diarrhea and there was blood in her stool. We decided that we should probably head home. Even if it turned out not to be serious, it wasn't fair for us to saddle Sara with a sick dog. Since the weather was so-so anyway, it wasn't a big deal to head home a few days early. Since we were only six blocks from the ferry terminal to Vancouver we figured that was our best bet to get across without a reservation. The ferries to Vancouver ran a lot more often than the one to Port Angeles. We didn't get on the first ferry at 10:30 but did get on the 12:15. That put us on the mainland at Departure Bay, just north of Vancouver, at 2 pm.

We just had to cross the city of Vancouver. From there on I would be on familiar territory from my trip last fall to BottosCon, a wargaming convention held in the southern suburbs of Vancouver. It wasn't easy. Getting through downtown Vancouver on a Sunday afternoon took over an hour. For a long section, traffic was totally backed up and only one or two cars were going through an intersection on each green light. This was on the main route through the city. It seemed to me that traffic in downtown Vancouver is totally dysfunctional. I can't say that I am anxious to go back for a visit. But eventually we made it through and were on the freeway. Our only other delay was at the US border. We probably should have declared our two cases of wine and paid taxes on them, but after a half hour waiting in line we didn't want to get in another line to pay our tax. I guess we are both desperadoes now.

After that it was a smooth drive home. We stopped for the night in Prosser Washington and made it home early afternoon the next day. The good news was that Abby was fine. It turned out the problem had been caused when she chewed out a large chunk of the rug that we put in her kennel. That (understandably) irritated her bowels but as soon as she passed it she was fine.

I really liked the hiking in Strathcona Provincial Park. We had lots of fun doing other things though: hiking on the coast, shopping, wine tasting, eating all the many types of berries that grow everywhere on Vancouver Island. It was a fun trip.