On Labor Day, September 3rd, we drove 156 miles from Merritt, BC to Blaine, WA where we stayed at Lighthouse by the Bay RV Resort for 17 days. Blaine is in the extreme northwest corner of Washington state, only 35 miles from Vancouver, BC. Although the campground has a Blaine address, we were only a short walk from Birch Bay on the Pacific Coast.
Our reason for hanging out in Blaine was twofold. First, we wanted to relax and catch up on cleaning and maintenance after our hectic travel throughout the summer. Second, we wanted to meet up with our son, Jarrod, and his fiancé, Jess, when they completed their hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. The terminus of the PCT is at Manning Park, BC, just over the Canadian border from western Washington.
After getting set up upon our arrival at the campground on Labor Day, we walked down to the beach at Birch Bay. The beach was quite rocky, which made it somewhat difficult to walk along. We passed a little restaurant and ice cream shop near the beach and made plans to return there in the coming days.
On Tuesday we drove to Bellingham to do some shopping at Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Fred Meyer and TJ Maxx. After a summer of shopping at mostly small stores, it was good to have access to a greater variety of goods. We also enjoyed refueling the truck for $3.14 a gallon, about $1.50 a gallon less than the average of what we’d paid in Canada. However, the downside of being back in civilization was that the traffic in Bellingham was much worse than what we’d experienced all summer.
On Wednesday we decided to return to the Birch Bay ice cream shop but found that the business was closed for the season and wouldn’t reopen until mid-May 2019. We tried a couple of other shops that advertised ice cream but they were either closed or out of ice cream. We ended up walking along Birch Bay and visiting the Visitor Center.
Our DirecTV service, which we had suspended in early June, was reinstated on Wednesday and we were glad to have access to television again.
On Thursday Phil climbed up on the roof and applied a large amount of sealant around the base of the satellite dish. We had several days of light rain after that and did not experience our roof leak. We are optimistic that the problem has been solved but we’ll reserve final judgment until we have some heavier rainstorms.
Phil discovered that the Blaine – Birch Bay Rec Center offers pickleball almost every day. He played for about two hours each day on Friday and Saturday. After not playing since April, his body was quite sore afterward and he struggled to get around the rest of the weekend. Undaunted, he returned to play on Monday.
On Tuesday, September 11, we drove into Blaine to hit the post office and grocery store. We decided to visit Peace Arch State Park on the US-Canada border. Phil got into the wrong lane and ended up going through Canadian Customs. The Canadian border guard gave us directions to the Canadian side of the park. However, there was no parking on the Canadian side so we had to return through US customs. When we arrived at the park, we discovered there was a $10 per person admission so we left without visiting the arch. Instead, we drove to the Blaine Marine Park where we could see the arch across the bay for free.
On Wednesday, September 19th, we drove to Lynden, WA to do some sightseeing and grocery shopping. Lynden was established in 1874 and saw significant Dutch immigration in the early and mid 1900s. Lynden pays homage to its Dutch heritage through locations such as buildings on Front Street, where some of the businesses have been made over with a Dutch theme, complete with a windmill.
On Friday, we drove 90 miles to Sunshine Valley, BC where we spent three nights at Sunshine Valley RV Resort. The campground was situated in a valley surrounded by steep and heavily wooded hillsides. On Saturday, Phil drove into Hope, BC to refuel and do some grocery shopping. Jan worked on a sign to welcome Jarrod and Jess at the end of their hike and prepared the celebration dinner.
On Sunday, September 23rd, we drove about 30 minutes to Manning Park and waited near the terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for Jarrod and Jess to arrive. After waiting for a couple of hours, we saw a large group of hikers arrive at the end of the trail. They let us know Jarrod and Jess were just a few minutes behind them. When they arrived, it marked the completion of their 2,650 mile hike that had begun near the Mexican border on April 25th. After lots of hugs and pictures, we drove to the Manning Park Lodge and had a large lunch with a group of about 10 hungry PCT hikers. Later that evening, we had spaghetti, garlic bread, lemon cake and ice cream with Jarrod and Jess to celebrate their PCT completion. We had originally intended to leave Sunshine Valley the following morning but decided to stay another night.
On Monday, we drove to the Coquihalla Valley and hiked the Othello Tunnel Trail. In the late 1800s the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) faced competition from American railroads to establish a line to the mineral rich Kootenays. With CPR sponsorship, the Kettle Valley Railway built a line through the Coquihalla Pass in 1913-1916. The line used a 2.2% grade over most of the 36 mile climb from near sea level at Hope to the 3,646 foot Coquihalla summit. But only four miles from Hope, the Coquihalla River presented a straight walled canyon. The railway construction required 14 tunnels and cost five times the average cost per mile at that time. The canyon between tunnels one and two was used in the filming of the Sylvester Stallone film “Rambo: First Blood.” After hiking through the tunnels, we drove into Hope where many other scenes in First Blood were filmed.
On Tuesday we drove 91 miles to Surrey, BC where we spent two nights at Pacific Border RV Park, right by the US border crossing. On Wednesday we took the SkyTrain into Vancouver. Jarrod and Jess spent the afternoon with a couple that they had hiked with on the PCT while we explored Vancouver on our own. We first went to Gastown, the original settlement that became the core of Vancouver, for lunch. We finished our lunch in time to watch the steam clock, one of the few in the world, signal 3 o’clock with a musical tune and a toot from each whistle. Then we walked along the Vancouver waterfront. We had intended to walk to Stanley Park but, as we walked past Canada Place, we saw a bicycle rental shop with a tandem bike. The store clerk suggested we try out the tandem bike first since he said many people don’t like them. After testing it, we decided to give it a go. We ended up riding the tandem bike for 1 ½ hours through Stanley Park. After returning our bike, we met Jarrod and Jess for our return trip on the SkyTrain.
On Thursday we drove 163 miles to Gig Harbor, WA where we spent two nights at Gig Harbor RV Resort. The drive was fairly easy. We got through US Customs with only a few questions and only had to deal with heavy traffic when we drove through Seattle. We had expected to have a back-in site in Gig Harbor but were relieved to find that we were able to get a pull-through site. That evening we had dinner at Tide Tavern on the Water and the weather was perfect for sitting outside on the deck.
On Friday morning we drove Jarrod and Jess to SeaTac Airport for their flight back to Nashville. We spent the afternoon getting ready to begin our long trip back to the Midwest.