Sat. Aug. 29, 2015:
Salt Spring Island to Sooke, BC:
It had rained itself out again in the night, which worked out great for everyone. We still had nice vacation days, and British Columbia was getting some relief from the drought. I awoke really happy again, swung the door open only to find no muffins. Did we not get muffins because it was the weekend? Because we were checking out this day? As we left for breakfast we found our muffin delivery at the main door (there were two suites in our building). Now that we were walking to breakfast though we saved the muffins for later. Breakfast was the same as the previous day, more delicious granola and some objectionable fruit. We walked down to the edge of the property to have one last look for eagles. Overlooking the marina, we still saw nothing. We walked next door to the restaurant and down into the marina. No eagles. This was our last full day of vacation, our last chance to see an eagle and time was running out. Walking back to our room we saw a large bird high atop a lone tree. Could it be?! It was a crow.
As we drove to the ferry the sun started peeking out from behind the clouds. We had just missed the ferry by a few minutes. We queued up the car and parked. Standing around I was getting antsy. There was nothing nice to look at and nothing nearby to walk to. We were trapped. We decided to plan the rest of the day which was rather open other than driving to Sooke and an evening dinner reservation at the hotel. Google said our hotel in Sooke was a good spot to see bald eagles. Apparently we would also be driving by two more promising spots. Our plans were set: we would stop at Goldstream National Park (which I had seen on our way up) and then another smaller park. Operation Spot An Eagle was a-go, we had it all planned out. As we started driving onto the ferry the car in front of us took a left turn and drove off. They had been trapped in the queue for 30 minutes! We had a good laugh at their expense. It was a good thing we had saved the muffins, I devoured mine (blueberry) while we waited to board the ferry.
Driving back south down the TransCanada Highway there was an overhead sign saying the highway was closed at GoldStream Park. There had been some construction signs so I figured maybe it was an old message? Maybe the delay was just past the entrance? Or maybe we could find a detour roundabout way to get to the park? As we sat there in traffic as far as the eye could see Brent Googled the hold-up. As it turned out there had been a horrible car crash that morning… right at the entrance to the park. We had jinxed ourselves the day before wondering what happens when the highway is shut down.
The first detour suggestion was to take a ferry to Victoria but we figured everyone would go for that and we decided not to risk it. When I tried to pull it up on my phone and on the GPS neither would acknowledge that there was an alternate route. I had to pull up the map and look for the detour road given in the news item. I then had to navigate us to a nearby city and from that city navigate us to this road. Neither the GPS nor my phone would take me directly to it without taking the TransCanada Highway- it was infuriating. We backtracked to where we had gotten off the ferry and a little further north, then we had go all the way across until we hit another road going south. We drove in the shape of a giant box and it added at least 3 hours to our drive.
Instead of driving directly south, this was the only other option, as there were not other roads.
In back-tracking we drove right into the rain storm we had been slowly leaving behind. Adding to the crappiness, the road we were on was a logging road so it was windy and narrow. There was nothing to look at but clear cut forests. It was no wonder both Google and the GPS did not want us going this way. I was getting sleepy, hungry and I had to go to the bathroom. We pulled over at a viewpoint but there was not much to see, just the Olympia Mountains off in the distance.
We stopped at Juan de Fuca park, we both needed to stretch our legs. We walked down to Juan de Fuca China Beach through a forest where apparently cougars and bears roam enough for there to be a sign warning of this. Again, we saw no eagles. Things were not looking good for us. The beach had gorgeous views of the American side, there was a lot of driftwood and some bluffs on the beach. We watched as a guy jumped rope with a piece of kelp. I was going to make fun of him to Brent until I saw he was doing this to amuse a child which made it less dorky. We also heard a jay and then saw one. He posed on a branch not nearly long enough for me to properly photograph him though.
Walking back Brent remarked that at least it had only rained while we were driving- and it proceeded to rain on us. We stopped at McDonald’s for a late lunch, we still had 3 hours before dinner. There was nothing wacky on the menu. We stopped in at Serious Coffee next door, I was hoping maybe they would have nanaimo bars, alas they did not. All they had was a weird guy from Alberta talking about the Blue Jays (after he saw Brent’s hat). Before heading to the hotel we stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart so I could get an iced coffee for the next morning. We had an early flight and the airport is nowhere near downtown Victoria where we had to return the car.
We were staying at the Sooke Harbour House and it was super fancy. In our room we found a complimentary bottle of port wine and a plate of cookies. Additionally there were cookie jars throughout the hotel that we could help ourselves to. All this and our room did not have a TV. Our room even had a sunroom (great when it’s raining, not) and a balcony, we could look at the ocean and surrounding islands from our windows.
We walked the grounds before dinner, secretly on the lookout for bald eagles. Instead we spotted a bride and groom having their wedding pictures taken in the park next door. This also stopped us from walking to the end of the jetty in the park. There was even a rainbow in the background. We saw four seals and watched river otters play tag and chase each other in the water. We would have ended up late for dinner if the otters had not swum off into the distance.
Dinner was not outstanding, although the seafood dish of mussels, clams and scallops that we split was amazing. The rose wine was from the Okanagan valley. We were too full for dessert, but when the bill came they gave us little complimentary desserts. They had figs, it was unpleasant. Maybe I was not as impressed with the food because there was so much other stuff going on in the restaurant around us. The bride and groom were having their pictures taken outside the house and were paraded through the dining room. The couple to the left of us were looking at her and all the woman (who was in her 50s-60s) could say to her husband was “look at her boobs” in reference to the bride. I was floored. At the other table there was the most insufferable man of all time, dominating the conversation. His wife only said stuff to please and support him. The other couple never even had a chance to say anything. We knew they were there by the “uh huhs” and other such barely verbal sounds. This guy had once known Jim Flaherty and now the world needed to know. And lest they forget, five minutes later he would start another story with “Jim….” His wife then took the reins for a moment to complain about Toronto and the welfare state and then she passed the mic back to him. It was unbelievable how long the windbag could go on for. When we got there they had already started their mains, when we left they were considering dessert. As we sat there waiting for the bill, I happened to look up. I was sitting facing the window and suddenly I found myself staring at a deer. Close behind her was her young fawn, who was so fuzzy and fluffy and cute I wanted to scream. She was eating the flowers in the windowsill box.
Because we were checking out of the hotel early we had the option of getting breakfast delivered to our room the night before (at this hotel you have breakfast brought to your room in the morning). We found croissants, cookies and yogurt in paper bags in our fridge. After dinner we changed and went back out to the park. The sun was setting and it was getting dark but we wanted one last look. We saw a heron wading into the water and the river otters were back and playing again.