First off, the purpose of this trip was to collect red alder leaves for my genetic study. I'd collect from four locations up the British Columbia coast...Nanaimo (southern Vancouver Island), Port Hardy (northern Vancouver Island), Prince Rupert (mainland, near Alaskan border), and all over the Queen Charlotte Islands, which is a large island mass just at the edge of the continental shelf. For reference, natives refer to the islands as "Haida Gwaii" or "home of the Haida," which I will do because it is respectful, correct, and short.
Also, of interest mostly to bluemoonshark, the first incidents of white people coming to Haida Gwaii were mostly from the Lady Washington, the first American vessel to sail to Japan. A replica of this ship was the Enterprise sailing vessel in the opening of Star Trek: Generations and the HMS Interceptor in Pirates of the Carribean
I got up at 4:00 AM, and Dad and I loaded up the car with our stuff. I made some sammishes to munch on the way, and we pulled out of the driveway at about 5:30. We drove up I-5, crossed the border into Canada, and turned off for the Tsawassen ferry (I printed out the Mapquest route so we wouldn't get lost like we did when I drove up with bluemoonshark. When we arrived, the Nanaimo ferry had 3 hours to wait, but the ferry to Swartz bay was leaving right away, so we threw some money at the nice lady and zoomed onto the Swartz Bay ferry, figuring we'd make up the time on Vancouver Island. When we arrived, we had the option of making a long drive around this inlet, or ferrying across it (Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay, and we picked the ferry route...a tiny open-air ferry that only held 18 cars). Because we had to wait for the ferry, we went through Nanaimo at the same time as we would have if we'd taken the other ferry, but it was a fun adventure all the same.
We spent the rest of the day driving up the entire length of Vancouver Island, stopping often for Dad's diet Cokes. We arrived in the little town of Port Hardy at about 5:30, where we unpacked the car and moved in to our slightly sketchy hotel (attached liquor store, abandoned shopping carts, odd smells), and went to dinner. We also spent a few hours collecting leaf samples, pressing them, and recording locations with my sparkly-blue GPS.I noticed that instead of packing my own hiking boots, I'd packed Jason's...called Mom to apologize for the yelling I knew she'd be hearing all day. Went to bed.
Woke up to three alarm clocks and a wake-up call at 3:00 AM. We got dressed, loaded our stuff back in the car, and drove the few miles to the ferry dock. Because the ride is a long one, passengers are expected to check in at 4:00 AM for a 6:00 AM sailing. We duly checked in, got on the waiting list for a cabin (didn't get one), and sat around until we could board. When we got seats, I laid some blankets and promptly fell asleep for a few hours.
The Queen of Prince Rupert is a nice vessel...a spacious forward lounge with reclining seats and good windows, a kids play area and movie lounge, and nice woodwork with some homey touches. The crew and purser were nice, and the food in the cafeteria was great, if overpriced. There was a hot dog barbecue at lunchtime on one of the outside decks, and the purser had DVD's, DVD players, and Game Boys available for free checkout. We also got complimentary fleece blankets, which was a good thing, because the seats Dad and I had chosen were right next to a cold air vent, and we were freezing. I'm also glad there was a lot to see and do on the ship, because it was a 19-hour trip up the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert (near the Alaskan border), and even scenic mountains get old after the 6th hour of them. It was quite overcast and a bit rainy, so everything was very gray. Still, the mountains were beautiful (VERY steep, so there was no shoreline), and we saw lots of bald eagles. It was wonderful to be out on the sea again.
We sailed and sailed and sailed. We stopped for a few hours at Bella Bella, a very remote village on one of the many islands. We admired the waterfalls. I watched In Her Shoes and slept a lot. We arrived in Prince Rupert at about 12:30 at night, and it was still a little light out.
Because we got off the ferry at about 1:00 AM and had to check in for the Skidegate ferry at 4:00 AM, it wasn't worth it to go to a hotel. Dad and I just sat in the terminal waiting room, in hard molded seats, staring at a TV movie about the My Lai massacre and bein too tired to take in anything at all, but too uncomfortable to sleep. I went outside and got a few samples, but it was dark and unsafe (fast cars, no shoulders), so I didn't do much.
We got on the waiting list for cabins again, and boarded the ferry at about 4:45. We staked out another spot and I promptly zonked out on the floor, and stayed there until Dad shook me awake, because the Purser was paging us. We'd gotten a cabin. We gathered our stuff into a huge ball, wobbled up the stair to our cabin, collapsed on the bed, and instantly fell asleep. I was out before the ferry left the dock and didn't wake up until we got into Skidegate at 12:30, in time for lunch.
Dad and I walked off the ferry and up the hill to a little house where our rental car was waiting. We drove about 7 miles to Queen Charlotte City, which is tiny and does not even have a grocery store, and checked in at the Sea Raven hotel. We munched at the adjacent restaurant, where everyone stared at us like we'd come from the moon. Then we hopped in the car and drove 60 miles up the coast to Masset, the northernmost town on the island, collecting leaves all along the way. We also stopped for Diet Cokes in Port Clements, formerly the home of the famous Golden Spruce.
It was getting dark as we followed a drunk driver all the way back to Queen Charlotte City, whereupon I took a hot shower, and both of us crashed, utterly exhausted.