Luckily we were able to find a reasonably priced place in Courtenay, an older-style motel. The bathroom floor had a notable slope to it, but the place was clean and well kept. As an added bonus, the attached restaurant, The Hen and Hog Cafe, came up on a web search as one of the three best places in town to have breakfast.
We started our last with hearty breakfasts: Glory with Nutella-stuffed French toast, Fenya with an enormous bowl of quinoa, fruit and yogurt, Audrey with huevos rancheros, and myself with a sockeye salmon benny. The Hen and Hog is a tiny place, but well worth stopping in to for breakfast if you happen to be in Courtenay.
After breakfast, we drove up some more beautiful coastline to Campbell River. Audrey and I had been here twenty years ago to meet a close friend of her family that they called Oma Rhodes, not too long before she passed away.
Today we were here to give the girls a look at a more northern part of Vancouver Island, and to visit the Museum at Campbell River. It is a wonderful installation, dividing its exhibits up pretty equally between the original First Nations inhabitants, the logging history of the region and the local fishing industry.
You can't take pictures in the First Nations area, which is a bit unfortunate. In addition to being very well curated, there is also a compelling presentation called "The Treasures of Siwidi" involving an assortment of traditional Kwakwaka'wakw masks and carvings in a darkened theatre. As an aboriginal elder's voice narrates the tale of his magical ancestor, Siwidi, spotlights illuminate the appropriate character or creature, such as a halibut, an underwater grizzly, or Komogwey, the ruler of an undersea kingdom.
The logging section included examples of the equipment used, and vibrant descriptions of the difficulty of that remote lifestyle. Likewise, the fishing exhibit talked about both the sport fishing that has continually drawn settlers and tourists to the area, as well as the more industrial salmon fishing and canning industries that used to be such a huge part of this region of the island.
Most interesting for me was not the excellent exhibits, but a short film on the destruction of Ripple Rock, something I had never heard of before. It turns out that a pair of underwater peaks in the Discovery Passage were such a hazard to shipping that the federal government drilled holes up underneath them , filled them with 1.27 gigatonnes of Nitramex 2H and blew them up in 1958. It was a big deal from a lot of perspectives, including both engineering and shipping, and was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history. Fascinating stuff!
Outside the museum there was a large totem pole and a symbolic gate linking Campbell River to its sister city in Japan, but just down the Island Highway is a Seaway and gravel beach where we set about to look for some starfish for Glory to photograph.
It took a fair walk away from shore into the tidepools and required the flipping of a few barnacle-encrusted rocks, but we managed to find a few.
And some crabs for good measure.
The seaway itself has some creatively carved wood, fashioned with chainsaws, including this gorgon, apparently inspired by Clash of the Titans.
And this octopus adorned table and chairs, suggestive of House Greyjoy from Game of Thrones.
But my favourite wood was probably the driftwood that afforded us a place to sit and take some family photos.
Our last recreational stop on our whirlwind tour of Vancouver was a final dip in the Pacific via the beach at Miracle Mile Provincial Park.
The tide was coming in so that water was a little cool for extended swimming, but the girls and I enjoyed a quick dip while Audrey got a bit of time in with Edward Rutherfurd on her Kobo.
The girls turned their attention to the amazing white sands of the beach, culminating in the creation of a mermaid tail for Glory.
And with that, our direct contact with the Pacific came to a close.
The next day, we packed up, checked out, and failed to obtain passage on the 12:00 sailing from Nanaimo despite arriving over an hour early. This wasn't much of a bother as we were only going as far as Kamloops that night, breaking up the return journey from the Island into two legs.
We even took the scenic route back, enjoying the Sea-to-Sky Highway instead of taking the faster Trans-Canada Highway or Coquihalla.
The road through Pemberton and up to Cache Creek is a tremendously lively drive, with lots of twists and turns, and significant elevation changes facilitated by numerous switchbacks. Apparently it was more entertaining if you could laterally stabilize yourself by grasping tightly to the steering wheel. My passengers soon asked me to moderate my speed, which I tried to do, balanced with my own engagement.
The remainder of the journey was delightfully anticlimactic. After a night in the Kamloops Best Western, a surprisingly stylish place with a very decent pool and an automatic pancake machine in its breakfast room, Audrey took the wheel so that I could sit in the back and watch an iPad movie with Glory. Soon enough we were in Jasper, ordering dinner to go from North Face Pizza, a more recent tradition, and not long after that, safe at home.