Salmon, Ferries, & Rainforest

Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
Trip End Jun 10, 2011

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Thursday, October 21, 2010

by Jeremy

Leaving the the Canadian Rockies, we headed westward stopping at Adam's River to catch the Sockeye Salmon Run, reportedly the largest in the last 100 years.  What is large you ask? Between 4-6 million salmon made the journey from the coast this year to return to their spawning grounds.  During the 251 mile (one-way) swim, they don't eat and their bodies turn bright red, their heads bright green, and their jaw recede from malnourishment to become hook-like.  Once they reach their birthplace, the Adam's River, they spawn and fight until they die.  An impressive mass of writhing fish can be seen from the banks of the river (with some dead fish lining the banks).  The smell as you can imagine is strong, but mixed with the smell of the river and rotting leaves, it wasn't too bad.

The life of a Sockeye Salmon is one of staying alive against extreme odds (1 out of every four thousand eggs laid in the Adams River lives to return to the Adams River as a spawning adult).  After becoming little fish they swim to the coast, eat and grow strong, and then four years later, using their sense of smell (they say), they swim all the way back to their spawning grounds and start the cycle over.  This year was reported to be the largest with about 5 million salmon returning (x 4000 to estimate the starting count).  Of course the locals celebrate this and there were food trucks serving salmon bannock (bannock is an Indian flat bread), a kind of burger made from a piece of split bannock and a salmon fillet.  We weren't sure where the sockeye salmon came from but did not care too much - it was good. 

As many of you know, Adar and I are a part of a group known as "couch surfing."  The basic idea is that people open their home to strangers and give them a place to sleep as a way to meet new people and do something kind for someone else.  One of those goes around comes around / pay it forward / karma things.  There's no exchange of money involved (although a bottle of wine or a good meal is appreciated) and the visits are arranged through a website that provides a profile of each user and a surfing request system.  We have hosted people from all over the world and enjoyed welcoming people who would become our friends into our home. 

Vancouver was the first place where we got to be couch surfing guests instead of hosts.  Michele, an Italian grad student studying economics, let us stay with him in his 1-bedroom apartment.  He was an ideal host - welcoming, charismatic, and generous - and we enjoyed staying with him.  We fixed dinner for him, as well as a girl from New Zealand who was also surfing with him, and a couchsurfing friend of his from Germany.  The CSers, as we are called, are a tight group.  Michele provided a bottle of red wine and the five of us (2 Americans, an Italian, a German, and a New Zealander) toasted to couchsurfing in Canada with shallot, prosciutto, and boursin stuffed chicken breast.  It was exactly how couchsurfing is meant to be - bringing people together from all over the world through an act of trust and generosity.  Thanks again Michele for a great experience.

A while back, Adar and I got a book from Peter Potterfield entitled Classic Hikes of the World.  We have already done several (Kilimanjaro, Kalalau) and were intrigued by his description of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.  The trail is 75 miles long and can take up to a week to traverse.  It weaves its way along the coast through lush rainforest, down long empty beaches, and across surge channels that you must time your passage with the tide.  Starting as a Native American pathway along the coast, it was expanded as a trail for shipwreck survivors in 1907 as the treacherous waters of the coast consumed many (20+) large ships.  This section of the coast is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific.  Unfortunately for us, the trail closed September 30th to overnight hikers.  Being explorers not intimidated by trail closures, we drove the 1.5 hours out the gravel logging road to Bamfield and hiked the first several miles of the trail.  The hike was beautiful and apparently we only glimpsed a small part of it out and back day hiking. 

We took the ferry back to the mainland and headed back into the United States.  Farewell Canada with your funny public radio, yummy potato chips (balsamic and sweet onion), cloud scraping snowy peaks, numerous glaciers, and surreal blue lakes.  The customs officer thought it was strange when we said we did not have a residence.  It took a while to explain our situation and we probably won't be telling future custom officials this fact. 

We stopped by a college friend of my mother's, Nadine, for a night of homemade crab cakes (if you mix scallops in with them, the crab meat goes farther and they are just as yummy) and good conversation about travel in Southeast Asia, and area Nadine was returned to many times of the years.  From Northern Washington it was onward to my parent's outside Silver Creek. 

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Lia on

I think your journey is just as impressive and awesome as the salmon's journey! Thank you so much for sharing, I know this takes time and I'm really enjoying your words as you slice through nature and culture and everything in between, and, of course, the awe-inspiring scenery.

Karin on

I don't know if you remember that Josh and I hiked part of the West Coast Trail back in 2002. We had intentions of making the 75-mile trek but were so ill-prepared for the amount of rain that we had to turn around after two days because everything was SOAKED. It still bugs Josh to this day that we didn't complete it. How awesome were all of the ladders? And such beautiful scenery. I also am enjoying all of your posts. Hugs to you both and be safe!

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