FIFTEEN HOUR FERRY
Jack has to stay inside the truck during the 15-hour ferry ride. He cannot see the bald eagles, trees, and mountains that line the Inside Passageway from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the town of Prince Rupert. Mare and I get to go down and visit Jack every two hours, for fifteen minutes. He does not relieve himself when we walk him among the vehicles…for fifteen-hours. He thinks that he is in the house – not uncommon for dogs, according to a ferry worker.
We sit on the sun deck and absorb this abundant scenery. An Orca Killer Whale breeches the surface, showing off his huge tail fin before plunging back under the sea. Porpoises have the purpose of playing in the ship’s wake. Lighthouses pop up on points once in a while. Mostly, we see trees, snowcapped mountains, and water…along with other passengers. A solo biker will ride the mainland as far north as he can. Others will drive east to the Canadian Rockies in Banff. (We drove through there last year) The total cost for the ferry ride of $730 actually cuts off about three days of travelling and motel/gas/food costs. Canada is expensive eh? You betcha. We dine from our cooler on homemade sandwiches – avocado & tomato, or peanut butter & jelly.
Dusk descends upon the fishing town of Prince Rupert when we arrive at eleven o’clock. A motel sounds better than trying to camp at this point. My leg hair hurts from sitting for so long. In the morning, we hike through the mossy forest of McClymont Park, one of many such parks, where salmon streams cut through the hollows. Eagles nest and soar all over the place. Rain pours onto Prince Rupert most of the time, keeping the thick vegetation green. This fishing/logging port town is also a major tourist stop for cruise ships and ferries.
At the “Breaker’s Pub” I approach a group of young, stud swat-force looking cops.
“You guys here for some training?” I ask. “My wife and I are retired Peace Officers.” (I knew that would get them to talk to me). “You bet-cha.” A few guys shake hands with me.
I ask about the size of the police force in Prince Rupert.
“We have eight constables, and about 28 officers. It’s pretty quiet most of the time.”
“Do you have a fugitive apprehension unit?”
“No. We’re not like the States.” John shakes his head. “Our penal system is way too soft. Fugitives don’t run. They commit crimes sometimes to get into jail for the winter.” He laughs at my confused expression. “Your penal system is too hard. What we need is something in-between.”
I must agree, and head back to the table where Mare talks with a fisherman, a deep-sea diver, and farmer turned casino worker. The diver gives us two frozen packets of homemade smoked salmon. The casino worker complains about the “too liberal” system of Canada. The fisherman tells a fish story…They caught too much fish yesterday. (They go out for four days at a time) They netted a school of grey cod and had to dump the ice from the boat to make room for the fish. They have Rangers on board, who monitor them. They can’t throw the fish back because the cod blow their bladder when raised to the surface – dead. So, they get fined for catching too many fish. We never imagined that a fisherman could catch too many fish.
The next morning’s drive takes us on a twisty road along the Skeena River. Railroad tracks barely fit between the river, the road, and tree-covered mountains that shoot straight up like cliffs. I find it difficult to watch the road, because the scenery steals my attention.
We drive east through the Nisga’a Lava Bed stopping to hike down to Vetter Falls where we lunch on our smoked salmon. The lava beds appear to be covered in a furry, white moss, but it is actually the lava and is hard. The scene looks eerie, like walking on the moon.
Near Cranberry Junction, we turn off the main road onto gravel. The non-maintained logging road provides a 40 mile shortcut to the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Along the way we spot a Black Bear. The sow is feeding with her cub. Magical.