Travel Notes: Vancouver to Port Angeles by ferry

First published on Mindful Urbanist on Jun 5, 2015

I woke up at 5:00 am in Vancouver. The pre-dawn light was lilac. I was the only person I saw on the way to the train station. I took the train from Vancouver City Hall to just inside Richmond where I got on a bus to Tsawwassen. From here, I caught a ferry to Victoria. It's the provincial capital of British Columbia and a small tourist city. Waiting for the 7 am ferry, I wanted a coffee badly. I put $10 into a machine and I got $10 back in coins and a weak, watery, french vanilla brew. A fortuitous sign!

Once I boarded the ferry I went to the cafeteria and I got a decent coffee, oatmeal, and a banana. I like to sit on the bar seats in the cafeteria because they kind of look out so I can people watch. When I first gathered the courage I needed to eat alone on the ferry, I felt shy and awkward. But now it feels comfortable and almost homey to eat a meal there on my own.

It's 90 minutes to Victoria so I bought the paper and got a sunny seat on the upper deck of the ferry. Outside there was blue sky mirrored by a shining sea. We passed by island after island of forest with intermittent cabins throughout.

Once you cross the water it is still 40 minutes to downtown by bus. Even though the suburban landscape is largely uninspiring, I enjoy the ride because Victoria's public transportation system runs double-decker buses between the ferry terminal and downtown.

When I was downtown, I made my way to the inner harbour area to catch the 10:30 am ferry into Port Angeles. A quick pass through customs gets you on the ferry. Unlike the trip from Vancouver to Victoria, this passage is on the turbulent side. You can see undulating blue ocean waves all around you with the distant Olympic Mountains looming into view. This passage is also about 90 minutes and you can buy beer on the ferry. Beer. On the ferry. God bless America.

The ferry line has its own jingle which is retro and fun and comforting. So kitschy. So American. There's something retro about the whole boat. None of it looks like it's been updated for over 40 years.

At Port Angeles, I walked up steep hills until I came to the Olympic Park Visitors Center. It took the better part of an hour to walk there from downtown and I was disappointed with how poorly designed the town is for pedestrians. Once you're out of the depressing suburban myopia and you walk into the forest it's spectacular.

I followed a creek up four miles and back again. Since I don't really know what a 'mile' is, it made no difference to me I just turned back when I got tired. The hike was a little challenging for me, and I actually fell into the creek at one point, but the trail was quiet and secluded and beautiful. The air was earthy and full of life and there were hundreds of shades of green. 

I walked back into town and went to a grocery store. It was a local market that reminded me of a Whole Foods but more awesome. Then I went to check into my hilariously oversized hotel room. A few hours later I went down to the beach to do a small walk but I felt tired and a little dizzy. I know I'd hate camping because after a few hours in the woods I really want a hot shower, a snack, and a tv show. After the beachside walk, I went back to my hotel suite, watched some of the Jurassic Park marathon on AMC, and went to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up around 7:00 am, packed up, had a stretch, and checked out. I knew I wanted to leave on the 12:45 pm ferry back homewards but I had no plans for the time I had left in Port Angeles. I went downtown (there's only really 8 blocks of shops and restaurants) and went to a doughnut shop. I have a doughnut problem. 

On the ferry home, I was reading Mao's Last Dancer which I bought at Port News and Books in Port Angeles. When I took a break from it to reflect on my trip, I was thinking that any trip you take is only as enjoyable as you make it out to be. I have more fun when I don't push myself to be a tourist. I like to just hang out and explore. Apart from ferry workers, cashiers, and hotel staff I kept to myself this whole weekend. It's somehow comforting to be alone in a new place. I feel peaceful.

MU

UPDATE

How inspiring to travel back to my first travel post on Mindful Urbanist. I remember the details of this trip vividly. Solo travel is the way to go! This trip gave me the confidence I needed to be able to move overseas on my own. I'd love to go back, with a car, and visit some of the local lavender farms nearby.