One of the wonderful yet deeply weird aspects of life in Bellingham is that you can go from downtown Vancouver to wilderness within about an hour’s worth of driving. Sometimes that happens by design and others rather more by accident.
After the successful launch of our canoe on Labor Day, we’ve been eagerly scouting new locations to explore by boat. A few weekends ago, we decided to head up to Indian Arm, just north of Vancouver proper.
We’d read all about it on various adventure blogs, but–spoiled by the luxury of solitude on logging road adventures–we failed to account for how freaking busy a gorgeous spot close to the city would be on what was, effectively, the last day of summer. Stymied by lack of a place to park, we retreated south and divided our canoe camping adventure into its constituent parts. Namely, we canoed around Silver Lake, sharing the sweet little county park with the diverse array of folks who live in Whatcom County, and camped on a random forest service road we’d discovered earlier in the summer.
Whatever the canoeing portion might have lacked in adventure, the camping portion more than made up with natural loveliness and sociological oddity. We turned off the Mount Baker highway, climbing higher into what seemed to be more remote areas. On our previous outing, we’d seen many birds, small mammals, potential bear sign, and in general the sort of species diversity not typically found in logged areas.
Forest service roads aren’t usually designed with hikers and their affinity for scenic vistas in mind, but the payout of stumbling across an accidental lookout with what feels like preferential access to spectacular views is enough to keep us gambling. We’d previously found just such a prize, a lovely little north-facing overlook that was, rather improbably, occupied by a beekeeper’s set-up, with multiple hives surrounded by an electric fence and a handmade sign advertising the business. Although we’d hoped to find a camping spot nearby, the road soured just past the bees. Unwilling to risk it, we set up camp at a prudent distance from the hives and settled in to read until it was dark enough for stargazing. We kept our fingers crossed for a glimpse at auroras.
Tucked into our sleeping bags, up a random logging road and accompanied by beehives full of slumbering bees, we saw the sweep of the Milky Way fade into the murky orange glow of metro Vancouver. The overlook that seemed so remote in the fading evening light was ideally situated for views down into the urbanized Fraser River valley.
We later found out that auroras were in fact visible that evening, beyond the northern grasp of the city’s lights.