The Last 500 Miles

It has been a four day tornado of awesome. Starting with Jonathan and Marissa flying to Seattle and somehow, in 96 hours cramming a soccer match, multiple concerts, packing, cleaning, driving, and boat riding. After hearing more live music in two days than I had, maybe in my life time we said good bye to the two of them at 11 pm on September 1st, and prepared for the alarm set to go off at 5:30. Bleary eyed, hungry, and under caffeinated, we crammed the pets and as much junk as we could fit into the pathfinder. After talking of little else for a year we finally began the final journey north. By 8:30, we were nearing the Canadian border, a knot growing in my stomach as we pulled up to an open booth and hand over our passports. The woman’s eyes narrow as I try to explain in a semi coherent manner, exactly what we would be doing in her country. After much writing, nodding, and cryptic questioning, she hands us a slip of paper. “Pull your car over to the side and give this paper to the officer.”

Not that I was surprised, wouldn’t drug smugglers have some story about house sitting for several months? With little choice we drop Porter in Penny’s cage, pray that he behaves himself, and walk into the border building. Where, I get to explain again, what the hell we’re doing. “What’s the name of the guy you’re house sitting for?” The guy behind the counter asks.

I take my eyes off the massive hand gun on his belt. “Paul Spong,” I answer, “he runs the research lab we’ll be walking.”

He scribbles, “and if I do a web search, will he come up?”

“He has his own wikipedia page,” I say. Brittney laughs nervously, the guy however, is not impressed. My humor never seems to pass mountie muster. After reiterating again the location and explaining that yes, technically we’re unemployed, and have been now for a length of time I’m ashamed to admit. We’re mercifully free to go.

We speed north, power sliding into the Tsawassen (don’t ask me how to pronounce it) ferry dock with five minutes to spare. We have two glorious hours to sleep and eat before the ferry hits Nanaimo on Vancouver Island at 12:15. And so begins another race. We have to be in Port McNeil by 5:15 to catch the ferry to Alert Bay to meet Paul to get a ride to the island on five hours of sleep and borderline delirium. We pass through a rain storm and into brilliant sunshine, reaching Port McNeil in golden late afternoon light with thirty minutes to spare. As we wait in line for our second ferry ride of the day, I stare at the white caps in the harbor. It looks rough. The ferry steams us into Alert Bay. Fatigue slowly beginning to set in, after two mosh pits and far to little sleep, interrogations, and a race up Vancouver Island we still had one more boat ride to go, with the pets of course, still in tow.

We reach Alert Bay with one goal in mind; find Paul. I look out toward the government dock as we slowly drive down the main road. There’s no sign of the silver June Cove. Actually there’s no boats at all. The dock is being pounded by waves making the whole structure swing side to side. There’d be no begging for directions at the information centre this time though. We drive straight to Paul’s house to find him in the kitchen. Calmly toasting bread and cheese, a polite look of surprise on his face as we stagger in the door, exhausted smiles on our faces. He hugs both of us and explains the water is far to rough to reach the island today. 12 hours after starting, we’re both fine with that. We throw a tent up in the yard and curl exhausted into our sleeping bags, Porter curled between us.

Now, for the first time in three months, we are settled. All four of us. There has been a lot of odd and peculiar things brought to Hanson Island since Paul first moved here in the early 70s, but I’m pretty confident in claiming that we are the first people to haul a rabbit cage off the boat and onto the rocks. In the chaos that was unloading the June Cove I failed to take a picture of what had to be a confused and shell shocked Penny, perched on her back legs ears up and eyes wide open as she rotated on the spot, the sea breeze blowing through her hair. As she always seems to though, she took everything in stride, if she ever panicked she certainly didn’t show it.

How I wish we could say the same for Porter. A healthy dose of kennel anxiety left us to terrified to put him in his own air kennel for fear of the unspeakable mess he is loath to create every time we try to cram him in one. We settled on putting him in Penny’s house with her for the 45-minute boat ride from Alert Bay to Hanson Island. Before the boat even left the dock, he peed. Two minutes after, well, you can probably guess what he did next. We dumped him rather unceremoniously in the guest house that will be our home for the coming winter with explicit directions to where his litter box was and he hasn’t stopped purring since. Whether he truly loves the house, or is simply ecstatic to be off the terrifying aquatic spaceship I honestly don’t know.

Our little cabin is magnificent. The cabin, also known as, “Yashi’s” after Paul’s son, sits just above the intertidal zone, with a small scattering of trees between the deck and the ocean. Giant bay windows on the ground floor open up to gorgeous Blackfish Sound with the usual activity of the neighbors; humpbacks, sea lions, and orcas. Come night time though the windows become somewhat less glamorous as they’re far to happy to let the heat out and the chill in. A tiny stairway lined with the expected orca paraphernalia of paintings and sculptures leads to the bed room whose small windows also look out over Blackfish.

Within two hours of hitting the beach and dropping the pets in the house, the main event arrived. For Brittney it was the first orcas she’d seen in a year and they didn’t disappoint. Plodding slowly against the tide the A30s and A42s paraded by, one hundred yards from the shore. Escorted by Pacific White Sided dolphins and humpbacks tracing back and forth0 on the far side of the channel. At long last everything was perfect. The wait, the driving, and the planning was all behind us now. As the A30s rose to the surface, fin after fin rising and falling I turned to Brittney with a grin, “don’t think it’s always this easy.”


4 thoughts on “The Last 500 Miles”

  1. Yet another awesome adventure! Beautiful writings, so glad you’ve made it to your happy place. Take care of each other , love you both. Ma Steffens

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