Family vacation!

Trip Start Mar 26, 2006
Trip End Oct 20, 2006

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Friday, August 4, 2006

Vancouver Island is big - really big. From the southern port city of Victoria, we drive a bumpy, pot-hole-filled road for 2 hours north through dense conifer forest to Port Renfrew, a teeny-tiny end-of-the-road town where Vancouverites go to get away from it all. My family - all 16 of us! - descend on the South Creek Lodge, our earthy, somewhat crunchy, ultra-casual home away from home for the next five days. I have to admit I was a bit snobbish and disappointed at first with the wood-paneled, 70's-era, slightly dim youth hostel feel, until I realized that this meant it was ok to put my feet up on the coffee table, they put some nice acoustic guitar tunes on the stereo, and I started discovering the subtler charms of the place like the open-air hot tub out back, the fresh herbs growing on the deck, and the expansive views of the bay that would occasionally disappear in the mists of a passing cloud. And wow, can these guys cook. As it turns out, one brother is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and both brothers were chefs before deciding to break of on their own to start a lodge together, so the food rocks the house. Our first dinner was organic field greens and home-grown subtly sweet candied beets, melt-in-your-mouth honey maple glazed salmon, and a buttery fresh berry fruit crumble with homemade ice cream. We were shocked at the food coming out of this backwoods kitchen. Breakfasts were hearty, always accompanied by the most perfect creamy, delicious scrambled eggs (how did they do that?) I've ever tasted. Num!!!

The "adventure" activities mostly turned out to be excuses for relaxing. On our 3-hour "whale watching" trip, we saw a raucous group of sea lions, a pod of tiny, rare harbor porpoises, and one lone gray whale who surfaced and spouted a few times, showed us her tail fin, and didn't pay any attention to us. According to our guide, the orcas had arrived the day before, attacked one of the gray whales, and frightened all the other whales further out to sea. So, it was mostly a glorified boat ride with some nice views of the forested shoreline. Since Ranger Todd and I are both big wildlife nuts, were definitely going to be looking for more opportunities to see these giants of the sea.

The natural tide pools at Botany Beach were a big hit. We skittered around trying to sneak up on crabs, played with purple sea urchin shells, eyed the green anemones, and kept a wary eye out toward the sea for incoming rogue waves. My friend, Biz, first introduced me to the joy of photographing weird-looking slimy, gelatinous seaweed, so I enjoyed taking photos of the mucousy green piles lying around on the sand.

A kayak trip up the local river was one of my favorite adventures. In between conversations about Canadian pot and politics with our hunky guide, Andrew, I attempted to soak my unsuspecting family members with my portable hand pump. Excellent. Ranger Todd was no match for me, and even Andrew, despite his many threats about tipping us over if we so much as got him wet, was eventually overcome by my well-aimed attacks.

The week flew by and I'll take some great memories with me from this week. I was caught off guard when it was already the final day and I still hadn't gotten to spend time with some of the gang.

Thanks so much, mom & Russ, for such a fantastic trip! We're missing everyone already and can't wait to coerce you to join us somewhere else along the road. Enjoy the pics!
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