Wild Pacific

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Howdy folks,

On Monday, Steffie and I had a lazy start before driving into Vancouver to pick up Dave and Jack. We left the hotel at 10:30am and drove to the Greyhound station where the boys were waiting and loaded the car to capacity. From there we drove through Stanley Park and across Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver where we loaded up with fuel and groceries. Instead of getting onto Highway 99 to Whistler, we took the more scenic route along Marine Drive which was quite windy.

We were going to stop at Point Atkinson Lighthouse, but we missed the turnout so we continued to the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay. There we rejoined the highway and waited in queue for over an hour for the 2:30pm ferry. There are a number of ferries that leave from Horseshoe Bay, but the one we were after was to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. It was a long wait, but eventually the cars started loading and we drove up the ramp and onto the second level. I was surprised how big the ferry actually was, it seemed to be much bigger than the one I remember taking over from Sorrento to Geelong in Victoria. We took the lift up to the passenger deck and found a comfortable seat at the front. After settling in, we took a walk around the sun deck once the ferry had departed although there was more wind than sun. We took one last look at Vancouver before sitting down for the 1 hour 45 minute trip.

The trip seemed to go much quicker than waiting in the ferry queue and before long the island came into view. Vancouver Island isn't small like Kangaroo Island, in fact it is more like the size of Britain. After returning to our car, we drove out into a small traffic jam, before finally hitting the highway north. At Parksville, we turned west to drive to Port Alberni. The weather wasn’t great so we didn’t stop at any of the points of interest we had made. We decided to camp at Sproat Lake which is home of the Martin Mars water bombers. These World War 2 era bombers are still in use and are anchored off the shoreline, ready to use in a wildfire. They are definitely a sight to behold.

We set up the tent quickly because of the rain although the tent was still pretty wet from Whistler. After talking a look at the seaplane, we walked around the shoreline to take a look at the pictographs which are First Nations carvings in the rocks. They were pretty clear, unlike some other similar carvings I’ve seen and there was a man fishing for salmon on the dock. It was still lightly raining when we got back, so there was nothing else to do but throw around the Frisbee and kick the soccer ball. It was pretty fun, even if it only kept us out of the tent for a while.

In the morning, the rain had cleared and Jack and I were game for a swim in the lake. Dave came as well, but only got as far as dunking his head under before heading out. Jack and I, on the other hand, went for a swim out to the buoy and even spotted a rainbow on the far side. It was very refreshing. We headed back into Port Alberni to gather a few supplies before heading west again towards the coast. Our first stop was a stop along the river where there was a giant washed up tree trunk on the rocks and quite a few tide pools on the ancient lava bed. From there it was quite a windy road to huge Kennedy Lake and eventually the turn to Ucluelet.

We drove into town to have a look at the Wild Pacific Trail. It was amazing to see the Pacific Ocean with tide pools and small islands offshore. There were quite a few bent trees from the strong ocean breezes and we even spotted a bald eagle circling above us. The trail wasn’t very long, but it was great to breathe the salty air once again. From Ucluelet, we drove north towards Tofino and stopped at the Green Point Campground in Pacific Rim National Park to camp for the night. We were lucky to get a site and once we were all set up and fed, we headed down to Long Beach. Stepping onto a proper beach after more than a year was fantastic. The trail down went through the trees and then you stepped out into an expansive sandy bar with only a dozen people stretched out along it. There were quite a bit of driftwood at the high tide mark and we headed to have a look at the rocky point. From there we could look down and see lots of mussels and starfish. That night we played a bit of Catan for the first time since we left Banff and Jack won his first game.

We slept in until 8am the next morning and after breakfast I managed to renew our site for another night. That is always nice when you don’t have to pack up the tent every day. We drove into Tofino to take a look at the town and did a short hike through the trees to a secluded beach. I got dropped off to go sea kayaking with Paddle West Kayaking at 1pm. I had to wait around for a few tours to leave before we got suited up with a life jacket and spray skirt. There ended up being 6 of us on the tour plus the guide. There were 2 people from Venezuela who were living in Calgary and an English couple with their daughter from Cambridge. I got paired up with the English guy who it turned out was actually living in Dubai as an executive banker, not a bad gig really! We headed down to the docks and after some basic instructions we settled in and pushed into the water. We hung around until everyone was sorted before doing some island paddling for the next 2 hours. We saw plenty of sea kelp with a bald eagle and sea otter thrown in for good measure. The afternoon was gorgeous and there were a few floating houses strewn about the islands. Apparently one was even for sale for a spare $200,000.

After the kayak, I got picked up by the others and we drove back to the rainforest to go for a 1km boardwalk through the giant trees. Not satisfied, I insisted that we try the bog trail just a bit further down the road where a 800m boardwalk took us to a completely different landscape full of spongy ground and short salt trees. In the evening after dinner, we took a nice long walk all the way up Long Beach and watched the sunset. A perfect wrap up to a fantastic West Coast journey!
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