Sunday, August 13, 2017

Vancouver Island Wrap-up

Sometimes the timing is off or the expectations are too unrealistic or our own quirks become too quirky. When this happens, to write about all things vacation being perfect is dishonest or at the very least, pretty darn Pollyannaish. Traveling is wonderful, but not always. Out of synch happens. Take our most recent sojourn on Vancouver Island.

The first scapegoat for any traveling discomfort is the weather. Ed and I always play with it a bit, and delight in heading to higher or lower elevations or going south or north, to find "ideal". On this trip we simply have not been able to get it quite right, moving from sweltering to shivering throughout most days. We'd head up off the coast to escape the cold seashore fog, and bake. We'd go back down to the beach to escape the heat, and freeze. We've turned into crazy yo-yos of discontent.

Add mosquitoes to the equation and the complexity intensifies. In the woods the mosquitoes fiercely attack, leaving red welts on top of red welts. During the night I turn into a crazy whirling maniac with fits of itching. To avoid more bites we hide out in Thistle, but that is confining and hot, plus the mosquitoes still sneak in. Sleeping with even one mosquito in Thistle is challenging and hearing the telltale buzzing, I dive under the blanket. Waking up hot and sweaty, I throw off the blanket to cool off, but soon I am chilled, so seek cover again. Throughout, the mosquitoes feast. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

And then, what were we thinking? The crowds of August vacationers caught us off guard. We have done so much traveling in the off season, we had somehow misplaced our recollection of summer vacationers. People are as thick as the mosquito bites on my body, overflowing the beaches, highways, ferries, coffee shops, and campgrounds. The people we've encountered are quite lovely, there are just way too many for my spoiled country ways. I avoid Langley in the summer, and definitely stay away from Seattle, why did I think Vancouver Island would be different?

And finally, change has unexpectedly caught me in its grip. I anticipated finding the small, quaint towns I remembered from 30 plus years ago changed but not too changed. Ha. Take Sooke. This tiny town I stopped at when cycling the Galloping Goose all those many years ago is no longer tiny. Sooke has sprawled every which way and is plagued with bumper to bumper traffic. I am critical of people's resistance to change in the political world, yet here I am trapped in my own mindset of "what it was" in the physical world.

We have seen many wonderful parts of Vancouver Island and greatly enjoyed many of our destinations, but as vacations go I was caught off guard enough to examine my ideal. I was forced into self reflection. Our dear friend, Greg's words rang in my ears: "No expectations, no disappointments."

And, a final word for travel on Vancouver Island -- take a boat!

Any boat…


It's the rugged shorelines and small off shore islands and abundant wildlife and hundreds of lovely little lakes that are the drop dead wonders of this place. A boat enhances the experience, as I know from previous trips, but failed to fully appreciate until I found myself without a boat.


“Everything that looks too perfect is too perfect to be perfect.”

~ Dejan Stojanovic

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Malcolm Island

On our way to Malcolm Island…

Bere Point Campground on Malcolm Island becomes our home for two nights. The only town on the island, Sointula, sports the oldest coop in BC plus lots of art, funk, characters and charm. The dogs and cats have right-of-way on the streets. The island's setting, off the Queen Charlotte Strait, is stunning, and only a 20 minute ferry ride from Port McNeill.

Hiking the Beautiful Bay Trail we stop at the whale viewing platform, but no whales this day. The hike is a pleasant woodland path, often with salal way over our heads, giving way to beautiful peekaboo water views from time-to-time. We cross over rickety little bridges that wave and bend and sag in most interesting ways.

no whales today

great snags

4 feet help on these rickety old bridges

salal well over our heads

Later in the day, we walk the streets of Sointula, along with other walkers and bikers and dogs, and even at one point a free-roaming cow happily munching in a patch of daisies. We discover the library, complete with the sit-outside-when-they-are-closed Internet. In the marina parking lot we cooked dinner in Thistle as we watched the fishing fleet rushing home just ahead of the bank of fog rolling in. We shopped the coop and sampled two cafes -- Upper Crust Bakery for lunch and Coho Joe Cafe.

creative pea patch trellis

beautiful, but sad, old skeleton boat house still housing

We pretty much sampled the whole island, with the exception of driving the full length of the only east-west road. After driving to the light house at the west end we simply didn't have the stamina to go in the other direction. Our tolerance for dusty washboard roads had come to an end so further explorations ended with the pavement.

Goodbye Malcolm Island. We enjoyed our stay!


"The longer the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder."

~ Ralph Washington Sockman

Port Alice

Port Alice is a sweet little town accessible from a curvy, scenic road (paved even!!) headed south midway between Port Hardy and Port McNeill, off Highway 19. It is situated beautifully at Rumble Beach and charmed our socks off. Once a pulp mill town, now without an obvious means of jobs, except logging, fishing and tourism. Nestled between Neroutsos Inlet and Alice Lake, Port Aliceis perfectly situated for surround-beauty.

Shortly after arriving we pulled into a sleepy little RV Park for the night. $11 with a stunning view of the Inlet. We tucked the camping fee under the door because, after calling the owners at a number provided, we were told they were home eating dinner. The next morning, we strolled the 3 km Sea Walk, off leash for Benton, because there wasn't a car or another person in sight. By almost noon, when we departed, we still had not seen our hosts.

Seeing the For Sale sign on the RV park/restaurant we stayed at got me to thinking about Port Alice as a home. Quiet in the summer; beyond quiet in the winter. Serenity year-around! An appealing idea in these days of Trump.


"My incentive? Making a peaceful spirit second nature. And that is so worth the effort."

~ Carlos Wallace

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Back to the Pacific Ocean

Aside from Victoria, B.C. trips, all previous trips to Vancouver Island have been to drive as fast as we could to a put-in and then explore by kayak. In the past, I have paddled Barkley Sound, Desolation Sound and Kyuquot Sound -- all wonderfully beautiful. Exploring the island in a car is a new adventure, and so far I'd say not as rewarding as paddling, but worth doing nevertheless.

Both Ed and I were missing the past adventures of water and remote ocean travels so from Port Hardy we head to the Pacific, destination Cape Palmerston and Raft Cove Provincial Park. Logging roads the entire route, some 40 miles, or so, made for a teeth chattering experience. Attesting to the good springs in Thistle, we still have our teeth. We also have a mountain of dust in every nook and cranny. Perhaps it's the dust holding our teeth in place???

between dust flying and a dirty windshield the view failed to impress

fires slowed down much of the  forest work, but it was still happening

Along the way we stop at Holberg for an ice-cream bar at a funny little grocery store in a town of perhaps 12 homes.

The beauty of the ocean with its beaches, rocky shores and calming waves is a wonderful juxtaposition to the washboard roads that battered us mile after mile getting here. And Benton, seemingly finished with rough roads with his hang face, was more than happy to exit Thistle for some beach-running freedom.

Hiking out to Raft Cove was on a rooted, challenging trail through a beautiful but tangled forest, an hour in length. Mosquitoes, of course, chewed on us relentlessly, but breaking out on the beach made every bump, step, and bite, worth the effort and itch.

trail of roots

some lovely trail building but it petered out
not too far along

we loved the directional arrow to the right

To our surprise there were lots of campers, kayakers, surfboarders and paddle boarders stretched out along the length of the beach. There were also ample camps tucked away in the woods, almost hidden from sight, and outhouses amply placed, so that the beach felt quite pristine. Unlike other places we've been the folks seemed well trained in the "pack it in, pack it out" philosophy of good camping etiquette. It also turns out Raft Cove can be reached via a raft down Macjack River making it far more accessible than we ever imagined.

some sun, lots of fog but sometimes, like here, off in
the distance

Access to Cape Palmerston was only a five minute hike through the woods from the parking lot. The beach was gravel, not sand, much shorter than Raft Cove and with many fewer people. Except for two semi-permanent summer tents the only other people we saw were day visitors, like us. The occupants of the tents were living off the sea for the summer. The one man we spoke with was very interesting, probably in his late 60's, who had immigrated to Canada from Kenya, directly after finishing University in England. He speaks seven languages, including Chinese, as he worked with his brother-in-law in China for a spell. I always find it delightful to find all manner of people wherever we go, no matter how remote or unexpected.

Hiking down the beach a bit, we come across this wonderful emergency shelter, complete with loft sleeping accommodations, kitchen sink and drain board, outhouse up a little trail called Taj Mahole, fire pit with benches, and a sweet little deck for viewing the ocean. A guestbook recorded many visitors who had simply dropped by or stayed for a spell. We added our names.

Our trip has generated two bear sightings and a third almost-bear-sighting. The third was at Cape Palmerston where there was a dead seal on the beach and accordingly to the man we spoke with, a bear came several times a day to graze. The eagles were showing a great deal of interest too. Also the area has wolves and cougars but we heard of no reports that they were participants at this feast and we saw no signs of either.


"Always there has been an adventure just around the corner--and the world is still full of corners."

~ Roy Chapman Andrews

Headed North on Vancouver Island

From Highway 4, we join the north-south Highway 19 (opting for Highway 19A at this point) at Qualicum Beach. "Beach" is the operative word in this town's name as it is truly a beautiful public waterfront. Any city setting aside public space like Qualicum Beach has, is a jewel. All too often rivers, lakes, sounds and oceans are wrapped up in private ownership with public access, as well as views, denied to too many others. Who doesn't enjoy dipping one's toes in water and frolicking on a beach?

Heading up Vancouver Island is interesting as the road, especially Highway 19A, hugs the shoreline much of the way, or so it seems looking at a map. Yet it is a rare event to glimpse water, because even with the road so near the strait, the forest between the road and the water is view-blocking thick. From Qualicum Beach we didn't have great views of the water until we reached Campbell River, and here we happily discovered another town that celebrates it's waterfront. A very long stretch of waterfront has been preserved and enhanced for the public to enjoy -- and we did, especially Benton.

Leaving Campbell River, we found camping at Morton Lake Park, a charming spot in the woods with a perfect little swimming lake. Before pulling out the next morning we quite enjoyed a refreshing swim, washing off the travel dust as well at giving our bodies a cool, refreshing workout. A fellow camper suggested we stop for breakfast at Roberts Lake so, as we rarely do, we engaged in restaurant fare. A hearty tasty breakfast was served, much too huge, providing us with dinner as well.

From here, to the north of the island we are on Highway 19, and as hoped, the crowds have thinned. We don't next connect with the shoreline until Port McNeill and then Port Hardy, two towns knowing how to capitalize on their locations of beauty, facing  Queen Charlotte Strait. The towns themselves are unassuming, but their shorelines are beautifully developed for people pleasure.

Port McNeill…

Port McNeill, B.C.


"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water."

~ Loran Eisely

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ucluelet and Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

The next morning we head west to the ocean and the towns of Ucluelet and Tofino, and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Highway 4, the only southern road headed west to the ocean, is beautiful. Clear river views with lots of swimming holes, lakes, rock cliffs, forests and pristine mountains enchanted us.

At our destination, the small, slow, sleepy towns we expected, and knew from the past, are no longer slow and sleepy. Huge crowds of people were everywhere and the traffic was bumper-to-bumper. No vacancy signs were posted on the entrances to all campgrounds, motels, and hotels. Restaurants had lines spilling out onto the streets. Cute little shops were filled with lure-the-tourist trinkets (garage sale fodder, as one friend has labeled them). We found ourselves in shock and a bit overwhelmed on this very hot day. Looking at each other, we saw a run-for-sanity look in one another's eyes. Living in a tourist town leaves us less willing to tolerate them when we're on holiday.

A short hike on the Wild Pacific Trail, convinced us we should revisit again sometime soon, but off season. The trail we sampled is beautiful, hugging the shores and cliffs of the Pacific Ocean as it winds its way through old intact forests, along sandy beaches, and across rocky tide pools. It even offers teasing views of whales not far off shore. A barefoot walk on Long Beach spun magic as well, with its long stretch of beautiful fine, white sand, stretching almost as far as we could see. Without a question, we must return, but only after the August holiday masses return home.

We really do love people. We just love them in small doses not in frantic demanding tourist scenes. Tomorrow we will head north and hope, as the road narrows, the crowds thin.


"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more"

~ George Gordon Byron

Friday, August 4, 2017

Helping Hand

We arrived at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal a bit before 5:00, but it was 8:15 before we finally loaded. Three heat-blasted hours on a sea of blacktop, not a tree in sight, surrounded by cars and trucks is a perfect definition for unpleasant. Hot sun penetrated Thistle. Wide open doors and windows were useless in catching any breeze on this still evening. Fortunately (and this is one of the most wonderful parts of RV travel), we prepared dinner as we waited in line, avoiding the only other dining option available -- fast food smothered in oil, sugar or salt.

We rolled into Nanaimo feeling damp from sweat and exhausted from a long trip, but fortunately well fed. It was 10:15 when we disembarked and headed up Vancouver Island, destination Parksville and Rathuevor Beach Provincial Park. Engulfed in dark, traveling unfamiliar roads, we stumbled north, knowing we were pushing park closing time. And, with the fate of late night driving, we drove past the park entrance. Circling back, not yet ready to give up, we stopped to ask directions. By now it was 11:45 and the man we consulted said, "Too late! The park closed at 11:00." But, he continued, "You're welcome to park back there." and pointed his finger to a utility area behind his business, "Just clear out early tomorrow morning."

We jumped at the opportunity this unknown man's trust and generosity provided. Our good fortune was a home for the night lacking aesthetics, but offering lots of heart. How sweet it is when a total stranger holds out a helping hand.


"Although an act of help done timely, might be small in nature, it is truly larger than the world itself."

~ Thirukkural Thiruvalluvar