We packed up the camper and took a wee trip across the island to the west coast before summer 2014 was over.
Right after Labour Day weekend, we caught a ferry to Nanaimo. Though it was a little cloudy and drizzly, the weatherman told us we were in for a perfect week of camping weather. He was right!
We spent the first night at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park...a park which straddles the Little Qualicum River and lies on the southern shore of Cameron Lake. Just a short hike from our campsite we viewed the falls...where the river plunges through a narrow gorge. Beautiful...and worth the short detour from Parksville if you are ever in the area.
We so enjoy camping in September when others seem to think that camping season is over! We shared a large provincial park with a few European tourists.
We walked along well-maintained trails through lush old-growth forests of Douglas fir and stunning, arbutus trees. Arbutus trees are always a novelty to me...with their crooked and twisted trunks and peeling red bark. Arbutus is the only native broadleaf evergreen tree in Canada....and grows only near the ocean. Tall, rugged and unique...it is quite beautiful!
We left our campground in the morning...and carried on westward down Highway 4. Our next stop was Cathedral Grove...a remnant of an ancient Douglas Fir forest. Many trees that are over 800 years old...and one has a trunk that is 9 meters (about 30 feet) in circumference. We explored the trails...breathed in the forest scent, observed moss hanging from every surface and gazed up the massive trunks. And took photos!
Near Port Alberni...we visited McLean Mill. It is Canada's only commercial steam-operated sawmill, and has many of the original buildings erected by R.B. McLean when he started the sawmill in 1926. It is a national historic site...a working mill featuring logging demonstrations using the rebuilt equipment. Interesting...logging being such a part of British Columbia's history.
From there we carried on our way...up and down the narrow twisting road that is Highway 4...past scenic lakes and on to the open sea.
We arrived in Ucleluet towards evening...
...and were delighted with our campsite right on the water.
Ucluelet means 'safe harbour'...and is a town with 1,600 residents situated on the western edge of Barkley Sound. They get a lot of rain...and little snow. And they are rather isolated out there on the west coast...being 1 hour and 42 minutes down that winding road from the nearest town (Port Alberni). But they like it like that!
We were also delighted to have our friend Trish show up at our camper and welcome us to 'her town'. (For those who are trying to connect the dots...Trish was part of the MGCC blog in the early days...before she moved to Ucluelet.) The following day...Trish returned to take us on a tour. Who better to have as a tour guide than Trish...since she knows the ropes of Ucluelet inside and out!
She also knows all the residents...it seems! This fisherman was just returning from his time out at sea...and more than happy to show us the catch of the day! He told us the name of each and every fish in his cooler...but my memory is rather like a sieve. I do know that the one with the 'big throat' is a Ling Cod. Since everything in Ucluelet seems to revolve around fishing...it only made sense that we have fish for supper. But where?
Our trusty tour guide took us to Jigger's Fish 'n Chips...a food truck in the middle of town with outdoor seating and excellent food. They have a good reputation for a reason! Then it was off to tour Trish's home...her 'shack by the sea' as she calls it. Quite a lovely shack, I must say! And before the sun dipped behind the horizon...she took us on a sunset tour. From our prime location...we watched the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean right before us. And to our left...the moon was riding high. And on our right a jet streaked upward leaving a pink trail behind. I have lovely memories of Ucluelet at sunset on a warm September day.
Before we left town and carried on up the coast...we also met up with a cousin who is one of those 1600 residents of Ucluelet. She has made this her home for decades and quite enjoys her life here on the western edge. As adults, our meetings have been few and far between...so it was good to catch up and enjoy a delightful lunch on the deck of the Canadian Princess. Thanks, Lorane!
Our next stop was Long Beach...in Pacific Rim National Park. It is aptly named...and is a popular surfing location in British Columbia.
We walked in the sand...watched others surf...and marveled that we have such a beach so close to home.
Just a little further up the road is Wickaninnish Resort...which we checked out while we there. Maybe one day we will return to watch the storms...and visit The Pointe restaurant.
We stayed at Crystal Cove Beach Resort near Tofino...where the beaches continue...
...and the sun sets are spectacular! If you ever have a chance...visit Vancouver Island's secluded west coast.
It was the perfect little end-of-summer get-away...but now it is back to real life and corn harvest on the farm.
Whew...this was a very long post!