Doggone Vacation, Part I: Back in the Green Arms of Vancouver Island

Our dog sent us here.

Really.

After coming to grips with our sweet Maya’s need for intensive training to ease her reactivity to other dogs, the Mate and I booked her a two-week stay with local dog whisperer Stephanie Vallejo (highly recommended, but get in line: she’s very much in demand!). Then we looked at each other.

“You thinking what I’m thinking? If our dog is already being cared for…”

“…We could…we could GO somewhere!”

And since we’ve been yearning to get back to Vancouver Island ever since last fall’s trip got scrubbed , we jumped at this chance. Then I got COVID, giving me the time I needed to plan a rough itinerary–score!

Washington State Ferries hasn’t resumed its service to Sidney, British Columbia, so we had to take the long way round. Oh darn.

Our first stop was the town of Sooke, just west of Victoria, where most tourists go. We’re not really into cities–particularly very Anglophile cities like Victoria immediately following the death of the Queen. Plus Sooke is known for its glorious rail-trail, the Galloping Goose, which the Mate & I have been eager to try out.

You can see why.

“The Goose” stretches 55 kilometers, much of which is as gorgeous as this part (where I saw a bear the next day). With a few exceptions, it’s perfectly level, and includes fun little additions like…some VERY high trestle bridges…

Don’t look down

…mixed forests, and shoreline, like this part fronted by what Canadians call Arbutus, and we call Madrona (or Madrone, in California).

Beautiful, eh

From Sooke we headed back toward Victoria, then followed the main highway north to not-quite-halfway up this INCREDIBLY big island, where we entered its mountainous middle. I was on a mission. I wanted to see bears, and leaping salmon. Maybe even together!

I got my wish. Sorry about the poor zoom quality on my phone.

That bear’s two cubs showed up a moment later, but I took a video of them instead of stills, so you just have to imagine. Were we nervous about the bears being only one river away from our campsite? Well…we would have been, had the ranger not assured us that these particular bears had been coming every evening, checking for fish and leaving, without seeming to care about crossing over.

Good enough for us to sleep well. We happened to know that the fish were just downriver…

…nope, further downriver…

…where the BIG falls are, summoning the energy to leap. As with the bears, I took videos of the salmon doing their thing and forgot to take stills. But if you look very closely…

VERY closely!

…you can see them massing in the canyon just below the falls. Dozens of them. Hundreds. Several specials. Getting ready for the big push. (But they also have a fish ladder to fall back on, in case they give up after 80 or 90 tries.)

Our next night of camping was on Sproat Lake, where the scenery was nice but not breathtaking. However, following my nose and some truly baffling maps, I stumbled upon one of the most magical waterfall pools I’ve ever encountered.

Did I skinny dip? Are you kidding? Of COURSE.

What’s weird is, I accessed this place via an ugly logging road under a power line, then had to climb down a bluff using a VERY scary rope “ladder”–to find this lil’ piece of Narnia waiting below.

Oh, and then climb back up again.

Good job, Vancouver Island–make us work a little for your treasures.

One of our two weeks is now behind us, and The Mate and I are at the end of the world, or what feels like it: the towns of Ucluelet and Tofino, one at each end of a peninsula hanging off the Big Island.

Image courtesy of VisitTofino.ca

Tofino’s where the kayak photo came from. “But Gretchen,” you may ask, “don’t you already live on an island? Why would you vacation somewhere so similar to your regular ol’ life?”

Could this photo have been taken in the San Juan Islands? Possibly.

But my answer is:

Nothing “regular” about THIS…

…or THIS: the First Nations village of Opitsat, which our kayak guide told us was the oldest continuously-inhabited settlement in North America, dating back at least 5,000 years (but more likely, he had learned, 10,000). Seeing it gave me goose bumps. (again–apologies for poor zoom lens)

The background snowy peaks of the mountains in Strathcona Provincial Park are just…extra.

And I’ll let Ucluelet speak for itself:

Just a teensy bit wilder than where I live.
And so are the trees.

One more thing The Mate and I are really enjoying about this part of B.C.: its quirkiness. For example, our rented room is in the lower part of this…structure?

Home, sweet whatever you want to call this.

And their official control-your-dogs-at-the-beach signs are hilarious:

Wait, did somebody say Good Dog? Oh, we sure hope so. But meanwhile–thanks for the vacation, Maya! See you in a week!

6 thoughts on “Doggone Vacation, Part I: Back in the Green Arms of Vancouver Island

  1. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us all once again. Not only were the photos great, but getting bits and pieces of the history was terrific. But Gretchen, you should get a special award for climbing back up, not only down to that incredible waterfall.

  2. So glad that your trip has been so wonderful and filled with the adventures you enjoy! Vancouver Island is a magical place, and of course, you’re discovering all of the magic.

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