Like my new word? I was trying to find a way to describe the way The Mate and I tend to travel, and it occurred to me: pretty much all we do, wherever we are, is look for trails to walk or paths to bike (or vice-versa).
Leaving Tofino, we drove less than 20 miles down the road to Pacific Rim National Park, a thin strip of forest and beach that runs a good length down Vancouver Island’s Wild West Coast. The hiking trails are all short, but the longest of them is run by the Nuu-chah-nulth people, whose land it occupies.
Along with offering some moments in the best parts of the forest, the trail tries to deepen one’s awareness of that culture, like this:
This totem pole along the trail is maybe the most beautiful I’ve ever beheld.
Everywhere you go in that park, signs remind you whose land you are on–a convention our US parks would do well to emulate.
That sign, by the way, greets walkers and bikers for MILES as they traverse the longest path of all: the bike path that runs the entire 20+ miles of the park. The Mate & I LIVED on this path during our camping days there, using it to move from one beach or hiking trail to the next. And, given the number of poop-piles we counted, the local bears live on this path too!
Of course we didn’t spend ALL our camping time on the move.
I’m not a “beach person” in the sense of lying on them for hours, but give me a beach with tidepools and I’m good–at least till the next mealtime! 🙂 PRNP has some AMAZING rocks and tide pools.
In one pool, I was amazed to discover an eating-sized fish who appeared trapped, as if in an aquarium. I vowed to come back next morning to try to save him if the tide hadn’t come in far enough…
…only to discover him, to my chagrin, still there…along with an even larger buddy…both of them attached through the gills by a nylon line, and the fisherman who’d caught them still trying to augment his catch. Apparently he was using this tide pool as his bucket to stash his fish, even overnight!
[Not pictured: pathetic caught fish in tide pool. I’m a terrible hypocrite; I just like to eat ’em.]
Seriously, though, I can’t say enough about this part of Canada. Come for the big trees…
…stay for the big trees at sunset!
Leaving the Wild West (regretfully), we moved slowly back through the center of the island, spending the night in Port Alberni. Not much pathing nor trailing there–but I did fall deeply in love with their bakery. If you want to know more about this very blue-collar town at the far end of the LOOOONG inlet which bisects the west coast, let me refer you to my friends’ blog–they do a good bit more than pathing and trailing when they travel.
[Not pictured: Port Alberni. Nothing really grabbed me there, visually; probably due to lack of trails & paths.]
On the way out, however, we walked in the Cathedral Grove (pictured at top), and later stopped at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, where we vowed to come back sometime and camp. Here’s why.
Luckily, we’d already had our leaping-salmon experience the week before at Stamp River, because…
…these falls were not exactly leap-able. Ridiculously gorgeous, yes. We had some of our best “trailing” around this river, seeing its falls from all angles.
Our final stop was Lake Cowichan, where I’d attempted to take The Mate on last fall’s ill-fated Mystery Birthday Trip (see previous post). The Trans Canada Trail runs through there, so we had high hopes of pathing it on our bikes.
But it was closed for construction. So we had to make do with the lake.
Lake Cowichan looked even better from above, although the trail itself led mostly through the scruffy results of clearcutting.
We spent our final Vancouver Island night near Nanaimo, where we’d be boarding the ferry next morning. Yes, we did manage to find a couple more trails & paths nearby, but by this time we were starting to feel all that mileage in our legs. So we kept the walks short, and fell gratefully into the bed which took up our entire tiny room in this adorable pub/hotel.
We arrived home to find the Cascade skies still hazy with wildfire smoke. Happy as I am to be reunited with Maya the Malamute, I’ll end with this photo from the ferry back to the Canadian mainland, because…
…see all those mountains out there? Can you imagine how many paths and trails they’re hoarding?
Thanks, Canada. With or without the doggone excuse, we’ll be back, eh?
Great post! I can imagine the wonderful smell of pines and outdoorsy freshness just from these photos. Beautiful!
It sounds like you had a glorious time exploring the island by foot and by bike! I’m so glad you had such a great trip. You’re making me want to return. I can’t believe it was five years ago this month that we were there!! I’m sure your sweet Maya is very happy to have you home.