Thursday, July 24, 2008
TOFINO — Canada’s Riviera, they call this place, and from our view of the beach at the Crystal Cove Resort and campground where we are stationed for the next couple of days, Tofino lives up to that reputation. Soft sand gives way underfoot, gentle waves wash in and out, and breathtaking rocks and pine trees enclose the curving shore on either side of the cove. This is only one of a number of beaches, some of which are several kilometers long. We’ll be seeing more of those tomorrow.
After we turned west from Parksville this morning toward the opposite side of the island, we passed through the small town of Coombs, which has as its claim to fame an establishment with a sod roof on which several goats graze every day! "Goats on a roof" announces the roadside sign with the arrow to turn left a few meters ahead. Lots of people do just that, and find the bearded critters munching away on their lofty perch, oblivious to the clicking cameras. While the people are there, they also check out a whole collection of little shops and boutiques that are strategically placed nearby.
The first stretch of highway was familiar ground, as we had traveled this way to see Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park on one of our first days on the island. We still marveled at the huge fir trees as we passed them again today, heading on toward Port Alberni. Even though that town appears to be dead centre between the east and west coasts, a person could put a boat in the water there and paddle all the way out a long finger of ocean to the Pacific. It looks like a prosperous town, boasting a great big WalMart and Canadian Tire across from each other.
The highway was a fairly good one as we got further into the country. It did twist and turn a fair bit, and we could almost hear the dishes crashing about in the camper behind us as we hit a few dipsy-doodles in the road surface, but it was generally okay. We passed a number of brooks and streams, and caught glimpses of some beautiful scenery with snow-topped mountains in the distance, pine trees closer by, and clear green streams gurgling past in front of us. Perfect subjects for calendar photographers!
Val caught sight of some tourists taking pictures and realized the subject of their attention was a black bear by the roadside, less than 20 feet from them! I missed seeing the bear. Maybe we’ll see the headlines tomorrow about the folks who risked their lives for a good souvenir photo.
We stopped at the information centre just before the highway split to the left for Ucluelet and to the right for Tofino. The Parks Canada attendant showed us where the best walking trails and beaches were, and we picked up a couple of local maps and brochures.
We took the left road first to Ucluelet. (Are "you clueless", or do you know how to pronounce "Ucluelet"?) At the very end of it, after we passed a number of resort hotels and cabins, plus ice cream stands and whale-watching enterprises, we came to the walking trail we wanted to take. It was about two kilometers long, and wound up and down through rainforest portions and out to various lookout points where we could see a few islands and the mighty Pacific Ocean beyond. There was a plaque describing a shipwreck that occurred in 1905 just below where we were standing, where all 27 passengers drowned only a few feet from the rocky shores. A lighthouse was built the next year, but was destroyed by storms a few years later. The one that’s there now has weathered the storms since 1915, and has been automated since 1988.
Shortly after we looked at the lighthouse, we stopped at another viewing spot to see a pair of magnificent bald eagles perched high on a dead pine tree where they had built a large nest. Thanks to the zoom lens on our camera, we managed to get a couple of good shots. The trail turned into a boardwalk shortly after that point, and parts of it were stairs which helped us climb back up to the parking lot.
On towards Tofino we went, stopping short of the town itself to turn into our resort location. It is a beautifully manicured spot, with landscaped flower beds along the road, which an attendant sweeps regularly to keep the gravel off the pavement. There are some lovely log cabins near the beach and 50 or more campsites of various sizes, nicely separated from each other by shrubs. We realize that we are about as far west of Ottawa as we can get and still be in Canada!
Our plan tonight is to light our first campfire, which is permitted here and for which the firewood is free. An inviting prospect!