Monday, July 28, 2008

From shore to shore

Sunday, July 27, 2008

COURTENAY — This morning we listened to waves coming in from the Pacific; tonight we go to sleep to the sound of waves on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, just north of Courtenay and Comox.
Today was mostly a travel day to accomplish this. The distances we have to cover are relatively small on the island, compared to the great stretches of territory we covered last year, crossing the North American continent. We only traveled about 150 kilometers today, from Tofino to the Bates Beach Resort and RV campground.
It’s a bit of a contrast to our previous location’s manicured flower beds, gravel sites that are raked daily like a Japanese garden, groomed lawns and staff purring by in electric golf carts. This campground is a rumpled, homey place where most of the campers seem to know each other and dented boats lie upturned near the beach next to the fish cleaning table. It’s been here since the 1970s, and the lovely view of the Gulf islands and the mainland beyond are a strong drawing card.
On the blackboard on the wall of the washroom and shower building the weather is scrawled in chalk, as well as the hours of the high and low tides and what cruise ships we may expect to see sailing through today. We got here after most of today’s sailings and tides occurred, but we’ll have to check out what’s going to transpire tomorrow.
Our trip here took us back across the island through some winding roads. From time to time, Val would pull off to the shoulder to let a string of faster cars go by. He did this one time, only to see the string of cars pull off just ahead of us — and then we saw why: a small black bear was calmly grazing on a grassy knoll by the highway just ahead! It was at the same spot where Val had caught sight of him on the way in.
Not long after, we arrived at Port Alberni, where we picked up a few supplies. We’re trying to scale it down quite a bit so our groceries are sufficient for the week but not beyond, as we will have to either leave or pack in our luggage anything we don’t consume! However, we did buy a small hockey bag to help us accomplish this, as we do want to take the nice camp stove that we bought home with us, plus a couple of other small things.
We passed through the beautiful Cathedral Grove one more time, still awed by the amazing height of the fir trees on either side of the highway. Our drive through Parksville and Qualicum Beach felt like familiar territory, as did the highway north of those two towns that we had traveled earlier when we took the ferry to Denman and Hornby Islands.
Courtenay and Comox were only a short distance beyond the ferry dock. We didn’t linger there, but rather headed straight for the campground for a leisurely afternoon with some time to get the last couple of loads of laundry done for our final week here. We’ll do more exploring tomorrow.
After supper we sat on benches facing the water and watched the waves, the seagulls and a pretty rainbow that the light showers mixed with sunshine had produced over the water. A couple of anglers proudly came by to weigh their catch at the scales near our seats. They had caught a small red snapper and a silvery salmon that weighed nearly nine pounds! The seagulls became very vocal and curious as one of them scaled the fish and cut them into fillets. He tossed the tails and heads onto the beach for them to fight over.
We struck up a conversation with one of the camp owners, who had also come down to see the catch of the day, and he said there were a couple of bald eagles who would probably soon be by as well. Sure enough, we heard one cry out a few minutes later, and I spotted him high on a tree overlooking the water. The owner went down and picked up the salmon head, waved it high in the air, placed it on the concrete boat ramp and walked back up to our viewing point. Minutes later the eagle swooped over our heads, stretched out his feet and grabbed the salmon’s head lying on the shore. Suddenly there was a second eagle vying for the same prize and not too pleased to see he had come too late! This early bird got more than a worm this time.

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