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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tofino

Vancouver Island

We planed a trip to Tofino with our friends from Victoria and decided to rent a house together. We chose Zoe's at North Beach on VRBO which was fantastic. The house is beautiful, the location is great, and Zoe was really kind and helpful (she lives next door).

When planning the trip, I decided to look into the Pacific Rim National Park which has the West Coast Trail which requires a reservation for use between June 15 - September 15, but from the map you can see that the official trail starts at Pachena Beach and goes 75 km south-east to the Port San Juan, thus there is no convenient access from the Tofino area, and a 75 km hike is way more than I was looking for.

I ended up planning nothing, except to visit my brother at Apple in California before hand. I was delayed in SFO by fog and landed at YYJ at 3:30. The airport is actually well outside of Victoria in a town called Sidney. I had a car rental with Enterprise, but they didn't have a desk at the airport. There's a sign outside marking their shuttle pickup spot with their phone number, but since I don't have a phone I had to ask one of the other car rental desks to call for me.

Tofino isn't very far from Victoria in distance, but is far in time, due to the windy roads. Also the car rental people warned me to fuel up in Port Alberni, as it's the last chance for the next 120km to Tofino.

There are signs on the big highways advertising that picking up hitchhikers is illegal, but I was driving a mostly empty car a long way, and there were two clean looking backpackers at a stop light outside Port Alberni, so I took them with me to Tofino. They were friendly, from Spain, and kept me awake on the drive. I dropped them off at the Bella Pacifica Campground, just a few minutes past Zoe's.

I arrived at night. The kids were asleep and Mike & Karen and Amanda were playing a game of Alhambra. I watched them finish then went to sleep.

In the morning, I wore my narrative clip on Chesterman Beach.

Chesterman Beach

The water is cold, and we never actually went swimming. Everyone we saw swimming were in wet suites. You're also supposed to make a big deal of the sunsets, but we didn't stick around for those either.

We did arrive on a beach in early morning almost every day. There is fog every morning. We had good sunny days all week, but I'm told the fog frequently persists all day. It was pretty awesome to watch the fog burn off in the mornings and reveal the world.

Later that day, Mike, Amanda and I went for a hike to the Canso Plane Crash Site. It's an unofficial but well known trail. It was in our guide book and is on tripadvisor, but finding the trail-head isn't easy. All sources agree that you park at the (lower) Radar Hill parking lot (pay and display, accepts visa) and walk along the road (away from Tofino) for about 15 minutes, but all sources disagree on how the trail head-head is marked. One source said to count 15 telephone poles from the Radar Hill parking lot. I can't confirm that.

We passed at least two potential trails. We started on one and found a small sign indicating it was not the bomber trail. We kept going and tried another (mostly unmarked trail) which turned out to be the correct one. Once the trail widens into an abandoned road, you know you're on the right track. When you find the abandoned building you're sure of it.

The hike isn't very challenging or scenic and while a crashed plane in the middle of the bush is pretty cool, it didn't live up to they guide-book hype. The bomb pond is a little 9ft diameter pool and the plane is a vandalized wreck. The trail is far from secret. There were people at the plane when we arrived and we passed several more groups on the trail when heading back.

Anyway, the hike was well worth the time spent. Back home we mucked around on the beach and had an early night.

Next morning, Amanda and I struck out alone, early for the long hike from Radar Hill to Radar Hill Beach. I wore my Narrative clip for this too.

Radar Beach

The guide book made the hike sound dark and dangerous, but it was fantastic. There are some serious vertical stretches, but they're heavily rooted so I'd say that only the elderly and frail would find it impassible. We had a dry week, and I can imagine it would be much worse when the ground is saturated.

This hike was my highlight of the trip. The trail was challenging and scenic and largely isolated.

It's an unofficial trail but is easily discovered from the (upper) Radar Hill parking lot. The only people we saw on the way in were a park ranger on his way out (he was friendly) and two younger guys leaving the beach as we arrived. They had big backpacks, and I suppose they camped on the beach the previous night (which isn't allowed, which probably explains the ranger's morning visit).

The beach was beautiful and desolate. When we arrived it was still covered in a heavy fog, which burned off as we explored. I mucked around on a rock island and we saw an eagle.

We ate a lunch that Karen had packed and I climbed some rocks at the end of the beach. They seem to be of volcanic origin and are extremely grippy, but can easily cut your hands.

Before heading home we went into town and had a second (well deserved) lunch at Big Daddy's Fish Fry which was excellent. We picked up some supplies at the Co-Op Food Store and BC Liquor.

The next day we were pretty tired out so we just hung around the house and played on the beach with the kids.

The morning after, Karen and I got up early for a hike down the beach. The tide was out and we saw the wreck of an old car. They used to drive these on the beach and when they got stuck they were abandoned.

We hiked down North and South Chesterman Beach and saw some tidal caves and a bunch of neat wildlife. We hiked to the end of Cox Bay Beach and looked for a hiking trail we'd heard of but only found some fairly non-distinct paths and decided to turn back.

Back at home, Karen was reading from an old Nursery Rhymes book from Zoe's house and came across a startling story. It turns our that slut used to just mean a "a dirty, slovenly, or untidy woman".

That night, (our last in Tofino), Amanda and went out on the beach and took some photos in the rain.

The next day, on our way to Victoria, we stopped at Coombs Country Market (Goats On Roof) for a delicious lunch.

We arrived at Ev and Nansen's in Shawnigan Lake in time for a quick tour and dinner before heading out with them to see Les Misérables at the Chemainus Theatre Festival.

Next morning we left early and had breakfast at Rebar, which was awesome. We had a little bit of time for walking around downtown Victoria before catching our flight home.

We arrived in Ottawa past midnight but couldn't exit the long term parking because the bar-code ticket had been left face-up on the dash and had faded in the sun. We had to walk back to the airport and find talk to a bunch of people and eventually queue up at the pay booth of the short-term parking to get our exit ticket re-issued.