Whistler, BC (Oct 01/23) – Ahhhh!!!! The spectacle of summer… hot sun, warm breezes, picnics, BBQing, swimming, camping, paddling, basking in it all. Traveling our vast province of British Columbia comes with many attractions… mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, oceans. But the one thing that attracts more people (and animals) than anything else, always connecting land & water, it can be found everywhere… it is the beach.
After a blissful voyage across the Salish Sea (aka Georgia Strait), N&J made their way up to Qualicum Beach, BC… where they were graciously invited to use a friend’s B&B located smack on the beach.
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The accommodations at Oceanside Hideaway could not be better, beautifully appointed, spacious with windows that see forever. Watching the cruise ships passing by on their way to Alaska, the multitude of eagles majestic on the scraggy trees on the shoreline searching for their next target, sea lions coralling errant fish caught in their sightlines, ‘two legged’ creatures (humans) scouring, looking under rocks for small crustacean treasures… life on the beach…. and the blue sky that encapsulates it all.
After a couple days of intense relaxing on the foreshore, the traveling trio headed west to Port Alberni on Hwy 4 that had been deeply affected by the wildfires that burned most of the summer, causing all sorts of traffic delays… was finally open in all directions. At one point any travelers east of Port Alberni were forced to use a logging backroad (gravel, rough, filled with potholes) to Lake Cowichan to transit back to the east side of Vancouver Island.
Here we met up with Sharon (the Qualicum B&B friend) and spent an entire day floating down the Stamp River… a wonderful way to escape the summer’s heat. Along with many others, the peaceful float was punctuated with the occasional ‘mini rapid’, skimming the tube over smooth rocks (forcing the occupant to lift up their bottom, or risk a rude intrusion!), then gracefully gliding through deep pockets of river. The added bonus was watching giant salmon make their way up to the spawning fields, swimming just below the surface, so close you could touch them… if you dare!!
After a quiet night in a nearby campsite (Coleman RV Park), the journey continued to a never-been-before destination, Bamfield BC. Leaving Port Alberni (or ‘The Port’ as locals call it), they drove a 90km ‘mostly’ gravel logging road that skirts along the southside of the Alberni Inlet that runs for 40kms between Port Alberni & Barkley Sound on the Pacific Ocean. The intensity of the logging over the past 100 years in the area is very apparent, the different cut areas patch-work the landscape with carefully planted ‘new growth’ making way for future harvest. Intensely aware of being so remote amongst the wilderness each bend in the road was an adventure to behold… Jesse specifically is very attentive to the twist & turns, he tries to look around each corner.
Upon arrival in Bamfield N&J quickly find a campsite at the Elizabeth Scott Centennial Park (a municipal facility that offers all sorts of amenities, boat launch, dock, washrooms, showers), and only a quick 5 minute walk to the main town & waterfront. A peaceful night led to a busy activity filled day following, a ride on the local water-taxi to West Bamfield, the other side of the Bamfield Inlet that separates the east from west… the only way across. Our cheerful ‘water-taxi’ operator was very informative, sharing all sorts of local knowledge & even some juicy gossip. “What happens on the road stays on the road”.
N&J were inspired to come to Bamfield after watching an episode of ‘Just Standing‘, a CBC weekly program that focuses on small town life across Canada, telling their stories, highlighting the characters that live there… graced with the backstory, endeared the area and people to N&J.
On the other side is a wooden board walk built many decades ago that winds its way past numerous houses & buildings that reek of history, following almost the entire shoreline northward. The pathway made it possible for N&J to bring along Jesse for the ride using his ‘go-kart’.
Once at the north end where the Canadian Coast Guard base was located, they made their way up a gravel road to check out Brady’s Beach on the wild west side looking out on the open Pacific Ocean. They walked as far as they could but the trail conditions made for very hard slogging pushing Jesse’s chariot along. They were however rewarded with a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean & beaches from a vantage point along a trail that transcended to the ocean.
The return trip across the inlet back to East Bamfield was pleasant & full of visual delight… Jesse seemed to enjoy his ‘cruise’, gazing out at all the boat & bird activity (even sighting a huge California Seal frolicking). Fisherman abundant with their prized catches of glistening salmon, the likes of which are not seen in stores.
A few kilometres from Bamfield is an ocean playground to be found at Parchena Bay Campground. This ocean front campsite is managed by the lHuu-ay-aht First Nations. Surrounded by massive tall trees & situated along the bay of the same name… the campsite is beautiful, it was designed to be as natural as possible, tall ‘old growth’ trees, minimal encroachment.
N&J were lucky enough to snag a spot right on the edge of the beach, walk out of Hobbes a couple of metres and you were standing right on the beach that spanned 2-3 kms. They spent a couple days enjoying the warm late summer sunshine & winds that blew from the Pacific Ocean that span right before your eyes. Plans are already in the works to reserve a spot next year & spend much more time here.
After dragging themselves away from the ocean, the traveling trio embarked on a back road back towards the eastern side of the island via the route that eventually takes them to Lake Cowichan.
The back road from Bamfield to Cowichan Lake actually runs along an abandoned rail-bed used mainly for logging in the early 1900’s. This of course made the route very level, no major hill climbs over mountain passes or deep drops into river canyons… very driveable and easy but so remote they felt like true explorers. Approaching Cowichan Lake there were numerous campsites along smaller lakes, many were originally used as logging camps. At Kissinger Lake was such a campsite, located along side a beautiful mountain lake. It was here they stopped for an evening camp, N trying her luck fishing off of the new fishing dock. The water deep & dark never giving up it’s secret thus N was left ‘fishless’… but otherwise time well spent basking in nature’s glorious canvas.
Next day driving along the north-side of Lake Cowichan, N&J came upon a beautiful BC Rec Site campground called Pine Point. Camped right on the lake, perfect for fishing, boating, kayaking & standup paddleboards (SUP), the clear water was outstanding. The campsite no longer the ‘rough what you get’ facility was beautifully maintained with graveled roads & sites, picnic tables, firepits, etc… It was beyond incredible, so much so they stayed for 3 days.
The return trip back to the east coast of the island was punctuated with a visit to the communities of Lake Cowichan, Duncan, Maple Bay & especially Chemanius (the town known for its many murals adorning the buildings). Quaint & tidy with incredible small shops made for a nice day of exploration with Jesse tagging along in his go-kart… he particularly loved the ‘knick-knack’ shop packed full of treasures from yesteryear.
The weather took a turn for the worse, constant rain droning down on the traveling trio as they made their way north to Nanaimo. Missing their ferry they bunked down up in the Little Englishman River Provincial Campground.
The next morning they boarded a ferry homeward to Horseshoe Bay… another island exploration completed.