Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve; Tofino

Monday we awoke to another day of rain--after 4 1/2 months of virtually never having rain during the day, this was the second day in a row when the day started with rain.  Quite remarkable that we've had this kind of weather, but it's also reflective of the drought that has affected so much of the country.  But not, however, back home in Georgia.  After several years of drought, they have had an unbelievable year, with so much more rain falling in the first few months than all of the previous year.  Yesterday I talked to a friend back home who told us about how the flooding affected Ellijay, wiping out some homes, chicken farms, and almost getting his business.  Amazing.

Anyway, we decided to head to the west coast of Vancouver Island, and just count on the rain being over by the time we got there.   So we struck out on Route 4, to see a different and quite contrasting area of this island.  We first stopped at Little Qualicum Falls, planning to hike in to see the falls.  But just as we were getting ready to head out, the rain started.  Since a family pulled up who had just been in another area up the road and they told us that it had really been raining hard.  So, we decided to just get back in the RV and head on toward the coast.  The drive was quite nice, despite the overcast and often rainy weather, but some parts of the road were as tricky as some roads we've encountered in the States in the mountains of Colorado--lots of steep climbs and descents, and some places quite narrow clearances with the rocks on one side, and steep dropoffs on the other.

As we neared the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, we read some info about it in one of the tour books we had, and learned that it's called a National Park Reserve due to some as yet unresolved issues of the rights of the First Nations native peoples and the Canadian government over the land making up this area.  Sounds like this dispute has been going on for quite some time, but the result is that the park was set up as part of Canada's national park system, under their national park act, but it's called a "park reserve" to allow the native peoples to continue harvesting resources as they've done for thousands of years to sustain themselves, like wildlife and timber.  When we stopped at the visitor center entering the park, there were basically two sets of guides inside, staffing two separate desks, one Anglo and one First Nation folks--interesting.  We found the First Nation staffers to be much more outgoing, friendly and helpful than the other folks.

Though the rain had pretty much ended, it was still quite overcast and foggy, so visibility was limited.  Even still, it was a really interesting time through the park.  We stopped at Long Beach, billed as the best place for surfers, and watched some surfers out hoping to catch a big wave.  On this day, however, the waves weren't very big and it looked like a pretty chilly day to be in the water.  All of the surfers had on full length dry suits, and most of the other folks out on the beach were pretty bundled up, too.  Saw some driftwood structures that looked like they had been set up for bonfires, but a fire ban had recently gone into effect, so they were just standing out on the beach, like little lean-tos.

Then we drove on to Tofino, a lovely little village on the western coast of the island, and we loved it!  Lots of kayak tour places, interesting little shops and quaint buildings--and, of course, lots of lovely flowers!  We had read about some hikes near here so we sought out the visitor center, and it was just a little hut on the lawn of one of the public buildings, just room enough for the staff person behind a small counter and one visitor--what a hoot!  Anyway, Trisha went in to find out where the trail was, and the woman there was very nice and directed us to the trailhead.  The route took us through the little village to the community center and then into the wooded area along the ocean's edge.  It was a nice trail, and it really had a "rain forest"  feel about it.  The overcast day, with the dampness from the rain gave the whole forest a really whimsical feel and it was a fun hike--mostly flat, with some ups and downs and periodic side trails down to the oceanside.  At one point there was a boardwalk out to a little overlook and when we went out there, we found a group of five German folks.  As we heard them speaking German, Trisha decided to speak up--in German--to let them know we knew the language, and we had a nice visit with them.  A couple of the folks are living in Vancouver and the others had come over from Germany for a visit.  As we told them about our experiences in Germany--Trisha spending her junior year of college at the university in Freiburg, in the Black Forest, and mine in the northern part of the country--the most amazing small world moment happened.  When I was there, also during college, our group had spent a couple of weeks in the Eifel mountains of North Rhine Wesphalia, in a tiny village called Udenbreth, at a retreat house with students from a gymnasium in Duisburg.  Well, when I told them I had been there, this one woman nearly fell off the platform--she was from Udenbreth!  It is such a small little place, or at least it was when I was there in 1965, and she could not believe I had been there!  You just never know.

Anyway, it was late afternoon when we left Tofino, and as we drove back, the sun finally came out, making some of the views really spectacular.  The road along much of the drive inland bordered on lakes and it was really beautiful.  When we got back to Parksville we were a bit tired and decided to have dinner out.  So we found this lovely little "log house"  restaurant that could have fit right in back home in Blue Ridge or Ellijay.  Had some delicious hummus with some interesting spices we'd never had before--delicious!  Had a wonderful vegetarian pasta dish and it was all quite nice.

After dinner we headed down to the community park, as we'd seen signs the night before about a sand sculpting competition, which was completed, but that the structures were still up for viewing as part of the Parksville Beach Festival for another week or so.  So we really wanted to see this, as it sounded intriguing.  Neither of us had ever seen any sand sculpting before and knew nothing about it.  Well, turns out there is a worldwide network of competitions, and we learned that some folks travel all over the world doing this.  This is not your dribbly sand castle on the beach sort of thing--no siree!  These are serious and incredibly intricate works of art.  We talked to one of the volunteers and learned that the competitors have three days to make their entry--the first is a "pounding day,"  when they have tons of sand on individual sites, then use big forms to pound sand into the foundations and basically make a rough structure before beginning the next day to carve it up into their piece, much like a stone sculptor carves away excess rock to reveal a statue.  They have a set number of hours in the second day, and then about a half day on the third day to the deadline for completion.  Many of these structures are anywhere from 6 to 10 ft. tall, some that wide and deep.  When we first walked into the beach area where they were, our first question was how do they stay up, and not get destroyed by the rain.  Well, in talking with one of the volunteer workers, he explained that as they go along, the sculptors spray the structure with a mixture of water and some sort of glue, and that preserves the hard, outer shell, protecting against rain damage.  Apparently, though, it's not unheard of for a sculptor to suffer a collapse mid work, which of course would really knock someone out of time, as one of the criteria for points in judging is the intricacy of the patterns, overhangs, etc., and the competitors, like in any competition, are always pushing the limits.  Anyway, we also learned that there is a tiered system of competitions, and to qualify to be there, each participant had to have won at a lower level.  Then the winners here--in solo and doubles categories--will go on to compete in the world finals next year in Atlantic City.  This was apparently the Canadian national competition.  The theme this year was fairy tales, so every structure had to be based--some more loosely than others--on a recognized fairy tale.  It was really interesting and quite impressive to see these.  The pictures were hard to do in a way that gives a real sense of the level of detail in these, as the sun was going down and the lighting was often challenging to get the pics right.  But, if you ever have a chance to see such a competition, it would be well worth your time!

Beautiful roses on the streets of Parksville
 Some deer, just casually out for an evening stroll and some munchies in downtown Parksville, on Sunday evening!
 Looking out across the bay

"Goats on the Roof" restaurant in Coombs, on the way to Tofino!

What an incredible burl on this tree as we came into the little town of Ucluelet, near the entrance to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.  Todd, our son the woodworker, would give anything to have this burl!!

 Some giant carved wooden figures, appearing to be Adam and Eve in the garden, Ucluelet
 Driving into the park

 Long Beach

 Looking out into the Pacific

 Some surfers in the distance

Scenes in Tofino

What a hilarious visitor center!

Beautiful tree in front of this cute little church

 Totem outside this bar along the waterfront
 Sign outside the bar--since Trisha's maiden name is Lyons, we were so excited to see this sign--we went in hoping to have some, but were disappointed to learn that this is just an antique sign the owner had--Lyons Tea is apparently a thing of the past
 Trisha admiring some of the lovely flowers--in her new hot pink running shoes!
Looking out into the harbor
 Beautiful building, housing a bakery and cafe!
 This is a bike park, for trail bikes and tricks, just as we were getting to the trailhead; the pics didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, to show the level of detail and tricky ups and downs of the course

Heading into the trail
 Bright red berries on this ground cover--not sure what it was

Very interesting tree trunks along the way!

 Steps down to one of the beach access paths

 This is what summer at the beach looks like for folks on the west coast of Vancouver Island!
 Just loved this little heart shaped leaf in the middle of this fern!!
Beautiful wooden bench along the way!
 This looked to be a restaurant or bar, nestled back into the woods, overlooking the ocean

 this tree stump looked sort of like a moose!

 Looking out into the ocean from the overlook where we met our German folks

Looking down from the overlook, into the rocks at the edge

Beach area at the end of the trail--interesting to see what the wind does to the trees along the beach

Looked like lightning had struck this tree
Back in Tofino--isn't this cool, with the clouds hanging low around the bottom of the mountain?
 Driving back to Parksville

Back in Parksville, heading down to the Sand Sculpting!

 Take off on Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub--this was a hot tub!

 Jack and the Beanstalk
Mirror, mirror, on the wall . . .
 Humpty Dumpty

 The old woman who lived in a shoe, after the kids had all left home!

This was the first prize winner, but for the life of me, I can't remember the fairy tale on which it was based--memory, oh memory, wherefore art thou??
 This was a sand structure with all the sponsors of the competition
 Sunset at the park


  1. Love all your photos of the coast! Being in a land bound state, I really miss seeing the coast. Genie