Tofino was the apex of the trip, the land’s end for Vancouver Island and the land’s end for us. It was as far as we were going, north and west. Next, we boomerang back through Victoria, Washington, Oregon and the boring part of California.
Since most of the day would be in the car, we started with a hearty walk along Chesterman Beach. There were surfers, which was impressive enough, but I was gobsmacked by the daddy with his two-year-old, rolling around in the surf. It’s 47-freakin’ degrees outside, or 8 degrees as the metric people would say. The water is decidedly frigid. I checked.
I didn’t know you could acquire toddler-sized wetsuits, but clearly you can and, apparently in Tofino, you must.
The beaches in Ucluelet, the site of today’s adventures, do not resemble the surfer’s paradise of California. Nor are they the long spits of sand from Oregon, the kite-flyer’s runways. These would fit the dictionary definition of rugged, full of rocks and treacherous tides. Welcome to Canada.
Walking the Wild Pacific Trail
Driving over to Ucluelet from Port Alberni was adventure in its own right. The roads were twisty, which was to be expected, but it rained steadily and there were two long stoppages for construction. While we wanted to cast aspersions on the traffic annoyance, we were forewarned, and the views were spectacular. Even the rainwater falling off rocks at the construction site was dramatic.
At last, we were in Ucluelet, a little fishing? tourist? village, on the southwestern inside edge of Vancouver Island. There are a series of trails that wend along the side, the easiest being the Wild Pacific Trails near Ucluelet beaches. We started with the loop that took us through a bog, past a tsunami warning, and out to a small lighthouse.
They take their tsunamis seriously here, so seriously that your first stop off the parking lot is a lengthy warning of exactly what to do in case of… I’m trying to imagine if you got off the tour bus at Fisherman’s Wharf and the first thing you saw was a large display discussing what to do in the event of an earthquake. Might be handy, actually. Might put some of the tourists back on the bus.
We spent our first night in Garberville, which is ground zero to Humboldt and redwoods. It’s also ground zero to cannabis cultivation. As I stood in line at a local bakery for bagels in the morning, considering whether to carry cinnamon apple bread pudding back to the hotel, I was glad to see a local paper still in print. But these are new times, as a lengthy article explained out how to fill out the permit for proper water reclamation for cannabis cultivation to the California State Water Resources Board. Another article addressed a proposal to put a wind turbine farm out in nearby coastal waters, while a local columnist mused at length about the upcoming Taste of Cannabis festival. The line of muddy trucks stretched in front of the organic coffee drive-thru hut was longer than my local In ‘n’Out.
But we’re off for our own, non-substance-induced mystical experience today, off to drive through Avenue of the Giants.
An America Worth Fighting For
The road through these coastal redwoods is a scenic drive through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, with auto tour stops that sport walking trails and plaques, as well as tiny towns with more than one Center for World Peace and Understanding next to the shops with burl carvings. A burl, by the way, is a part of the tree that gets distressed and starts to grow anew. It can look like just a bump or actually grow out a new trunk.
Off again on another October adventure we go! Since I typically post something travelly directly to social media, I thought I would try, perhaps for at least a week, putting the few pictures and thoughts out in daily blog form rather than a daily photo and long blog weekly. Shall we try? Let’s shall.
Traveling Like a Well Oiled Machine
The Fun Car, aka the red Subaru, aka O’Hara, does like to go. We are the kind of people that have packing down to a science, have taken photos of the insides of suitcases and the back seat, so that we know the most efficient way to strap down that laundry basket full of extra shoes and warm coats, and have tucked away the extra book we may never read, the ear muffs (going north in October!), and a kite or two (coast). Last year, it was 8500 miles down and across from Albuquerque to the Upper Peninsula, from California to Ontario. This year, we are far less ambitious and only look to go Moseying up the Left Coast, San Francisco to Victoria, Canada.
The coast does not disappoint. The first day will be home up to Mendocino, a traverse through the vineyards north of the Bay, cutting through multiple tall tree groves and farmer’s markets. The outside temperature, reported by the car, starts to drop degree by degree as we pass westward by the Schultz Museum in Sonoma and the Navarro River Grove. The road is very twisty; apparently, we did not take the usual way through Willits. Instead we are winding, and winding, and winding up 128 through teeny towns of Philo and Boonville. The problem was that I was driving, at my request, and in this unusual move, KK started as navigator rather than as Formula One racer. Hence, we apparently took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
Over time, the fortress crumbled and the crows took over, fighting battles of their own over the parapets. Ordinary people, no longer as valiant or as bloodthirsty as the ones who had thundered across the hills, built houses, cheery green and yellow boxes everywhere. The railroad men drove their tracks boldly right below, and people climbed on and off the train as if nothing had ever happened.
But the stationmaster always shook his head when asked about tours up the hill.
“Up there? Nar. I never goes up there.”
As the 4:17 started to chug its way, his feet felt the vibrations. Felt them as always, continue long after the cars had blurred across the fields, continue underneath, as if something there was just waiting.
*Based on a 100 word flash fiction prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, based on this photo by Sandra Crook.