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.
I haven’t used an ATM in over a year. I realized this, on our ten hour journey from Washington to Canada, when we stopped to get Canadian money at a 7-11. (Travel Tip: check on your bank’s website to see which international ATMs are in their partner network. ) We wanted some cash in case we visit farmer’s markets, local souvenir shops, or need to tip tour guides. At home, without such needs, I never use cash so I can carry $17 around in my wallet for months.
Canadian money is so pretty!
I also haven’t been in a 7-11 for years, but they look exactly the same as they did when I was twelve. Even though this one was Canadian. Big Gulps, beef jerky, bathroom on a long wooden key–same.
This particular day’s leg was long and, though scenic, didn’t allow for any leg-stretching. We traveled from Lakebay, Washington, home of the True Friends who get up and cook you breakfast then go back to bed because it was so early–that one filled up the karma bank for me! Plus, advice on how to practice my Spanish, a look at some jaw-droppingly beautiful handmade quilts, and a phenomenal sunrise. I give that B&B at my friends’ house six stars.
We had to get to Port Alberni, Canada which is about two hours northwest of Victoria. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, but it’s on the island across from Vancouver, the island named Vancouver Island that doesn’t have Vancouver on it. Also, we’re not going to Vancouver on this trip. Does that make sense?
KK had a memory, as we drove past these Oregon beaches, of daughter Lee and herself flying down the dunes at a hundred miles an hour on one of those crazy rides they would take together. We could not remember where Kelson was. I would have been elsewhere, on a slow-moving trolley contraption of some sort, as I don’t like scary rides. When was that?
The happy problem of too many memories.
Was Kelson with us? Was he with his friend in Cleveland that one summer? Down at camp?–no, Lee would have been at camp at the same time. How old were they? I think seven and nine because that’s when they were the best traveling companions, after they learned to mind us and ask interesting questions but before they lapsed into teenage silent nods and shrugs.
Continuing north, we passed Lincoln City, which is world famous for its kites. Sure enough, they had a kite festival in play, but we had cleverly flown ours on a more deserted beach, the day before. Meanwhile, I found the picture of the original One that Got Away with proof that Kelson was with us. Your Honor, if it please the court, this was 2004, and I was exactly right with the ages.
The southern coasts of Oregon are just as breathtakingly scenic as those in California, but with a little less of the “look at me” vibe. As I recall, the further north you go, the less pomp and circumstance there is about the scenery and the more scenic it becomes.
We spent the afternoon and evening with friends, admiring their little town of Newport and yakking away about books, food, and other topics–in that order of importance, of course. Also, since this might be the last opportunity, we passed a delightful time out on the beach flying kites that we had brought. This would also fulfill my tourist rule that You Must Use Everything You Packed.
In today’s post, I will explain how trees do not grow like beanstalks, why Lady Bird Johnson was a badass, and how I tried to increase the world’s karma.
Trees Are Not Stars
I was about to begin explaining how ancient these coastal redwoods are by saying that when you look up at the lowest branch, some 190 feet off the ground, you are looking back in time. Looking up the details on the growth rate,* I came across a discussion about what would happen if you carved your initials in a trunk and came back ten years later. How high up would that move, and does it depend on whether the tree is an oak, an aspen, or a redwood?
In cartoons, e.g. Jack and the Beanstalk, the plant always pushes out of the ground and then up. However, trees grow more like telescopes than beanstalks. They put out buds, twig, then branch, and the initial bud then buds on top of itself again. The trunk portion on the ground gets thicker; it doesn’t move upward. Your carved initials stay at ground level. This changed my understanding of trees. But then, trees are mysterious.