The Halloween holiday, Samhain, dates back centuries to Celtic festivals, and many cultures pay respect to the line between living and dead. In contrast, zombies and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are only about fifty years old, while candy corn is a little older, dating back to the 1880s. All of them reflect a fascination with blurred lines, with candy and people that cross over, which explains why candy corn, Reese’s, and zombies are so popular and will likely remain so for decades.
Love It or Hate It
A recent Monmouth University poll suggested a sharp divide in American attitudes about Halloween. 45% said that the October festivities were among their favorite holidays. Another 53% don’t particularly like it at all. That kind of polarization isn’t surprising in today’s divided populace, although who doesn’t like dressing up in costumes or eating candy? (Answer: lotsa people).
Know what else divides the populace? Orange. Not the orange head you might be thinking of, but the orange and yellow corn syrup and earwax combination known as candy corn. As Lewis Black and others have pointed out, it’s neither candy nor corn.
We took a three day pause from our three week trip around the northwest to cavort with my brother and family in Sammamish, a foresty suburb east of Seattle, wherein I ate all of my popcorn allotment for the remainder of 2019. Downton Abbey and Ad Astra, both highly recommended.
Our first day on the road again, we drove south to Portland, but the long way, around Mount Rainier. Spoiler alert: it rained steadily all day so that we did not see Rainer. Not a whit. It begs the question of whether it was worth spidering around all the curves and loops in fog and clouds when we couldn’t see the main attraction. Why not just take the interstate?
Above the Clouds
The weather is the weather, especially in the Northwest. While residents often tell you that it really isn’t as bad as the statistics say, and that it’s great when it’s sunny, the region is famous for rain. On this trip, we lucked out on a lot of clear skies in Victoria, Tofino, and along the coast, so time’s up. It’s just going to rain, as it often does.
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.