Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Long Beach

This post will bring last years trip at this time, up to date. After enjoying a lovely Easter Dinner at my daughters, it was time to decide what we were going to do for the last week of our trip. We hadn't spent much time up island so hadn't had a chance to see too much of the grandchildren, nor had we had a chance to visit friends in the area, but you also kind of feel robbed if you don't get over to the West Coast, especially with the cost of towing a trailer on the ferries, you want to get as much 'bang for your buck' as you can.

I wasn't sure of the wisdom of traveling to the west coast at that time of the year, as it involves going over a couple of mountain ranges. The first one being between Parksville and Port Alberni and then the other, larger one, between Port Alberni and the coast. Now the one to Port (as islanders call it) isn't that big a deal. Lots of people live in Port and work in Parksville or Qualicum and vice versa, so traveling over the 'hump' as it is called is something that you don't even really think about.

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning and decided to "give it a try". So hooked up and headed out, pointed the truck westward and off we went, past Little Qualicum and on towards Cameron Lake and through Cathedral Grove and up the hump we went. I think there was a bit of snow at the side of the road at the top of the hump, but nothing to even think twice about, and arrived in Port, still in the sunshine. Seems I recall a huge flock of Swallows flying over head as we headed to a gas station for a top up.

Now as soon as you leave Port Alberni you start to climb, and as we started to climb, the blue sky vanished to be replaced with gray and it started to snow. Just lightly - at first - and then a little more serious. About this time I said "I don't think this is such a good idea" and there was a spot coming up where we could have turned around....but of course my husband, the eternal optimist figured that this wouldn't last and on we went. The snow is really coming down now, but the road is still wet, and I am remembering the viewpoints along this highway where I thought we could turn around if we had to. What I didn't realize was how high the highway got and how much snow was plowed up in banks along the sides, by the time the road was no longer wet, but white, I also found that they don't plow out the viewpoints, so turning around was no longer an option. By this time even husband is realizing that maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. We eventually reached the rest area which is about half way and there was a plowed track into the rest area, so we pulled in there. Of course all the time we've been traveling west, the route we have come over has been getting whiter and whiter and the snow is really starting to build up so the trip back could be pretty dicey. About that point another vehicle comes in, from the opposite direction, so my husband goes over and asks him what the road that way is like, and they say that it was sunny when they left the coast (remember it was sunny in Port too!) and that this spot right here was the worst - well that was all he needed to hear, so westward ho!

The highway from Port to the rest area is relatively new, straight and wide, the road from the rest area on is old, twisting, narrow and rough. Even in good conditions you hold your breath as you approach a corner with a rock face on one side and sheer drop off on the other and a road barely wide enough for two cars to pass, let alone transport trucks and RV's.......however, we did make it. The driver of the other vehicle had been right, once you got not too much further down the road, the snow lessened a bit and the road changed from white to wet once more and as we approached the coast, the then rain, stopped all together.

Once you reach the coast you have the option of heading south to Uculet or north to Tofino, we were headed for Pacific Rim National Park as that is the only 'non private' campsite in the area. We had an annual pass for our National Parks, so this wasn't a problem and I had already checked that it would be open. There are only a few sites in this campground that actually have a view of the ocean, but this early in the season, we were lucky to be able to nab one and so got set up and then off to the beach.

The campground itself is up on a bluff and there area a couple of fairly steep, but negotiable trails down to the beach itself.

This is the view you see as you reach the end of the trail and climb over the driftwood to the beach itself. Here the tide is out fairly far. This is looking sort of north west. You can walk for miles along this beach - which is why it is called 'Long Beach'
Look in the other direction and this is the view. The campground is up on the buff to the left. We were heading for the rocks that stick out from there.

Always before when we have been here, those rocks are covered in bird life. Turnstones, Oyster Catchers, Plovers, Tattlers, Surf birds and on and on it goes - this trip - not one single bird the entire time we were there.

However, I love the roar of the ocean and the breaking of the waves.

And views like this, the closest we came to a real sunset.......

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