Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adventures in British Columbia - July 22nd

Wednesday, July 22nd
We got a leisurely start this morning after a sumptuous gourmet breakfast prepared by Bill and Agathe the Bed & Breakfast hosts.
We drove to Qualicum Beach, where we turned toward the west coast town of Tofino on Highway 4, the Pacific Rim Hwy. We spent a pleasant couple of hours a short distance out of town, exploring the provincial park at Little Qualicum River. There is a narrow, sheer sided rocky gorge here, and impressive waterfalls that plunge down into deep crystal clear pools that reflect back the green of the surrounding forest.
We stopped at Cathedral Grove where there were cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees twelve feet in diameter and as much as eight hundred years old. Nowhere else have I had the same sense of awe that I’ve felt when walking through groves of ancient California redwoods. One of the unexpected differences between these groves and the redwood groves was that the air here smelled like Christmas trees!
We drove on a narrow winding road through towering jagged mountains with patches of snow lingering on the upper rocky slopes. We stopped for a picnic lunch in Port Alberni, then on along more twisting and turning two lane road, pulling off frequently at wide spots to allow the cars piling up behind us to go whisking past. I was reminded of a very different but strangely similar road to Hana in Hawaii. There are two kinds of travelers on both roads: those who take the time to take the curves gently, driving slowly and stopping often to absorb the beauty of the surroundings, and those who take pride in their ability to squeeze every mile per hour out of their cars as they careen around the turns.
Late in the afternoon we drove along the shores of the huge Kennedy Lake and pulled into Tofino. Evergreens crowd the edges of the road and occupy the spaces between buildings. It some ways it is reminiscent of the town of Carmel, California. The air is chilly, and filled with the pungent iodine smell of the kelp beds offshore. Like Carmel, Tofino is an artsy community and a get-away destination for the well-to-do. It is passed around with not too secret pride that John Travolta maintains a place here. There are lots of art galleries and crafts shops, and prices for everything from meals to lodging are exorbitant.
Tofino is also a surfing destination. Wide flat beaches and gentle waves that surfers can ride for long distances attract novices to practice in the summer fog, and professional surfers from all over the world to ride the big storm waves in the winter months. You might even say that Tofino has surfing mania; even the drugstore sells wetsuits!

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