Published: July 6th 2012June 11th 2012
Serenity in the Morning
An early walk on the beach left me with this lasting image, a bald eagle flying just above the sand along the edge of the water.
The west coast of Vancouver Island is one of the wetter places in Canada. During any visit, one should expect rain. I was prepared to have rain during my time there, but the rain had cleared up just after I arrived. The forecast had actually called for some form of rain. But it never materialized. The night passed with no rain and in the morning, I awoke to a beautiful day. I got up at the ridiculously early time of around 6. I'm not much of a morning person, but camping has seen me tending to go to bed earlier and thus getting up earlier.
Not fighting it, I got up, packed and headed out to see more of the park. I first went to one of the beaches, Combers Beach. It was quiet, except for the roar of the surf. There were birds all around, but no other people. Then I noticed an eagle flying by. Another one was sitting on a wooden perch some distance away. I got my camera out and watched it for a while. Then it took off and flew along the beach. It was a beautiful sight.
Walking in the Rainforest
Pacific Rim has numerous little hikes to go and experience the rainforest or beach or other ecosystems that are part of the environment.
the remainder of the morning poking here and there in a rainforest walk, another spot on the beach, and then I headed into Ucluelet. I had only meant to spend a few moments finding a grocery store to get some lunch for the drive back to the east side of the island, but I discovered the Wild Pacific Trail. About 25 years ago, a local man decided that there needed to be a trail to show the best of the area and that people could walk and experience the natural side of Ucluelet. Unfortunately, in order to make it a reality, he was going to have to get the cooperation of the local government, the provincial government, the federal government, private landowners, and native landowners, all of whom had control over various tracts of land. People scoffed at him and told him he was crazy, that he would never see it happen. But he didn't listen. He talked to people, to governments. He negotiated. He cajoled. Who knows, maybe he even offered firstborn children and the like. By 1999, the first parts of the trail were opened. It's not complete. There is still a long way to go to make
Graveyard of the Pacific
Ships heading past Vancouver Island would often encounter vicious storms that would send them into this area. That spelled doom, and there are many ships lying on the bottom of this part of the coast.
it a fully linked trail from the town to the Pacific Rim National Park, but it has become a reality. And now others are behind his vision and there is a foundation that aims to make the full trail a reality. That's a fine legacy.
I walked part of the trail, the end down by the inlet. It's a loop and goes by dangerous rocks, and the Graveyard of the Pacific (named for all the shipwrecks that have occurred here), and a local lighthouse. It was a fine walk to finish up my morning. But it ended with me leaving a little later than I had planned. But the weather was just starting to turn again, and it looked like wasn't far off, so my timing on all of this trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island was pretty much perfect.
I headed back over the mountains and through the passes to Port Alberni, a logging town in the middle of the island. I had passed a turnoff for a heritage mill on my way through the day before. I wanted to stop there. So I followed the signs and found it nestled
This lighthouse was built to attempt to warn ships away from the graveyard.
in the woods. The Maclean Mill is Canada's only steam powered sawmill. Unfortunately, it's not quite the season yet. They are only open and working sporadically, but I was still able to walk around the mill and imagine it at work, and bustling with the workers and tourists. It's an old mill site worked by a family about a hundred years ago. But time rolled on and technology grew. So did conglomerates that were competition. Eventually, the Maclean Mill was no longer viable and they shut down. It was bought by one of the large milling companies, but they were persuaded to donate the land as a heritage site. Much of the old equipment was still in place at this mill and so it could be used to show how wood was milled long ago.
The foundation has worked hard to restore the machinery and now it does its work, sporadically during much of the year when there are few tourists, but every day in the summertime tourist season. Visitors mainly arrive on an old steam train and then take a tour. But this day, I arrived by car and walked around with a map and imagined
Wild Pacific View
The area may have claimed many a ship, but the views offered were tremendous.
how it would look. There was the steam donkey, and the mill pond. And there was the mill itself, where the logs would be dragged up to the great saws and the men who would reduce it to lumber with practiced expertise. It would be a great to visit when it was in action. But it was also nice to see it quiet, and at rest.
From there I headed on to Cathedral Grove. This is a stand of old growth forest along the Port Alberni Highway. The largest tree in the park was a great Douglas Fir tree 76 meters tall and 9 meters around. I felt like a dwarf amongst all those old trees. And they were around when Columbus was just getting here. I can't imagine how it must be to be around for that long. Of course the trees don't even remember. They just are.
I considered that to be a good enough amount of stuff to have done for the day. So I headed in to Qualicum Beach and Qualicum Bay and found a place to stay. It had been one long day, getting up so early. But it
A national historic site, this mill was shut down, but remained relatively untouched. Now it is mostly restored and offers visitors a view into how the old logging industry operated.
had been a very rewarding day as well.
There are more photos below