Published: July 6th 2012June 10th 2012
Beyond: The Pacific Ocean
Pretty much as far west as is possible to go in Canada, the western shore of Vancouver Island looks out on the Pacific Ocean.
From the campground in Nanaimo, I headed out to the highway. I had had a restless night in my tent, but I wasn't overly tired, so that was nice. I decided that if I passed a Walmart I would stop and get a bit bigger tent, and one that didn't have a hole in it, should I ever encounter rain (wishful thinking, I'm sure, given my attempt to tent my way around the country in the summertime). Then I passed a Walmart. Providence? I stopped and got the new tent. Hopefully it will fit the bill in the dry department.
Then I headed down the highway until I reached the turnoff for the west side of the island and Pacific Rim National Park. This is one of Canada's west-most national parks. I have always heard of it and thought I ought to visit it sometime, but it is a rainforest park. That means rain. I have always thought I wouldn't be able to deal with the rain too well. Over my travels of the past year, I have discovered that I'm far more willing to deal with those sorts of things than I used to be. Now was
The forest is quite sensitive in places to people tramping all over it. This boardwalk keeps those plants from feeling that stress. I was also told that there was a bear browsing in this area sometime after I had passed.
the time and I headed that way. True to form, one of Canada's wettest areas was being doused in rain by the time I was halfway across the island. I pressed on and stopped at the park visitor's centre just north of Ucluelet, one of the two communities associated with the park. Tofino is the other. I had more or less decided that I wouldn't be staying here overnight, but I asked about campgrounds in the area anyway, and I was given a list.
Then I headed into the park proper. I did a bit of hiking in the “hot point” of the park, as the lady in the visitor centre told me. It was where there were some nice walking trails and the interpretive centre as well. The first spot I walked around was a beach. It was nice. It was also where one of Canada's more deadly maritime disasters occurred. A passenger ship bound for Victoria from San Francisco overshot the mark and ended up here, too far north. It hit a bunch of rocks and foundered out in the bay. Most of the people on board, including all the women and children (who refused
Pacific Rim National Park sports many secluded beaches where it's possible to experience a bit of solitude.
to get in the lifeboats after seeing what happened to other lifeboats) died, 117 people in total. The legacy of that event is preserved in the name of the beach, Valencia Beach. It used to be called Wreck Beach, but they changed it for some reason. Another legacy of that shipwreck is the West Coast Trail, a nearby hiking trail that is world famous, as well as quite gruelling, requiring as it does 5 to 7 days of hiking with no services along the way.
After the beach I headed through the rainforest. By this time, the rain had stopped and it was becoming a pleasant day. I heard there was a bear browsing through the skunk cabbage in the bog along the path, but I never saw it. Apparently there is not the same huge problem with bears here that exists in Banff National Park. There, if a bear is anywhere in the area, trails are closed and people are strongly warned off. Of course, maybe the park people didn't know about this bear yet and I was taking my life in my hand by returning to my car along the same path.
Korean War Memorial
The national park was one of the last places I expected to find a memorial to the Gapyeong Hill Battle of the Korean War.
I went to the interpretive centre. It's quite nice. Inside there are many stories of the First Nations peoples of the area. And they have actively participated in its creation. I hope to find many such sites on my travels through Canada. It would be nice if the First Nations peoples everywhere are contributing to the understanding of their cultures. It would be especially nice after all the trials they have dealt with with the white man since his arrival on the continent.
By this point, the sky had started to clear and I decided that I would stay the night here. It was either that, and risk rain, or stay in Port Alberni and risk rain. Here is a much nice setting. I went and booked myself into a campground in the national park itself. It's huge.
After getting the new tent set up (it's not a 4 minute job as the package says, but I suppose I will get better at over time), I set out to find something to eat. I headed towards Tofino. And that is when I ran into a sign that I am on the right path in
Looking Out Over Tofino
From the top of a hill in the national park, the view extends out over the waters and forest of the Tofino area.
all this. It is really quite amazing how often I am finding that where I am and what I am doing at any given moment links back to where I have been and what I have done before. It happened this day as well.
I passed a sign pointing the way to Radar Hill. Back during the cold war days, Canada provided three lines of early warning for the Americans if the Russians should ever launch a nuclear attack. They were called the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning), the Mid-Canada Line, and the Pinetree Line. What any of those lines would do to help Canada in the event of an attack is unclear, but maybe we were all counting on the Russians seeing no threat from us meek Canadians. Radar Hill was part of the Pinetree Line.
But under the name “Radar Hill” was “Kap'Young Memorial.” Huh? Kap'Young? The same Kap'Young that was the name of a hill in Korea, where I worked teaching English for many years? I thought it probably was, but I went to check it out. And yes it was.
I had visited Gapyeong (same place, but
Just sitting on the beach watching and listening to the waves roll in from the ocean is very relaxing.
different Romanization) when I was in Korea. It was the site of a vicious battle during the Korean War. The Chinese and North Koreans had attacked the hill in order to push the southern forces back, in order to retake some strategic territory. The Americans, the South Koreans and the Australians were all forced to retreat and cede the ground, but the Canadians on Gapyeong Hill fought it out, eventually calling in an artillery barrage down on their own heads to break the Chinese offensive. This resulted in the forces of the north retreating instead and the south held the area. It was a fine victory for the Canadian forces, one of many that used to be fought by Canadians in conflict.
And it's here, in Pacific Rim National Park that the memorial plaque for the event was placed in Canada. (There is also one in Gapyeong in South Korea.) If that wasn't enough, another sign at the site stated that Pacific Rim National Park is the twin park of Hallyeo Haesang Marine National Park in South Korea. That is a park that I also visited in my final year in Korea. Another link. Sometimes these things seem to suggest things that are destined. It certainly said loud and clear to me that I had come to the right place in this journey.
In addition, the views from the hill were amazing!
Then I went into Tofino, found some fish and chips and returned to my campground.
I wandered down to the beach for a while and watched the surf roll in, before heading back up to my campsite and relaxing for a while as the night fell over the park.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring.