September 12th – September 13th
Having one week of vacation to spend in my still-fairly-new job, and no ability to carry days over, I decided last April that I was going to spend it all in one place 🙂 I didn’t want to piece-meal it out to little long-weekend trips, I wanted to take a solid week and go camping somewhere. And Joe supported the idea 🙂
We waited kind of a long time to decide when to take it…We thought we wanted to go in September, after kids had gone back to school and crowds had died down. We initially wanted to go back to Glacier National Park, back to the same campground that we had so greatly enjoyed, and explore some more of the trails that had been so amazing. We thought we would take a northern route, and see some of Canada, and enjoy the Canadian side of the park that we have access to now, as well…But, as the summer went by, and we thought and prayed about vacation plans, we didn’t have peace about finalizing anything. Finally, Joe said that after praying, he just thought maybe we weren’t going to Glacier. Like, who knows, maybe there will be forest fires, or something?
So, we looked at some other spots, and Crater Lake in Oregon looked to me like a great spot. We thought about it and did some research. It was a shorter drive, and there was lots to see….but, again, no peace…As we got into August, it was getting time to decide…Either plan a vacation or decide not to go until later…And all of a sudden, there were a lot of forest fires going on! Both Glacier and Crater Lake had roads and large sections of the park closed due to fires. As we thought and looked and prayed, it just didn’t seem like the best use of vacation to camp in a spot that had recently gone through major forest fires. By the time we would be there, it would certainly be safe enough, but we’ve been through recent burn sites before, and it just seemed like maybe we should look somewhere else…
And so, we started thinking about Vancouver Island…Not to visit the famous tourist attractions in Victoria, or Butchart Gardens, but to visit the Wild West Coast of the island, best known for dramatic shorelines and winter storm-watching. We have never visited Vancouver Island since we’ve been here, mainly because the ferries are so expensive that it never quite seemed worthwhile for a day or a weekend…But with a week to spend, it became a little more reasonable; and sure enough, a one-week vacation on Vancouver Island was just what was in our future.
This trip was a little different than pretty much any vacation we have ever been on. Our itinerary was:
Day 1: Depart for Campground (make sure you get to the ferry on time.)
Day 7: Depart for Home (make sure you get to the ferry on time.)
We had no schedule, no objectives, no long hikes to conquer or must-see destinations, just an intent to explore a small area in great detail…And I came to realize that this was also for a purpose.
So, we hit the road on Saturday,
On the drive, Joe said to me, “You know what’s interesting?” This is often the start of a conversation that shows Joe and I how God teaches each of us individually, and how His teaching intersects in us for our family. This particular time, I read a Scripture to Joe that mentioned the Sabbath and Joe said that he had, just the day before, read a blog about a family who had experienced a weariness, kind of feeling tired and worn-down on a daily basis with no good explanation, which is something we have also experienced lately. That family decided to begin taking a Sabbath Day. Joe said that maybe we should begin taking a Sabbath Day, too. And maybe this trip, with no plans and no projects and no deadlines, was part of understanding Sabbath rest, as well.
So, step 1 was to cross the Canadian border and get on a ferry in Tsawassen, British Columbia. We made great time, and even had some playground time at the terminal before boarding…
The ferry is always lovely, with lots of staring out the windows at distant coastlines and hoping for a glimpse of sea-life…
Once on the island, we had about a 4-hour drive ahead of us, north and then straight across the middle to the west coast, where we would turn right and venture up a few miles through the National Park to Mackenzie Beach, near Tofino. The little peninsula where we were headed was a narrow strip of land, bordering the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by inlets and dotted with lakes. The town of Tofino was at the north end, and the town of Ucluelet was at the south end, and it was only about 30 miles from point-to-point.
We stopped at the tourist-attraction country store in Coombs, where you can pick up some snacks like gourmet chips and cured meats…
And watch the goats “mow” the green roof!
After a long and scenic drive across the island…
We arrived at our campground at Mackenzie Beach, and it was….Not as advertised. The nightly rate was higher than quoted and the “private and spacious” campsites looked more like a parking lot…
Our neighbors were a mixed lot. There was a really sweet young married couple from Scotland on one side…And there was a group of 4 friendly, partying, foul-mouthed young surfer-guys on the other side. Joe quickly called this as a one-night event. We would break camp as early as possible in the morning, and find someplace else to stay. Sometimes, you do all the research, get a good recommendation from people who have been there, and things still go sideways! In the meantime, we did enjoy a lovely golden afternoon at the beach…
This pattern-in-the-sand is something we first encountered at Port Townsend, and I’ve yet to figure out exactly how it happens….How can there be a pattern in the sand that looks just like a little seaweed plant? It’s in relief, so the seaweed doesn’t cause it, but it certainly seems to have inspired it! As far as I can figure after a little bit of reading, it’s just part of an impossibly complex interaction among the wind, the receding waves, the surface tension of the water, and the varying grain size and composition of the particles of sand. The patters seem to make sense when you see those little ripples in the sand, because those visually relate closely to the behavior of waves – but these beautiful images seem to me like pure artwork!
Then, since we had paid a premium for the campground’s indoor pool and hot tub, we made use of them to round out the evening, followed by hot showers.
Back at our campsite, it was dinner and chatting with our Scottish neighbors….Asher said “I know a Scottish movie – Waterhorse!”, which started a very sweet conversation about Nessy 🙂
Then it was into the tents, where Joe prayed for protection over our kiddos from anything they might hear during the night 🙂 He also noted that he had not specifically asked God where we should camp before we left – and that was a good lesson-learned for next time. A slightly painful lesson, as he prayed through the night while our neighbors partied and stumbled around and used a short list of four-letter-words over-and-over-again, but hey, sometimes that’s the way it goes! And in the morning, when I asked the kids if anything woke them up during the night, they said, “What? No…Why?” No reason 🙂
In the morning, as we broke camp within about 20 minutes, Joe said that he felt led not to head into Tofino. Instead, we would drive along the coast, through the National Park, toward Ucluelet looking for a campspot. We had noticed several campgrounds on the way out, and could check them one-by-one as we worked our way down to the other end of this little stretch of coastline. And we hadn’t been all the way into Ucluelet yet, so that would be worth checking out.
We stopped by Radar Hill, an old military establishment with commanding views…The proximity of the huge freshwater lakes (blue spots on the right) to the Pacific Ocean (blue spot on the left) was really fascinating to me!
We cruised by the National Park Beaches, which looked lovely, and worth a return-trip, but we were on the hunt for a campsite. The National Park campground was full with a waitlist, so we continued on down the road. We arrived at Ucluelet, and pulled into the Ucluelet Campground shortly after 9:00 am, and felt a surge of hopeful expectancy! It looked great! It was kind of like a little KOA camp, with a bathroom and shower trailer and roomy well-kept campsites. It was on a little inlet of water, but well-forested. It didn’t appear overly crowded, and we quickly confirmed that it was around $30 a night and that there was space available 🙂 *sigh of contentment* Check-in time was 2:00 pm, so now that we had a place to live, we had a little time to spend.
Oh, a coffee-shop with a view! Be still my heart! After a long day of travel and a long and wakeful night, it was a sweet relief to enjoy a cup of coffee and juices with the knowledge that we had a place to call home for the next few days.
We re-traced our steps to visit some of the beaches we had passed in the National Park.
The forest pathway to the beach was quiet and peaceful, full of an amazing variety of fungi! We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but we did play many rounds of the “slug game” and “mushroom game”, in which you call them out as you spot them 🙂 Whoever sees one goes to the back of the line to give others a chance for the first sighting!
The sun was shining brightly, like the day before, and I was thinking that Joe and I would take our chairs and wiggle our toes in the sand and relax while the kids ran back and forth and played in the sand and the water. Instead, when we reached the shore, it was WINDY! Like nothing I’ve ever seen!
It sent the sand scouring along the surface in fine ripples, sometimes hard enough to sting your ankles.
It made the water glitter in a million points of light…
The surfers were undeterred, and the windsurfers and kiteboarders were having a field-day…
And it made the kids go wild, running around, yelling “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”, and pretending to blow away!
They also enjoyed standing at the edge of the water, waiting for the waves to come in and get them…Just like I did when I was a kid! Funny how some things are universal like that 🙂
And the jellies were something new for us. We just don’t see them around Bellingham, and here we saw them everywhere! All different kinds!
Small ones and enormous ones, ones with tentacles and ones without, ones with lines, and ones with 4 spots in the center, and some of the spots were pink or purple!
And hundreds of little jelly-balls (you can see them below, like little dots all over the sand), which I could only guess were jelly-babies…Later in the week, at the Ucluelet Aquarium, I would learn the truth about this crazy organism…
The Velella Velella or “By-the-Wind-Sailor” jellyfish is a colony organism. Have you ever heard of this? It’s straight out of a science-fiction movie. It’s a single organism – i.e., lives or dies as one whole jellyfish. But it’s actually a “hydroid colony” and its individual parts are specialized and independent, in a sense. One part of it is specialized in being a sail, one in buoyancy, one in food, one in reproduction, etc. So when it washes up on shore, it decomposes into these separate little units – we thought it was an adult jelly and a bunch of little babies. But it was really a sail and a bunch of digesters, all from the same animal! It’s kind of like a cell (or a human, I suppose, when you think about it) without the outer wrapping holding all the pieces together :).
There were a few places to find shelter from the wind…
Little driftwood lean-tos, tucked up against the forest-line, that beach-goers are continually rebuilding and revising…
Here, at last, was a warm, sunny place to relax!
It was a full day of beach and forest exploration! We set up camp in the evening, happy to have found a comfortable base-camp, ready to take our time walking and looking and discovering this little section of the wild Pacific coast 🙂