September 14 – September 15
There are, of course, advantages to camping in the unpredictable, cool, early fall weather. A bag of ice lasts a lot longer in a cooler, and things aren’t as crowded…for some reason…:)
And you CANNOT beat a hot breakfast of fried toast cooked over a campfire on a crisp morning!
This little campfire has won a long-term place in our family’s camping gear 🙂 The Biolite uses thermal generators to power a fan that results in an ultra-efficient fire. We burned one garbage-bag-full of the small shavings and scraps from Joe’s workshop, and made coffee, cooked toast, and roasted marshmallows on it all week long. It also kept our cell phones charged 🙂 We did, however, cook dinner on the propane stove. They make a full-size version of the Biolite, which burns logs that you feed from the side, and has a grill top. That may be in our future, since this little guy worked so amazingly well!
Mornings on this camping trip were a slow-moving affair. Instead of rushing out to an activity, we rolled out of tents around 7:00 am when it was beginning to get light and warm up, and just enjoyed slowly cooking breakfast and playing around camp.
Monday was meant to start cloudy and end sunny, so we planned a rainforest hike followed by some more beach time. The rainforest hike, part of the National Forest trails, was an old boardwalk originally built around 100 years ago, well-maintained, and with an old-fashioned feeling to the way it snaked through the woods.
The forest was very quiet and peaceful, with only a few birds and an ever-amazing variety of mushrooms to admire.
Vivi enjoyed leading the way, ranging out far ahead, always at the edge of our “We have to be able to see you” rule…
And the remains of giants provided exciting places for the kids to explore. Standing inside of a tree trunk just never gets old!
After a fun boardwalk adventure, we took a quick drive down the road to the Kwisitis Visitor Center, and Wickaninnish Beach, just to check things out. We ate lunch looking out over the ocean, and lazily hung out in the sun on the deck looking for signs of seals or sea lions or whales out in the water…
We didn’t spot any creatures, apart from the ever-present surfers, and we were ready to get going and check out one more beach for the day.
This beach was closer to home, a little inlet area called Big Beach in Ucluelet, which also boasted a shipwreck nearby. Again, we were prepared for a warm relaxing afternoon on a sandy beach and, again, we didn’t quite get what we were expecting! Big Beach was not very wide, not very sandy, but very, very rocky and tidepool-y! So, after switching mental gears from “relax” to “explore”, we began to delight in all the wonders to be found here….
We watched the beautiful, pin-striped water jelly gliding along the edge of the shore…
We found colony-upon-colony of mulit-colored anemones (to poke!)
And a sea-squirt! I thought that was just a cute name I called my kids when we were at the beach, but the sea squirt is actually his own amazing little creature, coming in a remarkable variety of colors. Being generally small and jelly-like, these little guys float around in the ocean for a little while before affixing themselves to a nice rock and contentedly feeding through one side and “squirting” out the other for the rest of their lives 🙂 (Something else that I learned later in the week at the fantastic Ucluelet Aquarium.)
I told Joe that now I felt like we were living in the movie Waterhorse, and I kept asking the kids if they had found an egg yet 🙂 We didn’t find any Nessy eggs, but many, many shells were stuffed into pockets that afternoon.
The most common was a sweet little snail shell like the ones below (only the uninhabited ones, of course!), something like midnight blue or deep purple, and wonderfully iridescent on the inside. We brought home a pretty respectable bucket-full 🙂
We would later find out that this was a black turban snail shell, and that there was also a red turban variety that we would come across less frequently on the shore.
And we did find the remains of the shipwreck, an unidentified ship washed ashore in the 1900’s, now just a pile of stout beams and enormous nails, but a fun place to climb around nevertheless!
Back at camp, the Biolite once again proved its worth with some fantastic marshmallow roasting!
A few raindrops were beginning to fall, and we were grateful to be able to do this at the picnic table, under our make-shift rain shelter (a tarp tied between trees).
Me: “I enjoy being with you guys. Roasting marshmallows. Over a Bio-Lite. Under a tarp-shelter with raindrops falling on it. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it?”
Spencer: “The only thing that could be better is if you had chocolate, and…, and you roasted your chocolate INSIDE your marshmallow!!” Well, I guess there is always one thing that could make it better 🙂
Yes, feed your kids marshmallows and then stuff them into their sleeping bags 🙂 Nighty-night!
The next morning was cloudy, and rainy, but it was a gentle rain…The kind of rain that sends you on a hike in the forest, instead of a day at the beach…And we had the perfect walk in mind! A short loop of forested trail that led out to the point and the Lighthouse!
Geared up in rain jackets, we began a leisurely…
Stroll through the forest!
There was the occasional off-road adventure to check out the shoreline…
Which turned up this fantastic find – a snail shell with all the outer surface worn away, leaving only the brilliant pearly interior…
And a beautiful cloudy-day bouquet from my sweet oldest son who constantly disobeys my instructions not to pick the flowers, because if he sees something lovely, he just has to bring it to me!
Ah, the lighthouse! On a storm-battered point, this age-old lighthouse began as a wooden structure manned 24-7 by the lighthouse keepers who, under all kinds of crazy conditions, must light the lamps and feed the fire for the foghorn. The bunker-like concrete structure is all automated now, and still impressive 🙂
Spencer wanted to make sure he got this “perfect” picture of Vivi on the bench with the lighthouse in the background…
He used the “Magic” setting on the camera to add the sparkles!
After the Lighthouse, we took a break at this overlook to have a light lunch. We grabbed seats along the edge looking out over the cliffs at the crashing waves….
When all of a sudden, a bald eagle flew right past us, curving from our right, all the way around and across the cliffs to our left. It was awesome!
It happened much too quickly, of course, to get the sort of picture that I’d like to share, and we only managed to capture far-aways view of him, winging away over the cliffs and the water.
On a short side-trail, we found a little stretch of beach to enjoy, full of wonderful shells to sort through, and some really fantastic birds to watch!
The camera sometimes captures things that are just too fast to really appreciate in real-time…Take this sweet little bird for instance –
She looks like a pretty ordinary little wren or finch of some sort (a female purple finch, we think), but watch what happens when she ruffles her feathers in the wind…
Whew! I bet you didn’t see that one coming!
This Northern Flicker is a type of woodpecker that’s fairly common in our area, but this guy is unusual…He has a bright red patch on the back of his neck that normally appears only on the cheeks, and a yellow wing lining that’s typical of varieties in the eastern states…
He swoops and dives like a hawk, and we watched him for a long time as his bright flashes of color moved from water to forest and back again.
And a mated pair of Kingfishers with their long pointed beaks and brighly-crested blue heads, skimming low over the waters to hunt.
I kept pointing one out to Joe, saying “See, it’s got the brown under the wings.” And he kept saying “Yep, I see it” and thinking “What is she talking about, brown under the wings?”
Turns out, we kept looking at two different birds! I was looking at the female, which has the brown band, and Joe kept seeing the male!These are the things we don’t figure out until we get back and start looking through our books to figure out what the heck we saw during the day 🙂
The trail back to the car was mostly forested, with outlooks dotted along the path to peek out to the water…Spencer, my little abstract artist, really captured the vibrant and magical feeling of this landscape, full of mystery and surprises!
He also managed to use the timer to set up this great family photo. Way to go Spence!
And after a beautiful day of exploring, we enjoyed dinner at a cute little restaurant down the street from our campground. It was very satisfying to gather around hot food and cold beers and sodas, chatting about the day and filling our bellies with no dishes to wash afterward! There were chicken wings, and burgers, fries and house-smoke salmon (everyone has house-smoked salmon in this place!) Sometimes, that’s just the right way to wind down the day!