September 16 – 18
Wednesday was…a school day! With a gray and rainy morning in the forecast, we planned to head back to the Kwisitis Visitor Center, and have a classroom session with the kiddos! We used the displays in the Visitor Center to study local marine mammals, native whaling practices, and the area’s geography. Then we broke for lunch and went to the beach!
It was a little gray, a little breezy, the water was a little chilly…
But that didn’t stop the fun!
The kids spent most of their time improving a beach shelter…And then we finished up with some tide pool exploration in a big boulder-formation at the water’s edge.
It was very full of anemones, and one sweet purple starfish.
It’s strange because, all along the coast, starfish were such a common sight even two years ago when we first arrived here in Bellingham. You were certain to see dozens of purple and orange ochre starfish covering every rocky surface, and you would look out for those rare glimpses of a yellow or blue one. But now, we make many trips to the shore without seeing a single starfish, and get very excited whenever we find one! I hope that the starfish will return, but I’ve read that some entire species have simply disappeared, so who knows?
And, though we see tons of acorn and thatched barnacles in the tide pool zones (like the ones next to the starfish, above), these goose barnacles were something we had only seen in books! They live in a lower tidal zone which stays underwater, and so we just never see them up on the shore where we wander. But these had been uprooted and washed up, so we got an up-close look! Amazing how the same creature, something as simple as a barnacle, can have such a striking variation from one type to another.
The next day, part of our rainy-day plan was to head down to the Ucluelet Aquarium…And even though it didn’t look so rainy, it was still a good plan!
Based on a tip from our friend at the campground, we wandered out onto the dock first to look for sea lions. We could hear them barking at night from our tent, but we still hadn’t seen one…
And there they were! We watched two of them meander around, looping and spinning in long, slow curves…Our friend at the campground told us that during the day you’ll often see them floating by with one fin in the air – asleep! Sure enough, as this guy slowly cruised around, he would appear to “doze off”, lazily curving along with that one fin drifting up into the air.
The Ucluelet Aquarium is unique in my experience – it’s a catch and release program. Every year, they go out and collect local specimens for the aquarium, and every year they release them back into the wild. It was neat to hear how, when they collect the creatures and the water, there are always some surprises! You know, you get babies in the water without realizing it – and then they grow! Or you set up a tank with little sea animals that should be friends, but suddenly one decides that the other one actually looks tasty 🙂
The kids enjoyed the wide variety of touch tanks, and asked bazillions of questions. The aquarium was staffed by several very knowledgeable people who also kept a giant marine-life encyclopedia for the area close at hand. Our munchkins sent them running to the book many times, and excitedly reported back findings on creature after creature.
We got to watch a nudibranch lay eggs on the glass…These little shell-less snails find a good spot and work slowly around in a spiral, leaving behind a perfect trail of tiny round eggs, and then move on, leaving them to figure out their own little nudibranch-way in the world!
Another sea squirt! I think the orange variety is particularly awesome – but they’re all fun. A staff member showed us how you could be certain that the creature was, in fact, a sea squirt…He gently pried one from a rock, squeezed it in the middle and, as a stream of water shot from each side, said “Yep, two squirts. That’s a tunicate.” Otherwise known as a sea squirt. Scientifically. Confirmed.
And, oh gosh, it’s just super-fun to watch things stuck to the glass! It’s one of those views that you just don’t get in nature, and it’s a wonderful new angle!
This is a sea-cucumber…We’ve seen a couple of these crazy guys out in the tide pools, even swimming around, but I’ve never gotten to see the bizzare mouth up close like this.
Ooooooh, an octopus…Probably my favorite, although I find all the creatures so amazing and enjoyable…But this guy was completely suckered to the glass! I could stare at this beautiful abstract art all day!
And there was even a spot for tired and cranky little girls to take a moment to gather themselves 🙂
We spent a solid couple of hours in the small aquarium, studying it in detail, returning to visit favorites, and ultimately watching feeding time. It was a great experience, and I’m so glad for places like this, staffed by people with a true passion!
And then we wrapped up our day at the Ancient Cedars trail, a forest loop that passes by some enormously impressive old-growth trees…But what ended up being more fun was the misty coastline!
The fog was low, but thin, and the golden sun was shining through!
Based on a tip from a friend at the local coffeeshop, we headed out to the salmon hatchery, hoping to see a bear. Black bears are common on the island, but we hadn’t seen any all week. Sure enough, we arrived at the hatchery just before dusk, and a black bear was making his way along the river! He ambled along the road right past our truck, ignoring us the whole time, and followed the shoreline into the forest for his evening rounds. How exciting!
And then it was Friday, and time to head for home. It was the rainiest of our days on the island…We woke to find our tents in a great puddle, and the rain was really coming down. But, we had a brief break in the storm that was enough time to get everything folded, separated (wet and dry) and packed up neatly in the truck. It went better than I would have thought, to be honest. I saw several loads of laundry in our future, and tents would have to be hung and dried when we got home, but we were all clean and dry in the car, everything wet was in the Thule, and everything we needed was in the truck where we could get to it. We broke camp in about an hour, in the rain…And that was kind of awesome!
It was a long drive back across the island, but we reached the ferry terminal nice and early, with time to play at the playground…
Watch the seaplanes land…
And stop for coffee!
We arrived home with a nice weekend ahead of us to get life back in order. We cleaned, we unpacked, we put things away. We had soccer on Saturday, and the Farmer’s Market. I enjoyed that wonderful feeling of appreciation that comes with your own hot shower and a washer/dryer. And on Sunday, we had the chance to put our Sabbath into practice. Our Sabbath was not a “no work” or “sit still” day. There was cooking together and washing up. There was some laundry, together. There was reading together, quietly drawing and journaling, looking at photos from our trip, playing family games. But there were no individual projects; there was no “I just have to get this done first”; there was no conforming to the rhythms and demands of the world. Those things could just wait 🙂 There was a whole day’s worth of time focused on our relationship with God and our relationships with each other.
God made the Sabbath for man. Scripture says it; Jesus specifically teaches on it. It’s part of our natural rhythm, if we let it be. It’s not a law or a requirement. God doesn’t need it from us. But we, in a busy, noisy, distracting world, need it desperately! A Sabbath is a time to stop, reflect and re-orient after a busy week for a people who are, at the core, prone to great distraction. It’s an amazing gift for a family walking with God, and I’m so glad that He showed it to us!