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Ocean Odyssey: Vancouver Island (and Vancouver)

Ocean Odyssey: Vancouver Island (and Vancouver)

Old Mar 19th, 2017, 11:10 AM
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Ocean Odyssey: Vancouver Island (and Vancouver)

What follows is lengthy. It may serve as a sort of trip-report-plus-tips-list based upon our recent ramblings around the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island, specifically Pacific Rim National Park and the two coastal village bases that sandwich it, Tofino (‘peace’) and Ucluelet (aka ‘Ukee’). It has been re-read many times by the Department of Redundancy Dept. to ensure that there was no undue repetition, incorect spelling or grammar badly. It has been re-read many times by the Department of Redundancy Dept. to ensure that there was no undue repetition, incorect spelling or grammar badly. It has also been cross-referenced, even though I was not cross. I hope that somehow, these facts and opinions may prove useful to outdoorsy types who are Tofino-bound. Hungry readers will be rewarded with a special SPIKE salmon recipe towards the end.
From time to time, words from the First Nations Noocha-nulth tribe language will be used. Eclectic musical references, plus a bit of poetry, will also be included in an attempt to convey something of the funky counterculture spirit one finds. I liked the ‘end-of-the-road’ vibe.
‘Throw your heart into the ocean, throw your heart into the sea,’ sang Sarah Slean seductively. That’s just what we did. Most of 2016 had been a foul year for us and by this past February, we really needed to get away to some safe haven. ‘Baggage issues’ indeed. The Accuweather website was predicting that the famously wet west coast of Vancouver Island would be sunnier than normal this February. The traditional ‘horizontal rains’ of winter would be less frequent and the ratio of sunny-to-cloudy days would be roughly 2-1. So, we made a quick decision: ‘Damn the torpedoes and take us to the island.’ It was our first time to this, Canada’s surf capital. Note that the west coast of the island boasts a unique, Mediterranean-style microclimate amidst the nautical landscape. Two words: rainforest and beach. Behind the rugged shores of this, the country’s least snowy section, there are exotic palms and rare rainforest of the coniferous temperate kind. Rhododendrums started to blossom during our visit. Actually, it turned out that we only wore the provided ‘Tofino Tuxedo’ (yellow raincoat with rubber wellies) but once, and experienced several glorious ‘postcard’ days with temperatures ranging from 7-10 degrees (Vancouver city was its chillier Raincouver self). Remind me to send Accuweather a thank you. Deliberately journeying to the isle during the off-season and embracing a maritime frame of mind turned out to be good for the soul, restorative and relaxing. We were taken by the tranquility. Fair winds and following seas, as seafarers say.

‘Sail on, sail on sailor.’ (Beach Boys—Holland)

First, we shared a taxi from Tofino airport.

Top 10 Reasons to visit Vancouver Island during the winter (especially for fellow Canucks):
1 Lower off-season rates (much lower)
2 Lower off-season rates (much lower)
3 Lesser crowds, fewer lineups. At least 80% of annual visitors come between May-October. For example, peak season July line-ups @ popular Tacofino food truck lead to an hour from the time that you step into line until the moment you finally take a bite! Likewise, Fogust (foggy August).
4 No diminished loonie value loss vs. American dollar (obviously not just during winter)
5 No mosquitoes ever, no inoculations needed, no Zika, and no poisonous snakes
6 Shorter flights than heading overseas and for some nationalities, no need for visa
7 Same electrical system, tipping norms and language (sorry; excuse me; please; after you)
8 No pollution and no poverty plus no risk of serious sunburn
9 No terrorists except for the furry kind: wolves, cougars and bears. The latter don’t hibernate, but prefer to doze through winter months, with some exceptions. Bear with us.
“Hey there Boo-boo! Let’s go snatch some Larsen micro!”
10 Free Park passes for all in 2017, in celebration of Canada’s 150th Birthday, ‘eh?

(sound of cheesy synth jingle)
Here is a fun game:
Cross out the word that does not belong:

1) toque
2) surfboard
3) Nickleback
4) mushroom


1) Clayoquot Sound
2) hot springs
3) totem poles


1) type ‘A’ personality
2) tombolo (look it up)
3) sea caves
4) Jason Priestley

Outstanding Map-The green Ucluelet Adventure Map
Most Quaint Tribal Language Comparison- In the local Noocha-nuulth language, Ucluelet means, ‘A safe landing harbor for our canoes’. Esowitsa, a nearby hamlet reservation within the actual park, means, ‘Those guys whose heads we bashed in with clubs.’

‘We will share it with you. No man owns this land we’re on.’ (Kansas--Cheyenne anthem)

On the Fly: Tofino is a bird-watching hot-spot. Shorebirds flock to these coastal waters from April to September, especially at the quasi-official bird sanctuary at Jensen’s Bay. Birdsong always accompanied our walks. Quacking ducks, squawking seagulls, cawing crows and bald eagle cries completed a wild Pacific chorus. Screeching ravens act as forest sentinels and hold a special place in native myths, due to their uncanny ability to mimic other birds and even dogs. Hence their nickname ‘the trickster’. For the eagles, it was courting season. Their calls were not what you’d expect from adults and were actually rather unseemly for such a winged noble as cixwatin, who ‘knows all the ways of the wind’.

Best place to take dogs for a scenic seaside stroll: at 6km in length, Long Beach in the park, lives up to its name; Chesterman Beach (aka 'Chestie') always has many pawrents joining the dawn patrol with their amped canine companions along the broad curve of sand. One sees proof that some dog guardians-sons of beaches need reminders to pick up after their pooch.
Most Popular Surfing Beaches: (sound of ‘Wipeout’ drums)
This is a swell area for surfdom. Endless Long Beach seems to be a favourite of stoked surfers, who come here from all over the globe and rate its epic breakers highly. But many other beaches also attract surfboarders: Combers, Cox Bay and Chestie. The latter is probably the best for beginners. Surf culture and neoprene abound, including the female instructors at Surf Sister. Cool, clear water is only 10 degrees (i.e. 50 F) year-round. Bikinis do not figure much here.

Two Beachcombing Beaches: Florencia (aka Wreck)-such driftwood! Go mid-day to avoid any wolf hazard--locals advised us not to pass the Lost Shoe Creek rivulet there. Shell-seekers will also find a marine treasure trove at Lismer Cove by the park’s South Beach. It is a great place to search for polished blue glass and rocks amidst the endless clam shells and fresh kelp. But woe betide those who turn their backs on the fury of the ocean. Mother Nature Bats Last.

Our Favourite Hiking Trail: there are many rich rainforest trails, but we were particularly uplifted by the majestic Wild Pacific Trail in Ukee, Tofino’s less-commercial twin on the bottom side of the park. If one is searching for the sublime and meanders the eastern half of the Amphitrite Lighthouse loop at sunrise, a peak experience awaits, including a sense of mystery in the forest. Towering trees combine with classic seascape to stand as one of Travel’s great moments (Californians will draw parallels with Point Lobos park).
Note that at any given time, some trails may be closed. February trail closures: Spruce Trail; Gold mine; Schooner Cove; Rainforest ‘A’ and also Combers beach.
The Canadian ‘green’ movement traces its roots back to these here parts. This pristine Clayoquot Sound area has been ground zero for the ongoing environmentalist’s struggle to protect what is the planet’s largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest. Less than 6% is protected. Nearby Meares Island kicked things off with its anti-logging protest back in 1984.

‘There is unrest in the forest…’ (Rush—The Trees)

It should come as no surprise to find eco-sensitive concerns behind some trail closures. South Beach is known for exceptional stormwatching. Its native name means ‘the edge of silver thunder’ because its wave angles deliver the full force of the Pacific—a real swell magnet. But it can be closed during fall, when mama bears with their cubs come there to dine at the prolific salal berry bushes (the Twilight Saga was shot here amidst the salty air).

Best ‘One-Stop-Shopping’ Beaches:
Windy Chestie is fine for kite-flying, sand castles, driftwood, boulders and nocturnal bonfires with partying youths. It captures the general feel of this casual, somewhat ‘alternative’ community. Its sand-sational strip is the pride of Tofino. A popstar sweetly surrendered to its charms and got her beach home right on Chestie, facing the great waves of the open Pacific. PM Trudeau also stayed here last year with his family.
In Ukee, Big Beach offers a wide variety: a gazebo; picnic tables; remains of a 19C shipwreck; a protected cove; sunsets; driftwood; tidal pools; the best Interpretive display panels (aimed squarely at kids but still of interest to all); the Wild Pacific Trail; a splendid lookout; a concentrated fringe of spruce; the ocean in motion. Great for families because the beach is actually not that big.

Most useful rehab after repeated hikes have led your quads, knees, calves, feet to revolt in no uncertain terms: a steaming hot tub (in Tofino DO NOT settle for a vacation rental that doesn’t include a private hot tub). One feels less crabby (heh heh) afterwards, lounging blissfully by the fireplace. Basic math: advanced age=less hish-tatoo=more post-hike aches and pains.

Which lodgings? No contest. A rental vacation house or condo will offer many useful options. Getting one close to the ocean roar, say on Chestie beach, will make all the difference in your enjoyment of Tofino. We chose the* Dunes Cabin* on Howard street. As non-driving self-caterers, we made sure to be near the modest 'Outside Break' commercial hub, which had groceries and more. Later in Ukee, we went for a comfy modern condo, The Wild Pacific Villa @ the Ridge near Big Beach and a short walk into town. Each was on the edge of nature. It was wrenching to leave both these lodgings.
Note that there is a serious housing shortage in the Tofino area, especially for seasonal workers. The dilemma is how to accommodate the million-plus annual tourists, not just lodgings, but also with other impacting factors like parking, garbage, policing and fire management. Whale-watching remains a HUGE cash cow, but how can the village recover some of the infrastructure costs? This ‘tourism versus local needs’ controversy is being played out all over the globe (see the doc ‘The Venice Syndrome’). The day after our return home, we received a questionnaire about spending, which had to do with provincial legislation that mayor Josie Osborne is pushing for, in her ongoing efforts to achieve community wellbeing. Its preamble read:
'The District of Tofino is proposing changes to the Vacation Rental policies in Tofino. In an effort to provide the District with the most accurate information, we'd appreciate it if you took a moment to complete this short survey.'

Ways of knowing Tofino—the Senses:

‘On and on the rain will sing, how fragile we are.’ (Sting)

Startling Sights-a breaching whale (piihtup); sunsets; morning sunbeams spreading ethereally through mist-shrouded treetops as fog burns off; damp, steaming driftwood covered in sparkling sunrise frost; lines of backlit emerald waves crashing into the shore late afternoon; perpetually snowy peaks in the distance; mountain ‘tablecloths’ like in Capetown; a million silver stars above—all of these natural wonders a photographer’s dream. Unsurprisingly, warm-toned wood-smith creations and huge fir beams are everywhere. ‘Beautiful’ is a tired word, but…

Signature Sounds-the booming explosion of gigantic waves crashing onto the black rock shoreline during a winter storm; the ‘singing stones’ of Lismer Cove within the park’s South Beach, where wave action going back and forth over the pebbles presents magic moments (those who’ve been to Lambi beach on the Greek isle Patmos will recognize the sound); distant sealions arffing; as for music, the isle’s arty west coast seemed like a Lord Huron kinda’ place:
‘To the ends of the earth, would you follow me?’ (Lord Huron)

Special Touches- marvel at spongy sphagnum moss; the textured trunk of a wet cedar giant; frothy seafoam (pacheena) hissing over Pacific sands and licking at your toes
‘Will these changing times, motorways, powerlines, keep us apart?’ (J. Tull--Jack in the Green)

Unique Smells-breathing deeply in the earthy rainforest just after a rainfall; local weed (voice of Mr. Spock—‘Sir, I believe that they now call it cannabis.’); winter woodsmoke; open ocean air

Terrific Tastes-halibut, spotted prawns and oysters (more zinc for your dink). The best types of salmon are Chinook/King, Sockeye and Coho. We saved the best for last: the syrah by small Okanagan producers, Church and State (CBS-Coyote Bowl series). Jaysus, a better Canuck wine, you will never taste!! It was as good as anything we had during last fall’s trip across Burgundy.

Most bizarre: windswept Krummholz (German ‘crooked wood’) Tunnels—walk through the wild side as Blair Witch meets Big Sur’s Lone Cypress. Posed as though bent-over. Creepy.
Honorable mention: picturesque ‘fairy condos’ created by the massive, up-ended root wad systems of toppled ancient trees. After the mud has worn away, the spaces between each twisted root suggest Lilliputian homes.
Most unexpected signage: tsunami evacuation signs (‘Head to higher grounds’)

Trees and flora (Pacific Rim Park)
No report on this wooded wonderland would be complete without mentioning its green giants and flamboyant flora. Striding beneath a lofty living museum, hikers may occasionally assume that they’ve stumbled upon an enchanted Ewok village, or a remote hobbit outpost. Hanging lichens resemble Civil War beards. Amidst the lush foliage’s various vivid greens, clusters of barren standing snag branches point skyward. Big maple leaves drop to the forest floor. Mushrooms, moss and ferns dot the prehistoric undergrowth. The prickly spruce joins the knotted and gnarly hemlock plus the economically-crucial western red cedar, as the three Emeritus elders in this ecosystem. For native people, cedars are known as huumiss, Tree of Life. One such cedar not far from the seawall in Vancouver’s beloved green jewel, Stanley Park, is thought to be among the oldest trees on the planet (see ‘Merillee trail’), having survived due to bug-and-disease-resistant capabilities. Dense forests can be surprisingly dry during rainfall, but do not enter them if there are high winds, due to falling objects.

Fitting in with Tofitians: some boho Tofitians count a toque (preferably black) among their customary garb. Its not unusual to see guys wearing them even inside smarter restaurants. We once witnessed a young gal wearing a burgundy one when we splurged for breakfast at the top place in town. The irony was that I always travel with a black toque anyway!
A recent travel article described Tofino as 'Mendocino with a toque'. Folks sometimes also wore plaid, lumberjack shirts. Remember Monty Python? ‘I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK!’

Drivers beware: if you are driving to either the island’s Mackenzie Beach Resort (busiest on the island) or the adjacent Bella Pacifica campground (1,000 residents each July), be mindful of the serious potholes on the inadequately-maintained access road.

Coastal Character: (in Ukee) the grizzled octogenarian who toodles about in his enclosed, Flagship Shoprider scooter ($10,000). License plate? What else? ‘WEED’
Most useful new photographic tool: cheap monopods bought on sale just before departure (‘Best $20 that we ever spent!”—Mrs Z.) made by Cameron brand: ‘camera-on’, get it? Also, be sure to bring lens cleaning cloth for sea spray.

Deserving of an Award: Jim Martin (aka Oyster Jim). He and his rugged team have been labouring in the wild for many years to create the Wild Pacific Trail. Their accomplishments include numerous ingenious observation decks overlooking the ocean. The ‘painters perches’ were our favourite vantage points. Such moody, magnificent vistas. Lately, OJ has brought along his infirm neighbour’s mastiff, as the dog needed the walks. A real hero.

‘Love, reign o’er me.’ (The Who-- Quadraphenia)

Tidal Pooling hot spots:
-just a few niches: sympa Big Beach in Ukee; enticing Rose Bay @ South Chestie; remote Lismer Cove @ South Beach; both sides of the rocky headland beside ‘The Wick’ (the local iconic splurge Wickaninnish Inn: ‘rustically elegant’).

Prime Places to See Sealions (tukuuk)
-in Ukee just outside fish processing plants, such as Trappist or Neptune.

Best Three-fer Photo Op: tough call in such a scenic area, but we loved the viewpoint at the secluded Pettinger Point promontory with its 1) ideal perspective looking down on the emerald waves and sandy crescent of Cox Bay 2) trailhead starting at the dramatic crevice surge channel called ‘The Crack’ and 3) uppermost section known to secretive locals as ‘Sunset Point’, an oceanic panorama where talking is discouraged. Nuff said.

‘The white sea snaps.’ (I. Anderson--Dun Ringill)

Who Knew?
1) Vancouver Island is the number one destination for medically-assisted suicide in Canada. In one publicized case, a doltish, young ambulance attendant repeatedly asked his 94 yr. old patient en route to their assisted suicide event, whether ‘they were excited?’

‘Dedicate your sorrow, here and now, to the soul of the sea.’ (Heart--Soul of the Sea)

2) Pity Tofino’s deer. Wolf packs hunt the golf course where they graze. The island also has the world’s highest concentrations of both black bears, plus cougars (silepaax). These felines have been known to attack humans on the island. Their circular tracks do not show claws. Heed warnings. A car ad crew fled their Wya Point yurts after a recent cougar visit.
3) Sea stars/starfish have been decimated by a mystery disease and are much harder to find.
4) Flotsam from the Japanese tsunami still washes ashore on local beaches. Most of the beach debris is plastic. Locals form parties to gather the mess up. You’ll see collected piles near the entries to most beaches year-round.
5) Grey whales apparently like group sex. Often one male will support another male from beneath while he mates with the female. Do they also use salty language?
‘Don’t hunt the whale!’ (Yes—Tormato)
6) Tofino has a pair of inspirational sunrise views that are rarely mentioned in travel literature. Each view is shutterbug heaven and comes at the end of very short rainforest trails (parents of little ones note: you can fairly tell your kids that these two trails are ‘jungle adventures’ and they won’t be disappointed). One trail is behind Jamie’s Rainforest Inn on the highway (not to be confused with their whale-watching HQ in the village itself) about 5km out of town. The other is behind the lesser-known Botanical Garden just outside of town. Both views allow for soulful moments and look out onto the raw mudflats. The Garden is a ticketed attraction ($1 discount if you arrive car-free) and ranks as the continent’s wettest garden with 135“ of relentless downpour per year. Jamie’s is a nice motel-restaurant whose trail is actually private. At least have breakfast there--go for opening time.
7) Tofino and Ukee are like LA in that much of the populace was born elsewhere (esp. Ontario). One First Nations gent told me that his family’s recent move from Alberta back to his wife’s ancestral home (nearby Toquaht ‘rez’), was ‘the best decision he’d ever made’: “I can kayak across to my job in Ukee!” Ukee has been a port since the time of the pyramids.
8) Sometimes you can spot vertical wooden posts driven into the sand, such as at Wickaninnish Beach in the park. These were installed during WW II in order to thwart enemy planes from landing.
9) Google ‘Luna the orca’. So sad. What price friendship? We are all lost on this lonely planet.
10) These beaches have some of the most photogenic driftwood on earth. There are enough stacked piles of weather-blasted beauties to build houses.

Much Sought-After beachcombing prize: green glass fishing floats from Asia, which have been drifting across the ocean to end up on Tofino’s gleaming beaches for decades. These spherical décor gems, once made from recycled sake bottles, range from 2 to 20 inches in diameter and some come wrapped in rope. The distinctive rope knots reveal whether they are Japanese, Taiwanese or Korean in origin. It seems that ropeless ones indicate a tuna-fishing background. Some are cylindrical octopus fishing floats from Hokkaido (‘rolling pins’—Mrs Z) while others come in blue. The float goddess suggested trying Comber beach or Schooner Cove once they reopen. Green Point and Florencia apparently also provide opportunities to discover these prized antiques after big storms. Note that most glass fishing floats for sale nowadays are, you guessed it, replicas made in China.

Massage anyone? Tofino: Therese Bouchard. Ukee: RMT Megan Rivard (Harbour Health)

YES YES YES: wine bottles-to-go avail. from bartender Mike @ Long Beach Lodge’s Great Room (rare real fireplace plus outstanding view). He goes above and beyond, a true pro.
NO NO NO: carbonated cold-brew coffee in the can (sound of spit)

Things missed by coming off-season (note that a fair chunk of Ukee closes during the off-season, not so much Tofino)-kayaking; crowds; wilderness/wildlife boat tours (whales, bears, orcas), fishing, golf, crowds, crowds, extensive public bus service, lodging rates that double or more; the need for restaurant reservations; crowds, crowds, crowds (stats are mind-boggling)


Unsurpassed Urban Renewal Project in Vancouver: Granville Island-daily covered food market plus high-quality crafts shops. Well-done Vancouver! Tip: take a ferry to get there.

Only on the West Coast: at one of the aforementioned shops, a stylish $6,000, Gandalf-esque wooden rocker with harp strings attached to either side (for musical therapy).

And you thought the bidding war that you lost was depressing: recently, a property in the Grey Point part of Kits(ilano) in Vancouver had a bidding war that lasted a total of 20 minutes. In that time, it went up half a million dollars from the original asking price! Vancouver is now the world’s 3rd most expensive city (see ‘maxed-out’). The city has a number of North America’s costliest homes. A rare 4 bedroom condo in Coal Harbour is now listed at $59 million. Land and sea.

Best Value Lodgings in Vancouver-save your money at the perfectly acceptable downtown YWCA on Beatty, right across from the BC Place Canadian football stadium and its Terry Fox memorial out front. The location is very good. Worth checking into.

Yum Yum- Outstanding sandwiches @ ‘Meat & Bread’. They also make wicked ‘chocolate fingers’. Honey enthusiasts will want to taste Chilliwack River Valley’s thistle honey.

Outstandingest Map-The blue Downtown Vancouver Official Walking Map. Perhaps the single best urban map that we have ever encountered.

Worst Time to try to Rent a Car in Vancouver: on the spur of the moment if the city is hosting the Grey Cup Canadian Football Championship game.

Beware the BC bailout: a habit of promising to meet with pals, but then shamelessly cancelling at the last minute, or even not showing. After initial scepticism, we eventually experienced this ourselves!
The Place to buy smokeless moxa: Chinatown. Ancient Chinese pain medicine.
Best place to visit on rainy days in Vancouver: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in authentic Chinatown. The real McKoy. When we visited, this relaxing urban oasis was undergoing renos (the pond was drained) so *tickets were at a reduced price. Workers found a pair of 30-year-old disposable Kodak cameras in the muck that evidently had been dropped by errant tourists into the pond back in the ‘80s. National Geographic awarded this as the World’s Top City Garden. The garden was originally designed, then built, by consultants from Suzhou, who included traditional covered walkways. The walkways keep visitors dry.
*renos due to finish by April 24.

Rock Royalty
There is a Jimi Hendrix connection to Vancouver. As a child, he was shuttled often enough from nearby Seattle to visit his maternal grandmother in Vancouver, that he was eventually enrolled for grade one at Dawson Annex PS, which used to be at Burrard/Barclay. His grandma then worked at Vie’s Diner. A very modest shrine-kiosk has been erected near the site, but has been controversial because crusty old-timers are apparently saying, “No and hell no! Vie’s was on a completely different street!”
See also the portrait of Jimi and other (mostly male) Vancouver icons on the Beatty street mural wall across from the WW II Sherman tanks.
‘Well I stand up next to a mountain and chop it down with the edge of my hand.’ (Voodoo Child)

Are We Being Punked?
For the first time ever, we took one of those all-encompassing City bus tours. It came at the end of the trip after we’d returned, exhausted, to Vancouver. Firstly, there was a driver-guide who was not easy to understand. Then, a new ticket-taker-cum-guide boarded. I won’t mention Beatrice by name, but she provided a sense of surreal comedy BY SHOUTING EVERY SINGLE WORD OF HER COMMENTARY FOR HALF AN HOUR!! Roseanne had nothing on this lady. First the difficult driver, now the overwhelming volume—were we being punked? To her credit however, Beatrice’s spiel was equal parts generic tourist fluff and righteous diatribe about how her city’s heritage wazzam (was and still is) in the process of unprecedented change, as offshore speculators have bought huge swathes of the city, driving real estate prices through the roof and tearing down whatever stood there before, in order to erect yet-another tower of greed (eg. The Wave). One smallish church parking lot just went for $67 million! As we passed the ritzy shopping strip of Robson-Alberni, she said, ‘All I could afford here is a cup of cocoa!’ God bless Beatrice for providing us with a dose of straight-up reality. I’d have it no other way. You go girl.

‘Their powers and their follies have become fantastic.’ (Robinson Jeffers-The Beaks of Eagles)

Really? Seriously? The Urban Fare upscale supermarket in Vancouver’s Yaletown sells imported French bread loaves for $200. Ditto ‘square’ melons (see ‘trust fund’).

Demographic curiosity: all ages flock to dine @ Moxies in downtown Vancouver. To have seen seniors dining at one table, families with young children at another while the speakers blasted ROCK CONCERT VOLUMES of non-stop music, was astonishing! Probably, Beatrice from the bus tour was in charge of loudness levels there too.

Dumb-All-Over Award
First Prize goes to the careless and clueless young mother who put her toddler son at risk by treating the descending escalator at the Vancouver Library main downtown branch as a sort of fun ride. Cooing sweet sayings into her little emperor’s ears she, wait for it…., sat down on her bottom while dangling him out in front of her. Upon reaching the bottom of the escalator, she was surprised and embarrassed to suffer pinched buttocks, courtesy of the metal treads. Just think of the injury that escalator could’ve inflicted on the child’s tiny fingers.
Runner-up: The two rocket surgeons who in 2015 harassed a helpless female moose up in northern BC, by jumping on top of her from their boat for a ride, as she struggled to escape across deep waters. Their $4,000 fines were announced the day of our flight home.

Tragic Statistic: take your pick, either the ongoing teen suicide rate among First Nations tribes or, Vancouver’s DTES (Downtown East Side), ground zero for the current fentanyl crisis. It is easy for visitors to find themselves passing the alleys around East Hastings Street where most opioid ODs occur, the very back lanes shown on media reportage, when crossing between Gastown and Chinatown. Once, we were shopping nearby and witnessed 3 ambulances arrive at one alley in less than an hour. Too much human wreckage. It was like ‘Night of the Living Dead’. PM Trudeau visited the area the day we left.

‘I see the needle and the damage done.’ (Neil Young)

There also remains a tragic divide between First Nations people and whites, in both Tofino and Ukee. Resentment can be palpable. As for islander teens, in both communities we noticed that all bike and skater parks were utterly abandoned. Once at low tide, a pair of 20ish native men had a friendly chat with us by the jagged rocks of Ukee’s Big Beach. After we’d departed, the stoned men surprised us by lighting off a firecracker at a distance of maybe 30 yards. The sound startled us, but it was no big deal. The perpetrators grinned good-naturedly and shouted, ‘Just havin’ some fun!” I waved back. The following morn, we were shocked to learn that just after we’d left the beach, virtually every police car in the area was summoned to deal with the situation. Maybe the firecracker resembled gunfire to some ears in this low-crime neighbourhood?

Coastal Cooking: Spike Salmon Steak Recipe:

Proceed to boat basins in either Tofino or Ukee. Inquire as to which local mariners have a license to sell their catch o’ the day fresh to the public (use ‘eh’ at end of every sentence). Eventually ignore licensing requirement. Before departing with purchase, sympathize with fishermen over ever-increasing marina berthing fees. Preheat BBQ as per usual. After rinsing (the fish not you), sprinkle liberal amount of the world’s greatest salmon seasoning onto surface of fish: SPIKE by Gaylord-Hauser. Use only the original* red box* version. Insure that no gangs of rogue raven thieves are lurking about in treetops above your BBQ. Be aware that bears can smell raw fish 5 kms away. Lay the steaks with the seasoned-side down on the grill. Cook on the grill for 8 minutes or until the flesh flakes. Turn once in that time.
Alternative fish sources-Trilogy Fish in Tofino or Fishful Thinking (great name) in Ukee.


The allure of this distinctive location is powerful. Every visitor gets relocation fantasies about Vancouver Island’s west coast/best coast. How about you?
(circle one)

‘I’m getting closer to my home…’
(Grand Funk--I’m your Captain)

Thx for reading, klecko.
I am done. The end, ‘eh.

Dedicated to the salt-blooded, rough-looking, Barnacle Bill-type traveler being mocked at the seashore in the corny Expedia TV ad. To his detractors, who’ve written him to appear silly: Island This.
zebec is online now  
Old Mar 21st, 2017, 08:20 PM
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Wow zebec! That's a fantastic trip report. Thanks.
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Old Mar 21st, 2017, 11:06 PM
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Fun read and nice descriptions. You must have been here during that one week when the snow stopped and we thought spring had come. Still waiting...
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Old Mar 22nd, 2017, 01:20 PM
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...terrific report...thanks!
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Old Sep 14th, 2020, 02:36 PM
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