BC - Vancouver Island - Part 2 - Getting to Ucluelet



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The Wild Pacific Rim Trail is on the western side of Vancouver Island near Ucluelet. There heavy winter surf meets the temperate rain forest. Twisted cedars, firs and hemlocks on the edge of a struggle of sea against land triumph over the harsh conditions and flourish in an impenetrable forest.




Day 3 Yesterday we had spent a great day kayaking including a brisk run through Deception Pass for our first activity day on our Vancouver exploration. Today we would spend the better part of the day traveling to Ucluelet on the west side of Vancouver Island. We had booked passage for ourselves and our vehicle on the BC Ferry out of Anacortes. We were on the 8:30 sailing. We needed to be in line at the terminal at 7:30, so we were up and underway early.




Our route over to Sidney BC would pass through the San Juan Islands and we were eager to see what they looked like. Although the islands are developed there is still a lot of kayaking going on there. We stopped at an overlook to snap this shot of where we thought the ferry would be headed. We got in line at 7:45 AM. I went to take a picture of the ferry and discovered that my camera had succumbed to the dreaded E18 error of which this and its sibling models are susceptible. I knew it was not good news. I tried everything I knew to get it going again, all with no luck. All pictures would have to be taken by Julio until I got a new camera.




We loaded onto the ferry about 15 minutes early and the ferry left 15 minutes early - so don't be late getting into line. There was some extra room, but not much. Reservations are a good idea. We pulled out of the terminal to overcast skies and light spitting rain with a westerly breeze. With the 14 knot speed of the ferry, the wind on deck was about 20. It was a bit chilly. The ferry crossed between the San Juan Islands on our 2 hour cruise. The islands were high sided with large expensive looking homes clinging to the sides of the rocky shores.

We arrived in Sidney, a small town 17 miles north of Victoria, the largest city on the island. After the most cursory questioning at the customs booth (they didn't even check our passports), we drove into Victoria and found a WalMart. There I purchased a new camera.

We got on the main highway and followed the eastern shoreline of Vancouver. The area around Victoria is mostly developed with the usual trappings of civilization - gas stations, fast food places and stores. About half the establishments were American brand names. At least there weren't any billboards.

When we turned off route19, the main highway, and began heading west to Port Albierni and then on to Ucluelet, things changed quickly. The development ceased and the trees closed in quickly. Port Albierni seemed to be a nice little place at the head of a long inlet that lead out to Ucluelet. In fact you could get a ferry here that would take you to Ucluelet, but we were going to drive. After Port Albierni things got rural quick. The road got smaller, although it remained paved. It climbed up to about 1700 meters and then plunged down the western side with an 18% grade, following Kennedy River part of the way. When we reached Kennedy Lake, the road leveled out and was more civilized the rest of the way. We were running into rain showers with incredibly sharp defined edges. Either it wasn't raining at all with the sun out or it was raining so hard you could barely see the next turn.




We got to Ucluelet and checked in the Little Harbor Inn where we would be staying the next three days. We had a nice little room in a duplex with a view out the front deck to the Pacific. We stowed out gear, I grabbed my new camera and we walked out to the Wild Pacific Rim Trail just a kilometer south down the road in front of the room. In a light cool rain we began our investigation of the temperate rain forest.

The trail started out on smooth forest duff but shortly changed to a cedar boardwalk covered with asphalt roof shingles. The fresh cut rails exuded a sweet cedar smell. Without the trail and the boardwalk, progress through the forest understory would have been quite impossible. With the light rain the green coating on the wet wood was incredibly slippery so we were appreciative of the sure footing to be found on the tiles.




We took the boardwalk down to a little cove and got our first close look at the ocean. There we could smell the salt water and the aroma of the kelp and seaweed. A bull kelp torn from its purchase on the bottom had been tossed up on the shore, its holdfast and top stranded on the shore. The grey black rocks on the beach were smoothed by the wave action. Little tidal pools full of anemones, seaweed and starfish reflected the sun streaming through the clouds.

In an increasing rain, we walked around the headland on the trail which alternated between boardwalk and forest floor, deep in the forest and close along the wild shore.


Ucluelet Lighthouse
Ucluelet Lighthouse
by Julio Perez



The trail followed the shore with periodic benches placed to enjoy the scenery of surf pounding on the rocky shore. We continued south until we reached the lighthouse, a small automated light set well back from the shore. The sea buoy several kilometers out was moaning to the fall of the swell out at sea. To the south we could see some islets and beyond were the Broken Islands. Storm formed cedars provided a dark backdrop for the blue sea and sky. Julio was really enjoying the incredible contrasts on this short trail.
We walked back to the motel and headed out for dinner. Ucluelet is quite small and still retains some of the feel of the fishing village that it still is. Tourism is playing an ever increasing role and even this late in the season there were several restaurants still open. We settled on Blueberries, a small 10 table restaurant. Most of the patrons were German, both short and long term visitors. We were to discover that there are many Germans here. The food was excellent and Julio O.D.'ed on a big slice of Bumbleberry pie.




After dinner we headed out for another section of the Wild Pacific Trail located just to the west of the center of town. Here we were treated to a spectacular sunset. Julio and I had a contest for who could take the best picture. You decide.


We retired to the motel, content on another great day and looking forward to tomorrow's hikes in Pacific Rim National Park.

Next ............. Hiking in Pacific Rim National Park


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