[As we sit here in McDonalds to post our updates to the blog, it really hit me that we have spent more time in McDonalds in the last few weeks than I have in my entire life!]
So we meet again Canada! After a fairly uneventful ferry ride departing from Port Angeles, WA we landed safe and sound in Victoria, BC. We skedaddled off the ferry first thing and hightailed it straight out of town with our sights set on Tofino and Canada’s Pacific Rim National Park. (Backpacker Magazine named it the best free beach camping around so we thought we would give it a go. More on that later though.)
After the initial adjustment to the metric system, the driving was easygoing, although much longer than we originally anticipated. We made a stop in Duncan, land of the nicest people on Earth, since we decided that we did in fact need a map of the foreign country we were driving around in for the next couple of days. While in the check out line we were thoroughly entertained by the woman behind us telling us all about her strategy to store the two gallons of ice cream she was buying with her coupons. We also got a private viewing of her scar from her sharp ring…apparently a direct result of opening and closing the toilet lid in her mom’s bathroom so the story goes. Too much information? Perhaps. Did she bring a big old smile to our faces? Definitely! One more quick stop along the way afforded us the opportunity to stumble upon an 800 year old Douglas Fir Tree. You know…your standard roadside pull off.
Nearing Tofino, we began to hunt for a real campground (in place of our standard parking lot set up) with the high hopes of falling asleep to crashing waves and walking barefoot in the sand the next morning. And boy did we find a campsite!
It did not take long to realize that Tofino was the opposite of cheap…much less free (Ahem Backpacker haha!) We tried a couple of campgrounds near the park entrance, but unwilling to pay close to the price of a cheap hotel room, we opted to keep looking. Cue Mussel Beach!
Off the main drag we saw a sign pointing to camping just a little ways off the beaten path. With a short 8km (about 4 mile) drive we figured we could save a little dough and also find a more secluded site. Perfect! Right? Well off the beaten path translates to on the beat up path. The almost-logging road into Mussel Beach was so ridden with potholes, dips, and bumps that it took over 45 minutes to reach the entrance. We half joked the whole way that when we did finally reach our coveted destination that they would be closed or cost $35 like everywhere else despite the long haul in. Joke was on us when the very primitive sites did in fact range from $25-35. (Keep in mind that there was not even drinking water available.) Karma was no doubt on our side when the owner took pity on us and let us park the White Rascal beachside for only $10! Our scummy, ragged appearance, desperate eyes, and the fact that we had not eaten dinner yet as it was rounding in on 9pm probably played a part too. Needless to say, we scooped up his offer faster than Canadians drive! (VERY FAST!)
We awoke to a very dreary, rainy coastal day and spent the day smeared in fog for the most part. Although we did venture out onto a couple of Pacific Rim’s beaches, without much visibility we chose to primarily fill our time by checking out the fabulous visitor center and scoping out Tofino’s local art galleries. Good standard rainy day activities if we do say so ourselves.
The mellow string of events stops there though! Suited up in big red jumpsuits, we were ready for…drumroll please…WHALE WATCHING! All aboard! Our group hopped on our zodiac boat (imagine a hybrid raft/speedboat) and zoomed off! That morning we had the pleasure of hanging out with sea lions, seals, and even the rarely seen puffin birds! Alas, no whales…yet! With a couple hour stop on an island peninsula we hiked through a lush rainforest made up of moss-covered Jurassic Park style foliage to a beautiful, steamy hot springs where we spent the late morning and early afternoon soaking underneath waterfalls and watching the tide rise. Not a bad way to spend the lunch hour! It was absolutely amazing!
We boarded our trusty vessel again with fingers crossed for some whale sightings. Lucky for us, a couple of Grey Whales came out to play and bask in the sun just starting to peep through the clouds. They put on quite a show — blowing water high into the air and diving back down to feed along the ocean bottom splashing their tails all the while. (They do not move particularly fast, but they move quick enough to make it a challenge to snap a good photo as evidenced below.) It was truly magical! It was just so crazy to think that these 40-foot creatures were swimming around beneath us. Not something we will soon forget!
Back on land, we saddled our trusty steed and set off towards the other side of the island. Out on the Saanich Peninsula just northwest of Victoria is the charming seaside town of Sidney. Arriving late at night, we got some shuteye in a parking lot (as per usual) and opened our eyes to yet another gray day. For once the rain and clouds complimented our plans as we toured the many local bookstores Sidney is famous for. The leaking ceilings with buckets catching the regular staccato drips only enhanced the experience as we perused the messy towers of books ranging from the acclaimed classics to obscure oldies to the mainstream bestsellers. We lost ourselves among the shelves for hours! Had it not been for the sea cider house we wanted to see that afternoon we just might still be there. But all good things must come to an end…even if only for the next gem to present itself!
We navigated ourselves towards the local sea cider winery we had heard so much about only to be greeted by rows of blooming apple trees and a gorgeous view overlooking the orchard and the sea. We sampled a variety of tasty ciders and spoke in snooty tones with our pinkies lifted. (Not really…but the samples were delicious!) Following the short tour we popped back to Victoria for one last authentic night in Canada. We pricelined a hotel right on the harbor for a steal of a deal, ate pizza, and kicked back for a night of relaxation, bad television, and real showers! While it may not be what is considered a genuine experience it was just what the doctor ordered! It’s really all about the simple things in life afterall, right?!
Here we are on the ferry headed stateside; geared up and ready to start our backpack along the High Divide Traverse Trail to the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park tomorrow!
Check out the gallery below (Click for larger images):