Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Love Affair Continues…

Since reading about the Pacific Marine Circle Route published in the latest edition (winter 2013) of the BCAA magazine WESTWORLD, the road had been calling us. Last Tuesday morning we were greeted by sun and warmth; a spectacular day for goin' down the road.

Rod and I had both, on separate occasions, traveled the rugged, unpaved logging inland roads of southern Vancouver Island in the '70's. Back then one needed either a 4 wheel drive or a substantial suspension. Lacking those, an intrepid driver with excellent reflexes and nerves of steel was needed to maneuver all the obstacles along the way. It wasn't about getting anywhere in particular but about the thrill of the drive.

The article promised a paved road through the interior (completed in 2009) linking Port Renfrew on the west coast with Cowichan Bay on the east, winter storm waves, and "some of the biggest and oldest trees on the planet". As if I needed further enticement, I knew that baked goods awaited at TRUE GRAIN in Cowichan Bay, yum!

I packed some snacks and water for the trip. We jumped into the car and took off at 9a.m.

There was so much to see along the 255km loop that we had to choose what to pass by and save for another day or our day trip would become an overnighter, the kitties would be ticked off and there would be poo. I looked longingly as we passed: Sooke potholes, Sandcut Beach, French Beach, the Deja vu café at Jordan River overlooking the ocean, and Sombrio Beach.

2 lone surfers hanging out in calm waters at China Beach
We stopped to stretch our legs and hiked down a well groomed trail so I could revisit China Beach. In contrast to my last visit here in the late '70's when I came to watch the surfers (surfing in Canada!) no bushwhacking was required to get to the beach.

mood lighting at China Beach
We stopped in at TOMI'S HOME COOKIN' in Port Renfrew. I thoroughly enjoyed a bowl of some of the best ever coconut curry chicken soup with home made bread while Rod chowed down on a burger and Cesar salad. When I commented on the picture on the wall of the Red Creek Fir the world's largest Douglas Fir and talked of my intention to visit it (actually hug it,  though I didn't say it in so many words) and the San Juan Sitka Spruce (Canada's largest Sitka Spruce tree) our host pulled out a map of the area detailing the Tall Tree Tour in Port Renfrew area, the many notable giant trees that could be found, and how to get to them. She gave us a timeline and further directions.

We realized that this quest would require a trip of its own. Oh, well just another excuse to come back and have more soup along the way.

Just down the road from the restaurant and a short walk through a forest, unlike any I've seen on the island before, are Botanical Beach and Botany Bay separated by an outcropping of rock. These have got to be the prettiest, most magical little beaches I've ever seen. We hit them at high tide so few tide pools were available to explore but I could have stayed all day just watching the surf roll in.

Botanical Beach
At Botany Bay a sociable, pot-smoking, former hippy/logger/surfer dude showed up and struck up a conversation with us. How wonderful it is out here especially on a beauty of a sunny winter day when there is no one else around. How blessed are we to be living here. His sentiments hinted that he too was an import from another place; true. He assured me that the growth of the area was natural. Due to the lay of the land and the prevailing winds, little pockets of micro climates are created throughout the island, each with their own distinctive flora and terrain.

He told us, "It's either pissing rain or sunny up here while down in Victoria you have more consistently good weather mixed in with drippy, dull days. If you don't like what the weather's doing where you are just hop in your car and drive to where it's better." I'll keep this in mind.

Huge Heron swooped in to sit for a spell
Sensing that he was eager to strip off and soak in the sun in privacy we said our goodbyes. The sun would be set before we got to Cowichan Bay and there was still much to take in.

Logged areas scar the landscape of the interior but this wasn't the unbroken desolated moonscape that stretched for miles and miles, as far as I could see, that I'd remembered from my past travels here. Signs are scattered along the coastal route noting dates of reforestation. Most of those forests are younger than I and much taller than I would expect, beautiful and lush with a wildness and density due to the effects of the western rainforest climate. And so it is in the interior. Fortunately stands of old growth still remain and I pray this will always be so. My hope is that this route will expose people to the majesty of these ancient beings; in their presence reverence is born.

Just a side note: Another excursion to undertake is to walk amongst the old ones at Cathedral Grove as we did on our trip to Tofino. You'll come away intoxicated and rejuvenated by the smells of cedar and fir which will linger in your hair as you drop into bed assuring a delicious night's sleep.

An island fit for fairies in Ferry Lake
Ferry Lake was a Zen-like magical little stop along the way; another excuse to return for further exploration.

We emerged at Cowichan Bay shortly after the sun had fallen and grabbed a bite at COWICHAN BAY SEAFOOD - a rich, hearty smoked salmon pasta for me and loaded fish chowder, turkey sandwich with a small salad for Rod. While Rod waited for the food to come I trotted over to TRUE GRAIN just under the wire (they close at 6 p.m.) and I stocked up on bread, shortbread cookies and carrot raisin & pumpkin seed spelt cookies.

We enjoyed our leisurely meal before hitting the road again and rolled in about 8 p.m. and were greeted by two starving, vocal kitties but… no poo!

Is it possible to love a place as you would a person because I swear that I'm in love with this island.

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