Exploring Tofino’s Long Beach

It was our last day at the ‘real’ West Coast, so we wanted to experience what the Tofino craze is all about: Long Beach, Canada’s (only?) surfing hot spot and part of Pacific Rim National Park. As soon as I heard the name I remembered it from one of my first photography books. In my early days, I only did nature photography, because it wasn’t as intimidating as people. Back then I thought I’d probably never visit it. Yet here I was, threading the sands of Long Beach. Strange what curves life can take 🙂

We’d barely scrambled over the pile of logs that was blocking the beach entrance, when threatening clouds blew in from the ocean and covered the sky. It didn’t take long for pellets of hail to follow, but for once they went as fast as they came, and the clouds made way for some gorgeous dramatic skies. Tanja went crazy with excitement. For the next minutes, all I could hear was the shutter of the camera and Tanja cursing when a distant hiker wouldn’t stay in place for her composition. Myself, I had a blast with unleashing my inner mountain goat and getting on top of giant rocks. I’ve got to admit: Long Beach is amazing. As good as Oregon Coast.

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Tonquin Beach

Next, Tanja found us a gorgeous little hike at Tonquin Beach on the West side of the peninsula. And finally we took a look at the Pacific rainforest, adjacent to the beach. Strangely enough, the highway splits the park into two chunks. And each part “has a distinct character of vegetation and growth.” Put differently, they look and feel a lot different from each other. Don’t be fooled into thinking you only want to see one part. It’s worth visiting both. The part that’s closest to the beach (and holds the parking lot) feels a lot younger and wilder, whereas the chunk across the highway holds all the giant trees. The latter was my abolute favorite, because of the similar but more intense atmosphere of Cathedral grove. Everywhere I looked, I could feel life moving at its own speed. Faster for some, and a lot slower for others. “Fascinating”, David Attenborough would probably whisper while gesturing vigorously :).

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For the remainder of the day we drove back to Port Alberni, where our car camping adventure started over by finding a suitable overnight parking spot. Only this time, we settled for the easiest solution: Walmart.

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Elk Falls Provincial Park

It was Sunday morning and we planned on spending another night on Vancouver Island. So there was no rush to get to our next location: Campbell River. Tanja had stumbled on raving reviews of the waterfalls in Elk Falls Provincial Park which seemed a great idea. While cruising along the highway we noticed signs to Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park and decided to check it out. The park turned out to be a hidden gem, because the falls are certainly not little.

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Next we continued to Elk Falls where under a heavy downpour we hiked along the Canyon view trail and gazed at the enormous cascade from the new viewing platform and suspension bridge. Our clothes were thoroughly soaked by the time we got back to the car but we refused to give in. Adventure must prevail. So we set course for the nearby Strathcona Dam, not expecting the drive would be so interesting. Snow fell, the gravel road turned out littered with potholes and a tree had fallen across it (I unsuccessfully tried to push it aside). But it was worth the effort: the 360 degree view on top of the dam was spectacular.

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Change of plans

In the late afternoon we returned to Campbell River to reheat our chilled bodies over coffee. It was time for a long hard look at our situation and our plans for the next day. Initially we planned on visiting Horne Lake Caves but when Tanja found out about the spider-ridden caves, it was an immediate no-go. On top of that, we were cold, rained-out and tired. And no improvement was forecasted. Simultaneously we admitted that we’d had enough and were ready to go home. Funny enough, we had both been hanging in because we didn’t want to disappoint each other. We’d barely spoken the words when we ran to the car and sped to the highway. This while excited about the outlook to sleep in our warm, dry bedroom that night. Our West Coast road trip adventure was amazing. And so was coming home to our zen living room and home-cooked meals :).

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