Tag Archives: Nanaimo

Three Days in March, An Island Sojourn

With a few precious days off and a rare chance to get our whole family together, we headed off to Vancouver Island two Saturdays ago for a short camping vacation.

IMG_4433 copyB
BC Ferries, our cruise ship for the trip to Nanaimo
IMG_4446 copyB
My daughter with our illustrious family dog Amigo

The idea was to catch an afternoon ferry over to Departure Bay from Horseshoe Bay then hang out in Nanaimo for the first night. There’s a nice private campground at the mouth of the Nanaimo River called  Living Forest Campground that we like to stay at there.

16734576470_3e5662b25f_z
Georgia Strait on a sunny afternoon

The boat ride over was relatively uneventful and pleasant, so we arrived in Nanaimo at around 230 pm. With some time to spare, we stopped in at Petroglyph Provincial Park for some exploration. We had driven past the park sign for years without ever visiting , and I’m quite glad we finally did. In addition to the petroglyphs, there are also some bouldering possibilities there. We were there for about half an hour, and enjoyed the stay immensely. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/petroglyph/#

16301996843_7faab0cf02_z
Queen of the Hill

My daughter has an innate talent for climbing just about anything, so of course she ran up this face to a tiny ledge and scrambled up from there! Naturally, the slide down was twice as much fun, so she did it again and so did I!

16734599630_dbd838f3c4_z

16299640994_b343770723_z
One of the petroglyphs we saw. Is this one authentic? Not so sure
16922030475_e2a97d6af2_k
These are some of the petroglyphs we were certain were legitimate historical relics
16922022665_a68db2fd6a_z
There was some bouldering to be had here as well!

The views at the campground did not disappoint. We were able to see not only the Nanaimo River and Gabriola Island but much of Nanaimo Harbour as well. The blend of the estuary’s natural scenery and the industry beyond gave us plenty to look at, and we passed the rest of the evening drinking cold beverages and listening to the calls of barred owls by the campfire before turning in.

16743325749_ef62123180_z
The view from our campground, with Gabriola Island in the distance
16743314099_47f83d0431_z
Cliffs along one of the campground’s trails
16743322679_59cbc662d0_z
Nanaimo River

The campground has a number of trails that give you a fine view of the river delta and the area is well known for its birdwatching opportunities as well.

16928249632_4de860e6ce_z
Nanaimo Harbour gathering dusk

The following day we awoke to overcast skies and headed south along Highway 1 toward Victoria before swinging west toward Sooke on Highway 14. The spring rains hit hard late Sunday morning, as we arrived in Langford to fuel up.

Sunday’s destination? French Beach Provincial Park. It has become a family favourite of ours over the years. Set in a beautiful forest of cedar and Sitka spruce, it features a cobblestone beach that crashes and rattles when the Pacific surf crashes its shores. If you’re lucky, you can also catch glimpses of migrating gray whales in March and April.

16281683163_820a6896f3_z
French Beach

Along the way, my wife and daughter got a chance to stop off at a local meadery called Tugwell Creek near the town of Shirley to sample its wares.

logo2

 

http://tugwellcreekfarm.com

Mead, if you’ve not heard of it before, is an alcoholic beverage, wine to be specific, made with honey! Tasty stuff, and something to do while you wait out the rainstorm, which by now was hitting us in full stride! We pulled in at French Beach by mid afternoon, and after a very wet hike on the nearby trails, we spent the rest of the day drying out.

16875767246_2f1bce26c3_z
One rainy afternoon!
16279287904_f993b81d94_z
Coastal Sitka Spruce rainforest

These rocks below are the cobbles that generate the signature sounds of French Beach, especially on days of high surf and brisk winds. This place as as unique for its sound experience as it is for anything else.

16715506649_864cf6277f_z

 

Sometimes it rains so much on the coast that attempting to have a campfire is almost an exercise in futility, and this Sunday was just such a day. We amused ourselves by drinking, reading, creating dinner, and playing games, all good fun!

IMG_9472 copyC
The kids clowning it up on the beach
16875795636_fabd57eef3_z
The shoreline, with its wind battered Sitka Spruce
16281659613_85ae2a14a8_z
Intertidal marsh created by high surf

 

Monday morning dawned with much improved weather, and upon seeing some sunlight, I made for the beach that morning. The tide was at ebb, but the waves were much higher and the beach clattered with its all too familiar sounds. I was able to see across the waters to the Olympic Peninsula and Washington state, in the United States.

16875809926_0f4478761e_z
After the rains

While there were no whales in sight, the odd Harbour Seal popped its head out in curiosity. Seas were calm, and birds could be heard when the surf receded. Listen, if you like, to the sounds of French Beach in the video below…

16900444012_e8c3d0eecb_z
Salal and driftwood
16281691283_73b219ecbf_z
Calm seas
16714041488_fc090c36da_z
Salmonberry in bloom

 

I returned to camp and ended up going back to the beach again with my son, who had just awakened. We spent another half hour there before breakfast. He has a natural love of being near water, even to the point that he often prefers to walk in the rain.

16279304744_ae5305e0d1_z
Clatter!

16901677895_7f5196b302_z

This photo below had me thinking back to a time when he couldn’t peer through an outhouse  window six feet off the ground. Time flies, and your kids grow up fast!

IMG_4505 copyB
“Scared ya, didn’t I?” He says to me.

We eventually decided to head north toward Port Renfrew, with the idea of camping on the beach at Jordan River. Unfortunately, the CRD has temporarily closed the area to camping while a dam above the town is being assessed for safety reasons. Some time was spent on the beach watching surfers and paddleboarders out on the break.

16745535718_797c2b69e7_z
Jordan River, popular with sufers and paddleboarders

16907281986_5c4da6a9c1_z

16907275786_74dbc7d646_z
Jordan River surf shack through the trees

Since the sunshine was holding true, the choice was made to reverse directions and retrace our steps toward Nanaimo again. This time the plan was to stay the night at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park near Parksville. Though this meant a little longer on the road, it would also make for a more relaxed return trip the next day as the park is not all that far from Departure Bay. On the way back toward Sooke we stopped at Sandcut Beach Regional Park, which is not too far from French Beach, and my daughter and I hiked down to the shores.

16931923252_393f489fe9_z
Sandcut Beach

16933229965_fcc6d84be0_z

16933243755_3eba2ed940_z

 

 

16725891407_363f84cb4e_z

It was an ideal cruising day for the trip around the horn, as the sunshine persisted. We even pulled over  to pick up some farm fresh eggs in Sooke along the way. On this Monday, even the people driving the Malahat near Victoria didn’t seem to have their usual frenzied sense of urgency, and we hit little or no traffic until we arrived in Nanaimo.

It was about 4 pm when we rolled into Rathtrevor Beach. Once there, I tended to splitting some firewood and we took turns walking the beach and trails. Rathtrevor is a special place to me, as I always see something interesting that I hadn’t before, whether it be animals, trees, or distant mountains.

16329460744_406e8ac87e_z
Afternoon on the beach at Rathtrevor

The park is noted not only for its beach but also for its forests of old growth Douglas Fir. There are very few low elevation fir forests that remain intact on Vancouver Island as most of them have been harvested long ago. There is considerable biodiversity and wildlife that lives on there despite the area’s popularity in the summer months. The beach and its reasonably sheltered waters make it ideal for watersports like kayaking and canoeing too.

16329396544_92a2929802_z
Douglas Fir

I had not noticed on my last visit, but you can see the hulking mass of Tantalus Mountain, 2605 metres tall, visible in the distance.

16331607843_a179e86227_z
Tantalus Mountain, in Tantalus Provincial Park, across the waters, 55X zoom
16950337072_f4bb7bf6ae_z
The forest

I was particularly interested in seeing what the sunset had to offer after dinner and a couple of very cold beers, so I walked back to the beach just as the sun was beginning to set.

16331634073_2886229c11_z
Texada Island in the distance
16329340004_5c1e848639_z
Looks like I found me a friend who also likes sunset watching!
16764106638_62533d6de5_z
Tantalus again, with alpenglow
16329258114_fc1c4185d5_z
Campfire!

I had already known that Rathtrevor was an epic place to catch the sunrise, but I certainly was more than contented with the sunset too. It was a very quiet scene, silent but for the odd call of the occasional owl. It’s very obvious why the people of Parksville enjoy this place so much as it’s one of the island’s most beautiful parks. More beer and laughter ensued late into the night, but that wasn’t going to deter me from getting up early to see the sunrise!

It’s 6 am Tuesday morning, and I’m rolling out of bed trying not to wake anyone, a normal occurrence on our road trips. As someone who craves solitude, something I take naturally to but that was well reinforced spending mornings with my father while younger, there is really nothing quite like the sun’s first rays. A mere five minute walk had me on the beach to begin the day.

16765568359_a6c63b95f0_z
Gerald Island is the largest, I think, with Mistaken Island and some of the Ballenas Islands in there as well
16331661893_837dfafce6_z
Looking toward Howe Sound and the Britannia Range
16329343394_e8d37c68dc_z
Heart of the sunrise

This, however, was no ordinary sunrise. The whole time I was there, the natural world virtually paraded before me. First, there were the calls of loons, followed by herons swooping by above. Then came the sounds of eagles, woodpeckers, and songbirds. Canada Geese flew across the waters at intervals as did Brants, and the entire time I was serenaded by the barking of sea lions.

16764105408_f03807aff7_z
My friend’s back too!
16873109655_47c1cee191_z
Sunlit trees of Rathtrevor Beach

It was soon evident that there were sea lions everywhere, perhaps as many as fifty, from where I was observing. I later was to discover that there was a run of herring going on, so of course the food source was what was drawing all the attention. When I returned to the beach later with my son, we also spotted a killer whale breaching in the distance and a few harbour seals, and not long after that a sizable pod of dolphins also showed up to the party. It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in some time.

16925783136_1a7a7ed501_z

16744366087_5f2a430a2c_z
One last look…

Reluctantly, I headed back to camp for breakfast, and the girls set out for a walk on the trails for a while before we left for home. As I write this today, with the rain crashing down here on Vancouver’s North Shore, it reminds me of how much I appreciate sunny spring days here on the west coast. This trip was well worth the time. Here is another image taken on the deck of the ferry, looking toward Mt Garibaldi, the closest volcano to Greater Vancouver. Until next time…

16925808596_cd20b85746_z

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements