Tofino

I’ve wanted to go to Tofino since I moved here (which was almost 6 years ago, good grief). It’s always described as a small town but I think you’ll find it’s a bit bigger than you expect, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Great for surfing (which I’ve never done), the outdoors (which I do a lot) and food (which I’ve done since birth). Actually, “food” doesn’t do it justice, it’s some of the best dining I’ve had in Canada!

This was also a chance to try out my new Sony a6000!

Day 1: Getting there + Ucuelet + Food Find

From Vancouver you’ll have to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and then drive the full length of Highway 4 to get there. Takes a while and you get to stop at Port Alberni and several lakes.

You’ll know when you’re close when you see the Pacific Rim Visitor Centre, there you can go right (South) to Ucluelet or left (North) to Tofino. Since it was a good break in the weather, we decided to head to Ucluelet and do the Wild Pacific Trail.

After this, and with the weather setting in, we headed up to the Tin Wis Resort for our first two days. Really nice place I have to say. Every room seemed to have an ocean view, and our one also had the grounds as well. Didn’t spend a huge amount of time out there given that we were in the middle of winter.

After that we headed into town and ended up into Tofino itself, we spotted a pub and thought “that will be a cozy place for a quick dinner”. It was Shelter, and was a full blown restaurant with a pub feel. Food was fantastic! We knew that Tofino had a reputation for good food but didn’t expect to be falling over it this way.

Anyway, home, up somewhat early the next day as the morning as it was expected to not be rainy (this was playing on our minds a bit as you can probably tell).

Day 2: National Park Exploration

We knew today would be the one we would dedicate to the Pacific Rim National Park. This is where the main set of beaches and surfing spots can be found. It’s also worth noting that I became a Canadian Citizen in October last year… so I have a Cultural Access Pass that gets me into the park for free!

Anyway our first stop was Wickaninnish Beach and the Kᵂisitis Visitor Centre. Surfers were out and we got talking to an Aussy who had moved here and done much the same thing I did 6 years ago, except she was surfing rather than skiing, and we talked about the glorious Cultural Access Pass that was saving me a few dollars a day. 🙂

Eagles started to make an appearance too, but didn’t get any good photos yet

While we were at the Visitor Centre, I read a few concerning signs about Unexploded Ordinance. Tofino, during World War II, was a military firing range and it seems not all of it went bang when it was supposed to. (As I was looking for a link for this, I found this list of UXO Sites and saw there are a few near my house!)

We headed over the rocks and went to the South Beach nearby, well worth it if you get a chance

After that, we had quite the debate about where we should go for lunch. I was firm that I wanted to go to Tacofino at some point this weekend, but Tripadvisor and several friends were mentioning the Wildside Grill. In the end, Wildside it was.

After that, we headed for Long Beach and more Eagle spotting.

Finally, we headed up Radar Hill, site of, you guessed it, an old Radar Station, where there is a memorial to Canadian Forces during the Korean War.

The views we got were not as spectacular as the ones on that page.

Anyway, back to the Tin Wis, where I managed to get a good panorama and just decided to have pizza for tea as we were going to a more fancy place tomorrow.

Day 3: Hotel change, more beaches and trails and Tacofino

No photos of this one, but I headed up to the Common Loaf Bakery for an awesome breakfast for both of it.

We roamed the beach near the Tin Wis after checking out (“roamed” sounds like a great word doesn’t it).

Then we went to the Tonquin Trail as the weather was nice and we wanted yet more roaming!

After that, we could finally scratch my Tacofino itch! Headed off to Chesterman Beach to eat it.

The Eagle eyed amongst you might have spotted a building on the peninsula, that’s The Pointe Restaurant, where we would be going later.

Anyway, we headed to our second hotel, the Pacific Sands Beach Resort. Watched the end of the Superbowl then did a little exploring on the beach.

We watched the end of the Superbowl then headed out for dinner. The Pointe was certainly fine dining if I’ve ever seen it.

Thing is, I didn’t take many photos of it. Was fantastic none the less! Excellent staff too!

Day 4: Heading home

Well it was rainy, so one last breakfast stop at Common Loaf then we headed home.

Chilkoot Trail

Eight months ago, I eagerly posted that I was in Whitehorse and about to start the Chilkoot Trail… and of course I get back and get busy so forget to actually write a post about it Still, no time like the present?

If you want to see a map of all of this, here is one courtesy of Parks Canada.

Day 0: Whitehorse

I’m calling this day 0 as it’s not really day 1… we had to get into Whitehorse the day before and stayed at the Beez Kneez hostel (great, well kept, brilliant hostel, has WiFi, friendly owners). We explored for a little bit and found the

Getting to sleep that night we did notice the longer days up that far North.

Day 1: Travel to Skagway, Dyea and setting off

Early start and headed to find some breakfast before setting of on the bus for Skagway, Alaska. The bus driver seemed extremely pleased that I had my I94-W already from an earlier trip. Saved time at the border. We also stopped for an hour at the (somewhat touristy) Carcross, Yukon.

Once in Skagway we got registered at the trail office and were told in no uncertain terms that metal detectors were not allowed! Seems they had a bit of a rash of people going hunting for treasures with them. All signed up, we head off to find some food and something to remember the first time in Alaska! In Skagway itself, we did observe quite a lot of cruise ship passengers… and suitable places to serve those passengers. I’ll be honest, the heavy tourist focus isn’t my thing and not something I really like that much. If I go to a place I don’t want to think that I’m being fleeced for cash at every turn, and as nice as Skagway was, unfortunately that felt true. We toured round for a bit and found a few decent shops none the less, you had to look for them but they could be found… Also, see that place call the Red Onion? It’s a former brothel turned into a theme restaurant.

We caught a bus (all of this organised by Hannah by the way, thanks again) up to the trailhead just near Dyea, Alaska.

So we headed off into the first of what would be several different areas… the first being coastal rain forest… and at least in my mind, the definition of it. Green, wet, leafy trees and (despite being early summer) somewhat humid. For the most part this was easy going, mostly a gentle uphill (but some steeper sections). Note that you won’t get water until about the 6km mark where there is a stream, so don’t do what I did and set off with just 1L that morning! You’ll see quite a few leftovers that the goldrush folks dropped (but not that many) on your way. We had great fun spotting these and shouting “artifact!” when seen. We did about 8km that day before setting up at Canyon City for the night.

By far, the note of this night was a laminated book which contained the journal of Leo Healy, titled To the Klondike, quoting the abstract:

Diary of nineteen-year-old Leo R. Healy, who with his brother George, journeyed to the Yukon Klondike gold fields in 1898. They arrived in Seattle after a train trip from Chicago. There they bought their outfits and voyaged to Skagway, then went over the Chilkoot Pass to Dawson. After a brief stay, seeing the conditions in Dawson, they returned home via the Yukon and St. Michael.

Later I emailed the Alaksa State Library and they were kind enough to send me a copy of the diary, unfortunately, I don’t think the copyright notice gives me permission to post it here, but you can request it from them for personal use. I strongly suggest you all do using the details above, MS0013-07-04 is the document number). Made good reading in the hut to hide out from the rain.

Day 2: Canyon City to Sheep Camp

Started off wet unfortunately but dried up. We saw a few more artifacts along the way. Things began to get more rocky and trees thinned out a bit. However, it was flatter than yesterday. Just as well, because your pack should still be pretty heavy with food at this point… you’ll need your energy for tomorrow for The Pass (see this elevation profile I posted of that). I probably shouldn’t have polished off a whole bag of beef jerky then…

The wettest night of the trip ensued. We just got the tents up in time to avoid it. We hung out in the huts with the new friends we were making (you tend to see the same people each night in camps) and played asshole. Enjoyed eating a bunch of tortilla wraps and Buffalo Chicken filling for them. We met some folks who were shuttling food drops up to a group, they were doing almost our entire route so far in a day, no problem at all! The Rangers (who had a small house nearby) gave a briefing on what to expect and where the border actually was. Sleep time for what was ahead…

Day 3: The Pass

Oh this is the one we were working up in our heads. Got up a little earlier, got walking as soon as the food was done. We headed into more mountainous terrain now, a few streams to cross, snow starting to appear in patches. You have a general uphill for about 2 hours until you start to reach a moraine and scree field. There are a LOT of discarded artifacts in this area.

Oh did I mention a large scree field known as The Scales? This is what seperated the men from the boys back in the Gold Rush days. People would charge $1 (a great deal in that time I might add) to haul your Gold hunting gear up and you would quickly pay it to avoid doing it yourself. Clearly such a fearsome terrain adversary would best anyone meeting it these days…

Nope.

Quite easy really!

On we went, now the terrain was above the treeline high alpine stuff. Rocky at first. We found where the US border was. So we stop for a photo. Simple enough isn’t it? Just set up the camera, set it on self-timer and run like hell towards your spot right on the side of a ledge with a heavy pack on your back?

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I nearly fell off a cliff between Alaska, USA and British Columbia, Canada so I could be in this photo!

Instead when I sat down I lost my balance, Christina fortunately realized this and dived across my legs before I tipped backwards!

On we trotted to the ranger station and outhouses. The Rangers (one Canadian, one American) were great, really friendly and informative… in addition to hiking at the speed of mountain goats! (Seriously, they almost ran up the Scales)

Hiking alongside the gigantic, blue Crater Lake you could see the ice/snowbergs (is snowberg an actual term?) well on their way to breaking up. This section is also memorable as it’s where the downhill really started coming in.

A few river crossings later we arrived at Happy Camp. Mosquitoes were bad here so it’s time to break out the nets we bought in Whitehorse.

That Dark Chocolate Cheese Cake was hiked up in secret, along with some candles, for Hannah’s birthday (well, a little early, it was the day after we got back).

Day 4: Happy Camp to Bare Loon Lake

This was a more downhill day, we felt we deserved that. You started off in Alpine areas and glacial bowls with lakes everywhere, until you reach Deep Lake campground.

After this it’s a walk along the edge of a gorge, following the river, moving noticeably faster now. This area takes you down into the treeline again and the soil becomes a richer red colour, more desert-like. Eventually you make it to Lindeman City and the small museum there.

This is where we kept thinking we would get to Bare Loon Lake in no time at all… but we were not aware of the smaller lakes in the area so kept thinking it was closer than it was. We found ourselves on undulating terrain here too. Eventually though we reached it. This was easily my favourite camp because:

  1. It was sunny and warm weather
  2. After 4 days without a shower, we could have swim in the (freezing bloody cold) lake
  3. It was more like summer than the last few days

Day 5: Bare Loon Lake to the finish line at Bennett

Started off the day by taking plenty of photos are Bare Loon then did the final, very sandy section of the trip. Plenty of artifacts now and our packs noticeably more empty and lighter.

We got to Bennett just in time to see the train we would take tomorrow depart. We’d planned for this to be an easy day of chilling out and swimming… although we did notice a lot of glass around the place. I was down to my last 2 freeze dried meals, so a disciplined diet was needed (that means I looked at them both as if they must be eaten immediately). We then continued our crib playing (taught by Hannah).

During the crib games, the heavens opened on us and we decided it was easier to just move the tents onto the deck, as we were the only ones around (we thought about sleeping inside but didn’t).

Day 6: Trip back to Whitehorse

Final day, final bagged meal… I had to have Chicken Teryaki for breakfast. A game or two of crib then lunch was served at the train station that we had prebooked. The hikers get their own room away from the tourists (as we all smell by that point)!

Train trip back to Carcross was quite scenic, I’ll just post the photos as it really was a scenic train trip…

A few hours in Carcross again then we headed back to Whitehorse… look I’ll be honest, I wanted the following:

Done!

I added extra bacon!

I added extra bacon!

However, I shot myself in the foot there… the rich food kept me awake all night and I wound up only sleeping a couple of hours…

Day 7: Flew Home

Back home!

In Whitehorse, Chilkoot starts tomorrow!

I’m writing this on the plane to Whitehorse. After a year of planning, many changes, it eventually became just the three of Hannah, Christina and myself leaving for the the trip.

As I write this, we are flying over Deeks Lake, The Chief, Squamish, Tantalus, Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk… Christina is taking a bunch of photos. The view out of the plane is amazing! Better still because we’ve actually hiked all those places. We also know that those areas are clear and will be a good place to go when we get back to normal.

Anyway, back to Chilkoot talk, the forecast is 40% chance of rain for the next 3 days (until Sunday), then sun for the rest… I’ll be honest, I’m concerned about that rain… We have rain jackets with us but it will be a rather miserable experience if we are getting wet for three days. But, the less arduous days are sunny, so that should lift our spirits.

Equipment wise, we were somewhat disorganized after our last trip. Hannah can’t find her tent, so has borrowed one. It seems she had my cook set and bowl, thankfully I have those back! All of us are debating how much food we actually need. We’ve found there is a Coast Mountain Sports in Whitehorse and we are going!

I wish we could have brought Jesse!

Another hour to Whitehorse then we get some sleep for the night, then bus to the trailhead tomorrow.

—– Some time passes —–

So we got to Whitehorse and checked into the Beez Kneez Hostel. Nice place, very friendly owners. Went out to Whitehorse and had a great afternoon lunch at the Alpine Bakery. This place has a small town feel to it, but you see all the things from the bigger cities. We headed to the excellent Coast Mountain Sports in Whitehorse and loaded up on bits we had forgotten or needed, including bug nets. While there, we were told to get up at 3am to start The Pass, as falling rocks will be a concern…

Back at the hostel, final packing done, now off for a proper dinner before dehydrated bagged meals for 5 days.