Kevin’s Wedding and Camping in Uculete
Our Mini summer vacation had us going to the island for Kevin’s wedding and a short camping trip on the west coast. Yuki and I took 4 days off but it felt a lot longer. We went to the island via bus and ferry and rented a car in Nanaimo. Using Yuki’s personal corporate rate, we were able to get 60% the regular price! Plus we didn’t have to pay for the ferry or worry about which ferry we’d get because we were walk-ons. The downside was that we had to get our heavy baggage through public transit.
Anyways, I requested a truck and they gave us a huge GMC 2500. In hindsight, I should have insisted on something smaller but it work out okay. It had an extra long bed and we didn’t once fit into a parking spot without sticking out beyond. This truck is like driving a tank.
The wedding was in Parksville and a busy affair. It was cool to take part in a ceremony on the beach. Yuki snagged this photo and we’re still waiting for photos from the wedding photographers — those guys were awesome too.
The morning after the wedding we checked out and had a late lunch with the family. Our camping trip started quite late because we had to pick up food supplies in Parksville before driving out to the west coast. Our goal was to camp near Ucluelet. It was a good thing we talked to Erica at the wedding because she gave us some great suggestions on where to camp and where to go. Erica even drew us a map which we used in tandem with our backroads mapbook and google maps. Along the way, we stopped at a Provincial Park for dinner where we were able to source water and wash our dishes afterwards.
Erica sent us to an unmarked area called salmon beach. It is about a 45-minute drive down some old logging roads. At first we ended up inside an Indian Reserve but eventually figured out where we were supposed to turn as the sun began to set. We parked the truck at the end of a narrow pathway covered in trees and hiked over a creek and for about 10 minutes to the beach. It was well past sunset when we arrived and we pitched the tent in the dark.
In the morning I heard some rustling outside our tent. It turns out we camped right beside a berry bush and something was having breakfast. We never saw it but I heard it the next morning too. The sun took some time to come out but when it did, this beach proved to be a good choice. Because we are facing Barkley Sound, the broken islands are to our South and there are mountains to our East. The beach is nice and sandy and the water of the small bay is pretty warm.
In the afternoon we decided to explore down the beach. Around the bend there was a small creek that we used a plank to cross and then we came to mussel beach. This is a paid campground and is full of motorhomes and small cabins. Surprisingly, the beach is all rock with tidal pools and the sandy area is all at the far end. We didn’t venture that far down but we did collect some sea shells while hunting for wildlife in the tidal pools.
After a nice afternoon nap we drove into Ucluelet. Based on Erica’s recommendation, we went to the very tip to visit the lighthouse park. The lighthouse itself was a disappointment because it isn’t that big or grand but there is a really nice trail along the coast. The Wild Pacific Trail loops around the lighthouse point and has several scenic spots for photography along with a park bench. Each bench gives a good view of the ocean and the little rocky islands off-shore. We really enjoyed walking this trail and it reminded us of Jeju island in South Korea which has a similar topography and trail.
We didn’t walk the entire trail because we wanted to go back into town for ice cream. Yuki made the tactical decision to visit the co-op, the town’s grocery store, where we found Haagan Dazs ice cream for 50% off. One little pint would be cheaper than visiting an ice cream parlour so we picked it up and sat in the parking lot listening to Taylor Swift and binge eating ice cream. We only managed to eat half the pint but that might also be a good thing.
Monday was a Statutory Holiday, August 1st, and Yuki’s birthday so we had an extra yummy breakfast of soup, eggs, sausage, and triple berry crumble. Our day was very relaxed with drive to Tofino. Along the way we stopped at Long Beach to see the view but decided not to pay the day use fee because it was windy and didn’t seem like a beach day. All that campgrounds were full and booked till September so we carried on. In Tofino we visited 3 shops find a kayak tour for the next day. We booked with Paddle West Kayaking through the Tree House Giftshop that is across from the co-op. They’re 20$ cheaper per person that the other two shops and the Paddle West Kayaking brochure.
After booking, we tried to go to a park overlooking the harbor to picnic but the tables were full so we drove to a nearby beach. The parking isn’t beside the beach but we walked in for some photos anyways. The walk is nice because there’s a bridge over the beach and the beach feels quite secluded. This isn’t a place most tourists go but it is a really nice place to be. Unfortunately, we could not stay long because we wanted to eat so we drove back into town and parked at the city park. There are a surprising number of French hippies here with hola hops. We made pasta and Yuki opened her birthday presents.
Since we weren’t able to get into any Provincial Parks, as originally planned, we had to drive back to Salmon Beach and pitch our tent again. This also meant that we had to get up earlier to drive back to Tofino in time for the trip.
The trip was pretty fun. Yuki and I took a tandem kayak while the two other people on the trip took singles. Our guide was very good and informative and we saw a lot of plant life. We didn’t see much wild life except for a few eagles, a dog at a floating cabin barking into the woods, and some cows at an indian reserve that have adapted to eating sea grass on the mud flats. Weird but true.
After the 6 hour trip we splurged on a dinner across the street. The fish tacos were good, as were the yam fries with chipotle sauce, but Yuki’s rice bowl left something to be desired… That desire was ice cream right outside of Port Alberni! We made the call to go home and visit Dad but on the way we stopped at a big ice cream shop for a snack.
Unfortunately, Dad had gone down to Victoria for the day so we weren’t able to get into the house. With two hours to kill, we went for an evening walk on the beach and then went into town to hang out at Tim Hortons. There, we realized that there wasn’t anything we wanted on the menu so we decided to park the truck under a street light in the parking lot and clean it out. We threw out or garbage and repack our bags for the ferry walk on. It was oddly satisfying to be productive and we timed it just right that when we went back home, Dad had just pulled into the garage.
Staying one night at home and seeing Dad rounded out a great trip. Though the trip back was rather hectic because we were running tight on time and with little fuel in the truck, the overall camping trip was a relax and restful time, one we needed after a busy summer and with a busy Europe trip ahead in September.