to the Pacific and back again, part 2

continued from part 1

Highway 4 was originally constructed as a route for logging trucks. It is full of twists and turns, and it often hugs the edge of a cliff. The views are stunning, yet the road can be treacherous. It is not for the faint of heart and the best way to travel here is slow. Even those familiar with its tricky corners usually exercise caution, and for good reason.

Some six months later a tragic single vehicle accident will end up costing the life of two paramedics on this very highway as it passes Kennedy Lake. They had just transported a patient to Port Alberni to the east, and on their return trip to Tofino, the ambulance they are travelling will end up plunging down 60 meters into the water below.

The story feels close to home when we hear of it, as it is a road we have travelled time and again in a part of the world that is incredibly beautiful. Yet in some stretches it is very narrow, with an unforgiving solid rock wall to the right, eastbound and a sheer drop-off to right, westbound. Something we have always noted. And in the trips since that tragic accident, as we drive here, we frequently comment on how little navigating room there is if an oncoming vehicle or wild animal would suddenly appear in our lane, and the tragedy comes to mind again.

Some of the footage in the following news clip includes scenes of the roadway, and you can see just how narrow and edge-of-the-cliff-hugging it really is.


Such a sad story. In the meantime, some of the exposed embankments have been reinforced and road improvement projects are ongoing.

This tragic event had not yet happened, however. Even so, many warning signs about sharp curves ahead and slowing down accompany us as we continue westwards until we reach one of my favourite parts of the roadway: a junction.

Turning left, and to the south, takes you to Ucluelet, a logging and fishing community with many charms of its own. However turning right, and to the north, takes you to Tofino and to the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean itself. We turn right.

And we turn in at our regular, favourite home on the beach, Pacific Sands, a family run place which really feels like a home away from home. There is some well-maintained landscaping with gardens which had have been lovingly created by the original owner who has since passed away. Throughout the grounds there is also an abundance of naturally occurring shrubs and trees, in keeping with the original gardening plans. A fresh new salmonberry blossom outside the office is in bloom right next to the remnant of one of last year’s berries.


We have a room with a view. The room is comfortable, but almost as importantly, here’s our view….


Note the puddles accumulating on the pathways to the beach from one of the many rainfalls…. However, the clouds are breaking up towards the west. Clear skies are surely on their way soon. The tide is high and the air is thick with the smell of salt. And the roar of the ocean….. it really is as incredible as all this.

Introducing one of our many neighbours at Pacific Sands. The rains bring the dew worms and other bugs to the surface, and the robins enjoy their spring feast.


We usually buy our bread at the Common Loaf in Tofino. Their Three-Grain is my favourite.

Across the street from the bakery there is a small memorial garden. A hydrangea blossom is in bloom there, and its leaves are fresh and green. So it is actually hard to tell if it is a remnant from last season or if spring has come early.


But of course, the main attraction in this corner of the planet is the beauty and the roar of the Pacific which are still as awe-inspiring as ever….


Our first morning begins with brilliant sunshine above us, but a dark sky is looming in the west across the Pacific. One of many storms is on its way…..


Another morning holds a surprise for us – there is snow on the ground! I think the tulips in the garden are in a bit of a shock, but they continue blooming stoicly.


I have never seen snow in Tofino before. But then it is the first week of April, probably the earliest time of the year I have been here. Even so, local reports indicate that snow is a lot less common there than it is in Vancouver.

After breakfast a walk on the beach reveals some snow on the driftwood. It is rapidly melting in the morning sunlight, but even so the sight is most unusual. It is so unusual, that the previous two sentences appeared with exclamation marks, but that seemed overkill, so they have been converted to periods instead. But for the record, it is a very rare sight indeed.


The local mountains are also displaying a fresh blanket of snow. It may be spring, but winter is obviously rather reluctant to make its retreat this year.


The snow up there does not melt like the snow on the driftwood, and they are the mountains we will be passing through on our return journey home. But not yet.

We are still enjoying our time on the western edge of Vancouver Island. Many storms come and go. One day about halfway through our stay, this is as close to a clearing sky as we would get ….

It is indeed another storm beginning to clear, yet another one would come overnight.


But of course, all the stormy weather did not stop us from enjoying the great outdoors. There were others who felt the same way, such as some crows which appeared in a previous post. To get there, just click on the image below and you will find a series of three photo images at Cox Bay. And clicking on the third of the three images there will take you back to this post.
treasure seekers

There are certainly treasures to be found here. A rather common sight here at Cox Bay is the appearance of sand dollars. Years ago, when we first stayed at Pacific sands, there was a photo on display in our living room of a beach strewn with these treasures. My first impression was that somebody must have arranged them for the photo. However, it turns out that after a storm, many of them are tossed onto the sand, and it is a very typical scene indeed.


Even the broken ones have a charm all their own.


The beach is vast, and often it feels like you have it to yourself. Yet there are a few others out here, some with their dogs who don’t seem to let the cool temperatures dampen their fun at all.


Eagles are at home here, too. Beyond the surf on nearby Lennard Island, an eagle is guarding its nest. An aerie it is called. The quality of the inset image is unfortunately very grainy, but that is how it was captured, and it does reveal details which the landscape view does not. So it is included here in this collection.


The weather varies greatly, as winter and spring duke it out between them. Here is a sunny bench with a view.


It was a bench such as this that my beloved Tante Ulla enjoyed so much on her visit here in October 2008. Somehow to see the benches here again reminds me of her, and I smile as I remember how much she enjoyed her time here. And the view from the bench is of course sheer eye candy, even on a cloudy day.


all images captured April 2010
to be concluded in the next post


as the crows fly

I think crows are delightful. I just can’t help it.
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Once upon a time
My love for crows began long ago. I remember a crow in my aunt’s neighbourhood when I was growing up. Hard to say if it was always the same one or not, since they all look so similar. But whenever she would call, “Jacob! Jacob!” a crow would appear and settle down on a perch nearby, either on a rooftop or a clothesline pole, and caw back a greeting in response. Considering that crows can live as long as 20 years, it could well have always been the same one.

For all their loudness and unattractive voices and perhaps a few other flaws, they do have some endearing qualities. They are very social. Families stay intact for a few years, with older siblings helping to care for and help raise the youngest ones. Then they move on and start families of their own.

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And they are incredibly intelligent.

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The shortest distance between two points
The saying may be, “straight as the crow flies”, and yet frequently, crows will follow the track of a roadway below them as they fly, following the dips and bends as they they go. A navigation adaption that their ancestors would not have been able to utilize before the roads were built. And yet successive generations have adapted successfully.

I noticed this while on a road trip to the Oregon west coast a few years ago. It would not surprise me if they were looking for any birds or small animals which may have been unfortunately killed on the highway, and their flight pattern allowed them to keep the roadway clear and also provide them with a supplement to their regular diet. It actually benefits both them and the drivers on the roadways.

crows cox bay april 2010

And they are such a delight to watch. The image above was captured at Cox Bay on Vancouver Island’s Pacific west coast, almost four years ago.

A tangle of bull kelp had been washed shoreward by the last high tide. A few crows were picking at it, looking for crow-treasure. However a new tide was coming in, and every once in a while the kelp would be covered by an incoming wave. Note the next wave coming towards the top of the image.

It almost appeared as if they were taking turns keeping an eye on the surf. For before the next wave reached the seaweed, the crows would fly to the safety of the sand. There they waited rather patiently while their perch was submerged beneath the surf. And then they headed back out again when it emerged once again.

waiting for the water to recede

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Back and forth they went from seaweed to sand. Their persistence was astounding. And I, being on a vacation with a camera in hand, could not but enjoy and capture some images.

One fascinating thing about them I only officially learned about a few years ago.

Every evening the crows of Vancouver and Richmond fly to Still Creek in Burnaby where they gather….. every evening, hundreds and hundreds and thousands of them! Winter or summer, spring or autumn, rain or shine. And then in the morning they return to their daytime homes. Unless of course they are sitting on a nest of eggs or young fledgelings who are not yet able to fly.

It has been happening for years and years. Who knows why?

Many Vancouverites are probably not even aware of the phenomenon. However it is from late autumn to early spring, when daylight hours are fewer and I am out and about at dawn and dusk, that I see them on their trek. I often wondered about it, and why there were so many of them enroute. It wasn’t until I read about it in Michael McCardell’s The Blue Flames that keep us Warm that I realized that this is a daily routine for the crows.

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Such interesting birds, crows are. I really do think they are delightful. I just can’t help it.