Picture a Beach (4)

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Long Beach, Tofino. April 2019

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I Did Not Cry Wolf

Entering the trail to Combers Beach, the first thing to see are the warnings for “Wolf in Area.”

Five minutes later, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this.

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It looked like a wolf.

But it was only a log in disguise.

Ucluelet. April 2019

 

Here vs There

Here vs There
Toronto vs Ucluelet skyline. Toronto photo by Richard Kidger on Unsplash. Ucluelet photo by Sandy Lue

I’m taking a break from the beach today.

Typical of the Pacific North West, it is bleak and rainy outside. It’d be cold and wet too, if I’d not chosen to stay inside.  Being no fool, I chose instead to kick-off a new series of blog posts.  It’s about living ‘Here vs There.’

I have the luxury of living in two places. One is in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, population: six million. The other is in Ucluelet, population: 1,717.

In Toronto I am never more than ten minutes from a super store; fine arts is a choice of museums away and dinner is easy with over sixteen thousand restaurants to choose from. In Ucluelet, the nearest Walmart is two hours away, art is the view from my living room  and I can have any food I want, so long as I make it.

Transitioning from one place to the other takes planning.  Whenever I come to Ucluelet, I have to adjust my clothing and gear.

The weather is always one of  sunny, foggy, overcast or mild. Sometimes it’s all of that in one day.  In any case, there’s always the chance of rain.

I wear layers under my waterproof jacket which has a hood and  lots of zippered pockets. The pockets are necessary for storing my scarf, keys, sunglasses and bear spray. The zippers are necessary for when I catch a sun spot and have to de-layer to soak up some rays.  If you’ve ever lost your keys on a trail, you’ll know why zippers are important.

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Probably the most obvious change in gear is my hand bag.

In the city I carry a slouchy leather hand bag.  It’s big enough to carry my wallet, phone, keys, hat, gloves, aspirin, notebook with a checklist of to-do items and a pen to check off old items and add new ones.  In Ucluelet I carry a change purse with one bank card, a health card and Co-op membership.  And enough cash to pay for serendipitous finds in the local thrift shop.

Ahh, the west coast thrift shop … now there’s another difference between living here vs there.

But that’s another blog post for another time.   Stay tuned!

Ucluelet. April 2019

Storm Watch

Amphitrite Storm Ap6-114509

Environment Canada issued a severe wind warning for Vancouver Island yesterday.  South West Vancouver Island (where we are) was hardest hit with 90 km winds and 100 km gusts.  Although we were most exposed, our little town was unscathed.  Elsewhere, BC hydro lines were knocked out and thousands were without power for hours.

Wind storms make for spectacular viewing. At its worse, we watched from the safety of our house. When it calmed down, we went to Amphitrite for a closer look.  There were other tourists and storm watchers there.  It was easy to identify first timers – they wore woefully inadequate rain ponchos which flapped in the wind as they hurried back to their cars.  Geared up in proper rain jackets, hoods and waterproof boots, we still got chilled to the bone.

But it was awesome.

Amphitrite Storm Ap6-113608

Amphitrite Storm Ap6-115616Amphitrite, Ucluelet.  April 2019

The Seals were Steller but not Whales

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Steller sea lions 

We wanted to see whales.

It was a foggy day in Ucluelet. At least it was on our side of the peninsula. On the harbor (a ten minute walk away) it was crystal clear. At Jamies’ Whaling Station, the group coming back from an earlier trip said they’d seen lots of whales.  And so we went.

We saw lots of this.

But no whales.  March is the beginning of the annual whale migration.  During this time  20,000 Grey Whales move along the Pacific coast to their summer feeding ground in the Arctic.  On the shore we can see evidence of whales by the flumes of water spouting in the distance.  To truly see the whales, we have to get closer by boat. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. Despite being crystal clear in the harbour, we were socked in by fog in open water, where the whales were hiding.

We did see other wildlife.  The Steller seal lions (shown here) are native to the North Pacific. They’re distinguished from the California seal lion by their look and sound.  The Califorinians have a loud ‘ark, ark’ bark and the Stellers have a lower growl. Stellers have a lighter brown-blond colour and are much bigger, almost twice as big. The bulls grow up to 2200 lbs (~ 1,000 kg)  and have a distinct ‘mane’ on their upper torso which the Californian do not have.

We saw both types of seal lions.  The Steller colony was dominating a rocky island, sharing space with a large group of sea otters, while the Californians hung out in the harbour.

Seal Lions-
Steller seal bull with his colony

While we didn’t see the whales, we actually had an excellent day out. It was our first time on the water and it was wonderful to see the coast line and islands in Barclay Sound.  Besides, since we hadn’t seen any whales Jamie said we could have another trip for free.   We will be back!

Ucluelet. April 2019

Kaacumin on Florencia beach

Florencia Bay-2a
Pebbles on Florencia Bay

The Nuu-chah-nulth  (pronounced noo-cha-nolth) are First Nations people who’ve lived along the coast of Vancouver Island for ages.   They have a story about the stones seen on Florencia beach.

Thunderbird and Skate were playing a game. With total disregard for safety, they took turns throwing spears at each other.  Thunderbird had the first throw which Skate narrowly avoided by turning sideways at the last minute.  Then it was Skate’s turn. Thunderbird in a fit of trickery and bad gamesmanship, called down lightening and hail called kaacumin (pronounced cots-oo-min) to obscure Skate’s sight.   Un-remarkably, neither deity was hit but the hail turned into  stones which remained in the bay.

Kaacumin
Image from Parks Canada brochure

The stones are reminders of the fickle nature of the coast. People are taught to never remove pebbles from the beach.   Doing so might invite Thunderbird’s wrath and cause lightening and hail to fall.

Today was sunny and beautiful.   Having no wish to change it, I looked but didn’t take anything but these pictures of the beach.

Florencia Bay, Ucluelet. March 2019

 

 

 

Driftwood Lean-to

In my last post ‘Picture a Beach (3)’ you might have wondered what you were looking at.  Or, if you’re grammatically inclined … at what were you looking.

Beach Lean-to-1-2
Driftwood Lean-to

As the name implies, driftwood lean-to’s are structures made from driftwood leaned against each other. They spring up every season after the winter storms have cleared the beach. They’re constructed by surfers and used as props for surf boards and drying wet suits.  I’m guessing that the shelter inside is also good for shielding gear from wind, sand and nosy beachcombers.

I was impressed by this lean-to.  Not only did it have four walls (two more than usual), it had a bull kelp clothes line, a door and a side patio. Luxury! It was a prime location on a prime beach with an incredible view.

I wonder if it’s available for rent.

Beach Lean-to-1

Long Beach, Tofino. March 2019