∴Mountain Ranges & Sunshine∴
There’s something about the way the light shines on Vancouver Island. Even the weeds on the side of the road are beautiful. The green that hits you when you step off of the ferry is unreal. The island is roughly the size of Honshu, the main island of Japan—pretty big for a place that I had never really thought about before. It sits like a finger gently brushing the shoreline of Western Canada pointing north to Alaska. Driving through I realized just how sparsely populated and secluded the northern part really is.
∴Forests out of Imaginary Places∴
It’s quite remarkable how the bright moss carpets the forest floor and rocks; it contrasts perfectly with the rich black soil.
The trees were so thick that they appeared to create a hedge seventy yards high. If I imagined it hard enough, some white gloved hand might pluck me and pull me through to join the lions and witches of Narnia on the other side. The thing that I will always remember is being slightly frightened to take more than about three steps into the forest because the trees were so thick that not a glimmer of sun glints through the canopy.
One of my draws to British Columbia was finding authentic totem poles at the source of their origin. I wasn’t interested in seeing the modern spin on them in Seattle or Vancouver city-proper. I wanted to see the real ones– the old ones. We listened about the current struggles of the youth of the First Nations on BBC Radio as it waned in and out over the radio. We stayed in the small town of Port McNeil, where a local islander told us that we would see the most authentic totem poles.
Interestingly enough, Port McNeil was also the place where we were treated like outsiders by an indigenous family at a local eatery they owned. It appeared that they weren’t exactly appreciative of tourists. It’s complicated– but the civil rights of First Nations Peoples are a hot current event in Canada.
Another current event issue actually has to do with the totem poles themselves. Because they are made of wood, the poles rot. Historians want to place the poles into museums and art galleries. But leaders of the First Nations stay true to their original beliefs of taking and giving back to nature: leaders of the tribes want the totem poles to decay back into the ground– going back to the nature of which they came.
Will totem poles be around in the next few hundred years to see?
∴Whales at Telegraph Cove∴
We drove 400 miles north from Seattle to stumble onto the antique ambiance of Telegraph Cove. The cove is a picturesque boardwalk along the Johnstone Strait that allows its strangers to step back into old-world charm.
In 1911 a telegraph station gave the cove its name. In the 1920s a man named Wastell owned a salmon saltery at the cove. A sawmill was established to create wooden boxes for shipping the salmon. As common throughout history, technology rocked the little village with the invention of the cardboard box. The sawmill closed and depression hit. The houses have since received face-lifts and a few restaurants have opened. The cove’s economy now relies on the nature lovers who come to fish, kayak, camp, and whale watch. Villagers learned that there are 6 foot octopi (octopus) that live under the boardwalk. They were surprised when a storm washed them ashore.
The town still relies on the salmon run that brings the star of the waters: the killer whales. The sounds have one of the largest concentrations of migrating whales in the world. I had my heart set on seeing orcas (I’ve been infatuated by them since my early indoctrination days . . . watching Free Willy on repeat at my grandparents’ house). We toured the Whale Interpretive Centre, basically a whale museum of sorts. The center displays the skeletons of marine animals that have washed up to shore—and let me tell you—it’s impossible to comprehend how enormous whales are until you have BABY blue whale hanging from the rafters above you. Never before had I realized how big of an issue non-ecolocating whales getting hit and killed by cruise ships and shipping vessels were! Ugh! Humans!
A burly young captain with a weathered face took us out on the Stubbs Island Whale Watching vessel. I especially liked that they: participate in ecotourism♥ by caring for the protected waters, and have their own marine scientific researchers on staff.
Your hear whales before you see them. Then you look for the spray that dissipates into mist as they surface.
I’ll admit that I didn’t do my homework. We went when orcas were out of season—and despite keeping my hopes up for hours—we didn’t see any. But we did get to see a female humpback whale named Guardian. She earned her name because of the shape of a guardian angel on her fluke. Here she is waving “Hi”.
It turns out that whales are incredibly difficult and anticlimactic to photograph! It was a lot more fun than the pictures indicate.
We also saw a rare minke whale, a floating rotting walrus, and lots of nesting bald eagles. Apparently there are more bald eagles just on Vancouver Island than in the entire continental U.S. combined.
The currents of the sounds mix in certain areas of the water and turn into whirlpools. Our boat would skirt the outside of one of these whirlpools and it would twirl us and spit us out.
We laughed at the sea lion colony and a group of seals bobbed beside the boat curiously watching us. Unbeknownst to most (and me), the waters surrounding the area are more bio-diverse and better for scuba diving than anywhere in the tropics. This is due to the rich oxygen content because of the cold. Many scuba tour companies tried to start up, but closed because most people don’t realize this.
I looked out on the horizon and counted 9 different shades of blue. And that’s what amazed me more than anything.
One thing that I really wish we had some time for was to take a tour to see brown bears fishing on the mainland.
We ended in Vancouver– which didn’t get the proper time it deserved– but I was happy to have spent that time in nature instead.