SURF IS UP IN TOFINO
Let’s hit the road, Jack. The two-hour ferry transports us to Vancouver Island. We find a small fishing cottage next to the Strait of Georgia in Qualicum. The old oil-burning stove heated meals for Soldiers during WWII. Like a step back into time, grassy lawns hold retirees jockeying their chairs to follow the sunshine. For the Canadians, this is warm weather, and some even swim. We are content to bundle up and watch.
After a drive across the island, through snow-capped mountain passes and lakes, we find the town of Tofino. This hot spot offers kayaking, whale watching, surfing, camping, hiking, and of course, fishing.
Our campsite sits atop a small cliff overlooking the massive beach. Signs post warnings to keep dogs on a leash, because of bears and cougars in the forest. Mostly, though, we see families, as the campground fills to capacity. The rates rise to $48 per night during this high season. The grounds offer toilets, and a shower that will give you two minutes of hot water for one dollar. We sit next to our tent, overlooking the ocean. Bocce ball games, soccer, boogie boarding, doggie Frisbee and some small surfing entertain us from our home for the next three nights; however, simply sitting, sun-bathing and reading a book seems to be the primary activity.
I realize that camping in itself is an active sport. It’s hard. Funny, camping used to be much easier in my youth. Cooking, cleaning, and finding a comfortable place to sit now becomes all-engulfing. We build a fire, and cook S’mores. The melted marshmallow adheres to my beard like hardened glue. S’mores seemed much better in my youth as well.
Most of the campers are families with many children. They are mannerly and seem comfortable living in crowded conditions. We are solo folks at heart, who have camped out of the back of the truck, in solitary environments next to rivers, oceans, parking lots, etc. The intimacy with our fellow campers, and each other in our small tent, is a challenge. Eventually, the ocean waves sooth us to sleep, along with the occasional mother yelling at her child, and a dog barking in the distance.
The cawing of crows wakes us in the morning. We have difficulty getting out of the small tent. Actually we fall out of it. Make some coffee (Put kettle on) and fry some bacon and eggs. Sound good? This sounds great when sitting on your lounge chair talking about it, similar to the S’mores and camping in crowded grounds. We are sore, dirty, and ready for some activity. But for now, we sit, look and listen to the ocean below. After a long walk on the beach, where Jack will not give us the Frisbee back once he retrieves it from the waves, we head into town to see what we can get in to.
Jack sleeps in the truck all day, while we kayak around the islands in the Clayoquot Sound. Eagles soar above us. Float planes take-off and land, fishing boats head out with hope, as our silent kayaks glide through the waves, and over kelp beds. We pass a settlement that claims to be over 10,000 years old. Crab baskets hang from colorful floats on the water. This activity revives us. We paddle for hours, amazed at the lack of fatigue.
Another night in the tent becomes more active. A loose dog roams around our site, and Jack emits a high-pitched whine. He tries to escape from a zipped-up tent. The inside of our tent becomes a circus, and Jack has sharp claws! We finally calm him down, as the dog outside must have gone away. Now, raccoons make sounds from up in the trees, and Jack tries to get out again. Hiss…the sound of air leaking from a tire. Our air mattress no longer has any air…
The following morning after we stumble out of the tent, Jack runs partway down the cliff. I chase after him, to find a dog, all curled up under a bush. He’s not dead yet. So…we find campers with a sign posted for a lost dog. They are so happy to find him. “He has dementia,” the owner says. “We were afraid that he went off to die somewhere.”
Let’s get back to some activity and explore surfing lessons. Lying on the dirty floor in a small shack, the young female instructor jumps from her stomach to her knees, in a stooped position.
“That’s how you get up,” she says. “It’s easy.”
I know that my knee cannot handle such a position, but try anyway. “Ouch! Can’t do it.”
The surf instructor admires Mare’s muscles as she watches her spring right up to her feet. “I’ll tag along and take photos of you,” I say. But Mare decides to decline. I think that the necessity of wearing a wet suit in cold waters has something to do with it. “Let’s try some hiking,” Mare suggests. This place is one of the best places to learn how to surf, due to small but constant waves.
Off to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve were we hike through old growth forests which open up onto secluded coves and expansive beaches. Jack is once more leash-less and we enjoy the privacy so lacking in our camp.
Our final morning in Tofino, we sit on the patio at the coffee shop. Talking with laid-back surfing/grunge type folks, we finally feel the place. We don’t want to leave, but our campsite is full and we only had reservations for three nights. Dingy hotels want $160 for one night. George, one of the locals, tells us about his life in Tofino.
“I left for a while. Hated the development, condos and stuff where some of my favorite spots used to be.” He pets Jack. “But now I’ve come to an understanding with it all. After twelve years being “retired”, at least now I have a job.”