NORTH ISLAND: THE END OF CIVILIZATION
Driving to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, we pass through Cathedral Grove which contains some of the oldest trees. Most of the forest here has been logged and replanted, two or three times…and we would never know the difference. However, in this area we see 800 year old Douglas firs and tree trunks 3 meters in diameter.
In the town of Campbell River, we cop a motel, and shower for an hour. After dinner, (linguine with calamari, scallops and shrimp) I forget to take the doggie bag. Actually, we don’t like the food that much.
“Hey!” Claire, our waitress yells from down the hill. The hefty Nordic looking woman sprints up the sidewalk toting our doggie bag. Our first reaction is to start running. We look at each other in disbelief and laugh.
“You still want this?” She catches up to us, out of breath. “You left it behind.”
“Wow, thank you so much, Claire.” I probably should have tipped her more.
We wonder how far she would have chased us if we ran. Better to be chased by Claire than a black bear.
During our drive the next morning, I eat the linguine with a pair of needle-nose pliers while Mare takes some photos of Seymour Narrows, a treacherous sailing pass even after the explosion of rocks to clear the channel.
Many south-islanders say that north of Campbell River is “the end of civilization.” Rolling along, the twisty two-lane road cuts through trees, revealing snow-capped mountains in the distance and we start to agree.
When we reach the top of the island, at Port Hardy, Mare wants to camp. I do not. I’m tired after a day of driving. So is Jack. So…we search motels and the cheapest is a dirty $125. We head a half-hour south to Port McNeill, and find the most inexpensive motel on the entire island, for $60. Who cares if it is above a liquor store and taxi stand? The Dalewood also has a pub and restaurant. Let’s book it for two nights.
The following morning we drive rutted, gravel logging roads into the remote forest at the northernmost point of Vancouver Island. When we stop for Mare to take a photo, a blasting horn blares and in the rear view mirror I see two headlights flying towards us through the dust. I pull Mare into the truck and floor it. The logging truck behind us cannot stop, and we barely avoid him. This active logging area posts signs such as: “This area reforested in 1900, fertilized in 1920.” As we drive, we see a black bear eating berries with her cub. She saunters into the bush before we can snap her photo – like we should stop for another photo!
At Cape Scott Provincial Park, a sign at the trailhead of San Josef Bay Trail discourages hiking with pets in this mossy rainforest, because of black bears and cougars. Now we be remote, babe…and Jack the dog wants to come along. We hike through the forest to a secluded bay, and do not linger, because all I have with me is a Leatherman tool…handy needle-nose pliers, good for eating leftovers, useless against a cougar.
Speaking of cougars…the bartender back at our motel pub kicks me out, because the male strippers arrive. The place is full of neglected women so hungry for action that some of them wear plastic penises on their heads, and hold a blow-up naked man-doll. I’m getting scared. Mare stays for a few photos, until the bartender asks her to pay the $15 cover. She’s too tight for that, so she leaves. Mare can see a naked man anytime she wants.