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Day 6-9, San Josef Bay Part 2, Victoria, and Return

So, I’ve been totally procrastinating on posting about the last few days of our recent trip to Vancouver Island. I don’t know why. So I’ve decided that I’m just going to do it, no matter how it turns out.

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

The glorious rays of early morning sunlight over San Josef Bay

On day 6 we hiked from Fisherman’s River to Eric’s Lake where we stopped for lunch. Then we continued on back down to San Josef Bay where we camped for our last night. The clouds had finally broke and blue sky replaced the grey. It was almost unreal that we basically had the whole huge beach to ourselves. This was the first night we had a fire and it felt so delicious to let the cold and wet seep away.

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

Gorgeous seastacks, with some morning sun

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

The whole beach, virtually untouched…

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

…but with surprising details anywhere you looked. How cool are those barnacles?

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

Another interesting and tiny find

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

Here he is… scampering away

San Josef Bay, Vancouver Island, BC

The never-ending enjoyment of finding unique (and unoccupied) shells

Day 7 we hiked out. Our backpacking adventure was over and we all treated ourselves to a fresh and hot meal at the Scarlet Ibis. Afterwards we headed back to our cabin at the Cluxewe Resort. Let me tell you, after four days in the woods where water was at a premium, a warm shower was like liquid bliss.

Cluxewe Resort

The Cluxewe Resort’s resident cat, sunning itself on the steps

Cluxewe Resort

The view of the ocean from our cabin

Cluxewe Resort

Thick rolling fog, departing over the water

Cluxewe Resort fishing

An unusual catch of what David simply calls the “ugly” fish

flyfishing salmon

Caught! A wild salmon that was soon released

On the morning of day 8 the boys spent the morning fishing and then we packed up to head south to the capital of Victoria. Despite there being a sign that said “Full” we were lucky to find a site at Goldstream Provincial Park. That night we strolled around the heart of Victoria, listening to street music, perusing some of the souvenir shops and eventually dining at a tapas bar restaurant that had outdoor seating. It was located on a narrow but immensely charming pedestrian side street. It was funny to notice all of the good looking people, dressed up in their saturday night best, while we sat in our slightly less-than-fresh camping clothes.

The Parliament Building at night, downtown Victoria

Our late night dinner at the Tapa Bar Restaurant

Day 9 signaled the end of our trip. We drove back into Victoria for coffee and to see about getting a ferry off the island. The way I see it, the ferry system is slightly complicated and the maps we had weren’t particularly clear. Eventually we found the right place, taking a smaller Washington state ferry through the San Juan Islands to Anacortes, Washington, which was just lovely. The ferries are expensive (at least for us because our rooftop carrier exceeded the limit for normal vehicle passage), but break up the driving time in a very desirable way. It also provided a fitting closing to our trip on the Island, that I will surely never forget. And I hope someday, very soon, to return.

The majestic triple doors of St Andrew’s Church, Victoria

A view of some islands from the ferry

At the rear of the ferry, for a final look back


Day 4 & 5 – Nissan Bight and Fisherman’s River, Cape Scott Provincial Park

hiking bottles, nalgene

David and my water bottles, prepped for the trip

On day 4 we left our comfortable cabin at Cluxewe to start on our 4 day backpacking adventure farther into Cape Scott Provincial Park. We started the day in Port Hardy at the visitor’s center for information on camping within the park and then headed out, again, on the long stretch of unpaved gravel highway back to where we were the day before.

Scarlet Ibis Restaurant in tiny Holberg, delicious fish ‘n chips

jack russel

One of two little dogs outside at the Scarlet Ibis

We did make one stop at the Scarlet Ibis, the only restaurant in the tiny logging town of Holberg. Marcy went in to ask for some butter so that we could cook and eat any edible mushrooms we’d find on the trail. We would stop back by here for a delicious meal of fresh fish and chips after the trip. The owner had the little two little dogs.


Seasnails clinging to the rock at Fisherman’s Cove

sea urchins

More life hidden whin the rock at Fisherman’s Cove

shipwreck, fisherman's cove

Old remains of a shipwreck, Fisherman’s Cove

Although it was afternoon by the time we began our hike in, we continued for almost 10 miles to Nissan Bight, a beach on the north end. I was so exhausted! I thought a few miles would have been my limit, but I think excitement and adrenaline (plus a whole package of cliff shot blocks) kept me going the whole way. It was dark when we arrived, and sadly I don’t have any good pictures of it. Actually, we didn’t find it at first, and instead came out at Fisherman’s Cove, to the left of the bight. We came back there the next morning to closer examine the old ship wreck there and so Alex and David could fish. I spent my time exploring the rocks, and looking for shells along the water’s edge.

cape scott trail

An average example of an unimproved area

cape scott trail

A log bridge crossing

cape scott trail

A boardwalk through massive fallen trees

cape scott trail

An example of improvements, new bridge parallels the old on right

Let me just say that the trail north to Cape Scott was incredibly different than the well kept trail to San Josef Bay. I have never in my life encountered such a difficult, wet, muddy, slippery and varied trail. There are parts that are packed dirt, some with muddy pits, and then there are some parts with a boardwalk or other wooden slatted platforms to keep you out of the muck, at least for a short stretch. Luckily, David’s boy scout instincts kicked in at the start of the trail and he made me an awesome walking stick. Later he’d also make one for himself and Marcy (Alex declined). It was the BEST tool (after waterproof hiking boots) to have for balance or for checking the hidden and dangerous depths of the mud pits. One thing I can definitely say is that it was almost exciting, to see what the next part of the trail would hold. Luckily some ongoing improvements are evident and will likely continue, due to its increasing popularity. For us, we practically had the trail to ourselves.

cape scott trail

Bridge over Fisherman’s River, where we camped the second night

enormous slug

One of the many giant snails on the path

Instead of continuing on to Cape Scott on that second day of backpacking, we headed back on the trail to Fisherman’s River. We had learned from another hiker that there were two campsites behind the pit toilet there, even though it wasn’t marked on the map. The weather continued grey and rainy, but luckily the sites had raised wooden rainforest-style platforms. It didn’t include a bear cache for food though, so we had to rig it all up a tree. Every time David began to snore softly that night, I woke up thinking it was a bear :-).

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Day 3 – San Josef Bay: Seastacks, Bears, Vows & Other Oddities

San Josef Bay

The darkening clouds above a seastack, San Josef Bay

On Day 3 of our trip we decided to drive to Cape Scott Provincial Park, on the very northwestern end of the island. Not too far from Port Hardy, the road turns into the bumpiest, pot-holed, gravelly unpaved road which takes about an hour and a half to cross. Luckily, unpaved roads are Alex’s thing and he didn’t seem to mind. As a matter of fact, I think he was eager to see what his recently purchased (but used) Toyota 4 Runner could do.

Be prepared for the unexpected

A sign presumably warning about the logging in the area

black bear

A Black Bear up close

shoe tree, vancouver island

Marcy taking a photo of the “shoe tree”

On the way we were lucky to see a bear on the side of the road (the first of four we’d see that day, but the only one I was able to photograph). I think someone told me that bears out number people on that part of the island. He (or she) was so cool, just grazing along the side of the road, as calm as you please, despite a vehicle with excited passengers watching its every move. We also passed several lovely lakes and a couple other oddities, like the “shoe tree” where tons of shoes cover what was once a very tall tree, and Ronning’s Garden, where we would stop on the way back.

Crossing a bridge on the trail to San Josef Bay

San Josef Bay

River reflection of the perpetually cloudy sky

San Josef Bay

David admiring the large ferns growing on the bottom of an enormous fallen tree

This day was as rainy and grey as all of the other days so far, maybe even more so, but we were pretty undaunted. We parked at the trail head and hiked the easy 2.5km trail to the bay, passing some enormous trees, ferns and other rainforest/woodland features.

San Josef Bay

The large sandy beach at San Josef Bay

San Josef Bay Seastacks

The unique and mysterious looking seastacks

San Josef Bay

The green plants growing on the beach

San Josef Bay

The caves at the north end of the beach

Me photographing Marcy photographing Alex

One of the neatest things about San Josef Bay are the gorgeous and somewhat mysterious rock pillars, cliffs and caves at the north end. At low tide you can walk across a sand bridge to the second beach, and to a coupld of other outcroppings, which we would explore later. Today we just took tons of pictures of the seastack, enjoyed the huge stretch of sand and admired this remarkable natural area shared by only a few other people.

false chanterelle mushrooms

One of the many picturesque mushrooms flourishing in the forest

Ronning's Garden

The sign for Ronning’s Garden at the parking area

Ronning's Garden

The cultivation of little monkey trees

On our way back later in the day, we stopped and hiked the half mile to Ronning’s Garden, with its unusual trees, shrubs and flowers. Being early fall, there wasn’t too much in bloom, but it still a pleasant surprise to come upon so much cultivated beauty seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Luckily there was an informational sign and pamphlets so we could give ourselves a self-guided tour (and someone even thoughtfully provided deet-free insect repellant). A pamphlet mentioned that one of the crowning glories of the garden were a matched pair of huge male and female monkey trees. However, one must have been damaged and removed because there was only a single tree left. Alex and Marcy have a monkey tree in their front yard, which I think they had been debating about whether to keep (monkey tree branches are covered in very sharp thorny leaves). I think seeing the one here gave them greater appreciation for their own.

Port Hardy, Vancouver Island

An evening shot from the Port Hardy wharf #1

Port Hardy, Vancouver Island

An evening shot from the Port Hardy wharf #2

We returned pretty late and stopped into Port Hardy to buy steaks and asparagus to grill for dinner. Being an island, there is just so much beautiful water everywhere. David and I walked out onto the wharf and admired the evening colors before returning to the cabin. Alex decided that this was the night he wanted to surprise Marcy with some specialty items we had packed secretly for just this purpose, including string lights, many candles and champagne. Once dinner was grilling and Marcy was in the shower the three of us scrambled to clean up, set out the dinner table, and hang lights all around. It worked out pretty well and she was definitely surprised. That night, after dinner, they exchanged their thoughtful and beautifully written private vows. It was quite a night. For them, September 3rd is going to be the day they will celebrate as their “true” wedding anniversary for the rest of their lives.

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