Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Pacific Rim is Where It’s At….

Some scenery along the drive in the center of the island
I’m headed from Victoria to Ucluelet on the Pacific Rim. I’d love to head west and up the island that way, but I’m advised not to do that. That south western part of the island is very undeveloped with the vast majority of any roads being unmarked and unnamed logging roads on which even the locals get lost. So, unless I wish to test my "lost in the wilderness" skills, I must go up the east side, half way up the island, then turn west and go past Port Alberni to the Pacific Rim coast on civilized, paved, marked roads. The drive was easy and once I turned to head west, there were frequent scenic areas to the drive, particularly west of the Port Alberni area.  Just about 3 ½ hours later, I roll into the rural town of Ucluelet. It reminded me of the little town in the old television show Northern Exposure. 

(My apartment is the 2nd floor balcony on the right)

I checked into the nicely appointed lodge and was told that I had the best balcony on the water in the place. Yay!  To think I only reserved this place a week ago. I went up to the 2nd floor to my room. Oh. My. Heavens. I love this place. Now I’m disappointed I’m only here for 2 days. If they weren’t already booked at this point, I’d be staying another day.  The wall facing the water was nothing but floor-to-ceiling windows spanning the entire length of the apartment from the living room to the bedroom with a deck that spans that same full width of the apartment from one end to the other with access from both living room and bedroom. Beautiful kitchen and bathroom. I know I won’t want to leave this place.

The views from the balcony were just spectacular.

As with Victoria, I work with the front desk clerk to arrange my tours for the following days. There were several great options to see gray and humpback whales, bears, sea lions, birds and the natural coast. I tried to get into a sunset kayaking tour, but they were full and couldn't take even 1 person last minute. I did have options for the next day, and I chose a tour with a small intimate group on their private house boat yacht that would feature bears, whales, sea lions, eagles and everything that lived in the area, and was 2/3 of a day with  a gourmet lunch. It was an excellent choice. So, since my first night would be on my own with no tours, I get directions to the nearest grocery, seafood market and wine shop and head over for supplies. The seafood market had the most incredible fresh salmon and huge prawns and so many other things your seafood-loving heart could desire. I picked up the best spicy cocktail sauce I’ve ever had.  That night I cooked the most incredible dinner. My own cooking in my own kitchen, and dining on my own deck overlooking the water beats any restaurant. So, I just enjoyed the rest of my evening cooking, enjoying the fabulous fresh seafood in my incredible apartment with unbeatable views on the water.

It was another early morning start for my bear, whale & all other creature tour the next morning. While everyone was checking in for the tour, there was a bear on the opposite side of the inlet to the marina which created "hush hush" scurrying. As they were trying to hurry everyone on the boat, doing orientation later, we were informed of this "secret surprise." They were hoping that we could ease on over there to see him before he retreated to the forest. It was a great try...but unfortunately, by the time we got over there, we watched him as he headed back into the forest not to be seen again for that day. Oh well. Bummer. I really wanted to see a bear - and more than the small of his bum in an instant in the far distance as he disappeared into the forest.
From there, we motored down the inlet to the open water and saw so many bald eagles on the way it was amazing. Bald eagles hang out here on docks, beaches and tree limbs like cardinals do in my neighborhood. They were everywhere. It was fantastic …and I’m not even a bird person…but I do have to take pride in and appreciate the majesty and beauty of our country bird and the amazing natural wonderland that was this place where the bald eagles are such plentiful neighbors almost like lawn ornaments everywhere.
The weather when I had checked in the previous day had been nothing short of perfect -  gorgeous and sunny. Unfortunately, as I’ve experienced in Vancouver Island already, the weather can change in an instant. A mere 12 hours later, it was cloudy, 40-degree-cold, misty and windy. It wasn’t downright raining, so that was the good news, but otherwise, there was nothing positive on the weather front. It was July, and I was wearing 3 layers of clothing, gloves and a hat. Luckily I was prepared for it, as were the boat tour operators with boxes full of these items as well as blankets. The water was a bit rough when we were outside of the protected inlet areas, but there were several whales out there in the open waters, so off we went, waves and all. The bad news is that few of my pictures turned out well enough to post here between the weather, the unpredictable moments of whale surfacing that didn't allow much time for aiming, let alone focusing, and the other people on the boat who inevitably got in the way of my shots. A few tails, backs rolling through the water and a few spouts were about all I could get ....again....This whale-watching is tough business to get decent views and shots. It's really cool though to think these enormous and gorgeous creatures are swimming just beneath, so close to us.
I did, however, get a few decent pictures of the sea lion rock, the eagles and some great scenery. The scenery was truly spectacular, and the poor weather did provide some intriguing clouded sky pics. Aside from those, it was a day of experiences, more than pictorial documentation.

 Of course I spent the entire day on the outside of the boat in the open air breathing the salt air taking in all that nature had for us that day instead of being in the warmth - but seclusion - of the boat interior. After the day on the water clothed in layers, hats, gloves and blankets, I enjoyed that luxurious bathroom with a long, hot shower followed by curling up in a nice blanket with a good glass of merlot and the remaining salmon and prawns.

I can highly recommend the Pacific Rim and the Ucluelet area. I had hoped to get up to Tofino, just 20 minutes up the road, but just didn't have the time or the ability to get another hotel room last minute. It was great that I could get the wonderful Whiskey Landing Lodge room with little more than a weeks' notice, but don't expect a last minute room at this time of year. I was lucky to get what I did. I will definitely be back and will plan to spend more than just 2 days.

To see more of my pictures see here: Pacific Rim Pictures
Can't say enough about the Lodge...check it out here: Whiskey Landing Lodge

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