Into the Wild (2)
It’s October 4th and Telegraph Cove celebrates its season finale. All the remaining drinks and food will be finished at the staff party. We decide to skip the party and go searching for a quiet campsite. Backroad Mapbook suggests Ida Lake. Apparently it’s a sought-after spot for kayakers because we take the last available spot. The late afternoon sun shines warmly over the lake and Merel, not afraid of a little cold water, takes a refreshing dip. The next morning, nature theatre performs a fantastic ballet performance of fog curtains. With a mug of coffee in hand, we watch the dancing fog. A nice start to a long day’s drive to Ucluelet on the west side of the island.
Ucluelet & Tofino
Back in civilization (and out again)
A highlight for many but a culture shock for us: Ucluelet and Tofino appear to have be overloaded with motorhomes even in October… You know, those big ones. After a long day of driving we are tired so we drive into the first available campsite on the bay in Ucluelet. This also turns out to be the most expensive campsite on the whole trip, but we don’t care. We need to rest, empty the septic tank, fill water and recharge batteries so that we can last three more days in nature again. Backroad Mapbook has now become our Bible and Merel opens book for spiritual advice. “That’s where I want to go!” she says, pointing to Secret Beach. The campsite is really between nothing and nowhere past a remote Indian reserve. I estimate that we can reach it on unpaved roads in 2 hours.
Just as we’re on a T-junction in the woods, Google throws the towel.
For a moment I am baffled that I didn’t buy the paid GPS maps that you can order as an extra to your Backroad Mapbook. I drive on a downloaded Google map and just as we stand on a T-junction in the woods, Google throws the towel. Now the choice is up to us. Under the motto: No decision is the worst decision I look at Merel: “Take a guess? I say on the left…” After five kilometers the road becomes narrower and turning around is no longer possible. Where’s this going?
We look around a little lost and then there’s that one car from the opposite direction. “Secret Beach? Then you go all the wrong way, follow me!” shouts the bearded redneck in blocked shirt with dito woman. Once on the right track, we can’t go wrong anymore…. Secret Beach Campsite is a fact.
Salty and subtle with a bite, accompanied by a blanc de blancs with a palette of wild citrus
Oysters and black bears on low tide
When we drive up the campground, Merel is the first to see the black bear… “Oh and another!?” she says a little frightend. The campsite is bigger than we thought and there is even a ‘camping boss’ who tells us that there is also a bear number three. “But don’t be afraid they have no interest in people…. So far.” So we’re in bear country and tonight we can’t leave any food around. Our pitch is right on the water overlooking the Broken Islands. Merel walks into the water and steps into something sharp. You! Oysters… Hundreds!” In 10 minutes we harvest a dozen oysters. Merel had already put a bottle of white wine in our fridge. That’s my wife! The oysters taste salty and subtle with a bite that, accompanied by a blanc de blancs from the Okanagan Valley with a palette of wildfresh citrus tones, continue on to the next station. Life is good!
Last night wildlife were the masters of the woods. The scare was quite big when the camper shook violently back and forth because a bear was standing out on the stairs. He was just as shocked by our screams and bangs. Now we can laugh about it.
Merel cooks bacon and eggs for breakfast and has turned on the extractor. Meanwhile, I’m putting up the outside table for breakfast. We should be used to it by now, but when I suddenly see a big black nose sticking out of the ferns it still takes me by surprise. I sneak up the stairs and warn Merel. The bear doesn’t notice us and just follows his nose… Towards the camper. I’m filming, and Merel’s ready with the bearspray. She’s no longer impressed. The bear also notices the doomsday scenario and beats the retreat. “Shall we leave that extractor off next time, darling?” Time for breakfast.
At the exit, we wave a black bear. She’s standing on her hind legs and for a moment I expect her to wave back
Dilemma: we have two more days to get to the ferry. Are we going back on the highway or are we going cross country with the risk of missing our return flight? Once again, the Backroad Mapbook and Google Maps get their knickers in a twist, so we cut the knot ourselves: we’ll see where we end up. The goal is at least to find that ultimate last wilderness campsite.
At the exit, we wave at the black bear. She stands on her hind legs, and for a moment I expect her to wave back. At Sproat Lake we try to find the southern route to a campsite but the road is getting steeper and narrower. Eventually we look at each other: Back! I have to reverse for almost a mile, before we can turn around. Plan B: two hours drive to China Creek Campground past Port Alberni. On arrival, China Creek appears to be closing today, so now we have to make the crucial decision. Are we going to go on or back? I look at the map one more time and see a campsite halfway in the green… two hours away. Last chance, so we continue on!
Nitinaht First Nation
Deep in the Rainforest
Plan B: 2 hours drive to China Creek Campground past Port Alberni. On arrival, China Creek appears to be closing today, so now we have to make the crucial decision. Are we going to go on or back? I look at the map one more time and see a campsite halfway in the green… two hours away. Last chance, so we continue on!
‘Campground closed’ says the sign
We have never penetrated the rainforest so deep before. It starts to rain harder and I’m happy with the four-wheel drive as we’re steady on the road. The muddy track is full of water-filled potholes and soon the camper is no longer red. From the bridge over the Nitinat River we witness the salmon trek. Below us, hundreds of salmon are moving to their spawning grounds and a mother bear with her two cubs are busy fishing. Today’s bear count is now at nine. “Campsite Closed October 1st” it says on the road sign. We continue on and end up in an Indian reserve. The chance of a beautiful campsite was already nihil at the sign, passing through the Indian Reserve takes away our last hope. What a dilapidated place “But we have to sleep somewhere?” says Merel. “Let’s at least go check it out.” A little later we drive through a magical green rainforest including huge forest giants. “Yes! The gate is open” Wow! Nitinat Lake campground could be the most beautiful campsite of this trip and we have it all for ourselves. Paradise Found!
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