Vancouver Island–out and about (part two!)

29 May

As we had travelled around on the island the blue square signs with a white ‘A’ which denote a local artisan seemed to be everywhere. Potters, artists, woodworkers or just simply galleries, abound – so we thought.

We set off to do a short tour of our immediate area and take in a few artisan stops along the way. Isn’t it always the case when you look for something like this … they were either closed today, not yet open for the season or just plain not where we expected them to be!

In Qualicum Bay we stopped at Sandbar Cafe and gallery, sustenance was required for this epic day trip. The walls were hung with many paintings by local artists and the view from the window was created by Mother Nature at her best. We chatted to the lady owner and asked for recommendations. I also enquired about alpaca I had spotted along the way and was told it should be fine to stop and say Hi! the owner was a friend.

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This fellow was our absolute favourite with his wonderful face markings. The alpaca were fairly recently shorn and all had nice woolly features and not a lot of wool on their body which was a shame as I really wanted Aggie to experience the feel of running your fingers into the coat of a live alpaca – almost as good as chocolate! 100_1344

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somehow the morning had rolled into afternoon by the time we turned into Milner Gardens. After paying our entrance fee we strolled through the woodland and onto more formal paths and planted areas eventually, arriving at a huge grassy lawn which sweeps down to an ocean vista through the trees.

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This was the beauty we had all hoped to see on the island but had been eluding us. The Milner house to our right was a chocolate box, picture perfect scene, with the colourful azalea and rhododendron in full bloom. The sky began to clear and sun came out for us.

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The house is open for visitors to view the interior and enjoy afternoon tea overlooking the gardens and bay. Of course we had to indulge – it would have been rude not too!

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The Queen with Prince Phillip and also Prince Charles and Lady Diana have visited the house and gardens. We read in the visitors book the lovely thank you letter sent by Lady Diana expressing how she had enjoyed the tranquillity of the surroundings which gave them time away from the  regular rush of official engagements.

So far our week had mostly been spent on the east side of the island. We had been watching the weather forecast in the hope that by Friday the 225 mile round trip to the west side and the Pacific Rim National Park could be a sunny one.

The road to Port Albernie we had already driven and knew it to be a good one. It had been a cloudy damp day when we drove it before however and we had missed the P1270925beauty of Cameron Lake. Today on a sunny morning we had to stop and enjoy the reflections on the calm water.

 

After this stop, for some considerable distance, the road was still fine, we then came to a twisty hilly stretch before we dropped down to the coast.

 

At the National Park Visitor Centre we took time to look at the exhibits and learn about the best places to walk and enjoy the view. The ranger told us of a short easy trail in Ucluelet, outside the National Park boundary but with great views. (He also explained that to enable us to stop anywhere in the National Park we should purchase a pass for each person costing $7.80.)

We found the Ucluelet (say U-Q-LET) parking area easily and set off to walk the …

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Immediately we were treated to a magnificent view. This coast is so different to the east side where the shallow flat beaches divide the mainland from the islands. To the west it is open Ocean and the prevailing west winds bring it crashing to shore. Even today, a sunny, calm day, the swell and white caps were visible.

 

 

 

 

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Vista followed vista with viewpoints along the trail it seemed like every few yards. This would become a photo blog if I showed you them all, which I would like to do – but won’t.

We looked for bald eagles, and saw one – I spotted a deer on one of the small islands – we just took in the scenery, sunshine and relaxed.

Long Beach is a famous accessible sandy beach in the National Park. It is 12 miles long and was our next stop. It reminded me so much of the California and Oregon beaches we love, we strolled in the sunshine picking up shells and stones and trying not to get caught by the waves as we did so!

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The small town of Torfino sits at the very end of this peninsula on Vancouver Island, we called at the Eagle Dancer gallery a modern building but built in the style of a traditional Indian long house. I called into Knits by the Sea, the local yarn store and we all strolled to view the harbour. Another beautiful location.

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We made two more stops before we left the park behind. The first was to Radar Point which was described as a steep trail to the top. We must have improved our fitness levels as we thought it an easy walk to view the mountains across the valley.

 

 

 

Our second stop I do not have pictures for, it was way too dark. The brief description in the guide book stated Gigantic Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock reach up to the sunlight their boughs thickly carpeted with hanging gardens and moss. Scan the upper canopy for birds, listen to the trickle of water and smell the life of this highly productive forest’

A board walk led us into a dense damp forest, steps continually took us lower and deeper but, kept us above the tangle of fallen trees. Below, water pooled and trickled. We reflected on the height of the huge trees which towered above us, the girth of the old growth and just how much timber debris was on the forest floor. It was an amazing place. It felt like it should have been steamy and tropical, it was chilly even on a sunny late afternoon.

We had packed so much into our trip but it was time to return to our base.

The following day was Aggie and George’s last with us. The week had flown over and in writing all this up I realise just how much we packed in (calories too!). We took a second visit to Coombs market and its goats on the roof to purchase some supplies for dinner.

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Later at the resort where George and Aggie had been staying, Robert and Aggie picked P1270999up kayaks to paddle out around the estuary and small bay close to the resorts gardens. George and I were able to sit in the sunshine and enjoy the view.

 

 

 

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As the tide came in the intrepid explorers returned with tales of fish, seals and sea lions they had spotted on their voyage. They had walked across the sand, escaped the many tiny crabs crawling there, to arrive on dry land a little damp and muddy but very pleased with their expedition.

Our very last night together we were able to sit outside to enjoy dinner in the late sunshine and reflect on our week.

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Great fun with great friends – happy times to be remembered by us all!

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2 Responses to “Vancouver Island–out and about (part two!)”

  1. Katy May 31, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    Just delightful! I can see how much fun you had.

  2. Linda June 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    It would seem that we both have snow covered mountains as our backdrop!! We love the mountains and were so looking forward to going to the Grand Tetons a couple of days ago but snow stopped play – they were forecast to get 6 inches over the weekend and so we have delayed our trip there for two days. Enjoy the rest of your trip – I don’t envy you the job of packing up! Take care.

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