Part 6 — six things on the way to tofino

1.  Cathedral Grove in McMillan Park: rainy but too magnificent to care.

We’re practically the only people here and the feeling of being alone with these ancient trees, in this ancient unchanged space, is almost holy. I’m overwhelmed, in awe. It’s not just that some are 800 years old, 75 metres tall, 9 metres in circumference, or that they survived a devastating forest fire 350 years ago—not to mention surviving Europeans and settlers and us, including somebody’s recent (thankfully kiboshed) idea of a good plan to log the area, plough it over and make a parking lot [Joni Mitchell wasn’t kidding]—I’m not in the kind of awe inspired by facts or history or romantic stories; I could have been dropped blind-folded into this place and I’m quite sure I’d have sensed I was in the midst of something pure, something kinder and gentler than us, bigger in every way.  I think of Emily Carr, and how she wrote about the trees she loved to paint, how when she died she wanted to be buried among them so she could give something back. I want to sit, take it in, stay a while and read those passages again now…

2.  There’s a weird vibe as we drive through Port Alberni. At the West Bay Hotel (which is attached to a convenience store and where we are the only guests, room 12), the chef, a woman with Farrah hair and big eyes, tells us there’s a lot of sadness in town, that the mills are about to go on strike. Her specialty, and her logger husband’s favourite thing in the world with an ice cold brewski, she tell us, is baked spaghetti. We’ve never heard of spaghetti being baked so we order it along with a glass of the house red [the only wine they have] which turns out to be Gala. Not Gallo, but Gala.  [Note to self: baked spaghetti good; shoulda had a brewski.]

3.  In the morning we notice a beaver swimming in the pond outside our window and in the dining room a spider has made a mammoth web over our table, connecting chair to wall.

4.  Next stop: Ucluelet (which we can’t pronounce until someone tells us that the clue is in the clue)

5.  On the road leading into Ucluelet a sign explains how to behave in the presence of a black bear, which is different than if you meet up with a grizzly. The rule is play dead with a grizzly and walk away from a black. That’s right, just stroll away… they’re usually after salmon anyway, so unless you’re in any way orange and a bit slippery, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I disregard the instructions of course and immediately look around, prepared to scream and run at the first sign of fur.

6.  There is no fresh crab at the Rusty Anchor as promised on the large sign out front. They apologize, say they don’t have their own traps and are waiting for a delivery—and even if they did have it, it’s best to call 30 minutes ahead to order so they know to put the pot on to boil. We have a lovely table by the window, overlooking the bay and fishing boats with miles of netting; you can only imagine the nets on the huge trawlers, the damage they do. There are whale watching excursion boats up the whazoo and ATV tours to “see nature”. This, we’re told, is what they do to supplement their logging incomes. An elderly woman with long grey hair and tattoos comes in and sits by herself, drawing in a notebook. Our server, a young lad with a local dialect, arrives with our salad; he apologizes for the sans crab situation in the nicest way and hopes we’ll be happy with the mountain of shrimp they’ve given us instead.

[Part 7: Tofino, where it’s said if the wind ever stopped blowing all the trees would fall over.]

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