Trekking Tales: A glimpse of northern Vancouver Island

Instead of being at the hostel beside the inlet, as my sister Vera had arranged, we were in the owners’ large home

You’d have laughed (or sympathized) if you’d seen the gimpy members of our group (3/5) struggling with wide open stairs, no railings, at our B&B in Port Hardy. Instead of being at the hostel beside the inlet, as my sister Vera had arranged, we were in the owners’ large home on a distant hillside.

Renting a van resolved some issues and gave us the mobility to drive downtown as well as to Telegraph Cove, 60 km away. This quaint historical village was established in the early 1900s to provide accommodation for workers at a salmon cannery and small lumber mill. Compact homes were built on a boardwalk above the rocky shore, washed by the tide twice a day. Now a tourist destination, the interior of those homes has been transformed for overnighters while the exteriors are unchanged. Nearby businesses are happy to provide food and drink. At the end of the “wharf” is the Whale Interpretive Centre, “home to one of the finest collections of marine skeletons in B.C.”, says their website. “Look at the difference in size between the skeletons of this seal and a sea lion.”

I pointed to the two of them hanging adjacent to each other.

On our way back, we looped around Port McNeill, surprised by the size of this sawmill town and the fact that the driver (me) did not get us lost. Our evening in Port Hardy saw us participating in two favourite activities: eating fish’n’chips and strolling along pebbly Storey’s Beach as the sun set.

I had been struggling to find the right moment to phone the daughter of Clearwater friends, so John and I were delighted when she appeared beside the window of the rented van seconds before we drove away from the B&B the following morning. As wonderful coincidence would have it, she’d been dropping her daughters off at the sitter’s place just a few houses up the hill and spotted us. “Did you see us struggling with the steps?” I asked, grinning.

In organizing this trip, Vera had worked in different modes of travel so the Greyhound bus came next. That driver didn’t get lost in Port McNeill either as we saw parts of it a second time, but Telegraph Cove, which is at the end of a side road, was not on its route. I won’t tell you about spilling hot chocolate all down my shirt front when we were rolling again after a 10-minute stop at the convenience store that makes up the community of Woss. (I had really wanted coffee, but that pot was empty!) We will have to return to view Woss Lake and Provincial Park.

Trees line the road for the northern half of the highway, but eventually views open up to include pastures and narrow Johnstone Strait. Announcements about places of interest were not forth-coming, but I had been told before about the blowing up of Ripple Rock in Seymour Narrows, further south, to make passage through dangerous currents safer. That explosion was shown, as it happened, right across Canada on CBC TV, in 1958.

 

After a lunch stop in Campbell River and a shorter one in Courtenay, the bus stayed close to the Strait of Georgia, picking up and dropping off passengers at pretty communities along the way. Our turn was coming – in Nanaimo, for a mini-family reunion. The bus trip had been pleasant, as we chatted our way south and savoured the scenery. As we had experienced on the train, however, our chances of seeing wildlife were remote. Only eagles appeared.