BLOG #47, SERIES #8
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THREE WEEKS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA #5
THE LEGENDARY HIGHWAY 4
November 22, 2017
It’s time to pick up on our three-week exploration of British Columbia. We breakfasted in Port Hardy in the Lyons Café (we were about the only non-locals there–everyone else knew each other). Port Hardy, like Lund on the Sunshine Coast, is the end of the road. For those who wish to travel further north, BC ferries leave Port Hardy, on a regular basis, for their spectacular sixteen-hour cruise to Prince Rupert.
After gassing up, we headed back south on Highway 19 down the spine of Vancouver Island. The smoke from over 200 fires engulfing the province was at last beginning to thin out. Mountains towered up on both sides of the highway, but low visibility kept us from seeing the higher peaks. They get quite high; in fact, Victoria Peak is 7,484 feet high. The island range gets plenty of snow during winter months, but due to the prolonged dry period, we saw no snow ourselves.
We were disappointed by the sprawling town of Campbell River, as it was wrecked–at least for us–by strip-malls and unlovely development. Guess we’ll have to return another time, and perhaps we may find aspects we missed.
Highway 4 to the Pacific Coast is being discovered by the world. So much so that you jolly well better have lodging reservations made weeks ahead of time for the coast. In the summer, it seemed to us like a good share of B.C. residents had fled the mainland for Vancouver Island. But not just Canadians–there were visitors from around the world! Not too long ago, comparatively few travelers had even heard of Tofino at the end of Highway 4. And we wondered just what there was on the Pacific side of the island to make it such a tourist Mecca.
As we neared Port Alberni, we couldn’t help but notice hundreds of cars parked on both sides of the road. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to join them. At the west end of Cameron Lake is Cathedral Grove, one of the last remaining easily accessible stands of old-growth forest remaining in British Columbia. The tallest trees are protected by MacMillan Provincial Park. Though the stand is small, it is precious to all those who treasure those few remaining stands of old growth not yet wiped out by the lumber industry barons. A 0.3 mile trail leads visitors into a majestic stand of 200-800-year-old Douglas firs that rise a “neck-straining” 230 feet from the forest floor.
Next week we’ll move on to what Canadians call “The West Coast.”