VANCOUVER ISLAND

Wrapping up my stay in Canada, I spent the next week tramping around on that big island. Until I had set foot on it, even seeing it on maps, did I really appreciate its size. For one thing it is GREEN. There are mountains, huge Douglas Fir tree forests, water, neat coastal towns, beaches, the Pacific, of course, and flower gardens amongst much more.

 One of the primary reasons I wanted to visit Vancouver Island was to go to Victoria, the British Columbia provincial capital (not in Vancouver city on the mainland) was to see the famous Butchart Gardens near Victoria.

 But, while on the island I first stayed at a neat little place in the town of Royston, on the inland side of the island along that coast. The area is picturesque and offers some nice little hikes through the forest that lead out to the bay.

 

I stayed on a family’s property where they have spaces to rent. I stayed in a very unique little one called Figgy Cabin. When I asked how they derived at that name, I was pointed to a large fig tree growing next to the cabin.

 With a skylight ceiling and nice furnishings, it was all I could ask for in comfort and seclusion. 

From there I explored and took it easy.

On my way to Port Alberni where I next stayed I stopped in Coombs, just to see the “goats on the roof” that I had been told about. Sure enough, several goats really do wander around on the sod covered roofs of a complex of buidings. In Port Alberni I had booked a room on a tugboat. Yep, a tugboat. The owners, Daniel and Bouchra operate their (fully operational) tugboat as a B and B. The room was tight, but certainly one of the most unique places I have experienced. 










Daniel and Bouchra both live on the boat and rent out the cabins. In the small, tight galley they create the most amazing Moroccan dishes (Bouchra’s birthplace) and served with flair. Bathroom was down the hall, but with few others onboard, it was never an inconvenience. The place is open to the public with reservations only to help celebrate special occasions. As hosts and a great couple, they are the best.

 

Bouchra is a dynamic woman, not only whipping up some incredible dishes but she is also a Zumba instructor. One night, just off the boat on the docks, she held an impromptu class during a street event. One could see she puts in all her energy and enjoys every minute of it. I learned she learns the steps and moves from prescribed lessons. It may take her days to get it all down so that she can instruct.

I really enjoyed my time with them and their most incredible hospitality. They named their enterprise “Swept Away Inn”. I’m sure you too would be swept away with this charming place and people. 

From the tugboat, I ventured to the Pacific coast to visit and explore two tourist towns, Tofino and Ucluelet. What I most liked about these places where the beaches where kite boarder and sail boarders were tackling the crashing waves. It was lively! 

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On the way to those towns I also strolled through the Cathedral Grove, a magnificent stand of huge Douglas Firs.

From Port Alberni, I then drove on to Victoria and stayed in an extremely nice “cabin” on the gated property of a large house. Set amidst lush green landscaping, I walked into a room that looked like it would be in the Ritz Carlton. The furnishings were all top of the line starting with the king size bed. It a quiet place where I started to get back to some writing.

 Early on the morning I set out to have breakfast and then visit Butchart Gardens, a short distance away. The sun was coming out and it looked like a perfect day, but upon leaving the restaurant, it was raining. This bummed me out as I tried to figure out what else I might do. While fussing around on my cell phone trying to come with alternatives, the weather started to change again – for the better. So, proceed with Plan A. 

Being one of the earliest visitors it took no time at all to enter. From the moment you arrive these gardens are so incredibly beautiful, they defy description. Along the paths, multitudes of plants and flowers beckoned to come see and adore what has been created there.


 


This property owned by the Butchart family, had a lime quarry and cement plant here. After the lime ran out, Mrs. Butchart conceived of a plan to creat gardens upon the property and in the old quarry. She employed many different landscape architects and along with her own imaginations, was created the most extravagant, spellbinding and captivating gardens I have ever seen. There is the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, formal Italian Garden, Mrs. Jennie Butchart’s personal garden, Star Pond, a Carousel and the most incredible of all the Sunken Gardens within the old quarry.

 As I walked through the Sunken Gardens, the beauty astounded me. There was no other pace to proceed but slowly and deliberately. The flowers, the trees, shrubbery, grass, ponds and the absolutely fantastic fountain displaying the most incredible and fascinating changing water patterns are a wonder to behold.

 I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

 The additional gardens, also works of art, were impressive, but the Sunken Gardens are the showstopper.

 

As the day started it was overcast but it cleared and the sun came out. This allowed me to linger well into the afternoon re-visiting much of the gardens again.


 

The Butchart family still operates the gardens and employs over 50 gardeners to help maintain it. Jennie Butchart certainly had a vision that in over 100 years has provided a visually glorious garden to be shared by all.

 














While in Victoria, I also enjoyed a day visiting little floating houses in the harbor, passed by and admired their Parliament Buildings and next door, the impressive Empress Hotel.

Vancouver Island impressed me. The residents were friendly and hospitable, charm abounds, nature, both on land and sea is abundant, and I really enjoyed the green and cooler temps.

 

Being an island and driving my own vehicle, I had booked passage on the ferry from Victoria directly across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles, Washington. Once again, I arrived early so that I might be early on and early off. These are enormous ferries. From Mini Coopers to mammoth tour buses, the enermous holding area held them all.

 

The passage over was easy although it did get windy enough to have the ferry slightly pitching to and fro.

 

The next day, Monday, August 26, I would be meeting an REI camping group at the Olympic National Park visitor’s center. After locating it, I drove the winding road up to Hurricane Ridge, hiked a couple of trails while enjoying the mountain top views and sighting Vancouver Island, only 22 miles away. By late afternoon I had returned to Port Angeles and had checked in to my motel, getting ready for the next part of this summer’s adventure.



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The REI sponsored trip would have a base camp from where we rode in a van out to various places in and near Olympic National Park. This was a nice pace, with some not strenuous hikes, always the same camp and guides who were terrific.





kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012