Vancouver, British Columbia

Balancing Clayoquot Sound

PHOTO: A High tide at a beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, near the Clayoquot Sound, B.C.

Breath wasn't coming easily, and I was disoriented.  Maybe 38-year-olds shouldn't be skateboarding, I had told my neighbor only minutes before, which was my way of balancing my embarrassment with a gentle prodding, a way of saying, “Hey buddy, we're not that old.”

Our road-trip had a purpose.  We were driving to an international mecca of self-propelled transportation – an isolated, fog-shrouded fishing-town in Canada that had become an international surfing, kayaking and biking destination.  But now, my injury meant none of that. Still, I couldn’t resist keeping the kayak on top of the truck, and I hid the longboard just out of Jane’s sight under the duffle bags.

On a bright morning, we leave Portland and pass slowly through the nightmarish traffic of Seattle.  People from other places always want to compare Portland to Seattle, often confusing the two outright or speaking of them together, as if they are interchangeable.  Passing through reminds me that few cities are so different – the food, the population density, the ethnic mix, the architecture, the geography, the layout, the traffic.  It is wrong to talk of what unites the two cities without including Vancouver, B.C.  The three Pacific Northwestern cities, all quite different, are united by just one thing: they are Pacific Northwestern cities.  

The border into Canada is a long line, lots of security.  I ask the Canadian immigration officer if he could stamp our passports.  He looks blankly at the passengers in the truck and sees the four-year old kid.  He says, “I can stamp his,” he explains, meaning, I don’t really have the time to stamp the adult passports.  What a douchebag.  But is this heavily-secured border really even necessary?  Commerce should flow freely through the Pacific Northwest.

From Vancouver, we take the morning ferry to Vancouver Island, and cross the giant island on the only paved road to the open Pacific in Canada. 

After we pass through Port Alberni, about half way across, Vancouver Island becomes a wilderness of fjords and aquamarine rivers, mountains of conifers and valleys of cottonwoods. 

The terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway ends at Tofino, population 1,650, at the end of a long peninsula, separating the vast Clayoquot Sound from the Pacific Ocean.  

Clayoquot Sound itself is cluttered with islands and inlets stocked with whales, sea lions, crabs, oysters and salmon.  The rainforests dotting and surrounding the sound are the last intact old-growth forests on Vancouver Island, and even the southern half of British Columbia.