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Ucluelet 9 September 2019

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Very busy day today, as you will see.

It started grey but beautiful, a different view than at home: Ucluelet Harbour with the morning traffic making patterns in the water.

Fog – the Marine Layer – has been playing cat-and-mouse games with us since yesterday afternoon, but it looks clear enough for what's in store...

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First things first: we returned to Ukee Scoop and stuffed our faces – well, I stuffed my face; Rochelle is always more ladylike – with breakfast crêpes before leaving Ucluelet for Tofin0, some 36 kilometers to the north.

It's worth noting that 60 years ago, Tofino was a tiny First Nations fishing village reached by a gravel track. Now, it's the "Rain Coast's" answer to Mendocino – a major tourist serving town – while Ucluelet remains a sort of sleeves-rolled-up working town like Fort Bragg. Both share the distinction with our Coast that you have to want to get there; you don't get there on your way to anywhere else.

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Tofino and many of the islands here on the edge of British Columbia (and Washington) present an uneasy relationship between the First People way – a much slower, gentler, more Nature-connected way – and the Euro-come-lately imperatives of urban development: power lines, stop signs. Luckily, the First Peoples' way was well documented, and is alive and well, if somewhat obscured by urban necessities.

The front of this gallery is modeled on the Coastal First People's Cedar Two-beam House.

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<p>At right, me taking a picture...

At right, me taking a picture of a Snow Owl by Roy Henry Vickers. I love the way these Haida artists simplify to such gorgeous fluid shapes.

Here's why it's a Two-beam house: the roof is held up by two massive beams resting on four carved poles. The siding in the originals was "stitched" on using Cedar withes.


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At noon, we reported for duty to the Alteo River Air Service for a short sea plane tour to the north of Tofino with pilot Sean. Rochelle had ridden in a seaplane in her previous life, but for me, this was an exciting first. There's a lovely sense of safety in a seaplane in a watery place on a calm day like this: if something goes wrong, the worst case is you'll set down on some wilderness waterway and wait for rescue.


Here come a bunch of airborn pictures of the islands to the north of Tofino on the wild Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island.

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<p>We saw a Grey Whale!</p>

We saw a Grey Whale!

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Our adventure in the air, just over 30 minutes , if you'll pardon the expression, flew by. There ahead of us, Tofino Bay, where Sean set us down neatly. Almost all the flight, I was "through the lens" while Rochelle was wise enough just to soak it all in. "Small planes don't make me nervous," she said after we landed. Me either. I love 'em! How cool is it to be a bird, looking down at such wonders?


Sean made the observation that Tofino's resident population is about 2,000, but on an average summer weekend, it entertains upwards of 7,500 tourists. We Mendonesians know how hard it is to maintain authenticity when we're so diluted ...and we're never that diluted.

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So where's lunch? We asked our pilot where we'd find a hearty fresh seafood lunch, and he said "My house! But I didn't thaw the fish..." And then sent us to Sobo, somewhat off the beaten tourist track and an obvious  favorite of locals.

Rochelle had the special Tuna Melt, while I gorged on Polenta Fries with what they call Caesar sauce, Smoked Fish Chowder, and Steamed Clams and Mussels, washed down with No Boats on Sunday Cider.


Omigod, I was full!

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Needing to work some of that off, we took a walk after lunch (groaning all the way.) At the nether edge of town there's a network of trails that lead through familiar temperate rain forest – lots of plants we know in Mendonesia: Salal, Huckleberries, interspersed with a mostly-Western Red Cedar canopy, down to Tonquin Beach.


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Here's what one of those neat little tree-covered islets looks like up close. This one is called Tonquin Islet.

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We notice that people passing us on the trail usually say "Hello." We like that. But on the trail back from Toquin Beach a lovely older Japanese gentleman (I'm guessing) said, after the expected "Hello," "Did you see anything new?" Yes, I did, and what a great question.


The coast along the two peninsulas (peninsulae?) that constitute Ucluelet and Tofino are, on their western, exposed side, mostly lovely long curving sugar sand beaches with surf that attracts younglings. Here's one encampment we stopped at just to appreciate the beach.

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We also stopped at the Pacific Rim National Park Visitor Centre – for want of the appropriate letters, I cannot tell you the Centre's name. Here, at left, is a sample of the writing of the Coast First Peoples, who have adopted the International Phonetic Alphabet, with some emendations, for writing down what was until quite recently a wholly oral language.

To see what that all means, mouse over the image (and squint.)

One of the many wondrous things at the Centre was bits of this mysterious writing with a shell to hold up to your ear and a button to push to play a recording of a native speaking the words. Way cool.


The Visitor Centre was a beautifully put together explanation of all the many forces that come together here on the Northwestern rim of the Pacific Ocean – from the First Peoples and their way of living to the animals and their ecology, and the effects that "what they call civilization," mostly in the form of plastic (the same story as being told at the Ucluelet Aquarium).

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So here's my especially new thing from the Visitor Centre:


What's your best guess?


Mouse over the image for the answer.




Phew! Long day. Another one, maybe not quite so strenuous, tomorrow.

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