Angela Fairbank Travel Writer and Travel Photographer
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Angela Fairbank
Travel Writer

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town” series

Pacific Rim Park, Ucluelet and Tofino, BC, Canada - a Slideshow

Established in 1971, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, which receives more than 1 million visitors a year, has old-growth forests, fjords, rocky coastlines and long, sandy beaches. It extends for 120 km (75 miles) along Vancouver Island's west coast and consists of the West Coast Trail, the Broken Group Islands and Long Beach.

The forest is comprised mainly of evergreens such as Western Red Cedar (photo 31), Western Hemlock (photo 32), Sitka Spruce (photo 29) and Pacific Yew. At higher levels there are Yellow Cedar, Amabilis Fir, Douglas Fir and Mountain Hemlock. Deciduous species include Arbutus, Pacific Dogwood, and Bigleaf Maple. Berry bushes such as Tree Blueberry, Evergreen Huckleberry, Red Huckleberry, Salal (photo 25) and Salmonberry (photo 28), and other plants, among which False Lily-of-the-Valley (photo 26), Indian paintbrush (photo 72), ferns (photo 27), wild rose (photos 70, 182) mosses and liverworts, make up the undergrowth. Animals include Black Bear, Cougar, Pacific Black-tailed Deer (photo 184), Roosevelt Elk, Pine Marten, Mink, Racoon, Red Squirrel and Grey (Timber) Wolf. In the ocean you can find California Sea Lions, Stellar Sea Lions, Fur Seals, Harbour Seals (photo 152), Orcas, River Otters, Sea Otters, Harbour Porpoises, Pacific Grey Whales and Humpback Whales.

Bird species such as Dowitchers, Dunlins, Marbled Godwits, Plovers, Western Sandpipers, Whimbrels, and Greater Yellowlegs have been seen on the mudflats off Tofino. Other offshore birds include Rhinoceros Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Tufted Puffins and various Gulls. Other species seen in the area are Black-footed Albatrosses, Northern Fulmers, Least Storm Petrels and Shearwaters. In the forests, you may see Blue Grouse, Screech Owls and Red-breasted Sapsuckers, and, where there is water, Harlequin Ducks, Bald Eagles, Pied-billed Grebes, Loons, Pileated Woodpeckers and various Warblers.

Located in Clayoquot Sound, the area was designated an UNESCO Marine Biosphere Reserve in 2000. Made up of three sections, namely Ucluelet, Long Beach and Tofino, the highway out there, a 4 hour drive, is considered one of the top three scenic drives in Canada. Bright yellow Spanish broom (photo 145), sometimes with blood red spots, lines the highway. Long Beach itself is more than 30km (19 miles) long. During December to February the coast can receive up to 15 storms a month with waves up to 6 meters (20 feet) high.

Long Beach proper is a jagged 11-km (7 mile) stretch of white sand. It is a very popular beach for surfers. The area also offers art galleries, First Nations culture, trails among ancient rainforests, places to cycle, or to watch storms, sea kayaking, canoeing (photos 150-154), wildlife watching, including whale watching and bird watching, fishing (photos 133, 137, 138, 140, 148, 149), cold-water diving, boating, surfing (photos 76-81, 83, 88-95) and camping (photo 30). Kennedy Lake (photos 19-21), Cameron Lake, Sproat Lake with its water bombers, 440-hectare (1,087-acre) Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park (photos 1-6), which covers most of the southern shore of Cameron Lake, MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove) (photos 7-17) - 157 hectares (388 acres) that straddle the highway 16km (10 miles) east of Port Alberni - are good stops en route. The latter park is a small reminder of the original ancient Douglas fir old-growth forest that stood here, some up to 800 years old and more than 9 metres (29 1/2 feet) in circumference. Walking trails loop through the forest on both sides of the highway.

The highlights of Ucluelet (photos 108-154), which is the local First Nations language for “Safe Harbour”, are its Wild Pacific Trail and its aquarium (photos 110-132). It was incorporated as a village in 1952, the road to Port Alberni was completed in 1959 and then in 1960 this road was paved and a power line for electricity was constructed. Here you can also visit art galleries and shops, including a book shop, and take beach walks and day hikes. We took the Lighthouse Loop (photos 141-143).

Long Beach is actually made up of a number of smaller beaches: Schooner Cove and Long Beach proper in the north, Green Point Campground (photos 22-24, 155-160) and Combers Beach in the middle, and Wickannish Beach (photos 33-95), with its tidal pools (photos 40-59), in the south. Its well-maintained walking trails are located on the territory of the Tha-o-qui-aht (see the village of Esowista pop. 150) and Ucluelet tribes. We visited the Bog Trail (photos 96-107), a 1 km (0.6 mile) wheelchair-accessible boardwalk to see stunted shore pines, spongy peat moss and carnivorous sundew plants (photos 99 and 101) among other vegetation, and Radar Hill (photos 181-183), a short, wheelchair-accessible, hilltop loop with panoramic views.

Tofino (photos 161-180) was named in 1792 after a Spanish explorer, Don de Vincent Tofino. In winter, tourists come here for the storm watching. A brief stop at the Tofino Botanical Gardens (photos 170-180), provided me access to the Tofino mudflats (photo 171), which, unfortunately for me, were completely void of birdlife or any wildlife for that matter, though I was told that black bears, timber wolves and cougars have been seen here from time to time. The only wildlife I met in these gardens were a couple of pet guinea fowl (photo 174) and a field mouse (photos 173, 177-178), which I assumed was not a pet. The last photo in this series (photo 185) is that of the totem poles at the Tseshaht Gas Station near Port Alberni.

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