Western Trails

Walking Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim

By: Janice Mucalov

Following the cedar boardwalk trail, we passed illustrated interpretive signs about the cultural and natural history of the First Nations people who have lived here for millennia. One sign, for example, explained that the western red cedar is the “tree of life” because its inner bark can be woven into cradles, diapers, clothing and food baskets.

Suddenly, the path veered off out of the temperate rainforest to a delightful scalloped cove. With the sun shining warm on our backs and the surf pounding the black pebble beach at our feet, it was the perfect place to stop and eat sandwiches before resuming our walk.

This was the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail, one of eight easy hikes in Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Several of the park’s trails, including this one, end at the surf-swept, mist-shrouded, seven-mile stretch of Long Beach.

For clients seeking refuge from city life, there are few better places than Long Beach and its surrounding environs. As well as hiking, there’s surfing year-round (with a wetsuit and a lesson, clients will be up on their board within a couple of hours), fishing, sea kayaking, soaking in the natural pools of Hot Springs Cove and, in winter, storm gazing.

Whale watching is also popular in March, when an estimated 20,000 Pacific gray whales migrate annually from Baja to Alaska, passing close by the western edge of Vancouver Island. Other pleasant pastimes include strolling the craft shops and native art galleries of the resort towns of Tofino and Ucluelet, and hitting a few balls on the nine-hole Long Beach Golf Course (only $16.20 a round).

Our walk on the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail wasn’t strenuous, but the outing provides a good excuse for a different West Coast experience.

“Join me in the hot tub,” I said to my husband when we returned to our cottage. “And bring out a couple of glasses of wine.”

We stayed at Long Beach Lodge near Tofino, in a deluxe two-bedroom/two-bathroom cottage with its own private hot tub.

The lodge also boasts a popular “great room,” surrounded by glass walls on three sides overlooking the ocean and furnished with overstuffed couches and cozy game tables.

Clients can enjoy full dinners as well as light meals here. But that evening, we noshed on curry cornmeal-crusted oysters and succulent halibut in the adjacent restaurant instead.

The next day, we checked out the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet (25 miles down the coast from Tofino). We meandered along a stunning new extension. Second-generation cedars grow out of thick fallen logs in weird formations. Eagles soar overhead. And at every turn, there is the immense blue ocean and often a stone bench on which to sit and absorb the views.

What’s nice about all these trails is that clients can enjoy them even when it rains. The park’s two rainforest loops are actually better when droplets of water hang from the boughs of moss and mist envelopes the treetops.

The allure of Long Beach and its trails and towns never fades. We’ve retreated here several times over the years. And we can’t wait to return to walk yet another path.

The Details

Getting There:
By air: Scheduled flights to Tofino are available from Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria. Call Long Beach Lodge for details.
By car: Clients can rent a car and drive to Tofino or Ucluelet from Vancouver (by taking BC Ferries to Vancouver Island)
or Victoria.

Long Beach Lodge:
Accommodations: The two-bedroom/two-bathroom cottages in the forest each come with a full mini-kitchen,
lemon-scented spa bath products, washer and dryer, gas fireplace, two TVs and comfy king-size beds with white down duvets. The main lodge has oceanfront rooms.
Rates: $217 for the cottages, until March 31; lodge rooms start at $136. Rates include a continental breakfast buffet
of freshly baked apple muffins, cinnamon buns, fruit salad, yogurt, cereals and home-
made breads.
Commission: 10 percent