Sunday, 24 August 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

When I was 14 years old, we moved to Winnipeg in the summertime. As school was already out it was hard for me to meet kids to play with. My parents decided to send me to my Grandmothers farm on Vancouver Island for the summer ( probably to get me out of their hair). It was my first experience of the "countryside", having always grown up in towns and cities. It was a summer of a million "firsts". First time seeing food growing and eating it off the vine. First time camping in the wilderness, fishing in the ocean, hiking through old growth forest, canoeing on a lake, waterskiing, horseback riding, hayloft jumping, and apple tree raiding, just to mention a few.

A lot of those experiences came through my Uncle Peter and his family who took me all over Vancouver Island that summer and shared with me their love of the outdoors. That summer changed my life. Sadly Peter passed away last fall and I mentioned at his memorial that it would be nice to see the whole family together again doing stuff in a casual situation. So our family decided to have a reunion this summer at a resort just outside of Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

The reunion was for three days but I decided I wanted to relive that childhood summer, so I left a week early and went camping at a bunch of different places as I made my way up the Island.

A spur of the moment decision as I was finishing up work Friday night and I managed to catch the last ferry to Salt Spring Island. This was my ferry food supper( the cake was intensely amazing) Gooey chocolate with raspberry coulis, yummy!

The sunset from the ferry

The full moon rising as we left the second stop on the way to Salt Spring

So because I haven't planned a thing, I had no arrangements for somewhere to stay once I get off the ferry at 11 pm at night. I called a bunch of campsites while en route, only to be told they were all full. The only campsite that I couldn't speak with anyone directly, had a message saying to just come by as they never turned anyone away. I got lost getting off the ferry, and spent quite awhile driving around trying to find the place in the dark. It just had a small handwritten sign half buried in the grass, so I drove past the place a few times before I found it. There didn't seem to be anyone around to check in with, so I decided to find a spot on my own and deal with it in the morning. I have to say I was quite unnerved that there was absolutely no one there at all. Why would every other site be full and this one stone cold empty?

It was a nice enough place, well tended and clean, just not a living soul around.

Nice, clean bathrooms.

A cute building that you could use as a kitchen, lounge area. I had been up half the night waiting for someone to come knocking at my door to ask for payment, but no one came, so in the morning I calculated what I owed and left it in a jar by the front door. Pretty happy that I didn't suffer some horror movie fate, I made my way into town.

 I spent the day at the craft market, shopping and being inspired by all the wonderful local artists. If you ever get a chance, the Salt Spring Market is one of the best I have ever been to.

Ones of the marinas at Ganges.

After the market was over , I hopped on another ferry to Vancouver Island. I went to visit an old friend and she took me to her garden where she rents a plot. The grounds are beautiful and I got lots of garden inspirations.

Lovely fragrant sweet peas, yummmy!

A vibrant pink poppy.

That night I made my way to Qualicum beach to visit with another friend. The next day was Qualicum Beach Days with live bands and various activities going on so we made our way down to the beach for an afternoon of fun in the sun.

My friend Cora teaching her hooping skills on the beach.

Afterwards we went to Coombs Market(famous for the goats on the sod roof) which is always a treat for shopaholics like me!

 I love all these fish made out of silverware, cute idea!

The next morning I drove up to Ucluelet  on the west coast of the Island. I stopped at Lighthouse park and decided to have lunch in my camper at the parking lot. I heard a really loud bird outside the door and opened it to find this guy scolding me to share my sandwich.

After lunch, I walked the trail where I discovered half way through, that the new hiking boots I bought were making my feet ache, so had to walk the rest of the way barefoot. In a bittersweet moment, I rested on a bench overlooking the sea. For some reason I was compelled to read the inscription on the bench which was a tribute to a man lost at sea. I don't know how or why, but as soon as I read it, I knew this bench was a memorial to my friend Cora's brother-in-law who lost his life at sea a few years back. When I got back to Qualicum, she confirmed it even though I had no idea they had put a bench up there.

The lighthouse the park is named after. This part of the coastline is very treacherous and home to many wrecks.

After spending a few hours exploring Ucluelet, I made my way to Tofino and looked around the town and shops for a few hours. These are a few pictures of the town.

I love the colourful houses, I wish that every building in the Vancouver area wasn't a shade of beige, it would be lovely to see more vibrant colors in our neighborhoods.

This bookshop is owned by a very interesting man who had just came back from sailing to Hawaii and back.

The Roy Henry Vickers art gallery, a beautiful space filled with wonderful artwork.

I finally made my way to a campsite near the beach and went for a beach walk as soon as I got settled. These little birds were mesmerizing to watch as they swooped and dived in tandem around the beach.

Although Vancouver was sweltering in a heat wave, Long Beach was covered in heavy fog that lasted until the last day I was there. I didn't mind it at all. Neither did all the surfers by the looks of things.

Getting my feet wet in the Pacific Ocean. I have to say I was very happy to see that there was NO litter on the beach at all. I was expected mounds of debris from the tsunami to be littered everywhere, but I walked for miles and miles and all the garbage I could find, fit in the palm of my hand!

 I've always loved the wind blown trees of Long Beach, such survivors!

The next morning I went back to Tofino to get suited up for a whale watching tour, led by the bookstore owner.

It was quite foggy as we set off but by the end of the day, the sun finally broke out. Sadly we only got a glimpse of one small whale fin breaking the water twice ( so fast, I couldn't get a picture). We did see this eagle watching us go by.

The fog is starting to lift showing us some of the beautiful coastline.

We got off the boat at Hot Springs Cove, one of my favorite places on the planet!

 Once the boat docks, it is a 2 km walk through old growth forest along a wooden pathway that various people have carved on.

Names of boats that have stopped here.


A view from the trail.

At the end of the trail is this unassuming steaming hot creek that travels under a bridge and flows over a small cliff where it winds it way to the ocean through a series of little rocky pools. We soaked there for a few hours before hiking back to the boat for our ride home.

The hot springs at their source

Looking down into the pools. Each pool can hold a couple of people, the closer to the ocean , the cooler they get.

On the way back we spotted this little ocean otter. Apparently they were hunted almost to extinction so we were lucky to see him. They are born and raised in the kelp beds and never go to land. If you see an otter near land then it is a river otter.

That little black spot in the water is the otter. We had taken a route that passed on the inside of an island on the way up which was very calm water, but went on the ocean side on the way back which was much rougher as you can see by the big swells hitting land.

Once back to shore, I went back to Long Beach, eager to see it in the sunlight. There was quite a few of these strange jelly blobs all over the beach.

I love the vastness of this beach, it stretches for miles in each direction.

20 odd years ago, I was almost swept out to sea beside this little island that has a deadly rip current running past it, hours of non stop swimming saved my life. Now I am content to just look at the ocean without going for a swim!

Someone's driftwood sculpture, a wild creature looking out to sea.

I left the beach before it got dark as I needed to head back to the other side of the Island and didn't want to navigate the narrow, treacherous road in the dark. I stopped and spent the night camping in Port Alberni. The next morning, I stopped at Cathedral Grove, a park of ancient,old growth forest for a walk in the woods. Some of these trees are more than 800 years old!

A giant root ball. Too bad I was alone, you really need people in the picture to appreciate how humongous this thing really was.

I was gazing around the forest when this spot of red caught my eye, I almost had a heart attack when I saw this devilish face staring back at me. 

Funny, all the times, I have been here, and somehow never noticed this beautiful lake tucked in behind the trees.

These ferns are massive, 4 feet tall!

Doorways to magical kingdoms!

A view of the seashore on my way up the old island highway. It hasn't changed a bit since I was a kid.

I stopped to visit my Mothers grave, I miss her so much, wish I could have another day with her.

I also stopped to visit my grandmothers old house where I had lived for a few years. I miss her and that house so much as well, good times! It was interesting at the reunion to hear all my cousins talking about their experiences with Gran and her house as we were all there at different times.

While I was in the Comox Valley, I stopped by my friend Angela's place, Her and her husband are insanely talented chainsaw carvers. Here is a bit of their work on display in their magical garden.

Another stop was to Nymph Falls. This was an amazing place that I spent many summers soaking in these refreshing waters. Some creative soul managed to build some rock art in the middle of the falls.

I love finding art in random places in nature, this picnic table caught my eye as well.

I finally made it to the reunion site. A beautiful resort called Salmon Point with class A facilities. They had a marina, a pub with great food, RV sites with full hook ups, a pool, hot tub, nicely outfitted cabins, very comfortable RVs for rent if you didn't bring your own, and a clubhouse with pool table and games. It was the perfect spot to entertain all ages, I highly recommend it.

The view from the pub deck
And now a zillion pictures of my beautiful family!
My old age foggy memory means I have forgotten a lot of names, so will do my best to identify the ones I know, if anyone can help me fill in the blanks, I would appreciate it!
Nicks wife Bonnie with her two sons Bradon?(standing) ,Brendon and their cousin Corbin

Cousin Carol from England with Denise, Bruce's oldest daughter.

Carols brother Robert( famous English photographer)

Uncle Chris, husband of Hilary, Father to Nick and Erica, talented musician.

 Uncle Roland showing us his long bow that he built.

Aunt Cathy, wife to Eric, mother to David and Neil, with her grandson Luke.

Cathy and Eric's son David with his wife Joan, organic ranchers.

Cousin Robert ( Uncle Peters son) with Brenda's husband Keith.

Roberts sister Vivian and her husband Gary.

Group shot, the redhead was a friend of Roland's.

Cousin Robert
Cousin Neil (Eric and Cathy's son), my stepmother Yuli, David's wife Joan.

Uncle Tony( Father of Carol and Robert, (and Paul and Neil who couldn't come to the reunion)). He is an inspiration to us all!, Tony just completed a bike ride from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland at the young age of 81! He made it into the Guinness book of World Records with that accomplishment. He also flies his own plane and hikes for miles through the hills of North England.
 Tony and cousin Vivian

Robert and Uncle Bruce

Cousin Derrick(one of Bruce's many sons) and uncle Eric

Neil played his bagpipes whenever we needed to get everyone together for dinners etc.

Some of the clan enjoying dinner together. Aunt Mary in the white coat, wife of Peter, Mother to Vivian and Robert

Some of Uncle Bruce's kids, the boys sharing a laugh. Can someone put names to this picture?TY

My Dad Ben and his wife Yuli

Me, Dad, Yuli, two of my brothers girls Renee and Sara

______________? and Ronnie

_____________________ with ______________and ___________?

Derrick and Neil.

Denise's daughter_____________? and Denise.

Cousin Robert

Dad, Bruce and their sister Hilary (big shout out to her for organizing this whole thing, love you to bits girl xoxo)

Gerald, Bruce's son
Aunt Virgina, Bruce's wife
 ______________and ___________?
I'm not sure but I am going to say that these people are people who married into Bruce's family

Bruce and Virgina with some of their kids ( they had 11 altogether) This is the first time I had met his whole family all together, so didn't catch all their names in the short time we were together, looking forward to getting to know you all better though!

This picture was taken a few weeks before the reunion of Uncle Bruce and Aunt Virginia's 50th  wedding anniversary with all their children and grandchildren! Can't blame an old girl for getting confused about who is who.
Photo: With EVERYONE...

 Brenda and her husband Keith

Dad, Bruce and Tony at Aunt Mary's house

  Sara, Bruce, Mary, Yuli, Peter and Renee

Cousin Nick

Saying goodbye to my little family unit as they get ready to leave.

Robert, Bruce and Hilary

Derrick, Eric and Brenda

Cousin Erica and Aunt Mary

My Grandmothers, brothers, granddaughter, Luisa from Spain/England, so nice to catch up with her again after 20 years.
 David, his two sons Grant Benjamin and Luke with their grandfather Eric

Tony, Hilary, Dinah, Bruce and Eric
Most of the whole clan together for a picture on the beach

So I realize after I got home, that there were people there that I just never got a picture of . The three day went by in a blur, so many people to talk to, so little time, hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time. I think we all had fun and it sounds like there was a lot of interest in doing it again in a year or two. I look forward to spending more time with my family, I miss you all already!

After the reunion I spent a quiet day at Aunt Hilary's, visited with Uncle Roland next door and drove around the Comox Valley with Luisa showing her the local spots.

The next day, I went sailing with my friends Wes and Wendy. The day started out just lovely, a nice little breeze to push us up the strait towards Denman Island. On the way back though, the wind really picked up and came within an inch of tipping us over a couple of times.

As much as I don't want to die, I remember thinking at the time, oh well, I got to relive the best year of my life, got away from the grind of work for 10 days, enjoyed all my most favorite nature spots and got to see my entire family for the first time in my life, and now just spent a lovely day with best friends. If I am going to die, this would be a good time, with no regrets.

Luckily we survived to live another day, as did this exhausted bee, that showed up out of nowhere and stayed on my sweater for about an hour as we battled the windy way back home.

I went back to Qualicum Beach and spent one more night at Cora's. The next morning I stopped in Nanaimo to get a haircut from Cora's hairdresser , then caught the ferry home to Vancouver.
When I got on the ferry, I noticed this little girl running towards me waving madly. Looking behind me to see who she was waving at, I suddenly realized it was me. I had pulled up behind my cousins, not knowing they were going to be on the same ferry.
Katelyn Danyluk, Kevin Danyluk, Scott Danyluk and Val Rathbone Danyluk. ( Bruce's daughter and family)
We had a lovely visit on the way over and I got to put a few more pieces together of the puzzle that is my family. 
That holiday did me a world of good. I felt 10 years younger, 10 pounds lighter and very happy to be alive. Best summer holiday since I was 14, thanks again to Peter and my wonderful family.xoxo
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The Eclectic Ark