Friday, September 30, 2016

Bamfield, eh? (Part 1 of Our Trip to Canada)

"You made it!" The exclamation held just a hint of incredulousness and what sounded almost like relief. Paulina was all smiles as she emerged from the picturesque red house at the top of a long, metal ramp leading down to the wooden dock where our water taxi dropped us off...and 50 pounds of edible freight. Somehow, our one harmless cardboard box of apples morphed into an amassment of local foods: locally caught fish from Port Alberni; a sack each of potatoes, onions, and avocados; eight ears of peaches 'n cream corn; two burly loaves of bread; fancy little indulgences from the Coombs Country Market (cheese! anchovies! chorizo! maple smoked trout tidbits! ketchup chips!!), and five bottles of Wes's obligatory cold brew. When we found out that groceries, convenience stores, or even restaurants would be pretty much nonexistent where we were going, we (happily) spent the day collecting food along the road. Anyway, after getting through 77 km of dusty logging roads (with no GPS) and overcoming the somewhat bewildering process of hailing a water taxi, we finally arrived to our final destination: Bamfield.

Bamfield, a quaint community on the Western edge of Vancouver Island, is the very image of a storybook fishing village. Idyllic clapboard houses couched in forested shorelines, old white chunks of driftwood parked against rocky beaches, boats and yachts bobbing in the inlet, and the occasional otter or whale... it's a place that retains so much old-world charm because it is literally so far away from other forms of civilization. As of 2011, its population totaled 155.

This is a very special place for our neighbors, Paulina and Jeff. They were married here five years ago on Brady's Beach (pictured above), and we were so excited to be invited to celebrate their anniversary with their family and friends this year! Also, the idea of getting to explore this lesser-known region of Canada was both appealing while at the same time intimidating. It is sometimes referred to as the "virgin coast," because the only way over is via logging road or a ferry ride from another small town.

The best part of the first half of our trip was hanging out with this bunch (pictured below). Our new Canadian friends showed us how to fish, how to catch crab, how to spot edible berries and plants in the wild, how to build a fire, and basically how to be a badass survivor. It was inspiring that this all seemed to come so easily to them. We like photographing and trekking through nature, but they showed us how to appreciate the great outdoors in a very up-close and personal way. Also, we learned to seamlessly incorporate the Canadian term: eh? into our daily oral language.

We took so many pictures, so I had to make another post for Part 2.  Yup, a lot can happen in a small Canadian town!
Here's how it started:

And here's how it ended:
From first time in a propeller plane to slugging through logging roads, we enjoyed every bit of the trip. It was so worth it to come out to this super-random, beautiful place and spend time with Jeff and Paulina's friends and family. It was also pretty cool to not be setting early morning alarms and jam-packing activities into our days, although we did accomplish a lot more than I thought! I started out writing this post to encompass the entire trip, but it was getting really long, so I'm dividing it up. This post covers the first two days, and here is Part Two.

Day One.
  • Discovery Coffee - 2 cups, 0 doughnuts (Victoria) 
  • Old Country Market, shopping for goods and eating poutine while goats roamed on the grassy roof (Coombs) 
  • Little Qualicum Falls, mini hike before the long, rickety drive (Parksville) 
  • Port Alberni - stopped for some gas and freshly caught fish (plus crab cakes!) 
  • Arrival in Bamfield! 
  • Fishing 101 with Wade, caught a small cod and made it into bait for the crab net. 
  • Grilled sockeye salmon for dinner, compliments of a Bella Bella fisherman. Put our sack of red-skinned potatoes and "peaches 'n' cream" corn to use immediately!

Poutine, definitely lived up to our hopes!

Lamb burger with blueberry sauce.

Candied smoked salmon, irresistible.

Like a fire-breathing dragon.

So much dust from passing vehicles!

After an hour and a half of no reception and no GPS, we got spit out of the forest into this tiny town, Bamfield!

Drove onto the dock to unload our stuff.

We literally had no idea that we wouldn't be able to drive right up to the house.

No roads and driveways, only the waterway and docks.

Our place! The best-looking house on the block.

Sometimes you catch a fish, other times you get pieces of junk!

Wade's favorite beer.

They call this "peaches 'n' cream" corn. It was so sweet!

Hi, banana slug!

Day Two. 
  • First, gray morning. Checked the crab net and got one! 
  • Bamfield boardwalk 
  • Grilled cheese and red pepper soup lunch (croutons for Marilyn!) 
  • Keeha Bay Trail (muddiest hike ever) 
  • Salmon-forward snacking 
  • Crab cakes and more salmon (caught by Wade's friend) for dinner 
  • Night visit to Brady's Beach, trying out light painting and playing with flashlights

Bryan's mismatched shoes.

Houses for stray cats.

Probably the only cafe here.  We only bought brownies :)

Sea plane take-off.

Taking the taxi to our hike! Needed to drive to the trailhead, and our cars were back on the other side.

Getting a good whiff of cedar.

Labrador tea leaves

Wild huckleberries. Our neighbors were able to point out so many things that you could pick and eat!

As you near the beach, found buoys hang ceremonially from tree trunks to mark the ending of the trail. Word has it that some of these buoys are from Japan!

Came back, checked the net again, and saw three crabs!

I was so scared that it was going to pinch me.

Smoked salmon dip and smoked salmon pate, with sourdough rye and wine!

Crab cakes!  They were so good.

And then... we walked to Brady's Beach for night photos. It was cold, but nobody seemed to notice because we were having so much fun flashing each other- with flashlights, of course.

Light painting, a new thing that George introduced to us. He brought a big strobe light to do it!

A falling stare photobombed Wes's long exposure of the Milky Way!

The sky was dark in real life, but it looked bright in these pictures because the moon was out. We ended up doing this again on Night Three before the moon rose, and got some better pictures!

There's still another half to this trip update, but first, I leave you with some FaceSwaps, starring Melrilyn, Wadesley, Brorraine, Marilina, Weffrey, Joodle, Welissa, and Pauffrey.

Fine... I'll share Wesrilyn.

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