I was very pleased to learn that the new hiking program I co-designed and led in Pacific Rim National Park for Road Scholar this past summer was an instant hit. As the program coordinator said it went from no reviews to glowing reviews immediately after the first trip. Not surprisingly, August and September departures very quickly booked up. A maximum of 22 participants was set for the program.
The program consists of a short hike around Little Qualicum Falls while traveling from Victoria to Tofino on Day 2. That evening, a local expert joins us to give a presentation. Twice that was Bob Hansen who is the former Human-Wildlife Conflict Specialist for Pacific Rim National Park and once it was Tanya Dowdall, a park warden.
The next three days are full of hiking some of the most glorious beaches and trails in the Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park.
Day 3 sees us hike the Willowbrae Trail to the south end of Florencia Beach (Wreck Bay). Once on the beach, we walk up the beach and ford Lost Shoe Creek. Timing with the tide is critical as the beach is known to flood on high tides and/or with storm surges. Once over the creek, the group proceeds up the stairs at the north end of Florencia and then swings on to the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail. Much of this trail is boardwalk with sections in desperate need of repair. We end our hike at Kwisitis Visitor Centre, after covering approximately 14kms or 8.5 miles.
Day 4 we hike the entire length of the Wild Pacific Trail which begins just north of Ucluelet and ends at the Amphitrite Lighthouse. A local fellow named Oyster Jim conceived, designed and constructed the trail, with some support from volunteers and the town council. The trail offers stunning views of the rugged coastline, a sharp contrast to the sweeping sand and fine cobble stone beach of Florencia Bay. Total distance of this hike is about 15 kms or 9.5 miles with lots of ups and downs, but fortunately nothing too strenuous.
Day 5 I get to take the Road Scholars into one of my most favourite places on the planet, Schooner’s Cove. It’s exceptionally difficult to capture in words the breath-taking beauty of this cove. Watching the tides is important here as well. High tides and a jutting headland with surge channels and steep faces can cut off access either for getting in or for getting out.
On the way out, we take the trail off the beach beside Esowista, a community of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. The trail consists of a series of boardwalks and stairs that allow hikers to become immersed in an old growth rainforest over much of its length. Upon reaching the parking lot where a bus picks us up for the return to the hotel, we will have covered about 9 kms or 5.5 miles.
Day 6 we head back to Victoria but with a couple of short hiking opportunities along the way. Before leaving the park, we’ll take a casual stroll around the Bog Trail. This is a beautiful little gem that features bonsia-like shorepines and carnivorous plants like the tiny Round-Leaved Sundew. Back on the bus, our next stop is Cathedral Grove – a world famous stand of highly accessible giant Douglas firs trees. A walk among them is truly a spiritual experience marked with awe and wonder. Unfortunately impacts from extremely high visitor use threaten this natural wonder. Too many visitors stray off the trails, trampling vegetation, compacting the soil and damaging the roots of these ancient giants.
Day 7 is the last day of the program with most participants leaving for home or further adventures shortly after breakfast.
I’m looking forward to leading the June and September hiking programs next year.