BY LYNN JACKART
The ferry lineup was short for the 8:15 p.m. sailing from Tsawwassen to Duke Point in Nanaimo, BC. Connor (our 16 yr. old grandson), Al and I stood outside the motorhome on an August evening, an ocean breeze blew across the water; it was getting cooler as night fell.
The two-hour crossing was calm and the lights of Nanaimo lined the shoreline of Vancouver Island. We disembarked onto Highway 19 and skirted the city of Nanaimo; at Aulds Road we exited and made our way to the Walmart parking lot in the Woodgrove Shopping Centre. Here we spent the night with 25 other RVs? a perfect place to overnight.
Next morning we had a little last minute shopping in Walmart (pop and chips) and then were on our way. Driving north on Highway 19 we turned left onto Highway 4 at Parksville and headed west. The sun shone and another sunny day was unfolding. We followed 12 km along Cameron Lake then entered Cathedral Grove with its 136ha of 800-year-old Douglas fir trees. The trees tower above the highway and sunlight streams through the branches of these giants to the ferns and moss below. We climbed the Alberni Summit (375m) and drove into the town of Port Alberni situated at the head of the Alberni Inlet. This is the longest inlet on Vancouver Island joining Port Alberni with Bamfield. The highway follows the Somass River and is the entrance to the Pacific Rim National Park.
Beautiful Sproat Lake is seen in the distance, glittering in the sunlight surrounded by mountains. Then on our right was the massive Kennedy Lake; here the road narrows.
Our turnoff was coming up and we watched for signs. When we saw ?Toquart Bay/Maggie Lake? next left, we turned off the highway and suddenly found ourselves on gravel road and climbing; this is a forest service road. We slowed and the dust was flying. It was 16kms to our campsite. A small square yellow sign marked each kilometre as we drove; they also helped calculate how far was left to go. This is a washboard, potholed road. We quickly shut the windows and secured anything loose. Many small bridges over dried out creek beds were being replaced and dust lies thick on the leaves of the trees and bushes.
It?s a slow drive and Maggie Lake looked inviting as we glimpsed the shimmering waters through the trees. Then we arrived at Toquart Bay Campground and registered. Our campsite was on the beach and the view of the islands of Barkley Sound was spectacular. The hard-packed sandy beach was littered with oyster shells but no eating bi-valves (clams or scallops) as it was red tide.
This is a BC Forestry Recreation Site and we had a few rules to obey. A user-maintained campground so all garbage is packed out. There are no showers or water (the well dried up) but grey water dump stations and pit toilets were available. The current camping rate per night was $10, if over 65 and a Canadian resident it?s $5 per night.
The Toquart Bay Marina is very close to the campground. We moored our boat for the duration of our visit for a daily fee. Once the boat was launched, rods, reels, bait, fuel and life jackets were loaded. Two crab traps were baited and lowered into the water; we were set up in one of the most beautiful spots in BC.
On the first day of fishing Al caught a 22 lb. Spring salmon, then later Connor caught his first 14 lb. Coho, this made him very happy; he knew then this was going to be an exciting fishing trip. The crab traps had crabs in them every time we checked, this gave us delicious dinners; cooked in salt water we ate them outside at our picnic table on the beach, which made the crabs taste even better.
One cloudy day while out in the boat Connor spotted whales; a pod of humpback and blue whales were feeding and frolicking amid the islands of Barkley Sound. They are graceful, magnificent mammals of the deep, rising out of the water without a sound and disappearing as fast as they appeared. The whales were all around us and we watched them with wide-eyed wonder. Some rose high out of the water, others barely surfaced; it was a sight we?ll never forget.
As our holiday came to an end we packed up the boat, hooked it onto the motorhome and loaded our cooler with four salmon and one cod (we ate all the crab). We made sure we took out our garbage and cleaned up our campsite. Again, the windows were closed and anything loose was secured for travel: the gravel road was ahead. The ride seemed shorter and better than when we arrived, it had rained and this smoothed out the road, creating less dust.
Back on Highway 4 we headed west to Ucluelet where we emptied our black and gray water tanks at the Ucluelet Campground ($5). Then we turned east to Nanaimo and Highway 19 to Duke Point ferry terminal. As we waited for the ferry other RVers and boaters in the lineup visited and asked about our fishing and camping trip. It was a great adventure and we?re ready to do it again.
To learn more about camping and fishing in BC go to www.campingandrvingbc.com where the Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition (CRVBCC) will help plan your next exciting outdoor adventure.