Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The road to Tofino

I feel as if I could write an entire book on the road. Or, actually, several roads. I'm doing a lot of research and interviewing for the book I'm working on and it seems I always end up talking about roads. Tofino and Ucluelet began as settlements long before there were roads. People arrived in both towns (and Clayoquot, the settlement that predates Tofino) by water on ships such as the Queen City, the Tees, the Maude, the Princess Nora and, last but probably most memorable, the Princess Maquinna. But there was always the hope — and in some cases the promise — of a road or railway. First it was just a "road" (I use the word loosely) from Tofino out to Long Beach. From there people drove on the beach for much of the way before heading upland again to connect with a road pushed through from the Ucluelet end of things. During the Second World War, these two roads were connected, although driving on the beach was still an option into the early 1970s.

Yesterday I drove on the other road — the road that eventually connected the west coast to the Albernis (Port Alberni and Alberni were two separate towns not so long ago). I also interviewed some people who were in the first cavalcade of cars that drove across this road. That was only 50 years ago this coming September. There's going to be a celebration this fall although, of course, I've mixed feelings about celebrating a road. Still, it's part of our history and this place — for better or worse — wouldn't be the same without it. There are many other towns on the west coast that have pretty much died because of the lack of access to the outside world.

Besides the history, the other thing that occupied my mind yesterday as I drove Highway 4 was how beautiful the drive was. Although I've lived most of my life on the island, the years immediately preceding my move to the west coast were spent in the Canadian Rockies. I think for many years I pooh-poohed our island mountains as not real mountains; not real like the Rockies at least. But it really is a beautiful mountain pass we drive through to get to the west coast and I've been trying to pay more attention. Yesterday, I finally took some pictures.

Early in the morning.

You know you're almost at the coast when you come upon this beauty, but this is a lake (Kennedy Lake); you're not at the ocean quite yet.

Our name for this mountain had become naughtier as the children get older. What would you call it?


  1. It's Pogo Peak, the Matterhorn of central Vancouver Island! It's also the mountain i have vowed to get to the top of for about eight years running now. I know the access, i know the route, i've talked to people who've done it ... *i* just need to do it. Maybe this summer....

  2. Hey, thanks Greg. We should plan a group event. (I haven't even been up Lone Cone, though, which is really disgraceful! This year. Really. This year.