Big Trees and Waves for a Weary Spirit: Strait of Georgia and Vancouver Island


"Believe one who knows: you will find something greater in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters." - Saint Bernard de Clairvaux

Instead of reading this, go for a walk in the woods. Ed Boshart.

Along a foggy, wet coastline south from Whistler Mountain, B.C., my fellow traveler Rick Mercer and I wound our way for the first time to the open sea, securing a ferry passage at Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver city, in order to cross the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island. The weather was cool-cold and windy, but the trip across the strait ended in Nanaimo on the Island without a hitch. After a short 2-night stay in the the Island's largest city, Victoria, and a day's drive up the northwest coast, our itinerary crossed the San Juan Strait, on yet another ferry, and onto the fogbound Olympic Peninsula of the U.S. (Victoria and the eastern Olympic Peninsula will be covered in the next two or three blogs).

Vancouver Island is probably even a bit wilder than mainland British Columbia. Roads are scarce and the forest shadows are long. Trees make deep rainforest sounds, drip-drip and silence, waiting patiently for the next northern Pacific Ocean storm to push ashore. Stumps and ferns and flora of all sorts watch passing hikers, like myself, with a kind of disinterest or even disdain, without curiosity. It is an old place, although Vancouver cityfolk and population overflow from Victoria are evidently attempting to establish a foothold where only native, indigenous North Americans once hunted and fished (and still do in a limited way).

Along the rugged shoreline northwest of Victoria, the very rare, occasional jet flyover is the only noise that penetrates a steady roar of ocean waves as they wash relentlessly across stony beaches, pushing many kinds of flotsam up to the conifer floors, including enormous strands of rope kelp, shattered shells, broken logs, etc.

There are mountains on the island, but I did not see them. The Vancouver Island Ranges run most of the length of the island, dividing it into a wet and rugged west coast and a drier, more rolling eastern coast along the Georgia Gulf.