travel / adventure / guides / winter 2005

Travel & Adventure Guides

Tempest in Tofino
BY MARION HARRISON

A veteran adventurer of the great outdoors kicks back and enjoys Nature's fury from her comfy cabin for two

Few people hope for bad weather on their holidays. My husband Peter and I, however, wished for it last Christmas as we headed to Vancouver Island.

Our destination was Tofino, which lies just outside the northern boundary of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. With the open Pacific on one side and rain forest providing a windbreak on the other, the West Coast is hit by a dozen spectacular winter storms each month between December and March, and as a change of pace, we planned to spend a week there watching them.

In summer, Tofino's resident population of 1,400 swells to 22,000, whipping up a sea of visitors in search of surf, forests, whale-watching and village charm. But at Christmas, the town is quiet and the beaches are empty, save for a handful of foul-weather junkies waiting for a storm.

Over the first three days, we were plagued by blue, cloudless skies and warm temperatures. We passed the time kayaking across Clayoquot Sound to Meares Island, where a boardwalk winds through pristine forest, past oceans of spongy moss and great cedars. We walked sandy shores, explored tide pools and marvelled at the old-growth forest, nourished by two to three metres of annual rainfall.


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On our fourth day, we awoke to ebony skies that promised rain. A deep, low-pressure system was on its way from the southeast, and by noon, it had us ducking into a steamy bakery to escape the drizzle, then dashing from gallery to gallery as it unleashed a torrential downpour.

By night, we got what we came for: the Pacific's unrelenting fury, ferocious winds, driving rain and a pounding surf. Sipping wine and curled up fireside under our down duvet, we watched through the front window of our beach cabin as the waves thrashed the rugged coast. At times during the night, we awoke to the sound of rain beating against the window panes. The next morning, temperatures fell, turning the rain into sloppy, wet snow.

The skies cleared on our final day and we bundled up for one last beach walk and felt invigorated by the crisp ocean air.

Our tempest in Tofino — as Shakespeare wrote — such stuff as dreams are made of.

 


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