West Coast Wild: Driving to the End of the Road.

“I survived the drive to Tofino!”

I’m pretty sure tourists can buy shirts with that slogan in Tofino, because I was warned multiple times that getting to Tofino in one piece is a feat in itself.

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Trees, fog and road for miles…

The Pacific Rim “Highway”

Leaving Cathedral Grove, I knew that I was embarking on the more “adventurous” portion of the drive. The Pacific Rim Highway (err…road!) to Ucluelet and Tofino. I had been warned about this stretch of the trip, but it excited me. I was ready for the adventure, so I popped in my Surfer Music Mix and started on my way.

There is so much freedom in a good road trip. I was a single girl, driving windows down, through rainforests and mountains on a crazy amazing BC road, in the middle of nowhere! Ziggy Marley, Xavier Rudd and Jack Johnson were ringing in my ears, the breeze was blowing through my windows. It was exhilarating!

You will breeze in, fresh air that you are,
They will inhale you deep into their lungs.
They will exhale you as far as you may go
and you will touch their souls.
~Xavier Rudd, Breeze~

Throughout the 90 minute drive, hairpin turns, oncoming transport trucks and speedy locals had me sweating. I was driving on an August afternoon. The sun was shining and the road was relatively clear, besides some rainy spots. I would be hard pressed to venture here in the winter or anytime after dark.

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The stories those rocks could tell. They reminded me of old wrinkled faces.

You are forced to take Pacific Rim Highway seriously but you are paid back in spades at “The End“. Locals zoom through like it’s no big deal. Corner? What corner?

This was probably the only time in my life going 60km/hr felt fast! I’m fairly confident some of them were cursing me actually going the speed limit. I’ll be the first one to admit that I was a slow poke.

Going slow was not so much about safety and the danger of the road. It was the challenge of keeping myself in check while distracted by majestic scenery everywhere around me. I wanted to see everything! If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a smile on your face the entire way.

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I could’ve sat here watching the rays stream through all day.

Old growth forests, shimmering lakes, rushing rivers and tree covered mountains were around every corner. So were jagged rock cuts, foggy patches and oncoming traffic, but that’s besides the point.

I could’ve stopped every 5 minutes to take photos, but getting out of my little car, on such a tiny two-lane road with barely a shoulder, felt intimidating and borderline unsafe. I had to pick and choose where I stopped but, if I had it to do over again, I’d stop more often to capture the scenery and memories with my camera. In preparing for this post, I realized how few photos I have from that part of the trip. Lots of regret about that now!

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That was a tight curve!

Thankfully memory is a wonderful thing.  The awe  and excitement I had throughout the drive stays with me. It’s easily one of the most beautiful 90 minutes I’ve ever experienced. Rugged, natural, unforgiving, untouched and absolutely, gloriously stunning!

The joy in driving to Tofino is that in all likelihood you’re driving back. It made me happy knowing that I could experience it all over again on the way home.

Arriving at The End of the Road

You arrive at the junction for Tofino and Ucluelet quicker than you think you will. The Pacific Rim Visitor Centre is conveniently there to greet you and offer their assistance. I stopped to stretch my legs and pick up my park pass and map.

Turn left at this point and you’re off to the town of Ucluelet; turn right you’ll arrive in Tofino ,through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, 30-40 minutes later. I wanted to get to Tofino to check in. I planned to visit Ucluelet a couple days later to hike the West Coast Trail.

The drive to Tofino is pretty much flat as you make your way along the shorelines. I have yet to forget the feeling I had seeing the sun and beaches sparkle though the trees as I drove by.

I spoke to quite a few friends before my trip and every one of them had the same physical response when they heard I was visiting Tofino. A rise of the chest, hand to heart, and long breath out as they repeated, “Oh, Erin. Tofino is beaaaauuutiful! You’re going to love it.”

I had the same rise in my chest and feeling in my heart in those moments knowing the coastline was just to my left. After an incredible drive to get there, I had arrived and the beaches everyone spoke so lovingly about, were in front of me.

South Chesterman Beach

My initial intent was to drive straight to Tofino, but as soon as I caught sight of the beaches everything changed. I stopped in at South Chesterman Beach to wander and breathe in the ocean air.

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South Chesterman Beach

I don’t hear people speak of magic that often nowadays, but I felt magic when I stepped out onto Chesterman Beach.

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The sun filtered through the clouds lighting up the beach.  On one side the sun turned the sand to silver and gold, reflecting shadows and light. On the other, mist floated above the peninsulas of rock and wind-swept trees.

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Surfers and families frolicked in the water, couples stood together looking outwards into the ocean. I sat down on the sand, listened to the waves roll in and felt the cool breeze on my face.

Magic.

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I may have made it to The End of the Road, but this was just the beginning. Tofino and Ucluelet were next and I couldn’t wait to experience the next few days in paradise.

Wild and Found

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South Chesterman Beach

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