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North Vancouver island part 1

January 06, 2022

Back in Cranbrook, BC, Canada, feeling itchy to travel in 2021, especially with the land borders being closed, we decided to head to the milder weather of Vancouver Island after the new Year. So there was a window of good weather forecasted, and we headed west to the Pacific Ocean.

“I was born very far from where I’m supposed to be and so I’m on my way Home…” -Bob Dylan

Salmo Creston Summit

On day one, we started on snowy roads crossing over the Salmo summit to Osoyoos, staying at the Husky Travel Center.

The next day we crossed a few more Summits on dry roads before we reached the outside of Vancouver, where we found a rest area to stay for the night.

Then, after a rainy night, we continued to Horseshoe Bay to the ferry terminal, where we caught our ride to Nanaimo. We arrived late in the evening on the Island and found a rest area outside Nanaimo, where we stayed until morning. Our final leg of our trip was Sayward, an hour north of Campbell River, at the Kelsey Bay Campground, which will be our home base for a while.

The  Campground of Kelsey Bay, located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, is 1 mile (1.6 km) from the community of Sayward.

We decided to hunker down for January and February to embrace winter with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding mountains. Sayward has an important Logging industry. On our daily walks along the scenic waterfront trail, we observed boom boats working on the Western Forest Products logging yard, operating a dry land and wet log sort on the one portion of the Sayward waterfront with the logs floating down the Johnston Strait.

But, of course, there is much other marine traffic, including cruise ships to container traffic and fishing vessels, and in between, orcas, sea lions, and other marine lifes.

This small community is a hidden gem, and we are so glad we could get to know this area.

Raft Cove

“Smell the sea and feel the sky, Let your soul and spirit fly.”

Van Morrison

After a couple of weeks of enjoying Kelsey Bay, we decided to explore the north of the Island. The weather forecast promised dry roads. So off we went from Sayward to Port Hardy, Nahwitti Lake, west to Raft Cove. The isolated Raft Cove Provincial Park on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island is on the long crescent-shaped sandy beach, which is a desirable spot do Wilderness camping on the beach, surfing, fishing and hiking. The north and south beaches can be reached along longshore walks over rocks and seafloor during low tides, with a spectacular view of the pounding Pacific surf.
We started from the main parking lot on a rugged 2-km trail that cuts through a coastal old-growth forest of hemlock, western red cedar and Sitka spruce to reach this fantastic spot. This unmaintained wild route has some challenging sections and is highly muddy in areas. We did this hike in early February. It took us 2hours to get to the beach. We experienced sunshine, rain, snow and even hail while we crawled through knee-deep mud, climbed over fallen trees, and searched for the overgrown trail. We were cold and wet and somewhat miserable. But once we reached the beach. Oh my, it was the most spectacular view of the rugged Pacific ocean. We had a quick birthday picnic (yes, it was my Birthday), shivering but enjoying the sounds of the crashing waves. Then it was time to hike back uphill, this time facing more mud and changing weather. Finally, just before dark, we made it back to the LuvShk, where we turned on all the heaters we had and enjoyed the hot soup. Even Charley and Harry, our two dogs, needed blankets and warm food. As we were all tucked in for the night and warmed up, we felt happy, and it was well worth the effort and that we would be back one day in the late summer.

Even in stormy weather, the beach is magnificent

Raft Cove Provincial Park Parking Lot

The muddy trail to the beach

finally, the beach is near

End of the road 

Winter Harbour

The startings and arrivals of the cars are now the epochs in the village day. – Henry David Thoreau

On our last stop on the northern part of the island, we took a rugged drive to the very end of the road to an outpost community off Quatsino Sound on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in a remote area. Winter Harbour is the western-most settlement on the west coast, about 41 kilometres from the northwest tip of Vancouver Island. It sits next to the mouth on the northern side of Quatsino Sound. In the 1800s, the town earned its name for its sheltered harbour, which became a refugee for sailing ships. Today the small port still harbours recreation and commercial fishing boats. With a population of only 20 in the winter season, it is not surprising that curiosity was triggered when we pulled up with our loud diesel sound, and we got to meet most Winter Harbour residences. We met a couple who stopped just like we did and now run the OutPost at Winter Harbour LTD., a Store, Moorage, hotel, fuel, campground and liquor store. The couple showed us around down the small boardwalk community and their sailboat, which they stay on in the summertime. Fishing and tourism are essential parts of the summer month, and the population grows substantially. There were quite a few winter residences on the campground, but the couple suggested going to Kwaksistah Regional Park one km out of the town, set among tall trees, is perfect to boondock. The rustic campground has 12 campsites, fire pits, pit toilets, picnic tables, two covered barbecues, and a boat launch for tiny boats. Our Campsite located at the waterfront had a beautiful view. The bast part was it was free of charge. Our dogs could explore the beautiful beach.
Sometimes going off the beaten track brings you to hidden places, and you get to meet new amazing people.