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The Awesome & Wild west Coast


Story & photos by Kris Rogerson

Port Renfrew is the northern most point accessible by car via Highway 14 on southern Vancouver Island, where the rainforest meets the sea. The village is tiny, and there's not much more than a general store, a hotel and a few restaurants. But the coast's rugged beauty surpasses the need for anything more than a pack full of snacks, a heavy sweater and a camera. From here, the renowned West Coast Trail is also accessible to hikers by a ferry trip to the official Gordon River Trailhead or Thrasher Cove. The trail charges north to the Pachena Bay starting point. The trail breaks at a midway point of exit/entry at Nitinat Narrows and totals 75 kms, with an average completion time of 6 days. The southern half of the trail presents much more arduous terrain, making the north one a considerable option for the hike's commence.

 

Between 1830 - 1925, 137 major shipping tragedies occurred along this stretch of treacherous coastline. The trail was constructed by the provincial government to aid in the rescue of shipwrecks along 'The Graveyard of The Pacific' after a 1906 disaster, but fell into neglect in the mid 1950s. Within the following decade, the trail began to draw more recreational interest, but with the threat of logging, many environmentalist organizations lobbied to secure park protection: they were successful, and in 1980 the goal of rebuilding the park was achieved.

 

The beaches and bays surrounding Port Renfrew solidify the village's claim to be "The Jewel of the West Coast." It sits as the northern conclusion to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, which stretches 47 km along Vancouver Island's south-western coast from China Beach to Botanical Beach.

 

Botanical Beach wraps along the jagged shoreline it has carved for itself with millennia of unforgiving wrath. The sea charges with such intense force and you can't help but let the raw energy surge deep into your soul, cleansing your every breath. From every angle of view, vistas of moody skies and miles of wild ocean burn into your memory.

 

The fury of the coastline has produced a stunning range of vegetation that has adapted to the harsh and relentless environment. Giant Douglas fir, Western red cedar, Western hemlock and Sitka spruce gain their strength from the constant heavy wind and sea spray. Arbutus, Bigleaf maple and Red alder also thrive along this mossy section of rainforest, offering a softness to the rugged shores of sharp, structured eroded shale, sandstone, quartz and black basalt. Dotted along certain areas of the rock, the some Sitka spruce and Fir have emerged as small natural Bonsai's, showing true determination and adaptation of life along some of the most fierce coastlines. There is a rich diversity of underlaying shrubs and flowering plants as well, adding a touch of spring colour, such as salal, flowering red current, red elder and the invasive Scotch broom. The forest system also supports native species of wild flowers, including lillies, mountain sorrel, red paintbrush and even delicate orchids.

 

The many pits, ledges and shelves along the rocky beach create vast landscapes of tide pools, and provide excellent insight as to the ecological medley of life contained on the Island's western shores. Hundreds of intertidal life forms, including both animal and plant call these pools home. These include groups of seastars - which are often piled together to avoid loss of moisture - like purple sea urchin, anemones and chitons.

 

Sea snails, mussels and barnacles thrive as they survive easily by closing their shells, with a small amount of water inside. Botanical Beach is home to thousands of species of marine algae and invertebrates, which have evolved to flow with the hard crash of waves. A low tide of 4 or less feet is generally ideal for tide pool viewing, and visitors have even been known to see octopus within these shallow depths. These tide pools are delicate ecosystems, essential to the preservation of this natural, majestic ocean environment, and care must be taken in order to leave them undamaged and undisturbed. In addition to the diversity of the shoreline, Grey and Orca whales are also seen often, feeding in the waters, or migrating past the shoreline.

 

Port Renfrew's incomparable setting makes it the ideal destination for pure coastal living. This place emanates a pure mystical quality, where land and sea meet in a perfect crash of harmony.

 

China Beach panaroma

Attractions: Botanical Beach tidal pools have a plethora of sea life trapped during low tide. World-renowned for its marine life and strange geophysical shapes along shorelines. Several worthwhile local hikes. Accommodations and camping nearby.

http://portrenfrew.com/

http://www.juandefucamarinetrail.com/

http://www.westcoasttrailbc.com/

 

 

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