Two years ago this past August, my mother and I ventured on a cross country trek in my brother’s Jeep across Canada. We drove west from southwestern Ontario to Vancouver, BC over the course of two weeks, and then down to northern California to meet up with the men in our family. The following are taken from emails I wrote to family and friends.
Day 14: Monday, August 13, 2012
Slept past 6:30 am today. Amazingness. Left our little Diplomat Hotel, and went into the core of Nanaimo.
First stop was their local museum and TI (tourist information) centre. I grabbed a pamphlet on “Nanaimo Bar Walking Tour.” I thought it would be great to try a few different types of Nanaimo Bars: deep fried; peanut butter (had it for an early dinner, not bad); after eight; Nanaimo ice cream sandwich – what I really wanted to try, but the dang place is closed on Mondays. How rude. Museum was interesting; Nanaimo is a place with a lot of firsts. First town in BC to have a telephone is about the only tidbit I recall at this point. Started up as a coal mining town – as the majority of these western towns got their start. We had falafel at Aladdin’s Lamp and then walked the Harbour Front, visited the Bastion – a 2-storey tower that was their only defence back in the day, had some non-nanaimo ice-cream (because they were out) and drove to the old historical part of town. Gorgeous and quaint buildings that have been there since the mid 1800s – spruced up of course. As my pamphlet instructed me, we went to Bocca Café and bought 3-bars for the road.
Made our way to the lovely, Ladysmith. Chatted with a great TI girl. Asked her about Cathedral Grove, and to our dismay we learned it was north of Nanaimo. Oops. Booked it out of there and headed for it. So glad we did. Drove through Coombs first, saw “Goats on a Roof.” A marketplace restaurant that literally had goats on its roof. All the little shops and things had grass for roof tops. I snapped a pic of some goats… on a roof. True story: Mom stops two young guys to ask, “Excuse me, where is ‘Goats on a Roof’?”
“Just one building over, you’ll see a larger building, with grass and, well, goats on a roof.”
“Really? Is that all it is? Goats on a roof?”
“Yes, there are goats… on a roof.” Who doesn’t like a good goat on a roof story? The world continues to spin on its axis.
As you wind your way closer to Cathedral Grove, in MacMillan Provincial Park, you know you’re on the right track as the trees look like they’ve been put on the rack (I’m thinking medieval torture apparatus here) – what I mean to say is, they’re incredibly tall. There’s a small lot to park, and a wooded boardwalk through some of the forest with interpretive plaques of interesting information. Be still my heart. I may have gotten goosebumps intermittently… or shed a tear. I love me some old forests. New ones are cool too of course, but this place has some giant Douglas Fir trees that are more than 800-years old. Très cool. And beautiful. Because it was later in the day, the sun peeked through the leaves, needles, and branches, to cast an ethereal greenish glow. The mosses that covered, wrapped, and dangled off of some of the trunks and branches of various trees, helped in creating this otherworldly feel. One Douglas Fir in the park is 9-metres in circumference. I don’t think we saw this one.
I just learned that a lot of the trail has been closed because back in 1997 there was a giant windstorm that toppled hundreds of trees. Sad that clean up is not entirely finished. These trees are subject to falling over so readily because they have such shallow roots. And a lot of warning signs said this:
Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Park is an old forest. Its large trees will continue to live for many more years but root system disease will cause some trees and branches to die. They will fall without warning. Please use caution at all times when in the park and stay off the trails on windy days.
Left CG and tried to find a place to stay in Ladysmith, – yes, Ladysmith. Who wouldn’t want to stay the night here? But gave up quickly and we now find ourselves in Chemainus – it’s no Ladysmith. Tomorrow we will venture to Victoria… eventually. There is a scenic loop we’d like to do that goes to the westcoast and circles back to the east via the beaches on the southern part of Vancouver Island. I hope to go for a dip.