We had finished nearly all the preparations for the big trip. Locking and pinning the coupler to the hitch ball, tensioning the spring bars on the load leveler, and adjusting our dashmounted electronic brake controller, we were ready to go.
Crossing the U.S./Canadian border, we pointed our Dodge Ram 2500 and 22-foot Airstream International travel trailer to a port just south of the city of Vancouver where we would board a ferry and cross the Strait of Georgia. Offloading 40 minutes later, what lay in front of us was Vancouver Island, a 300-mile-long, 100-mile-wide chunk of ready-to-be-explored real estate. Its mild climate (more northern Mediterranean than anything else) makes it a destination that can be enjoyed year 'round.
Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino is a seaport where people come to celebrate bad weather (yes, that's right) four months out of the year. This is the westernmost point, where winter storm systems that sweep across North America first make land. Watching these storms come in from the Gulf of Alaska is a popular pastime; however, between April and November, Tofino is an RVers' playground.
For those adventurous souls, pods of orcas and gray whales congregate to feed and play at the tip of this wispy strand of sand and rock. Deep-sea and freshwater fishing also are popular, but the idea of riding in a handcrafted dugout canoe looked interesting. We signed up for Tla-ook Cultural Adventures, offered only by the First Nations People, and guides Tsimka and Gisele led us out through the islands that dot the inlet. They told us legends and chanted songs in their native tongue (verbal histories that have been handed down since their ancestors first crossed the Bering Strait when it was a land bridge).
Tofino is known for its excellent seafood, with restaurants and bistros routinely featuring the catch of the day. Had we wanted to explore the miles of trails that lace this coastal wilderness, we could've rented mountain bikes. Surfboards also are available for some of the best surfing around.
The Old Country Market in Coombs is a must-see. The roof is covered with meadow grass grazed on by goats. You'll find fresh produce, a bakery, and a deli, and stacks of treats line the store. We ordered a la carte from the deli and highly recommend the Sockeye salmon (right out of the market's own smokehouse), a freshly baked roll, and a big scoop of potato salad.
Strathcona Park Lodge
Nestled on the shore of Upper Campbell Lake, just west of the town of Campbell River on Highway 28, is a vacation stop that allows for strolling though a meadow, watching a sunset, or enjoying gourmet food at the Strathcona Park Lodge. This unique adventure haven caters to the total novice and the overachiever alike. Activities include rockclimbing, repelling, and ziplining. In addition, the lodge offers adventure sampler packages that can include kayaking, canoeing, fishing, naturalist walks, whale and wildlife viewing, wildlife photography, sailing, caving, and learning survival skills.