Vancouver Island June 24, 2012 I asked Bill, If you had one day on Vancouver Island, where would you go? He said Victoria was a pretty city and if I was looking to tour around a beautiful populated area I should definitely see it. But with my desire to ride twisting scenic roads, he suggested I ride to the west coast. It was a three hour drive across the island but I had to make it back to Departure Bay by 7pm to catch my ferry to Vancouver. I hoped to get back to Nanaimo early enough to grab a drink and possibly dinner with Bill, but I knew it would be a stretch with only one day to see the island. He told me to be sure and stop at Cathedral Grove, an old-growth Douglas fir forest in MacMillan Provincial Park. There are 800 year old trees there. With trunks 30 feet around, they tower 250 feet above the ground, arching their branches through a canopy resembling the internal crown of a holy house of worship. Excited to ride and eager to make the most of my day, I woke early and left the hostel just after dawn. I didnt bring much for food with the last minute planning, so I stopped at a little diner on the way out of Nanaimo on highway 19. I headed north to Parksville before turning west onto the Alberni highway. It is a beautiful windy road cutting across the mountains and contouring the edge of Cameron Lake, perfect for any motorcyclist. When I came to Cathedral Grove I was not impressed with the amount of traffic and cars piling up on the sides of the road. It was yet another natural gem built into a tourist attraction to withstand large amounts of people. I walked the cut trail bordered by a fence to keep foot traffic obedient to the path provided. The trees were impressive and magnificent giants. But I couldnt help but feel there was something missing, like something had been taken from this special place. I felt the spirit had left these trees, their purity tainted. They looked out of their element, no longer native to their own home. Similar to a wild animal fenced in an enclosure, they were protected yet trapped, for all to see. I asked myself, What else could be done to protect this unique environment from the swarms of people flocking to natural paradise for all the same reasons? We all want to see something amazing. How else could these trees be saved from constant visitors? The reality is, everyone deserves to experience and see the phenomenal natural wonders existing in this world. All we can do is protect what we have left. Unfortunately, protecting such an environment from chains of RVs, cars, and people, means laying down asphalt, putting up fences and signs, and digging toilets into the ground. I walked the short path leading around the giants and waited my turn to capture my own photos, the same pictures everyone else visiting would bring home. After appreciating the spectacular forest, I quickly hopped back on the Radian to pursue the coast in solitude. I rode through Alberni before highway 4 turned into the Pacific Rim Highway. It was serene following along Sproat Lake and Taylor Arm Provincial Park. It was green and lush as a rainforest covered in moss delicately suspended in the canopy of hemlock, spruce, and cedar trees. The road continued winding around the edge of the mountains before cutting beside Kennedy Lake. I followed the edge of the crystal water riding along the seat of the mountain before the road came to an end. There was The Pacific Rim Visitors Center there, and I stopped for a map to make my plan. I could turn right and head to Long Beach and Tofino. Or I could turn left and head to Ucluelet. I asked the girls in the Center if they had one day on the island where would they go. One girl told me to check out Long Beach. Its a massive sand dune large enough to avoid crowds of people and a beautiful piece of the coastline where many go to surf. She warned me however, to be sure to get a park pass from any kiosk in the parking lot since I was entering the Pacific Rim National Park. Otherwise, Id be sure to get a ticket. The other girl suggested if I wanted to hike, to go to Ucluelet. She highlighted a couple trails on my map along the coast she remarked were gorgeous. They both agreed Tofino was a fun town to visit, but with only one afternoon, it may be too far to really enjoy it. It was close to noon and I had just a few hours to enjoy the coast before heading back to Nanaimo. I was ready to just sit somewhere alone and have a picnic. So, I turned right and headed towards Long Beach. But before too long, I saw a sign for Wickaninnish Beach, so I sporadically turned left and decided to check it out. I parked in a sandy edged lot surrounded in jungle like trees hearing the crash of the coast close by. I could feel and taste the salt in the air. I found the park permit kiosk and used my credit card for a daily pass. It was $8, a little steep I thought, but then again it is a National Park, which Im happy to give back to. I taped the permit to the inside of my windshield tucking it as low as possible, hoping no one would take it for themselves. After strapping all my gear down to the bike, I walked along the white sand path towards the sound of the ocean. As the trail led me out of the trees, I summited a hill with a view of the horizon touching the sapphire water as far as I could see. There were piles of driftwood logs stripped smooth of their bark and bleached white from the sun. I climbed and scrambled across the stacks of sea trees until I found my spot hidden away from others. Nestled against the back of a trunk, I ate my lunch, baking in the sunshine, gazing to the Pacific. I wandered down the beach admiring the colorful smooth pebbles mixed in the pure white sand. I collected several as I explored around a rocky teal lagoon on the other side of Wickaninnish Interpretive Center. There were purple mussel shells everywhere, reminding me of the beach in Juneau Billy and I stumbled across. As I took my time making my way back, I stopped in the Center perched on top of the rocks. I admired several exhibits on the history and native culture of the Nuu-chah-nuth tribe and Ditidaht First Nation people. There were beautiful artifacts including a hand-carved canoe, tools, and intricate arts and crafts. By the time I got back to the Radian, I had just a little over an hour to finish enjoying the coast before heading east. It was another 15 minutes north to Long Beach, and 30 minutes to Tofino. Ucluelet was 15 minutes south and closer to my way back. I decided to head south and jump on the Wild Pacific Trail for a short hike around the coast of Ucluelet. I followed the gravel path through a beautiful green landscape that contoured the edge of Barclay Sound all the way to a light house on the edge on a cliff overlooking the water. Although I didnt have time to hang around, the view of the coast was gorgeous. I hiked the two mile loop back to the Radian at a quick pace, but I still enjoyed every moment of it. After fueling up, I headed back to Nanaimo without stopping, giving me just enough time to catch a quick drink with Bill and his wife. I purchased my boarding ticket and met them at the bar next to the ferry terminal to say goodbye. Im glad I got to see them. It was a great adventure visiting Vancouver Island, and a beautiful trip back to Horseshoe Bay. I have just one more week at the Aquarium now, and then Im on the road again, destined for San Francisco.