Off the Beaten Path – Tofino Plane Crash Hike

“It might be a little muddy,” our server said enthusiastically, “But you can get around it!”

That would turn out to be the understatement of the year, as my friend and I would discover several exhausting hours into our hike the next day. But at the time, it solidified our plans. Armed with directions and a vote of confidence from a local with experience on the trail, we were determined to find the crash site of a downed World War II Canso plane near Tofino. The bomber had apparently crashed in 1945 during a terrible winter storm, with the crew surviving (I would not have agreed had there been potential for angry ghost vibes). The trail promised views of not only the crashed plane, but also a large pond next to it, created by bombs that were detonated shortly before impact.

While unmarked, the trailhead was supposed to be easy to find. A simple walk from Radar Hill parking lot about a kilometre south, with a marked pole signalling the entrance to a decommissioned road which was now the trail. Easy!

Not easy. We drove up and down the highway trying to spot that stupid entrance, with no luck. Finally, we settled upon parking at Schooner Cove with the intent of finding the trailhead on foot, thinking it would be more visible. Walking along a busy highway was a challenge. Spotting a path that may have once been a road was a bit of a gong show. We finally came to a clearing that looked promising and Kevin forged ahead to investigate, before I heard a loud holler. He came crashing back out of the bush in a mad dash – not only was this not the trail, but he had also unfortunately stepped on a half-dead critter, and suspected that its attempted killer was waiting in the bush ready to pounce. We moved on quickly.

After almost six kilometres with no trail in sight, I finally admitted defeat and pulled out my phone to Google better directions (sidenote: bring a phone, or GPS for this trail) and discovered that the telephone poles had recently been replaced along this stretch of road, which explained our wandering with no avail. The trailhead now has a small airplane drawn on it for reference, and is about 15 poles from the Radar Hill parking lot.

Trail Marker

I almost cried when I saw the plane, for two reasons:

1. We were already exhausted and hadn’t started the trail
2. I was convinced we were going to get attacked by a bear, and that it would laugh at my whistle before absolutely owning me

Kevin, on the other hand, was like a kid on Christmas morning and pumped to do the trail! So off we went.

The initial track was well-marked and easy to follow. Once the sounds of the highway had faded off into the distance our minds simultaneously began to wonder about what (or who) might live in the forest (hello bears!!), and we spent the next few minutes stomping loudly and yelling “LOUD NOISES!” to scare off any would-be predators. Thankfully (and perhaps eerily), we encountered nothing. Not even a bird. Just dead silence apart from our winded selves and aforementioned shoes kicking rocks and dirt.

After about 20 minutes, we came across the first indications that we were on the right track – a sign from Parks Canada informing that this wasn’t a maintained trail, and this:

Trail ho!Then the real fun started. The open space disappeared and we began pushing ourselves through low-hanging branches, vines and down steep hills. Then we hit the swamp. “A little muddy” was in reality knee-deep mud and sludge (perhaps more) that went on and on. Someone had been kind enough to string up a rope which we clung to as we inched along tree roots and fallen limbs. Navigating became next to impossible as every direction looked the same – impassible.

And that was when we came to the sad realization that we were stuck. Kevin, bless him, tried to find alternative routes around the massive sink hole of mud surrounding us but it was no use. The trees we had climbed along had gotten higher and harder to access, and the recent rain had left everything moist and extra slippery.

At this point, I realized my legs were itchy and glanced down to notice that I was wearing pants made of mosquitos. Like a cool carnival dude with a beard made of bees, except this wasn’t badass at all. This was INSANELY ITCHY, and involved balancing on fallen tree limbs whilst trying not to focus on the fact that my legs were on fire. As I wobbled along, dropping a lot of curse words, my legs covered in all of the mosquitos in the Pacific Northwest, I wanted out. And we sadly realized we had to abandon the hike so close to the end.

The trek back along the highway to the car was a true walk of shame, with our limbs and spirits utterly crushed. I had to stop every few steps to madly scratch my legs – passing cars no doubt thought I’d rolled through the poison ivy I’d spied in the ditch. Kevin narrowly avoided death thanks to a van that hugged the curve of the highway a wee bit too close – once our heart rates had returned to normal we quickened our pace back to the car, so kudos to that driver for that unexpected shot of energy. When we finally stumbled into the parking lot I had never been so happy to see our junky Corolla rental waiting just where we’d left her, and we went and ate tacos to turn the day back around.

Takeaways from the experience:

  1. The importance of getting directions from a second person to compare – obviously our server had not done the trail recently, and wouldn’t have known the markers had changed.
  2. Bring bug spray. Dear God. Or maybe just wear a beekeeper’s suit.
  3. Along the same lines, hip waders probably wouldn’t have been the worst things in the world!

Have you attempted this hike?

In the City – Food Cart Fest

Food Cart Fest

What: A weekly food cart bonanza 
Where
:
Downtown Vancouver, overlooking False Creek. About a 10 minute walk from the Canada Line Olympic Village station, or a short Aquabus trip.
When
: Every Sunday until September 23 from 12 – 6 p.m. 
Good Stuff to Know: New this year, there’s a $2 entry fee unless you bank with Vancity. If you’re not a local, prepare to pony up a toonie. Kids under 13 get in free. Also, get there early! We arrived just after 1 p.m. and the lines weren’t bad, but by the time we’d made our decisions it was packed.

The Scene: Oh man. Over 15 glorious food trucks and carts cooking up freshly prepared grilled cheese, juice, Indian food and more. I checked out the first edition of the newly located food fest and was not disappointed. In town for a conference, my colleagues and I wandered in a daze as the air  filled with scents both spicy and sweet; it was like Christmas for grown-ups in terms of the levels of excitement. Despite my original plans to try something new, I ended up going to an old favourite, Tacofino. The 20-minute wait in the rain was worth it – I inhaled a black bean soft taco and half the diablo cookie I snagged for dessert before I rejoined my colleagues at Soho Road.

Tacofino

I was still hungry, but by this point all of the lines were insane. I overheard someone mention they had waited almost 50 minutes for Holy Perogy – dude! – and the line for Reel Mac N’ Cheese almost went back out of the parking lot. So I settled for the shortest line, Johnny’s Pops, and grabbed a strawberry rhubarb popsicle which was all sorts of amazing!

Strawberry rhubarb popsicle

Seriously, look at that bad boy!

Due to conference commitments we had to leave fairly quickly after eating, so I didn’t get a chance to check out the craft vendors that were also on hand. The Food Cart Fest is running throughout the summer and is a fun way to try a new food or two (or three) – check it out if you’re in Vancouver on a Sunday! Come hungry!

Disconnecting While Travelling

I just got back from 10 wonderful days on the best (sorry, west) coast. Rainy days, wellies and wool sweaters, spots of sunshine and resulting sunburns, ocean air, mountains and simple, fresh foods. Wine. Family time. And relatively disconnecting from email and social media as much as possible.

All of these things mix together to create a peaceful, relaxing time. I need to do this more often.

Sunday Seven – Best Beaches for Naps!

I love me a good nap. Curling up under a blanket, particularly in the kind of weather we’re having right now, is heaven. But napping on a beach is pure joy.

So to combat the chilly temperatures and all the snow I shovelled this morning, here’s seven of my favourite beaches – napping edition!

7. Manitou Beach, Centre Island, Toronto
Surprise! I picked a beach in Toronto! While I would never actually wade into Lake Ontario, I like this beach for sitting and snoozing because it faces south and is away from the throngs of families and frisbee throwers. Just go on a day when it’s not too humid – otherwise the lake gets a tad stinky.

6. Carmel-by-the-Sea Beach, Carmel, California

White sand, rolling dunes and the smell of money. Carmel is a classy place, and the beach reflects that. Apart from pesky squirrels attempting to steal your lunch, this is a great spot for a long afternoon nap. Pack some oversized shades to blend in with the wealthy types.

5. Kaikoura Beach, Kaikoura, New Zealand
Pay a visit to this beach and you’ll quickly discover why there are so many campervans taking up residence in the parking lot. With mountains providing a backdrop and crystal clear waters, Kaikoura Beach is a great spot to pack a picnic (perhaps with some local wine) and catch some rays along with your zzz’s.

4. La Jolla Shores Beach, San Diego, California
San Diego is a goldmine for good beaches. Some are pretty family-oriented, but they all offer great views and toasty sand to stretch out on. A nice spot to sip a little wine, read some tabloids and enjoy life. Just don’t wander too far – a popular nude beach awaits!

3. Waipi’o Valley Beach, Hawaii
Perhaps it was due to exhaustion from the intense hike down into the Valley (or the anticipation of the even crueller hike back out), but sprawling out on a secluded black sand beach was pretty fantastic. Getting back up, not so much. Bring a blanket, lots of snacks, and a good book. This one’s worth camping out at for a few solid hours.

2. Chesterman Beach, Tofino, British Columbia
A close runner-up, Chesterman Beach is absolutely gorgeous. Great for a variety of activities including surfing and picnics, it’s also fantastic for a good nap! The sand is soft and the beach is enormous, which means lots of space for you to spread out away from families or large groups. Watch out for the tide!

1. Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Australia is full of gorgeous people. It should come as no surprise that its beaches would also be fairly easy on the eyes. While I had some good naps at Manly, Bondi had the SOFTEST sand ever. I essentially dug myself a little sand bed, and camped out for much of the day with a lunch, some beer and a good book (and a big ass hat). With warm breezes, plenty of space to sprawl out, and the sweet sound of waves crashing, Bondi is the perfect napping beach in my opinion.

So, what do you think? Any beaches I need to pack a blanket for? Leave a comment below!