I'm currently seated at a McDonald's in Nanaimo, my third accidental visit to the town, regretting the Big Mac I bought to comfort myself after having to get Wanda towed to the mechanic. She had been having more trouble than usual starting during my stay in Tofino, and I should not be surprised that the alternator belt finally gave up today. She went from Kennedy Lake to Port Alberni to Little Qualicum Falls, where I noticed a strap dangling under the front of the van. I plucked at it reluctantly and it came out right into my hand, a mangled looking rubber thing with teeth and a section entirely frayed through. My tired, sick brain didn't put two and two together and I hopped back in and started her up. She drove all the way to the rest stop at Nanoose Bay, where I stopped to take a picture of a double rainbow, and then right into town and into the WalMart parking lot, where she then died as soon as I parked her. Two and two came together- the dangling item I pulled out eighty kilometers before was the fucking fan belt and the fact that she made it the rest of the way before crapping out was a minor miracle. I had her towed to the BCAA center across the road and am looking forward to an uncomfortable floodlit night in the back before getting her fixed (hopefully) in the morning.
I am no stranger to the bush and large bodies of water. Growing up on Manitoulin Island most of my childhood memories are of being in the bush with my dad and granddad, tramping around crown land and climbing split rail fences to hike around the woods behind the back forty. Even the urban parts of Manitoulin are sparsely peopled and wild. I've never blinked an eye at driving the forty minutes back the unmaintained dirt road to Carters Bay to spend a week there by myself. The rainforest, however, is unnervingly foreign. I'm driving back to Kennedy Lake in the falling dusk to meet up with friends and have vague directions given to me in dubious English by my Quebecer treeplant wife. Wanda's temperamental although reasonably reliable, and the logging roads don't bother me at all- I've careened down Waxatike going 90kph in the kitchen bus, veering around corners and feeling the deep clay mud suck at the tires. I three (ok, five) point turn a couple of times, unnerved, and walk a few kilometers down a gravel path trying to figure out if I'm in the right place.
The trees tower above me in cathedral silence, great, ancient behemoths covered in wispy green moss. The forest is layers upon layers of soft green, everything damp and breathing and blurry, ill defined edges and oil-painting surreal. The sun's setting and it smells of funghi and wet moss and the good sort of decay, and there is not a sound except for my footsteps on the gravel. I would not be surprised to turn and see a dinosaur emerge between the leafy ferns and primeval trees. Suppressing the panic that comes as a surprise, I run back to Wanda and jet back to the highway where I ask a group of mushroom pickers for directions to Kennedy Lake. This time the drive is less eventful and I meet our group of vans along the way, following them to the bridge and the poorly defined path down to the beach.
Even in the very last pale light the scenery is outstanding. The outlines of hulking fallen trees defy my attempts to make sense of the size, things the size of twenty story apartment buildings that tower into the night. The stars are a billion ice white diamonds scattered densely across the sky, the visible Milky Way interrupted by the silhouettes of the mountains across the lake. The Kennedy Lake rec site is well hidden, as most of the B.C rec sites are. Unserviced and user maintained, it is found fifteen kilometers down and unmarked logging road on the highway between Port Alberni and Ucluelet. Down the logging road it is a straight shot and during the on season, you may find several vans and trucks parked at the entrance to the path that leads down to it.
I set up my tent in the dark and make camp and for a few nights its like treeplant all over again, us in the woods down a logging road, lazing around a campfire and being content. We spend two days surfing in Tofino. I have a healthy fear of the ocean, the salt brine strange on my lips and the tides a mystery, undertow and riptides and marine life abundant dangers. Ten of us in the Pacific in wetsuits laughing and licking our lips and falling, thrashing against the sea. We've all gone our separate ways again for now, heading off to various jobs and contracts and vacation destinations. Until we meet again!
Wanda is ready to go and pick up from the BCAA center so I'll call it a day.
Time to head 'er back toward the Okanagan and start looking for work.
Little Qualicum Falls
Before the van broke down
Wanda goes to the ocean
Nanoose Bay 2018