Time to play with other kids – Smonecten – Days 46-51

Family at picnic table in Smonecten

Months ago, Paigey sat online waiting on the clock for summer camp registration to open up in Sidney. This was the week we were to benefit from those efforts. Five days of kids off on their own at summer camp while we got to enjoy all the Victoria area had to offer. It wasn’t just the kids that were excited. I relished the routine of bedtimes, wake-ups and even packed lunches. Paige was excited about the weather and lunches without crayons or kids’ menus.

As it turned out, camp was a mixed bag. The day before, we found out Julie’s class had got cut to a half-day camp due to labour shortages. In the end, it worked out for the best as her organic farming camp took place entirely in a farmer’s field. 3 hours each day in a farmer’s field is probably all she could have handled in the 30-degree heat. Plus, some great memories are from just the three of us going for lunch in the town. And then there was the kids magic show at the local library we would never have stumbled upon if we didn’t have Julie with us in the afternoon. As for the organic farming, each day Julie brought home a new vegetable from the garden. By the end of the week, I had a perfect deconstructed greek salad. She insisted each day on wearing Izzy’s straw hat calling it her “farming hat”.

Child with flower at organic farm Sidney

Isabella’s tennis and basketball camp went off without a hitch. She hadn’t played either before and we were skeptical as to how it would turn out. Indoor tennis was manageable and, since it got quite hot, basketball which took place on pristine outdoor courts got replaced with swimming most days. Since this was BC, it meant the town had another top-notch aquatic centre that the day camps took full advantage of. The waterslide was so intense that it had a height restriction! Izzy was more than happy with her camp (waterslide) experience.

Child poking crab on wharf

While the kids were at camp, Paige and I took care of some necessary “trip” admin. We could finally get a spot at a service centre for the Jeep and brought it in for a check-up. We had been concerned with some noises that fixed themselves but wanted our fears allayed before driving back across the country. With that taken care of, we decided to give the Jeep her first car wash of the trip. The picture makes it looks like I did a good thorough job, but the dirt is so caked onto the vehicle, it was a futile exercise.

A final note about Sidney / Victoria: We had some delicious meals (every restaurant in Sidney seems to be 4+ stars online) but we had to wean ourselves off the restaurants. In the latter half of the week, we opted for some spectacular picnics along the shore instead. Thrifty foods became my new favourite grocery store. Plus each night after our oceanside picnic, the kids would walk the pier and help crab fisherman throw back their undersized catch. We even got to share this culinary experience with Uncle Leif. Spoiler alert, we have a visitor for the next leg!

By the numbers:

  • Visits to the Aquatic Centre: 3
  • Visits to the laundromat: 4 (don’t ask)
  • Iphones fixed: 0 (they did not have the part so we will have to wait for Vancouver)
  • Friends made: 1. Isabella met a girl at our campsite who was riding a bike across BC with her family.

Where we stayed (five words or less):

Wildlife Spotted:

  • Dungeness Crabs
  • Red Rock Crabs
  • Bunnies a plenty

Tofino and Pacific Rim – Days 38 – 41

Let’s start by saying 4 days in Tofino ain’t bad (even if you are not a surfer).

We woke up in the morning after our ferry to Port Hardy and blitzed to Tofino. We stopped only in Coombs to find a cute market with goats on the roof that we remembered from our last trip to Vancouver Island. Instead of a quaint market, we found a zoo of shops selling every piece of tourist junk you could find. Our ice cream hole-in-the-wall was replaced by a gelato store trying to look like a french cafe. It’s one of those dangers of going back to places you’ve been to before. Your awesome memories get replaced by new crappy ones. Oh please … do not ruin the “Mike and Paige newly in love memories” from Tofino!

We started our adventure in Tofino with a resort with a view of the beach -one night to relax, have a nice shower and prepare ourselves for camping again. We used our Best Western points (from 10 days of staying in Best Westerns earlier) which got us a free night (saving budget for Tofino dining!) We loved our beach room but we were equally excited to move to Pacific Rim campground the next day. This is probably the hardest campground in Canada to book. Reminiscent of booking early rounds of COVID vaccines, you wake up early on a special day and log in to get your place in line (in our case it was 1500 and something). We were so excited when Mike snagged one of the 114 spots.

Girls were ready for a beach
Julie with surfers in the distance

It’s hard to forget the first time that you see Long Beach in Pacific Rim National park. Imagine a 16km strip of undeveloped beach with the backdrop of a lush emerald green rainforest. There’s practically no one on the soft sand beach and the ocean (albeit chilly) has the perfect waves for playing with the kids. The only complaint people have about this paradise is that you very rarely see the sun. Somehow we got 4 days of total sunshine and it only rained as we packed up our gear on the last morning. Michael spent hours jumping in the waves with two little girls (who only agreed to wear their wetsuits after their lips were a dark shade of purple).

Julie in tree picture for scale

Our campsite was up a trail in the rainforest with trees that seemed straight out of Cathedral Grove. Bears, cougars and wolves frequent the park and so the park staff are vigilant about keeping a BARE campsite. I had never seen anything like these little golf carts driving up and down the path ready to pounce on any left-behind water bottle or bottle of shampoo. The park staff wants to ensure that the wildlife stays very far away from people to avoid having to deal with wildlife that is not afraid of us. We heard stories of emboldened wolves a few years ago that had to be put down because they were attacking pet dogs (on leashes). We never saw any scary animals but went on a guided hike and found their tracks which kept my bear spray tight in hand when venturing out after dark.

Isabella and Julie’s tidepool obsession began here after visiting Chesterman Beach’s rocky outcrops at low tide. They saw everything from anemones, crabs, barnacles and mussels. Isabella did get a scraped arm in all the excitement (there was little chance of avoiding it) but all we heard for days after was “when can we see tide pools again?” I was sad to learn that sea star wasting disease (hadn’t heard of it) has decimated the population here. We did see sea stars but far fewer than I remember.

The town of Tofino was a welcome change after being in the Northern parts of Canada for several weeks. We were suddenly in the world of kombucha and smoothies again! We scrapped the idea of cooking at the “Bare campsite” and frequented the many restaurants instead. We had four great meals in Tofino (2 of them at Shelter). Unfortunately, red tide meant that oysters were a no-go in this area but we finally got to eat BC Salmon and crab and the kids were back in the land of kids’ meals that did not always have fries on the side (Salmon and veggies was a big hit). Having just seen bears and whales, we did not find the need to go on these tours from Tofino but we just enjoyed visiting bookstores, playgrounds and coffee shops again.

Wonderfully paved route
must stop for snails!

Another huge bonus about the Tofino area is the bike paths – the best of which just opened this spring. The Canadian government spent $51 million building this path which runs for 25km and took us from our campground all the way to the Tacofino parking lot (it would have taken us right into town but my riding partner was exhausted). Isabella and I rode 15km (by far Izzie’s longest ride to date). The trail was truly spectacular including features such as boardwalks and generally great infrastructure. Seems like a hefty price tag but I can definitely think of worse things on which the government has spent a fortune.

We also did go to Ucluelet which is the town on the other side of Pacific Rim Park. They have a fabulous mini aquarium which strengthened the kids’ tide pool obsession. We went here for breakfast twice enjoying the little cafes and people-watching.

By the Numbers

  • Score for the Parks Canada Slug presentation: 10/10 – we are still being lectured about the breathing and sensing abilities of banana slugs
  • Ice Creams: 3 – we were back in the world of ice cream parlours
  • Trips into town before finding Tacofino – the famous taco truck: 4 and we never ate there (not wanting to wait 2 hours for a taco)
Slugs, slugs and more slugs

Where we stayed (five words or less):

Wildlife Seen:

  • 25+ Starfish – both the purple and orange varieties
  • Bazillion crabs – lift a rock and catch em
  • Oysters – just don’t eat them
  • Mussels – Didn’t eat em
  • Anemones – I taught Julie how to poke em
  • Beach hoppers – Julie learnt about them at a Parks Canada session
  • Barnacles – Izzy was the first to cut herself on them (wouldn’t be the last)