Port Renfrew is wet and a bit wild



Straddling the Strait of Juan de Fuca – named to make immature teenagers and me laugh – British Columbia’s Highway 14, from western Victoria to Port Renfrew and Pacheedaht Territory, surely traces the longest solid yellow line of Canada.

We enthusiastically maneuvered wild hills, tight turns, single-lane bridges – and passed roadside memorials. At the Renfrew Pub, a drunk guy later admitted, “I drive this road sober.

Here, Canada’s coastal rainforest remains frontier. A website advertises: “We at Port Renfrew have been practicing social distancing for years.” No cell coverage. No, Tim isn’t even.

But onlookers, land buyers and chalet developments are lining up. A “Rennie” lamented, “They come here with their Mercedes and their Jaguars.” A bumper sticker reads “Tofino is over there” showing an outstretched middle finger.

Nevertheless, the locals are great ambassadors for the rainforest.


The rare rays of a November morning captured from Port Renfrew’s Government Dock

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The rare rays of a November morning captured from Port Renfrew’s Government Dock

I booked a small roadside hiker’s hut. Equipped with bedding and a Kleenex box, the bathrooms are close, although one night I faced the bright eyes of a deer.

Margie questioned this hut asking, “That’s the $95 fare, isn’t it Gord?”

In the rainforest of Canada, I didn’t expect, uh, rain. Not 150 mm in three days. Two slugs kind of graced our door. I expected a salmon to knock on the door.

In the only province in Canada to sport a shining sun on its flag, we asked fisherman, Freddie, “Do you ever get sunshine?” He laughed, “June 15. 3:00 p.m.”

Our pub buddy defended, “Nothing’s worse than snow.” But we had passed road signs indicating Tsunami Evacuation Route.

He added: “It rains most days – but warm rain, and Arizona is wonderful.”




<p>Monstrous driftwoods adorn Pacheedaht Beach</p>
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<p>Monstrous driftwood adorns Pacheedaht Beach</p>
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<p>The Tobans believe that the people of the coast suffer from vitamin D deficiency – hair loss, rickets, gloomy thoughts and soggy feet.  We missed the Manitoba stingrays, but never encountered or felt like hairless, heavy-hearted toads.  And each day offered indelible moments.			</p>
<p>We hiked the mile to Botanical Beach to see its intertidal marine life.  On this same trail, there are five kilometers back.			</p>
<p>Trail mud meant jumping and crashing – but it wasn’t Manitoba gumbo that robbed people of their rubbers.			</p>
<p>Past a cedar tree growing in a twisting circle, a tangled, snake-like species occupied the beach: beached bullwhip kelp.  One of them jumped on me.			</p>
<p>Wink.			</p>
<p>I urged jumping on rocks around a cliff.  Margie insisted, “I’m not going. The tide is rising. With these runners, you won’t be coming back.”			</p>
<figure class=


<p>Maggie Mackintosh</p>
<p>Gord Mackintosh’s $95 Hiker’s Cabin.  His wife, Margie, embellished the interior with flowers, a candle, a lounge chair.</p>
<p>“/><figcaption>
<p>Maggie Mackintosh</p>
<p>Gord Mackintosh’s $95 Hiker’s Cabin.  His wife, Margie, embellished the interior with flowers, a candle, a lounge chair.</p>
</figcaption></figure>
<p>I said, “The tides don’t come that fast. Jeesh.”			</p>
<p>Margie followed.			</p>
<p>In five minutes, from a stupid place, the tide overwhelmed the rocks.			</p>
<p>I quickly explained, “Once both runners have boots, it’s good!  No more worries, no more stupid walks.			</p>
<p>Margie said, “You should have seen your face.”			</p>
<p>Port Renfrew claims the “Tall Tree Capital of Canada”.  In a towering ancient forest named Avatar Grove, they also lay claim to “Canada’s gnarliest tree” and have it roped up – as if someone wants to take it.  But for the biggest, relative to size, I still name this elm on Inkster at McGregor.			</p>
<figure class=


<p>Gawkers, land buyers and cottage developments are lining up, and fast</p>
<p>“/><figcaption>
<p>Gawkers, land buyers and cottage developments are lining up and fast</p>
</figcaption></figure>
<p>We agreed to visit Big Lonely Doug.			</p>
<p>Doug is a 20-story Douglas fir, possibly 1,000 years old, saved from clear-cutting by a shrewd lumberjack.			</p>
<p>The rocky, pothole-filled logging road to Doug is one of the craziest of all my years, and I’m from Manitoba.  Better to requisition a longshoreman.  But seeing a Mini approaching encouraged us.  The flat tire of a truck, not so much.			</p>
<p>Surprisingly, a couple rode bikes.  They would need replacement dental fillings and I wondered about the status of the genital grafts.			</p>
<p>An SUV driver said he gave up looking for Doug.  Margie warned me, “Turn around. Trust me. I know these things.”			</p>
<p>This time I obeyed, and so much the better because a truck showed up.  I asked, “What are you doing here?”  The guy replied, “I’m just going around. I’m hunting black-tailed deer.”  He had a GPS, duh, and said Doug was a few minutes away.			</p>
<figure class=


A graffiti on a rock – having corrected the spelling of “Lonely” – pointed with an arrow to a bifurcation. At the wonderfully named Gordon River, a skinny bridge crosses a canyon. We screamed all the way. Avoid looking down more than five times. In fact, close your eyes.

I came back for a photo. Walking back to our vehicle, Margie snapped, “You brought the car keys! And if you go there?

I replied, “That would make you look for me.”

We made it the last half mile. Overcoming the rocks, ruts and rain, we discovered that Doug is not so alone. Two other giant Christmas trees remain close at hand. Plus, familiar graffiti points to nearby Ugly Sister.

Doug is a tribute to the protection of ancient forests. We visited Fairy Creek’s soaked protesters and learned about their related and compelling cause. Along the way, a small bonsai-like tree sprouts adorably from a log at Fairy Lake.

The Renfrew Pub offers top quality dining. The chicken fillets are served with a plum sauce. I asked about honey dill, baffling six employees. That’s how far we were from Winnipeg. Plus – as if I care – they offer a perfect Renfrew Red Ale.

A hot breakfast awaits you at Tomi’s Home Style Cooking. As we left, we noticed Tomi’s sign assuring that she doesn’t discriminate based on gender, race, age…or if she’s vaccinated. On an unrelated note, Tomi never seemed busy.

Port Renfrew is at a tipping point, from fishing and logging outpost to rampant tourism. Soon set off to conquer Highway 14 for this ephemeral frontier.

Or, yuck, is it self-fulfilling?

About Nell Love

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