“I’m not going in the hot springs,” stated Kathy (my stepmom). The four of us, KC, my dad, Kathy, and I, were overlooking the two natural hot springs pools on a beautiful rocky British Columbia shoreline. I felt some frustration despite the fact that I could understand her predicament. Asking her to change into a bathing suit in an out-door changing area when it’s 40°F and scramble over big slippery rocks to sit in undeveloped hot spring water after an hour and half boat ride over rough waters (this left her seasick) and a hike to the hot springs is a little much.
“Well, I’m going in,” replied my dad. “We have come too far to not try the hot springs,” he explained and turned to go find a changing area. He was right. To get to the hot springs, we took a ferry to Vancouver Island, traveled almost two hundred miles in van through the island, taken a two-hour boat ride over rough waters, and hiked two kilometers (about 1.24 miles) to get to these hot springs. To not go in after such effort would be disappointing and anticlimactic. The hot springs were the main reason we traveled to Tofino.
With that, KC and I followed my dad to the changing area. We left Kathy to take photographs of the hot springs and beach. After changing, I rushed to get into the hot springs because it was so cold (I’m comfortable around 85°F, not 40°F). The water was perfectly hot and welcoming and you could smell the salty sea breeze over the sulfur of the hot springs. In the background, you can hear the waves crashing against the rocks and the water draining through the rocks after. The Hot Cove Hot Springs, though undeveloped, are a relaxing and therapeutic experience. KC and I found a relatively comfortable spot in the lower pool, where the waves occasionally come in and mix with the hot spring water. The waves brought cold seawater that temporarily drops the temperature of the pool for less than a minute, which is refreshing while sitting in the hot water.
A little while later I heard my dad and Kathy’s voices behind me. I turned around and saw my dad helping Kathy into the top pool. She found a seat in the upper pool and sat down into the water. Dad came down to the lower pool because there was room for him to stretch out completely while immersed in the water.
KC and I were surprised that he convinced Kathy to try the hot springs and asked him how he did it. He shrugged and said that it didn’t take too much more convincing once she saw everyone who came with us in the water (there were other people who took the boat ride and hiked with us). At some point later, I overheard Kathy laughing and talking about our trip to the Olympic Hot Springs [insert hyperlinks]. I turned around and snapped a picture of her when she wasn’t paying attention to get proof of her enjoying the hot springs, so she couldn’t deny it.
The Road to the Hot Springs
As my dad stated, it was a long journey to get to the hot springs. It had been a while since I took a long drive with my parents and this was the first time taking a long journey with them and with a significant other (this changed the dynamic of the trip). So then, driving on Vancouver Island to get to the hot springs was an experience itself. It was the four of us in the car for five hours. A couple of times, personalities clashed. Fortunately for us, the drive to Tofino from Victoria contained stops and breaks, keeping everyone mostly content.
From Victoria, we drove to Nanaimo, with a stop at a teashop along the way. Past Nanaimo, there is one city, Port Alberni, until you get to Tofino. Between Nanaimo and Port Alberni is a conserved ancient tree grove called the Cathedral Grove. Knowing that my father would appreciate seeing a big tree forest and to break up the five-hour drive, I asked him to stop there. We stretched our legs and marveled at the tall trees. The Cathedral Grove has huge Douglas fir and cedar trees, the biggest one having a 29ft circumference and some of the trees are older than 800yrs old. Archeologists have found some artifacts that place human settlement almost 1,000 years ago. I found out later that this was an important ceremonial site to the people who once inhabited this region.
Between Port Alberni and Tofino, a segment of the road runs adjacent to the Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park for a few miles. Where the park meets the road is a riverbed with a large rock formation that is fun to scramble around. I asked my dad to pull over and park so we could stretch our legs and take pictures (there’s a great view of the mountains in the middle of the rock formation).
After walking/scrambling on the rocks and appreciating the views, I turned to walk back to the car and found KC bouldering on a small boulder. “Do you want to climb with him?” I jokingly asked my dad and Kathy. Kathy laughed and responded, “Nope!”
When we finally made it to the peninsula, we stopped at a couple beaches. The first time I saw Tofino beaches, I had not seen any beaches besides those in southern California and Baja California. I was left in awe by the different kind of beauty at these beaches. When we started traveling up the west coast this year, I found out that this type of beach is common in northwest. The second beach we stopped at, called “Long Beach”, had a couple rock islands in the water near the beach.
“Hold my stuff,” KC told me. He was taking his wallet and cell phone out of his pockets and taking off his shoes. KC loves the challenge of getting out to places that are normally not accessible, especially in nature. What he wanted to get to was a small rock island, maybe 200ft from where the water was breaking. He wanted to do this without swimming or getting wet. At this beach, if you time it right with low tide, the waters part for a few minutes creating a temporary land path that goes out to closest rock island.
KC started running toward the water, getting ready to run across the path, when it appeared. My parents came up behind me. “Where’s he going?” asked Kathy. “He’s going to try to cross to the rock island,” I replied. The three of us stood there watching him. KC saw his opportunity to get the island and ran. From our perspective, we couldn’t see the path and only saw the water on either side of him, so it looked like he was running through the water. He made it to the island and looked around, confused. I started running towards him, to better see what he was doing. I could see the path, but I could also see the tide rising again to close it. KC finally turned around to run back, but a wave came up high, getting his pants wet and starting to make the path disappear. He made it back to the beach running, but with soaked pants, which couldn’t have been comfortable in the 40°F weather.
“What were you looking for?” I asked.
“A way to climb to the top, but mussels covered the bottom five feet of the rock,” he explained, “I was going to get to the top of the rock island and wait for a good time to cross back.”
That explained why he looked confused. “Are you cold?” I asked. “Not really,” he replied, “the running warmed me up, but I’ll need to change.”
We walked towards my parents along the beach and saw a couple of surfers out in the waves. I remembered from my last trip to Tofino that this area is well-known for surfing, despite the cold weather. After a while of walking around and taking pictures, we left this beach behind and continued to the town.
After a full day of driving, we made it to the town of Tofino, eager for the hot springs the next day. We still had a boat ride and hike to get to them, but we were close. Both the journey and the destination were the adventure and we created great family memories. My parents got to know KC and I better as a couple and partake in our adventures. Their comfort zones were stretched a bit from this trip and we made some good family memories.
The Photo Journal – West Coast has more pictures from this trip.
On the Hot Cove Hot Springs:
On Vancouver Island:
On Cathedral Grove:
On Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park: