Posted by: Kiersten | March 28, 2010

Don’t forget to bring your good sense!

Kat & I had a chuckle about this article today:  http://www.westcoaster.ca/modules/AMS/article.php?storyid=7673

How in the hell do you get lost off the coast of Florencia?  Just keep going, you’ll hit South beach & Wick beach.  If you’re not sure – TURN BACK!  The entire Pacific ocean is to the WEST – listen, it’s that whooshing that sounds kind of like traffic.  If you’d checked on the tide before you’d left you would have known that the tide was still going out at the time you called 911.  You could’ve just followed the wooshy wave sounds to the ocean, then followed the shore back to Flo beach.  It’s pretty damn difficult to get lost.  It’s easy to get injured, it’s hard to get lost.  Bring food, water, warm clothing, a buddy and YOUR COMMON SENSE people, please!  Sheesh, I thought our evacuation of shame from Algonquin Park a couple of summers ago was bad enough – at least I was sick.

Look what else is in the news:  http://www.westcoaster.ca/modules/AMS/article.php?storyid=7670

Why, it’s our neighbour John!  John, you look awesome!  Did you convince Mantracker to do a show in Ukee???  That would kick so much ass!

Speaking of kicking ass, how awesome was that Octopus?  I owe you folks a story.

Earlier this week Kat & I hosted our very first guests:  Gord & Jamie of the North Bay Massive.  It turns out that Jamie beat us to Vancouver Island several years ago, but Gord, having returned to Toronto after several years in the Yukon, ran screaming from Hogtown in just under a month.  He’s pondering setting down some roots on the Island so Kat & I want to make it as tempting as possible.

They arrived in Jamie’s big black truck accompanied by Jamie’s big brindle pit bull.  Bonus flipped out in tiny territorial indignation, so he had to get stuffed into his kennel while “Grasshopper” was stuffed temporarily back into the truck.

Once the we all had a chance to catch up for a bit, we took all three dogs on a long walk to Big Beach, so they could bond a bit as a pack.  By the time we arrived at the beach, Bonus was fairly in love with Hopper, and the sight of a teeny papillion/poodle dog playing with a pittie/mastif cross was endearing.

Hopper turned out to be a bit too much female for Bonus; after 20 minutes of constant play she actually wore him out!  Bonus tried to drive off her advances, but she just didn’t take the hint.  Finally, Bonus came back to me and hung around my ankles while Jamie sent Hopper on her way:

I ended up carrying the tired and cranky Bonus around for the rest of the evening.

The tide was low, so we climbed the rocks to watch the sunset.  Gord was smart enough to have batteries for his camera, and all of the pictures for this entry are courtesy of him.

The next day, Kat & I took the guys on one of our favourite hikes:  Willowbrae Trail.

Willowbrae is a well maintained park trail that leads to Florencia Bay and Half Moon Bay.  These beaches are shown on the local tourist maps.  There are a ton of foot paths leading off of the beaten bath to all kinds of cool places that are not on the maps, but don’t wander too far off – or you’ll have to make a humiliating call to 911 and ask the rangers to come and get you.

We spent a good hour on Florencia Bay, wandering up and down the long, sandy beach.  I found my first Japanese float!  You’ll see me hauling it along in the pictures that follow.  Japanese floats are a bit of a local collector’s item, especially the hand blown glass floats.  I found an ol’ rubber float, but the Japanese characters imprinted on the side proves it traveled over the ocean to get here.  Tristan:  If we sent you pictures of the markings, would you take a crack at translating them?

Florencia is named for a ship that crashed on the treacherous rocks and sank in the bay.  I hear that divers enjoy exploring the wreck in the summertime.  Maybe one day we’ll learn how to dive.  Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy the beauty on the surface:

Next, we went to Half Moon Bay and relaxed on the sandy beach.

Finally, we set out to find the fabled “Blow Hole” a separate section of the coast that is accessible only during low tide.  Its location is a guarded locals’ secret, and even armed with directions we weren’t able to find the entrance to the path access, so we were obliged to make the steep climb over the sharp and slippery volcanic rock.

I’d left my dogs behind, not wanting to exert my aging Mocha or carry Bonus after he got tired of Hopper’s attentions, so Hopper was our only four legged companion on this walk.  It turns out that Hopper is an amazing bush dog.  She was so agile on the most difficult section of our hike that I am convinced she’s part mountain goat.  I started to call her “Rock Hopper”.

After the steepest section of the climb, we ran into a huge chasm, a sheer drop to the ocean that was foaming below.  Carefully, we skirted the chasm and found a plateau of tide pools and waterfalls, and here, we found the Octopus:

The Octopus had a head the size of a football and could stretch out to the circumference of a hula hoop.  He was intelligent, curious and playful – imitating us and following us around the tide pool.  When he first spotted us he used his arms to push his eyes above the water’s surface and take a really long look at us.

He approached each one of us in turn.  He fluttered towards me, rolling his tentacled appendages towards me and curling them backwards in a “come hither” motion, then unfurling his arms in a fan shape and SQUISH – he’d squirt away a few feet, then repeat his inviting dance.  “Come into my parlour,” he invited.  We kept a respectful distance and watched in fascination as he poured himself through an impossibly small crack in a rock and emerged on the other side.  We exclaimed excitedly at his incredible display of shape, colour and movement.

We are so privileged to see an octopus in the wild.  They’re very active and curious creatures, but when in captivity they tend to hunker down and keep still while visitors watch them.  I’ve seen several pacific octopuses in captivity and NEVER did they behave as this one did.  I think this octopus went on a hike of his own in search of inter-tidal munchies and was just as surprised and fascinated with us as were with him.  I’ll bet he was thinking,  “What are those creatures up there?  WEIRD!  They only have four arms!  They can only be one colour!  How do they get anything done??”

After playing with the Octopus we moved on, following the progression of waterfalls and tide pools until we found the Blow Hole:

The Blow Hole is a crack in the rocks that funnels the waves from the ocean directly up and spouts up the top:

We rested and watched the display for a while.  Finally, with an eye to the tide and the sun sinking in the sky, we decided to head back while daylight was still plentiful.  Fortunately, we were able to locate the secret trail back to the main  path – it’s much more obvious from the Blow Hole end.  It took us just five minutes to cover the distance back to the main trail when it had taken us almost thirty minutes over jagged slippery rock on our way in.

What an amazing day.

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