Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bamfield, the land time forgot

(A repost from a few years ago, time to get my westcoast juices flowing)

Every time we cruise into Bamfield I can literally feel and see the past, the old boardwalk on the westside of the harbour,the fishing lodges, the bright red roofs, the long since mothballed industrial section of the harbour and everywhere you look fish are flipping, birds diving for lunch and trees, sea green trees that hang precariously over a frothy ocean.

I have read up on the history of Bamfield and I would like to share some simple stories and a few of my thoughts on this historic place.

In 1902 a communication cable was laid from Bamfield 4000 miles to Fanning island, a tiny coral atoll in the mid pacific ocean from there to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, so back in the beginning of the 20th century Bamfield was the communication capital of Canada, I find that so amusing because a hundred plus years later Bamfield is in a dead zone,no cellular service at all,talk about coming full circle, makes me smile, it also means my ex, bill collectors,tele-marketers can`t bother me either, my smile keeps growing.

This place has something for everyone, bird watchers, such variety, birds of a feather flock together, that`s true but from what I have seen the birds of all persuasions are hanging out together in what appear to be union meetings, I see whales on every trip here, storms come and go and after every storm sea kelp is everywhere, it`s especially good at tangling up our fishing tackle, the flavour of this timeless place changes by the hour, don`t hesitate,don`t put off that trip, that hike, that kayak excursion because Bamfield can shut you down in a blink of an eye, you can go to bed in a warm summery sea air only to wake up shrouded in cold ocean fog so thick you can`t see yourself in the mirror, ok, a little exaggeration but what a eerie feeling in the fog and then there is the rain, it seems to be much wetter and heavier than metro Vancouver rain, it`s like standing in a shower, soaked to the bone in 20 seconds but weather aside once you leave Bamfield harbour the islands and shoreline are unchanged, literally unchanged for eternity, you could of looked upon these area`s 10000 years ago and they would of looked the same.

We have been coming to Bamfield for a quarter century and the place is unchanged, same store, same lodges, same one and only pub, same wharf finger, Richard, the man has been collecting moorage fees at the government wharf forever, maybe it`s the salt air but he doesn`t appear to have aged even a day, even the fishermen in their boats are the same, our private slice of heaven, the same fishers year after year, not much new blood, it`s like a secret spot that no one wants to gain in popularity, shhhh, make sure you don`t tell anyone about this spot.

Anyway, I am a people person, sort of, I love looking for the story, the old-timer, local first nations, tourists, and of course the trail walkers, that trail being the west coast trail, a world famous trail along the west coast of Vancouver island that traverses streams, old growth canopied forests, a must do for the adventurous, and the west coast trail just happens to end in Bamfield and it`s a place where fuel burning fish killing fishermen and granola eating hair in dreadlocks, hiking, save the world youthful ideologues, frustrated tourists and first nations all come together and the clash of cultures means stories and I would like to share a few of these simple but penetrating stories with you.

Cape Beale is known as the graveyard of the pacific ocean and the road to Bamfield is known as a car killing wasteland, a dark, wiggly, no lights, no stores, no gas stations, no nothing, a 70 miles gravel, pot holed, rock tossing tire eating road, I have driven the road but we prefer to go to Bamfield by boat, Friday early evening after fishing most of the day and after cleaning the day`s catch, 4 fat coho salmon and 2 large chinook, I like to stretch my legs, especially the gibbly one, I was chilling on the loading dock part of the wharf  (that is where cars or trucks can drive down onto the pier and load cargo or goods onto boats via the crane or ramp) which at this time was very steep because the tide was out.

Down the upper dock came this little red car and when it got closer I could see the license plates were from Alberta, what a long drive I mused in my mind, a middle aged man got out of the car and his frustration was quickly apparent, he barked at his wife, "hurry up,we are 6 hours late" the wife got out of the passenger side and she didn`t sound too impressed, she chirped back "why didn`t you listen to Carly" he responded back "never mind,were here now" out of the back seat of the dusty little red car out got Carly(a teenage girl), or at least I assumed it was Carly, she chimed in "I told you to turn right dad" dad responded back "shut up and help unload the car"................I found the exchange fascinating and typical (men just won`t take directions), the trunk opened and I watched clothes, fishing gear, ciders, beer, pops and other stuff get unloaded and carried down the ramp to the dock, Carly went to carry some stuff when she said "dad, oh my god, look at the car, it`s covered in dents and look at all the scratches" dad responded back "never mind,just unload our gear!"..........Well, you know me, I had to stroll over and have a closer look, they were going up and down the ramp with goods and when I got next to their car I could see that this almost brand new car little red car had a half sized spare tire on it, the whole right side of the car was covered in scratches and there were golf ball sized dents everywhere, I did my best to hold back the laughter that was roaring inside me, the daughter came up the ramp and I said to her, I see you had quite a time on the Bamfield road, she laughed and told me her dad wouldn`t listen to her directions and they were on the road for 8 hours, they got a flat tire, got stuck, fought all the way, dad was coming up the ramp so the daughter stopped talking, I guess she didn`t want to irritate an already flustered dad, anyway, they got the water taxi across the harbour and I hope they enjoy their fishing trip, maybe next time they will leave their car in Port Alberni and come to Bamfield on the Francis Barkley, a west coast ferry that has been plying these waters for decades, it sure beats destroying your car on the Bamfield road.

I love to go to the only pub in town(the crows nest) a chance to pick other fishermen`s minds, talk to local natives and bug the the granola eating trail walkers and as I have said before, I am no boy scout and I like beer and I love to dominate a pool table/ 8 ball/9 ball/ straight pool, after all my favorite movie was Paul Newman in the Hustler, a classic......Here it was Saturday night and I went for brewskis, the rear of the pub where the pool tables are were a couple of first nation`s locals, Andrew and Belinda were their names(not exactly classic native names), I grabbed a cue and started knocking balls around and warming up, Andrew asked if I wanted a game, sure I responded, after beating him 5 straight games he gave up and bought me a beer, Andrew was very nice even though he kept forgetting my name, he called Belinda over to join our table, she introduced herself and I remarked that I had a sister named Belinda, she went on to tell me that Belinda meant serpent woman in Spanish, I didn`t know that but that`s what I called her for the remainder of the night, "serpent woman" she seemed to like it........

It had the makings of one of those nights, in walked a group of five trail walkers, 3 males and 2 female hikers with giant backpacks. they sat, started drinking, partying, talking and pool playing, they introduced themselves and I found it interesting that the men were all named Mike, big Mike, a tall muscle bound ape, medium Mike, a hairy un-shaved ape and little mike who informed me that he was trying to grow a moustache and asked if I had any advice on that matter, I didn`t, made me laugh, what a thing to say...after beating all three of the Mikes on the pool table I took a breather on the outside deck, a girl in her 20s joined me and started talking, her name was Kristan, a bubbly, hyper young girl who told me how she had drove from Duncan to pick-up her friends in Bamfield who were walking the west coast trail(the three mikes and the other two girls) she told me the story how she got lost in the dark, no cell phone service, I could tell she had a harrowing experience in the way she told the story, she was quite charming, she said she should of picked up hitch hikers to help her navigate to Bamfield but her dad had drilled it into her not to pick-up strangers, and her story got better, she got a flat tire tire 5 miles from Bamfield but she was too scared to change the tire in the pitch dark with all the animal noises coming from the pitch black forest, so she drove the last 5 miles on the flat tire which quickly turned into just a mangled rim, I chuckled with her, anyway, she was elated to make it to Bamfield regardless of the wrecked rim and scratched car,.........We went back inside and I talked to the group and I asked them who they voted for in the last provincial election and to my dismay none of them voted at all, I didn`t pursue the issue, as they were already in shock over the fact that they couldn`t text message or call anyone on their cell phones.

Anyway, the night went on when suddenly big Mike asked me for a arm wrestle, I said , you look like a ringer and I haven`t arm wrestled in 20 yearswell I said no only to be goaded into it by Kristan and the group, we we went right arms first and the crowd started the bets, the smart money was was on big Mike, or was it, medium Mike held our arms at center and shouted GO......

The arm wrestle began, I`m 5 '10' but built like a fire hydrant, anyway, big Mike was heaving away and had me leaning, I locked in and there was no way he could take me over the top, I of course was having the same problem with big Mike, the battle went on and on, 5 minutes later we were still locked in battle, Kristan started goofing around and started spoon feeding me pie with whip cream(mid battle), I had a couple of bites as the battle continued and maybe it was the pie but I managed to muster up enough energy to put big Mike down, we went left hand next, and I`m left handed, well I had nothing more to prove and to tell you the truth I was quite gassed, Mike won the left handed wrestle(so he thinks)........Meanwhile the table was still buzzing over the first epic arm wrestle and the group was buying beers and drinks and more beers and more drinks and refused to take any of my money.

The next morning (5.30 am sharp) my head was spinning and my arm felt like it was ready to fall off, I had to let my dad battle the salmon that day, simple stories from a town of 200 full time residents, time might have forgotten about Bamfield but I haven`t, I will go back every year until I drop dead, these stories, memories are the fabric of my life, come to Bamfield in late summer, walk the west coast trail, come meet me for a cold one at the Crows Nest Pub, tell me a story, add another stitch to my tapestry.

 (here are some more interesting facts about Bamfield)

The Straight Goods

Cheers-Eyes Wide Open


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Ken said...

I live in the interior but do I "EVER" like Bamfield. I love walking on Bradys beach, it's a place of enchantment. Before my health gets the better of me I will make another trip there, maybe an extended trip.

Thanks for the reminder of what an incredible place Bamfield is. On one trip we had pizza delivered by boat, you gotta love it.

What wonderful memories of my young son playing on the beach and the fishing was incredible, along with the motion sickness, some lucky fellow on the charter boat got to bring in my "BIG SALMON".

Ken said...

I live in the interior but do I "EVER" like Bamfield. I love walking on Bradys beach, it's a place of enchantment. Before my health gets the better of me I will make another trip there, maybe an extended trip.

Thanks for the reminder of what an incredible place Bamfield is. On one trip we had pizza delivered by boat, you gotta love it.

What wonderful memories of my young son playing on the beach and the fishing was incredible, along with the motion sickness, some lucky fellow on the charter boat got to bring in my "BIG SALMON".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories of such a wonderful place. From 1971 to 1979 while living in Lake Cowichan and Shawnigan Lake, I spent every second weekend at Nitinat Lake, Pachena Bay, or Bamfield. My favourite spot was Poet Nook.

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I just wanted to take a minute to tell you that you have a great post!
Thanks for the reminder of such a wonderful place.

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Anonymous said...

What a fun post! Makes me want to go there now.

How many such wonderful forgotten corners in this big province of ours, eh?

Danneau said...

I think things have taken a turn for the better in Bamfield with the exit of Jack Purdy and the emergence of a strong FN presence, though I am saddened and perturbed by Huu-Ay-At's Steelhead LNG gambit for Sarita Bay, just up the road. Haven't ben to Bamfield for a long time as we are no longer afloat and I'm spending a ton of time growing turnips in the yard, tending to grandkids and making annoying noises in the rhythm section of the Harbour City Big Band, but it reminded me of other places where there was an intimate connection with the ocean and where the well-heeled visitors could commingle with the rusticity of the local yokels. A visit to the store/office at Oosterom's was worth the trip. I also noticed the reference above to Poett Nook, a beautiful little spot to visit along with Grappler Inlet. Hope you'll be around these parts this summer.