Monday, October 27, 2008

Highway 4 from Parksville to Tofino, British Columbia

The only way to get to Tofino, British Columbia by car is to take the provincial Hwy 4 across the mountains, from Parksville, through Port Alberni and to the Rim Highway. I notice that this road has been enormously improved over the past quarter century, and a friend reminds me that he drove it when parts were still unpaved. Even today, with all its modern features, the road has hairpin turns, steep climbs, breath-taking drop-offs, and a sign reminding drivers that there is no petrol for the next 85 kms (and even that one was closed). By the time one hits the road, the two-hour ferry ride (plus lineups) has already postponed things and folks are usually eager to get to Tofino. Facing a three-hour drive can be a bit discouraging, particularly at night.

Last week I drove Hwy 4 twice, in very different weather conditions: bright overcast sky on Tuesday, and dark clouds and rain showers on Friday. Now that I am retired, we were able to leave Vancouver in the early morning (rather than after work) and drive leisurely, stopping at Cameron Lake and Kennedy Lake to take pictures. Given the terrain, stopping is often not possible or safe every time your eye catches a great vista, but attentive drivers can spot safe pulloffs (often unannounced), and it is worth the time to see these inland lakes, even though your heart is set on seeing the Pacific Ocean.