Salty Sea Dog Reunion, Hangovers and Sunsets

I awoke somewhere around 08:00. I think. The morning until about noon is a bit hazy for me.

Yes, I overdid it. Way overdid it. I was a bit woozy, and although my head didn’t hurt as much as it should have, it was consistently reminding me of poor decisions the night before. (Such as “beer before liquor” and deciding it was a good idea to sit in a sauna after drinking way too much, none of which was water.)

Coffee did little to stable the rumbling and discomfort. I decided that the lone, well-browned banana was the minerals I needed to get things stable again. It went down fairly well, but it wouldn’t stay that way. I opted to return to bed, in the hopes things would just settle and I’d deal with a rough morning, as I have many, many times before.

Yeah. Not so much. The banana plotted revenge for being eaten. It decided to escape along with everything else I’d ingested that morning. Fortunately, it was a “clean” evacuation. And I went back to bed for about three hours.

When I finally emerged, much more stable, I found my way to Cabin 20 where I learned that my instability was very much common knowledge, including the prayer at the porcelain altar. Food was limited, which was fine with me, and I was more interested in just knowing what we were doing. And that was “going into town” – Cathy had already taken all the cousins, so Alex and I would follow suit with the expectation that we’d eventually catch up with them.

Jen was alive, though looked about as good as I felt. She was reduced to a whisper, which I had initially thought to be a result of a similar hangover, though I would later learn she was keeping her voice to deal with a callback she’d learned of for Thursday evening.

One thing I needed to do first, however, was make bread. I was on deck that night for dinner and I’d decided before leaving Calgary that sourdough was the thing, so had made a second starter. Cathy had acquired a bag of Robin Hood for me, and I snagged Brenda’s Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. (Brenda does not camp like most humans. Top chefs would feel much more comfortable in her site.) This is when I really realized that our kitchen is woefully small and trying to make more than one loaf at a time (I needed three) was a bit much. But in about 40 minutes, three boules were rising in Brenda’s and my ovens, supplemented with hot water to make sure they had heat and moisture.

We drove into downtown, parking at a space on Second St., and proceeded to look for one Alex’s geocaches. My stomach had finally awakened from its slumber and demanded a sacrifice, lest its hanger be unleashed. Tough City Sushi is at the bottom of Second St. where it meets Main … and as much as I love sushi and I’m on the west coast and it would be amazing, I thought better of the idea. Besides, it was closed.

A little further to the west along Main St., we found Harbourview Coffeehouse, in the same building as the Paddler’s Inn. Not hoping for much – I could have killed for a slice of pizza – they had a veggie samosa that exactly filled and squelched the hanger. A lovely mocha revitalized some of the other energy. We sat on the back porch that overlooked the Coast Guard station, kayakers getting their first sea lessons, and the expanse of Clayquot Sound. Even in the drizzle, it was gorgeous.

It’s been 23 years (ish) since I’ve been here. (I’d have to go through my archives to know for sure, assuming I’ve even got that record.) It hasn’t changed much, and I don’t need any pictures to see that: small houses, quaint streets. I’m sure it’s built up some more and there are more hotels and touristy spots, but it’s not been levelled and rebuilt into some gaudy destination, as is so often the case. There’s quite a bit of relief in knowing it’s largely intact.

A little further down the street, we spotted Cathy and the cousins at the foot of First Street, next to a sign that claimed to be the Pacific Terminus for the Trans Canada Highway. (I’m sure Victoria’s Mile 0 would beg to differ.) They’d already hit the candy store and a book store (Monkey proudly displayed three more books she’d acquired). Cathy looked none the worst for wear from the night before.

At the end of the road

Overcast Tofino

We headed up First to Campbell, where Cathy ducked into the Coop for some things; Alex bolted into Driftwood Gifts. We collectively headed east down Campbell and ran into the remainder of the clan, who had also come into town. Thus “lunch” (it was now after 13:00) started to be discussed and debated. Some of us were keen on The Shed, a pub-like place a bit down the road, while others (including Alex) were high on Tacofino, a permanent food truck specializing in Mexican-inspired food, as one does in Canada. Tacofino won out.

The debate as to where we’d find Tacofino was not properly settled, and as I’d left my phone at the cabin (I felt a need to be disconnected), we collectively realized that it was best to go to Tacofino because it was next to the Tofino Brewery.

Tacofino is not at the Tofino Brewery, for the record. We came in, circled, couldn’t find it, and then headed further south along Hwy 4, because we somehow realized it was much closer to Crystal Cove than we imagined. I turned left one road too early and ended up doing a full circle through some little cabin community (all newer builds) before reemerging to spy Cathy exiting Crystal Cove with Craig, as he had initially stayed beyond while the rest of us tore into downtown. We all headed north again.

Cathy ended up doing the same loop in the industrial park (it seems odd, but yes, there is an industrial park in Tofino), realizing that Tacofino was, in fact, not there. As we got together to determine the next course of action, the white pickup of the Znacks’ arrived with the rest in town, and somehow we came to the conclusion that the Tofino Brewery was the right place to go, as there was beer (obviously) and food!

Except it wasn’t that good, food-wise at least. And it reeked of malt, which although I don’t mind, it didn’t sit well with others. We were there for all of five minutes before we returned to the parking lot with renewed intention to find Tacofino!

Back south towards Crystal Cove, and about a dozen metres past the turn off, on the east side of the road, we found a pseudo-mall with an comically small grocery store, a surf shop (surfing is huge here), and enough parking for all of us. Although initially we couldn’t find Tacofino, it was soon discovered at the back of the lot, behind a very long line of people. I estimated at least 30 minutes before any of us could order, let alone eat.

Fortunately, this pseudo-mall has a lot in it, including another stall called the Wildside Grill that would fulfill our needs: tacos, pulled pork, fish and chips, and Jaritos. And I gotta tell you, that might have been the best salmon fish taco ever. I will have dreams of that meal for a long time.

Returning to the cabins, Cathy and I were on deck for the meal. Way back when Mom and I had planned all of this, we’d agreed that one night I’d make something, and somehow we’d agreed that chili was the right meal. As mentioned earlier, I also added sourdough bread to the mix. But Cathy had also been tapped, and I don’t think anyone properly connected the dots, so now we had two large meals underway: chili and Cathy’s cannelloni-cum-shells (because she couldn’t find cannelloni).

Having time before dinner would actually be called, I joined Alex in a walk down the lengthy Mackenzie Beach in search of a geocache at the other end. We spotted the girls on the beach, at the pinnacle of another fight between Monkey and Choo Choo, with Choo Choo storming off the beach and her cousins absolutely baffled at what had just happened. Monkey could not offer a reasonable explanation that didn’t end with her being the instigator. Alex and I opted to not bother trying to unpack that any further and continued forward.

We found Mike and Craig out for a walk, presumably in search of hay bales, talking with what looked to us as total strangers. Which, as it turned out, they were. But that’s Craig, able to start an engaging and hilarious conversation with pretty much anyone.

At the north end of the beach, we had to cross a shallow stream – possibly still the tide going out, but it was hard to tell – so Alex could give into some brush on some large, well-weathered rocks. I can see why people like coming here – even on a cool day, such as today, the scenery is just too magical.

North end of Mackenzie Beach, looking south

Returning to Cabin 20, we learned that dinnertime was approaching, which meant it was time to deal with my end of the meal. The chili, packed in three large plastic containers, had kept our cooler cold over the previous three days. Two of the containers were upended into the largest pot (that didn’t reek of fish) and started to warm. The loaves of bread were each popped into their respective ovens to bake. A gardening cart (with big, soft rubber tires) was acquired to help Cathy move her meal to Brenda’s cabin, which was our communal mealspace.

The view from Cabin 20 into Crystal Cove

Mom, Brenda, Alex, and Cathy

Huddling ‘round the sink

To say we had “way too much” food would grossly understate things. Cathy had also brought baguettes and made a Caesar salad from scratch. We all ate too much, which after a late lunch seemed extra difficult, but certainly made up for the mostly-liquid meal yesterday.

On a whim, we decided to try having a fire on the beach. The rules in Tofino are fairly strict, though – you’re not allowed to have an open fire on the beach, it has to be in a raised burner of some kind. Thankfully, Crystal Cove rents them: a tight wire mesh basket suspended between four poles that cross at the base. This keeps the charcoal off the sand, minimizing toxic run off (or at least, that’s what I understand).

Sunset panorama at Mackenzie Beach

Mike and Jen

What we really got was a sunset. I think the last time I saw a sunset against the Pacific Ocean was when we took Monkey and Choo Choo to Costa Rica in November 2014 (no log entry for that one I’m afraid). So, of course, I had to get a picture of them side-by-side, replicating a picture I took of them on Playa Pan du Azucar.

Sunset over Wickaninnish Island

The girls were obsessed with finding crabs. Not living ones, mind you. For some reason, the beach was littered with crab pieces (“bits”, as they referred to them): limbs and empty carapaces. They found shells and some coral, too, but the crabs proved to be the most fascinating thing.

The cousins look for crab bits

It wasn’t the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen, but it was pretty fantastic nonetheless. Easily another hundred people down the length of Mackenzie Beach were out for the same reason. Even with the stiff breeze, which was pretty chilly, it was worth the view.

More sunset over Tofino

Brenda walking

Dusk arrives

As the sun slipped below the horizon, Craig got the fire going. It wasn’t an easy fire – the wood was wet and didn’t burn well unless it was sliced into small pieces. Craig, of course, met even more strange people, leading to more hilarious conversations.

Beach fire at Crystal Cove

We could see fires all down Mackenzie Beach from the various resorts, hotels, and campgrounds. It was a cool, delightful evening. But while we weren’t the first to call it quits for the night, Alex and I were fairly early. Despite the extra rest I’d had, the events of the previous few days were packing me in, and I need a good night’s sleep.