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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride


We started out this morning for Port Alberni, which as the crow flies is directly due south of Fanny Bay. Given that there are not that many roads on this, the North end of Vancouver Island, we had to go south east, before going south west on Highway 4, to get to Port Alberni. Travel time was to be 53 minutes and we left around 9:15am for an 11am tee time. The weather was supposed to be +5C in Port Alberni, the sun was shining, and the day looked to be an amazing one!

There was a slight fog in the valleys and over the rivers and streams, which made for great photo ops before we turned onto Highway 4...or as we like to call it “uncharted territory”. If we haven’t been on a road or visited a town yet, or played a golf course, that‘s what Richard and I jokingly call it...”uncharted territory”!

We had to travel through a mountain pass today- the Port Alberti Summit, known by locals as “The Hump”, at an elevation of 411 metres or 1348 feet. As we climbed higher and higher, we saw snow on the trees and on the sides of the road. The road signs said that trucks were to stop and check their brakes. We’ve seen those signs before having crossed through the rest of B.C. in Newman, but luckily for us today the roads were great...just a little wet.

Snow at “The Hump”

Just before we arrived at the Alberni Golf Club, we saw a deer cross the road, I said to Richard “slow down, where there is one deer, there are others!” Sure enough another deer jumped out in front of us, but we were going very slow by that time, so no incidents to report with hitting a deer today in Jerry! Thank god!

We were surprised to see white stuff on the ground at the golf club! SNOW!!!! We left home in sunny weather, what’s all this about???

Richard went in to chat with the pro and found out that the Cherry Creek area of Port Alberti where the golf club is located, is a microclimate and not far down the road there was no snow. So today the club was closed and No Golf today for us. I’m still sore anyway from my my strength coach adventure yesterday, so I didn’t really mind not golfing today.

Since we had never been to Port Alberni, we decided to park down by the docks at Harbour Quay and walk around and check out the area. It was a very foggy day and perfect for photography!

The first place we saw though was Hole in the Wall donuts with a sign that said, “Salted caramel donuts made fresh today”. They hooked us in and Richard went and bought us each the freshest, most delicious donuts ever! OMG food to die for...but just one each!

Not a busy spot on a foggy Monday!

Salted caramel donuts made fresh this morning!

Wow was that ever a fresh donut!

Port Alberni is located at the head of the Alberni Inlet, Vancouver Island’s longest inlet in the Alberni Valley and is a deep port city. The Valley is guarded by the snow-covered peaks of the Beaufort mountain range with Mount Arrowsmith and Mount Klitsa and surrounded by mountains on all sides. The name “Port Alberni” was named for a Spanish officer “Don Pedro de Alberni” who commanded Fort San Miguel at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island’s west coast from 1790-1792.

The chief source of employment in Port Alberni is the forestry industry, with the Port Alberni Mill, owned by Catalyst paper producing 340,000 tones of directory paper and lightweight coated paper each year. There is also a lumber mill, Alberni Pacific Division, that also sits on the inlet. We could smell the ”pulp & paper” town smell as we drove down through the town.

Fishing is also a very lucrative industry in Port Alberni. The past two years, Sockeye salmon returns have been the largest in recorded history, topping the 1.4 million mark both years. The two primary spawning lakes, Great Central and Sproat, saw over 800,000 Sockeye return. Chinook and Coho salmon returns have been good too. Port Alberni was awarded the World Fishing Network coveted “Ultimate Fishing Town” designation in 2010.

My favourite shot today. I love shooting in fog!

WCMRC is the only Transport Canada-certified marine response organization on Canada’s West Coast. On average, this company responds to 20 spills each year. The Barkley Sentinel seen in this picture is one of their response ships.

Tug boats with log booms in the Harbour Quay.

We drove around the “South Port” or “Uptown” which is what the former City of Port Alberni is now referred to. There was not much going on in this part of town so we drove to the ”North Port” or former city of Alberni as it is now called. With two downtowns, these former twin cities are very spread out along the Alberni Inlet.

Today was banking day for me and we quickly found a Scotiabank so I could wait in line and get two U.S. $ drafts to send to Florida to pay our property taxes and homeowners’s association dues. Usually we would be headed to Florida on this upcoming weekend, and we would be mailing or paying them in person. Oh well...another outcome from Covid! After waiting in line at the Bank for 30 minutes, I then had to wait in line at Shopper’s Drug Mart for a further 30 minutes to buy envelopes and U.S. stamps. I’m very happy that is taken care of for another year!

We had scoped out a place for lunch before even arriving in Port Alberni and we knew exactly where it was Port Alberni’s oldest church! ”Bare Bones” fish and chips was on our menu for lunch!

Sure doesn’t look like a church!

Looking more like a church inside.

My battered halibut. The way most people who frequent Bare Bones fish & chips order their halibut apparently!

Richard’s grilled salmon. He said it was excellent. With two coleslaws and a lemonade, our meal was $34. I couldn’t finish it, but Richard had my leftovers! Fresh fish. So delicious! We ate in the car and I enjoyed having a call from a girlfriend in Buffalo from our golf club back home while we ate our lunch who I haven’t been able to see since last year, with the border being closed. It’s nice to stay in touch with good friends however we can!

After our exploring of Port Alberni was over, we decided to head home as it had started to rain, and that might mean snow in the mountains. Jerry has all season tires and is All Wheel Drive, but does not have Mud and Snow tires, like we are supposed to have in the mountains this time of that means taking no chances with weather!

I really wanted to stop at Cathedral Grove in the MacMillan Provincial Park to take some pictures of the ancient Douglas fir ecosystem with its trees over 800 years old and measuring 250 feet in height and 29 feet in circumference. Unfortunately the park is closed due to Covid and there was no place to park with the closures. Hopefully this park opens up again before we leave the Island, as I really want to see these trees!

Instead of stopping at Cathedral Grove, I asked Richard to pull over at a lookout spot I had seen at Cameron Lake. The view this morning would have been much better, with fog on the Lake, but the view was still pretty beautiful and majestic this afternoon.

There was a fallen arbutus tree on the shoreline which I had to photograph.

Not sure what’s up with my scarf, but the tree was gorgeous! The wood would make a stunning dining room “river“ table, which are all the rage right now.

The Arbutus tree is Canada’s only native broad-leafed evergreen tree and the trees usually live not more than 8 km from the pounding waves of the Pacific Ocean and can grow up to 30 metres tall. The arbutus trees thrive on Vancouver Island and love rocky or rapidly drained soil.

And with that our day came to a close. We’ll be having a spell of rainy weather over the next few days, but hoping to go hiking nonetheless!

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