Schooner’s Cove… Where Time And Tide Wait For No Man

Schooner’s Cove, 15km south of Tofino, is one of my favourite places to visit at low tide… in fact, low tide is the only time you can truly explore it as it’s cut off from beach access points and hike-in trails at high tide, with an almost impenetrable wall of rainforest guarding its rear flank from interlopers and escapees. Anyone who visits this very, very special place needs to be up on the tide schedule, which changes, both in height and timing, dramatically each day. Here’s a link to the Government of Canada’s tide schedule for the area. Don’t be cavalier about it… promise me!

This visit, going there in daylight, and at low tide, meant getting up pretty early and being at the trail head at 8am. It begins with a short hike down an incredible boardwalk trail, making experiencing the rainforest of the area deceptively easy with its staircases, hand rails and perfect pathways that twist and turn over the bogs and streams as it makes its way from the road down to the beach.

The trail is artfully constructed to take you down what would be slick and slippery slopes with ease.
It takes you past key features like the incredibly old and massive cedars in the area.
It bends into gullies and is overhung with a dense rainforest canopy of leaves, branches and mosses, all dripping with moisture wrung from the damp air.
The trail to the cove is a little over 1km long with many overhung, raised sections like this.
It must have been quite the undertaking for the Parks Service to build!
This scene is imprinted on my memory from previous journeys here… a tree is growing on a fallen tree, with the live tree’s roots completely engulfing the old fallen log…. like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers!
IMG_1660 2.jpg
And then suddenly, there you are! At the beach.
At low tide, this means a vast expanse of sand stretches out before you.
At low tide, this means rocky islands are grounded, and accessible.
At low tide, this means that rocks lay bare, covered in fascinating sea creatures.

This landscape beckons you to explore! But set an alarm, because you’ll lose yourself in this marine world, and the tide can quickly creep in behind you, stranding you.

Almost every surface of exposed rock is covered with life. Here barnacles and mussels compete for space in this environment.

I find barnacles fascinating… a crustacean (not a mollusk as some think), they are more closely related to lobsters and crabs. So they do move themselves around (many think they grow there in place, because they are impossible to budge). They glue themselves to surfaces where the particles they like to eat float by when the intertidal zone is covered in water. They have a door, of sorts, that they can open (to feed) or clamp shut (to protect themselves from the elements or predators). And one other fun fact? They are hermaphrodites….so each one is both male and female!

Look inside and you can see the creature that lives there, with its flaps clamped shut to protect itself from the drying effects of the sun and wind while they wait, exposed, for the waters to return.
Another favourite intertidal creature of mine is the anemone… here is one in its protected state, tentacles pulled in, stuck with passing shell bits and pea-sized gravel bits.
When still covered in water, the anemone is open, with its tentacles waving, catching food wherever it can snag itself some. And it responds exceptionally quickly to touch!
These are the tidal pools where these creatures live.
There’s a whole string of islands stretching out from the cove, leading like a strand of pearls,  into the ocean, following an ancient seam of rock into the rough sea.
The setting is so beautiful, with perfect sand. We had the entire place to ourselves with not another human in sight!
There’s lots of driftwood lying about, left by passing storms. We were there during the new moon, when tidal surges are highest, bringing lots of new material to the ocean, and leaving lots of interesting debris around on the beaches at low tide.
Some of the driftwood still has its root structure attached, and I love the way it gets caught in the sand, thrusting that web of roots skyward, making a beautiful art installation!
We mucked about here for about 2 km, but then had to turn back as our low tide window was rapidly closing.
The tide was sneaking back in, engulfing the islands we’d been exploring (see the water & waves in front of the two furthest islands?).
Where we’d walked, was rapidly becoming an underwater environment once again.
This photo and the one above it are taken only 5 minutes apart. That’s how quickly the tide moves in here!
And 2 minutes later…
The entrance to Schooner Cove, and the end of its access boardwalk, lies at the edge of the Esowista First Nation’s land. You can find your way back to the trail head by looking to the left of this sign, heading back in through the piles of driftwood along the shore.

Every time I go to Tofino, I come back to this place. Perched at the upper end of Long Beach, it is a spectacular hidden gem. There, time and the tide won’t wait for you. (Always remember that!) But I don’t mind…. I really enjoy following nature’s rhythm.

For more experiences of our 2017 Trip to Tofino, go here….  And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.

2 Comments on “Schooner’s Cove… Where Time And Tide Wait For No Man

  1. Yep, those tides can be tricky and vary from the tables place to place. If you think barnacles are cool, you should see an acorn barnacle feeding underwater. They have a fan like hand they stick out and scoop those passing particles.

    Pretty spot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would be amazing to see underwater, with them. I’ve seen them in the huge tanks at the Vancouver Aquarium. There’s a cave that you can access, only at low tide at the north end of Chesterman Beach that has so many of them on its ceiling. All closed up they look very, very strange.

      Liked by 1 person

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