Under Cover of Darkness

Young or old, there’s something so appealing about a treasure hunt. When the jewels and gems you’re searching for are elusive sea creatures, hiding in cracks and fissures, exposed to intrepid coastal explorers at the very lowest of tides, it’s super fun.

Add the thick, almost physical presence of a nightly cover of intense, absolute pitch-black darkness where the moon and stars are snuffed out by thick storm clouds; add a massive beach with no one on it anywhere; add a low tide that extends down to the shallowest point of our entire visit; add the bright illumination of headlamps that light only a small circle before you, making the inky blackness of the night seem that much thicker, that much darker, that much more ominous; and add a mist pounded up by the sea spray that’s so heavy you can blow smoke rings through it and… well… the fun is taken to a whole new level!

The evening began with an early, delicious dinner at Kuma, a Japanese restaurant in Tofino. There we had Tuna Tataki (seared jig caught local albacore tuna, ponzu, ginger & green onion), a Spicy Salmon Bowl  (local, wild, sashimi salmon, spicy teriyaki sauce, daikon, pickled ginger, avocado and rice) and The “Bear” Tuna (a fun take on tuna tartare, served with avocado purée and toasts). The food there was unbelievably good… see what I mean about Tofino food? What a way to begin the evening. (Even if saké isn’t for me… I put it right up there with drinking vodka in Russia and iced vodka in Finland! Blech.)

As we left Kuma, the tide was retreating and darkness was falling. The stage was being set for some serious fun!

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Darkness was falling on the harbour of the town, picturesquely perched on the shores of Clayoquot Sound, with Meares Island looming up in the distance.
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Our timing was perfect. The sun was setting… Chesterman Beach was ready for us to explore!

By the time we got back to our place, storm clouds were moving in, darkness was cloaking the shore, and the tide was well out, leaving waves of hard packed sand in its wake. The stage was set for some fun adventuring. So we put on our long johns and wool layers for warmth, covered them with rain gear, donned our headlamps and merino toques, and headed out to explore. Let the treasure seeking begin….

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I sent this pic to our daughter, saying, “Guess what we’re doing!” Think she guessed? (Guaranteed there was an eye roll response!)
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We found chitons…
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… and clusters of purple sea stars & orange starfish & anemones, wedged in cracks.
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Sometimes there were masses of them!
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They tended to cling to the undersides of the rocky outcrops, wherever they could, for protection.
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We found anemones with their tentacles still out, that were so fun to touch… they are sticky when they suction onto your finger tips, but ever so gentle.

Can you see the wee little crab hiding under the anemone, exposed when I touch the anemone and it rolls back in the video below?

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Those white bumps, along with the brightly coloured skin on the legs of the purple sea star are as hard as stone.

And what I don’t have for you here, visually, was the most fun part of the evening! It was the reason for the early dinner… and the low tide excursion into darkness. We had to time the tide just right… and if you know anything about tides, you know they shift around a lot and do not happen at the same time each day, or withdraw to the same depth each time. This particular night was going to have the lowest tide of our entire visit.

We went to a narrow cove… a crevasse, really… that at high tide is completely impenetrable, thrashing as it is with tremendously powerful waves and coughing up great, billowing, pillow-sized tufts of sea foam.

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This is the entrance to the crevasse by day.

At the very lowest of tides… our purpose on this particular night… you can get in there, scramble on the rocks relatively safely (in a brief window of time) and explore a hollowed out cave with a rocky ceiling covered in acorn barnacles, and shimmy between the cracks in the rocky cliff. It’s a fun adventure. A 4-paws-on-the-rock kind of experience that is super fun, even if you get so caught up in it that you get soakers! The rocks there are ever so black, and with the star and moonlight obscured by heavy clouds, creating a thick darkness, like a physical presence, on this particular night … well… that just added immeasurably to the fun of the adventure. It was eerie, and exciting and oh so much fun.

And we almost missed finding our Seashack at the end of it all! It was that dark… we walked by it a few times, even with the lights we’d left on, missing its seaside gate completely. There’s something about a night that’s so dark, and a landscape that’s so immense, that you lose all sense of perspective, all sense of direction (if not for the sea and the rain-forested shore bounding us in). Soon though, we were relaxing beside the fire, warming up, drinks in hand. Another wonderful adventure added to the ever-growing Tofino list.

This marks the end of our Tofino adventures for now… until next time! And there will be a next time! Guaranteed.


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.

10 Comments on “Under Cover of Darkness

    • Ha! And yet you keep coming back for more! I love that you comment on every post I make. It’s a wonderful gift.

      I think a night dive would scare me, believe it or not. We learned to dive in Egypt back in ’89. Our first “contained” dive was out on the reef. I remember going down and hyperventilating… I was surrounded by so much space it was overwhelming. I had to surface, rip off my BCD/mouth piece and breathe in real air. I got over it after that first dive…. but still…. being surrounded by darkness above, below and on all sides, the way it would be in a night dive, might do it to me all over again. Can you give me a link to that post of yours?

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      • For the link, check “first posts” in the first comment. And try not to cringe too much at the neophyte writing. That was a year and a half ago, and I’m still trying to figure out this writing thing.

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  1. Sheri, this sealed the deal for me. I’m going to start planning a trip to Tofino later this year with my wife. Between the forest trails, rugged beach, and sake (I’ll be happy to drink your share), this sounds like the perfect week-long getaway.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yup. But given that you’ve done the epic Appalachian Trail, you might want to consider the West Coast Trail. It is seriously incredible…. I’m not sure what kind of a rustic conditions camper your wife is… but it is truly incredible. You have to get a permit to do it though, so you need to plan ahead. Failing that, parts of the Juan de Fuca trail are amazing too. You can hike pieces of it, and base yourself out of the Sooke area. If you want to extend your trip, these are tremendous add ons.

        One other thing…. I’m not sure when you plan to go, but we were there in storm season… when the crowds stay away (other than the crazy surfers!), and places to stay are seriously discounted. Summer can be busy. Of course, the weather is better then….

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      • But one week in Vancouver Island is far too short a time… logistically, you just can’t get around there in that short a time. But choose Tofino + Ucluelet + Pacific Rim National Park and a week would be fine. The West Coast Trail takes about a week to hike. A Sooke area add on (French Beach, Point no Point, the Sooke Potholes and some Juan de Fuca) could be 3-4 days.

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