Pacific Rim National Park is considered a “nature reserve”, having never actually been granted park status by the Federal Government, but that aside, it is a very unique and special place. No, it doesn’t have any ski hills or major hiking trails, but what it does have is real. What you see is the product of wind, rain and salt spray. The trees are often twisted and stunted and when you look at them, you can see they are clinging on to the volcanic rock and you wonder how old they really are. It is a marginal existence, coated with salt spray in the winter and searching for fresh water and nutrients in the rocky cracks all year round. The West Coast area gets twelve feet of rain annually. Sometimes the rain is coming down so hard that you think all twelve feet has arrived in one day. But after that heavy rain the air is so clean and fresh, often accompanied by a brisk breeze.
When you think about a water table being below ground, think again, in the wet winters that Tofino and Ucluelet experience, the water table can be well above ground and only drains when the low tides allow it. Low tide occurs approximately every twelve hours, but then so does high tide. When the high tides are combined with winds and heavy rain you will find out how good your rain gear really is. The full body yellow suits you see being worn by those that really know what rain means are often called the “West Coast Tuxedo.” Those posted warnings you see on the highway about the dangers of walking on the rocky headlands are real. If you don’t believe the signs, ask yourself just how that large log got way up on the rocks. The ocean is so very powerful and extremely cold. Unfortunately, most years one or two visitors get swept away by the forces of nature. So, if you are going to walk the beaches, pick up a handy pocket sized tide chart from one of the hotels or the Tourist Information Centres, it could save you from making a costly mistake.
Even the surfers have a major respect when the weather whips the waves into a frenzy and the wind blows so hard that standing seems an exhausting activity. The Whale watching boats stay moored in this weather as the swells are too big for them. The whales also don’t hang around on the surface to be bashed and battered about. A quick gulp of air and they are gone. During the annual Whalefest held every March the weather can often mess up plans for a few days. When Whale watching isn’t an option, then it is time to explore the Pacific Rim National Park and the Wickaninnish Centre. There are also other activities being hosted by both towns during the festival and information can be acquired through the local Info Centres and the area businesses. So don’t let the weather keep you away. It is all part of the experience when visiting the outer coast.