The next and last stop after leaving Sombrio is Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. This area derives its name from deep bowls carved by its swirling waters. Cliffs here offer adrenaline inducing drops into crystal clear water. This same water offers the perfect environment for snorkeling and swimming enthusiasts. Located in between the 2nd and 3rd parking lots is a mysterious unfinished convention center perched a hundred feet above the river with a massive fireplace and castle like walls. Hiking enthusiasts will find the trails here easy yet scenic as it follows the river for 3 kilometers. If it’s not busy make sure to skip the first parking lot and park at either the 2nd or 3rd lots to save walking time. Sooke Potholes will require multiple days of exploration but even a day here will leave you feeling revitalized.
Exploring these locations can be easily broken up between weekends. The only difficult thing is reaching them in the absence of a vehicle. However, these spots are incredibly cheap and completely worth it. Being a fourth year student I have come to understand the importance of taking a day off from school. It is the only way I maintain a level of sanity between exams and essays. If you are new to the University of Victoria make sure to go to clubs day and look for, among others, the Surfing club and/or the Outdoors club. Clubs allow for easy networking and carpooling to reach locations throughout the island. Now get out there and explore! About the author: Robin Gagne is a Political Science student in his 4th year at the University of Victoria. He enjoys long walks on the beach and candle lit dinners. You can find him on campus studying under trees while drinking pumpkin spice lattes.
When you near Langford look for signs to Sooke that will send you on your way to Sombrio Beach. Exploring in either direction is made easy as Sombrio is situated right in the middle of the Juan de Fuca trail. The Juan de Fuca trail charges the atmosphere of Sombrio as the beach fills and empties of hikers every day. On our first night we established relationships with our neighbours and some local surfers while drinking around a campfire. The day after we awoke to crepuscular rays illuminating the dense forest, cooked breakfast over a fire and took some time to read on the beach. Heading out for the day we made sure to ask about the hidden waterfall and to find the cave tucked into a cliff. Sombrio’s natural gallery illustrates the spirit of Vancouver Island. Setting up Camp requires a 15 minute hike in and will strip you of cell service easing your mind from daily stresses.
Tofino offers oceanic views that will drop the jaw of any mainlander and requires a minimum two full days of exploration. Having only spent a day in Tofino our group agreed that we did not spend enough time in Tofino. Although we never rented surfboards, which I recommend you do, we had an incredible day skimboarding on Long Beach. Once departing Tofino keep your eyes open for Wally Creek located 60km out of Tofino just off the highway on the left hand side. This pit stop offers natural platforms from 5 to 40 feet into deep clear waters. It also offers tall and short waterfalls caressed by solid stone. A second pitstop to hit is MacMillan Provincial Park, which is better known as Cathedral Grove, home to 800 year old Douglas Fir trees. Trails here sweep between these silent giants encompassing you in the deep shade of an old forest. Stops are always recommended to stretch the legs and will break up the 6 hour drive to Sombrio beach.
Arguably the most important component of any trip for students is price. For us the largest expense was the vehicle rental. Renting for a week ran us $1199 (CAN) plus $250 in gas composing 72% of our budget. If you or someone in your group has a get-a-way car expect to cut costs by 50%. Campsites on Vancouver Island are incredibly cheap ranging from $20-50 a night based on location and if you are camping in peak season. Food costs will vary depending on if you want more than just hot dogs and if you happen to be a lumberjack. As a 200lb male I consumed around $200 worth of food and alcohol. All together we hovered the $1900 mark for the trip. Split four ways that is $475ea, which is easy to budget for. Once you’ve checked your savings it is all about location, location, location bringing us to our first stop, Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. Englishman River Falls is 20 minutes west of Parksville, BC and offers quality campgrounds, easy hiking and crisp water. At the first stop of interest, an easy 15 minute walk, you can jump from heights of 10, 15, and 30 foot cliffs or ease yourself in from a small beach. However, the main attraction takes another 20 to 30 minutes up a well maintained trail. Once you have reached the second bridge look out to your left to see the persistent force of Mother Nature. Getting up close and personal with Englishman River Falls requires courage and sure footing as the rocks are very slippery when wet. Peaking over the edge of cascading water is guaranteed to release some endorphins. Just remember to exert caution. I recommend a full day to explore before you leave for the next destination, Tofino.
September 11th, 2015 - Exploring Vancouver Island
It is well known that school is stressful. Escaping its confines is needed to recharge and stimulate the senses. Exploration allows reinvigoration of the student’s morale and deepens the connection to the region. I have lived in Victoria for two years and have found Vancouver Island’s personality captivating, the landscape addicting and the culture vibrant. It has the power of enlarging your perspective by contrasting you against enormous cedars, the seemingly endless sea and other large landscapes. This summer I had the privilege to explore Vancouver Island with three of my good friends in a rented 2015 Chrysler van. The experience laid the foundation to my summer and left me enamored to the island life. It is highly recommended that you get out of your abode and experience the island first hand. This article can be referenced by would-be explorers in the absence of an adequate planner such as my friend Mike Morash, who produced all of the attached media and organized the trip.