Okay, it’s not the spectacular roiling surf and miles of wonderful, hard sand that make Long Beach such an extraordinary experience, but it’s a treasure, nonetheless.
I’m talking about one of the best short hikes beautiful British Columbia has to offer, the Wild Pacific Trail on the ocean outskirts of the one-time loggers’ bastion of Ucluelet.
For years, when the woods were still producing their great bounty, the hard-living, hard-working folks of Ucluelet sneered at the laid-back softies of rival Tofino, who abandoned industry for eco-tourism and the like. But Tofino could see the future, and it wasn’t logging. Now Ucluelet, devastated by the downturn in forestry and fishing, has seen the light, too. Bed and breakfasts, high-class resorts, whale watching and all those other touristy things are on the rise.
But nothing tops the Wild Pacific Trail. There is no Long Beach on the shores of Ucluelet. Instead, powerful breakers of the open ocean hurl themselves at reams of jagged, ridiculously menacing rocks. Sometimes, the waves simply go beserk. An early lighthouse was wiped out during a fierce storm, and not that long ago, a huge cache of driftwood was tossed far inland, as if the logs were made of paper mache.
The well-constructed trail has several different routes, but the 45-minute Lighthouse Loop, to and from the famed Amphitrite Lighthouse, is special. A wide pathway, viewing benches seemingly around every bend and close-ups of the rugged, wave-splattered coastline and offshore Broken Group Islands make the path a true delight. Although the winds were relatively calm when I was there last weekend, vistas are said to be at their absolute best when a good old West Coast storm lashes the sea into a fury.
The Wild Pacific Trail is the result of a singular vision by longtime Ucluelet resident Oyster Jim Martin, who finally got the community to take his dream seriously and pitch in, when the forest industry began to go south. The result is wonderful. So, do yourself a favour the next time you’re at Long Beach. Make a side trip to Ucluelet and take a walk on the wild side.