After a blissful rest, our motivation returned, and so off we steered to Vancouver Island's west coastthe wilder, more rugged side. Crossing the interior, we gawked at steep, wooded mountainsides rising almost perpendicular from glassy lakes, and narrow waterfalls gushing over roadside cliffs. We arrived in Tofino, a funky end-of-the-pavement outpost surrounded on three sides by water, just as a near-full moon rose and painted the sky sapphire. On the shores of Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Tofino has a year-round population of 1,400 or so and a disproportionate number of sea-kayaking and whale-watching outfitters and surf schools (Tofino is ground zero for coldwater surfing in Canada). The local Esso station sells wild rice, mandarin oranges, and even gasoline. One of the best places to eat, SoBo, serves Asian-street-food-style dishes out of a purple catering truck.
"Now even a lot of First Nations kids are getting into surfing," Dave Pettinger told us. Pettinger owns Pacific Sands Beach Resort, on a crescent of sand along Cox Bay, a prime surf break on the northern edge of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. He grew up on a dairy farm in Edmonton, where one day in 1973 his parents glimpsed an ad in the newspaper: MOTEL FOR SALE. The "motel" now includes four two-story lodge buildings and six new clusters of luxe two- and three-bedroom villas, with cedar beams, roomy kitchens, fireplaces downstairs and up, and ample amounts of ocean-facing glass. All of the rooms are heated by Pettinger's latest addition, a geothermal-exchange heating system that employs steady temperatures hundreds of feet underground as a power source.
On Pettinger's recommendation, we hiked a pair of boardwalk trails that loop through Pacific Rim's old-growth rainforestin a torrential downpour. Hoods pulled overhead, we shuffled along like novitiates from some monastery devoted to Gore-Tex. Like anyplace that has remained mostly untouched by humans, the forest has an otherworldly feel, with gardens of moss draped from gnarled branches. Some of the western red cedars are 800 years old, with trunks that would require the combined arm span of five adults to reach around them. Ten feet of annual rainfall waters this gardena good portion of that, it seemed, during our hike.