Cathedral Grove Park – Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Pecker Poles

As much as we would’ve loved to dawdle longer in Ucluelet, we were on a tight schedule, so after a whirlwind two days and three nights on the west coast, we started back to the other side of Vancouver Island.

The western section of Highway 4 is narrow and winding, with rock on one side and water on the other. Witnessing this loaded truck trying to negotiate a tight corner, I can understand why there’ve been some tragic accidents over the years.

1 Hwy 4 headed to Port Alberni 2 Hwy 4 headed to Port Alberni

Here’s that serendipitous tale I spoke of last week. While on the ferry to Vancouver Island at the start of our trip, I’d struck up a conversation with a young woman. She asked if our travels would take us to the Port Alberni area, and I said we’d be driving by twice, but not staying there. She told me of an enchanting and relatively unknown place called Hole in the Wall. She promised it was worth a visit. I made note of how to find it and, on our way through that morning, we kept an eye out for the Coombs Country Candy store, which she’d said is across the highway from the trailhead and a good place to park the car.

3 Coombs Country Candy Store, Port Alberni

Just in the nick of time, Hubby spotted a road sign with exit directions for the store. He popped into the store to ask the helpful clerk how to find the trailhead. I can only imagine how many other tourists have done the same thing. Crossing the busy highway was a bit of an adventure in itself, but soon we were safely on the trail.

4 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni

The unmaintained trail is hard-packed dirt, and there’s a fairly steep, rutted slope near the beginning, but the majority of the short walk was quite easy.

5 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni 6 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni 14 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni 15 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni 16 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni

What a delightful setting. I’m so glad we took the time to search out this hidden gem.

7 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni 8 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni

Hubby crossed Roger Creek to have a closer look.

9 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni 10 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni

Stuck on the other side, I cursed my injured foot for preventing me from investigating the interesting volcanic shale rock.

11 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni 12 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni

We met a trio of men while there, and a discussion ensued as to whether this was a natural or man-made phenomenon. I was quite positive it was artificial, not only because of the perfect roundness of the hole, but also because of the large concrete foundation on the bank directly across from it. A quick internet search reveals that it’s indeed man-made. There was a water reservoir in behind that massive rock formation and, long ago, a waterline through the blasted-out hole served as a shortcut for the town’s water supply. Nowadays, it’s simply a gorgeous and intriguing waterfall.

13 Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni

Back at Coombs Country Candy, we admired the flowers while cooling off with delicious homemade ice cream cones.

17 Coombs Country Candy Store, Port Alberni

The huge trees lining Highway 4 as we neared Cathedral Grove Park hinted at what was to come.

18 Hwy 4 near Cathedral Grove 19 Hwy 4 near Cathedral Grove 20 Hwy 4 near Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove Park has looped trails on both sides of the highway. We opted to do the southern side first.

21 Cathedral Grove

It’s hard to comprehend the breadth and scope of those massive trees. I’m afraid our photos don’t do them justice.

22 Cathedral Grove 23 Cathedral Grove 23a Cathedral Grove

Whenever possible, we used ourselves as scales.

24 Cathedral Grove 25 Cathedral Grove 26 Cathedral Grove 27 Cathedral Grove 27a Cathedral Grove

The largest tree in the park is an 800 yr-old Douglas fir. At over 250 feet tall and 30 feet around, trust me when I say it’s beyond immense. And impressive. Totally awe-inspiring.

28 800 yr-old Douglas fir, Cathedral Grove 29 800 yr-old Douglas fir, Cathedral Grove 30 800 yr-old Douglas fir, Cathedral Grove 31 800 yr-old Douglas fir, Cathedral Grove

This is a Western Red Cedar.

32 Western Red cedar, Cathedral Grove 33 Western Red cedar, Cathedral Grove

After wandering through all those majestic giants, we crossed the congested highway to the northern loop. The trees on this side aren’t quite as large or old, but there are still many points of interest.

34 Cathedral Grove, north side 35 Hollow cedar, Cathedral Grove, north side 36 Cathedral Grove, north side 37 Cathedral Grove, north side

This tree, which is basically two trees growing from the same trunk, is called a school-marm. I have it on good authority that this old logging term has rather risqué origins.

38 Schoolmarm tree, Cathedral Grove, north side

The trail is gorgeously green and lush, with ferns growing everywhere.

39 Cathedral Grove, north side 40 Cathedral Grove, north side 41 Cathedral Grove, north side

We stopped for a picnic lunch at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, which is located about three kilometers south of Parksville on Hwy 19A.

736 Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

There are many walking trails in the park, and I’d have loved to explore a few of them, but time constraints limited us to a short beach visit.

739 Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park 740 Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park 741 Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park 744 Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

At Moorecroft Regional Park, situated further south on Hwy 19A, we took the Vesper Point trail, which has several small coves to stop and admire along the way.

751 Moorecroft Regional Park 753 Moorecroft Regional Park 755 Moorecroft Regional Park

Vesper Point

758 Vesper Point, Moorecroft Regional Park

We arrived in Nanaimo around dinnertime. After checking into the Howard Johnson Harbourside, Hubby went off in search of pizza, while Roxy and I settled into our room.

763 Howard Johnson, Nanaimo

The hotel was exactly what we expected, modest and clean, and reasonably priced. Its location, just off the Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway, was the main draw for us. After we’d eaten, we wandered out to the walkway. The evening weather and the harbourside were both lovely.

767 Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway 773 Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway 775 Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway 780 Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway

Hubby took a try at tickling the ivories on the street piano.

787 Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway

We enjoyed listening to a talented street musician. I wish I could recall his name.

792 Listening to musician, Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway

Roxy posed for her obligatory photo.

793 Roxy, Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway

It takes a certain talent to patiently balance rocks like this. I, unfortunately, have neither the patience nor the talent.

794 Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway

At the end of the walkway, we relaxed on a bench and took in the scenery.

800 Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway 802 Nanaimo Harbourside Walkway

Another very full day had come to a close, and I went to bed that night in complete awe of the beautiful and diverse province we live in.

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