Category Archives: Travel

No Nature

 

 

Dandelion: friend or foe?

On the last day of our trip, listening to CBC radio I heard about a scandal in Regina. Apparently they have a local bylaw there that if the “lawn” on your yard is more than 15 cm high it must be cut down. What a draconian rule! If you don’t do it the weed inspector will come down and do it for you and send you the bill.  No wild flowers permitted in Regina.

It reminds me of the war that most of us who reside in towns have waged on dandelions.  Such beautiful little yellow flowers. Some say the problem with dandelions is that they take over. They invade the lawn. That is true. Nature hates  monoculture. If we didn’t insist on creating monocultures on our property,  dandelions would have no place to invade. People forget that in nature there are seldom vast fields of yellow dandelions. Dandelions enter where nature has been destroyed. People in towns don’t want nature. So they get dandelions and want to use various horrid chemicals  to defeat them.

Some town folks even think golf courses are nature at her finest! Those wide fairways where golf superintendents apply vats of carcinogenic substances to kill the weeds are what they think is nature. They actually consider that nature. Just goes to show how far they are removed from nature, they have forgotten what nature is like. The only difference between a wild flower and a weed is a public relations firm.

On the way home from British Columbia I saw another example of our war on nature. This was actually a big example. Just after we crossed the Alberta/B.C. border we lost nature.  After we left Banff National Park we saw no nature until we arrived in Steinbach other than rain clouds. That was about 1,000 km.! Not one single animal other than an occasional cow. I don’t think cows were native to North America. The prairies that we took the better part of 2 days to travel through used to be grasslands.  Less than 1% of the tall grass prairie remains. Less than 30% of the remaining grasslands are gone too. Actually, to me it looks like more than that has disappeared. We saw none other than in occasional sloughs or river banks. The grasslands seemed to have vanished.

The first European explorers were stunned when they encountered what they saw as an ocean of grass. They had never seen anything like it. After all, the grasslands of Europe were all but gone before they arrived. Most of that grassland is gone.

We have destroyed so much of nature in the holy names of progress.

I have also been told that the wildlife in North America, before contact with Europeans,  was even more abundant than Africa. To me having been to Africa and having seen their depleted wildlife that makes ours pale into insignificance , I find that hard to believe. It is an awful desecration.

For two days,  we saw virtually none. That is a pity. As the Red Rose Tea commercial used to say, “a dreadful pity.”

I even like dandelions when they have gone to seed. I think there is a beauty in old age.

A Predator of Beauty

 

Near the Albereta/B.C. border the weather turned troubling.  No matter what Willie Nelso might say, from her on we encountered nothing but gray skies for the rest of the way. Some light was added to the morning drive by one of my favorite CBC radio shows, The Sunday Edition. Michael Enright had a guest whom I had heard before when he talked about his parrot. Today he talked about himself. The guest was Brian Brett. He is very eccentric. He has called himself as being “slightly sideways.” He is a maverick. I like mavericks.

Brett was born with a very rare genetic condition  Kallmann Syndrome that left him biologically androgynous. He was unable to produce male hormones. As a result a doctor said that he would not live past the age of 40. Well that is a bad thing to say to a guy like Brett who has a startling ability to survive.

Being in his 70’s he has lived much longer than that, but now faces new challenges.  Again he has ignored predictions of his imminent demise.   Rebels do that. More recently he has been diagnosed with a serious heart condition and cancer, and his liver seems to have disappeared, but once again he has refused to go quietly into that dark night. Instead he moved to Vancouver, where he had better access to specialized care. Until then he was a self-styled “rural renegade,” but after that he became an urban renegade.

Brett missed the the natural beauty of Saltspring. Who wouldn’t? As he said,  “I always had so much beauty surrounding me there for 25 years. So it’s a little tougher in the city.”

As he told Michael Enright, “I decided that if I was going to die … then I would like to be surrounded by beauty.” That is in my view a perfectly laudable goal, though his means of achieving it were at best dubious. He became what he called a “predator of beauty,” or a “predator of flowers”.

In Vancouver he made an interesting decision.  As he said, “I decided that if I was going to die, if this guy was really right this time, then I would like to be surrounded by beauty. I had taken to buying orchids so that I had a couple of orchids on each side of my bed so that when I shut my eyes at night the last thing I will see will be a beautiful orchid. But then I got really carried away. That’s when I got into trouble.”

Brett got himself a pair of pruning shears and ventured out at night. “I’d take a walk in the day. I would go out and sort of check everything out and memorize where I wanted to go and then I could I would go out at dusk, because it has to be light to be able to see what you’re doing. I only went after stuff that overhang the fences. I called it ‘vigilante pruning‘ … I would go out and clean up the trees and I would take my wages in flowers.”

Brett was not satisfied with seeing the flowers, he wanted to have them. Even though they did not belong to him. Sometimes he asked for permission. Not always. He figured he was doing a service to the neighbourhood. “Before I knew it I was pruning the neighbourhood,” he said of his illicit gardening.

Brett, ever the creative writer, wrote an essay about how many shades of blue there are. When I was a child discovering the world it was all so bright and amazing. I get obsessions, and one of the obsessions was trying to count how many blues I could remember. I got myself up to two hundred and eighty seven before I scrawled it on the back of my dresser in my bedroom so that I would remember it forever. You know, this is the kind of thing you think when you’re in Grade 6.” He says that he has the mind of a 14 year-old.

Enright asked him how his night time forays into the land of flower gardens was connected to his health. Brett replied, “I think it’s just the rage to live. I want to die the way I’ve lived, which is more or less at full speed.”

As a result Brett pruned city trees and helped himself to flowers so he could brighten up his home. He also took cherry and plum blossoms, as well as magnolia blossoms. How could he resist? “A lot of them ended up in my bedroom and so it was pretty extravagant. For a while there I went into a real frenzy.”

Eventually, his conscience, or his fear of the law, got the better of him and he stopped taking flowers without permission. He appreciated the work the gardens did making the city beautiful and stopped robbing them. He admitted, “‘I can be trouble.”

His cancer prognosis has improved recently, and once again he might cheat death as he has done so many times before. Now his doctors say he as 2 or 3 years to live. “I’m pretty creaky and I’m on 19 pills a day, but I have a remarkable ability to survive.”

In the meantime, Brett continues to fill his small home with beauty. He is a still a predator of beauty but gets permission for his predations. He wants  his room to be filled with things that bring him joy. As he said, “I just love beauty. And it’s more than the flowers. I love to be surrounded by beautiful objects.”

I felt a little like Brett this morning. Along the Trans-Canada Highway we made a few stops including one where I wanted to see the mountains under gray skies, but I was instead struck by the beautiful flowers just over the roadside barrier. I wanted to be a predator of beauty too. I wanted to grab some images of the precious mountains we were soon to leave behind. Gray skies made that difficult. Beside one of those stops, I found a few gems (wild flowers) worth preying on, but I did not use shears, only my camera and tripod.

Flowers I saw included the following: Chicory (Chicorium intybus), Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and Klamath Weed (Hypercium peforatum).

 

I hated that last name, how could you call such a lovely flower a weed? So disrespectful. Such a derogatory name for such a lovely flower, but it has had devastating effects in California where it was somehow introduced from eastern North America and ruined 250,000 acres before a European beetle was introduced to control it. Often such attempts to “control” species don’t work well but his one has seemed to work.

I was grateful to Chris for indulging me in this half hour stop to predate beauty. So much fun.

Rockin’ Chair and a beautiful young girl

 

 

I love listening to music on long car trips. On our drive from Kamloops to Salmon Arm, looking out at the mountains, often beside the railway tracks,  brought me back–right back–to the days of my youth. Specifically the memories of the summer of 1970. Those memories flooded over me.  With amazing luck I got a job as a porter in 1970 and made a number of trips to British Columbia. Invariably on the trip back to Manitoba I got lonely. I missed my friends and in particular this new girl I had just met that spring Christiane Calvez. She was beautiful and fun and I wanted to see her as soon as possible. But I needed to work to put my way through University. Somehow, I don’t know why or how, the lyrics of a song filled my mind on one of those long train rides back to Manitoba. It was a song I was not even conscious I knew until the lyrics and tune came to me as I sat alone on a seat  on the sleeping car. Those lyrics resonated with my loneliness being so far from home.  The song was “Rockin’ Chair” by The Band.

Rockin’ Chair”

Hang around, Willie boy,
Don’t you raise the sails anymore
It’s for sure, I’ve spent my whole life at sea
And I’m pushin’ age seventy-three
Now there’s only one place that was meant for me:

Oh, to be home again,
Down in old Virginny,
With my very best friend,
They call him Ragtime Willie
We’re gonna soothe away the rest of our years,
We’re gonna put away all of our tears,
That big rockin’ chair won’t go nowhere

Slow down, Willie boy,
Your heart’s gonna give right out on you
It’s true, and I believe I know what we should do
Turn to stern and point to shore,
The seven seas won’t carry us no more

Oh, to be home again,
Down in old Virginny,
With my very best friend,
They call him Ragtime Willie
I can’t wait to sniff that air,
Dip that snuff, I won’t have no care,
That big rockin’ chair won’t go nowhere

Hear the sound, Willie boy,
The Flyin’ Dutchman’s on the reef
It’s my belief
We’ve used up all our time,
This hill’s to steep to climb,
And the days that remain ain’t worth a dime

Oh, to be home again,
Down in old Virginny,
With my very best friend,
They call him Ragtime Willie
Would’a been nice just to see the folks,
Listen once again to them stale old jokes,
That big rockin’ chair won’t go nowhere

I can hear something callin’ on me
(And you know where I wanna be)
Oh Willie, can’t you hear that sound?
(Down in old Virginny)
I just wanna get my feet back on the ground
(Down in old Virginny)
And I’d love to see my very best friend
They call him Ragtime Willie
(Oh, to be home again)
I believe old rockin’ chair’s got me again!

 

I wanted to be home “with my very best friend” so badly it ached. “Oh to be home again.” Today that “I’m pushin’ age seventy-three,” the lyrics came back this time enhanced with the modern technology of an iPod played through my car radio speakers. Memories are good. Life is good. “I just wanna get my feet back on the ground.” It is still one of my favourite songs. And I have lived with that sweet young girl for nearly 50 years. “Oh to be home again with my very best friend.”

“Nevergreen” in the Rockies

 

 

I have already blogged about this amazing place, but wanted to make one more comment. This is a photograph of my favourite place in the Rocky Mountains. Chris has a better photograph of it than I do. But she will have to post her own blog. (Yes I am jealous). I loved the fact that the sun was coming out and flooding this small island with light.

This  island is a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, or more properly, Ĩyãħé Nakoda First Nation who believe mountains are physical representations of their ancestors. The Indigenous people have 8,000 years plus of ecological knowledge of the lake and island. They knew the land and creatures and organisms on it intimately. As a result they knew long ago that it was important for the area to be burned from time to time. They practiced controlled burns, long before modern conservationists and ecologists realized their importance. It is surprising how often traditional knowledge of Indigenous people, disregarded by whites for centuries, and dismissed as superstition or foolishness, has proved to be right.

As we saw throughout the Rockies we saw massive devastation caused by Mountain Pine beetles. Everywhere in this area the forest were largely red and green. Even on this tiny island, some have called the “Jewel of Jasper” and some have said is the most beautiful place in the Rocky Mountains, you can see the red trees that should be “evergreen”. Well they will never be green again! I wonder how soon all the trees on this tiny island are red. I hate to think of it. Until recent times when the twin forces of climate change and a lack of burns created perfect conditions for the Mountain Pine beetle they existed in the west but never posed pestilential problems as they do now. Because Indigenous people practiced regular controlled burns and did not cause climate change they never had a problem with Mountain Pine Beetles. Now they are a serious problem and it is all thanks to forces unleashed by modern white society.

Policies of non-Indigenous people have led, Indigenous people believe, to a lack of balance in nature. The natural balance is out of whack. Nature needs to be healed. We need a new attitude to nature. No let me rephrase that. We need an old attitude to nature. An attitude that respects nature, rather than seeing it as a resource to plunder.

Non-indigenous people, who for so long thought they  were better than Indigenous people, and as the Eagles said, “raped the land, ” and “put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and called it paradise,” have a lot answer for. Or as they also said, “Call it paradise, and kiss it good-bye.”

The fact that Spirit Island is surrounded on three sides by the same mountain range is very rare and makes it particularly significant to the Ĩyãħé Nakoda (Stoney Nakoda) people.

The island is called Spirit Island. I love that name.  They call this area, for good reason, the Hall of the Gods. What will they call it when the trees die? I suggest never green.

 

British Columbia: Supernatural

 

British Columbia—Land of: Wine, Hippies, Bennet Buggies, Lotusland, Dippies, Marijuana, Free love, bumper stickers, politics on your sleeve, craft beer, Gluten free, Going Green, artists, Bountiful B.C., Supernatural, Goats on a Roof, Hippies, Doukhobors, Social Credit, Freedom, vortex, tea readings, the end of the world, superstition, gentleness, mountains, Trees that talk, Crazy politics, Eclectic curmudgeons, Happy eccentrics, Aging hippies, Slow food, forest bathing, waterfalls, snow tires required by law, cider, Crazy Canucks, Stanley Park, Chain stores not allowed, Whacky tobbacky, Tie Dye Shirts that talk, Rain forests, West Coast Casual, Vegans and various nuts and bolts that have rolled down from the eastern seaboard.

My kind of place

Travels with Charli (and Stef)

 

 

One of my favorite books, and one of the first travel books I ever read, was John Steinbeck’s Travel’s with Charley.  I loved that book. Now we had our own version of that.

When we talked about visiting Stef in B.C. we hoped he could spend a day or two with us. Much to our surprise he was enthusiastic about our visit and suggested that we could go on a short road trip with him and his girl friend Charli. No doubt the possibility of our paying for much of it helped whet his appetite. We ended up going on a 5-day road trip to Vancouver Island and Saltspring Island. And we learned a lot about our son Stef.

It was great to fun travel with Stef and Charli. Stef is a great traveller. He comes from a family of travellers. His grand parents (my parents) were great travellers and I really believe their descendant’s have inherited the travel bug. We all love to travel.

My parents did not even have a car for many years. I remember when they finally bought one and we were able to go on road trips. Our first trip, that I can recall, was one to my aunt and uncle and cousins in St. Catherines Ontario. I was unbelievably excited. I was bit with the travel bug and it has lasted forever. I think all of my children inherited that gene, though one of them, Patrick, who was adopted, earned it by nurture rather than nature. We all love to travel.

But no one in our family loves to travel more than Stef. I know a couple of years ago when as far as I knew he had no money, he somehow managed to make a trip to Belgium to see a big international music festival. I don’t know how he did that, but he did.

As a result of his travels he seems to have friends around the world. Partly that is because he is  a social animal. I don’t know where he inherited that gene. As soon as we got into the car to travel from Whistler, where we picked them up,  to Vancouver Island Stef was bouncing with excitement. His enthusiasm was infectious. Our ears were sore from his enthusiastic tirades. That made it fun for everyone. Poor Charli did her best to hang on. The rest of us tried from time to time, without much success to temper his exuberance. He filled the days with joy.

Stef had researched where we could go and what we should see. Yet , we found out, he was a meanderer like us. We could change course at any time. He just liked to travel. it didn’t matter too much where we went. His grand parents would be proud. His parents were proud. We were amazed at how well he had researched and organized where we could go. Stef and Charli were both very easy to get along with. Both were quite willing to try something new. They were kind and considerate to the old folks, even when they got cranky.

Chris and I were astonished and we loved coming along for the ride. It was great fun. Yet, even though he made many suggestions where we could go, Stef was always happy to take suggestions from others, and change course. A real meanderer. Stef: thanks for the ride! When do we go again?

Lonesome Doug

 

 

There is an amazing tree at the west end of Vancouver Island called Lonesome Doug. We did not find Lonesome Doug, a lonely Douglas-fir left all alone  in the middle of a vicious clear-cut forest. We had seen photos of Lonesome Doug but felt we did not have time to try to find him. So he remains alone and unseen by us.

All the trees around it had been felled. Hence the name. Lonesome Doug is a massive tree. It pokes right through the forest canopy in this area called the Tall Tree Capital of the World. It actually had no limbs at all until it reached the top of the surrounding canopy. In other words all the surrounding trees were not as tall as the lowest branch of Lonesome Doug! This is a very big tree. Thank goodness it was saved, but I wish they had retained some of his neighbours too.

Lonesome Doug is about as tall as a 20-story building. Its trunk is wider than a truck. Apparently it is the second-largest Douglas-Fir tree in Canada. And now it is a freak in this clearing in the rain forest. Lonesome Doug has enough wood to fill four logging trucks or to frame five 2,000 sq. foot houses. That one tree could be sold for thousands of dollars, but thankfully it was saved. I don’t know why. It is one of the last Douglas-fir in coastal B.C. where 99% of them are already gone. And some people want to take them all! Sometimes the rapacity of men is inconceivable. It takes a rain forest like this to grow such a massive tree. Here it rains 2 out of every 3 days so the big trees are happy. Such trees love flat valley floors onto which the rain water flows. Even though we did not see Doug, we were very lucky because it did not rain.

For many decades the predominant method of logging in B.C. was clear-cutting. The loggers just cut everything down. There was no time for sloppy sentimentality. According to Harley Rustad,

“The introduction of mechanized feller-bunchers—capable of chopping, de-limbing, and cutting trees to length—made it possible for loggers to clear a hectare of second-growth forest in a matter of hours. But few machines are capable of felling old growth; the trees are too big. Every great tree that is cut down on Vancouver Island is done by hand. While it could take 500 years for a fir to reach fifty metres tall and two metres wide, it can take a skilled faller with a chainsaw five minutes to bring it down.”

That puts the whole process into perspective. Lonesome Doug has probably been standing for a 1,000 years! In other words he was already about 500 years old when Christopher Columbus “discovered” North America. He was a seedling at about the time Leif Ericson was building sod houses in Newfoundland.

The image of Lonesome Doug is a powerful one. I think it shows us what clear-cut logging is all about. As Rustad said, “Heroic life persevering amid destruction.” Destruction is the key. Sometimes I really think capitalism is anti-life. They call it creative destruction, and sometimes that is true, but all too often it is just destruction. I think it is really vandalism. Maybe even desecration.

The Globe and Mail called this tree “the loneliest tree in Canada.” Some people fear that because the surrounding forest has been felled, the wind will ruin Lonesome Doug. Yet he was surrounded by 150 year-old Hemlocks that had grown back after a massive storm. In other words, Doug must have been alone then too. He can take the wind. Doug is tough. Maybe he will make it. Lets hope.

 

Vancouver Island: From Sooke to Port Renfrew

Christiane

They say that Vancouver Island is the place “where the rain forest meets the sea.” WE travelled a part of Vancouver Island, from Sooke where we were staying to Port Renfrew on the western side of the island.

 

Our first stop was Whiffen Spit where we took a long walk along the curling (meandering) spit. it reminded me of Point Pelee. I loved the smell of the sea and the sound of the gulls.  We saw a seal meandering in the bay.

This was a lovely bunch of flowers growing out of an ancient log on the beach.

Stef and Charli

 

We made a brief stop at Sandust Beach where Chris did a very stupid thing. She walked down the path after Stef said, “It starts off flat.”  This was true. It did start that way but it did not end that way!  Gradually it got steeper and steeper and this made it impossible for Chri with her store bought knee and hip. She walked almost all the way down before coming to her senses.  it was  particularly treacherous where the path consisted of mangled twisted roots.

At the end of the drive we reached Port Renfrew. This felt like the real west coast. Rustic, relaxing, casual, beautiful. It felt like I was at the end of the world not just the end of Vancouver Island.

After exploring the dock at the end of the bay, looking at gulls, dreaming about what was across the bay, (we had been told it was the start of the famous West Coast Trail) we got to Renfrew Pub. Here they advertised, “Wilderness within Reach.”  That seemed entirely true.

 

Saltspring Island

 

One of the things our son Stef had planned for this road trip was a visit to Saltspring Island.  While Chris and I had been there, it was many years ago and we were quite game to see it again. Stef said there were some friends of  his there that he wanted to visit.

Saltspring Island was originally inhabited by various Salishan peoples before it was settled by European pioneers in 1859. At that time it was called Admiral Island. It was the first of all the Gulf Islands to be settled and has become  the most populous of them all. It is also the largest and most frequently visited of all of the islands. It was the first agricultural settlement in what was called the Colony of Vancouver Island and was the first island to permit settlers to acquire land by pre-emption. Neither the settlers nor the government of Britain (who controlled Canada a the time through its colonial government) made any treaty with the local indigenous people who acquiesced in allowing the new people into their territory.

Settlers were allowed to occupy and later purchase land if they first “improved” it. At least they considered it improved. This was the primary way that land passed into the hands of settlers. They could purchase it for $1 per acre. As a result of this method there is a fairly good historical record of what happened to the land.

I am not sure what gave the “authorities” the notion that they had the right to sell land that they themselves had never purchased. In law the violates a fundamental principle: there is Latin phrase we lawyers use that means, you cannot convey a better title than you have. It is an interesting notion they inherited as a result of being English or successors to the English.

The early settlers included African-Americans, Hawaiians, English, Irish and Scottish. Most of them were subsistence farmers. Many abandoned the farms they “bought” after they were not able to make a sufficient living. Most of those who survived needed side jobs fishing or logging to make a go of it.

The Indigenous people called the island xʷənen̕əč. Other Saanich names on the island include was initially inhabited by Salishan peoples of various tribes. Other Saanich place names on the island include the following: t̕θəsnaʔəŋ̕ (Beaver Point), čəw̕een (Cape Keppel), xʷən̕en̕əč (Fulford Harbour), and syaxʷt (Ganges Harbour). Don’t ask me to pronounce those names.

The island has had some interesting history since contact. It became a sanctuary for refugees for black African Americans who wanted to escape the racism of the United States. Many of the blacks left California in 1858 after the state of California passed discriminatory legislation against African-Americans. Representatives of the refugees visited the Governor, James Douglas, about what kind of treatment they could expect. Douglas was in fact a Guyanese man of multi-ethnic birth and assured them that slavery had been abolished here more than 20 years earlier and that they would be well treated on the island. By an interesting twist of history, a little more than a 100 years later the island again became a refuge for American draft dodgers and deserters during the Vietnam War.

Located between Mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island has a population of 10,557 inhabitants. For such a small population, Saltspring Island has a surprising number of well known people. Particularly artists and entertainers seem to love it. The notables include Randy Bachman of the Guess Who, Canada’s most famous artist Robert Bateman, former CBC host Arthur Black whom I regularly listened to about 20 years ago, Brian Brett a very unusual poet, novelist, writer, and raconteur who I listened to on CBC’s Sunday Edition, a couple of days later on our way back home. It is also home to  Stuart Margolin, an actor who played Angel, an extremely colourful character on one of my favorite television shows of all time, Rockford Files with James Garner. Musicians Raffi and Valdy also call the island home.  Ronald Wright author of one of my favorite books on Indigenous issues, Stolen Continents also lives there. For a community about 2/3 the population of Steinbach they sure do punch above their weight in famous people.

These are not famous people. They are Stef, Charli and their buddies. After lunch we drove a short distance to the Wild Cider a cider bar where we met 6 of his friends. The young people were from around the world. 1 was a Saltspring resident, and he was partnered with a girl who now lives there two but came from Nova Scotia. One young couple was from New Zealand the other from Australia. World Citizens. They all seemed to be great friends enjoying each other’s company. They even put up with Stef’s old folks hanging around and included us in the conversation. Chris and I sampled a flight of ciders. Pretty good cider.

We spent so much time at the Cider Bar with Stef’s friends we had no time for anything else. We headed back to the ferry and then drove “home” to Sooke. It was a great day.

Vancouver Island LIghtnouses

 

 

 

I am not just an orchid guy. Or a bog guy. Or a waterfall guy. Or an autumn leaf guy. No I am  a man of many parts. I am also a lighthouse guy. I love lighthouses too. Actually I am a sucker for lighthouses. And that has got Chris and I in trouble on a number of occasions. Someday I will have to blog about that.

One day on Vancouver Island we went to see Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site, on Fisgard Island. Because of work in the park we could not get close to it the day we were there.

It was the first lighthouse built on the west coast of Canada. The light station and lighthouse were built in 1860 to guide vessels into  Esquimalt harbour. Part of the reason to reinforce Canadian rights to sovereignty over its colony on the west coast against the ever greedy Americans.  In other words, the Americans were as greedy as the British. 25,000 American miners had come to the area 2 years earlier in search of gold in the Fraser valley. If there was gold to be found there the British wanted it for themselves.

The Sheringham Lighthouse on Vancouver Island, like so many lighthouses was born out of tragedy. During the last part of the 19the century and the first part of the 20th centuries the South Coast of Vancouver Island saw more than 240 ship wrecks! As a result the area gained an unwelcome reputation as for its treacherous shoreline and was called by many, the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

On January 20, 1906, the steamship SS Valencia left San Francisco bound for Seattle and Victoria with 173 passengers on board. Late at night during awful weather, which sadly is not uncommon on the coast, there was little visibility and the ship missed the turn into the Juan de Fuca Strait   On board were 173 passengers and crew.  During the dark night of January 22, in foul weather and with very limited visibility, the Valencia missed the turn into Juan de Fuca Strait and steamed directly on to the rocks near Pachena Point.  Sadly, 137 men, women and children died as a result.

Both Canada and the Americans held inquiries and determined that they had to make efforts to improve navigation on the west coast.  After the inquiry, the Canadian government decided to build 12 more lighthouses on the coast including this one at Sheringham Point.

 

 

The lighthouse is located on a spit that veers prominently out to sea, a pretty good spot for the light. This is the view from that spit. Long before first contact, the site was used by the Ditidaht First Nation (now called the T’Sou-ke First Nation) and called by them p’aachiida which means “sea foam on rocks.” The foam can be seen on the above photographs.

The light station and lighthouse were both built in 1912.

At first I was very disappointed even though I could easily walk to the lighthouse. It seemed there was no vantage point to get a good view. You can’t really photograph a lighthouse from right under it. You have to be some distance away to get a view of it in its setting on the rocks and by the sea.  At first I could only get a shot from the top of the stairway.

 

With some extra efforts I found a place to get what I thought was a better view. Then I was happy. The lighthouse was declared a Canadian Heritage Site in 2015.