There’s been this huge problem weighing on my mind while I’ve been on this adventure.
A while ago I asked myself, “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” What started out as a mind game, with the intention of being fun, has turned into a bit of a problem. It’s become all I think about when I see animals now.
The time I was hiking through the woods and saw the woodland chipmunk, I thought, “Well you’re cute! Maybe I want to be you.” Then I’d start thinking about predators and cold weather, and my mind would change.
I go through the same dialogue with myself each time I run into any animal: elk, bald eagle, white tail deer, mountain goat, domestic dog…you name it. The conclusion is always the same. No, not that (for one reason or another).
The closest I’ve got to seriously considering becoming a certain animal has been the sea lion. I saw them while on “The Island,” as it’s called by the Canadians.
Vancouver Island and specifically Tofino came highly recommended. A common question I’d receive while in conversation with Canadians in a parking lot or line at the supermarket was, “So, where’s next?” When I’d reply “Tofino,” their eyebrows would raise. A lot of Canadians haven’t even traveled there so to say I was excited for the island hop is an understatement.
The ferry ride over to Vancouver Island (from Tsawwassen – the T is silent – to Nanaimo), was an experience. Similar to air travel, ferry travel required me to drive my car into a line, park it there, where I could then kill time until departure in a terminal. There was a chocolate shop, coffee shop, multiple bakeries, Chinese restaurant, gift shop, and other stores. It was wild.
Having never traveled by ferry before, when it came time to drive my car onto the humongous ship, I felt like a 16-year-old learning how to drive for the first time. There were all these nuances that the ferry-frequenters clearly knew about and it was up to me to mimic their movements and try to look cool, like a ferry-frequenter myself. I’m sure I looked like a wide-eyed, first time driver.
Within the first hour of my time in Tofino, I was in love. Tofino is popular with Canadians for the great surfing. The cold water requires surfers to wear wet suits, but the waves get pretty intense, making it the perfect destination for Canadians looking to take up the lifestyle.
The vibe of the city is laid back in a different way from the previous tourist towns on my journey. I didn’t see tourist buses full of people piling off with their selfie sticks, nor did I see many elderly couples traveling with their RVs. There were a lot of young, hipsters (tourists and locals alike) and when I passed a bus that read “Rastafarian” on the side in spray painted letters, it made me smile.
I got excited when I learned Tofino has a hot spring and immediately started researching the route to get there. The catch was that Hot Springs Cove is only accessible by hydro-plane or boat. I opted for a boat ride.
Hot Springs Cove exceeded my expectations. It’s a completely raw and natural alcove in the rock. The hot mineral water falls into the rock pools from a stream above. I had been so accustomed to commercialized hot springs where the pools are plastered in, with lockers and showers offered on site. Me having done zero reading in preparation for the trip didn’t even bring a towel. When I walked up I didn’t realize the water was hot until I dipped a toe in and found it was scalding (122 degrees F). The only indicator that the hot mineral water is nearby is the faintest smell of sulfur.
The overall effect of the atmosphere is both romantic and mesmerizing. The mineral water eventually pours into the Pacific Ocean at the end of the series of pools, creating a constant movement of water. It’s easy to get lost in watching the flowing water from the waterfall or the ocean, or the pools themselves.
The boat ride to and from the cove proved to be a wise decision. The gale force winds made the 1.5 hour boat ride more like a roller coaster and I was giggling like a child each time we caught air. On the journey we whale watched (both the captain and one other passenger spotted a gray whale) and spotted other sea life such as harbor porpoises, bald eagles, and sea lions.
The sea lion was the cutest and most interesting creature we’d spot on our journey and thus the thoughts of becoming a sea lion began. Our captain was full of knowledge and referred to them as the “teddy bears of the ocean.” He shared that the sea lion differs from the seal in that they have ear flaps and are able to walk on land with their four legs. Both land and sea? My thoughts were seriously leaning toward making the sea lion my choice animal until he shared that while in mating, the male sea lion will bite chunks of the face off their mates, in a sort of courting ritual. The resulting effect being the desirable females have scared facial tissue. No, not that…