By HJEH Becker. This is the second part to an earlier blog post on travelling down the Port Alberni Inlet through the middle of Vancouver Island on a small charter freight boat. The first part covered tips on how to get to Vancouver Island, with highlights on the towns of Port Alberni, Tofino and Uclelet.
The Alberni Inlet is a fjord lined by low mountain ranges on both sides with sparse population strung along the coasts from the Pacific Ocean, 40 kilometres towards the east which ends at Port Alberni, now a paper mill town.
If it were not for a 400 metre hill between the canyon walls just east of Port Alberni, the fjord would provide passage across the Island and separate it into two islands by dissecting the island in the middle. The fjord at its deepest point, extends 350 metres downward.
Valley with Highest Rainfall in North America
The MV Frances Barkley passes a valley with the highest rainfall in North America at Henderson Lake.
This freight boat makes a daily or bi-daily journey, depending on the season, it stops at hamlets along the way to drop off mail, home deliveries, kayaks and other things. Sometimes locals will phone the ship ahead before it reaches floating docks, to order something from the menu of the kitchen onboard, their floating restaurant. The cook pops out of the boat as the Barkley docks, makes a meal order delivery, and collects money for the meal.
Order a new dishwasher and the 40 metre long freighter, the Frances Barker, will pull up at your doorstep and lower the unit onto your doorstep of your floating house.
A land mass of rocks and soaring trees rise into the sky from the edges of the fjord as the freighter makes its way towards the Pacific.
The shoreline is populated with little communities, sometimes not large enough to be called hamlets. Some of the houses are on hills, while others float on the inlet. Some are served by logging roads which may go through First Nations lands. Entry onto these roads may be restricted or not. One hamlet had a very short section of road, but no land access outside, yet some residents had to have trucks, but it is a truck with nowhere to go, except the floating wharves.
From the water rise white pillars with either green or red tops. These navigation beacons assist boats in their journey on the fjord.
Along the shoreline, triangles advise that no boat or log parking is in effect. Square signs signal the private, reserved parking spots for some lumber floats on their way to local mills, or on boat to foreign markets for processing.
Fjord Walls of Old Growth Trees, Temperate Rainforests
The walls rising from the sea are painted with trees, some light green while others are darker coniferous shadows.
On the rocks along the shore, a band of dark colour marks the high sea level. Below the black line are lighter yellow / brown, rusty water lines. Rust bronze painted rocks along the shoreline bringing colour to the green forest above.
Along the fjord, are some working fish boats waiting patiently for their meagre catches.
No sighting of bears or eagles. All is quiet. For the most sections along the waterline, the hills are too steep for bears. Vancouver Island is well know as a place of congregating for cougars. No mountain goats to be seen. Nor are the whales, sea lions nor seals sighted today.
Seagulls are flying in parallel to the freighter, at the same speed in synchronization. Not too fast to escape the freighter.
Wind is blowing up the fjord from the west. Boat flags vibrate stiffly from the freighter into the sky. The waters of this fjord are slightly rippled by the wind. Loose logs float about, some jammed along the shore.
A stand of leafless trees. A legacy of forest fires. A sample of years passed by.
Hill tops scalped by lumberjacks.
Log descends a chute down a rocky hillside on its way to the waters of the inlet.
A hiker from Germany on the freighter, is on his way to the trailhead of the West Coast Trail at Bamfield. Two other German hikers are picked up as they completed their trip along the coast. They are immersed on their cell phones once aboard with time to catch up on sleep.
The mood on board the freighter changes on the 4-hour trip back to Port Alberni. Quietness descends the lounge with more reading, note taking, and sleeping, less action on the deck with picture taking. Passengers with binoculars are more discouraged as they monitor the sea and the shoreline, no whales, seals, bears or other living things ply the water or shoreline today.
Cruising Languidly Down Inlet
A peaceful, relaxing day on a fjord. Time to mentally and physically rest up from other demands. A couple from England, now living along the French shores of the Mediterranean, are enjoying the experiences of this trip to be followed up with whale sighting at Campbell River and kayaking days off the Broken Island Group in Barkley Sound.